What does Judaism say about organ donation? Is it permitted? Find out!
by Michael Sabani
Should you ignore something just because you don’t believe it? Can you still learn from it?
It was during a recent discussion with some friends about the Torah that I realized something that opened the Torah up for me almost completely.
We were discussing the different interpretations that one can have about things that happen in the Torah. I don’t want to get into specifics, but there was a questions as to what happened in a particular part of the story. Most everyone believed that one “counterculture” interpretation was true. In fact, they felt so strongly that it seemed they were almost offended to hear that a traditional or Midrashic interpretation could even be entertained. I was honestly kind of shocked. Not that they would entertain a view that doesn’t necessarily portray the patriarchs or matriarchs as saints because, let’s be honest, they weren’t! The issue I had was that they almost wouldn’t even listen, and when I did share, I felt like I was viewed almost as an anachronistic, ignorant, orthodox party pooper! And I most certainly am not!
What I learned is this:
We are a tradition full of ideas. You know that old saying, “three Jews, five opinions”. The thing is, when we hold on to one interpretation over another, when we almost outright refuse to listen to something from our own tradition that differs with what we want to believe, we are only cheating ourselves. In order to be informed, in order to be fully aware of what the Torah is trying to tell us, there has to be a balance. Just because you don’t like an idea, DOES NOT mean that you should run from it! Instead, embrace it! Look it right in the face and figure out exactly what you don’t like/believe about it. If, after you’ve listened you still don’t agree, GREAT! At least you learned something. And as people of the book we are called to always learn.
There is a saying from the sages that the Torah has 600,000 letters, and each represents one Jewish neshama, one Jewish soul. This means that there are as many ways to read the Torah as there are Jews who read it!
The sages also say that every letter of the Torah, down to the smallest yod ( ‘ ) is there to teach us a lesson. It would seem to me that in order to get the most out of the Torah, especially today, we should pay attention to even the smallest letters, especially when we disagree with it. Only through that friction can we release the Light, and only through that struggle can we brighten the world.
By Michael Sabani
In May of 2010, the known hate group Westboro Baptist Church came to Atlanta to spread their hate-filled rhetoric. We followed them. Everywhere they went, we were there. For every sign they held up saying “G-d hates you”, there were two saying “G-d loves you”.
We were able to stand up and let them know that we aren’t afraid of them. They held signs saying “Jews Are Evil”, “G-d Hates Jews”, and even had one of their seven year old children holding a large sign proclaiming “Rabbis Rape Kids”.
We are called in the Torah to fight evil, not to ignore it. We have a responsibility as Jews to repair the world. Sometimes that means coming out of our comfort zone, standing in front of the world, and proclaming that yes, I am proud to be a Jew, and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, G-d does love us all. Yes, peace is stronger than hate.
And I say:
By Heshy Fried
One of my status updates on facebook yesterday was that I was wondering what to write about for Shavuos. One of the people responded that I should write about how wonderful it was to come to shul to see everyone learning and that I should write something good about Jews once in a while. I do write good things but in all honesty, I am a cynic and a humorist who likes to poke fun at things. These are usually negative things because let’s face it – there is nothing inspiring or interesting about walking into a room full of people yapping about how late they are going to stay up and how their wives make the best cheesecake in town.
I am especially excited for Shavuos this year because of milchigs. Last year I went to some real frummies for Shavuos and if you’re a real frummy you don’t have milchigs. Sure there are many frum folks that rock the milk meals on Shavuos but, based on my vast experience, you can pretty much spot a meat eating Shavuos type in a second. I think the whole reasoning behind eating meat on Shavuos is because it’s just a minhag based on that chick who brought that dude cheese and we don’t want to give the ladies too much credit. What many frummies like to do is to eat cheesecake for Kiddush and than have a meat meal and that really blows.
I love milchigs and being that closest real milchig restaurant is 350 miles away. I miss it dearly. Last year it wasn’t such a big deal: I spent it on my friends farm and we had lamb, beef and chicken but I was living in New York at the time and milchigs were close by. Nowadays the only time I get to eat milchigs is when I show up at some folks house where they happen to be more progressive and willing to eat milchigs on Shabbos. In the frum community this rarely happens.
Receiving the Torah:
I wonder if many Jews secretly wish the Torah was never received. It seems to have caused a lot of trouble and practically everyone complains about this and that — so do we love the Torah or not? Maybe it’s a love/hate relationship, like water challah or prepackaged underwear: it has its good points and bad points but in the end we have grown to love it.
Are you ready to receive it? I’m ready for some flower covered bimahs, I’ll tell you that much! Unless flowers have become too untznius to be put on the bimah.
Why feminist Jews love Ruth so much? I don’t even think we read it in yeshiva but go to your average modern orthodox shul or event and they are ranting and raving about Ruth. I understand why the converts like it — it’s like their national symbol, the mother of moshiach was Ruth – does that mean Ruth was Chabad?
So why do the feminists love Ruth? Does it have to do with bribing the old guy to marry her by lying down next to him? That doesn’t sound to feminist to me. Does it just have to do with the fact that since it’s a minhag, orthodox folks don’t really care if women get together and have megillah readings? I even know of some right wing modern orthodox shuls that allow the ladies to do a megillah reading of Ruth. It’s a shame they just don’t tell them the truth about the minhag and it not being a chiyuv and all.
All night learning:
Originally I was going to hit up Berkeley for Shavuos. I had heard that the entire community gets together for an all night learning session at the JCC. That sounded a little extreme to me. Berkeley has a bunch of Chabad guys, a modern shul, some weird renewal space age stuff and a smattering of all your generic hippie conservative and reform stuff. I think it only works because the folks who run Chabad of Berkeley are ex-hippies. Still, that sounds like some major achdus to me and I wanted to be a part of it.
Of course, I then admitted to myself that what I really needed on Shavuos was some good yeshivish style learning. I needed some right wing mussarniks rebuking me and I needed some good wine to go with my cheese, so I decided to go to San Jose instead. I have visited all of the Jewish communities in the Bay Area, other than random Chabad houses and I am still drawn back to San Jose for the people, the rabbi and the food. It is also the friendliest community in the area and has the most characters of any shul.
I used to love Shavuos in yeshiva because the rabbis would never wake you up for minyan the next day. The only thing that sucked was the meal. No one ever knows what time to have a meal on the first day of Shavuos. I also used to love the all night learning because instead of hanging out in yeshiva we would go to the modern orthodox shul to look at girls and eat donuts from the donut shop that the yeshiva said was treife. The modern shul also had cool shiurim and classes. I don’t remember ever learning much on Shavuos and I think most folks tend to use the time to catch up with friends and mainly just socialize.
One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is that a lot of stuff has to be homemade. I assume the cheesecake will not be that store bought crustless, New York style cheesecake that everyone favors. I am super pumped — since it’s strawberry season I may get my fantasy cheesecake too.
I also hope people have good cheese in general. California has definitely rubbed off on me in that way. I have grown to love good cheese and good wine, kind of weird for someone as redneck as myself.
Have a wonderful shavuos or shavuot, I will see you on the other side.