Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I was planning to write some reflections on Jews in America but that disingenuous article by Noah Feldman has set me off in another direction. (I'll get back to American Jews another time.)

American liberalism is a wonderful thing but it often has a certain dumbing down effect. For instance, the quality of apikorsim has dropped through the floor. That's why one of the things I really wanted to do in New York was go to chulent. Unfortunately, my flight from Chicago into New York was canceled and I couldn't make it. (Although, while enjoying the hospitality of my good friend, Milei D'Alma, in Chicago, I found next to each other on the bookshelf, "Off the Derech" by Margolies and "On the Road" by Kerouac, which almost made up for missing chulent.)

My friend, Abie, with whom I was planning to go, tells the following story that sums the matter up for me.

A novice apikorus (NA) went off to spend a shabbes with the famous apikorus of Lodz (FAL). He arrives Friday afternoon and FAL tells NA he can follow him around and see how it's done. So NA watches as FAL goes to the mikveh, goes to shul, comes home and says all the mumbles, does kiddush hayom and betzias hapas kehilchasam, and is makpid bekala kebichamurah the whole shabbes. Finally, after seudas Dovid, the following conversation ensues:
NA: What was that all about?
FAL: Why, what were you expecting?
NA: Well, you're supposed to be an apikorus. I was expecting you to at least be mechalel shabbes and eat neveilos and treifos.
FAL: Why should I do that?
NA: What do you mean why?! Lehach'is!
FAL: Lehach'is who?

Mediocre apikorsim just trade in the set of norms they grew up with for somebody else's norms. The same courageous rebel who eats treif because he no longer believes he was divinely commanded not to do so, wouldn't think of eating dog meat because it is taboo in the dominant culture. This isn't courageous, it's craven.

Many years ago, I saw an interview with a Belzer chassid who had decided to leave the path but who had not yet done so. The interviewer asks him how he sees himself a year hence. He says, "Completely frei, though I haven't had a chance yet to learn the rules about when one goes to the beach and when one goes to the movies."

If you're going to replace your birth religion with liberalism as a secular religion, at least have enough self-awareness to appreciate that boasting about the superiority of your new path in life is a boring cliche.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I admit it has been a while. I've been busy.

We are now marking a year since last summer's war. One of the most depressing and telling facts about that war is not very well known. Almost every rocket that came our way was detected upon launching and its landing spot was calculated. Thus residents in the relevant area could have been given 15 to 30 seconds heads up. In the vast majority of cases this never happened. This was partly a result of lack of infrastructure due to incompetence. But in some cases, systems were rigged up by resourceful citizens and these were taken down by jealous authorities. I kid you not.

When I get back from New York, I'm going to begin a series on what needs to be done to redeem the Israeli political system. In the meantime, one parting thought. I think there should be a rule that any Jew who is called a Nazi by another Jew should have the right to slug the guy.