Sunday, March 20, 2011

Purim party in print, er, ether

Here are some links and thoughts that I hope you'll find interesting.

RivkaYael recommended this article by Adele Berlin about Megillat Esther. I second her recommendation.

I received a link to this discussion by Rabbi Ethan Tucker concerning why it's important to read the gantze megillah (literally, the entire scroll).

Here's a question that's always bothered me: Why did Mordechai refuse to bow to Haman? I find it most interesting that Megillat Esther itself gives no reason whatsoever, though I'm sure the rabbis perceived plenty of reasons. Did it never occur to Mordechai that his behavior might put him and/or his loved ones in danger, and/or was this just the way that the game of politics and power was played in ancient Persia?

2:53 PM update: I just found out via e-mail that our Seudat Purim has been canceled. This is the second year in the row that the same two couples have finked out on us at the last minute. Frankly, after last year's experience, we would happily have made other plans, were it not for the unfortunate fact that my husband has an accounting class to teach every Sunday afternoon until 4 PM this semester. For lack of an alternative, we're meeting after his class and going to the nearest kosher restaurant for a Seudah with just the two of us. Not exactly what we had in mind. Oh, well.


Anonymous rivkayael said...

Adele Berlin also wrote a commentary to Esther that was published by JPS (I was recommending that). The work, and Dr Berlin the scholar are very well respected in the academic community.

Sun Mar 20, 09:07:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your link to Tucker's piece seems to be incorrect.

Sun Mar 20, 09:32:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

"Why did Mordechai refuse to bow to Haman?"

I believe the generally accepted commentary is that there was a idol on his jacket/robe, so bowing to him would be bowing to an idol.

I believe the generally accepted heretical view is that the story is an adaptation of a different culture's story and history, and made it into the Bible without a good "Jewish" reason being adopted.

Sun Mar 20, 09:43:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

>> I believe the generally accepted heretical view <<

Al, you crack me up!
Hope you had a Purim Sameah.

Sun Mar 20, 10:45:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon., thanks for letting me know. I've corrected the link.

RivkaYael, I'll keep my eye for that book.

" . . . the generally accepted heretical view . . . "

I second TOTJ Steve's opinion. :)

On the other hand, Miami Al, however droll your comment may be, I think that "the generally accepted heretical view" makes sense.

Mon Mar 21, 07:34:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...



Personally, I find the historical view of things and the documentary hypothesis view of things helps me understand the meaning.

Sure, for deriving Halacha we use the "traditional" interpretation, but for trying to understand a story, it helps to understand the background.

Especially in a story like this, where it seems to be a battle of egos. I find the understanding of Mordechai's personal failings makes the story more compelling. White washing that, with the "idol" story may Judaify it, but also serves to reduce the significance of Esther's personal risk and sacrifice.

Along with silly concepts that I've heard young Bochur's say (Esther was raped every night, Esther was unlikely to be brought to the kings chambers more than a few times/year, he had a harem), Esther never ate anything, etc. Yes, we have midrashim to understand lessons, Vashti, who comes off very well in the text, suddenly becomes a torturer of Jewish concubines making them work on Shabbat, etc. But those serve to teach additional lessons. They shouldn't be used to take away from the story.

Commoner Esther, rises to the level of Queen Consort, and risks everything to save the Jewish people. Mordechai assumes a level of prominence based on his relative's marriage to a gentile through weird quirk of luck. From that position, he's able to help her safe the Jewish people.

I find the idol story makes Mordechai extremely pious, instead of arrogant, which helps make him heroic, but less identifiable a figure.

Mon Mar 21, 08:11:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't find the idol story so far-fetched from a historical point of view. We have many historical accounts of non-Jews trying to force idol worship on Jews, and many ancient writers, particulalry Greek and Roman expressing shock and amazement at the Jews refusual to worship idols. I believe that Josephus writes that when the Romans took the Temple, they were shocked to not find an idol in the holy of holies, and they long believed that the Jews must worship idols in secret.

Mon Mar 21, 11:21:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon., your point might make sense were it not for the major problem that Mordechai himself never gives a reason for refusing to bow to Haman.

"Mordechai assumes a level of prominence based on his relative's marriage to a gentile through weird quirk of luck."

I'll go further, Miami Al, and say that Mordechai not only created the mess that Esther risked her life to clean up, he also profited politically from that near-catastrophe when he was appointed as Haman's replacement.

Mon Mar 21, 12:11:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...



Part of what makes Megillah Esther so fun is that it is a wonderful Dark Comedy, along with the rest of the holiday.

Contemporary celebrations are much lighter, since we live in a less dark age.

Mon Mar 21, 12:59:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Megillas Esther is as much a part of Torah as the Book of Genesis. It's not a "story", and it's not based on anything but actual events. Where do you come up with this stuff? Some bible lady from U of Md says something and that carries more weight than generations of sages? Chutzpah!

Mon Mar 21, 01:04:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Simcha, with due respect, you can't say that you weren't forewarned: As I wrote in the masthead at the top of this web page "This blog, welcoming the entire Jewish community, is dedicated to those who take Judaism seriously, but not necessarily literally." You're more than welcome to stay, read, and/or comment, but be advised that much of what I (and at least some of my commenters) write might fit your definition of chutzpah (nerve, gall).

Mon Mar 21, 01:38:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Ok then, you won't mind my Jewish view that the tragedy of Japan and Itamar were both punishments and warnings from God.

Mon Mar 21, 01:46:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Simcha, you said "Megillas Esther is as much a part of Torah as the Book of Genesis. It's not a "story", and it's not based on anything but actual events." That's a traditional view, but I tend to view Torah in a less traditional manner.

Mon Mar 21, 01:49:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Actually, Simcha, I think that calling the disaster in Japan and the slaughter in Itamar "punishments and warnings from God" is a classic case of blaming the victim(s), and I don't think of HaShem as One who "creates" victims. Since I'm not anything remotely resembling a Torah scholar, never having had the privilege of attending a Jewish day school, I can only quote the first thing that comes to my mind, which is straight out of Kedushah D'Sidra: "V'hu rahum, y'chaper avon v'lo yashchit; v'hirbah l'hashiv apo, v'lo yair kol hamato. For He is compassionate, forgives sin, and does not destroy; frequently, He turns His anger away and does not stir up all his wrath." (1st half of translation by me, 2nd half from the Birnbaum siddur/prayer book.)

Mon Mar 21, 02:10:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Traditional Jewish view is that disasters are punishments from Hashem. However, short of prophecy, we don't know what they are punishments for.

Although I'm sure someone in Brooklyn is ranting about how the Tsunami is punishment from Frum women wearing skirts that aren't down to their ankles or some such nonsense. (I have NOT heard that on this matter, but usually a nutcase it happy to call Tninut into question for all matters)

Simcha, what are you contributing to this conversation other than condescension, obnoxiousness, general poor manners for a guest in someone's virtual home?

Mon Mar 21, 02:35:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

You find it obnoxious that I present a traditional view of things? I find it obnoxious that you object to hearing the other side of things. I never proposed a reason for the tragedies at all. All I said is that there ARE reasons. Nothing happens without a Divine directive.

Mon Mar 21, 02:41:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me to elaborate Simcha's position in a much more polite manner.
If I'm understanding you, you seem to be dismissing the midrash simply because it is a midrash. You're point is: if Mordechai didn't want to bow to an idol, why didn't he say so?
From the Orthodox point of view, if the story is true and Mordechai wrote it, we can't really know why he chose to include some details but not others, but it is clear that it would not be possible to include every detail in the story.
For example, if you read a book about D-Day, it is not going to have the every detail that your great uncle chip who was there recalls. You can't say, "uncle Chip, what you are telling me isn't in this book so clearly it isn't true."
Let's say Morderchai refused to bow to Haman because of the idol. When M wrote the megilah he just wrote that he wouldn't bow. Later someone asked him, why and he said, oh, H had an idol on his jacket. This detail is passed down orally and becomes midrash.
Since we (the Orthdox) believe this story to be historical fact, if a certain detail happened, just because they didn't bother to write that down doesn't suddenly make it "not happen." Either it happend or it didn't.

Mon Mar 21, 02:52:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...


You haven't presented anything. You made an assertion in one sentence, a fantastical claim in the second, followed by hurling insults rudely.

Come, present a "traditional" argument, but asserting something and insulting people is not doing so.

You are welcome to present whatever argument you want. Being a rude jerk and therefore making "traditional" Jewish claims look bad is nor only poor manners, it's a clear violation of Halacha.

Try again with respect and manners.

Mon Mar 21, 02:52:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...


Midrash sometimes claims a historical claim, sometimes a legend, and sometimes a story. To pretend that they are all "facts" clearly ignores that sometimes the dispute each other.

Midrash is important, but so is the clear meaning of the text, and the idol on the jacket story seems far fetched to begin with. Even if true, there wouldn't be a problem with his bowing, since he was bowing to the man, not the idol. The strongest claim that that makes is Morat Ayin, which seems like a pretty weak justification for risking the ire of a powerful person and putting the Jewish people in jeopardy.

Often people confuse a midrash intended for children with historical fact, and end up with really fantastical claims.

Mon Mar 21, 03:00:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Nice rant. Now all you need to do is show me where I insulted anyone.

Mon Mar 21, 03:02:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Often people confuse a midrash intended for children with historical fact, and end up with really fantastical claims.

No such thing. Noting in Torah is written for just children

Mon Mar 21, 03:04:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Besides which, we don't bow to humans either, not even if it's their greeting custom like the Japanese. So whether Haman had an idol on his shirt is irrelevant.

Mon Mar 21, 03:06:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miami Al,
I wasn't claiming that all midrash are facts, I was stating that Orthodox Jews believe the story of the book of Esther to be a historical fact.
Certainly not all midrashim are true, since there are contradictory midrashim. (for example there are different midrashim about how Eisav died.) But there is a big difference between obscure midrashim that offer bizzare views and ones that have no opposing view recorded and are generally accepted in our mesorah as being accurate.
My initial point still stands, that any historical event is going to have a miriad of minor details that are not going to get recorded in the "official" version and as is often pointed out, the Torah is not meant to be a history book, so there might be many details that were omitted, but because these were real events, our ancestors, who experienced them, had their details to add that got passed down.
Frankly, I feel that the Conservative Reform constant statement of "well that didn't really happen, it is only a midrash. If it happened why doesn't the Torah say so?" kind of disingenious, since even if it was in the Torah, they don't believe that is true either, so what difference would it make?

Mon Mar 21, 03:33:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Orthodox Jews believe that the story of Esther is "true" not "historical fact."

Only the most ignorant of Orthodox Jews would believe that the Purim story, as recorded in the Megillah, is a historical recording of the events, as opposed to an embellished story for retelling.

Indeed, everything about seeing the hidden fact of Hashem in the story indicates that the story is communicating "truth" separately from "facts."

Simcha, Jews as a rule don't engage in bowing as a form of respect. There is no particular prohibition on doing so where the local custom is bowing. We also don't dismiss an article of an academic expert as "Some bible lady" that's rude and shows a lack of Derech Eretz.

Mon Mar 21, 04:02:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miami Al,
Which parts of the Megilah are embellished and how do you know?

Mon Mar 21, 04:19:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

First off, the story of the King's inability to sleep and the reading of the record. The presumed Author, Mordechai, would have no knowledge of what happened, including the minor name change from the first mention.

Reporting on events in which neither of the Jewish witnesses were present.

The underlying thought process of Haman, who certainly couldn't be interrogated given the quick execution of him.

Off the top of my head, those are clear examples of how the Megillah is retelling a story, not a recording of the facts.

Indeed, it's at the end where we switch to historical fact that the "voice" changes, where we get battlefield reports.

Why was Haman enraged? Only Haman knows for sure, and he was dead before he could talk about it. Dead men tell no tales.

Mon Mar 21, 04:29:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

"Only the most ignorant of Orthodox Jews"

How interesting that in the same breath in which you denigrate hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews and Torah sages, if not millions, you admonish me for supposedly disrespecting an "academic"!
I have news for you. In 52 years in the frum community, I have NEVER met anyone, not a rabbi, laymen, teacher, or spouse, who says that the Megilla is not absolute 100% factual history. So in a single breath you have disrespected every Jew I know personally as well as their families and ancestors.
Secondly, I dare say that the entire Haredi world does not deny a single word of the Megilla is historically accurate. None of them will say "oh this is mere parable or mere midrash or mere child story."
Thirdly, Ortho Jews do not give any credence whatsoever to so-called biblical "scholars" any more than we do to retarded children in an asylum. People like Stephen Hawking or any other secular gedolim are seen as fools in our eyes. You really need to get a clue about what OJ thinks before you start claiming what you think we agree on. The most intelligent PhD Nobel prize winning genius from Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/MIT is viewed as a total ignoramus in comparison to a Rav Ovadiah Yosef. Are you aware of that?

Mon Mar 21, 04:43:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Simcha, you assume that "Ortho Jews" exist in the "Haredi world" only. I believe there's an old rabbinic saying that might be relevant to that perspective: "Eilu va-eilu divrei Elokim chayim (These and those are the words of the living G-d)." Let us all agree to show respect to one another, however much we may disagree.

Mon Mar 21, 05:20:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

I hope none of these frum Jews that Simcha is talking about takes advantage of modern medicine/medical research...that would be too much of a traversty.

Mon Mar 21, 06:43:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

Using modern medicine and technology is not contradictory to Torah hashkafa at all, so long as one realizes that it is not the technology and doctors that cure or enhance his/her life, but Hashem who has provided such advances for our benefit.

Mon Mar 21, 09:43:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous jdub said...

1) I'm an Orthodox Jew. I believe that megillat esther is 100% "true" and at the same time, not historical fact.

2) Adele Berlin is an Orthodox Jew (a member of my shul, in fact).

3) I have discussed this issue with Haredim (wiser than Simcha appears to be) who recognize that the Megilla -- being written entirely by man -- is not necessarily historical fact, but that doesn't abrogate its truth. It is a morality tale from which we can learn much. Historical fact? Not so much.

Tue Mar 22, 08:57:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

She doesn't cover her hair, so she's not Orthodox. And Orthodoxy does not recognize "Bible critics", because the Torah is not subject to critique.

Tue Mar 22, 09:40:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Again, you’re assuming that the Chareidi approach to Orthodox Judaism is the only legitimate one. See my Things that I learned from “Hide & Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering”, in which Elie referred me to Dilbert’s quote of Rabbi Michael Broyde’s “Defending the Custom in Lithuania that Married Women Did not Cover Their Hair”. I would appreciate it if you would not abuse my blog by rudely reading people out of Orthodoxy simply because they don’t accept your hashkafah/religious approach. As I said before, “eilu va-eilu . . . “ My one rule for this blog is that I insist on *respectful* comments, no matter how much we may disagree.

Tue Mar 22, 10:53:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous jdub said...

my wife doesn't cover her hair. it's her mitzvah and her choice. She's orthodox. Went to yeshiva day school, learned in seminary. You don't get to decide who is orthodox, Mr. Simcha.

Adele Berlin is shomeret shabbat, keeps a kosher home, and keeps the mitzvot as an orthodox jew. She is also a very well respected scholar and likely knows more torah than you. Don't attack someone you don't know. And don't let the door hit you on your way out. mm-kay, buh bye.

Tue Mar 22, 01:55:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Forgive me but this is all too much fun to ignore.

To begin with, lets table terms related to Jewish streams. There are only two kinds of Jews, when all is said and done. Progressive and Regressive.

Nutshell definitions:

Progressive Jews believe that since ChaZaL considered the best science of their day when deriving halachah, we should consider the best science of OUR day when deriving halachah.

Regressive Jews believe that since ChaZaL considered the best science of their day when deriving halachah, we should consider only the best science of ChaZaL's day when deriving halachah.

That's a nutshell.

Most of us who post or write here are progressive Jews. By and large, progressive Jews also don't hold by the idea of yeridat hadorot - the notion that the farther one gets from the moment of Sinai the more spiritually bankrupt the generations become. Rather we tend to believe that Sinaitic revelation was the foundation of a journey of drawing closer to, not further from, God. Regressive Judaism, holds by Yeridat HaDorot, and since, with each passing generation it builds another fence around the Torah, it may indeed be argued that regressive Jews are in fact receding from the intimacy of Sinai rather than building upon it.

So, as a Progressive Jew, I want to try on, as a belated Purim costume perhaps, Simcha's theoditic notion that events that happen give us some hint of divine will. Let us consider the qassam (קסם) rockets that have so long been a thorn in our sides. Perhaps they come to teach us that as long as we fail to sweep out the sorcerers(קוסמים) from places like Me'ah She'arim, HaShem will refrain from helping us to sweep out the קסמים from Gaza.

Also, am I the only one to notice that the war of Independence was won by a bunch of godless commies, and that the victory that restored East Jerusalem to our hands was given to a Labor government, but that as regressive Judaism has scored more victories in Israeli politics, our victories have been less decisive and our political standing increasingly precarious? It couldn't be because regressive Chief Rabbis (whether of Haredi or Sephardic stripe) seem to stay up nights thinking of new ways to oppress Converts, Widows and Orphans, could it?

Ultimately, I think theodicy is shaky theological ground. As a progressive Jew I believe that such a belief portrays a very infantile relationship with the divine that we are meant to outgrow, just as the toddler whose parents appear all-knowing and all-power becomes the teen who knows that his parents cannot always save him. If God did not wish for us to learn and grow, why did He give us Torah at all?

Tue Mar 22, 06:15:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

Shira, here's a great poem by R' Josh Yuter on the miracle of Purim.

Basically: God sometimes makes us put up fight before a miracle can happen. I thought it was great.

Tue Mar 22, 06:58:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Simcha said...

"She is also a very well respected scholar and likely knows more torah than you"

LOL, not in Baltimore she isn't. If she teaches at UofMD, she must live close by, which leads me to think that if she is frum, it has to be Baltimore. And since there is only 1 frum community here in Baltimore, and I've never heard of her, either she doesn't live here, or she's not frum. You pick which.

Tue Mar 22, 09:00:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

Simcha, if you were that frum you'd be living in Boro Park or Lakewood (and for sure none of my relatives know you, they don't hang out with rude people). And you would not be using the internet and surfing such a website. Please stop trolling Shira's blog.

Tue Mar 22, 09:14:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Simcha, I have already informed you that my rule for commenters on my blog is that comments must be phrased respectfully. Yet despite my warning, and despite being informed by JDub, a fellow congregant of Dr. Adele Berlin's, that Dr. Berlin "is shomeret shabbat, keeps a kosher home, and keeps the mitzvot as an orthodox jew," you have already cast aspersions on her reputation as an Orthodox Jew and as a scholar two times. I will not allow my blog to be used as a platform for motzi shem ra (roughly, giving someone a bad name). Your next comment, if any, will be deleted.

Tue Mar 22, 10:27:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous jdub said...

I dunno, Shira, I'd let him spew his ignorance. He only knows of Baltimore and he knows everyone there. He doesn't know of the several Orthodox communities in other parts of Maryland, which are home to a several thousand Orthodox Jews, ranging from folks who wear black hats to women who don't cover their hair, and every place in between.

I actually agree with Reform BT about his (her?) dichotomous view of religion, and I guess I'm a progressive Jew, then, albeit of the Orthodox flavor.

Wed Mar 23, 08:22:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

I think Reform BT's point is fair.

However, in the observant/Orthodox world, the terms use are:

non-religious/secular: anyone that isn't a Shomer Shabbat Jew
religious: anyone that is Shomer Shabbat
very religious: anyone that dresses to make a more rightward community than yours

But agreed with jdub, plenty of people in the Orthodox community are progressive, however we accept the binding nature of Mitzvot, and regarding science, we use the best science, but are okay with using bad science when something is a long standing tradition. Fish/Meat is clearly a example of bad science, but we still avoid it isn't an extreme burden and is a longstanding Jewish tradition.

Wed Mar 23, 10:39:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, I don't object to Simcha spewing his ignorance, but I most certainly do object to him spewing his insults.

"He only knows of Baltimore . . . " More's the pity that he seems to have little contact with any Jews who don't think exactly the way he does. One of the interesting things about the Jewish employees in my office is that they range from totally non-observant to "Black Hat" and Chassidic, and include Ashkenazim, Sefardim and B'nei Edot HaMizrach. We get into the most interesting conversations about the minhagim (customs) of our different communities.

"I actually agree with Reform BT about his (her?) dichotomous view of religion, and I guess I'm a progressive Jew, then, albeit of the Orthodox flavor."

That was certainly an unexpected description, wasn't it? :)

Wed Mar 23, 10:49:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"very religious: anyone that dresses to make a more rightward community than yours"


I've heard that one is not supposed to use the same plate or fork for meat after using them for fish (unless you wash them in between), and that one is not supposed to eat fist after meat. I always did think that that was weird and made no sense, but, as you said, even though it's based on disproven science, it's not a major big deal.

Wed Mar 23, 10:56:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

According to my Rav, the fork and plate are real, the no fish after meat is not. It's a common misperception from common Shabbat practice to eat them in that order. The only issue (according to him) is that if you are switching from meat to fish, you should eat something neutral (piece of bread, etc.) in between.

Ask your own. :)

But yeah, the separate plate/fork isn't a big deal, so who cares. You don't want to do it, okay, we're still friends. :)

Wed Mar 23, 11:44:00 AM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

non-religious/secular: anyone that isn't a Shomer Shabbat Jew
religious: anyone that is Shomer Shabbat

The problem with this is that Shomer Shabbat is a bit subjective. It's meaning, roughly, is "observes hilchot shabbat as understood by the decisors one/one's community accepts, along with the chumrot one finds customary."

So if one holds, as some in Meah Shearim do, that it is assur to pray at the Kotel on Shabbat lest one may become Mechallel Shabbat through the security equipment there, we have an awful lot of "secular" Bratslavers davenning down by the Kotel.

Likewise the fellow who holds that TP needs to be torn prior to Shabbat may define the one who considers it permissible to tear at the perforations out.

Or as the old saw goes "he who does one more mitzvah than me is a fanatic; he who does one less is a goy."

Wed Mar 23, 04:31:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Reform BT,

Only on paper.

In the real world, Shomer Shabbat = professes to be Shomer Shabbat, doesn't drive, doesn't watch television on Shabbat.

Other communities may have all sorts of other things that determine in or out.

Driving a Chevy Volt is arguably less problematic than tearing toilet paper. Anyone driving to Shul in a Chevy Volt will be considered "not religious," someone that forgets to tear toilet paper will not.

Wed Mar 23, 05:16:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Ask your own [rabbi]. :) Nu, Miami Al, I wish we still had enough congregants left to be able to afford to pay one.

"The problem with this is that Shomer Shabbat is a bit subjective. It's meaning, roughly, is "observes hilchot shabbat as understood by the decisors one/one's community accepts, along with the chumrot one finds customary."

That may be the case, Reform BT.

. . . as the old saw goes "he who does one more mitzvah than me is a fanatic; he who does one less is a goy."

So I've heard. :)

Wed Mar 23, 06:34:00 PM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

There is an interesting discussion of Fish and Meat in the Conservative Movement's responsum on it.

Wed Mar 23, 10:56:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Snake in water is NOT a fair analogy. It only refers to "in the desert." I have no idea if the Jews of Las Vegas and the Negev are Machmir on this (they should be), but the Jews of the Eastern Seaboard, Gush Dan, and Jerusalem are not privy to the restriction anyway. :)

That said, the Conservative Teshuvah makes sense, and like many of their completely reasonable, intelligent, and well reasoned statements, completely irrelevant.

There are virtually no people in the Conservative movement for whom this ruling matters. If one keeps Kosher, one likely avoids this issue despite the fact that it isn't Kashrut related (technically, socially it is). If one keeps Kosher and is part of a Kosher community, one has to keep Orthodox Kashrut, even if they are ideologically Conservative. If one doesn't keep Kosher, even if they keep Kosher style or a Kosher style kitchen, they likely do what their mother did, which would include this stricture.

So you're looking for people that keep Kosher, are Conservative, and are not part of a Kosher community. That sounds to me like the students at JTS and their related community. :)

Someone "keeping Kosher" and "keeping Shabbat" do have a technical Halachic definition. However, the English phrases have a specific communal meaning, which has to do with communal practices and your social group, little do to with what the local Rabbi says and nothing to do with what the books say.

If one is in a RW community, if the wife wears pants, it doesn't matter that they are meticulous in Kashrut, they aren't "in."

If one is in a LW community, even those that post online pictures of them at a Pizza parlor are likely "in," despite the fact that this is an actually problem under textbook Halacha.

So it's "subjective," but not in the way you refer.

Thu Mar 24, 11:27:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Someone "keeping Kosher" and "keeping Shabbat" do have a technical Halachic definition. However, the English phrases have a specific communal meaning, which has to do with communal practices and your social group, little do to with what the local Rabbi says and nothing to do with what the books say."

Miami Al, I find it interesting that so much of Orthodox practice depends on one's community.

For the record, we first heard about the fish/meat issue about 10 years ago from a former rabbi several rabbis back. At the time, we'd already been keeping a kosher kitchen for probably over 15 years. I'm not sure that it's as well known in the Conservative community as you think.

Thu Mar 24, 07:59:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

The gemara itself discusses local custom in Jerusalem or Babylonia when making its rulings.

Thu Mar 24, 10:39:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Come to think of it, growing up, I remember my non Kosher mother and an Israeli "Masorti" Kosher friend discussing paella recipes.

My mother's was fully shell fished out. The Israeli one used fish instead of shell fish, and hot dogs instead of sausage.

I actually wonder how universal a custom that actually was?

Was it perhaps a small minority of Eastern European Ashkenazim?

The separate fork/plate is probably a Yekke addition, since properly set tables will have a fish plate and fish fork... :) Emily Post lists it as a requirement, as well as an oyster fork if you are serving that (we obviously do not). :)

I mean, a fancy set of silverware has three forks, main, salad, fish, and two knives, butter and fish, clearly that isn't to accommodate the Orthodox Jewish market, a fish fork and knife is a part of a fancy table setting, no doubt slid into Shabbat usage, and amongst the poor Eastern European Jews, who would serve meat and fish except on Shabbat/Chag?

Fri Mar 25, 10:06:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous jdub said...

it goes back to the gemara and is halacha, albeit a misguided one. Two issues were whether it would cause a "ruach ra" or whether one might choke on the small bones due to the lack of concentration since there was meat present as well.

Fri Mar 25, 11:18:00 AM 2011  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Jdub - where in the Gemara is it? According to the responsum cited above it was a chiddush with Caro, so I would like a citation if you have one.

Fri Mar 25, 04:31:00 PM 2011  

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