Tag Archives: kosher

Folktale of the Day: When Your Life is in Danger

A Jewish merchant once came on matters of business to the estate of a Polish landowner in the country. He found the landowner at breakfast. On the table were hot cutlets and a bottle of wine. The host politely asked the merchant to take a seat at the table and urged him to eat a pork chop. The Jew thanked him but declined.

“Don’t you like pork chops?”

“On the contrary, I would like them very much but they’re forbidden to us Jews.”

The landowner laughed. “I know, I know,” said he, “you call them tref.”

After that he poured him a glass of wine. Again the Jew declined with thanks. That, too, was forbidden.

Out of patience, the landowner exclaimed, Your God certainly is a hard-hearted one! He puts upon your shoulders a burden too heavy to carry. Tell me what, for instance, would you do if you got lost in a forest, had nothing to eat for several days, and began to feel that you were about to collapse from hunger? Suppose somebody came along and handed you food that was tref – would you eat it?”

“That’s entirely another matter,” answered the Jew. “Our Law makes provision for emergencies where human life and health are at stake.”

Suddenly the landowner jumped to his feet. he glared murderously at the Jew and, whipping out a revolver, pointed it at him, crying, “Drink this wine or I shoot!”

Before you can say Bim the Jew had downed the wine in one gulp. Still pointing the revolver at him, the landowner poured him a second glad. Before you could say Bam the Jew had gulped it down.

Putting down the revolver, the landowner said smiling to the Jew, “Don’t be angry with me, I beg you, I was only joking. Assure me you’re not angry.”

“Why shouldn’t I be angry – I have every right to be angry,” retorted the Jew. “You should have started your joke a little earlier, when you first got around to the pork chops!”

From A Treasury of Jewish Folklore edited by Nathan Ausubel

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Trying to be a little less goyim

This year, the wife and I have decided to celebrate all of the Jewish holidays (we’re also gonna try to celebrate each Sabbath and follow the kosher laws, but more on that later), starting with Rosh Hashanah, the new year. As is for all Jewish holidays, the more merrier, and we have an open invitation standing on them. If you are in the Greater Seattle Area at any of these times and want to join in on the festivities, let me know! Or, if you’d like us to email you before each celebration, just email me at tylee85 at gmail dot com.  The schedule  for the year is as follows:

2010 Schedule

September 3rd, sundown – Shabbat:

We will be celebrating our first Sabbath evening, as the one before Rosh Hashanah is special. Because we plan on celebrating each and every Shabbat this year, as much as possible, this will also be our practice trial run. There will be food and candles and prayers and chanting.

September 8th, sundown – September 10th, sundown – Rosh Hashanah:

The new year! We will have a big dinner on the 8th, and hopefully we will be able to get our hands on a ram’s horn to blow. Also, apple slices and honey!

September 17th, sundown – Yom Kippur:

It’s a somber time, so we’ll again have dinner, but much more subdued. We will be lighting candles for those special to us who have passed on, and this is the last meal before the fasting for Yom Kippur, so there will still be lots of great food. After sundown on September 18th, we will drive in the first nail for Sukkot (not exactly sure what this will entail, but still, if you want to watch us drive a nail into something, then you can come). We will also be breaking the fast, so you are welcome to come over for that, as well.

September 22nd, sundown – September 29th – Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles:

We will be turning our little apartment deck into a sukkah! We will basically have all of our meals out on the sukkah, as well as spend lots of time out on it. It’s very small, but it connects directly to the kitchen, which is a blessing! The first day of Sukkot we will have a nice little blessing for the sukkah.

September 30th, sundown – Shimini Atzeret:

We’ll have a blessing for rain (seeing how we live in Seattle, this will most surely come true), and dinner.

December 1st, sundown – December 9th, sundown – Chanukah:

Latkes, dereidel spinning, candle lighting, and on the last day, gift exchanging. It’s gonna be fun.

2011 Schedule

January 19th, sundown – Tu Bishvat, “The New Year of Trees”:

We will definitely be doing something foliage-related. And eating (we like eating).

March 19th, sundown – March 21st, sundown – Purim:

Along with a reading of the book of Esther (maybe in play form?!) there will be food (of course). This should be a lot of fun, and the festival is supposed to all about ridiculous pageantry, so if you like ridiculous pageantry, this is the festival for you!

April 18th, sundown – April 25th, sundown – Passover:

We will try to have as traditional a seder as possible, and hopefully I will be able to conduct it in Hebrew (with translations, of course). No lambs’ blood, though. The wife is strictly against it.

April 30th, sundown – Holocaust Remembrance Day:

When I was a kid in school, whenever we learned about the Holocaust, it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of class. Elie Wiesel’s Night traumatized me. For some reason, this is a very sensitive topic for me, and I debated long with myself on whether I should celebrate this or not. I decided I will, but I’m not quite sure what we’ll be doing yet. It will be serious, and it will be somber. But there will probably still be food.

May 21st, sundown – Lag Baomer:

I’m not really sure what this festival is about, but it involves bonfires and who doesn’t love bonfires?!

June 7th, sundown – Shavuot, or Pentacost:

Basically, Torah Day. I’m not sure if we’ll be doing the Counting of the Omer (we probably will), but we will definitely for sure commence the all night Torah study! Come over in your pajamas, bring some food, and we are gonna study the Torah all night, baby!

Actually, this holiday is on a Tuesday. So all night Torah studying is not required (unless you want to; I am).

August 8th, sundown – Tisha B’av:

A day of mourning and fasting to remember the destruction of the Jewish temple. We won’t really be holding any celebrations, but if you want to remember this day with us, you’re welcome to.

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Kosher laws and the Word of Wisdom

My last post detailed a theory of mine that maybe commandments like the Word of Wisdom can create a healthy effect on our very strict, orderly religious society by scandalizing substances that are, for the most part, inherently harmless, in order to diffuse very strong feelings of rebellion and revenge towards an institution. This had me thinking, of course, why I follow the Word of Wisdom personally. I fully admit that I don’t usually subscribe to the same program used by the orthodox establishment, but I feel my story has some merit nonetheless and so I share it with you.

I couldn’t tell you where I picked up this story, but I remember hearing about a rabbi asked why God forbade the eating of pigs and prawns when they don’t really pose that much of a threat to your health. The rabbi responded that kosher laws (or any of the commandments for that matter) did not really have much a practical, worldly value.  The purpose of kosher laws, he taught, was that it forced us to think of God in everything we do.

Dang it, even the Jews get to have more fun than us?! I'd gladly give up bacon for wine and coffee.

Dang it, even the Jews get to have more fun than us?! I'd gladly give up bacon for wine and coffee.

Kosher laws are erroneously thought of as just prohibitions on what to eat. However, kosher laws deal with everything from how to prepare food to how it is grown/raised. In other words, from the time you plant your wheat to harvesting it to using it for food is laced with commandments to help us remember God. In this way, every action in your life helps you remember who it is that provides everything we have.

I like that interpretation. Some Mormons I know try to make the Word of Wisdom into a super-huge prophesy given by Joseph Smith to prove he was indeed a prophet. They say that during his time people drank alcohol like crazy and smoked like chimneys. They drank coffee and tea by the gallon, and because of this, health in those days sucked. However, we know this isn’t necessarily true – people then knew about (and belonged to) temperance movements long before Joseph Smith’s utterance of the Word of Wisdom. People also knew that tobacco wasn’t exactly the best thing for you. Joseph Smith even drank wine before his martyrdom while Joseph Smith Sr. had developed several beer brewing recipes (this, I think, we need to re-discover and capitalize). And as time has marched on, science has shown that coffee and tea, when consumed in moderate, reasonable amounts, can actually help improve health.

Like I mentioned in the comments on my previous thread, I don’t like basing my testimony on physical evidence anyhow, because it can so easily be yanked out from underneath you as new information comes along. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. So the Word of Wisdom bothered me for a long time – what was it really? A cultural practice enforced to create a sense of community? Misinterpreted scripture? A wresting of the original intent of Joseph Smith’s suggestion?

Nowadays, it’s turned into a full-blown important commandment (admitting to drinking a cup of Earl Grey every morning, for example, can keep you out of the temple). And so, I think I’m going to follow the Jewish interpretation of our own kosher laws. Perhaps the Word of Wisdom is more for us to remember God in a world where it’s so easy to forget Him. Every time we take pause to eat, we think of Him. When we plan our meals and walk through the supermarket, we think of Him.  And when we live our entire lives following the Word of Wisdom but still get afflicted by some kind of health problem while our friend who smokes a pack a day and drinks like an unemployed Russian mafia hitman can outrun us on the racetrack, well, then we don’t feel so bad anyway because it really never was about that, right? After all, our health (like everything else in life) comes from the Lord, and the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

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