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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘not a jew-jew’

I Dream of Bacon

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=279

You know you’re a Jew when…

After decades of dreaming about everything from girls, to breathing under water , to girls – suddenly I’m dreaming of…bacon.

First things first: I am a “lucid dreamer.” Which means that, while I dream, I realize I’m in a dream, and I make conscious decisions within the dream to shape it or change it. As recently as the 1980’s lucid dreaming was thought to not exist. But now scientists believe that 50% of people have had at least one lucid dream in their lives, and 20% have about one lucid dream per month.

I’m having them constantly. About bacon.

The thing about dreams is: there’s no hiding from the real you in your dreams.

Take the classic “I’ve gone to work and forgotten my clothes” dream. In such a dream, you may find yourself giving a presentation to your colleagues – only to look down and notice that you are presenting far more to your colleagues than you had bargained for.

If your first reaction is to be embarrassed and cover up – congratulations – you’re normal. Being embarrassed and covering up is probably what you would do in real life, if you suddenly found yourself presenting to your colleagues your naked PowerPoint (ahem). On the other hand, if your first reaction in a naked-at-the-office dream is to find the nearest vertical poll and start spinning on it, then perhaps your subconscious is trying to tell you that an office job is not for you.

The way “you” react in your dreams is the way You would react. The “you” in your dream is you.

The “me” in my dreams is a Jew.

Even though (depending on when you read this) I am not yet a Jew, my subconscious – the real me – is already a Jew. And he’s not just a Jew – he’s Shomer Kashrut.

After a lifetime of not dreaming about bacon, I suddenly find myself thrust into a parade of dreams that have tested me, coerced me, and even conspired to trick me with swine.

The first dream featured a pulled-pork sandwich. In the dream, the person who served me the sandwich told me it was fake vegetarian pork. One bite told me that was a lie. So I spit it out, didn’t swallow, and woke myself up.

Jew.

In another dream I was tricked with cheddar cheese. It seemed like normal cheddar cheese, but when I bit into it, all I could taste was bacon. I challenged my dreamworld bacon-pusher, but she claimed the cheese was just seasoned with fake bacon flavor. I sensed a lie. So again – ptuey-tuey – I spit it out and woke myself up.

Jew.

The most recent dream was downright weird and complex. I was confined to a hospital bed, and a doctor gave me an injection. When the “medicine” hit my bloodstream, I sensed something wasn’t Kosher. I asked the doctor: “What did you put in me?” He brushed me off, so I raised the intensity: “Was there pork product in that syringe?” Again, he punked me off. So I grabbed the doctor by his lab coat, yanked his face closed to mine, and menaced him until I saw fear in his eyes: “Tell me doc: will that shot kill me now, or in the afterlife?”

A Jew not to be messed with.

In my dreams, I dream as a Jew. That’s who I am in the deepest part of my subconscious.

Back in my waking world, I now return to my Jewish studies. So I can turn my dreams into reality.

Minus the bacon, of course.

Bill Cosby & the Holocaust

Monday, May 21st, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=88

The Holocaust happened 25 years before I was born.  25 years before now is 1987.

The #1 television show 25 years ago was The Cosby Show.  That’s how fresh the Holocaust was in my mind growing up.  Fresher than The Cosby Show is to you.  Or Family Ties.  Or Beverly Hills Cop 2.  Imagine the entire Holocaust happening between the release of Beverly Hills Cop 1 and Beverly Hills Cop 2 – that’s how fresh the Holocaust was in the world in which I grew up.

Back then, we had maybe a dozen channels on TV.  And still, at almost every hour of every day, there was something on at least one of those channels about the horrors of the Holocaust or the evil of Adolph Hitler.

When I went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial) in Jerusalem, my young guide prepared me for what I was about to see on the screens: the horrific images of dead Jews being bulldozed into pits.  He looked at me like he was expecting me to break down in tears or recoil in shock, which was apparently what all of his other clients did.  But I had seen those images a thousand times before on our handful of TV channels.  They helped form my earliest view of the world, and my earliest understanding of evil.  But these images were apparently not familiar to anyone else my guide had taken through Yad Vashem.  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t recoil.  I just stiffened my spine with yet another reason to make the bad people pay for their evil (reason #487: the room full of shoes at the Holocaust Museum).

Today, there are 1,000 channels on TV and almost nothing on any of them about Hitler or the Holocaust.  Even the History Channel has largely foregone Hitler and the Holocaust for “Pawn Stars,” “Cajun Pawn Stars” and “American Picker.”  American college students today are now 67 years removed from the horrors of six million Jews being starved, experimented on, gassed, and cremated – with only their shoes left behind as evidence that these Jewish human beings lived, loved, suffered, and died.

And when college kids today turn on the TV, they only have a 1 in 1,000 chance of landing on a channel that would even consider airing something that would teach them about Nazis – and even on that 1 channel there’s an 80% chance that it will be airing “Ice Road Truckers” instead of teaching this generation about the true nature of evil.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not some old guy, sitting on a porch, barking about “these kids nowadays.”  I am young enough to have been a hip-hop DJ at one point, and to produce a dance music record that charted above Puff Daddy (in Belgium) (no lie) (more on that later).  And yet my birthday was closer to the 1800’s than today’s college kids’ birthdays are to the Holocaust.

“Never forget” means remembering.  So this is my friendly reminder.

Louis C.K. – Not a Jew

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=66

One of the main things I’ve learned about the differences between Jews and non-Jews (namely Christians) is that non-Jews place a great deal of importance on how you feel, what you believe, your intentions, your inner motivations for being good.  By contrast, according my friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Jews “care far less about what you believe.  What you do is more important.”

Shmuley writes in his book Renewal, “I know that for all my saying that I support the troops, I don’t actually do nearly enough.  Who supports the troops?  Those who enlist.  Those who volunteer.  Those who collect toys for soldiers’ children.  Those who organize fund raisers to support soldiers’ widows and widowers.  But the ones who weep while they watch the six o’clock news?  Their feelings are irrelevant…It is how we act, not how we feel, that matters.  It is not the thought that counts.”

A perfect contrast to this Jewish worldview comes from comedian Louis C.K., in his “Live at the Beacon Theater” video.  Here is how non-Jew Louis C.K. looks at soldiers – from the comfort of his first-class airline seat:

“Every time I see a soldier on a plane, I always think: ‘You know what?  I should give him my seat [in first class].  It would be the right thing to do, it would be easy to do, and it would mean a lot to him…I should trade with him.’  I never have, let me make that clear.  I’ve never done it once.  I’ve had sooo many opportunities.  I never even really seriously came close.  And here’s the worst part: I still just enjoy the fantasy – for myself to enjoy.  I was actually proud of myself…for having thought of it!  I was proud!  ‘Oh, I am such a sweet man.  That is so nice of me!  To think of doing that, and then totally never do it.’”

Not a Jew.

But perhaps there’s a little Jew inside of Louis C.K., after all.  Because, when his video generated over a million dollars in downloads in just its first 12 days online, he issued a statement “to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.”

He gave $250k to the people who produced the video and built the web site to sell it.  Another $250k went to his staff for “a big fat bonus.”  $280k went to five different charities (including Kiva, which I discovered because of him – thank you Louis C.K.!).  In total, he gave away 78% of his million dollars, which is 7.8 times more Jewish of him than a Jew who tithes 10%.

“That leaves me with 220k for myself,” Louis wrote.  “I never viewed money as being ‘my money’ I always saw it as ‘The money.’  It’s a resource.  If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.”

I guess that’s another difference between Jews and non-Jews.  If I made a million dollars in 12 days, and then gave 78% of it away, I would have no problem viewing the remaining 22% as “my money.”

If that makes me a Jew, so be it.

Suspended For Being Too Jewish?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=55

My earliest thought of Judaism came in Catholic school, when I cussed out my grade three teacher for being an anti-Semite.

I was no Biblical expert at the age of nine, but even my cursory understanding of the Bible told me that Christians had a heck of a lot in common with Jews.  But my grade four brain, trapped in a grade three class, couldn’t yet formulate the brilliant observations of a Dennis Prager or Rabbi Joseph Telushkin about the Jewish foundation of ethical monotheism that Christians and the rest of the world inherited.  Or the passionate Christian defense of Judaism from the great Pastor John Hagee (for whom I have had the great honor of writing; more on that later).  No, I just stood up and cussed out my grade three teacher for crapping on Jews.

Perhaps that was the first indication of my latent Jewish tendencies: not what I said to my teacher, but my instinct to stand up and say it.  Outspokenness.  A rather Jewish trait, I’m told, which did not serve me well at any level of school, anywhere (I bounced around to every school in town, and to one of them twice).  Witness my suspension notice for “persistent opposition to authority,” and my Grade 3 report card, which observed that I have “a good religious knowledge but fails to relate to his peers due to his ‘superior’ attitude.”

So it appears, as early as grade three, that I was already exhibiting early-onset symptoms of “chosenness.”

Money? I’m Giving it Away!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=85

I thought this would be one of the hardest mitzvot of all.

Years ago, I was taught by secular Jewish friend that giving away money was disrespectful to money. It devalued money to give it away.

And, for years, I agreed. Until I tried it.

There’s a special outreach newspaper that homeless people sell, and they get to keep all the money they raise. When the paper was launched, I was one of its most vocal champions: “finally a way for these people to earn an honest buck, instead of putting out their hands and just begging for it.” But then I promptly forgot about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

I had just spent more money on a single piece of sushi-grade tuna than most homeless newspaper vendors will make in a day, when I emerged from the store and saw…him. My body instinctively tried to carry me away from him. But my new-found Jewish teachings kicked in and stopped me.

I turned, looked him in the eye, and did something I normally avoided like…well…like homeless people on the street. I treated him like a human being. I struck up a conversation. And, while we were talking, I put all of the change in my pocket into his hat. He offered me a paper, and my old instincts kicked back in. “That’s all right,” I said, “I won’t have time to read it.” And he said, with a smile, “Take it. It’s got a good crossword.”

Now, let’s break this down. 1) He already had my money. All of it. Easily tripling what was already in his hat. 2) He had a limited number of newspapers in his hand. Which meant that, if he had kept my newspaper, he could “sell” it again, and make even more money. 3) He smiled and looked into my eyes, long after I had given him my money.

That brief experience was such a blessing to me that it broke my nearly 20-year habit of walking past beggars on the street, not making eye contact, and not giving them money.

He helped me to become a better Jew.

Giving away money may devalue money. But it adds value to my life as a prospective Jew, and to the life of the person I give to.

Is there a more valuable use for money than that?

Hugo Stiglitz VS the Canaanites

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The first time I “read” the Torah, I actually listened to an audio recording of it on my iPod.  Much of it washed over me due to the arcane translation, and me not reading along, but one story stood out for me loud and clear.

It was the story of “The Rape of Dinah” (Genesis 34).  Here’s the short version: Dinah, daughter of the Patriarch Jacob, was raped by the son of a foreign king.  The son fell in love with his rape victim and wanted to marry her.  And so he asked for Dinah’s hand from her father Jacob.  Jacob’s sons – Simeon and Levi – concocted a ruse.  They said yes, you can take our sister Dinah – under one condition: all of the men in your city must get circumcised.  The king agreed, and all of his men were circumcised.  When they were all weakened with pain, Simeon and Levi came into their city, killed them all, and took Dinah back home.  The end.

Now, even though Simeon and Levi were following the principle to do whatever it takes to save innocent life (their sister Dinah), virtually all commentators – and even Jacob on his deathbed – condemned what Simeon and Levi did as wrong.

I see it differently.  In my mind, what Simeon and Levi did was great.  Totally badass.  Like…Hugo Stiglitz badass, from Inglourious Basterds.  I love this story, because it shows exactly how to deal with bad people.

For one thing, it worked.  It solved the problem.  If they had refused to give Dinah away to her rapist, the rapist would have taken her anyway, a fight would have ensued, and the King’s army would have likely killed all of Jacob’s family, thus wiping God’s chosen people from the Earth and from history.

If they gave Dinah away to her rapist, they would have lost their sister (a precious, innocent life) and they would have shown weakness to the bad people.  My considerable experience with bad people is: showing weakness to them never, ever works.  Not ever.  Never.  As evidenced by the entire arc of human, and Jewish, history.  Had they let Dinah’s rapist take her away, more rapists would have surely come for more of Jacob’s daughters, and it would have escalated from there – giving the Jews yet another group of tormenters to run from.

But that didn’t happen.  Because Simeon and Levi solved the problem.  They killed the bad people.  And, because they killed the bad people, the Israelites never again had to look over their shoulders in fear (of this particular band of tormenters).  Can you point to any other time in the Torah, or in Jewish history, when a threat to Jews and Judaism was solved?  Finished?  Ended for good?

Am I being too Stiglitz?

Why A Jew?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Different people in my life have different reactions to me becoming a Jew.

The secularists and atheists in my life don’t know enough about Judaism to know how big of deal this is, so they tend to look at my journey as a mildly exotic lifestyle choice – like a phase Madonna might go through – before they focus on the real issue at hand: circumcision.

Hardcore evangelicals (whom I love dearly) tend to love Jews and Israel more than just about anyone (there are more Christian Zionists in America than there are Jews in the entire world). They view my pending conversion with a great deal of respect and admiration. The way one might view a friend who has decided to become a full-time priest or pastor.

The Jews in my life?  From them, I get one reaction only:

“Don’t you have enough trouble already?”

In my book, there is no such thing as “enough trouble.” Picking fights with the world’s bad people is my business, and business is good. But I am not becoming a Jew to bring more trouble into my life. If more trouble comes, I’ll face it. But I’m not a masochist.  I’m an ethical monotheist.

After my Jewish friends are done trying to talk me out of their tribe, they admit, “you’re pretty much a Jew already,” or “you’re more Jewish than most Jews I know.” They’re right in one sense. They’re talking about Jewish values and ethics. And, if ethics and values were all it took to become a Jew, I could put on a kippah, walk into the end-zone, and join God’s chosen people right now.

Jewish values and ethics are what brought me here. Flipping through Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values or his Code of Jewish Ethics, for me, is like a kid flipping through a friend’s baseball cards in a playground – “got it, got it, need it, got it” – with a whole lot more “got its” than “need its.”

The hard part for me is learning the Hebrew and rituals, mainly because I have a hard time memorizing. So that’s what I’m focusing on now. A friend of mine, who converted to Judaism, said that I’ll always feel like I’m struggling to catch up to the Jews who grew up immersed in Hebrew and rituals.

Which is fine by me. Because, even though I came to the Torah with more “got its” than “need its,” I still feel like a child who has a world of learning ahead of me. Like a wall that gets bigger the closer you get to it. Even should I live to 120 (God willing) I’ll never reach the end of this journey.

Which is a good reason to start this journey now.

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=58

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