Monday, October 02, 2017


A Pre-Sukkot Poem

What if a prophet arose here and now?
How would the self-proclaimed righteous respond?
Would they declare the prophet who seeks the salvation of the nation
To be un-patriotic?
Would the religious declare those who kneel in prayer
To be divisive, dividing five members in one household?

What if the Bat Kol proclaimed Liberty throughout the land
And unto all of its inhabitants thereof  --
Including "those people" --
All to the sound of the Great Shofar?
Will we claim that Keynes did not understand economics?

For we have become a foreskin upon the Earth
Preventing the land from having its Sabbath rest
If we do not proclaim a Jubilee in Joy and a Sabbath in Happiness
The land will circumcise itself
It has already begun to cleanse itself as Satan stands accusing us
For we have broken the Covenant of Noach

Tear out Satan
Rip apart the chains
Proclaim liberty
Sound the great shofar
Stop and Rejoice!
Stop and Sing!
For if we do not grant liberty and rest to the land
There will be no more joy, no more gladness, no more song
When the land takes its own rest on its terms

Answer us on the day that we call
On the day we finally ask Where is the Place of Honor?

Let us grant ourselves a Place of Honor
Rather than building ourselves an Idol
Let us bring down the World Ash Tree that is The Ashera Pole
And be as gods, as children of the Most High
Rather than erecting a Tophet to worship Molech
Let us proclaim liberty and sound the great shofar
Let us delight in the Sabbath and rejoice in the Jubilee

We must let ourselves open our hearts
To pound wisdom and penny foolishness
To portentous signs and good fortune
Open our hearts to revere Thee
And not rely upon any Son of Man
Or to hide behind an Angel we pretend does not exist

The prophets have spoken
Their Word is all around us
The Bat Kol would cause of to tremble
If we would listen
But we fast in contention
Rather than feasting in celebration

Behold a choice between life and death
Famine and harvest
Is at hand
Our hope, our light and our salvation
Is for us to Proclaim Liberty

For the stone the builder rejected
Will be atop the archway
Of the gates of righteousness
 So we must care for even the stone
The builder rejected
We must grant even the soil under our feet the dignity of leisure

We have only to ask
Where is the Place of Honor?
We have only to proclaim
Liberty across the Earth
We have only to renew
The Covenant of Noach
And if we fail in our task
The punishment is being cut off in banishment from our only Home
Like the refugees we have cut off  when
We have failed to observe the Laws of the Sabbath and Jubilee

Heal us!
Prosper us!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Travelin' in Israel: Tel Aviv, a small city with a big ideological meaning

I am finally taking a trip to Israel (woo-hoo! first time!) with a group from my shul. Our trip has begun in Tel Aviv and pretty much that's all I've seen thus far.

Contrary to what I had thought about Tel Aviv being the modern metropolis of modern Israel (which statement seems to be yet another Zionist myth), Tel Aviv is very small, actually. It's like a mini version of LA/Santa Monica, CA. So I guess it's because I'm a proud escapee of the LA area, but I have not yet had the "you're at home" feeling we Jewsians are s'posed to have in Israel.

That being said, it's really nice being in a place with so many kosher restaurants, a shul around every corner, etc. But then again, I already live in such a place. Seriously, though, I do like it here. And I guess I'll get that soulful Jewish feeling (although I had that feeling in a Masorti synagogue here where we went for Shabbos morning services) in Jerusalem.

What really strikes me though is the degree to which Tel Aviv really is a Zionist paradise (which is why I guess Zionist mythos makes it out to be such a grand place): it is really quite a normal place (at least to me as a former resident of Sunny So. Cal) where it is normal to be Jewish, if not religiously so.

This normality also strikes directly at the kishkes of both right wing and left wing arguments about Israel: even if there is no intellectual basis for evaluating arguments based on first emotional impressions, being in Tel Aviv (where security certainly is more of a presence than even in supposedly 'yellow terrorism alert' America) you hardly feel the sense of existential danger the right claims Israel and Israelis are constantly experiencing. And it certainly is hard to feel in such a normal place (with everything translated into Arabic) a sense that Israelis exist solely as colonialists bent on subjugating Arabs for the sake of Western Imperialism as some lefties seem to like to believe.

This place just is. It's not the nicest place in the world. Outside of when I was in shul, I didn't feel any more "Jewish" here or at home here than anywhere else. But from a classical Zionist perspective, Tel Aviv is the Zionist dream: a place where Jews live normal lives without constant fear of pograms, or even (more shallowly) "what will people say when they realize I'm a Hebe?". It's a triumph of classical Zionism -- and that undermines both the rights' arguments based on a fear of "what will happen if ..." and especially left wing anti-Zionist arguments that misrepresent the very purpose of Zionism and imbue it with an original sin that doesn't actually exist within anything but the straw Zionism of the left.

And I guess that's why they like Jews like me to visit Israel. Not because "oh wow! I feel at home here! Now I'm going to support only candidates who feel Bibi is too soft" but rather because it strikes those of us prone to leftist thought right in the kishkes with what Israel is about. We might not agree with (classical) Zionism intellectually and Israel may itself have drifted away, for better or for worse, from its Zionist moorings, but classical Zionism is, at some level what a place like Tel Aviv is about. And that really undermines, if not intellectually, emotionally the arguments of extremists around these parts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


A Thought About Home Ownership

Widespread home/condo/co-op ownership only makes sense if a lot of people are living on one place long enough that buying, rather than renting, makes sense cost-wise or if housing prices always go up. But the only way housing prices can outpace inflation and interest is if there is an exponentially increasing shortage of housing (i.e. demand growing faster than supply) which means wide-spread home/condo/co-op ownership ain't happening.

A while back it was fashionable to talk about "the ownership society". Did anybody stop to consider that in order to have one of those you need to have some measure of economic stability so that way it makes sense for people to purchase things like housing (without having to worry that they may need to move in order to find a new job in case they loose their old one)?

Either the goals of those who talk a good capitalist talk are fundamentally against what they claim they are for (i.e. those who talk about broad-based home ownership really are interested in the opposite) or such people really, for all their claims that they understand economics better than the rest of us, don't understand economics at all.

Why then, do we still take such people seriously on economics matters?

Relatedly -- why is the media surprised at Geithner's calendar? Of course, come general election time, this will be used to show that "see even the liberal media realizes that the Democrats really work for the plutocrats and not the working stiffs they claim they want to help" in the usual GOP "vote for Side Show Bob" sort of way. So how's that 11-dimensional chess working out? Fortunately, it seems the GOP is in the process of imploding, so I guess it's best we just let them implode. But while were standing their watching, must we shoot ourselves in the foot as well? The old (successful) GOP would have gone for the kill while their enemy was week.


So Hevesi Won the Primary ...

I am not saying this because I live in the NY28'th assembly district (we don't live in the fancy part of Forest Hills ... heck we aren't even in the city council district for Forest Hills) nor because I happen to know Joe Fox and know he's a stand-up sort of guy, but ... who votes for someone like Young Hevesi?

I would have thought that Joe Fox's well-oiled campaign would have trounced Hevesi. Similarly, who votes for Koslowitz? Not that I have anything against her and she may be a very fine councilwoman, but given the campaigns by so many exciting new candidates for city council, how come Koslowitz won that race?

I know that incumbents (although Koslowitz wasn't an incumbent per se, she had the seat before) have some degree of advantage, if only due to name recognition and that they are known quantities, but when you have a nayfish like the Young Hevesi running, how much advantage can being an incumbent be?

And yet people still vote for them. People complain about entrenched politicians in the City Council, Albany, DC, etc., but if nobody voted for incumbents, then we wouldn't have these entrenched interests, would we?


Who votes for incumbents?

Monday, August 02, 2010


A Must Read

The K-man on Obama.

FWIW, you can substitute "liberal Jews" for "Progressives" and "Israel" for "Obama", and you would also have a similar and cogent point.


Meanwhile, in other news ... one challenge of being father to a 5-or-so-year-old daughter is the whole locker-room and even bathroom thing: she's now too old to go into the men's room with me and too young in some circumstances to go into the women's room by herself (e.g. when the bathroom is located within a locker room). I don't know how this should be handled in buildings that already exist but family-oriented community centers should realize that sometimes fathers go to them with their daughters but without their mothers in tow: ideally they need to have kids' bathrooms or something so that kids can use the toilet, change into/out of bathing suits, etc.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


It's getting toward the end of summer in Queens ...

... and that means Shabbos dinner is a picnic at Passport Fridays.

This past Shabbos we saw "Quest for Pasta"*, er, Castaway on the Moon. It's a very good movie: I give it two thumbs up.

* c.f. (aka "Quest for the Missionary Position") ... about half-way through the movie, you'll get the joke.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm Feeling Well Enough ...

... so I tried my new tobaccy -- McClelland's "Royal Cajun Ebony". Instead of being an "everything but the kitchen sink" tobacco like I usually smoke, it has tobacco processed in such a way as to combine the effects of being a Latakia and a Perique (with the oxidation/aromatic nature of a Cavendish as well). The result is, so far, excellent, although the tobacco was a bit dry for my tastes (so I humidified it a bit)

I just hope it will be as good the next time I smoke it, as I worry that maybe I humidified it too much?

Monday, July 12, 2010


A 9-Days Post: I.e., Just to Expand a Little Bit ...

... on my "Narrative #2" downstairs and Rev. RMJ's insightful comment regarding it, there is a tendency among some on the left to wonder "the Jews have been so oppressed, why do they not realize how Zionism oppresses Palestinians?". To some extent, this is a fair question, but there is much less irony here than lefties like to think.

The thing is when many of us Jews here about the Nabka, the fact is that, far from helping us to identify with the meaning of such a "catastrophe", our history of oppression makes us completely blind to how such an occurrence would be such a catastrophe. And this goes beyond the "I am more oppressed than you are"(*) issue. In Jewish history, there have been so many 'Nabka's, that they are rather meaningless as individual events.

Yes, it is tragic to be kicked off land you and your family have farmed for generations by armed thugs. But to us Jews, that's no big whoop. Throughout our history, even in locations where Jews have finally settled down and lived, eventually thugs would come and kick us off our land (yes, we Jews are very well integrated into many societies in the diaspora and there is little actual anti-Semitism today, but history shows that such idylls often end violently). The idea that we would have an armed struggle to obtain a "right of return" to every place that kicked us out would be ridiculous.

Another way to put this is to imagine the following conversation --

Palestinian: How can you Jews, who have experienced so much oppression be so insensitive to the catastrophe Israel's very existence has caused us. Why when I was a kid, armed thugs kicked us off land my family has lived on for centuries just so a bunch of Jews, many of whom are, by all appearances 100% European, could have a state

Jew: I don't get what's the big deal here: armed thugs kicked my grandfather off his land, and his grandfather off his land before that ... and then, when I was a kid, armed thugs kicked me out of my home and put me in a death camp

This isn't just a game of Oppression Olympics here (again *) but a whole difference in perspective: if your family had lived on the same plot of land for hundreds of years, being kicked off that land is a catastrophe; if your family were kicked around from place to place every few generations (even being kicked out of a place where you thought you were "safe"), you might not see being kicked off your land as such a catastrophe because it is all too "normal" for your expectations. Of course, the very existence of Zionism certainly testifies to the idea that this constant state of expecting a Nabka for diaspora Jews is wrong and damaging ...

... in fact, that is the whole point of Israel -- we Jews no longer have to live in constant fear of being kicked out of our homes and wondering where we would go next: we would go to Israel. Whether that makes sense or not, is a whole other question. But it seems rather odd to purposefully ignore that aspect of our narrative and to ignore that, for many Jews, the idea -- that being kicked out of the place where your family has lived for generations is the greatest catastrophe ever -- is meaningless as this has happened on a regular basis to us.


Meanwhile, there has been a little bit of bad press about extremist settlers blocking access of Palestinians to their farms and about some land use issues in Jerusalem. I know the attitude in Israel is "why should we bother to stop these sorts of problems when the world will consider us to be racists anyway". But perhaps if Israel would actually try to make sure these sorts of things don't happen, enough people might think enough differently about Israel to make a difference? Does anybody within the Zionist community understand the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

* to be fair, the lowering of a standard for genocide is somewhat disturbing: while we need to stop mass population transfers that cause so much death and suffering, they are not "genocide". There is a big difference between transferring even millions of people in order to establish nation-states which, no matter what you think of them as a concept, where considered an ideal in much of the 20th century, and actually trying to kill a whole group of people.

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