Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Chanukah Bush? Not so far fetched.

Yeah, Chanuka isn't the "Jewish Christmas," but there's justification in traditional sources that says that decoratign with greenery and even a {{gasp}} Chanukka Bush, might be kosher, after all. From the Second book of the Maccabees, chapter 10:

5: It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev.
6: And they celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feast of booths, remembering how not long before, during the feast of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.
7: Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place.
8: They decreed by public ordinance and vote that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

The true story of Channukah, or "Religious Freedom," my ass!

As a public service we provide our readers the true story of Chanukah. Amazing paralels witgh present-day politics. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The narrative provided here is abstracted from "The Art Of Jewish Living, Seder Hanukkah," by Dr. Ron Wolfson, 1990, Federation of Jewish Mens Clubs, and from "Chanukah, it's History, Observance, and Significance," By Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm, 1981, Artscroll Mesorah Series, who in turned summarized the contents of the First and Second Books of the Macaabees and Josephus's Antiquities.

Our story begins in 175 BCE when Antiochus IV ascends to the throne of the Seleucid Empire under rather questionable cicurmstances. (His brother and pedecessor Seleucus III was mysteriously assasinated.) Now, this caused a bit of trouble for the Cohen Gadol in Jerusalem, one Chanya (Onias) III, who has considerable utonomy as the local ruler for the Seleucid kings, as they generally didn't care about the deatils of local rules, as long as the taxes were collected. The kings had somewhat more interest in Judaea becuase of it's strategic location as a buffer between the Seleucid heartland and the Ptolomeic empire in Egypt. [Yessir, thank you Hashem our eternal G-d, for giving us a hotly contested peiece of real estate for a Promised Land. ] Chanya at the time of Seleucus's death was doing some serious damage control due to rumors (apparently wildly overstated) of the vast wealth being held in the Beis Ha Mikdash (Temple). These rumors were beibng circulated by disgruntled former tax collectors (who happened to be Jewish), who had been ousted by Chanya due to their greed and cruelty. They also happened to be hard-core Hellenizers, that is, Jews who were more inclined to accept the trappings of Greek culture.

Anyway, when Antiochus ascended the throne, Judaea, not Georgia, was on his mind. Not only becuase of the strategic location, but also because of the rumors of great wealth to be extracted there. In addition, Antiochus apparently was something of a nutcase who could have benefited greatly from the pyschiatric pharmacopeia of the early 21st century CE. Unfortunately, such medication wasn't avialable, and leeches and drilling holes in the head didn't seem to work very well. Antiochus called himself "Epiphanes" (God-Manifest"), his subjects called him "Epimanes" (Nut-case). He was masically and Unstable micro-manager, who also happened to be greedy. (Sound like any people in high positions who you happen to know? :) _ )

Well, with the new administration, the Hellenizing tax-collector faction in Jerusalem was ready to make its move. Chnaya's brother, Yeshua (Jason), offered a hefty bribe to Antiochus to have Antiochus depose Chanya and install Jason as Kohen Gadol. Antiochus, was not only a greedy, mad micromanager, he was also stupid, because he let Jason take power before Jason delivered the bribe. On the other hnad, maybe it was Jason, who was really the stupid one, because he made his move before the deal was closed. In any event, Jason starts making big changes to the Temple, Hellenizing the place, though it's hard to say whether his innovations were justified attempts to modernize Judaism or evil abrogation of the Torah. The accounts in the Books of the Macabbees were, after all, written by people who opposed Jason adn the Helleniziers.

Finally, the folly of Jason not paying off Antiochus immediately becomes evident. He had to send an emissary to the king with the final payment. This emissary, one Menelaeus, brother of a crooked Temple official named Shimon, was a dirty double crosser if there ever was one. Mennie, off in Antioch away from Jason's control, cut a sperate deal with the king, offered a bigger bribe than Jason's, and induced the King to authorize Menelaeus to oust Jason and become the Kohen Gadol.

Now Mennie wasn't even a Kohen, but here he was in charge of the Temple. Naturally, he started despoiling the Temple to pay his bribe, an early example of the business model of "using other people's money," and killing Chanya, who protested the whole business. Jason, on the other hand, kept quiet, waiting for his time to strike back....

-to be continued..

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Channukah -- Another media outlet gets it wrong

From the San Antonio Express-News:

San Antonio Celebrates Jewish-Catholic Understanding

San Fernando Center hosts forth annual menorah lighting

Hanukkah is a continuing symbol of hope for the world, especially when Jews and Christians celebrate it together in mutual friendship and respect.

Well, yes, I think Christians would be interested in celebrating Hanukkah (or Channukah, or however you transliterate it), becuase if Antiohcus (not to mention Jason and Menalaeus) had been successful in turning the Jews in hellenistic pagans, then Jesus would have been a hellenistic pagan, and the Jewish sect of Christianity wouldn't have developed, and Constantine would have needed to find some other way to unify the Roman Empire, and whatwever might have happened, Europe would not have been Christian, nobodyt would have been Chisitan. So we can basically blame Judah Maccabbee for Christianity, not to mention Islam.

All snark aside, I'm glad Christians are acknowledging their Jewish neighors. It should be noted, however, that the Christians invlved are Roman Catholics, not Bible-thumping Protestiant fundamentalists.

But Ms. Rose Mary Budge, staff writer for the News-Express continues to propagate misconceptions about Hannukah. It's not her fault -- even many rabbis see fit to indctriate their flocks with these falsehoods.

Wednesday's event continued a tradition started in 2001 when Pope John Paul II formally recognized the Jewish holiday of religious freedom at the Vatican for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church.

. . .

Jerusalem's temple was restored in 165 B.C. after the Maccabees waged a guerrilla war against the Syrian Greeks. The latter had desecrated the temple and forced Jews to adopt pagan practices.

This is not true. This was a Jewish Civil War. And one faction of Jews was perfectly happy to voluntarily adopt pagan practices. The winners, the Jewish Taliban otherwise known as the Hasmoneans, themslves became Hellenized after a couple of generations, and became so corrupt that the Jews basically welcomed Roman rule as an improvement in their situation. The rabbis of the Talmud hated the Hasmoneans so much that the couldn't even stomach the concept of Hannukah without adding the mishugass about the 8-day miracle of the oil.

As for me, I like lighting candles and eating latkes, but then again, I choose .... Chanumas!

Monday, December 19, 2005

OK, where are you all?

To paraphrase "Kinky:"

"While travlin' through the Lone Star Sate
I bought by lunch before I ate..."

Specifically, I was shopping for some groceries in the border town of Del Rio, Texas, in the local outlet of a regional suprmarket chaing called H-E-B (The "B." stands for "Butt," one can understand why this family-owned company doesn't do buiness by the family name.)

Now Del Rio, Texas is a small town of about 30,000 people, the vast majority (by my visual inspection) appear to be of Mexican Ancestry and, presumably, some form of Christian, if not Roman Catholic. Even if some of these people are crypto-Jewish descendents of Spanish conversos, any Jewish heritage is so attenuated it might as well be gone. And I didn't see any Jewish names on any of the stores or anything. So I strongly suspect that my presence in Del Rio raised the number of Jews, and certainly the number of Litvaks in the area by a very large percentage value. The closest synagogue I could find was in Laredo, which is at least a 2 hour drive away.

But when I went into the H-E-B, what did I find well-stocked on the shelves?

Vita Herring
H-E-B brand hot smoked salmon with a khaf-K hekhsher
Hebrew National hot dogs .. and knockwurst!
Telma felafel mix
yartzeit candles,

and, to wash it all down,

Kedem grape juice and
Maneschewitz wine

It seemed to me that a frum Jew could live in Del Rio and keep kosher with very litle problem.

The question I have is: Who buys this stuff? I can't imagine that H-E-B would stock it if it didn't sell. And somehow, I don't think the local Latino crypto-Jews, if there really are any in the area, would rush to buy this stuff, unless they had lived in New York at some point in their life and acquired a taste for it.

So, I would like to know: Would the Jews of the Rio Grande valley please stand up and identify yourselves?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

You need a ticket and tie to zip your prayers on through

Whew! Just got past the Border Patrol Checkpoint on US 90. What the hell right did that cop in the cowboy hat have to ask me whether I was a US citizen and make me show ID? I mean, I have a full beard, peyos, a black suit and a I wear a "gangster hat," as DovBear calls a fedora. And I speak very fluent Yeshivish. All the US Citizens I know are like that, though down here, everyone seems to have a Spanish surname and speaks something that's like a Spanish version of Yeshivish, they must all be Sefaradim.

Anyway, now that I didn't attract the attentions of the drug-sniffing doggie, my mind wanders back to the immortal lyrics of Kinky Friedman:

Well, I walked on in to my house of God
Congregation on the nod,
Just chosen folks are doin' their weekly thing.
Hear, o Israel, yes indeed,
My book was backwards, couldn’t read,
But I got a good rise when I heard that rabbi sing,
Boruch atoh Adonoi,
What the hell are you doing back there, boy ?

We reserve the right to refuse services to you,
Your friends are all on welfare
You call yourself a Jew ?
You need your ticket and your tie
To zip your prayers on through,
We reserve the right to refuse services ... unto... you.

With these lines, the Kinkster captures entirely why the Baby Boomers get alienated from the Jewish establishment. Too bad there weren't any granola-crunching chavurot in Texas back in the early 1970's. Though what I think America (and Conservative Judaism) really needs are shit-kicking granola-crunching chavurot. Are you reading this "Rabbi Jack?"

South Texas Musings

My work recently took me down to south Texas. A fascinating place, I used to think that Israel was the Yiddische Texas, now I know that Texas is really the goyische Israel. I'll blog on that topic in a future post.

I pulled out of the rental car stall at the San ANtonio airport in my fancy new poseur shit-kicking Texas-sized SUV and slipped in a Kinky Friedman album. As I headed for Loop 410 west on Texas' "gift" to transportation engineering, the frontage road, the Kinkster's lyrics came in loud and clear over the Country-Western beat:

While traveling through the Lone Star State
I lost my lunch before I ate,
It happened in a pull-ahead café. {yahoo!}
I felt my bones begin to crunch
I saw my name on the "bidnessman’s" lunch
And the 'neck who owned the place stepped up to say:

Hey buddy, are you blind,
Say, partner, can’t you read the sign ?

We reserve the right to refuse service to you,
Take your "bidness" back to Walgreen’s,
Have you tried your local zoo ?
You smell just like a "comminist,"
You come on through just like a Jew,
We reserve the right to refuse service to you.

All right! Now I'm in a Texan state of mind. And can you believe this guy is running for Governor of Texas?!! Well, as his campaign materials say, "Why the hell not?" Though personally, while I've got some admration for the guy, I think he's going to end up like a second-rate Jesse Ventura. Being an "independent" is a political cop-out. Better the Kinkster should have set his mind to leading the macho-shitkicker wing of the Democrats.

I fear four more years of Republican domination in the Lone Star State.

Monday, December 12, 2005


I wonder if Ah-nold will be cast in the starring role when they make the movie.


Also called the "Latvia affair 2."

Apparently Israel has a curious practice of giving employees saalry increments solely on the basis of the possession of an academic degree. Here we have a case of the rabbinate giving out bogus rabbinical degrees to, of all people, police officers.

I can see it now: "Stop thief!! Or I'll make you listen to my sermons!"

or "Sir, with those malfunctioning winshield wipers, this vehicle is pasul, and it is 'not recommended' for religious Jews to ride in it."

We sometimes joke about the "kosher police" at shul, but this is gpoing a little too far.

Christmas at a megachurch: As empty as a Reform Temple on the second day of Shavu'os

You all know the old joke:

"We're so religious at our Reform Temple that we're closed on the High Holidays!"

Well, sometimes Truth imitates Humor:

When Christmas falls on a Sunday, megachurches take the day off

Some of the nation's most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to "put the Christ back in Christmas."

. . .

The uproar is not only over closing the churches on Christmas Day, because some evangelical churches large and small have done that in recent years and made Christmas Eve the big draw, without attracting much criticism.

What some consider the deeper affront is in canceling services on a Sunday, [my emphasis: LForD] which most Christian churches consider the Lord's Day, when communal worship is an obligation. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was in 1994. Some of these same megachurches remained open them, they say, but found attendance sparse.

. . .

The real question is not why churches are skipping Christmas, but why individual Christians are skipping church on the second holiest day on the Christian calendar next to Easter, said Mr. Thumma.

"I think these critics who decry the megachurches should really be aiming their barbs at individual Christians who are willing to stay at home around the Christmas tree instead of coming and giving at least part of that day to the meaning of the holiday," he said. "They should be facing up to the reality of that."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Achtung!!! Deutschland Selling U-boats to the Juden!

And they all say that the Euros are anti-Semitic becuase the have the same view of the Palestinian issue as Yossi Sarid.

Well, it looks like the nation that brought us the Shoah is about to sell advanced U-boats to Israel.

Germany To Sell Israel Advanced Subs
Move Comes As Allies Press Iran on Nukes

As United States and European governments seek to turn up international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, Germany has agreed to sell Israel two sophisticated submarines that could be equipped with nuclear devices.

The sale, decided by outgoing chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, was endorsed by his conservative successor, Angela Merkel, who took office this week. The two new Dolphin class submarines will cost $1.17 billion and Germany will cover one-third of the price tag, according to reports in the German magazines Der Spiegel and Focus.

Heh, heh, let the Iranians develop the Bomb. Lot of good it will do them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Merry ..... Christmukah??!! No!! I choose "Chanumas!"

Thanks to OrthoMom, who pointed out this gem:

To give multifaith families an opportunity to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, Loews Hotels will add a "Christmukah" menu in the restaurants of the Regency in New York, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California, and Loews Miami Beach Hotel during the last two weeks of December.

Among the selections: Shalom Santagria, made with Manischevitz wine; Christmukah Cheer, a mint cocktail with a hint of chocolate from Israeli Sabra liquor and hot cocoa with Star of David gingerbread cookies.

Baa...aaar...fff. And that's just for the drink recipes. Sangria with Maneschewitz kiddush wine? The least they could do is make it with the good stuff... Kedem Cream Concord.

But theologically, they are full of it. "Cristmukah??!!" Bah! Humbug! Anyone who goes around saying "Merry Christmukah" should be "boiled in his own matzaballs and buried with a stake of Challah through his heart."

"Christmukah" is not a true observance, it's nothing more than a commerical marketing scheme. Fior those who want true religious syncretism, I present for your consideration a new Winter Solistice holiday: Chanumas.

Observance of this holiday season starts on erev Thanksgiving, when the Head of the Household (the sages say that all who are bar or bat mitzvah) wtites a ritual letter to the President of the United States offering to pay down the National Debt in return for being made Chief Rabbi of Israel. This is in memory of the High Priests Jason and Menaleus, who actually pulled the same stunt with King Antiochus IV, and thus set in motion the events that led up to Channukah. [Of course, it is forbidden to actually mail this letter, unless, of course, you want to be included on the U.S. Secret Service's "nutcase list."]

The day after Thangkgiving is called "Black Friday," named in honor of the holy frum ("black-hatter") Jews who are inconvienced in their Shabbos shopping by the increased traffic.

From this point until 10 days after the Winter Solistice, it is considered meritorious to buy things you don't need and give them to people you don't like. It is also considered equally meritorious to return unwanted gifts to the store. This is a mitzvah, as it provides gainful employment to store clerks and inmates of the Chinese penal system, who manufactured the gifts in the first place. It is obligatory for Jews to only buy items at discounted price. This requirement is optional for Gentiles.

Truly frum observance of Chanumas involves lighted displays on the house in the front and back yards. It is considered meritorious to leave one's sukkah standing through Chanumas, so one can reuse the lights without having to put them out twice. It is said that Rabbi Menachem Mistletoe had a particularly compelling display, which consisted a a statue of a Maccabean warrior with his foot on the chest of a prostrate Antiochus, about to plunge his sword through the villain's heart, and an inscription in blinking LED lights: "Peace on Earth: because we won!!"

An important aspect of Chanumas is that, even though one is required to be at his or her normal place of employement during the season, it is forbidden that any real work actually get done. The normal minhag is for each department to hold Chanumas parties that are essentially potluck lunches that last until quitting time. Some organizations hold additional Chanumas parties off-hours at offsite locations, but Beis Hillel says this is nothing more than a cheap attempt to avoid legal liability for the actions of inebriated guests. Beis Shammai says this proves that what America needs is tort reform and to send the trial lawyers to Siberia.

Because dairy foods and alcohol are traditional for Chanukkah (in commemoration of the Jewish woman of valor who fed the Greek general cheesecake and wine, got him drunk, and chopped off his head), and becuase eggnog (an alcoholic dairy beverage) is traditional for Christmas, it is obligatory for all who celebrate Chanumas properly to drink eggnogg until they cannot tell the difference between Judah Maccabee and Santa Claus.

Chanumas gifts are not delivered by Santa Claus, "Harry Channukah," "Father Mattithias," or any other individual associated with either Channukah or Christmas. Rather they are delivered by Mr. Ten Li Chao, who runs the gift workshops of the Chinese Prison System. Mr. Chao rides around the world in a flying container ship powered by large marine diesel engines, lands on everyones roof, picks the lock on the fornt door, and spreads the gifts out. Little girls and boys who are nice get a free copy of Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book," children who are naughty get a chance to work as one of Mr. Chao's "elves."

The gits themselve are placed under the Chanumas bush. This is not a piece of shrubbery, rather it is a life size effigy of President George W. Bush. It is considered meritorious, but optional, depending on political affiliation, to decorate the Chanumas bush by inserting voodoo pins into the effigy.

As for December 25, the actual day of Chanumas, there are very few fixed observances. Many like to serve a festive meal of roast goose, latkes, plum pudding, and a green vegetable. However, the truly pious will eat out at a Chinese restaurant in commemoration of Mr. Ten Li Chao and go to a movie theatre and watch a movie.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Manufactured outrage -- the "War on Christmas: A view from an unlikely source

UPDATE: 12/4/2005:

I Went back to Wal-Mart, and the Spanish Equivalent of "Home for the Holidays" is "Navidad en Familia,"

Now, I'm not a Spanish scholar, but even to my untrained eye, not only does it explicity use the term "Christmas," it has a different meaning than the English version.

This is, indeed, an interesting phenomen, and it might be worth investigatine why Wal-Marts marketing department believes that Anglos and Latinos need different messages. Of course, one of the problems with this in South Texas is that the Latinos are really Tejanos who have been living in Texas for generations and are totally bilingual. In fact, I heard lots of people switch back and forth between English and Spanish, apparently at random. This is even more impressive than Yeshivish, which is basically English larded (you should pardon the dxpressionj) with Yiddish and Hebrew phrases.


Dov Bear has been haken a tsheinik over the right-wing's manufactured outrage at the so-called "War on Christmas." And he is correct to mock the nonsense being spouted in an rather pathetic attempt by the right-wing commentators to divert attention from their spectacular failures in their understanding of the reality-based world. Though I do have to say that I enjoy the winter solistice holiday season -- It's the only real holiday season for Jews, because on Jewish holidays, there's just so much work that needs to be done to observe them properly. With Christmas on the other hand, I get a well-deserved rest, even if I have to go into work on that day. And for a whole months, things just sort of slow down.

But I post now to provide some more insight on this phenomenon from a part of our great land usually ignored by the bi-coastal elites. My job recently took me to South Texas, where I received an introducion to a multicultural America that I had head about, but never experienced. The money shot occured when I needed some 1-hour photo processing, and I entered my very first bilingual Wal-Mart. The signs were in both English and Spanish, and the English signs used Wal-Mart's "multicultural" marketing slgan "Home for the Holidays."

"Aha!" the right-wingers would say, "Another example of how the evil liberal Jews are trying to destroy our Christian culture!" But then you notice the Spanish version. Unfortunately, I don't speak Spanish, but I did notice the word "Navidad." Even I now that means "Christmas."

So I learned 2 things in South Texas:

1) People marketing to Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) have no problem with Christmas, and
2) The Jews have nothing to do with to do with the way Christmas is marketed.

In the counties I visited, you could probably count the available Jews with the fingers of one hand. In fact, I went out to the paking lot of that particula Wal-Mart to call home, and I believe that, for the first time in the history of the world, the words "leyn Torah" were uttered at that particular location.

It's so obvious. The people in this goyische locale, the vast majority of whom are fervent frum Christians are by no means deprived of their religious heritage. They are equally at ease with multicultural sensitivity as well as celebraing their yuntiff in public with no self-concioussness or embarassment. And they are very tolerant of other faiths, as they made no attempt to beat up a Jewboy who uttered Yiddish words in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Clearly, the right wingnuts who are spouting this nonsense have no conception of the Real America.

I do have to say, though, the best thing about Texas is the way they cook brisket.