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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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JBlog Roundup: The Lessons of Nude Unicycling


Unicyclist Joseph Glynn Farley taken for (serious) questioning. I had images of him on the unicycle, but, hey, family website and all.

Unicyclist Joseph Glynn Farley taken for (serious) questioning. I had images of him on the unicycle, but, hey, family website and all.
Photo Credit: Police Car dashboard camera

I admit, I like a bizarre news story like the next gal. So I definitely had to click to read this item from the AP:

“Police say a man named Joseph Glynn Farley was arrested in a Southeast Texas city for riding his unicycle in the nude, distracting drivers and creating a hazard.”

Right away, like you, I’m thinking, isn’t it obvious? The guy is riding naked on a unicycle, folks are going to stop and take a look – right away you get a traffic jam.

Not so. The real story was hidden a few paragraphs down:

“Kemah police Chief Greg Rikard says Farley had been falling off the unicycle and into traffic.”

You see? No one had a problem with him taking off his clothes and riding naked on his unicycle – if he wasn’t so terrible at it.

It just goes to show, whatever you do in life, do it well!

OUTSOURCING OUR LIVES

Diane Blitzer invited me to come see her blog, “A Jew in the Rain,” and one of her latest entries, under the Dart Vader goes Winnie the Pooh headline “In Which I Cross Over to the Dark Side,” is all about the things we get other people to do for us which should be absolutely and completely ours to do.

She writes:

“This month, I became one of those parents.

“Those square, unenlightened, irresponsible parents… the ones who outsource their children’s education, even before the child is old enough to string together a complete sentence.

“Horrors!”

My life’s dream has been to live on an urban kibbutz where everybody is part of one large, extended family, and everybody takes care of everybody.

Good luck with that one. My visits to actual kibbutzim have yielded a far less benign and dreamy reality, and some of my best friends are still trying to get rid of their childhood stammering and night sweats from having been raised in the dreaded “children’s room” on a kibbutz.

Still, I believe that raising our own children and teaching them is good for us. I’m no rabbi, but I do believe that the initial commandment to teach our children stuff falls on the parents, and the teachers we hire serve as our messengers, because we can’t earn a living and teach our children at the same time.

Diane’s dilemma is so 21st century, though:

“I work from home and charge by the hour, and there is just no way to compile an honest time-sheet for work done with one hand while the other tries to prevent the Child from pouring from her sippy-cup into the keyboard dsothattyingtotyeedsultdsinthids.”

Cute and true.

HAVEN’T DONE A BOOK REVIEW IN AGES

Nina Stone writes in “The Factual Opinion” about a comic book named “The Rabbi’s Cat” by Johann Sfar:

“As a seeker and a Jew, I found myself in my adult life identifying as Jewish (a Consecrated, Bat Mitzvah’d and Confirmed Jewish Woman), without really understanding what it is the Jews believe in… It’s only been in the last 5 to 10 years that I started to learn, after attending ultra-religious ‘Beginner’ High Holiday services at Aish HaTorah in NYC…

“Those feelings—questions, doubts, all the rest—came up while I was laughing my way through ‘The Rabbi’s Cat,’ and are a big part of why I found this comic so affirming.”

She concludes:

“Overall this entire book ends up being less about the cat and more about the Rabbi. It’s about the Rabbi’s dedication to God and to Judaism as he faces the challenges of potentially losing his position (a misunderstanding) to a younger Rabbi, and losing his daughter to the same young man. He goes on a journey both physically and spiritually as he travels with his daughter and her new husband (and the cat) to Paris from Algeria.”

Read Nina’s review, which is extensive and well written, and, I hope, get Sfar’s promising comic book – I know I’m going to.

WHY DO WE EAT DAIRY ON SHAVUOT

Here’s the first installment of something I’ve been meaning to do for some time, trace the sources of Jewish stuff online, and bring a plethora of Internet info, some of it, if I’m lucky, contradictory, and, better yet, funny.

Thanks to “4Torah” for their amazing Torah search engine, which cuts out the drivel and serves up only relevant results. And thanks to Dov Bear who included a link to their site in his entry.

Seven Reasons Why Jews Eat Dairy on Shavuot, Courtesy of Aish.com

7. When the Jews received the Torah on Shavuot, they didn’t have enough time to learn how to slaughter meat in a kosher way, so until they did, they went for cheesecake. Everybody knows that one.

6. Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). OK, but the verse really says: “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon.” Following that logic, we could just as easily been stuffing ourselves with honey as with blintzes on Shavuot. Or with tongue.

5. The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for milk, chalav, is 40. We eat dairy foods on Shavuot in memory of the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah. No comment, but do go check out all the other Hebrew words with a 40 value.

4. Of the 365 negative mitzvot (the thou shalt not’s), according to the Zohar, the one about not cooking a kid in its mommy’s milk corresponds to Shavuot.

3. This one is a stretch: one alternative name for Mount Sinai is Har Gav’nunim, the mountain of peaks, and Gvina is Hebrew for cheese.

2. Moses was born on Adar 7, and was concealed in his mother’s house for three months until she had to let him go. That’s when the Pharaoh’s daughter found him in the Nile and had to get him a nurse maid – his biological mother. Count three months from Adar 7 and you’ll get Sivan 6 – Shavuot. But instead of mother’s milk, we go for more conventional options.

1. There’s a prohibition on eating part of a live animal, which predates the Torah. The milk can be considered part of a live animal and thus prohibited. Only when they receive the Torah did the Jews realize they could have dairy products. Although, to use the logic of reason 7, they should have all eaten a schnitzel, just to be safe.

Check out Aish.com for the full version of each reason, and try the rest of their content, it’s awesome.

THOSE JEWS AND THEIR ARTSCROLLS

Lawrence Grossman, in “Jewish Ideas Daily,” reviews the book “Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith” by Norman Solomon.

He writes, in wonderful style:

“Norman Solomon is a distinguished British academician, recently retired from the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, who whimsically claims to belong to the “skeptical Orthodox.” His latest book, Torah from Heaven, certainly exudes skepticism. It argues that the central assumption of classical Judaism—the divine origin of Torah—has become so clearly unbelievable in its literal sense that the only way to keep intellectually honest Jews from abandoning Orthodoxy is to reinterpret the doctrine not as fact but as foundational myth. Solomon, tongue firmly in cheek, tries to reassure the faithful by pointing out that myths are not necessarily false. But he clearly thinks this one is.”

But I take issue with this paragraph:

“Solomon deftly catalogs the strategies that Orthodox thinkers have adopted to fend off these threats to tradition. Some—the currently popular ArtScroll publishing project, for example—simply close their eyes to any view that veers from the regnant Orthodox line, even if antecedents for it can be found in rabbinic literature.”

I hope Norman Solomon examines the lengths to which the ArtScroll works go to tote an imagined party line, often at the expense of fact and the Hebrew language.

However, to be fair, I recommend this article, “The Wisdom of ArtScroll,” by Natan Slifkin, which is the kindest piece I’ve read to date about the often clumsy efforts of ArtScroll to manage the tight rope that separates Haredi culture from rationalism.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HEIGHT

Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish, is dejected—I think—over the trimming of the new substitute they got going up there in place of the Vessey Street Towers. I think they should have rebuilt the damned things just as they used to be. Let those Saudis peer up from the bowls of Hades and see that their sacrifice was for naught and the great USA put everything back where it belongs.

So, I, too, am dejected, but not over the height of the thing, like Greenfield, but for the spirit of an America that probably isn’t here any more.

The Sultan writes:

“Having lost the Freedom Tower designation, losing the symbolic 1,776  height seems almost an afterthought. The 1,776 number was an artifact of Daniel Libeskind, the original architect, and his vision for the site. That vision was mostly discarded, along with its “sky gardens” and windmills. The “1,776″ height is about all that remains of the German-Jewish architect’s proposal. And regardless of whether we count the antenna as a spire or not, it will not be the tallest building in the world. Those can be found in the places that funded the terrorists, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, which have used slave labor to build glass and steel pyramids to the glory of their own pharaohs.

“The Empire State Building, the Grande Dame of New York skyscrapers, has a roof height of around a 100 feet or 30 meters lower. The difference between a skyscraper built during the Great Depression and one built during the 21st Century Depression is around 100 feet and about a century of aesthetics. Where the spire of the Empire State Building is an organic extension of it, the one atop OWTC is awkwardly placed, it’s just there making time and filling up the space.”

Definitely worth a click.

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About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.


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