Archive | August, 2008

The art of welcoming Shabat | The art of the Shabat welcome

I’ve been back at Drew since Tuesday. I arrived early to help our school newspaper, The Acorn, cover the days of freshmen orientation. In my spare time, I’ve been discovering a complex debate in my head.

As anyone who knows me, or any avid reader of this blog will know, I haven’t had the best relationship, or the most honest relationship, with Drew University’s Hillel. We’re a small Hillel, advised by a wonderful, if stretched-thin professor, and last year we were not at our best. Behind their backs I voiced a loud dislike for Hillel; it did not meet my high, if unrealistic, Jewish communal standards.

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How to further revolutionize your Jewish life, using Google

It’s no secret to readers of this blog and that I’ve got a little obsession with Jewish time of late. I counted the Omer here at the Shuckle earlier this year and I’ve just hung my Heeb Magazine Ladies of ’69 Israeli models Hebrew calendar in my dorm room.

Moran is an unfortunate name, but she seems like a nice Jewish girl nonetheless.

Moran is an unfortunate name, but she seems like a nice Jewish girl nonetheless.

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Sefer Ha-Bloggadah: Let it Begin!

On Monday, our two-year daf yomi-style study of  Sefer Ha-Aggadah began at Sefer Ha-Bloggadah. The project and the blog have been organized by Ben Dreyfus. In reality, my day to blog is every other friday, but today’s reading in the book got me excited, so I jumped the gun a tad. Read my first real post on the Bloggadah here.

If you’d like to join us, purchase the book, and check out our schedule.

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T’hilim 134:2, silverware, New Jersey

I’m back in New Jersey, back at Drew University for a second year of college. The banner for the blog, accordingly has been changed.

On a toally different subject:

Never will you find a business more exemplary of the Keep Austin Weird movement, than Chuy’s. It’s the most eclectic tex-mex restaurant in the world. One location includes the (in)famous Underwater Elvis Shrine. Continue Reading →

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Could we all please delete the term Neo-Orthodox from our vocabularies?

The other day, become home to a post by Rabbi Howard A. Berman about the Society for Classical Reform Judaism. Okay, fine. Then I posted this post, in which I parsed out some of his argumentation. I also argued that the differences between Classical Reform and mainline contemporary Reform are largely cosmetic and totally surmountable.

Then a comment appeared on by a frequent commenter there called M.B. The comment covered mainly issues of language (why English is better than Hebrew) in services. This comment upset me, so I will parse the comment out.
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YouTube – Matisyahu

This is supremely strange. It’s a Kenneth Cole ad. With Matisyahu?

YouTube – Matisyahu.

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What are they defending?

In his recent post at, Rabbi Howard A. Berman, the Executive Director of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism, attempts to prove that Classical Reform is not an “’early historic chapter’ of our Movement’s development.” Instead, Rabbi Berman would have us believe that Classical Reform is “a vital and viable position within the diverse religious community that the Union embraces today.”

Let’s parse out some of his arguments.

We believe that the universalistic ideals and deep personal spirituality of historic Reform liturgy, including it’s [sic] great musical heritage, continue to offer a meaningful experience of Jewish prayer for many people today.

As I have argued in the past, interpretative readings in the vernacular do not liturgy make. Rather they are transient, if spiritually uplifting to the Jews of their time, niceties. The universalistic ideals Rabbi Berman refers to are present only in the English readings of the Union Prayer Book, while the Hebrew, where changes made are more likely to become permanent and lasting, remains unchanged.

For example, when a prayer closes with the words “al kol Yisrael, on all of Israel,” many liberal sidurim expand the quote on the style of nusach sefard to say “al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teivel, on all of Israel and on all in the world.” That would be a truly universalistic approach to liturgy. Unfortunately, the Union Prayer Book, Gates of Prayer, and our new Mishkan T’filah all exclude any such universalistic measure. No American Reform sidur to date does. The notion of the supposed universalistic liturgy of the bygone halcyon days of Classical Reform is a non-truth.

Rabbi Berman mentions the “deep personal spirituality of historic Reform liturgy,” so as to suggest that perhaps only Classical Reform liturgy can offer any such “deep personal spirituality.” I’m frankly offended at the suggestion that only my Reform forebears interacted with a liturgy filled with personal spirituality. It suggests that the more conservative approach to liturgy that I prefer is devoid of that.

Rabbi Berman also refers, as many proponents of Classical Reform do, to the “great musical heritage” of Classical Reform. This “great musical heritage” was a fad. Just as the Debbie Friedman-style guitar music developed first in the seventies is the current fad and just as the rock music that newcomers like Dan Nichols will be the fad when my generation is on boards of trustees of URJ congregations. Classical Reform music is essentially gone now; the Freidman style will be gone in another few decades and by the end of this century the Nichols style will have passed away as well.

My complaints thus far are purely aesthetic; Music and English, essentially. My perusal of the rest of Rabbi Berman’s post and of the Principles page of the SCRJ website leads me to believe that beyond an increasingly outmoded aesthetic, there are no differences between SCRJ and the mainstream of the movement. Certainly the ideology the SCRJ labels as Classical is no more than standard Reform ideology, with perhaps a slightly smaller emphasis on Israel.

All of that being the case, I am left wondering what the SCRJ has been formed to defend, if indeed they are truly defending anything more than choir music and a desire to read more English in services.

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Shabos Zmiros: Jew Da Maccabi

Here’s some Shabos Zmiros for ya!

There’s been plenty of attention on the quality wordplay of J-rappers Y Love and Matisyahu in recent years and, but this guy is straight up top-40 style not-quite-rap, not-quite-R&B. I don’t like it, but my jaw is on the floor nonetheless after seeing this video!

YouTube – Jewda – Israelites – Jewish Music Video Jew Da Maccabi Rap.

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“I am a poem”

Thursdays at 10 Minutes of Torah are all about prayer. This Thursday’s 10 Minutes of Torah, by Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg, was about the left-hand-side-of-the-page (not the mention the left of the ritual spectrum) reading on page 41 of Mishkan T’filah. The reading serves as an alternatative option for what our Reform liturgists have aptly termed Nisim B’chol Yom (daily miracles).

In last week’s edition of the Thursday 10 Minutes of Torah, Rabbi Richard Sarason explained that the purpose of this collection of blessings is to bring a little kodesh (holy) into the chol (mundane) of our morning routines. Each one, with the exception of the three identity prayers, addresses a particular part of our morning, from waking up to putting on clothes all the way past the set of shorter blessings into Asher Yatzar, a prayer for going to the bathroom.

Rabbi Goldberg, in his 10 Minutes of Torah, as well as the reading he addresses ignore the morning routine-centric nature of Nisim B’chol Yom. I actually do like the poem, the “declaration of the early twentieth century poet, Edmond Fleg, ‘I am a Jew,'” as Rabbi Goldberg says. It’s a fine poem. I simply question its placement in Mishkan as an alternative for Nisim B’chol Yom. Nisim B’chol Yom, as I’ve said, is all about waking up and readying ourselves to meet the day. “I am a Jew,” on the other hand, is a statement pf Jewish identity.

Lest anyone think that I’m simply glossing over the three identity blessings, which Mishkan places as the first three of the last five of the blessings, I will mention that they might be seen as simply a part of the larger morning routine. If we keep in mind the traditional Ashkenazi order for Nisim B’chol Yom, we will see how that is. In the Ashkenazi order, the first blessing (who gives the rooster the ability to distinguish between day and night), a blessing about waking up, is followed with the three identity blessings.

If we consider this order, we see that the three identity blessings are not the point of Nisim B’chol Yom, but merely a part of the waking up process. Upon awakening, we realize who we are, what our identity is.

Though the expansion on this fraction of Nisim B’chol Yom that “I am a Jew” represents is nice and in no way objectionable in and of itself, it ignores the larger theme reprsented by the other more than three quarters of Nisim B’chol Yom: Waking up and getting ready for another day.

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YouTube – Cookin’ With Coolio #1: Coolio Caprese Salad

So WordPress has this feature where I can add this button to my browser that says “Press This.” When I click on Press This, whatever page I’m on appears as a link in this little window thing where I can post it directly to the blog. I’m testing that feature out by showing you all the completely irrelevant to the topic of this blog first episode of Cooking With Coolio, my favorite internet video.

YouTube – Cookin’ With Coolio #1: Coolio Caprese Salad.

Shaka Zulu!

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