Monday, March 12, 2007
Many a time, our leaders and rabbis are accused of being detached from their 'constituency', or even reality. Although this might well be true about some rabbis and some realities, many recent psakim, messages and declarations indicate to the opposite. There must be someone feeding them some information he wants them to be aware of.
If certain authorities are able to release decisions about banning or recommending the same books, global warming, wigs, tobacco use, internet ban or 'safe usage guidelines' and so on and so forth, they sure must be aware of other things happening around them.
Yet it appears that unlike leaders of previous generations, our sages seem to ignore the needs of the communities they ought to lead. Either that, or they chose not to see the obvious. When the same authority advocates the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles (to their credit, they did mention dependency on Arab oil besides environmental concerns) and bans tobacco use because of the danger involved, you know something is wrong.* And when rabbinical organizations condemn the sick clowns who join Ahmadinejad's Disaster denial convention, but remain silent on Ahmadinejad himself, his dangerous influence on the Moslem population in the US and EU, and continue their routinely government-schnorring of a few more peanut butter jars for their mosdos, you know that something is very wrong.
Time and again, the ostrich syndrome seems to overtake any and all aspects of authentic Judaism. Our very survival is again threatened, and instead of doing something about it, our leaders are silent.
Before Gerush Sfarad (Spanish expulsion) the Jews were notified about their expulsion a year in advance(although the actual decree was not issued until four months prior to the expulsion). The few who heeded the warning fled, with their possessions, before the actual expulsion took place. But on Tisha’ Beav 1492, all Jews were caught totally unprepared, many were killed, their possessions confiscated, and forced out of the country by force. Although the events preceding the Shoah should be dealt with delicately, arguably, the Jews of that time could have seen the writing on the wall. There were anti-Jewish laws, anti-Jewish riots, and the way in which the wind blew is now, in hindsight, evident, but even back then wasn’t unlikely. As a matter of fact, some actually fled in time to save their skin and some minimal possessions.
We are again witnessing a madman run amok surrounded by weaklings unwilling to challenge him, while he’s getting dressed to kill. There is of course a plethora of ways to deal with this threat, to begin with raising awareness for the severity of the situation to organize public davening and repentance days, to political activism. Rabbinical figures who exert control over communities large enough to be taken seriously by state senators and local politicians should of course do everything in their power to influence the government to protect its citizens. Unfortunately the situation is so bad that not only the government doesn’t care about its citizens, but the citizens themselves refuse to realize the gravity of the situation. Of course, putting ideological disagreements and the feuds of yore behind them is out of the question, even in times of pikuach nefesh. So as long as you are a faithful believer, abide by every ruling of your rabbis, and are convinced that every ruling of their rabbis is ridiculous insanity, fear no evil – for your throat is forever safe from Achmed’s knife!
The beautiful images of the peaceful devouts of the Religion Of Peace shown in the pictures marched on London about a month ago. Rest reassured that every single Rabbi in the UK and worldwide did his utmost best to condemn this march, beef up security, convince the government to crack down on Islamic extremists and throw out all immigrants.
* The smoking ban is of course based on the command “ונשמרתם לנפשתכ מאד – you shall preserve your souls” and the prohibition to endanger oneself. The psak to reduce emissions to prevent global warming (now being debunked by leading scientists) require first and foremost to strip automobiles of their weight – which also strips them from all their security and stability. What protects the driver in an automobile is the car’s frame and the body. Air bags can ease a boo-boo, not prevent bones from being smashed by another automobile.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Instead of a Purim-Toirah, I hereby present some anecdotes that either happened to me or I had the pleasure to witness, during my long and turbulent life. (Occasional embellishment added when necessary) Life is just better than the best comic skits. A freilichen purim to all!
Why was the siddur in my hand rather than in a bag I can’t recall anymore, but when I realized that mistake it was already too late. Before I even had a chance to ask the fare to Jerusalem, the cab driver had ripped the siddur Vilna out of my hand, and was ecstatically yelling “Walla*! The ADMO”R of Vilna! That’s incredible! Do you realize?! Do you realize who the ADMO”R of Vilna was? He had 17 minutes of bitul-Torah in his whole life!!! Se-ve-n-teeeeeeeeeeeeeen minutes!!! – That’s incredible!” He stressed every letter of ‚seventeen’. Before I could open my mouth, he had already ran over to his colleague, who was nonchalantly smoking a cigarette on a bench. “Moshe! Walla, Moshe! Did you ever hear of the ADMO”R of Vilna? He had seventeen minutes of bitul-torah in his life! Can you believe it, se-ve-n-teeeeeeeen!” Moshe didn’t look too impressed: „So what? I have much more than that.”
*Walla – (Arabic) the most common exclamation in Israel. May be used to express joy, sadness, pain, pleasure, anger, happiness and anything in between. (Certain rabbis forbid the use of this word, as literally, it means [I swear] by G-d).
Is it raining?
I had to stay in Amsterdam for some time, and got an apartment about three times bigger than I actually needed. The kind Yidden of Amsterdam selflessly relinquished their zchus of hachnosas orchim in my favor on a regular basis. One evening at Mayriv I noticed this guy talking to two Yerushalmim and pointing at me. I knew that he was telling them that I was the kindest person on earth and such things (there is a heter to lie for the sake of peace), and I also knew who would be my guests for the night. After a dinner over Jerusalmite memories and anecdotes, we went to sleep – the guests downstairs, my fresh family and myself upstairs.
I woke up to a peculiar and loud noise. While I was trying to figure out whether a BMW drove up to the top floor or the city was being bombarded, I noticed that it was raining. Not only outside, but inside the house as well. No, not just an ordinary leak dripping from the ceiling – bona fide rain, heavy rain, inside the house. (We later found out that the roof was being renovated –read: missing-, and on top of that a water pipe broke. The leak went through all the floors and caused major damages, down ‘till the ground floor.) My first reaction was to dash to my baby’s crib to check if she was allright. Once that was covered, I went to see downstairs. Same rain all over. And then I saw something I shall never forget: the two Yerushalmis were sitting at the kitchen table with their hats and hat-covers on, calmly drinking coffee, smoking and schmoozing as if nothing had happened. They would throw curious glances at ceiling at regular intervals, and just kept enjoying the Amsterdam weather in the greatest possible tranquility. When they saw me, they asked in chorus –in the world’s most casual tone “?עס רעגענט אייביק אזוי – Does it always rain like that?”
Definition of Judaism
“Of course I Jewish! I have menoooooorah, I have mezzzzzuuuuzah, I have ‘dotter’ learn in ulpan in Tel-Aviv! Of course I Jewish!” (This was the lady from the ground floor whose newly installed six inch deep carpet got ruined in the rain from the previous story, when I asked her if she was Jewish, upon noticing the mezuzah.)
Definition of Orthodox
“You mucho oftodox. I know. You mucho, mucho oftodox. I know dat. Cos you have dis” (shaking the corner of my jacket) “I see you do dis fo’ yo’ G-d” (mimicking shockeling) “You mucho oftodox.” (A Chinese chef on how he discovered my doxy.)
Definition of Orthodox II
“I am Orthodox. Tefilin I don’t have…” A distant relative, about his piety.
Milk and chocolate milk in Israel are packaged in plastic bags. The Israeli kids have an ancient tradition of blowing up their emptied shoko bags and stomping on then, making a loud “bang”. So naturally, when Avi spotted an empty shoko, all blown up, lying in the school corridior, he did not miss the opportunity – running from the end of the corridor, he gave it his mightiest stomp ever. But he got more than he expected: the walls, floors and his clothes were all covered in spoiled chocolate milk, while a bunch of kids were laughing their innards off at their prank.
The family was gathered around the table, and as the mother put the steaming chicken soup down, a large kitchen utensil fell into the pot. After the walls and participants were all splashed with soup and jumping around, and the commotion began clibing down its climax, the youngest kid, a somewhat absent minded, dreamer type boy of about 5 looked up and asked in vivid surprise “What?! What happened?! It was milchig?”
An American girl boarded an Egged bus in Jerusalem, asking the driver “כמה ממון? Kama mamon?”. Without missing a beat, the driver snapped “תרי זוזי - Trei zuzei!”*.
*the term ‘mamon’ (currency, finance) is totally out of place and archaic-sounding in this context. The ‘zuz’ was a coin in ancient Israel and Babel.)
A Jamaican guy was trying to convince an American guy that reggae music is far superior to rock’n’roll. He had a rock solid argument: “Rock just goes tananana, tananana, tananana, but reggae,” -ah, that’s so much more subtle- “goes Boom-boom bamm-bamm, boom-boom bamm-bamm”.
A known Chabad-hater who’d never miss an opportunity to take a stab at Lubavitchers, surprised us when he stated during a conversation that turned to Chabad: “It’s really a pity the the Rebbe didn’t have children”. A silence fell as we all gave him inquiring looks, because that by far wasn’t a nasty enough comment. So, with the typical thumb-motion and niggun of a good yeshivisha teiretz, he explained: “Since the Rebbe was God, his son would have been the Son Of God. Then the Chabadskers would have left us alone and gone to screw the Catholics’ minds!”
A Haredi guy was sitting on the bus, and the only vacant seat left was next to his. A frei couple boarded the bus, but couldn’t sit next to each other as they wished. Then they started whispering among themselves, and the girl sat down next to the frum guy. Disappointed at the failure of his stratagem, the boyfriend asked his sweetheart’s neighbor “Doesn’t the Torah forbid a man sitting next to a woman?” “Yes” came the answer from the astute Yeshiva bocher “but that only applies to a pretty woman!”
This soliloquy was delivered to me in the "shababnik" (“bum”, dropout, good-for-nothing) section of a Hassidishe shul, of which I was a founding member.
-These Hassidim, they are bums, mamesh bums. They are boors and amei-ha’arets. They know nothing. Nothing but picking their noses, fressing kugel and wiping their greasy hands in their bekitshes. And those Rebbes are opportunistic fat slobs. Have you ever seen a thin Rebbe? Never. Corrupt ganefs, every last one of them. OK, you’ve got a few exceptions, like Phillip and Stein, but the vast majority are ignoramuses. Ignoramuses, mamesh ignoramuses. No Yiddishkeit, no goyishkeit. Just like the Mizrachnikes – they made up their own version of Yiddishkeit, and made a circus of it, these clowns. Can’t read a blatt gemore, distort all poskim, they only read those bubbeh-maises in hassidishe sforim. They sleep late, daven late…. (After eight more minutes of this I asked him why hadn’t he gone davening in the Litvisha shul across the street – the shul in which we both ‘officially’ belong)
- I woke up late. Also, I can’t stand those Yeshivish people. They’re snobs, snobs, every last one of them. They’re the most evil people on earth. Lucky they don’t have any money. If the Litvaks had any money, they’d destroy the whole world… (After a few more minutes of this it was time for mussaf, so I was saved. This was the same guy from the bus in the previous story.)
-Why didn’t you shave?
-Nothing grew, commander!
-So why is your face all covered with “spikes”?
-That grew yesterday, commander!
Not a racist
My wife was telling me that she called at work, but it took that stupid schwartze half an hour to tell her that I was gone already. (As I wasn’t there they called a guy whose last name is Joseph). I told her that he isn’t a schwartze but Indian. “Oh, he’s such a nice guy!”
-Yossi! A whole day you’re sitting on the computer! It became your second wife!
-Chas v’sholem! It’s my first wife!
“Of course all languages come from Hebrew! That’s evident!” yammered the cab driver to the linguist, who realized all too late that you simply don’t argue with an Israeli cabbie. “There are plenty proofs. Do you know how they say “egzoz” (the "official" Hebrew for exhaust pipe) in English? – Egzozt!”
“So what does this drunkard Noach do, first thing coming out of the arch? He plants a grapevine and gets stoned. Then his son Ham sodomizes him. So Ham got a curse to become a schwartze and a slave forever, and now all of humanity has to suffer. And ever since, the Jews don’t eat pork, because of this Ham” (A gentile chef with special affinity for medrashei chazal and racial equality)
The desperate teacher again admonishing the worst kid in class “What will be of you, Kobi? You never listen, you flunk all tests, your parents have to be called to Yeshiva every other day, you didn’t learn one word the whole year! What will become of you? What do you want to be? A chaver Knesset?”
A husband decided to pull the ultimate prank on his wife: he’d make believe that he committed suicide! So he staged a state of the art mock-hanging in his living room, tying a rope around his waist, concealed under his clothing, and the mock-rope around his neck. However, he was the one surprised when the maid came in, and, unimpressed by her employer’s tragic fate, started stealing the valuables around the house. Unable to climb down fast enough, all the poor guy could do was give a light kick in her rear-bumper when she walked by. She got a heart attack and dropped dead.
This guy stayed home one day, and decided to fix a few things around the house. The fridge needed some more professional attention, so he called a technician. As the cooling expert was kneeling with his head in the refrigerator, Mrs. Came home. Not knowing that there was a stranger in the house, she slapped her “husband” on the buttocks. The startled techie gave a sudden jerk, which resulted in a powerful head-knock on the fridge’s top. When the medics heard the story, they laughed so hard the poor lad fell off the stretcher and broke an arm.
Water to wine
-Hello, the water company here
-We’re working in the area, can you please do me a favor? Just open the tap and let me know what happens? Thank you so much.
-There’s water running
-Did you expect Coke, you moron?
(a young kid’s favorite prank call)
I was sautéing some vegetables in a skillet, and as I gave a little too strong shake, some oil splashed out. A drop landed on my thigh, and that really hurt. Startled, I jumped backwards, realizing that I was lying on my folding bed in the tent. I had fallen asleep with a cigarette in my hand, and it burned a hole in my pants and touched my leg. A guy who witnessed the incident (and didn’t wake me up, just to watch the fun!) remarked, “Now that's what I call a real wet dream!” (“Wet” as in “Wet training” refers to training exercises with live ammo.)
WomanA lady was davening in a corner of the workplace corridor. A frum employee pointed out to the security guard that she was turned in the wrong direction. He just made a dismissive hand motion saying “אשה– woman”
© Joseph Izrael 2007