Saturday, July 23, 2005

Conservative Apikorus on the Parsha -- Balak

OK, so sue me, I'm a week late, and I'm blogging on Shabbos. So far, no thunderbolts from the blue, which seems to be evidence that my halachic ruling regarding the permissibility of Shabbos blogging is accepted by the Power Upstairs.

The story of Bilaam demonstrates the futility of pentitential prayer, plus it reveals another major Bilical Plot hole.

Why do people insist on praying to God asking for God to grant them various favors? Why should God answer such prayers?

Consider the situation: On the one hand, you have a resort owner on the Jersey Shore who prays for sunny weather to ensure good business. On the other hand, you have a South Jersey farmer who is oraying for rain, so his crop won't fail. Which prayer should God answer?

Now, as far as the plot hole in Parashat Balak: Why would God go through all this nonsense about having Bilaam agree to curse Israel, only to have him bless them? Why not allow Bilaam to curse Israel, and then, in the course of events, show that the surse had no effect? Surelt that would demonstrate to Balak the power of God and the futility of opposing Israel, as well as destroying Bilaam's credibility as a prophet, thus punishing him for agreeing to take Balak's commssion.

All in all, the onlt redeeming part of the parsha was the story of the talking donkey. Perhpas this was the inspiration for the TV show, Mr. Ed?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Jew me up, lads!

What's going on with America? We have all the problems of an influx of immigrants from countries where "fixed price" isn't the norm, but they refuse to enrich our national life by making haggling an enjoyable pastime.

The backstory: I'm blogging from New York City, world melting pot, where I've gone for a business trip. The night before I left, I was in the local chain drugstore, and saw a pair of cheap, no-name ear-bud headphones, useful for listening to audio on my laptop without disturbing people in the seat next to me. The price was $5.99. Oh well, I though, don't need 'em, I have pair at home. Well, I couldn't find them but what the heck, I'm headed for New York, home of the immigrant-operated electronic shop, surely finding a pair shouldn't be too hard.

Well, I walk into an electronics shop off Broadway owned by a Member of the Tribe from the Holy Land, and what does do, but show me the same thing I saw in Rite Aid for $5.99, and he was offering $25! OK, so I counter offer, but clumsily, I said they shouldn't be more than $10. (should have started at $5.) He came down to $18. No way. Next, off to an establishment owned by a gentleman from the Indian subcontinent, he started at $20. I counteroffered at $5, and he came down to $15. Still not good enough. True, they pay Manhattan rents, and they don't have the economy of scale that the chains have, but given how cheap these products are, $10 would be a fair price. But after the guy offered his $15, he just more or less ignored me, and it was obviously "take it or leave it." So I left. I finally found a pair for $10 at an Office Depot.

But I know from my experience in the Mid East andMexico, that true haggling cultures, the experience of haggling is considered a sport and game, not just a way to allocate prices. I should have enjoyed a long sesson of verbal jousting with the Israeli fellow, perhpas even have him attempt to gain my sympathy over his relatives being evicted from Gaza. The Indian fellow might at least have told me how much he, too, hates Arabs and Muslims to attemot to gain my sympathy. At the very least, both should have sent out for tea and coffee while they regaled me with hard luck stories of how hard it is to make a living in Broadway's golden Paved streets. The Israeli might have bitched about the high price of Day School tuition, an, in the end, we might have become friends, even if I didn't buy either of their overpriced headphones.

In America, the influx of immigrants from the "haggling lands" is resulting in the worst of both worlds in our retail culture -- The soulless chain store devoted to maximizing the short-term bottom line, combined with the frustration of haggling. This will not lead to anything good.