October 3, 2005

Shana Tovah

Light blogging for the next couple of weeks as I atone for my sins, up to and including spending the last ten minutes searching for a photo of a sexy girl blowing a shofar (and settling for the above). (Update: Ted finds the hott photo I knew had to exist somewhere. My bad for not checking Heeb in the first place.) Update: Original photo removed by request of photographer.

Meanwhile, here's a little family lore I've decided to share with Romenesko. Also, I'm going to be on TV on Friday. If you count channel 113. More on that Wednesday.

After the jump, some thoughts I threw together to read tomorrow at the request of my rabbi, because who doesn't want High Holy Day services that are just like reading a blog?

Humanistic Jews often speak of the importance of adapting ancient traditions to our contemporary lives. But in truth, this process of change and transformation is nothing that our “traditional” ancestors haven’t been doing for millennia. Some five hundred years ago, maybe more, a custom arose among European Jews of enhancing the established Rosh Hashana observance with a new ceremony called tashlikh, or casting off. Scholars trace tashlikh not the Torah, but to the prophet Micah, who said, “And You shall cast their sins into the depths of the sea.” In the middle ages, kabbalists — the real ones — taught that every time we make an error in judgment or behavior, these sins cling to us, besmirch us and weigh us down. If you’ve ever lain awake at night regretting something, you probably know what they meant. To symbolize the annual shedding of sins at Rosh Hashana, Jews created a ritual of gathering by a river and emptying the crumbs and shmutz from their pockets into the water. The authorities were scandalized and tried to put a stop to this superstitious nonsense, but as so often happens, the will of the people prevailed, and to this day, many Jews toss bread crumbs into the water in observance of tashlikh.

But I’ve been thinking. Casting away your sins is all well and good, but what about what’s really important? What about other people’s sins? What good does it do us to ritually cleanse ourselves once a year, when we know that when the day is over, we’re still going to be surrounded by jerks. If only we could cast away the petty, everyday transgressions that other people commit against us.

Talking during the movie.
Letting your cell phone ring during the movie.
Talking on your cell phone during the movie.
Cutting in line.
Standing two abreast on the escalator when I’m trying to walk past.
Not knowing the difference between merge and yield.
Blasting rap music at the stop light when I’m trying to listen to NPR.
Giving me a dirty look at the stop light when I’m just enjoying my Kanye West.
Saying “literally” when you mean “figuratively.” If you literally died, how are you telling me this inane story.
Invading foreign countries on trumped up evidence.
Putting the empty container back in the fridge.
Not moving all the way into the subway car.
Forwarding e-mail about a political outrage without checking to see if it’s true.
Putting out holiday decorations two months early.
Removing holiday decorations two months late.
Holiday decorations.

Well, of course we can’t cast away other people’s sins for them. But maybe what we can do is shed our insistence on caring about them. We can reach into our pockets and throw away that crummy attitude we sometimes have that makes even the smallest things people do wrong feel like unforgivable insults. Maybe it won’t help them be better people, but it just might help us. And I think our ancestors would approve.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


daniel, our ancestors would not approve.

our ancestors were the kvetchiest, whiniest, most umbridge-taking people in the universe.

think of jonah, what with his story being a haftarah duing the high holidays and all. dude is told by god to deliver a message to some sinners telling them god's pissed and going to wipe them out, people freak out and repent, god forgives them, and jonah goes and SULKS in the desert. because damn, they're not dead and now he looks lame.

if there had been cell phones and movie theaters in our ancestors time, our ancestors would have spent the entire movie loudly discussing how annoying people with cellphones in the movie theater are.

Well, duh.

You can't control other people's annoying or worse, evil, acts. Just about the only thing within your control is your reaction. And I'm not talking about grabbing the cell phone out of the arrongant suit's hand. I'm talking about recognizing that basically, we're all the same, we all want the same thing, which is to be happy and fulfilled, and everything we do, including talking loudly on a cellphone on a city bus, is done with that desire at the core. And recognizing that, looking at cell phone man with equanimity and then letting go of your annoyance, not just in your actions but in your mind.

Of course, if you TOTALLY let it go, your writing would be god-awful boring, or perhaps you wouldn't write at all. So, everything in moderation.


Yeah, the whole thing is a little well duh and the ending is dishonestly mawkish, but I was writing for a very particular audience, and trust me, they ate it up.

OK, Kanye West went over the heads of everyone except the bar and bat mitzvah students in the back, but while I'll dumb down my philosophy if necessary, I refuse to dumb down my pop culture references.

If you're getting some spill-off from my blog, then yeah, they definitely ate it up. My crowd tends to get very excited about the notion of non-attachment. Crumbs and pocket schmutz tend to be a great metaphor for that.

And no, you must never dumb down your pop culture references. There can never be anything dumb about pop culture. NEVER.

P.S. "girl" with shofar looks like a dude.

Of course, there's only one real way to eliminate the transgressions of a fellow congregant: You take him outside the temple, and shoot him. Twice in the chest usually does it. Just ask this congregant from Chabad Weltman Synagogue in Boca Raton.


Daniel, that girl's like 12 years old. Ew. Sexy girl blowing shofar? Any girl'd be sexier than the 80 year old guy who blows shofar at our shul.

Come to think of it, there's a good reason to go to a non-Orthodox shul.

All the best, and g'mar tov to y'all.

I know, and she's not even a HOT 12 years old. But it was literally the only picture I could find of a girl blowing a shofar. I shoulda gone with a still from Harold and Kumar of their friends smoking the shofar bong. That was some funny shit.

i hate to tell you this, but she's not even a she. "she's" wearing a kipot. girls don't do that. "ladies" may cover their heads when they get married, but a "girl" in a kipot? sorry, no. so, it looks like you have a lot more sins to cast off than you originally thought, at least in certain southern states.

Have you never heard of an artist challenging religious and gender norms? For that matter, have you never heard of the Jewish Renewal movement, in which girls where kipot all the time? Hell, I know Conservative women who wear them, at least in shul. (And for that matter, are you sure she's wearing one? I don't really see it.) In any event, the photo, by Jeane Vogel, is titled Girl with a Shofar.

Uhhh...Yoga chickie, you haven't been in a Reform or Conservative synagogue in the last decade, have you? It is quite normal now for women of many ages wearing a kippah (ah hell, I'm old-school -- a yarmulke). In some Reform shuls, there are more women wearing them then men...I kid you not (the reason being that in the "high Reform" style, it was often frowned upon for men to wear yarmulkes; but when some of the old school Reform shuls started looking for younger members, lots of women who started going to them embraced the idea of wearing a yarmulke, while the alter kochers [old guys] still refuse to wear them).

Best, and g'mar tov (again),

Ahhhh...look how defensive ya'all get at the idea that perhaps this girl you were ogling (okay, not really, but how about attempting to want to ogle...) might be a long-haired dude. I was just teasing. Of course I have been in synagogue in the past few years...I do have two little kippot-wearers (I am offering yet a third way of spelling it; since it is in Hebrew, there really is no "right" way of spelling it in English) who I force to go to Hebrew School. So, I know all about the yahmibopping girl movement. My former cantor wore a lid.

Recently we switched from Park Avenue Synagogue, a very conservative place, to Shaaray Tefilah, a very reform place. Very few lids at Shaaray, even on women. And I certainly won't be the one to don one.

It's not that I have a religious issue with it. It's just that it really messes up my hair.


Um, Radosh, I forgot to mention...don't you mean the Jewish Reconstructionist movement? Never heard of Renewal. Sounds like something you might buy at CVS.

YC - just when I was about to apologize for questioning your Jewish bona fides! Now I question your Googling skills too :)
Jewish Renewal.

SHIT. It's one thing to get the Jew-stuff wrong, but it gets even uglier...this Jewish Renewal movement appears to include yoga in its curriculum. Who knew? Caught with my google-pants down. I am so ashamed...(I still think the shofar-girl is sporting a stache though)...

As my shofar-blowing six-year old (the budding rabbi) would say, "Namaste Shal-OM!"

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