Tag Archives: Mitzvot

Vampires, Superman and Modern Day Paganism

Billboards have been announcing the new season of a show called True Blood. I don’t follow it (as it is described as extremely inappropriate) but I do follow the phenomena it is part of:
Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, Falling Skies, Green Lantern, Thor, The Avengers, Transformers, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and Byzantium are only a short list of programs and movies that have – or will shortly- come across our “cultural” dashboard. There have and will be many, many more.
All of these shows and movies depict characters who are stronger, faster and smarter than us. They come from above, below and beyond. They battle among themselves for dominance over us mortals and our world and we are powerless before them, at their complete mercy.
They are immortal, or close to it.
Think of how much time and resources we spend on them. Books, magazines, movies, reviews, shows, merchandise, costumes and debates (Remember the “Stand By Me” debate? “Who would win in a fight – Mighty Mouse, or, Superman?” with the answer – “Of course Superman! Mighty Mouse is a cartoon! he isn’t even real”!
Is this any different than ancient polytheistic Greece?
Do we not “serve” these fictitious super-humans with our money, time and creativity? do we not go visit them in their temple-theaters or at our home alter-screens? Do we not shower the priests who bring us their words- writers, actors and producers – with adoration, prestige and even gold statues? Are we not rewarded for our service with entertainment, inspiration and even hope?
One could argue – with some degree of truth – that Torah’s issue with polytheism was as much a moral one as a theological one. To them I’d say, are the stories of these modern made, false gods, not filled with violence, sexual misconduct and immorality? Does this not – on some level – legitimize these behaviors for us mortals, as well?
I can’t help but think that Western Civilization has not come as far as it thinks in abolishing idol worship and may have just substituted one form for another, more subtle, one.
Judaism’s call to attribute divinity, “other-worldliness” and – as a consequence – origin of morality, to any but God himself is as load and necessary as it ever was.
Pay close attention to what you – and your children – are watching.

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Filed under Halacha, Theology

Cheeseburgers and Moral Sensitivity

God: “And remember, Moshe, to keep kosher, never cook a kid goat in its mother’s milk. It is cruel.”
Moshe: “God, so are you are saying we should never eat milk and meat together?”
God: “No, what I’m saying is, never cook a kid goat in its mother’s milk.”
Moshe: “Oh Lord, forgive my ignorance! What you are really saying is we should wait six hours after eating meat to eat milk so the two are not in our stomachs?”
God: “No Moshe, listen! I am saying, don’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk!”
Moshe: “Oh, Lord! Please don’t strike me down for my questioning! Do you mean we should have a separate set of dishes each for milk and for meat, and if we make a mistake we have to bury that dish outside …”
God: “Fine! Just do whatever you want.”
This famous joke relates to two puzzlements with the Pasuk לא תבשל גדי בחלב אימו which appears in our weeks’ Parsha. Firstly, why does the Pasuk appear, identically, three different times (Mishpatim, Ki Tisa & Re’eh)? And more importantly, how did we get from “not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk” to the elaborate Hilchot Basar VeChalav at the foundation of Hilchot Kashrut?
Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook offered the following reflection to understand this Mitzvah and its apparent importance:
The act of cooking a kid goat in its mother’s milk is cruel and sinister; the mother’s milk, intended to give sustenance and life to the kid is being used to kill it and turn it into food. How insensitive does one need to be to do such a thing?
Mixing meat and milk, explains rav Tzvi Yehudah, holds a similar cruelty. We attain meat from an animal by killing it while we attain milk from an animal by preventing/relieving its pain. Though both products are attained by taking from an animal one is an act of cruelty while the other, an act of kindness. The separation of meat and milk instill within us the sensitivity to distinguish between mercy and cruelty; that we should not confuse the two. We should not blur the fine line that many times exists between that which is positive, or even, ideal and that which is negative, or just permissible. Understood and followed correctly, Hilchot Basar VeChalav heighten our moral sensitivity furthering our moral and religious growth, as individuals and a collective.
As a side note – this is but one example of how a Mitzvah can (and should) be understood in a way which makes it relevant to our – and our children’s – lives; relevant, empowering and, in my opinion, even inspirational. May we always look – and find – the deepest of meaning and relevance in Torah and Mitzvot.  


Filed under Halacha

People don’t follow Halacha because of God

Ask any 3 observant people what they mean when they say “God” and you’ll get 3 different answers. Even so, they’re all leading observant lives. This leads me to understand that it is not theology that causes people to follow Halacha. All theology – Jewish, non Jewish, different streams within Judaism – can be understood and logically defended. Meaning, it is something else that causes people to follow Halacha and that is that they choose to take upon themselves a certain way of life for all kinds of reasons: they want to be part of a generational continuum, it fills their lives with direction, it’s what they’re familiar with, they don’t want to get smote by lightning, they want to be told what to do, they want to be part of a community, or whatever. The important thing in this idea is that it is all a choice. That becomes even truer in today’s day and age when people have the ability to choose what they want, when they want, how they want with little consequence other than the choice itself. And all these myriad of choices make up the phenomena which is The Jewish People which seems to be the point of it all. The only question is – to what degree do I choose to participate and take part. (218)

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Filed under God, Halacha