Thursday, September 25, 2008

Now they tell me . . .

Apparently there is a prayer now that gay Jews recite over anonymous one-night stands. The relevant piece of Talmud used to justify this has just been discovered (by me) and I include it here.

Ta Shma: On experiencing unexpected intimacy one makes the beracha "who created passion and wove it throughout creation" as it says [in Genesis] "In the dark, in a strange place, our father Jacob encountered a stranger with whom he grappled all night".

But is not this [verse] talking about an angel or a messenger of god - not interested in gay sex? Yes, but it was a male angel, and male angels are always interested in gay sex. Is this verse not talking about wrestling and not grappling? Yes, but grappling is the same as wrestling, and wrestling is the same as "doing it".

[The bracha] is made by everyone, according to the house of Hillel. The house of Shammai claims it is only for homosexual sex. Both agree that one makes the beracha if both people are Jewish, and Beit Shamai is more stringent claiming that one makes it if he or she is the only Jew in the hook-up. Hillel however agrees that if the sex is so anonymous that you don't know if the other person is Jewish then there is a safek and you don't make the beracha as it is a safek over a d'rabanan. However, if you picked up the other person in a synagogue, in New York, in a bank, or a bookstore, there is a chazakah that he or she is Jewish and even the house of Hillel holds that one makes the beracha. What kind of bookstore does the saying refer to? A New age-bookstore, but not in a bookstore chain.

But did we not learn that Rabbi Dorf says "A one-night stand is officially an act of prostitution in the Jewish tradition"? Yes, but there is no conflict, because in the case of prostitution, if it is good, you would pay for it again, in the case of a one-night stand with someone you met in a bar, you do not want to repeat the experience with the same person because situations like this devolve in to same-sex marriages.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A new low

When someone invents a new "chumra" or stringency for Orthodox Jews it tends to spread till all Orthodox Jews have to do it and it becomes ingrained as part of the society. This is true for all sorts of bizarre practices. If this new institutionalized Orthodox racism / Ashkenazi supremacy comes to the U.S., I will have a second very good reason never to send any children I may have to a Jewish school. (Institutionalized covered-up child molestation being the first.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chai Elul

Just to make this clear: Chai Elul is not a Jewish holiday.

Unlike Americans, or members of some other countries, who make holidays out of individuals' birthdays, Jews do not do this. We do not honor individuals in this manner. Catholics tend to honor saints like this. I wonder where Habad picked it up.

It is admirable that Hassidim want to assimilate so much that they take on such local and Pagan practices, but when traditional Jews invent holidays, it is to celebrate events, like the events surrounding the Hannukkah story, the Purim story, and perhaps the founding of the state of Israel.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who wants Peace Now?

I was reading the headline for this article: Americans for Peace Now: Engage with Iran and I thought, y'know what might work: If the group Iranians For Peace Now demanded that their government engaged in good faith talks with the US. Surely with that kind of pressure from their core constituencies neither Ahemedinejad nor Bush could resist open negotiations with the other.

Then I realized that a) no one cares what Americans for Peace Now thinks. Certainly not mainstream America. b) When the time comes that Iran tolerates an organization called Iran for Peace Now that advocates open dialogue with America, there will be no need for discussion, and as long as there is no such organization, it seems like there is not much we have to say with them.

One thing that these Peace Now-type groups will never seem to get is that when there are two sides and one advocates non-violence and the other advocates wiping the Great Satan from the face of the Earth, it makes little sense to talk. What can they offer each other? Peace on non-violent terms can only begin when both sides understand that there can be some middle ground.

In the case of Iran and the US, I don't see the US moving toward a position where it agrees to partially wipe itself or its allies off the map. So perhaps Iran has to make the first rhetorical move, and show that it has demands and interests that are more in line with what Americans can negotiate with.

Americans for Peace Now will continue to stay irrelevant until they stop smoking all that weed and realize how naive their positions really are.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In the Organic Market

This was in the organic market in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn Heights / Downtown Brooklyn last week.



Thursday, September 04, 2008

ACLU fights to keep religion in public schools

The ACLU has a long history of fighting to keep religion out of public schools. Of course, sometimes we should not blame them for failing to do this, they cannot fight every case. But now they are fighting to keep religion in a public school.

Sally Ferrell is an open Quaker. As such, her religion preaches pacifism. And she is taking this religion to a school in North Carolina. In a bizarre twist, the ACLU is citing her right to preach her religion in public school and claiming it as a first amendment issue!

The CNN article is pretty clear about the Quaker roots of Ms. Ferrell's pacifism:
Ferrell knew she would never let their son enlist. Growing up in a Quaker household, she remembered her mother, Anna Schuder, espousing nonviolence.
And again when she looked to a source for pacifism:
She began collecting materials from anti-war groups like the Quaker House in Fayetteville.
So the origin of her fanatical religious views are not in questions.

That is all not to say that the views are not admirable, many religious views are. Take the Jewish sabbath. Who cannot admire a day where one just has to relax and divest themselves of toil, labor, and many of the trappings of modern life. But that is still a religious view, and preaching that in school is unconstitutional and should not be defended by the ACLU. And if a man with a long beard and yarlmuka walked in to a public school and demanded that he have the first amendment right to preach taking a day to unplug from their wiis and X-boxes in a public school, we would accuse him of trying to foist his religious views on our impressionable youth; and rightfully so.

(The same is of course true for Gandhian pacifism. Though he might have had some admirable beliefs about resisting tyranny, Gandhi was a pacifist because he had some bizarre belief about the purity of the soul being diminished by the performance of violence. Clearly these views were pernicious when seen in the light of his exhortation to Jews to merely allow themselves to be killed by Nazis rather than resist.)

When creationism is taught in high school by a fanatical evangelical Christian, no one pretends that the creationism and the Christianity are independent. One can try to argue that their teaching of creationism is motivated by a yearning for finding the truth about human biology completely independent of their biblical beliefs, but no sane person would believe that.

The same is true in the pacifism case. One can try to argue that Ms. Ferrell's views are independent of her religion, but she is pretty open about the source of her Quakerian pacifism, and she should be treated as the religious fanatic that she is. Someone like that should not be allowed in to public schools to force her religion down the throats of the students - and the ACLU should not be defending them.

In Quaker schools it seems appropriate to let them preach their religions there. But in public schools, which are run by the government, perhaps only the government should be allowed to preach. And the government is not allowed to make any law favoring one religion over another. Presumably, there can be little objection to the government promoting agendas favorable to the country in government schools, providing it doesn't unfairly stigmatize a political party that it out of power, or its members.

But one can argue that by allowing the Army in they are favoring non-pacifist religions over pacifist ones like Quakers. And this would of course be true. It would be about as true as saying that since all school lunches are neither kosher nor hallal, they are promoting all other religions over Judaism and Islam. This is of course true, but beside the point. In both cases the government is simply not taking in to account any religious beliefs - not about food or war, it is merely promoting its interest in the absence of any religious input.

So the ACLU should not be defending this. And, as an aside, Ferrell seems to have many complaints about recruiter tactics. However, one should keep in mind that whatever recruiters do to get people to sign up, they are apparently not as bad as the tactics the ACLU uses to get people to donate. (You know something is wrong when even the Village voice is complaining about the ACLU!)