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It’s a literally hot-button issue
June 24, 2011 9:33 PM   Subscribe

The practice has become so widespread – some say half of Modern Orthodox teens text on Shabbat – that it has developed its own nomenclature – keeping “half Shabbos,” for those who observe all the Shabbat regulations except for texting.

Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill first wrote about it almost a year ago and has a more recent response.

Some viewed the phenomenon as a return to "Big Tent Orthodoxy". Gil Student declared that there is nothing new under the sun. Some took a more nuanced view.

The editor of the Jewish Week responds to responses to the article.

The Atlantic discussed the related issue of e-readers on the Sabbath back in December.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 (70 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ironically, posted on the Sabbath by a Jew.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 9:34 PM on June 24, 2011 [29 favorites]


Ironically, read on the Sabbath by a Jew.
posted by mikelieman at 9:38 PM on June 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


*mental note to develop Shabbos Goy texting app*
posted by contessa at 9:41 PM on June 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ironically, read by a non-practicing Jew drinking a vodka tonic.

(I don't know what irony is)
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 9:44 PM on June 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Irony is like Goldy and Silvery but less expensive and more durable.
posted by mikelieman at 9:48 PM on June 24, 2011 [27 favorites]


An American Jew was shopping on Regent Street in London. He entered a posh gourmet food store. A sales representative, in a long morning coat with tie and tails, approached.

"May I be of help to you, sir?"

"Yes. I'd like a pound of lox."

"Sorry, sir - do you mean smoked salmon?"

"Okay, a pound of smoked salmon."

"Anything else, sir?"

"Yes, a dozen blintzes."

"I believe you mean crepes, sir."

"Okay, a dozen crepes."

"Anything else, sir?"

"Yes. A pound of chopped liver."

"You are probably referring to pate, sir."

"Okay, a pound of pate - and could you deliver all this on Saturday?"

"Sorry, sir - we don't schlep that chazzerai on Shabbos."
posted by growabrain at 9:58 PM on June 24, 2011 [77 favorites]


Given the stereotype of teenagers, I wonder if this wasn't also a problem with (voice) phones a generation earlier?
posted by hattifattener at 10:09 PM on June 24, 2011


My Jewish girlfriend is blowdrying a friends hair in our living room while texting as we speak. Also, we had pork burgers for dinner last night.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:09 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time wave for aftereffect affect.
Still...
posted by Mblue at 10:10 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


\Ponders sabbath-mode texting. Voice-to-text SMS?
posted by Joh at 10:18 PM on June 24, 2011


Insert bragging about how unobservant I am here.
posted by shii at 10:20 PM on June 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm so unobservant I'm not even Jewish.
posted by Justinian at 10:28 PM on June 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Thanks, Justinian.
posted by wrapper at 10:37 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The practice has become so widespread – some say half of Modern Orthodox teens text on Shabbat – that it has developed its own nomenclature – keeping “half Shabbos,”

By this definition, I guess I grew up in a "half kosher" household. Mixing milk and meat, no worries, but bacon and shellfish were strictly prohibited (unless we were at a restaurant, which never did make any sense).

I blame this confusing and mixed message for how I ended up marrying a woman who I suppose many would consider an ideal shiksa (blond hair, blue eyes), who makes by far the best matzo brei I've ever had.
posted by The Gooch at 11:22 PM on June 24, 2011


I don't know about texting, but I'm pretty sure there's a lot of people who have a pet monkey that does their twitter posts for them on the Sabbath.
posted by straight at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is being posted by my shabbos goy. But I am so unobservant that my shabbos goy is a Jew.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 AM on June 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm orthodox Jew and I'm gangsta, so I wear my yarmulke backwards.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:57 AM on June 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


You know who else was unobservant?
posted by ryanrs at 1:10 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's teens for you. Teens' priorities are getting laid and getting from under their parents' control.

When they get old enough to fear death they'll all pull David Mamets, and make a big deal of how much time they spend at shul and how much finicky fidelity they show to the Law.
posted by orthogonality at 1:37 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


gd Shbs could mean many other things when a text? Hard to believe otherwise.
posted by Mblue at 2:18 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the bit about being jealous that their "unobservant" friends have been communicating on Shabbat, as if it were totally unthinkable that they might have any goy friends.
posted by Mooseli at 2:52 AM on June 25, 2011


The idea that kids are being "tempted" by the unique nature of cell phones seems absurd to me, because Orthodox Jews shouldn't even have a cell phone in their pockets on Saturdays in the first place. (They'd be muktzah.)

They're texting not because they're tempted, but because a certain idea -- that 21st century teens should order their lives according to rules stemming from a deity invented by 3000-year-old tribespeople and filtered through 2000 years of backwards-looking exegetes -- is absurd.
posted by lewedswiver at 2:55 AM on June 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


gd Shbs could mean many other things when a text? Hard to believe otherwise.

At least all those years of Hebrew schooling has prepared them to read and write without vowels.
posted by atrazine at 3:56 AM on June 25, 2011 [28 favorites]


/* TO-DO - Insert Big Lebowski reference */
posted by kcds at 4:45 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Texting, schmexting-- I think the eReader dilema is far more interesting, after all reading on the Sabbath is one of the favored activities.
The blogger Morris Rosenthal, for example, imagines a special Kindle that can bypass Sabbath prohibitions by disabling its buttons, turning itself on at a preset time, and flipping through a book at a predetermined clip.


That sounds like a poor alternative-- you have to sneeze or answer your mother's question and WHOOPS-- the pages keep flipping. My guess is IF the printed word becomes obsolete, small Jewish printing houses will spring up to provide books for the Sabbath.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:06 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Otherwise strictly-observant Jews texting on Shabbat?

ALL RELIGION IS TERRIBLE FOLLY, FOREVER
posted by sinnesloeschen at 5:06 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah yes: the reinterpretations their parents make about following whatever laws they don't want to are fine ones, and don't mean they're less observant; the reinterpretations the teenagers make are bad compromises, but don't mean they're bad Jews; and the reinterpretations that less Orthodox Jews make are evil, clearly false interpretations, and they are barely Jewish.
posted by jeather at 5:26 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two low-numbered MeFites post to Metafilter. The first one posts, "I'm so unobservant." Seeing this, the second one post, "I'm so unobservant."

While this is happening a MeFite with a high user number posts, "I'm so unobservant." The two low-numbered MeFites look at each other and say "Look who thinks he's unobservant!"
posted by tommasz at 5:45 AM on June 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Do any phone companies provide a plan that shuts down the phone (except maybe for emergency numbers) on Shabbat?
posted by pracowity at 5:50 AM on June 25, 2011


They're texting not because they're tempted, but because a certain idea -- that 21st century teens should order their lives according to rules stemming from a deity invented by 3000-year-old tribespeople and filtered through 2000 years of backwards-looking exegetes -- is absurd.
I disagree. IMHO they are texting because texting is fucking addictive (see also: browsing metafilter, etc).

I'm no teenager, and I didn't grow up with mobile technology, but the article says that their schools couldn't even manager to enforce a ban on phones during the school day. Why would a full-day ban be any easier?

I still remember the first week I got an iphone. I was at work some day that week, checked my email, wrapped things up, and took the elevator to leave. The I checked my email on my phone. Then I walked all of 2 blocks to the subway, and checked my email again. Then I thought "What the fuck am I doing?" and put my phone away. Of course a few years later I still find myself doing this all the time.
posted by Phredward at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2011


I grew up Modern Orthodox and I'm having a lot of trouble believing that it's "half" of Modern Orthodox teens, but, to be fair, in my day there was no such thing as texting and I don't know if my peer group was typical. I would have felt the same way about texting on shabbos as I did about turning on a light -- it might be something I did impulsively once every few months or so when nobody was around, but always with a feeling of doing something very wrong and being kind of shocked at myself.

That said, I think it's a very good thing. Modern Orthodoxy has been getting much more strict for a generation, so movement in the other direction will provide a place for those who want to be "Orthodox" but also live in the real world. The movement has been a largely intellectual one, finding justifications/reasons for living in the modern world while staying very strict on matters of halakha, but there is a real need for a de facto flexible stance on halakha since Conservative and Reform Judaism are now so far away from Orthodoxy that they don't feel like options for people who want to be somewhat Orthodox.

I don't think that any Orthodox Rabbis will ever go along with this because of so many years of tradition, which is a real shame, because the whole movement could have gone another way on the whole electricity question in the early 20th century and then this would not be an issue.
posted by callmejay at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The schools can't keep bans on phone use during school days because the only effective punishment -- taking the phone away -- was denied by the parents, who found it too annoying at home.
posted by jeather at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The blogger Morris Rosenthal, for example, imagines a special Kindle that can bypass Sabbath prohibitions by disabling its buttons, turning itself on at a preset time, and flipping through a book at a predetermined clip.

That's why I have metafilter automatically scroll down and post on my behalf.
posted by modernserf at 6:04 AM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I still remember the first week I got an iphone. I was at work some day that week, checked my email, wrapped things up, and took the elevator to leave. The I checked my email on my phone. Then I walked all of 2 blocks to the subway, and checked my email again. Then I thought "What the fuck am I doing?" and put my phone away.

Strange. My phone just vibrates when I get notifications like emails or calendar reminders.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:06 AM on June 25, 2011


“When we did take away a phone,” he said, “the amount of pain the student was in was literally unbearable.

Literally. Unbearable.

Man, nothing brings out my inner crotchety old man like the ubiquitous texting addiction. Every time I see some snot-nosed little bum texting under the table while out to dinner with the family I want to slap the thing out of his stupid little paws. Texting while you drive? I want to smash your fucking window with a crowbar. These commercials where the parents are bowled over by their insane mobile bill because of the teenage reprobate's texting and rather than taking the responsible and sensible course of violently beating them with a rubber hose they just have to get the unlimited plan! Sound parenting! God forbid the teens of America disrupt the continuity of their inane, banal, semantically empty and syntactically mangled magpie chatter!

This is the product of a society where we have become so profoundly socially isolated from anything like an actual community that we can describe, without an apparent hint of irony, the temporary disruption of electronic interaction as causing "literally unbearable" pain. Rather than try to actually do anything about how fragmented and disconnected our actual, physical environments have become, we immerse ourselves in the digital soma of virtual interaction, um...

Actually think I'm going to head outside now, you all have a great day!
posted by nanojath at 6:17 AM on June 25, 2011 [37 favorites]


Not the first example: the most effective cure for culture is the teenager's desperation to fit in with his peers.
posted by foursentences at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2011


Reading this on Shabbos morning while eating challah left over from last night's Shabbos dinner, which included both dairy and meat, but on separate plates. Modern Jewish life is complicated. (So was pre-modern Jewish life.) I don't text.
posted by escabeche at 6:32 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This seems like a New York thing - I have family in the Modern Orthodox neighborhood in Chicago, and I haven't seen any of this there.
posted by LSK at 6:54 AM on June 25, 2011


seems like it. But the thing is, it can be both (1) a New York thing and (2) fully half of Modern Orthodox teenagers at the same time.
posted by milestogo at 7:14 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an aside, I grew up non-modern Orthodox, and one of the biggest hassles on Saturday was controlling the lights. You wanted to leave the lamp on in your bedroom to read? Fine, but then you have to throw a towel over it when you want to sleep, and risk it catching fire or giving the room a crimson glow that most rabbis wouldn't approve of anyway.

And then, a couple years ago, I find that someone's come up with most idiotically simple way of circumventing the problem. Enter the KosherLamp. Seriously, I couldn't have invented it? I coulda been someone, an Orthodox Otis, a frum Franklin.

*sigh*
posted by greatgefilte at 7:21 AM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


As someone who is not Jewish but has a teenager who really, really loves texting (I would stop right before saying she's "addicted" although I will say that, hands down, the most effective punishment in our house is taking away cellphone), I found this article fascinating. Thanks for this FPP, it's a good one.
posted by pineapple at 7:53 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Bill Maher's film Religulous he visited this religious jewish guy who was building all these weird machines that would let you "use" electronic devices on Shabbos without, technically, violating the prohibitions. The only one I remember was a telephone that you "dialed" by interrupting a light beam over each digit. The reasoning was something like "you're not doing work, you're interrupting work that was already being done."

Orthodox Jews like this must really think God is stupid. Yes, he created the universe, but "D'oh, you got me! I didn't think of that when I was making the commandments. Well, you might as well go ahead. Aside: Those sneaky Jews, I'll outwit them next time.". See also: eruvin.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:19 AM on June 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


"The idea that kids are being "tempted" by the unique nature of cell phones seems absurd to me, because Orthodox Jews shouldn't even have a cell phone in their pockets on Saturdays in the first place. (They'd be muktzah.)"

Can you have phone in your pocket inside an eruv? I'm not Jewish but I'm absolutely fascinated by the rules and workarounds like eruvs and appliances with Sabbath modes.
posted by MikeMc at 8:19 AM on June 25, 2011


Also, is anybody else getting this post of Black Sabbath's War Pigs under the 'Related Posts' section?

Hmm, maybe because of 'sabbath', or perhaps war pigs aren't kosher? Let's see what Rab Ozzi has to say ...
posted by benito.strauss at 8:24 AM on June 25, 2011


MikeMc - here's the Wikipedia page.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:26 AM on June 25, 2011



They're texting not because they're tempted, but because a certain idea -- that 21st century teens should order their lives according to rules stemming from a deity invented by 3000-year-old tribespeople and filtered through 2000 years of backwards-looking exegetes -- is absurd.

While not Orthodox, or Jewish, or even religious, I do admire the way modern Jewish scholars can find rules for texting in 3000-year-old myths, in much the same fashion that the US Supreme court finds guidelines for cable television regulation in an 18th-century document.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:33 AM on June 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Orthodox Jews like this must really think God is stupid. Yes, he created the universe, but "D'oh, you got me! I didn't think of that when I was making the commandments.

Actually, they rationalize it by saying that God *did* think of that, so the loophole is intended.
posted by callmejay at 8:41 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Great I'll be at this all day. Now I'm trying to figure out which category of muktza cell phones fall under: Mechamat Chisaron Kis, Mechamat Gufo or possibly Kli Shemlachto L'isur. Why do I do this to myself? I don't even believe in god.
posted by MikeMc at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, they rationalize it by saying that God *did* think of that, so the loophole is intended.

Ah, so he's a bastard then. "Whattaya mean no bacon cheese burgers? Oh, you just had to know the secondary Aramaic meaning of that word, and you'd've realized they were okay. No bacon cheese burgers? Man, those things are delicious."

/okay, I'm done god-bashing. It's just my way of observing the sabbath.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2011


Man, nothing brings out my inner crotchety old man like the ubiquitous texting addiction. Every time I see some snot-nosed little bum texting under the table while out to dinner with the family I want to slap the thing out of his stupid little paws. Texting while you drive? I want to smash your fucking window with a crowbar.

What's really sad is that my MOTHER does this shit. 61 years old and trying to text while she drives. "MOTHER! STOP TEXTING YOUR BOYFRIEND DURING THE LUAU!" is something I remind her of, frequently.

Sometimes I really think I hate the modern era now. Also, I hate parenting my parent.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:56 AM on June 25, 2011


Actually, they rationalize it by saying that God *did* think of that, so the loophole is intended.

Or that He's proud of us because we're so damned clever.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Given the stereotype of teenagers, I wonder if this wasn't also a problem with (voice) phones a generation earlier?

At the very least, using a traditional phone would have been harder to hide (at least way back before cordless phones) from your parents. I mean, the phone was in the living room or kitchen, so it would be kind of hard not to get caught. Texting, well, that's completely silent and you can hide in your bedroom.
posted by asnider at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2011


That KosherLamp site is fascinating.

I don't understand the Bug Lamp idea? It mentions rinsing the vegetables before using the lamp to scan for bugs, so it sounds like it's okay to wash the vegetables first. So if you're washing the vegetables, you still have to make sure there are absolutely no bugs whatsoever? Is that the idea?
posted by winna at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2011


This is really fascinating. Thanks for posting it.

I will never understand why the Orthodox maintain such complex contortions regarding halacha. Our whole religion is sort of neurotic, but it really seems as if the Orthodox have OCD sometimes.
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on June 25, 2011


Serious questions: How would Orthodox Jewish astronauts maintain Shabbos off-world since technology would likely be needed for every little thing? Could they even become astronauts if part of the journey took place on a Saturday? Could they spend anytime on or near Saturn, since everyday would technically be Saturn's Day on that world?
posted by Renoroc at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2011


Or that He's proud of us because we're so damned clever.

This was always my read on the whole thing. I enjoyed this post [and the discussion] a lot.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Safety and health trumps Shabbat observance. You can use a nebulizer on Shabbat if there's a medical need, for example. Or drive someone to the hospital in an emergency.

If you're an Orthodox Jew and maintaining your welfare and that of the crew requires you to use a piece of technology, then you can do it.
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on June 25, 2011


Shabbat in Space

(Best said in the proper muppet "Pigs. In. Spaaaaaaace!" manner.)

The beans, they are WAY overthunk. But it's an interesting intellectual exercise if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on June 25, 2011


winna: "I don't understand the Bug Lamp idea? It mentions rinsing the vegetables before using the lamp to scan for bugs, so it sounds like it's okay to wash the vegetables first.

Yes.

So if you're washing the vegetables, you still have to make sure there are absolutely no bugs whatsoever? Is that the idea?"

Yep. Because you never know what bugs or bug parts might be missed.
posted by zarq at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


greatgefilte: "Or that He's proud of us because we're so damned clever."

Heh.

I've always thought of it that way. "G-d gave you a brain! He wants you to use it! Even to think up loopholes!"
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on June 25, 2011


Can you have phone in your pocket inside an eruv? I'm not Jewish but I'm absolutely fascinated by the rules and workarounds like eruvs and appliances with Sabbath modes.

I'm no longer remotely orthodox, but I think you couldn't have a phone in your pocket inside an eruv any more than you could have a wallet (with money) inside your pocket. In other words, if you didn't actually touch it, then conceivably it could be okay, but pushing the limits like that was itself doubleplus ungood.
posted by lewedswiver at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2011


Orthodox Jews like this must really think God is stupid.

I've known Orthodox Jews to explain that this is because they don't think of the law that way. That is, it's not "if we do the wrong thing, God will smite us, and the law is how we know what the wrong thing is". It's more that adherence to the law is, in itself, a form of respect or worship or affirming your Jewishness.

Hence the (fascinating to me) tension that leads to both the expansion of Exodus 23:19 into so many kosher food rules, but also the rules-lawyerly carve-outs of eruvim and shabbos-goyim.
posted by hattifattener at 12:38 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know how Orthodox Judaism can often seem like arbitrary rules-lawyering, finding loopholes to violate the spirit of the law while maintaining the letter in only the most literal sense?

That's the point. When it comes to God's law, the idea is that God wrote the laws. Exploiting a loophole is 100% fine because the legislation was drafted by an omnipotent omniscient deity who, one who certainly could take the time to write different laws if He would prefer to do so.

I've often said, mostly but by no means entirely in jest, that so many Jews end up as lawyers because we have thousands of years of examining, evaluating, and finding loopholes in God's own regulations, so culturally speaking, there's nothing new about the process.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:45 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


MikeMc: "Now I'm trying to figure out which category of muktza cell phones fall under: Mechamat Chisaron Kis, Mechamat Gufo or possibly Kli Shemlachto L'isur. "

An item can definitely fall under several categories of muktza, which would be relevant because each category has slightly different rules and exceptions. If the phone were only Kli Shemlachto L'isur, you would be allowed to use it for a permissible use. There used to be a Nokia phone--very popular among yeshiva students in Israel for the year--that would display the time as a screen saver. Because this phone turned into a pocket watch rather than a useless plastic brick, it could be moved--and even carried!--on Shabbat. If the phone had been an iphone 4 rather than a crappy thing that broke every month anyway, it might have been muktza Mechamat Chisaron Kis. It probably would never be muktza Mechamat Gufo since you could, in a pinch, crack a nut with your phone.

lewedswiver: "I think you couldn't have a phone in your pocket inside an eruv any more than you could have a wallet (with money) inside your pocket. In other words, if you didn't actually touch it, then conceivably it could be okay, but pushing the limits like that was itself doubleplus ungood."

There is a widespread misconception about muktza, even among many Orthodox Jews, that these items cannot be touched. The truth is that muktza items cannot be moved. It really doesn't matter if you're carrying the cellphone in your jacket pocket or in your hand.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 1:05 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's surprising to me how much admiration people have for this quibbling with God. For me, as someone who once owned a copy of Bava Kamma, it makes me appreciate Matthew 15:11:

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Oh well, אַ ביי געזונט !
posted by benito.strauss at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2011


If you're an Orthodox Jew and maintaining your welfare and that of the crew requires you to use a piece of technology, then you can do it.

All in the game, Yo. All in the game...
posted by mikelieman at 5:37 PM on June 25, 2011


It's surprising to me how much admiration people have for this quibbling with God. For me, as someone who once owned a copy of Bava Kamma, it makes me appreciate Matthew 15:11:

You may want to back up and think about the history of quoting the New Testament to criticize Judaism. Observant Jews damn well do believe that that which goeth into the mouth can defile a man. You may not agree, but pulling out Matthew to make the case... it's rude at best, and irrelevant to boot. Matthew has zero, nada, zilch meaning to an observant Jew, today or a thousand or two thousand years ago.

As for "admiration for this quibbling with God" - yes. Yes, that's exactly what it is. Observant Jews believe that God wrote divine law and the struggle to adhere to the letter of that law has meaning to them. Christianity holds that those laws were made irrelevant; Judaism continues to maintain that the "relevance" of those laws is beside the point, that we follow them because they are God's laws. He says don't eat pork, you don't eat pork, full stop, and that has nothing to do with whether modern agricultural practices are different than they were. But there's not necessarily a "spirit" of the law to keep - the law says what the law says, and it's not quibbling any more than you're quibbling with the Federal Government by itemizing your tax deductions. If God didn't want you doing something, he would forbid it in His divine laws along with eating pork.

And I'll close by saying: Please, please think carefully about whether you really want to say "Judaism is doing something I disagree with, and I will cite the New Testament to make that argument."
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:46 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


/* TO-DO - Insert Big Lebowski reference */

Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest.

That means that I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't handle money, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as shit *don't fucking LOL*!
posted by mazola at 9:56 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tomorrowful, I guess this is, as the title for this post claims, "a ... hot-button issue". In hopes of reducing any offense I may cause, I'll try to make my points without any attempts at humor.

I was raised Jewish, and no longer identify myself as such (except as a cultural shorthand). When I say I find something wrong in Judaism, it's because I've thought about it and rejected it.

I'm not sure what you're referring to with regard to avoiding using the New Testament to critique Judaism, unless it's the long ugly history of general Christian anti-semitism. The New Testament's got a lot of parts, but by my (inexpert) reading, if you drop Paul's how-to-organize-an-organized-religion-for-maximum-longevity stuff, much of what's attributed to Jesus is a criticism of Judaism (as practiced 2000 years ago). I don't take the point-of-view that God inspired Torah, but not the New Testament, so the former has value, but not the latter. The sentiment in Matthew 15:11 really does speak to me. It could have been said by Jesus, Moses, Maimonides, ibn Shaprut, or the guy at the liquor store; I'd still find it valuable.

I'm being (perhaps excessively) picky here, but the claim that "Observant Jews believe that God wrote divine law ...we follow them because they are God's laws" rings hollow with me. "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk" does not imply "cheeseburgers are forbidden". There is the huge body of halacha, clearly starting with God's laws, but it feels like some other tendencies have been mixed in.

Part of what you say is "(Orthodox) Jews find meaning and value in these practices. What business is it of yours?". I agree with you there. I love learning about different people's different practices. But retreating to nothing more than personal meaning leaves me a little disappointed, as I enjoy discussing and debating the motivations, merits, and effects of different practices. I think it enriches understanding on all sides, and 'just personal meaning' puts practice outside that debate.

Also, when "I do this" is followed by "because the only true God demands that I do it", my monotheism flag goes up, and I start worrying about how this person will treat non-believers.

(I have to admit that both of my parents were hurt hard by their respective families "just obeying the rules of their religions". Sometimes I react more strongly in religion-based discussions because of that. I hope I haven't been spraying that anger here.)
posted by benito.strauss at 10:37 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Sometimes I really think I hate the modern era now."

Now is the best time to hate the modern era. (The previous sentence is always true.)
posted by Eideteker at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2011


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