Monday, December 31, 2007

So where is Suitepotato now on the conversion path?

Right where I was at the beginning and will be years after the beit din of the local Conservative synagogue see me: still and always learning.

I work late hours and have crushing bills. I have no choice but to work the hours as I did agree to work any hours they gave me. I was desperate for this job when I took it and now... not so much, but still in dire financial need (though no tip jar shall go here, I don't need donations, I need ideas) and one of my ikkarim is that we are no better than our actions and among those specifically of greatest importance are those undertaken to fulfill our word.

Thus it is that going to the local synagogue for classes anytime soon is right out. I can't keep the roof over my head AND take classes.

However, this is not a big deal for me. I didn't join for acceptance and fitting in. I joined for having a spiritual home and that acceptance was G-d's alone. All my life I have looked everywhere for it but that little voice in the heart of my soul just shook it's head as it were. I could hear a depressed sigh from it and a very low and hard to hear "no, not there..."

It wasn't until I turned towards Judaism that the voice said, "yes... that looks like home".

I used to cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever find a wife when I was alone. I would cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever belong anywhere. I would cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever be like any other people and fit in.

Well, G-d worked through a relative who after everyone else had watched me be alone for years and think nothing of it, or at least not enough to speak about it, suggested the personals. I met my current and please G-d oh please let her be the only one ever and permanent and let me get old with her and die with her. Thank you for her.

I looked towards the lands I'd been, the lands others offered, and found a land that was no different and yet felt more at home than anywhere else. A place I felt I could put down my potted plant on the window sill, a place where I could sit on the porch, a place where I had neighbors who I didn't feel uncomfortable around.

That land was Judaism.

As I said, I didn't join for the fitting in and being accepted, it was the home and home is where the heart is and my heart was lost. Nowhere to be, nowhere to sit, nowhere to rest. G-d it seemed to me would not allow me to have a place. Like playing a game where the other person can only say yes or no, or more like maybe or not, I looked until I found the one that got the "maybe" response.

Acceptance and fitting in come with it, but it wasn't the acceptance by others, it was partly mine, and partly G-d's. I fit in within my heart.

Now will the congregation accept me? I think so. They're a bit politically left of me as far as I can tell and more than I'd like involved in city doings, but pretty average folks. Just Jewish average folks. They observe what they can fit in their lives to various degrees and I expect that though a ger tzedek has much more of a bar to chin up to, I should do well there. After all, I've had the time to let the shock hit me.

What shock you incredulously ask?

Well the shock of Jewish reality. Just read Jewish blogs. You have Charedi Orthodox (if that's not redundant and I think it is) men admitting they watch rented video tapes on Shabbat, sometimes drive on Shabbat, and some display a knowledge of adult subjects far beyond what a single guy who ostensibly davens and leins to the tune of their conservative community should.

Then of course there's the dark side. Stories of Chasidim acting like petty children, acting like Mitnagdim, acting like anything but people who even have the slightest clue what "chesed" means.

Then on to the even darker side. Ostracism, sexism, spousal abuse, sexual abuse, turning a cold shoulder to ger tzedek, financial abuses, mistreatment of baal teshuva, etc., etc., etc.

I am not going away. I am not afraid. I am not embarrassed. No one said you're perfect. If you were, what would be the value of you? To me the value of G-d is not that He knows everything, but that He DOESN'T. He created us to ask questions of and to Himself. He cares enough to think about these things. You were made in His image. What else should you do but have and ask questions?

It is not imperfection to have questions, it is imperfection to never bother asking them, among other things. G-d still is perfect in His way. Me and you, not so much, but we can do what we should and that's to ask. We should ask the big questions.

So are people asking the big questions? YES. Most assuredly yes. Beyond any Sanhedrin that could ever be again, the sages within us are crying out to wrangle and argue virtues and vices, sins and merits, and to figure out what should be what. They're doing it on the same blogs that bring stories of Jewish grief.

Don't be afraid. I'm not.





Well, not much. ; )

My literary recommendation of the moment: Marcus Aurelius' Meditations

Meditations (Penguin Classics)
by Marcus Aurelius

Read more about this book...

Read an online version here, but I recommend buying a book copy to own.

Read the Wikipedia entries on stoicism, Marcus Aurelius, and Meditations.

This is one of the works that I got into and still haven't gotten out of yet, before I made the choice to convert. It is without a doubt for me one of the top five most important philosophical works ever. It sets forth and embodies ideas that I cannot properly express through any short words of my own, which I try to use to govern my trek into the world of religion and faith.

This and Hagakure as I earlier referenced would be the top two I want to propose be read by Orthodox and other Jewish religious seekers. There's a serene calmness possible in all human endeavors, even those of warriors and emperors. Perhaps you can find some for yourself to master your worries in these.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Jewish Outreach Institute

“Big Tent Judaism” Words of Torah

And not with you alone will I make this covenant and this oath. But with the one who stands here with us this day before the Lrd our Gd, and also with the one who is not here with us this day. (Deut. 29:9-14)

That struck me between the eyes. Thank you JOI for that. I needed a shot in the arm today.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How you know when your conscience is on the right track...

...or, how do you know G-d speaks through your conscience?

Consider this. You want to feed your dog a little later figuring that the bowl was half full this morning before you went to work and he's already eaten his fill during the day, so he can wait till before you go to bed. You're tired and want to sit down.

Your conscience should stop you. G-d doesn't agree with us all the time. Sometimes yes. Like when you feel you should intervene and stop a mugging. Sometimes not. Like when you try to rationalize having the last piece of desert in the refrigerator. You know you should let someone else have a go at it. It's better to be selfless than self-centered. You know G-d is talking when you hear your own voice somewhere deep inside say, "but your wife might like that after lunch tomorrow. Let her have it. It'll put a smile on her face and you'll feel better about yourself having done a good thing for her."

So, you say back, "yes, I should see to his food and water now while I am up and not later. It's not fair to him. He can't get his own dinner. I'm responsible for him."

In general, G-d will agree when you're doing the right thing, but not necessarily without criticism. He'll point out little points that might help for the future. Or simply a little later.  He'll console you when you're being too hard on yourself, and nag you when you're not being hard enough, when you know that you can do better and the easier it would have been, the more He nags.

However, G-d doesn't ever get nasty. He loves you and is always trying to improve you. The best you that you can be is in His interests for the world, this we know and take on faith. He doesn't set silly standards though and understands you need help along the road.

It's in your conscience where you know. The kind of knowing that doesn't need proof, it just is. The knowing that has an honest balanced and fair view of you. Neither sanctimoniously flagellating nor overly excusing egomaniacal. You know. So don't be afraid to accept it. That fear is what costs us. What holds us down.

I've been there. Where faith is so hard to have. Where your only option seems to be that which the cold uncaring part of the world says is exclusive: give up. I didn't give up. I don't say this to crow. I say this to let you the reader know that the darkness in my life at that time passed, and my marriage is here, my wife is here, my life is here. It would not be had I given up. The bad times don't last forever and you know that.

So stop running from what you know.

Making a Martyr of Bhutto - Yahoo! News

Bhutto is dead. Why why why..?

Haqqani, now a professor at Boston University, isn't sure what the latest bloodshed means for his country. "Will the Pakistani military realize that this is going to tear the fabric of the nation apart, and so really get serious about securing the country and about getting serious in dealing with the extremist jihadis?" he wondered. But he made clear he feels the best chance for such a policy has just evaporated. "She did show courage, and she was the only person who spoke out against terrorism," he said.

"She was let down by those in Washington who think that sucking up to bad governments around the world is their best policy option.

(Emphasis is mine.)

Amen Haqqani. Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How was Christmas at my house?

My house as you know is Jewish, or supposed to be in theory. We light candles every Hanukah and that's about it. My wife considers herself to be converting to Christianity and my mother-in-law observes not much of anything. I think it's been over a year since I last heard her utter anything about fasting. Me, I'm the Christian convert to Judaism who tries to eat kosher marked food, pray, and slowly learn whatever he can without losing heart or mind.

The reasons for all this coming about are many. Most goes back to my wife's late father who was the torch-bearer of faith in their house and much like countless Catholic fathers, made his family attend without much reason behind it other than, that's just how he grew up. Without a connection to G-d on a regular basis beyond the canned form of prayers and psalms, there wasn't any connection to Judaism for my wife.

Besides, she blames herself for her dad's death. It wasn't anyone's fault, his heart attack. Bad things happen to good people. Not everything in the universe has a cause and effect relationship that involves G-d punishing or rewarding you. That's as silly as crystal spheres carrying the planets.

So then his wife's lack of observance is... my guess a combination of pain from associating it with him, and the owing of thousands of dollars in dues to the synagogue, and her way of dealing with the depression of our crushing financial woes. She simply sinks into her easy chair in the living room every night and falls asleep in front of the television.

So my wife insisted on a tree and I love my wife dearly and want to make her happy. I am not happy with her wanting to convert, no. However, she accepted me when I wasn't Jewish as did her mother, and I prefer to leave religious choices to each person on their own. All I can do is show my happiness with coming over to Judaism and remind her that Christianity is most definitely NOT what Jesus of Nazareth had in mind. He was a loyal G-d fearing and loving Jew who wanted to call back his people when it seemed they were lost or getting lost fast. It was the legacy of Paul's taking the message on the road to the gentile world almost exclusively as well as a seeming grudge against the rules of the day (leading to elimination of halacha for instance) which gave us what we see today.

As an aside it makes me cringe to think what Judaism might have obtained had it only gone back to proselytizing instead of eschewing it. The rapid adoption of Christianity and later Islam was proof the people of the world nearby were open to the word of G-d. However, the pesky Romans would have none of that and so spreading Judaism's message would have invited more horrors and... History is never pretty, especially where religion is concerned. The ninja of Japan owe their existence to religious persecution for instance.

She got her tree. It was put in the corner inside one of those portable metal dog enclosures to keep our mutts from tearing it down. Under it were a few presents, all of them for her since I insisted on receiving none and neither of us had money for presents for her mother. It was only a couple years ago when there was money for much more. How the days seem so much drearier now...

I treated it as a remembrance of an important religious Jewish personage's birthday and abstained from as much as I could which I felt wrong on such a day and crocheted my wife a hat in about an hour, since I'd not had time to finish a sweater and a scarf for her.

To her mother I gave another hat which I did finish on time.

Our finances are in shambles, the outlook bleak, the end of the year come and the season of white death about us. Yet I am not giving up and instead trying to maintain some hope. G-d has been with me through foreclosure and gotten me through and out of it. He's been there telling me that the bad times will not last forever and that I can make things different. The future I see for myself is not necessarily what must be. Merely what I see through my own depression.

So I continue on.

I read the blogs of other Jewish men and women, read their takes on G-d and what should or should not be, and feel that thanks to the Internet (and thus thanks to G-d for the ingenuity of man who made it and was made by Him) I am living in a sort of second temple period again. No Sanhedrin today, no. Just a lot of people who care enough to even ask what G-d wants and why He made us and how, and all that. A contentious time when in the name of Him, people marginalize Him. A time when people are confused, upset, angry, and losing hope. We have no Roman legions to contend with, only the empty phantoms of our own worries and the nefarious evils we create, allow, nurture.

We're living in heady times again and I suspect more are to come. We never see them at the time as we see them in hindsight, nor do we understand them so well until even later than that when the passion is not so bright and our honesty easier because the wounds of our guilty consciences hurt a little less or we've scarred over and become a little crustier.

One thing I do know is that none of us should be afraid to give of and be themselves. No matter what those who live in fear say, no matter what those who can't see outside their shtetl ensconced world-views say, no matter what we each say when afraid, we cannot live in fear of being whatever we are.

So I offer this prayer before all to G-d on our behalf. Dear G-d... I beg you, please, do not send us a messiah. I truly believe the time has past for us to be playing innocent children in need of someone you appoint to save us. I believe the time has come for us to grow to the next level and save ourselves. So instead, grant us each just a little insight, just a little hope, just a little courage. Help us to see that our salvation is not from an external evil, but from that which results when we good people do nothing. Help us see we need to save ourselves from ourselves. Help us all see that it isn't about us versus them or me versus someone else, that it is all of us versus all of us, and in our fear and anger we're making it worse.

Please G-d, help our passions to calm and our anger to abate. Please help us make our world better in 2008. Just a little bit. We'll work in it. Just help us to see that we can and always could instead of waiting for you to do it for us. We know you said the stewardship of this world was in our hands. We sometimes forget what goes with that: responsibility for its outcome, to be handled with love and conscience.

Thank you for this year's life. We appreciate it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Random Quotes

"Character is what you are in the dark."
Lord John Worfin, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CD-ROM shatters stereotype of haredi Holocaust silence | Jerusalem Post

A fine article that should be read

Avigdor also recounted the long discussions that took place in a rabbinic court in Drovitz, a town located in modern-day Ukraine, over whether it was permitted to pose as a Christian to save one's life. The rabbis debated whether Christianity was a form of idol worship, and therefore posing as a Christian was forbidden, even at the price of giving up one's life. The court ruled that not only was it permitted to pose as a Christian, it was also an act of bravery since the reason for doing so was to preserve the Jewish people.

Some will call it stupid but this is faith of heart in action. To sit there delaying escape asking seriously, which is the moral course without which living is bothersome and ridden with guilt?

In feudal Japan, this same sort of question would have been along the lines, "shall we dress as the samurai of our lord's enemies to survive to regroup and attack again and bring victory out of our defeat, or is the deception dishonorable and tainting any victory we might achieve after?"

For me, it's related to the morass of today's world. One blogger whose post I can't find at this moment but will post if I can said something along the lines that there are mitzvot due to G-d and mitzvot due to our fellow man and the latter are not as eye-catching and attention-getting. All the usual frum yardsticks are mitzvot to G-d. People see the length of your tzitzit, know you wear tallit katan underneath, they see the quality of your kippah, etc. No one sees what you put in the tzedakah tin. That's a mitzvah aimed by G-d at your fellow man. Not a showy one. Neither would the fifteenth mitzvah or the twenty-first be showy. Break them and you can see it. Maybe. Hold to them and no one notices.

Like working where I do and doing a good job. It's to wear dark pants and wet yourself. A warm feeling is had, but no one else notices and in the end you feel stupid.

These men weren't worried about Olam HaBa, they were worried about the morality and dignity of their lives if they did something that might be so seriously wrong. Could they hold their heads high later if they did the wrong thing? Would death be preferable?

Not everything in our ways makes a lot of sense or on deep reflection can ever be sensible, but neither did the samurai ways. On the other hand, much made sense.

So if you want something to help you with your faith and exemplification thereof, I suggest getting a copy of Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. It's an excellent read and I find many parallels between two cultures who were each at their times very violent and warrior driven, yet more of it was in their minds than in their hands. Ancient Israel and feudal Japan... both born of tribal combat, but did far more war in the heart and mind than ever they did on any number of battlefields.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Read more about this book...

Perhaps someday we will properly embrace what we find in this CD-ROM release and see the nobility in their survival.

(For me, you owe no honor to those who with all dishonor seek your death and destruction. Therefore, lying and pretending to be something else is not a bad thing for you lie to a liar and deceive a deceiver for the sake of outlasting them to a time when there will be no more need for either.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Reform leader embraces Shabbat as antidote to 'microwave culture' | Jerusalem Post

Missed it by that much! (As the famous Maxwell Smart quote goes...)

Other issues addressed included the need to build an "unconditional, non-negotiable" connection to Israel, Jewish-Muslim dialogue and the need for universal health care.

First, what does that have to do with any movement of Judaism? As long as you insist on sticking political planks into theological propositions and positions, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

Second, if you even tried to follow a little of that culinary tznius called kashrut, you might notice it to be a lot healthier in the first place. It's not for nothing the majority of items in the health food section have kosher symbols on them.

Oh wait, universal health care... Okay, sell kosher eating to the masses then. I'm sure you can find a nice telegenic Reform man or woman for a Food Network show. Of course it will be done for other than religious reasons, but the health of us, physical and moral, is the reason for kashrut. So... half is better than nothing. It's a start.

Go for that. In the meantime, please stay out of the political arena and especially this nonsensical universal health care thing. It has nothing to do with making people healthy or caring for their health. It has everything to do with rationing care, and treating the glass as less than half empty, all for the sake of entrenching some people in power over others, shackling the masses to the choices of others. We need more government involved with our health like we need another Antiochus Epiphanes in our lives.

One on One: Debunking dastardly debate | Jerusalem Post

This is a very important article...

Here's a really good quote:

How do you explain what appear to be more and more cars with exhaust pipes emitting the kind of pollution your book deals with? And why is it being spread among the educated, self-proclaimed freethinking classes?

We live under the fallacy that educated people - or specialists in a certain field - have better judgment than the man in the street. One of the myths about the Nazis is that they were primitive - that the party had no intellectuals. I've even heard that said by the opening speaker at a major anti-Semitism conference. But if you ask people to name the leading philosopher in Europe in the second half of the 20th century, the dominant answer would be Martin Heidegger - a Nazi.

And if you ask them to rate the 10 most important thinkers of Europe, at that time you often find a second Nazi on that list: German law professor and political theorist Carl Schmitt.

I strongly suggest reading the interview. I intend to get his book myself.

Technion releases first ever nano-Bible | Jerusalem Post

Next up, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin...

You want small? You want portable? How does the size of a grain of sugar sound?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Alone again, yet not, I know

It's now about ten minutes into Shabbat as I type this and once again, the Jewish blogging world goes quiet until Saturday night and services, prayers, candles are on the minds of many. I am at work keeping my word to work the schedule I agreed to before I set on converting.

It's not easy being here. Since setting on this path, I've started learning Hebrew, wearing a kippah, reading a translated Torah, eating kosher whenever I can, reading of Jewish and Israeli history and paying attention to the news, hustle, and flow of modern Jewish and Israeli life. There's no bar to any of the things I need to do. I can pray English or Hebrew any time of the day. I can speak with G-d whenever. Shabbat is the lone observance I cannot reliably make yet.

Nevertheless I try. I light my battery-operated light, I pray, I try to stay up and not get depressed.

Someday I will get the schedule I want. Someday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Father says killed daughter in Canadian hijab case | International | Reuters

G-d does not want you to do this.

A sad end to the over-sexual-objectification of women by men who claim to be pious. A pious man can sit in a strip bar and not think more about naked women than they might catch cold. A not-so-pious man is so insecure about his own self-control that he'll beat his daughter to death over whether or not she wears a scarf.

If all a woman is to you is a fuck toy that needs to be boxed, you're not pious. ESPECIALLY if you think physical violence is acceptable in the pursuit of it.

A lesson for certain people who won't of course learn no matter how much we wish they would.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worthy quotes because G-d is talking to you all the time

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The top five blogs I check every day

  1. Rabbi Lazar Brody
    I may not always agree, but I find that he started out as a soldier and became a rabbi to be amazing and something I am not sure I could manage.
  2. Rabbi Without A Cause
    RWAC gives an excellent inside view of the daily issues and thoughts of your average currently serving and preaching rabbi. I think it important to give consideration to that, that a rabbi only human and has as many questions and feelings as you do.
  3. DovBear et al
    I even read Bray's posts and replies without instantly dismissing him.

    The twin blog to the above, in my mind joined at the hip.
  4. Baal Devarim
    I rather like the brilliant spots that bubble up here.
  5. Wolfish Musings
    Various blogs you cannot easily relate to and this is not one of them.

I still check out RenReb but she's posted nothing in what feels like forever now, and several others like Orthomom, but every day, I check these five for sure.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fundamentalism SHOULD mean...

Finding out what the fundamental nature of a thing is, and then pursuing that thing in line with that nature.

What is the fundamental nature of G-d? Well, He has no power greater than Him yet is not chaotic and whimsical. So He can do whatever He wants but will not do just anything. Therefore, He has a nature. He has a conscience.

What is the fundamental nature of religion? Well, it's about finding spiritual truths that apply to the human condition, psychological and emotional, moral and ethical, who and what we are.

What is the fundamental nature of science? Well, it's about finding facts that can be tested as simply as using water to find level and cut stone to that level, or as complicated as measuring the "ticking" of a cesium atom.

Notice I DID NOT say it was about finding truths. So everyone trying to deconstruct Judaism by reading Paul Davies... understand the difference, because the theologians of modern science who think it about great heady epiphanies and truths sure won't.

Green Hanukkia' campaign sparks ire | Jerusalem Post


Green Hanukkia' campaign sparks ire | Jerusalem Post

In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.


Also, this quote of Tom Wegner:

"There are many people who just light candles for the tradition and for their children," he said. "To tell a child on the eighth day that we are not lighting the last candle as a sacrifice for the environment is an act that is not only educational but also will prevent the release of a huge amount of carbon dioxide that would hurt the environment."


Yup, science sure is logical, rational, and non-religious. Sure... While we're at it, I have this bridge in San Francisco to show you...

Once again children, there is NO scientific evidence WHATSOEVER that HUMANS are causing "global warming". There IS scientific evidence that Earth is coming OUT OF AN ICE AGE. That is, not only going from glacial to interglacial, but actually headed out of the ice age entirely. There is far more evidence that we are at the tail end of an interglacial and in the last 5,000 years or so of it. According to the ice core evidence, which the global warming as caused my humans enthusiast USED TO trumpet but now studiously ignore, towards the ends of interglacials the temperature increase curve rises sharply before a brief stability and then roller coaster drop back to cold.

See the ice core graph at Wikipedia.

But of course you say, "Suitepotato, you can't mean it. Every little bit of CO2 must count!"

Okay then, stop bathing so much. Stop eating and drinking so much. Every bit of waste you put down the drain into the sewers counts towards our planet's pollution.

While you're at it, stop lighting candles at all. Every bit must count.

Try electrics? NO! Every bit counts and those batteries cost energy generated at a coal or oil powered plant.


Now, Judaism is beset by this idiocy. What's next? A call to end matzoh production because it uses wheat from modern farming methods figured to be not Earth friendly? No gefilte for you, you defiler of the waterways! Put down that etrog, it came from land better used however nature sees fit and besides, it should fall to the ground naturally as nature intended.

Which religion would you rather have? One that ALREADY teaches respect for the environment to the extent that every aspect of taking food from it is prescribed and regulated in total minute detail? Or one that tells you that you aren't allowed in the environment in the first place and only just happen to be here and if it wasn't for your opposable thumbs and well developed brains that you'd have been superceded by something else in evolution?

G-d save us from our idiot fears and overarching egos that we believe we can destroy your world of asteroid impacts and super-volcanoes with mere Chanukah candles...

Monday, December 3, 2007

A quick test of Microsoft Windows Live Writer

Wow. Not bad. Even lets me compose as if I was writing right inside the blog itself.

Will tell you more as I discover it.

G-d bless you all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Odd little signposts along the way...

Growing up, I was always far more comfortable with Jewish comedians of the Borscht Belt golden years than others. Don't get me wrong, I was no prude. I listened to George Carlin, Robin Williams, and so forth... but I always had a special spot for Alan Sherman, Mel Brooks, etc.

So the Saltines I've been eating for years are just pseudo-matzah in a smaller size...

I once invented a language in my head for a book I was writing and accidentally named a character "angel of death" in what appears to be a semitic pre-cursor to Hebrew and Arabic. Never heard of it before today.

If Christians didn't exist till long after Jesus and Jesus was Jewish, then why make a whole new religion? Wasn't Jesus acting within Judaism? I could have sworn his work wasn't aimed at let's say pagan Romans...

Why have I always felt like I missed out on something whenever I come across mentions of Shammai and Hillel and their exchanges? Sure, I loved playing an Atari and an under-sixty general life expectancy doesn't sound great, but something happened during that period that was really special and important.

I've covered my head with a hat or sweatshirt hood since I was a little kid. Never liked being without one.

While always aghast at the violence, was still much for the Old Testament.

Strange some days...

Answer to the previous question

Previous Question: What have you done to be Jewish lately?

Actual Answer For Me: Therefore, I do homage and respect that which those who've gone before have laid out, even though it is only perhaps to most a small thing.

Respect for tradition of a thing which is done out of respect for G-d.

Not the kippah or the crochet, that which they embodied. The reason they were done.

For those undergoing paroxysms of doubt in their faith, know that the great respect for tradition with faith in an earnestly held belief in a good thing is one of the ways Jews are perceived by the outside world. This is why you should hold on.

I know so many have questions. They struggle with literalism versus implication, G-d's direct word versus inspirational writing, the portrayal of a vengeful G-d versus a nice and loving G-d... They struggle this way in Christianity. I'm sure Muslims do as well and in fact know very well that some do from the Muslim section of the local book store.

Don't you think that asking shows that you even care in the first place? Don't you feel that asking is what He wants you to do?

Okay, now do you think He is a sadistic bastard? No? Then why would He want you to ask and despair? He wouldn't. He wants you then to ask and... what?

Go back and re-read those quotes I posted early this AM before I headed to bed.

What have you done to be Jewish lately?

My task yesterday: I crocheted a kippah.

My task today: I wore it.

If yours was missing, or you never had one and were in the boat with me, converting, and it was considered here in our modern times important for Jewish men to show respect for G-d by covering their head with a humble covering, would you make your own?

Why did I make my own? Because my co-religionists deem it important. Important enough to make an entire industry of their manufacture, and wear them constantly. Make them a signature visual affectation of being a Jewish man. Therefore, I do homage and respect that which those who've gone before have laid out, even though it is only perhaps to most a small thing.

Respect for tradition of a thing which is done out of respect for G-d.

I don't need it to be in the Torah. I don't need the Talmud to spell it out. The faith of simple men and women and their decency was all that was needed. That is why anything matters. Because we with great caring believe it does. As G-d says all the time, believe whatever you choose to believe. You will anyhow. Just be careful what you choose.

Tomorrows task: complete the crocheted book cover for my pocket paperback copy of the Torah so it will remain in good shape and easier to keep with me. I'm told it is important by people I respect... Not to mention a certain deity who has taken to making odd philosophical and moral points right when I am getting out of the shower. More about that another time.

I am called crazy because I say G-d talks to me...

...and I call you crazy for not listening when He talks to you.

Some favorite quotes...

From The Matrix Revolutions:

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to.

From The Prophecy:

Thomas Daggett: [narrating] In the end, I think it must be about faith, and if faith is a choice, then it can be lost - for a man, an angel, or the devil himself. And if faith is never completely understanding God's plan, maybe understanding a part of it - our part - is what it is to have a soul, and in the end, that's what being human is, after all.

From The Prophecy II:

Valerie Rosales: [referring to God] It's not that he stopped loving you. It's because you don't listen.
Gabriel: What does he say ?
Valerie Rosales: [whispers into Gabriel's ear] Jump.

From The Prophecy III:

Gabriel: In the end, there's still the word. Everywhere. In heaven with angels, the Earth and stars; even the darkest part of the human soul. It was there the word burned brightest, and for a moment... I was blinded.

(all taken from for op-ed use, even if the op-ed is implied by the arrangement)

Monday, November 26, 2007

WORSE than Slamming the Door on Converts

The worst sin in the world is not killing. It is not rape. Nor child abuse. Nor anything else you see mentioned in the news. Those things can for the survivors be outlasted and with the strength of the human heart be surmounted.

The worst sin in the world is destroying hope. Without a belief however irrational it may seem that life will continue and even improve, their is no motivation any longer for action. Actions turn to other motivations. Darker ones. Hopeless ones. All the world tumbles down to Hell.

We see it every day. We see the other sins. Those are the after effects of denying hope.

The first hope is that our creator loves us too. We want to be accepted and loved, just the way we are, by that which made us. It's as strong a drive in our hearts as wanting our mother and father when we are in peril. Stronger than sex, more powerful than hunger, we want G-d to love us too.

I say too because we have an inherent sense that G-d loves, and someone else. We see our cup as half empty and think that everyone else has something going for them just a little more than we. We think G-d loves everyone else. Some of us take up clothing, books, and scrolls imbued by the trust of our fellows and spread that message. Even then, those spreading the message wonder. Come to think of it, when was the last time you told your Rabbi that G-d loved him or her? Who comforts the men and women of the faith when they need it?

Now, ever more, with this happening we are reminded of in the title linked article, as well as this other one I may have mentioned thanks to Rejewvinator, we are seeing in Judaism a terrible slide in the direction that Christianity has already slid: taking away the hope, slamming the door on the idea... that G-d loves you.

You're not a Jew by their standards... then what are you? Just a human being?

There's nothing "just a" about you. Remember that this entire world began with G-d waking up one day before time was even time and noticing His own existence and commenting, "I am."

Don't let go of that hope. You are. You are, and He loves you too. And that is something even He can't take away from you.

Let not the schism be.

Goodness but the flue does bite...

And I got it!

Well, we can be thankful that unlike the writers of Battlestar Galactica who think that downloaded Cylon memories can carry actual material organic bacterial/viral infections with them, we know this Internet won't transmit the bugs.

So, more posting this week. See you around!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A response to The Dead End of Jewish Culture

As this little snippet shows, Christianity is not the only place when men of the religion are looking out their doors wondering where the congregation went.

American Jews have been occupied for four decades in a desperate attempt to stay the tide of assimilation and intermarriage (not to even speak of their more hideous confrere: conversion). I remember as a teenager in the early 1960s sitting through sermons where our rabbi pontificated on the various solutions to The Problem. Yet exactly what is the Jewish leadership trying to perpetuate? Jewish genes? Jewish culture? A fondness for kreplach and klezmer and Isaac Bashevis Singer?

If so, no wonder the Catholics are winning. They don't strive to inculcate in their children a love for Catholic culture. They don't try to whip up enthusiasm for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day nor spend millions to make sure that every Catholic child decorates an Easter egg. They are propagating a religion, complete with God and soul and afterlife. We are pushing a culture, complete with Sholem Aleichem and dreidels and lithographs of the Western Wall. But for a culture, no matter how engaging, no one is ready to sacrifice one's life -- nor the love of one's life. Against Christianity we have pitted not Judaism, but Judaica.

Fear not that the answer lies beyond your reach but fear that human nature makes it very unlikely you will want to go there.

The reason is the same as mine for leaving Catholic Christianity for Conservative Judaism: fear replacing love, even the most cherished rituals of the faith being reduced to cultural affectations without meaning to the soul of the congregant, and a stunning lack of personality and chutzpah from the man at the podium.

I spoke no lie before... the answer is not going to be what you wanted to hear.

First, there is structural damage in the form of fear replacing love. This is perhaps easier to see in Christianity's history than in Judaism's but make no mistake there is far less relating of reasons to see G-d's love in the rituals as opposed to grave warnings of transgressing. No Jew has ever been struck down for having a pork chop. So the warnings of divine retribution over breaking His rules are made to look silly and hollow. The average Jew isn't stupid enough to fail to notice any more than the average Christian. Read the frum orthodox bloggers and see how many are buck and chafing at the yoke now. Check out Rabbi Lazar Brody's upset candor in this article for an example of the mistakes of some rabbis in being strict for the sake of G-d to the point they trample on Him.

Second, when there is not only no love but not even fear the rituals become like a kid who eats his sandwiches just so, someone who makes sure never to walk on the cracks on the sidewalk, etc. No better than superstition and you might remember Maimonides warning us on that. Worse yet, they go from that to subconscious "we've always done that" acts. Judaism is being reduced to Judaica.

Third, sorry to say rabbonim but you're looking pretty darn shabby. You need to work on the delivery. You and the Catholic priests, the Protestant priests, etc. For many congregants, your presentation isn't a lot different than Eddie Izzard's take on the Church of England and Christianity in general.

Why have so many Catholics gone over to Evangelical Born-Again Christianity? Pumping grace. Hands in the air, singing to the Lord, passion. Catholicism lacked this passion for them. So did the old-guard Protestant denominations. It is NOT for no reason that there are more and more Evangelical and Pentacostal Hispanic churches ever day. Imagine if every third minyan broke off and became not only their own synagogue, but their own movement.

At this point the core of Christianity is a giant hunk of Alka-Seltzer, the edges frittering and devolving away into ephemeral memory. THAT is what is happening to Judaism. The major difference being that Jesus' example of rebellion in the name of conscience is not so well understood on the conscience end as the rebellion end. Judaism doesn't have a strong example of devolving to further movements and new ones are momentous happenings. Should that change, expect a legion of Reb Carlebachs* of various qualities to pop up whose ability to read the Hebrew in the Tanach and Talmud is perfectly wonderful, but whose schooling and scholarship is lacking, so they make up for it in joyous noise that engages the congregation. Much light without heat, much noise without meaning. After a while, that too will go out as it is going out among so many devolved Christians.

Some might preach what is right for the right reasons, some might preach the wrong thing for the right reasons, others will preach the wrong thing for the wrong reason and human nature being what it is, this is the most seductive. Where do you think Jim and Tammy Baker came from? Christianity is already way ahead of you.

Rabbonim, before you reject what I say, will you not ask is there nothing in what you believe and hold dear that is not capable of being the fuel for faithful fire that engages the congregation just as much? Is the way of the mitnagdim so much more seductive to you than the first chasidim? Are you so worried and so full of doubt that you can no longer express love and hope and happiness to the Jew in the street as well as that?

I am confident you can.

While some may argue Judaism is a faith born of hardship and only hardship and strictness can make it stay relevant to us, I do not believe that at all.

I have faith in you rabbonim. If you only have faith in yourselves, you can throw aside your fears of facing your own shortcomings, facing the questions of Torah literal versus implied reading, the scary possibilities of titanic shifts in canon, as easily as you toss aside a napkin.

Remember, if you have to choose between love and fear, love is the better to choose. Never forget that when you teach why kashrut is what it is. Not that those who violate it are courting gehinom.

*I mean as in singing rabbis, not that Reb Carlebach was without substance. If you photocopied him and photocopied the photocopies each in turn nine hundred times, what would you have? Not Carlebach, that's for sure.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another DovBear post worth jousting joining in

But not in the Haloscan comments where some of my replies are like sticking War and Peace into a short pamphlet on the dangers of diabetes. So read Toby Surfaces and you'll see what I was piqued to write about. By the way, neither DovBear or any one specific person lit my fuse.

First, don't mistake G-d's grace in making you in the first place for not having a right to be here (in the world, in Israel, the US, wherever you posit the generic 'here' to be). You DO have a right to be here and even HE can't take it away without reversing Himself and that would undo Him. Therefore, by His own existence are you guaranteed the right. He made it so, therefore it is. Thank Him, but don't think Him so cheap that His gift can be undone any time He has a whim. It was way greater a gift than that and that greatness is why you owe him thanks.

Even if you die, you were and could say like Him "I am". Don't lose sight of the vast implication of that. He tied you inextricably to Himself sight unseen. This over all other things is why you owe Him your allegiance.

Second, don't mistake the mistakes of reasoning and emotion on the part of others as justification for engaging in them yourself. It is also Christian dogma stated or not that Jesus was not supposed to be accepted among his own people in his own time. It was the will of G-d that he not be. You can hardly blame ANYONE for G-d's predestination. Ours is not to reason why and all.

Naturally, humans want to blame someone for the death of someone who means something to them. You can't go and wag a finger at G-d and say, "you can't do that, you can't take away the messiah from me like that" and who else is there left to blame?

After the short brief stay in the Greek world, for better or worse, Christianity was taken up by the Romans. Do you really think they're going to blame their new all-powerful G-d for Jesus' death? We're down by two of three now. Who's left to blame? Really short game of musical chairs there. G-d's throne is immovable and the Romans never stood to the music.

Yet Jesus would not have blame tossed about so if you think there's neurosis in the world of Judaism, all of Christianity is neurotic on this one issue. Never mind all the ten thousand others.

While the teachings of the Catholic church wimbled and waffled on that subject of "Who Killed Jesus?" (everyone, in the study, with the lead pipe, I kick major backside at Clue, Monopoly too) in a way I thought highly morally repugnant, your average Christian on the street didn't hate Jews despite not really hanging out with them on a religious level. They weren't Jews, they were Jackie at the deli, and Bill at the office, and so on. They just didn't understand them and the church didn't help them understand being a Christian so how much more lost could they get?

(As an aside, why do you think that there are now so many "Jews for Jesus" people popping up now at the same time as so many Orthodox Jews blogging skeptical thoughts? Same reason: nagging conscience. Jesus' existence is the first assumption of Christianity and nothing else seems sensible so they're trying to do Jesus honor by doing what he seemed to be doing... getting people back to G-d. They just want to try to honor Jesus by adopting something of his cultural and religious ways without letting go of the Catholic central dogma of Jesus as G-d's superhighway toll collector and the nifty original sin spot remover as if Jesus was a moral Billy Mays.

Not possible perhaps between modern semi-post-diaspora Judaism and them but said form of Judaism did NOT exist then and if you think you hear Michael Buffer in your head yelling now before religious disputes imagine going back to the prime time of the Sanhedrin, imagine ground zero of Shammai and Hillel. "Let's get ready to rumbbbbbbbblllllle!"

But they at least are acting like G-d exists in a world that doesn't seem to. When they start blowing up stuff in the name of G-d, let me know.)

Does this mean I'm saying let antisemitism pass? HECK NO. I am quite likely the last on Earth to pass this.

Neither though should you paint with so broad a brush. Make no enemy of those better your friend and neighbor and of those better your enemy, reconsider. They're always better off on the friends list no matter what.

That is why your enemies should sadden and vex you, not that you are a victim, but that they are missing out on being your friend and G-d commanded you to be good to your neighbor and they are stymieing that putting you in a lose-lose situation where the best Pyhrric victory you can manage is to learn from their behavior to not become like them.

Returning hate and ignorance with love, albeit sad and heartbroken, is no different than your G-d does for you every time you imperfectly break His directions. Hard for you? Imagine how ticked off He must get some days.

Thankfulness is due to G-d for everything. Even the bad things. As has been taught repeatedly.

My task for day: read someone else's blog

After the mountain of output from my smithing at the keyboard I realized I'd had no time to read any of the other blogs I read.

Will be back later today maybe, definitely tomorrow G-d willing.

Also, I am extremely angry at the lack of common sense in people in general regarding the idea that if you are going somewhere, drive like it. I'd rant and that's not what I want to do today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Further along in the road...

So I had stopped going to Sunday School, and then to church, and refused to go near a bible. I had one in my nightstand, but I never read it anymore. The world was painful to me pretty regularly, and I tried to track my doings, and couldn't find a formula of crime and punishment from above. It seemed pretty disproportionate and unfair.

Which is of course not to say that going without necessarily made my life all cream and sugar. It certainly didn't. Good... bad... needle stops on indifferent. Wasn't hurting, wasn't helping. If you want to be transcendental you can say what doesn't help you hurts you by wasting time when you need helping but no need to nitpick.

As the years ticked on my family fell apart. A new marriage for my mother went no better than the last but not for the same reasons unless you want to go to root causes in which case they were the same reasons: total self-absorption causing an inability to compromise, to see the other side, to see their own flaws, to admit those flaws to themselves and each other, inflexibility, unstoppable force meets immovable object. I went from two sets of grandparents to three and back to two. How do you give a kid your family and get everyone opening their hearts to each other and exchanging Christmas gifts and cards and kisses and hugs... and then take that away? I never got to see my step-father's parents again before they died. I wondered if they missed me the way I missed them.

My sister became an adolescent and as sisters often do, decided I was no longer her big brother. I was now Public Enemy Number One. If there was a crime in the world, of any kind, men were responsible, starting we me. For my part, it was like getting demoted by an employer you thought liked you, and a kick in the crotch for good measure. Being her big brother was one of my few secret joys. For a few hours a week total, I was someone important to someone, even if it wasn't any of my now three semi-parents. Now I was persona non grata.

You ever see that MASH episode where Houlihan cries to her nurses about how much it hurts to walk past their tent and hear them laughing and know she wasn't welcome? I was sooo there. Got the t-shirt and tote bag. Many times. Like whenever the same kids I played with would no longer play with me if my sister was playing with them first.

Somewhere around her middle high school years she left altogether taking up with some guy who sees in her I know not what. She's like a cat in a permanent state of wet fur, really. At least to me. I never did one thing to her. Not merely nothing to deserve this treatment, but nothing at all. It's strange how people sometimes can just arbitrarily choose to make enemies with people who want so badly to be their friend. You know, she was gone from my life for years before she was gone from the house. Just this sort of blonde blank spot that made me always afraid...

So she's off with him to this day, or back with him. That's another story altogether and later.

Time continued ticking by and with me much more alone than ever I imagined I could be. I used to think the way I could be at a total loss of anyone in the old neighborhood to play with some days was bad. Now living on the other side of town, just me and my mother and her parents was something totally other.

My road was looking pretty shabby. Muddy, potholed, and not going anywhere different or better than I'd been before in any real way. Even with my mother trying out Evangelical/Born Again Christianity.

For those of you born and raised Jews who know nothing about what is going on there other than the mass media, they have less to do with Jesus of Nazareth than the Catholic Church does. It's one part "the Catholics got it wrong", one part "don't worry be happy", one part "fire and brimstone" and one part "Who's this G-d person? The name is J-E-S-U-S!" and none of it tastes real good. Not to me, never did.

I remember how tired and sleepy I was going to a Grace and Vessels meeting. Grace DiBiccari would come out in her dress that was somewhere between a baby's baptismal font dress and a Dolly Parton Grand Ole Opry gown, all white, and with her big poofy black hair and the band would play and she'd sing and she'd preach and I wasn't following any of it.

Maybe I would have followed more if I'd not been subject to the Catholic Guilt Factory first, but then again, maybe not. Protestantism had its own Guilt Trips travel service no matter which denomination and from within, there's not a lot of what you see on the news about ordaining homosexuals or women, or talking about financial flow, there's lots of Jesus whatever. If you think that out of all the would-be messiahs that Jesus at least seemed to have a really good intent and start but Pauline Catholicism opened the flood gates of bastardization, then you'd have to think the Evangelicals were setting out to erase any message he had in a big flouncy fluffy content free pumping the sky atmosphere.

Really. As in Jesus (enter your preposition here). Like... Jesus saves.... and takes half damage. That's a Dungeons and Dragons joke by the way. You could also say Jesus saves... AND SCORES! That's the hockey joke. Not Jesus wanted to drag people back to focus on G-d, not that Jesus wanted to remind us of our creator... Not that Jesus stood for step back and a breath in a world that was on edge looking to blame anyone who got in the way...

No, Jesus has no message with these people. You're saved! From what? Well, the devil. Who is evidently the spitting image of the late Anton LaVey, but with hair.

That was about it. Accept Jesus as your personal saviour now, operators are standing by. Order your personal saviour now, get one more half-off. Also, this nifty travel size bible...

No, be good, honor your parents and you parents don't be cynically taking advantage of it. No lead by example be good and upright...

I slept at these things more than anything else, and through them later on television. Even Gene Scott made me switch the channel faster than the eye could follow.

Nevertheless I wanted to believe that G-d was there. He just didn't seem to like me. I was hurting so bad and everywhere I turned for solace more or less told me all my problems were my own and my fault. Sure, I'm Satan incarnate. That's why you lied to me about being sick that weekend you were supposed to visit me dad... Not that you were playing hooky and taking my step-brothers to the aquarium which I'd have given my left arm to go to see with you all... I was just not worthy, that's it...

I kept an old tin coffee can in my bedroom and in it the cloth-backed picture of Mary which hung round my neck at the time of confirmation, a real wood bead rosary, and a wooden cross that my mom gave me when I was all of six or seven. I'd look at them sometimes, and usually at night when I was all alone and tired after work, and sometimes, I'd cry. I'd feel like I was looking into some place I wasn't welcome, whose owner didn't want me. How could He possibly? Two parental break-ups, changing extended family line-ups, terrible school life, dead-end young adult-hood, sister hating me, grandparents counting down to death, no money, nothing under the Christmas tree, lots of hypocrisy and blame coming from the messengers of G-d, news constantly bad, and lest I forget, no friends living in the ass end of the town nowhere near any socializing opportunity.

My mom had her crocheting and the bible. My sister had her mysterious boyfriend. My father had my step-brothers and half-sister. I had...

Through a series of bad choices, dead-end jobs, and futureless drudgery I continued on growing ever more angry and sad. If I screamed with anger, tears would be on my face at the same time. I didn't know if I wanted to kill someone else or myself more, and was growing fearful of the race to the finish to see which it would be.

The one thing I thought I knew was, "well, even G-d doesn't want me. I am screwed."

I remember that I'd cry a lot. I wasn't looking for sympathy or pity and aren't now. Just so you know.

I'd cry to G-d, begging Him to let me come home. Home was where the heart was, my heart wasn't in any of this, and short of it having nowhere to be, then there must be somewhere I belonged.

He wouldn't say anything. Or maybe I couldn't hear over the crying inside. When would my dad tell me he was proud of me? When would my step-dad tell me I was good enough to be his son? When would my mother understand I was more than the boy she didn't want? Was someone ever going to like me? How nice did I have to be to get someone to not hate me? When would the phone ring and someone be on the other end for me? Even after my sister had left, calls came for her. None for me. Not even my dad, just to shoot the breeze.

Years passed, every one not bringing anything new. My dad played golf and tried to teach both of my step-brothers and my sister's boyfriend even... but never once did he ask me. He talked with me about how great the graphite clubs were. I think the last time he actually did something where he taught me something must have been just before the divorce... I must have really done something horrible to make him leave. He seemed to stop sharing with me then. All those years of waiting to become a legal adult, a man, and nope... nothing more did he teach me father to son. Not even his beloved game of golf. Maybe he thought I was too... not sporty enough. My brother was handsome, fast, strong, got girls, and played little league. So did I and I was on the team that won the town championships.

Like that mattered to anyone or was remembered by anyone. My dad wasn't there for that either. Other guys had their dad show... not me, I had my mother bring me.

Are you there G-d? Hellloooooo?

Not a response. Either He wasn't talking or I couldn't hear him. Six of one, half dozen of another.

My mother became I thought my best friend, but in her own way withdrew from me too. She'd change the subject whenever I tried to strike up any meaningful conversation. Remind me of having cable television. Or that I had books to read. Yeah thanks mom. I come talk to you and you'd rather I go play outside. I guess there might be a squirrel to tell my suicide note to.

I wrote that damn letter in my head over and over. I was going to make everyone sorry or at least escape the horror that no one would be sorry. If no one cared at finding me hanging there, then at least I'd be too dead to notice.

My grandfather spent time with me, but it was like I was Gilligan to the Skipper most days. If not being yelled at then certainly still underfoot and just someone to tell anecdotes to. About WWII no less. Death camps, tanks running over casualties with guts splattering everywhere, Nazi dive bombers, French countryside running red with blood... Great stuff for a kid.

Yeah, I'm bouncing around here as the memories bounce around. Parallel overlapping stripes of themes one on top of another. I was good enough to... ehh... but not whatever enough to spend time with talking about anything that meant anything to me. Why did dad go? Why didn't he visit me regularly as if visitation meant anything? Now that I was older why did dad still not pal around with me and choose my step-brothers instead? Why didn't my mother talk with me? About anything? Why did my grandmother not talk to me? Why did my grandfather talk at me and not to me?

"So if I must be lonely, I think I'd rather be alone..."

There's something to that line from Stabbing Westward's Save Yourself. Better to have never known anyone or any love or happiness than to lose it.

I kept writing that note over and over in my head and finally stopped, figuring I'd just wander off and simply not come back. They'd not notice. It would cause no one any pain.

However, before I could, someone who didn't heretofore talk to me did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Internet isn't just a cesspool...

It's also an indispensable tool. For instance I was troubled by one English translation of Deuteronomy 6:5 where it was written about loving G-d with among other things, all your "possessions". How can I love G-d with my blender? That sounds transcendentally kinky and verrryy wrong.

Well if you Google these terms: deuteronomy 6:5 possessions, you get this.

Now it makes more sense and I'm not so troubled anymore.

It was at by the way in case you were wondering. I've seen about five different phrasings so far across Jewish and Christian sites in tonight's look-up. pages on demand!

Or if not by your demand, then because I can find something uplifting faster than a tax hike.

The Discovery of Planet Earth. I quote:

We got to the moon. The moon was barren. We sent probes to Mars. Mars was dead. To the icon of beauty, to Venus. She was dressed in poisonous, burning clouds. And then the pockets of the United States Congress were also barren to fund our useless dreams.

It was then that we looked back from outer space and discovered something we had never imagined. A shining jewel in the vast darkness. Never before had we known her beauty. The most beautiful planet a mind could dream of.

I needed to read this. Thank you G-d. I suggest you take the mouse more often too. I really don't need to see some places on the net. They make me so unhappy. This doesn't.

*Disclaimer for the depressed skeptics: Can you please let people be with what fulfills their spirits for a moment? There doesn't have to be a weighing of the educational, moral, ethical, or other values on every little thing. Sometimes fluff serves a very non-fluffy purpose. Read the previous story on this blog about what happens when you don't have happy uplifiting messages in your life and indeed, just the opposite.

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All about the death of hope

This is the end result of what we see in the world today, the selling of hopelessness.

It happened much faster, but the end result is what the world is doing to itself all the time. Tying a belt around our collective necks and hanging ourselves in despair.

Fear, anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness. They need to have big warning messages on them. DANGER: DANGEROUS SUBSTANCE. DO NOT INGEST.

While I feel bad for the girl, she is gone now and all that are left to feel bad for are the living. The parents who lost their child and now are warped by pain, and those who began this dangerous foul lark, whose consciences will forever be tortured.

Give G-d your condolences when you pray next. He's got His work cut out for Him in this.

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Is Suitepotato a convert or is he in process of converting or what?

This question is a good one Chaim. It gives me an excuse to blog. Like I need one. :)

The beginning:
I was born to if not good observant then at least passingly caring Catholic parents. They weren't bad people. A little self-absorbed with their own pains I suppose. Knowing now how they were raised by my largely now late grandparents, I am sometimes surprised they didn't become ardent atheists. Stand up, sit down, kneel, cross this way, cross that way, yes we're attending a Catholic chuch but be nice and smile like someone suffering fools gladly for your Baptist minister uncle. G-d says no meat on Friday, okay, Vatican II says G-d was kidding, what, you want to know if Jesus was the messiah for his sake or G-d's? We're awaiting another Lateran Council for clarification. Okay, pray in Latin. Just kidding, back to English. Make nice with the guitar playing nun and don't tick her off, she's on the diocese softball team and that guitar makes a real big bat.

It was into this confusing allegedly Christian world I popped. Almost as if a foretelling of my future I was circumcised right away. It was already being phased out back then and there's no big emphasis on the so-called Old Testament in Catholicism except where it serves to make the priest de jure think you're listening just a little bit more than five seconds before he mentioned G-d turning people into salt. Snipping any part of your anatomy is not something Catholics spend any time on, nor should they. I'm not comfortable with anyone's spending too much time on my anatomy. Good thing brit milah is as quick as possible or in my case to be hatafat dam brit.

As an aside, if you dare to visit and cycle through the self-destruction visualized therein, you might come across things even more disturbing to do to your genitalia there. Also, you might need medical help to get your eyelids to close properly again as they'll have gone so wide, your eyes might fall out. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Downright unholy stuff there. I've seen it so thank you G-d it's just a little sterilized needle prick and over with, like taking your blood sugar test.

Onward through the years I went in the church not particularly getting anything spiritual out of it. Sit down, stand up, kneel. Catholic Calisthenics every Sunday, facetious quibbling over Friday's choice of main dinner component when pizza or McDonald's was more likely, more evasion of the usual questions children ask when they smell b.s. in the water.

"We execute murderers and other criminals?"


"Did Jews execute other criminals?"

"Not since they were in charge of their own nation. The Romans executed people."

"So Jesus wasn't killed by Jews."


"Wasn't Jesus a Jew?"


"So the Romans executed Jesus?"

"I guess so... Go outside and play."

I'd look up at the cross in church, wondering if that five hundred pound wood and plaster kitsch would fall on someone, and get nervous with fright whenever the priest stood directly under it. G-d was supposed to be a real hellish deity, able to outdo Satan for sheer audacity. The devil would only seduce people to bad things. G-d would create them one minutes and drown them in flood the next. Even the devil never got to throw death around in that big a way. G-d made hurricanes which were more powerful than atomic bombs according to science class. Satan made... what?

G-d never did anything with that cross. It hung there all the while the priest went on in the manner of what would later be somewhat satirized by Eddie Izzard except that he was using it to poke at the Church of England. It might as well have been about hair and fashion magazines. It ran together like mush and as I got older and paid more attention it contradicted itself.

This of course is not good. Contradiction is to gentile kids what the Internet is to some Charedi men. A real neck snapping double-taking whoa there horsey moment. I had my crisis of faith start at Sunday school which for those so Jewish they never learned a thing about Christians other than the holiday sales, was sort of like a fat-free sugar-free ultra-light version of what my wife still refers to as "Hebrew School" which was in actuality little more than a far too late and too little touch-up in a hurry before her bat mitzvah.

We were supposed to cover all the minutae that couldn't fit into a sermon or the usual repetition of prayers held out before us like a superstitious attempt at warding off woodchucks from the garden with old folk-tale mixtures of urine and other things... and about as effective. Bad things still happened to good people. Kids I knew were still crying themselves to sleep hungry, as I did many times. Parents slept around on each other. Divorce was rampant. Drugs were everywhere. Yet somehow the world was firmly held to work a principle of bad stuff only happens to bad people. Therefore, if you are pained, you've been bad.

Little old Italian Catholic grandmothers could go toe to toe in a guilt olympics with any Jewish grandmother. G-d sees what you're doing, He knows you're even thinking about back-talk, and He's already getting your punishment ready... Now go do what I tell you and turn the heater up and then go rake the lawn, and then put the leaves on the mulch pile, and then get the mower. Don't complain. It's G-d's will you respect your elders... No matter how much they milked it.

Like I said, b.s. in the water. What did I do? When did I do something to deserve going hungry? What did I do to deserve it? What in the name of G-d could I possibly have done? I was seven for crying out loud! I'm not this Hitler person the teachers go on about. I'm just seven!

The following year Jim Jones crept out of the shadows and onto the television. I wasn't him either. I was just eight.

It only got worse. The idea was put to me and no argument accepted, G-d punishes people so they must deserve whatever bad happens. My father cheated on my mom. My mom decided that the whole Christ-preached forgiveness thing wasn't for her and filed for a divorce almost the same day. What did I do to make my dad move away? What did I do to make my mom mad at my dad? I talked, pretty much screamed at Jesus Christ and G-d. WHY???!!!

Never did hear anything back. Maybe I was screaming in pain too much to hear Him.

I tried reading the bible cover to cover. Started with the old testament and saw just more of the idea that G-d was a pretty persnickety deity. Seemed to have a thing for some guy that they must have named Lincoln after and all his kids. There was the whole bit about the boat and all the animals, which they endlessly use for kids' books religious or not because kids like animals and boats. Noah had both? Can't miss! They were light on the whole sinful world part though. I wondered if all the people who drowned did so because they were busy doing drugs, sleeping around, and too heavy with gold chains on their necks to swim. You know the part that I'm talking about? Imagine the sights of Studio 54 being your model for the imagery.

It went on endlessly it seemed about some people called Jews that Jesus came from who seemed to get the crap kicked out of them for no apparent reason on a way too regular basis like G-d was messing with them. I could feel for them. I got the crap kicked out of me at school for no reason on a regular basis.

After a while, I fell away from my attempt somewhere just before the death of Jesus. I already had that one special delivered in Sunday school. It was their whole central schtick. They went to great lengths to infer without saying it that Jews killed Jesus while downplaying that Jesus was a Jew though they didn't spare the mentions when it came to the Romans. Then we were one big happy family, us versus those guys with the scrub brushes on their silly helmets.

Well anyhow, G-d wasn't anywhere in there. He didn't talk to me when I read any of it.

So I looked elsewhere for G-d. I stopped going to church and Sunday school simply by waiting till my mother was least able to spend time on fighting with me over it. Either argue, or get the groceries, laundry, and part-time job done. Pick on or the other, you can't have both.

My mom meanwhile was having her own crisis of faith which led her to the church of arts and crafts before bringing her around to born-again Christianity which was a whole other world of say one thing about G-d then demonstrate another pain and misery.

Which is where the next post will take up...

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Messianic Musing 2

Okay, as I said...

Did you get it? I thought all weekend about it.

G-d frequently asks questions in an order that seems reversed but there's a reason to it. The first question was who said we needed saving. Hmmm? Anyone?

Okay, no, proceed to the second, who or what do we need saving from?

Come on... The answer for BOTH questions is... well, go look in a mirror.

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So recently health care was mentioned on RWAC...

Wherein I said:
That which need be done or achieved to be meritorious of His direct intervention itself brings about a state no different than had He directly intervened and may be if you are wont to, chalked up to Him.

At least, that's what I was once told.

However, it can also be said you cannot help people who will not accept it. Most health costs are for those things that never should have been taken so far. Cigarette smoking, fatty diets, lack of exercise, nasty unhealthy foods, etc.Does today's America look like it is full of people who want to be told what to do, what is moral, what's good for them?* No. You can't tell me what to do! Just suggesting is an attempt to control me! I will stick bananas in my ears! (Until they cause enough irritation to require an emergency banana-ectomy.)

So go back to what I started with. When people start doing and living better their remaining medical issues will be so inexpensive by comparison with right now that we can easily afford universal health care without any political games, without property expropriation, without taxation without alleged representation, etc.

*Yes, in a weird way. They just want to think THEY invented the idea.

To elaborate:

The problem is clouded because we're assuming that every medical problem is not the patient's fault or cause. And in doing so we assume that none of those in the future will be either.

We need to do several things:

1. Stop assuming that things must be just because they are. We have lots of fat smokers. We do not necessarily HAVE TO HAVE lots of fat smokers.

2. Stop assuming that current trends will continue. If they did then by the time I was 37, I'd be 68,719,476,736 (237-1) which is somewhere around the time I pay off my mortgage. As a continuation of number 1, we WILL NOT ALWAYS HAVE lots of fat smokers, not for the least of which reasons is that the present ones will die and more subtly, we can prevent more.

3. On the heels of numbers 1 and 2, START assuming WE CAN do something about the root causes of the vast majority of health issues.

Why are we in this morass? Because 1, 2, and 3 were violated. We assumed we'd always have health care that didn't cost a lot, there were lots of doctors, we had many advances happening every day... we assumed we could live any way we wanted and above all those three, we violated number 4.

4. Stop letting people off the hook into the future. We ARE responsible for MUCH of our health issues AND while we CANNOT do anything about the past, we can stop being idiots and learn from our mistakes and deviate onward through the future away from the path to destruction. Forgive, but do not forget. Judge but offer a course of correction and help. Be stern and just, but be loving and embracing.

Here's an excellent Jewish angle: the laws of kashrut are what they are for what reason? Because G-d is an anal-retentive sadistic food critic? No. Why then? Well, at the very least if you don't want to get into the moral minutae, you can assume that a kind loving G-d has a moral reason for it all. Therefore, are we not violating the rules by treating them like a free pass? As long as the shochet did a superb job, eat as much meat as you like? No. We are allowed to eat meat as a divine but dark gift. Life is G-d's crowning achievment. He lets us kill some animals and eat their flesh but it should never be something we take for granted.

It doesn't matter if the shochet is an angel and can turn off the cow's life without a knife like flipping a switch. Something still died for that meat. It was what can be semi-laughingly called a necessary evil.

You should therefore think harder about what you eat. While G-d doesn't command vegetarianism much less veganism, He certainly does seem to be raising one eyebrow and glancing at it like a secretary trying to get her boss' attention like "psst! Hey! Look who's at the front counter!"

Maybe you should see what G-d is angling at and eat a little more healthy.

I was shopping for groceries the other evening and thought back to Braveheart and thought, "many years from now, dying in a hospital bed, would you be willing, to give all the days, from this to that, to come back here and tell your appetite, you can take my attention, but you'll never take... my nutrition!"

So I shop the kosher and health food sections, not fifteen feet apart, not coincidentally having almost identical occurences of the Circle U. I've cut my pipe and cigar smoking. I've lost weight. I've cut the withdrawal time on my antidepressent by two weeks worth of nausea and diarhea. I feel a lot better and have much more energy. I won't need nearly so much medical care in the future. And it was all by my choice to listen to G-d.

So rabbis... Start your sermonizing!

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One of the first sites I check every day...

Lazer Beams with Rabbi Lazer Brody

There's nothing I can write which will compare with reading it. Maybe its just my musty religious past that makes it so new and refreshing and yet so familiar (nuns with guitars after Vatican II anyone?) which makes me appreciate it. Maybe because in a way it's like one of those books on the Baal Shem Tov and other Chasidim. There's just something very not fake about the love here. VERY NOT fake.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Messianic Musing

Me: Has the messiah come and if so, who, and if not, when?

G-d: Who said you needed saving?

Me: Uh...

G-d: And from what?

Me: Er...

G-d: Yeah, you get back to me on this when you answer those questions.

Me: Okay...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Learn Hebrew

Learn Hebrew is a simple but very nice Flash based web site from Jacob Richman which I first began using some months ago now.

First, you can choose what amount to Flash flash cards (er, possibly redundant but... whatever) mousing over the text of which and left-clicking will cause a very clear voice to intone the selection.

Second, the voice used is very clear. Did I mention that? Okay, it bears repeating. Also, the pronunciation is in the modern Israeli Sephardic style. Shabbat is pronounced with a definite T sound and not an S. So this won't help you follow the Charedi community with the heavy Yiddish infusions, but you can figure it out.

Third, there are many different categories of cards to choose from, not just Aleph, bet, etc.

My only real problem with it, and I have this problem with every single other free Hebrew site is there is no clear set of rules and variances taught for when to use a yod or vav to indicate an extended vowel intonation or which nikkudot mean which intonation based on which letter they are used with. Shin, bet, tav is very clearly shabbat. However, why the choice of how you are suggesting the vowel sound be "ah"?

Similarly, the choice of tet or tav, vet or vav, is left unexplained. As it is somewhat strangely in the Hebrew for Dummies book. Put together, you get the problem of the spelling of vet. It starts
with a vet with tsere under it followed by a yod then a tav. I assume Israeli kids get some sort of explanation. Can I have one?

Other than that, this is a great site to start off with learning the letters. I expect more to come from Jacob's site so will be watching.

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My response to a DovBear post...

This is regarding this post made there today about Jews at Yeshiva World ranting angry things about Hillary Clinton.

Long before I became in any way religious, when my spirituality was limited to running from G-d in fear that He didn't like me enough to give me a chance so why bother talking with Him, I did nevertheless have a conscience anyways.

It kept me from making bigger mistakes than I might have otherwise made. It just took a very long time for me to recognize His gift He gave me like other people.

I recall one thing that kept pricking me and that was the impiety with which the liberals treated Jews. Piety is not the sole domain of the G-dly. It's a state of being in our make-up whether or not we acknowledge G-d and if we're really good and humble, we can still be no less holy than someone who has practically committed the entire Torah and all the Talmud to memory and has earned the love and respect of all the people. It's just better with G-d because that's why the impulse is there. To help us match up with Him.

Anyhow, if piety is something man can experience without G-d, so too is impiety. Liberalism was impious to me. It said one thing with total seeming passion for it being not just any truth or a truth, but the truth yet at the same time, it embraced ways and actions which anyone who was truly piously caring could see were at odds with the statements.

I tried to reconcile them but could not. It was made harder and harder by the ever more extreme ways. Political correctness made it clear: it was about the primacy of their rule, getting their way, not their way for they had no way other than to get their way.

Now it made sense. They wanted to be in charge and stay that way. They were afraid that the opposite of being in charge was to be a loser. They couldn't stand that idea. So with total passion they told me how they were smarter, more caring, and filled with better intentions than me. All I had to do was submit. Sounds like certain people we all know, doesn't it? Now you know why those people rankle. Now you know why they set you on edge.

Liberalism was the extremist humanist fringe. Religion isn't about G-d. Faith even. You can strongly believe in the primacy of an idea without G-d ever entering into it. But if there's no one to ask, how do you really know?

That's when self-righteous delusion becomes a replacement for true righteousness. Humanism was a religion and liberalism a self-righteous crew of hypocrites. An excellent idea that mankind is not a simple animal and is not necessarily bound for evil without G-d (He made us so how bad could His creations be I wondered) was twisted by the essential weakness: no higher power to ask. We had to take their word.

Surplus cheese, surplus because it was made not to fulfill a demand of the people but because politicians paid farmers to make it with taxpayer monies so the farmers would in return vote for those same politicians is not tzedakah. It is to give trash to someone and claim it is valuable. It is a con.

Food stamps that limit people to the least popular products that given a choice you'd not ever buy unless you were starving is not tzedakah. It is to say the extent of your charity is the least possible thing.

Taking money from other people under threat of throwing them in jail for refusal instead of your own wallet is not tzedakah. It is theft in the name of avoidance of tzedakah.

Giving just a small portion of that money to the poor, just enough to be miserable and hopeless on is not tzedakah. It is to perpetuate their poverty.

Giving the bulk of that money to non-poor people so they will continue to sing your praises and keep you in power is not tzedakah. It is to bribe people for your aggrandizement.

Counseling the poor to take the scraps and be happy with it is not tzedakah. It is to counsel despair.

Counseling the poor that they should remain poor because it is easier than struggling in the rest of the world to not be poor is not tzedakah. It is to counsel hopelessness.

These things I witnessed first hand growing up poor and Catholic in a wealthy Protestant town of nouveau Christians. Christians in name only. Christians who did not in any way feel the slightest kinship with the charity of their own proclaimed savior. You think I can't know the gulf you perceive between the Baal Shem Tov and the Chasidim of today?

That small but wealthy town was liberalism central. One could practically hear the breaking of arm bones as people clapped themselves on the back for their supposed good deeds even as they sneeringly looked down on those they supposedly did the deeds for.

And beneath those sounds of expensive leather shoes walking the town hall, and straining joints, and mutual appreciation, you could hear children crying themselves to sleep hungry because mom was discouraged from holding a job that might have filled their stomachs. None of those liberals did. They were too busy having award dinners for each other.

Hillary is such a liberal.

I am not saying Republicans are a lot better, but in the scheme of things, Democrats certainly aren't remotely good. They did me and mine great unkindness and then treated me like an idiot, telling me what great things they did for me. I wish they'd simply spit in my face and walked on. It would have been less hurtful than to be sold the despair and hopelessness that made so many nights so cold.

While G-d says not to hold on to hate for them, He does not say to be an idiot and turn a blind eye to their ways.

Maybe some of the people commenting are simply having a gut reaction. Maybe they sense her ilk for what they are: self-righteous, arrogant, impious, inhuman, unkind, and chesed-challenged morons.

I'm sorry G-d. They still make me angry.

So where is that impiety regarding Jews? The same as it was for us poor and every other group of people on Earth in their eyes. Nothing matters to them but getting their way. That is the total sum of their way. Their own primacy. They will turn on Israel and sell it to her enemies the instant it is opportune to do so. Just as they've done to the poor, to minorities who they've counseled hate and division to, to females whose sorrows they used to turn them to hateful conclusions towards men who loved them, to children who deserved good upbringing and just wanted to be prepared for the world and were turned towards loving nothing and believing nothing. Everything they've done has been about themselves.

Their impiety to Jews, to people with a history of being used and abused and blamed for everything under the sun the way people blame G-d for everything that offends or unsets them, was to lie with passion about their caring for Jews, while at the same time doing not a thing for them of any true caring, mouthing snide condescension about them in private lest they be heard publicly to be as mean thinking towards them as they are about the observant Christians from which these unobservant self-absorbed boobs spring, while they make mealy-mouthed mumblings about the rights of Palestinians to a homeland while deflecting any and all questions of the responsibility of the Arab nations who've steadfastly refused their own Muslim brethren and laying all blame on Israel so much so that when you point out the glaringly obvious result of constant appeasement is Israel's destruction they give only a smug smile and a shrug.

From the Christian past of me, from the poor past of me, from the past of me from which I've walked out, that long road from man-made Hell to American Jews and Jews from anywhere else... I beg you to not be reflexively open to Hillary and her crew. They don't love you. They don't even like you. They are not your friends. They don't want you at their clubs, they don't want to hear about G-d or your love for Him, they don't want your love, they don't want your ways, and they don't want you to have them, and they don't want you to have Him. Anything that distracts from them and their ways and their greatness is a threat to them. It is not so much evil as a simple consequence of doing everything based on fear of not being in control.

Do not fall into the trap of so many Christian churches who thought they were so mighty they could change liberalism from within and fell to the seductions of the liberal elite of power and influence and financial success. You can't. Their impious unfaith is a black hole from which your good intentions will not escape. The meaning of faith in G-d will be stripped and devoured, until your ways are hollow skinned carcass to wear to look like something it no longer is, just as so many Christian Protestant congregations are now. They'll wear Judaism like a skin.

Kabbalah will be reduced to a red string they will say makes them know all about you and totally have your interests at heart, even as they are cozying up to Palestinian terrorists and telling them how much they have their interests at heart.

Oh wait, it already is...