Thursday, December 31, 2009
L'Havdil eleph Havdolos (a 1000 degrees of separation) the X-tian non-Jews believe that tonight at midnight one year and decade will end and that another will begin. In that spirit top (or bottom) ten lists of the decade have been all the rage.
Having familiarity with little beyond contemplation of my own navel ,(and lacking objectivity even on that subject) I hereby present the list of the 10 best HaMavdil Posts of the year:
1. The Post that Started it All!
2. Lessons from "the Love that Dare not Speak its Name"
4. A Memo to the Parents: We Need More Truth in Packaging
5. The Genesis of Kosher Evolution
6. In which a Chasidic Master Delineates an Innate Difference Between Jewish and Gentile Sinning(and Repenting)!
7. My Problems with Tefilas Zaqah
8. Recalibrating Havdala Consciousness Part II
9 THE PREQUEL: The Kohen on Romancing Helen(ism)
9. A Leap of Faith... in MAN
9. THE SEQUEL: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
10.A Tale of Two Fast Days
10B. Havdala in Language and in Providence
10&3/4. That's it! I'm FINISHED!
10.85. Restructuring the Artscroll Debate
Oh..what the Hay...
11. (New) Home of the Whopper ...Move Over Burger King
As my "recent comments" widget has been dysfunctional ever since I changed to this new template I ask all three of my disloyal commenters to leave any NEW comments for my top ten posts here and indicate which post you're responding to.
PS apparently not only can I not write or think critically, I can't count either. Truth be told I love so many of them. They are ALL my children. Where should I cut? Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS this year? No??? Well keep on reading and commenting and better luck NEXT year!
But do stay tuned.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Is that Askoniyos as in "ידים... עסקניות הן "?
How unintentionally yet uproariously funny when applied to a Shovavim campaign.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Who knows what fresh triumphs of the World-Wide-Web this post will bring? Be still my heart! I must gird myself for my 15 milliseconds of fame (the fame of the obscure and unknown...of course). Mr. De Mille...I'm ready for my blurry-lensed close-up!
Clean, succinct, to the point. Just because I'm incapable of brevity does not mean that I cannot appreciate it.
No one would ever accuse Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen of religious fanaticism. Rav Chazkel Abramski perhaps, if they were feeling particularly ornery that day. But Rabbi Cohen? Never!
Qedusha-Havdala. Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Monday, December 28, 2009
Considering the fact that there are more than a bilion Catholics worldwide while there are only 13.2-18 million Jews, only a small fraction of whom are Orthodox or Kharedi, "thems small potatoes" compared to the controversy raging over the historical legacy of the wartime Pontiff, Pope Pius XII (AKA Eugenio Pacelli).
It has been received wisdom in the Jewish Community for at least three decades that the man was a Nazi sympathizer who, like most of the rest of the leadership of the Western world, was complicit in the Holocaust through silence and inaction. This article by Professor Robert Wistrich sums it up pretty succinctly.
Yet today comes an Op-ed piece in the NY Post by Gary L. Krupp, president of the "Pave the Way Foundation" claiming that Pius' reputation as a silent Holocaust co-conspirator was a hatchet job perpetrated by the KGB and that he was, in fact, quite philo-Semitic. Among other opinion-altering claims made in the piece are these:
* In 1930, Pacelli supported the German bishops' orders excommunicating anyone who joined "the Hitler Party."
* In 1938, Pacelli intervened to defeat a Polish anti-koshering law.
* Pacelli's childhood best friend was Guido Mendes, an Orthodox Jewish boy. He tells how Pacelli shared Shabbat meals with him. Mendes taught him Hebrew, and Pacelli helped him to emigrate to Palestine in 1938.
Hmmm...What's a layman with no historical analysis skills to do? Whom should I believe? Someone here is either willfully lying or woefully mistaken.
Today I discovered this:
Number of Entries:1
Entry Page Time:28th December 2009 08:45:41
Visit Length:0 secondsIE
Location:Houston, Texas, United States
IP Address:Parsons Energy & Chemicals Group (18.104.22.168)
Figures. I'm listed on unknown blogs. How very appropriate.
Havdala-Qedusha...have you had yours today? Hmmm???
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Still sometimes a havdala surplus causes major problems as well. Some things are meant to be distinguished and separated while others are meant to be assimilated and united. The Jewish people are a tripartite entity composed of Kohanim, Levi'im and eleven other tribes collectively known as Yisrael. But these elements of the nation-faith community are meant to complement and dovetail with on another. Not to be torn asunder as was the case when the schismatic Northern Kingdom under the rule of Jeroboam ben Nebat broke away from the Davidic dynasty and made its own kingdom of Israel.
The lyrical haftorah that we read yesterday describes the joining of the two woods/trees of Ephraim and Yehuda in the hands of the Prophet Yekhezkel until they miraculously join together as one. This prophecy/ prophetic פועל דמיוני * miracle foretells the eschatological identification and return of the "10 lost tribes" and their reintegration with identifiable world Jewry which, at present, is comprised almost entirely of tribe members of Yehuda , Binyamin and Levi. Obviously attached to the parsha because the opening of the parsha with Yehuda "touching" Yoseph with it's concomitant meeting of the previously alienated hearts and minds, also portends the ultimate rapprochement of the civil-war torn internecine strife lacerated Jewish people.
Parenthetically here's an example of serving G-d botanically. G-d could just as easily have melded two stones or two animals together. It's just that botanic life is more given to branching out and to grafting to become one again than other creatures are. The lesson of a tree and the "rod"=shevet is that while each rod is a distinct individual with it's own look and characteristics all the shevatim connect to a single tree trunk and are thereby connected to the same root network. An apt metaphor for Jewish unity through diversity. Truly and Eitz HaDa'as that unites as it divides.
* Described in Merfarshim as an act undertaken by a prophet to move his prophecy towards it's realization, especially an ambiguous prophecy open to multiple and alternative future fulfillment's.
Qedusha-Havdala..have you had YOURS today...Hmmm???
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The Brayina berates me for this attitude and often urges me to read the mainstream Kharedi Press. Hearkening to her voice every once in a great while I'll pick up a weekly or a monthly and peruse an article, only, to my rising consternation and galloping fury, to have my worst prejudices reconfirmed.
I don't know which J-Blogging wag first coined the delicious term Pravda Ne'eman but if a recent issue is any indication Mishpacha can now give the Yated a run for its money in the art of propaganda. The cover article, ironically titled of Languages and Nuances, ostensibly about Rav Hershel Schachter, disingenuously morphed into a tortured exercise in apologetics on behalf of Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, was a tour de force in everything wrong about the Kharedi press.
My Bloggish pal Not Brisk has been blogging about this all week. TK that he is and as an expert in the minutiae of the Nightingale family past and present, he has posted four times about it (to date) with a great concentration on the historical Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik z"l AKA, depending on ones attitude towards him, "The Rav", "Der Bostoner" or, the pet pejorative I grew up hearing, "Jay-Bee"(J.B.).
As someone who is a product of neither Y.U. nor the myriad Brisks of Jerusalem I confess ignorance with some of the vaunted "nuances". But as one who heard RYBS a number of times @ the 92nd Street "Y", who has listened to some of his taped shiurim and who has tasted of the forbidden fruits of his non-Lomdish/ non- גפ"ת published works and who is, additionally, less of a gentleman and insider-writer than NB... I'd like to call a spade a spade. The article made me want to chuck my cookies.
No doubt the misguided do-gooder who penned the article thought that he was playing the role of the blessed peacemaker. He intended to open the vaults of the scholarly riches of one of the 20th centuries most brilliant Talmudic theoreticians, arguably Orthodox Jewry’s greatest philosopher of the 20th century and, along with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it's most trailblazing renaissance man, to a segment of the population that had shunned him in the past.
But the means that he chose to achieve this noble end were those of obfuscation, prevarication and rank historical revisionism. In Totalitarian regimes with a state controlled press this practice was known as "rehabilitating" (scroll down to cultural definition) a historical figure who'd run afoul of the party and become a "nonperson". The major differnce being that in Totalitarian regimes more falsehoods were required in rendering the figure a nonperson than in rehabilitating him/her, while in the Mishpacha article the opposite is the case.
The main thrust of the article was to convey to the reader that RYBS was, in fact, more of a kanoi vis a vis מדינה של גיהנם than the Satmar Rebbe, a greater proponent of full-time Kollel for the masses than Rav Schneur Kotler, and completely antithetical to the synthesis of Torah U'Madah. Any contrary understandings were all due to unfortunate "misunderstandings" stemming from "language barriers". To actual talmidim of RYBS, or even to dabbling dilettantes like me, these bold-faced lies are as insulting as someone who was not Satmar, based on a few throw out lines, telling a Satmar Khosid that , in truth, his Rebbe was all for professionalism and advanced degrees at Ivies for frum Jews. Or as insulting as, based on some mild compliment The Rebbe might have paid Tosh-Town, a Litvak maintaining to a Lubavitcher that the Nasee haDor favored insular Khasidic enclaves for all of his young Chasidim over establishing lonely Chabad Houses in the hinterlands where they would (*SHUDDER*)have to interact with Goyim and Yidden unlike themselves.
There were plenty of affronts to go around. The authors apologia to defend RYBS’ overt lack of enthusiasm for universal Kollel made the latter look like an insipid, spineless fool. Worse, it made this visionary who’s kinetic mind knew few if any boundaries seem more country-bumpkin-ish, insular and circumscribed than a mediocre, sheltered מבטן אמו ten year old kheder yingel from Meah Shearim. How can someone schooled in yeshivas, who presumably is aware of the Khazal of חכם עדיף מנביא write such a thing about an undisputed world-class TK?
But I’d imagine that even the intended target audience, both those too young to have any prior knowledge of or opinions about RYBS at all and/or their elders who grew up referring to him as JayBee and indoctrinated to the mind-set that he was מחוץ למחנה must have felt that they were being jobbed and their intelligence was being not only insulted but assaulted.
Were they to now conclude that this weekly magazine author writing in 2009 was on to something that had eluded their Rebbeim and Manhigim בחיים חיותו of RYBS? Is the articles author a subtler lamdan, a more intense אוהב ישראל or more adept and the nuances of languages than the Rebbeim, Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva of the 40s-80s who opposed Jay-Bee with all their might? Or did he think that he could intimidate his readers to go scurrying for intellectual cover by peppering his piece with a few high-minded sounding catch phrases like “ontological” or “noetic system”?
If the price of peace is the blurring of profound ideological differences by papering them over with papyrus so flimsy that it distorts without concealing then I say…let the war continue to rage. It does no honor to the Rav to recast him as Rav Ahron Kotler with a shpitz Berdehleh. He was who he was. Bais Hillel and Bais Shamai did not achieve mutual respect by claiming Bais Shamai meant Tahor but that nebikh, the nuanced and layered meaning of the word Tamei, nebikh got lost in the translation and that , in fact, it too means Tahor. They manifested mutual respect by intermarrying with one another IN SPITE of their profound differences.
A close runner-up in the Whopper of a Lie department goes to the one pointed out by the naked emperor observing Phil Mushnick of the NY Post here. Scroll down a bit to the blurb about Chris Henry.
Havdala between Truth and Falsehood…Have you had YOURS today? Hmmm???
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Hat tip to Tzig of Circus Tent.
In any event today I'm in the mood to explicate the implicit.
The masthead (as of this posting) reads: "Be aromatic as the Rose, colorful as the Tulip, ubiquitous as the Weed, shady as the Elm, sweet as the Maple, sturdy as the Oak, productive as the Date-Palm, supple as the Reed, ravenous as the Venus-Fly-Trap to do the will of thy Father in heaven! "
This is an obvious ripoff of / homage to the Mishna in Pirkei Avot יהודה בן תימא אומר, הוי עז כנמר, וקל כנשר, ורץ כצבי, וגיבור כארי--לעשות רצון אביך שבשמיים= "Yehuda ben Taymah said 'be as bold as a leopard, as light as an eagle, run like a deer and be courageous as a lion to do the will of thy father in heaven' "alluded to in the opening siman in Shulkhan Arukh .
What I found puzzling is that seeing that man is a microcosm who per the Qabalists subsumes within himself the 3 lower tiers of creatures דומם, צומח, חי= silent/mineral, sprouting/plant, living /animal why does the Tanna enjoin us to "make like the animals" in serving the Creator but not to "make like botanic life and minerals" to do the same?
I can't resolve the riddle but I think I see a Biblical precedent. Jewish Ethicists and Qabalists have explained that the human capacity for character development(AKA Tikun HaMiddos), whether through suppression or sublimation of character traits, is predicated on G-d's mandate to the first human (and his descendants) to gain dominion the animal kingdom:
Just as in the macrocosm man was told to have dominion over the animal kingdom in the microcosm that is every individual inimitable human being, the human element is to have dominion over the animal element i.e. the character traits. Character traits are connected to and identified with various animals as evidenced in the above cited Mishna from Avos and in the Gemara in Eruvin that states: אילמלא לא ניתנה תורה היינו למידין צניעות מחתול וגזל מנמלה ועריות = "Had the Torah never been given we'd learn (the traits of ) modesty from cats, respect for personal property from ants, marital fidelity from doves etc."
However, nowhere does the Torah use the word "and have dominion" (connoting both subjugation and manipulation) in reference plants and minerals. Plants are not even mentioned until the next verse, in which human and animal access are equated. As for the mineral, while HaShem does tell Adam to "conquer" the Earth, that, IMO, implies only suppression but not sublimation.
This would explain why TTBOMK a maxim like the one I fabricated exists nowhere in Jewish Law and Lore. What it does NOT explain is why HaShem did not extend the command to Adam to "have dominion" over the plants and the minerals. In which case the Microcosm, AKA every human being, could marshal their internal plant and mineral components to serve their Creator.
BONUS FOLLOW-UP RIDDLE: There is a passage in the Shabbos Liturgy that challenges my premise. Hint: It appears before Borkhu. First correct answer will bl"n be cogitated upon while I bathe my fingernails in the glow of the Havdala candle next Motzi Shabbos .
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
great to see that at least a few laidig-gayers actually enjoyed this weeks blizzard.
In the world of the Yeshiva an apparent contradiction in Maimonidean passages has provided the grist for the mills of many an advanced Talmudic discourse. The denouement of the post that started it all pointed out just such an apparent Maimonidean contradiction:
So what did the Rambam mean when he wrote ““And the knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment"?
In today's post I will relate a resolution that I heard (taped) from one of the seminal Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. (parenthetical insertions my own. I hope that I have not corrupted the authors meaning in so doing)
Some throughout the ages have posited that the Rambam meant to say that we ought to engage in philosophical enquiry in order to "know" HaShem and that consequently there is a tension between believing and knowing. This is clearly wrong. (both because of the impossible futility of the exercise and because of the Rambam in Meh'eelah).
Baalei Mussar interpreted it to mean an exhortation towards obsession and a prohibition against losing consciousness of G-d. Faith does not preclude היסח האמונה=an interlude without faith, but דעת= consciousness demands , as it does in so many other mitzvos, that there be no היסח הדעת= interlude of unconsciousness.
This approach comes a bit closer to the truth but does not capture it entirely. What the Rambam fully means is that the concept of דעת connotes unity and separation simultaneously. On the one hand we have the Eitz HaDaa's that means the Tree of unity of God and Evil, as in א וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן= And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain. Knowing in this context means uniting physically in sexual intercourse but the particular nuance of cognition conveyed by the word Da'as is uniting metaphysically through intellectual intercourse. Concept and conceptualizer unite. On the other hand we have Khaza"l teaching us that תקנו הבדלה בחונן הדעת כי בלי דעת הבדלה מנין?= "they instituted havdala in the blessing of 'He who graces us with Da'as' for absent Da'as whence Havdala?" IOW Da'as is that rudimentary function of the mind that categorizes , distinguishes and differentiates. Whenever we realize that A is NOT B we have exercised Da'as.
So when the Rambam enjoins us to "know" HaShem what he means is that we unite with the theology to the exclusion of any false theologies. The Mitzvah the Rambam is describing is derived from the first statement of the Decalogue about which Khazal tell us , it was uttered simultaneously with the second commandment of the Decalogue... "אנכי" ו"לא יהיה לך" בדבור אחד נאמרו . To know and unite with HaShem is to know and distinguish that which HaShem is NOT. (polytheism, corporeality et al). One element of Da'as cannot function without the other.
The author ended the discourse with a wistful krekhtz (middling between a groan and a sigh) and clucked: געוואלט- דער וואס קען זיך נישט אפ-טשעפין דער קען זיך נישט צו-טשעפין= "Gevalt! he who cannot detach himself can't attach himself either !"
So ends Havdala-Palooza I. To all you who made this labor of love and creativity such a disappointing failure I say געוואלט- דער וואס קען זיך נישט צו-טשעפין דער קען זיך נישט אפ-טשעפין = "GEVALT one who cannot adhere religiously to this blog will NEVER learn the art of Havdala-discernment!"
Monday, December 21, 2009
Like some latter day Rabenu Gershom Meor HaGolah giving a benevolent nod to a polygamist husband who's dutifully obtained "the license of 100 Rabbis", DovBear allowed me to comment under my own chamelonym for the first time in many months this afternoon.
The relevant comments follow:
The Bray of Fundie -Thank you for re-admitting me. Can you ban me here as well? Or will this force you to revert to the haloScan format?
Today, 2:31:58 PM
dovbear -I can ban you here, and I will if you give me a reason. This is a new system, so everyone gets Kaparah. Welcome back, and thanks for saying thanks
And just like that I have the opportunity to comment obsessively over by the Mega-J-Blogger instead of on my own putrid Red-Tent Blog! His Ursine-ness' absolution presents me with a real dilemma. Do I carry on with this pitiful, unpopular, ever-shrinking, irrelevant Red-Tent Blog of mine? Or is it time to pack up the red tent and beg on bended knee for re-admittance into the Posting club over at DB's ?
And wouldn't you just know it, right after I update my template so that the look of HaMavdil rises slightly above that of a middle-school science fair project, but BEFORE I've figured out how to create an RSS feed or how to display recent comments and posts in their appropriate places in the new template, DB revamps his blog with all the cutting edge bells and whistles so that this untwittered, facebookless entry looks like a candidate for a cash for clunkers trade-in program.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had yours today??? Hmmm??? Well get some while you can. Chances are you won't have this sorry blog to kick around much longer.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Rambam discussed here last week innovated a sea-change in conceptualizing the איסור מעילה. Per the Rambam, deriving a prutas worth of benefit, value or pleasure might, indeed, be HOW one transgresses the מעילה prohibition but treating it as Khol=mundane is WHAT the sin consists of. IOW utility and functionality is a hallmark and defining characteristic of the mundane. Objects that are in the sphere of Qedusha are useless as mortals MAY not use them in any way and HaShem NEED not use them in any way. Clearly, utility that does not fulfill a need is only a pantomime of functionality.
Illumination sources are meant to look WITH not to look AT yet on Chanukah the traditional liturgy states that “All these 8 days of Chanukah these lights are Qodesh=Sanctified, and he have no permission to use them. We may only gaze at them.” Thus uselessness is the very definition of Qedusha and that which separates it from the mundane. By dint of their Qedusha we make only look at the Chanukah lights but not utilize them by looking at other objects with them.
This is why I have to laugh when I hear contemporary מאי אהני לן רבנן questioning Apikorsim characterizing Kollel-leit as “useless parasites”. Such a perception derives from Havdala-Obliviousness. A 30 year old English major working towards his/her PhD. May indeed be a useless parasite. (Even that is a debatable point) because in the sphere of the mundane worth and utility are closely connected. But in the dimension of Qodesh the question of “What have you done for me lately?” may not even be posed and if it is the one posing the question has failed to recognize Qodesh for what it is. Kolleleit who study diligently indubitably inhabit the realm of Qodesh. It is fair to ask “Are you learning diligently?” but completely stupid to ask “and what have/are/will you contributed to society?”
By dint of their Qedusha these lights of Jewish society are meant to look at…not with.
Friday, December 18, 2009
The standard explanations given for this custom range from the oil in the lamps being הוקצה למצוותן= dedicated exclusively for Mitzvah use to the notion that we accord the Khanukah lights the status of Qodshim= consecrated objects which are prohibited from private use or benefit under the מעילה prohibition. As we recite nightly post-kindling: הנרות הללו קודש הם ואין לנו רשות להשתמש בהן אלא לראותם בלבד . And so we destroy the "leftovers" as a precautionary measure against accidentally misappropriation , מעילה ,through private use.
But today I saw an explanation from the בני יששכר that was an eye opener, and closer, all at once.
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאוֹר, כִּי-טוֹב; וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים, בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
= Elsewhere the Mishna taught: Exert yourself in the study of Torah and know what to respond to a Freethinker/Heretic(s questions). Rabee Yokhanan qualified this teaching as follows: This only applies when responding to a non-Jewish heretic but (when discussing matters of faith) with a Jewish Heretic (DO NOT respond to him/her at all. Don't engage them in a conversation) they will certainly become even more rebellious:
Two people asking the same questions, voicing their shared skepticism over matters of faith and religious dogma. One happens to have been born of a Jewish mother while the other was not. The Mishna-Talmud demands that we ignore the former while engaging the latter. It seems that the Talmud recognizes an innate unseen Havdala between the Jewish and non-Jewish Apiqores.
What do you think the difference is and why do you think it differentiates?
Among such divides is the one that separates the כהנים בני אהרן =Aaronic Priests from the balance of their לויים =Levite brethren. We know that in fulsome Judaism these two distinct categories of Jews have diverse duties in the Miqdash, that only the Kohanic duties requires service in uniform, that the Levites status was initiated through whole-body shaving and תנופה = lifting/waving while that of the Kohanim was initiated through anointing and that the two groups, both of whom received no homesteads in the Land of Israel, receive different types of stipends/ material support from the other tribes of Israel. In contemporary Judaism the only perceivable differences are the sequence of aliyas at Torah Reading and that , prior to the Priestley blessings the Levi'im are the hand washers while the Kohanim are the hand-washed .
The question is what is the underlying difference between the two? The answer may be alluded to by the Zoharic passage that says לוי-טהור....כהן-קדוש = Levi-Tahor, Kohen-Qadosh (don't have a cow...I first saw it in a secondary source and googled to get the link). The Aaronic priests are associated with sanctity/qedusha while the Levites are identified with purity.
The concepts of purity and sanctity are related but are NOT synonymous. It is possible for something to be pure without being sanctified but sanctity abhors impurity. The impure through contact with the dead were prohibited from accessing the Temple Mount. Many types of impurity invalidated the Avodah=Temple service of a Kohen. A Kohen is prohibited from impurity through contact with the dead. Sanctified offerings are invalidated from being sacrificed on the altar if they become impure and sanctified edibles , even קדשי גבולין such as Terumah, must be burned if they become impure. (Parenthetically, per the Maharal, this is explanation for why an adulterous bas Kohen is executed through internal burning rather than through strangulation like her paramour. One of the Torah's "logical inconsistencies" that I explicated in this post yesterday. It's not that she is being punished more severely. It's that her's was a Miqdash level sanctity that became impure through adultery and must therefor be "disposed of" through burning.)
The only takeaway that I can thresh out of all this is that just as one MUST be a Levi in order to be a Kohen (the reverse is not true) things must be pure in order to be sanctified but need not be sanctified in order to be pure.
Something to ponder on Chanuka is that although we emphasize the Kehuna of the Khashmonaim who wrought the Chanuka miracles, the miracle itself was effected through a flask of pure oil not merely sanctified oil. The liturgy of Ahl HaNisim= "for the miracles" that states = "you handed over the impure (Greeks) to the pure (Maccabees)" seems to be emphasizing their Levite identity rather than their Kohanic identity. In light of the Zohar quoted above this seems odd.
IMO Persian (AKA Iranian Jews) possess the loveliest Jewish surnames of any עדה . I personally know some who's surnames are לוי-טהור and כהן-קדוש
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"I think you have missed Maimonides’ point. It is not a matter of some double standard in favor of Torah that allows you to fix the game in advance to come out in favor of God. What we have is a principled granting of the benefit of the doubt to specific systems which have already given good cause for it. To take a Thomas Kuhn approach, if you are a scientist developing a scientific theory that works in general you are not going to abandon it simply because you run into a small difficulty. If Kuhn was a yeshiva student he might say: 'no one ever died from a kasha.' ”
OTC the Rambam, evoking the verbiage of the Havdala Service; "He who separates between the Sanctified and the mundane" couldn't possibly have made the double standard he demands any clearer. It is Izgad who has missed Maimonides point.
The system he'd like us to "grant a benefit of the doubt to" contains these elements:
No Divorce rights for women
A father being able to marry his daughter off to anyone he chooses while she is still a non-consenting minor
Genocide against seven indigenous Canaanite Nations and the Amalekites
Death by stoning for dropping a carrot into a pot of boiling water on Saturday
Incest allowed for brother sister converts (M'D'Oraysa)
Farmers required to leave their fields fallow for two consecutive years (years 49-50 in the Jubilee cycle)
Although Khaza'l themselves divide the Torah into Khukim=overtly irrational Mitzvahs and Mishpatim=rational mitzvahs that "had the Torah never been given would have been promulgated by some human legislator" many, if not all, of the Mishpatim contain minutiae that are counterintuitive and offensive, not only to our post-Modern westernized sensibilities, but to what we would describe as the basic rules of logic. The Devil is in the details. Not that the Torah is truly illogical heaven forfend. It is just that it operates on a higher, different, unique plane. A plane that is muvdal and Qadosh and that, as such, has a different, distinct system of logic.
This is alluded to by the famous Rashi on the first pasuk in Parshas Mishpatim:
These are the rational laws (Mishpatim) that you shall set before them.
and not before the gentiles. And even if you know of a particular law that they render the same as Jewish law, [nevertheless] do not bring the matter to their courts...
because beyond the many layers of surface similarity, or even apparent identity, there are fundamental (pardon the expression) subcutaneous differences.
IIRC I have seen Meforshim that explain the Rashi to mean that setting the matter before their courts aggrandizes false religions because in so doing one incorrectly erases the havdala between the Torah legal systems and those rooted in human rationale. This is part of what's meant by the pasuk לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן, לְכָל-גּוֹי-- וּמִשְׁפָּטִים בַּל-יְדָעוּם:הַלְלוּ-יָהּ. = "He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for His ordinances (Mishpatim=rational laws), they have not known them. Hallelujah! " and the khazal of תורה בגויים...אל תאמין= "do not be credulous of claims tat the nations posses Torah"
When approaching sanctified wisdom AKA Torah we ought never to forget the exegesis of the Khidushei Horim on the Khazal of "If you (claim to) have exerted yourself and found...believe it." that when it comes to Torah and spirituality, even after all the exertion it is still a "find". IOW that logically we corporeal beings should have no possibility whatsoever of comprehending even one letter of the Holy Torah. There is no direct causality that connects the cause of diligent study to the effect of intellectual comprehension as is the case in other disciplines. Whenever we "khop" Torah it is an act of Divine Grace bestowing the comprehension upon our minds as reward for, and commensurate with, our desire to have it as manifested in the /physical/ intellectual/ emotional exertion we expended to acquire it.
It's high time that rationalists who maintain that the main body of the Torah is eminently rational and who poo poo the inconvenient truths, the evidence of widespread near universal irrationality (as defined by other mundane disciplines) took a good long hard look in the mirror and recognized themselves for what they are; defensive, insecure apologists.
Frequent readers here know that I obsess over Havdala consciousness. I ‘d like to present passages from one of Judaism’s preeminent ethicists and Qabbalists the Ramkha'l in his sefer The Way of God as translated by Rav Aryeh Kaplan. Be forewarned, this is NOT politically correct.
II.4.(page 133) "One of the deepest concepts of G-d’s Providence involves Israel and the Nations. With regard to their basic human characteristics, the two appear exactly alike. From the Torah’s viewpoint, however, the two are completely different and are treated as if they belonged to completely different species."
Ibid(page 135) "…Man could thus anticipate only a very much lower level, and it was in this state that children were born into this degraded state.Ibid …G-d gave Adam’s descendants a free choice at that time to strengthen themselves and strive to elevate themselves from this lower state to a higher level."
II.4.(page 137) "The period of time when this was possible extended..until the Generation of Separation."
II.4.(page 139)…" according to the Highest Judgment, it turned out that none of them deserved to rise above this degraded level to which Adam and his children had fallen as a result of their sin…there was however, one exception, and that was Avraham. He had succeeded in elevating himself and as a result of his deeds was chosen by G-d. Avraham was therefore permanently made into a superior excellent Tree, conforming to man’s highest level. It was further provided that he would be able to produce branches [and father a nation] possessing his characteristics… All of them (the other 70 nations)however remained on the level of man in his fallen state, while only Israel was in an elevated state".
Obviously these truncated passages do not paint a fair picture of the Ramkhal’s full thesis. Fair minded bloggers are encouraged to borrow or buy the book and study it, or at least the relevant section, in it’s entirety. Beautiful points are made there about the early narratives in Genesis, conversion to Judaism and the revelation at Sinai.
In the meantime consider: Is this rank racism? Master Race ideology? Or what we intuitively mean when we talk about Jews as the Chosen People? Discuss amongst yourselves.
I see the fire...but where are the aromatic spices?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In it's first incarnation it garnered 108 comments. I know how far I've fallen and would be deeply gratified to evince even 15 comments this time around. I am asking a special favor of those frequently returning visitors who never deign to comment. Deign. Pretty Please?
The Boundaries of Rationality or or The Rambam was an Empiricist…NOT!
There is an open Jewish Jihad on much of the J-Blogosphere to purge Judaism of it’s “irrational” strains. Many opine that “pure” Judaism is palatable to men and women of reason and that “authentic” Judaism shuns all magical-thinking obscurantism. When taking the big-tent tradition of the Oral Torah into consideration this POV is demonstrably false yet, in order to maintain this mirage, many Bloggers love to downsize the “legitimate” Torah-expositors fraternity and to hang their hats on such hyper-rationalist pashtonim of parshanus hamiqra and p’sak as the Ibn Ezra, the Ralbag , RSRH and most of all, that towering colossus, the Rambam.
Yet, that same Rambam who consistently explains Ta’amei HaMitzvos reasonably in Moreh Nevuchim, who presents a decidedly non-mystical eschatology, who praised Aristotle to the skies, also codified the imperative for, and centrality of, irrationality in Judaism.The following passage illustrates the Rambam’s BALANCED vision of Judaism that mandates BOTH the empirical and irrational approaches:
“It behooves a person to contemplate the holy Torah’s laws and, as much as his faculties allow him, to know their ultimate purpose. (Still) a topic/concept for which he can find no reason nor any cause should not become lightly esteemed in his eyes. And he should not ‘violate the boundary’ to ascend to the Divine lest He (i.e. G-d) ‘break through’ to him. (An allusion to Shemos 19:24) and a person’s thoughts / intellectual approach to Torah ought not to be equivalent to his approach to other, mundane, matters. Come and see how stringent the Torah was about the misappropriation of consecrated property: Once the name of the Master of the World (i.e. G-d) has been uttered over mere sticks and stones, dust and ashes, they become consecrated with mere words, yet anyone who (by deriving pleasure or benefit form them) treats them as he would the mundane… requires atonement. Certainly a mitzvah that the Holy Blessed One Himself legislated should not be rejected merely on the basis of not being able to discover it’s rationale. He should not accuse G-d of things that are untrue and his thoughts about them (Torah matters) should not be equivalent to his thoughts about mundane matters.”
To see the rest of the passage click here. (scroll down to Halakhos 6-8)
-Maimonides Laws of Me’ilah=Misappropriation of Consecrated Objects-Funds (8:8)
Maimonides clearly articulates and vigorously advocates an intellectual double-standard predicated on the existence of two distinct dimensions; the mundane and the sacred. His rule of thumb is to approach things empirically and logically and to reject that which cannot be rationally proven. But Qodesh is an exception to this rule. In the Qodesh dimension of reality we are instructed NOT to reject that which cannot be rationalized and to accept as true and just even that which cannot be proven. To do otherwise would be to be moel b’hekdash by applying a single standard to both the mundane and the sacred.
Elsewhere he writes:“And the knowledge of this matter (i. e. the fundamentals of Theology that he had expressed above) is a positive commandment as it says: “I am the Lord thy
-ibid Yesodei HaTorah=Fundamentals of the Torah 1:4
In light of the first Maimonedean passage I cited it would seem that those who understood the word "knowledge" in the second passage to mean apprehending G-d through rational philosophical inquiry completely missed the boat. What with incorporeality, transcendence, theodicy and the predestination vs. free-will conundrum, G-d Himself/ Itself is the supreme (Supreme?) irrational Torah Concept. Even Moshe who, at Sinai, was granted license to ignore the boundaries set for others, who always spoke to G-d “face to face”, was denied his request to apprehend G-d’s glory (see Shemos 33:18,20,23).
So what did the Rambam mean when he wrote ““And the knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment"? Stay tuned for part two.
Monday, December 14, 2009
This is the Moed on which we tap into the קדושת הזמן= sanctity in time of our redemption from גלות יון= the Greek Exile.
The oppression of the Greeks was mainly directed towards papering over and, whenever possible, erasing innate differences. Their anti-Mitzvah decrees began by outlawing חודש, שבת, ומילה = the sabbath, fixing the day of the new moon and circumcision, respectively Mitzvahs that set Jewish wisdom apart from other disciplines, that establish the concept of innate sanctity in time, and that set Jewish bodies apart from those of their Gentile neighbors.
It was during this exile that the Septuagint was commissioned the better to erase the difference between Torah and other disciplines and to sow the first seeds of replacement theology.
The Seleucid Greeks outlawed Torah Study thus subverting the very foundations of Jewish uniqueness, separatism and nationalism. As Saadiah put it: אין אומתנו אומה אלא בתורתה= "Our Nation is only a Nation through her Torah".
The Seleucid Greeks enacted the decree of כל בתולה הנשאת...תיבעל להגמון תחלה an ancient form of Droit de seigneur. Thus injecting their own DNA into the eternity of Israel.
Eschewing the gross expulsion from the homeland and Temple destruction of the Babylonians and, later, the Romans, the Seleucid Greeks voided the Temple of it's sanctity and purity while leaving the architecture intact. This is yet another assault on differences that do not meet the eye. The mere fact that our tradition terms it an exile in spite of the fact that Jews were not driven from their homeland implies that the Greeks succeeded in voiding Eretz Yisrael of it's Qedusha such that any Qedusha-Havdala conscious Jew remaining there under their hegemony was in an internal exile, a stranger in his own land.
Perhaps most telling of all was that the only structure the Greeks did do violence to was the serug, a "woven" latticework fence that marked the point in the Temple compound beyond which gentiles were prohibited from entering.
It's clear that the one structure that the oppressive empire builders could not tolerate was the one that served as a physical reminder of the הבדלה בין ישראל לעמים= the separation between Jew and non-Jew.
All of these are clear illustrations of how Greek Civilization was hellbent on obliterating the הבדלה בין ישראל לעמים, בין קודש לחול [בין טהרה לטומאה] בין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה the only Havdala that was not overtly on their agenda was the הבדלה בין אור לחושך= between darkness and light. And yet in the Midrash the Greeks are identified with the primordial darkness , rather strange for a civilization often credited with bringing enlightenment to the rest of humanity. But to the Havdala-Conscious Jew there is no mystery here. For it is only by extinguishing the light and allowing the engulfing tsunami of night to flow back that all the other differences can be erased and effaced. Under cover of darkness all differences and distinguishing characteristics are obscured.
Light those Chanuka lamps. It only takes a bit of light to dispel much darkness and a bit of Qedusha sensitivity to negate much Havdala-obliviousness.
חג אורים שמח!
Friday, December 11, 2009
The Gemara in Eruvin 19 A states:
This passage is overtly mystical and frightening in it's own right. But Rav Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin draws a lesson that should give pause to all of us enamored of the dominant culture and who find fault and repulsiveness with more insular streams of Judaism even if we are not (yet) afflicted with the Woody Allen syndrome. (I'm almost ready to rename it the Tiger Woods syndrome)
In the very last passage of his ספר פוקד עקרים Rav Tzadok writes:
ומי שיש לו חשק ותאוה ואהבה לשורש העכו"ם בחכמתם ונימוסם וכדומה הוא בכלל אבזרייהו דבועל ארמית שבפועל ובמעשה. התיקון לזה הוא רק בכח התושבע"פ שהיא עיקר המבדיל בין ישראל לעמים מצד החכמה כמ"ש בשמו"ר מי שמסטורין שלו בידו הם ישראל
Whoever has a yen, lust or a love for "the roots" of the idolaters in terms of their wisdom, their manners etc. is included in the אבזרייהו = appurtenance (per Jastrow) of one who has actual anatomical sex with a non-Jewish woman!
The Tikun = repentance/ palliative for this (in of Jewish identity erasure ) can only be achieved through the power of the oral Torah for it alone is the primary separation between Israel and the Nations in the aspect of (their relative) wisdom(s). As the Midrash in Shemos Rabbah explains; "Those with whom He entrusts his secrets... are Israel!"
Put that in your חנוכיות and smoke it !
Qedusha-Havdala...have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Thursday, December 10, 2009
There is an implicit question in this new slogan. Anyone care to try there hand on explicating it?
With that thought in mind I hope to do daily posts next week that concentrate on basics of Havdala consciousness (I'll bl"n start by reprising two classic posts from my pre-red-tent blogging days).
I also hope to do some housekeeping in my humble red tent and hope to go to a cleaner template and start a blogroll in honor of the Moed.
Qedusha-Havdala. If you haven't gotten any until now you will bl"n next week!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
New York City's first suburb of early 19th century vintage, Brooklyn's Williamsburg , currently hosts two communities whose mores and values are antithetical to one another; the Khasidic and the artsy.
Now, in defiance of the NYC municipality, hipsters who had enjoyed cycling through the streets of Khasidic Williamsburg have taken the law into their own hands by repainting bike lanes on Bedford Avenue that the city had sandblasted away.
This horizontal-graffiti-art act of civil disobedience has frustrated and angered Khasidic locals. If it wasn't bad enough that these immodest Goyim and Goyim-wannabees desecrate the neighborhood with their exhibitionist mania to appear in public in little more than loincloths and fig-leaves they have now risen in Dixie-like rebellion against the cities sovereign government!
This morning VIN reported the arrest of two bike-lane re-painters and that the city Transportation Department said it will remove any unauthorized "markings". Khasidic residents complain they are being portrayed as the enemy, when it is the cyclists who are breaking the law. I believe that one Moshe Goldberger quoted in the VIN piece expressed popular sentiment aptly when he said: "That unauthorized painting on New York City property is unlawful, but that is overlooked because it's committed against the terrible Hasidim,"
While I sympathize with the local Khasidic communities efforts to maintain community standards of Tznius and Qedusha-Havdala the hand-wringing and wailing over the lawlessness of the hipsters strike me as so many crocodile tears. After all, this is a community and culture that is in/famous for "acting out" in both passive civil disobedience and violent protests against governmental bodies both here and Israel when not getting their way ודי למבין . Could it be that a bit of Divine quid pro quo, במדה שאדם מודד בו מודדין לו is being visited upon the denizens of Lee and Division avenues? Who knows? I leave that determination to those more "in-the-know" of the Divine MO than this red-tent J-Blogger.
Two possible takeaways from the disappearing and reappearing bike lanes:
1. There can be no acceptable coexistence whatsoever when living cheek-by-jowl with secularism and modernity. The only solution is monastic Austritt a la Kiryas Joel, Square-Town and Tosh-town
2. What goes around comes around and you reap what you sow.
Qedusha-havdala...have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
In recent parshiyos haShavua we read of Yaakov Aveenu weeping right after kissing Rakhel at first sight because he foresaw prophetically that they would not be buried together. We also discovered that the reason that Rakhel was not buried with Yaakov was to punish her for the horsetrading she engaged in to obtain Reuvens "fertility-drug" mandrakes from Leah. In the words of the Midrash cited by Rashi she did not merit internment with Yaakov because, ולפי שזלזלה במשכב הצדיק לא זכתה להקבר עמו = "... she demeaned the 'sleeping (with)' of that Tzadik she did not merit the privilege of being buried with him".
Ripped from today's headlines we read about a Jewish family feud revolving around whether or not a husband who abused his wife בחיים חיותה "should merit" lying next to her posthumously until the resurrection of the dead.
The couple left behind two sons and a daughter. The wife died in 1996 of breast cancer and, reportedly, had filed for divorce in the last year of her life and that before her death, had made her wishes known that she did not want her husband buried next to her. A son, suing his sister to exhume and relocate their recently deceased fathers body, told the NY Post that toward the end of his mothers life his father had made her "process of dying" absolutely miserable.
Among other things; knowing it was her habit to get a drink from the refrigerator before bedtime, he poured a large pool of floor wax on the ceramic-tile floor, hoping she would slip and that the fall might paralyze her or kill her. He also sabotaged her car by disconnecting the cables to the battery, the wire connections to the distributor cap, and the spark plugs. He let the air out of her tires.
IIRC there are halakhos in Shulkhan Arukh (Sefer Khasidim???) directing Khevra Kadisha members NOT to bury enemies next to one another. But I wonder if the Poskim or the responsa literature talks about scenarios where its; "Enemies...a Love Story". I ask the more erudite of my readers to comment if they are aware of meforshim who "connect the dots" between marital intimacy/ tranquility , one kind of שכיבה , and side-by-side internment, another kind of שכיבה .
Parenthetically, let this be a cautionary tale to all those gentile women out there who would do their little bit to erase the הבדלה בין ישראל לעמים i.e. the proverbial line-in-the-sand in the name of "inclusiveness", by snaring a Jewish husband because of their reputation of being neither abusive nor hard drinking. Not that any proof was needed but this story reminds us that there are many ways to abuse a wife without resorting to a rolling-pin that Jewish husbands-from-hell are very adept at.
Qedusha-havdala. have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Monday, December 7, 2009
Click here to connect with "See You on Shabbos" a fledgling website dedicated to matching hosts with guests for meal and/or sleepover hospitality all over the world.
If the Karliner-Stoliner Khasidim could abide by the Internet this would be a site that they'd love.
Some money quotes from Marion Usher founder and moderator of the interfaith couple workshops conducted for the past 15 years at the Washington D. C. Jewish Community Center:
Usher gained an interest in the issue of interfaith couples because of her interest in Jewish life and in “why people draw lines in the sand and say who is in and who’s out.” Her approach seeks to erase that line in the sand in favor of inclusiveness. She would like to see the couples build households in which Judaism is the lead faith. “My goal is to have more Jewish children in the world,” she explained.
Memo to Ms. Usher: If that is your goal stop your self-defeating, exercise-in futility workshops immediately and send your maaser money here and here.
What I found most aggravating about the article was A. the insistence of "more conservative streams of Judaism" that the non-Jewish spouse be the one to convert and B. The terminology "interfaith couples". It's not about faith at all. It's about ethnicity. Orthodox Judaism inculcates genuine, vital faith into it's adherents and, as such, has comparatively few cases of interdating and intermarriage. The entire phenomenon of interfaith couples is predicated on the fact that neither individual took/ takes his or her faith very seriously. The conflicts of faith were so very low on these couples priority lists when searching for love and marriage as to fade into insignificance. For them there were no lines in the sand to be crossed.
Which is why the insistence of conversion strikes me as rank triumphalism and racism. Why in the world should the conversion of the non-Jewish spouse be the foregone conclusion in 100% of inter-ethnic couples? I'd imagine that those branches of Judaism claiming to be colorblind, non-racist, egalitarian, inclusive and ecumenical should expect a breakdown where approximately a third of the couples retain their original "faiths" a third have the Jewish spouse converting to _________ and a third in which the non-Jewish spouse converts to Judaism.
Most poignant sentiment expressed in the whole piece: “We had decided to raise our children Jewish, but I also wanted to make sure I don’t lose my identity along the way,” said Kimberly Frye, one of the participants,(in Ms. Usher's workshops) as the other couples nodded in understanding, “I wanted to make sure we are able to expose our children to both faiths.” Spot on Kimberly!
Qedusha-Havdala. have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm?
Friday, December 4, 2009
By which I mean where is the holy, innocent kiruv organization founded by an esteemed Mashgiakh, that we used to know and love?
Over the years Oorah has earned a well deserved reputation for innovative, "out-of-the-box-thinking". Oorah wrote the book on mail order only Chinese Auctions, funding through car donation and telecommunication companies and cutting edge advertising and marketing to develop an international appeal and reach for, what is essentailly, a local organization. And although over the years their ambitious growth and non-traditional approach have, at times, caused them to skirt various moral and ethical boundaries, their 'good work ' with public school kids and their "feel-good" approach to fund-raising has earned them enough good will in the frum community to earn them a pass. In the meantime this attitude of minimizing possible ethical compromises has made many people, envious of Oorahs success, busy themselves in copying their techniques.
Until now that is. Now they are not just thinking out-of-the-box but hallucinating out-of-their-minds.
On Wednesday Vos Iz Neias published this item that, astonishingly, garnered only 10 measly comments.
How in the world could an organization that considers itself frum endeavor to raise funds by auctioning Tiger Woods' notorious Escalade? Don't they understand that the interest in the story is entirely prurient and informed by schadenfreude? How could they feel comfortable about auctioning an item who's worth gets ratcheted up by every new floozy, the proverbial "girl-in-every-port", who claim that they too were an amorous conquest of Tiger Woods?
The Ramban explains that the reason that the Torah prohibited the donation of the אתנן was so that the זונהwould not have the means to salve her conscience for her salacious and immoral work by claiming that she harnessed her ill-gotten gains in the service of a holy cause. If I know this... don't the TKs in charge of Oorah know this?
A few weeks ago I bemoaned some negative publicity that Oorah had received on the AOL Home Page as another Shondeh fahr dee goyim. How, I wondered, could they be so insensitive to the shame that they are heaping upon the Jewish community? Now, I'd like to thank them for solving this mystery. I now understand that when people are utterly shameless they have no fear of creating Shondehs fahr dee goyim. But as Khazal have informed us that ג' סימנים בהן: רחמנים, ביישנים, גומלי חסדים = "there are 3 signs (character traits) by which this nation can be recognized they are merciful, bashful/ capable of feeling shame and altruistic" it does make me wonder how Jewish an organization they are.
May HaShem grant me the strength to resist the ubiquitous and non-stop blandishments to contribute to their Auction this year.
Why did Yaakov Aveenu have to endanger his wife over the, ahem, "situation" with her fathers תרפים ? He should've taken a page out of his Zaideh Avrohom's book and came up with an excuse like this: " listen Reb Lovon, there's a very simple explanation; someones brought an offering to the big alpha-male תרפים and when all the little תרפים'לעך , yours among them, tried horning in on his meal who took a large stick and smashed all of the little תרפים'לעך to bits" ? The answer? An excuse that washes with a father won't work with a father-in-law!
אז א בחור לערנט אפ עטלעכער יאהר'ן אין א חסידישער ישיבה קומט ער ארויס מיט כאטש דריי זאכען: ער לערנט ווי אזוי צו עפענען דער "טי צימער" אהן א שליסעל. ווי אזוי צו עפענ'ן א פלעש'ל ביר אהן א עפענער. און ווי אזוי צו עפענען א גמרא אהן צו קענען קיין איין אידיש ווארט! ט
Khasidisha bukhrim take away at least three "opening" skills from their education: They learn to open the coffee room without a key, a beer bottle without an opener and a gemora without knowing a word!
Qedusha-Havdala....Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Having tasted of both forbidden and permitted fruits in the comedy department, to this observer, the differences between stand-up or improvisational comics on the one hand and Badkhonim OTOH seem external and arbitrary rather than intrinsic and innate. Sure your average stand-up comedian dresses in western clothing and will not shy away from "dirty" jokes whereas Badkhonim are invariably Khasidish (I've yet to hear from or hear of a Mussarnik badkhan) and do routines and monologues that are squeaky clean, the techniques and ways and means of the comedy seem identical to me. All use sarcasm, sly understatement or over-the-top exaggeration, puncture pomposity, self-deprecate, employ word-plays and double entendres' , discover the unexpected in the humdrum and workaday and "pick-on" some easy target be he/she/ they politically correct or incorrect.
Last night I had occasion to attend a Sheva Brakhos celebrating the recent union of the royal Khasidic houses of Square and Kuzmir (who????). A very talented beSpodeked Badkhan (sorry, didn't catch his name) performed. While some of the humor was juvenile and most of the gimatriyos arbitrary and forced I found my sides-splitting frequently. It was a pleasant interlude of true, live (non-virtual) ROTFLMHO.
What I found most striking at the Sheva Brakhos was this: Evey Khasidus has it's own theme and leitmotif. For Chabad it's hastening the coming of Moshiakh, for Karlin-Stolin its hakhnosas orkhim/hospitality. From my casual observations I'd have guessed that , for the Sqaurer Khasidic tribe, it's כובד ראש and עהרינסטקייט = seriousness and sobriety, that precludes all "cheap laughs". So while many of the yungerleit laughed uproariously at the badkhans routine and the Rebbe himself, good sport that he is, allowed a בת-שחוק = "intimation of a smile", to play about his lips, most of the dais seemed to be forcing frowns in spite of themselves in a collective show of Victorian "we are not amused" dignity. The poor khoson was looking over his shoulder between jokes as if to check whether or not smiling and/or laughing was good form.
At least one dais member , from the kallah's side, looked absolutely tortured , with his eyes shut tight, throughout. He has a reputation as a TK and, brow furrowed, he seemed to be "thinking in learning" lest that fine line between טהרה and טומאה or between שמחת חתן ולצנות be crossed and any humor emanating from the סטרא אחרא = "the dark side" contaminate his ears.
Hey havdala-philes of the J-Blogosphere...Riddle me this: Is Yisrael Campbell a stand-up comedian with Khasidisha garb shtick or histories first exclusively English -speaking badkhan?
NEXT UP: A few of the jokes and routines as I recall them.
Qedusha-Havdala....Have you had YOURS today???? Hmmm???