Friday, May 28, 2004

Paper . . .

Yes, you know, the stuff that mail is made of- just let it sit for a week and you have a paper mountain. More than a week you have a sea of paper. I think it takes about a month to have a universe of paper. The universe impact is best in a confined area (witness, my office).

I hate paper. I hate the way it smells. I hate the way it feels. And I hate the way that it crowds all the space in my life.

But I don't intend to complain. I am asking for help. It seems that paper won't go away. Could anyone help me and paper reconcile?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Friends like him?

Ok, as threatened and promised I am going to say a few words about James Inhofe now. Widely believed to be the dumbest man in the senate (I didn't make that up, it's in TNR) Inhofe, in 2002, preached a sermon on the floor of the Senate, claiming to reveal 7 reasons "why the land belongs to Israel." Needless to say his arguments were vapid and silly. I might agree that the land belongs to Israel, but foolish arguments from grandstanding senators aren't helpful.

But that isn't what this is about.

Inohofe is a Christian. Not a sedate, mainline Protestant like the older George Bush, and not a shrugging, indifferent Christian like the type we, for the most part, have here in New York. Oh no. Inohofe is a bible-thumper. The sort of man who has helped to make Gospel music so popular (I'd name a singer, but, by the grace of god, I live in NY) or who reads those Left Behind books.

This is a problem, because the Jewish people don't need friends like him. We don't need friends who see us, primarily, as actors in their eschatological fantasies. Inhofe doesn't want the Jewish people to hold on to the land because he loves us, or because he wants us to be safe. He wants us to hold on to the land, because his preacher told him that having the Jews in Israel is a pre-requisite for Jesus to return.

Well, what will happen when Jesus doesn't return? Or worse, what will happen after Sharon completes the final round of withdraws and givebacks? How will Inhofe and his fellow believers regard us? Will they conclude, that we, as a people, have conspired to keep Jesus from returning? It wouldn't be the first time we've been blamed for interfering in their religion.

Ultimately, if you don't love Israel for what it is, you can't be trusted to love it at all.


I have accepted the fact that the entire region sounds like a rain forest-

I have accepted the fact they have basically taken over the neighborhood-

Can someone please tell me though, how, and why they are flying around as if in a World War II dog fight outside my 11th story window in the Heart of downtown Washington?


A shade is a demon, and the Talmud discusses them so demons must be real, right? Not so fast. The Talmud also discusses idol worship, but would anyone argue that idols are real?

So what is a demon? A clue is provided by the Talmud where it tells us to ignore a demon that greets us in the country. Why the country, and not the town? Perhaps, because demon are figments of our imagination that are more likely to haunt us when we are alone. A demon then is a psychological malady or a form of madness.

Perhaps this is why Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid warns against closing up windows. Remember, in rural areas the houses were far apart, and without electricty, even city houses were dark and gloomy. Closing up a window meant closing out the light, and shutting out the neighbors, which are just the sort of actions the might precipitate a descent into madness.

When sit alone in the dark, hidden from your community and friends the demons visit. Not actual demons, but the demons of lonliness and insecurity. It is these symptons of madness that the Talmud wishes us to recognize and avoid.

Funniest Joke Ever

In October of 2002, the British Association for the Advancement of Science announced the results of the worlds funniest joke. Over 50,000 jokes were submitted and they had over 1 million website hits. The worlds funniest joke is:

A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his phone and calls emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator in a calm, soothing voice says, "Just take it easy, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."
There is a silence, and then a shot is heard. The hunter's voice comes back on the line saying, "OK, now what?"

Personally, I think the British Association for the Advancement of Science should focus less on the funniest joke and more on the advancement of the toothbrush in the UK.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Tortured Logic

Last week, during Armed Services Committee hearings on the Abu Gherib prison scandal, the Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe made it clear that he was mad - furious, even. But not for the reason you might expect.

"I am probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment. These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," Inhofe said. "If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents."

Oh, I see.

More on Inhofe a little later.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Going to the Bathroom in Shul

I have never found prayer painful. In fact, often, it feels good. I don't know about other people. When I look around and see others davening, they look like they have just had some really hefty chulent and are using payer time to work it out of their system.

Is it really necessary for people to squeeze their face and clench their bodies when they pray? A rabbi that was new to the staff of the yeshiva I went to in Israel commented something to me after a few days of davening with the yeshiva: “Why do all of the boys look so upset? How come they all look like they are constipated?” I’ve also had the privilege to pray in the presence of R` Chaim Kanievsky, the son of The Steipler and a gadol in our time. I watched him carefully to see how he davened. I wanted to see his kavnah. Remarkably, he didn’t do any fancy dance, he didn’t contort his face in to discomfort, and he didn’t bang his fist onto his siddur. He just davened, finished, and was on his merry way.

During the day, one can find him/herself praying silently to Hashem. I do it all the time. I will be driving home, and I will think about my life. Then in my head I will thank Hashem for putting me in the place I am now and for what has been given to me. I realize how lucky I can be compared to the many other people in the world. I thank Him in my head and continue driving. This is prayer. When you do it, and I know you do, you are praying genuinely. You are talking to Gd and expressing your feelings of thanks. In this sincere fashion, you never find someone hunched over, straining their necks, and puckering their faces.

I use the bathroom marked MEN in shul not MAIN shul.

Friday, May 21, 2004

A bit of perspective, please

Worth taking a look at:

Meshes perfectly with this cartoon:


Anarchist? Communist? Outstanding American Citizen? you decide....

A BBC Slideshow

Considered in isolation, this slideshow is a little too pro-Israel, perhaps. Taken in context, however, its a very nice, very good photo essay.


So here's a thought Three-thousand years ago, do you think the average guy realized that the aim of the torah (among its other objectives) was to slowly wean us from the practice of having slaves and from the practice of bringing animal sacrifces?

Of course not.

It wasn't until mankind gave up these practices that it become clear (following the view of the Rambam in the Morah Nevuchim) that God takes us the long way, because he wants us to gradually realize the truth on our own.

Will the same thing happen with meat-eating? Will mankind one day just give it up, and conclude, as with slavery, that it was the aim of the troah all along to bring us gradually to this point?

I don't know. I am like the guy from 3000 years ago. I am too close to the trees. I can't see the forest.

But it's not impossible...

If mankind ever does give up meat (the way that mankind gave up slaves) our decendants might look back at us and our meat eating habits and say: "What were they thinking?! I could never do that now!"

Which is exactly what we say when we look back at our slave-holding anscestors.

Lag b'omer

Ok, I know this is late, but I have to ask: On Lag Bomer, why do we dance in front of a bonfire and sign the song Bar Yochai. Why this weird nocturnal flame ritual to honor this one tanna, and no other? Because he may or may not have written the Zohar?

So, is the Mishna chopped liver? How come we're not out ululating at the moon, and jiving and jitterbuging in the eerie glow of a bonfire on Rabbi Yehuda haNasi's deathday?

I've read that the bonfire idea was borrowed from Christians who, as early as the 10th century, were building them in honor of their saints. There's no record of Jews doing the same until the 17th centruy.

More proof that hasidim is just a mixture of avodah zara, black magic, and ignorance?


The very first Jew Zoo post.