Friday, October 14, 2005


Existential Friday: Yom Kippur

I'm a Jewish guy who put up three rather frivolous blog posts between sundown Wednesday and sundown Thursday, i.e., Yom Kippur. I ate dinner after sundown -- so that, while my co-religionists were breaking the fast, I was having my third meal of the day. A cheeseburger.

I felt that I owed at least an acknowledgment that I was doing this -- going about my normal business without observing Yom Kippur. I felt the need to observe my non-observance.

Part of that is conjuring the image of a person to feel guilty to. A guit object. For some reason, Phantom Scribbler popped into my head. I felt the need to observe my non-observance to her. Perhaps she would give me absolution.

This is strange since we've never met. What's more, it turns out that Yom Kippur is not even observed over at the Blue residence.

I have this notion that I will reconnect with my Judaism one day, and that I can do it at any time, even as a sort of death-bed conversion. This would be a return to "active Judaism." But that's not high on my priority list, and the second irony of this post is that I feel that I have the Nazis to thank for that. As long as I'm Jewish in their book, I feel Jewish. I guess that's "passive" Judaism, but it works for me.

Oh, and by the way, today is the anniversary of my bar mitzvah.

Y'know, I was going to send you an e-mail saying "hope you have a good holiday" or something like that -- because that's what I usually do with my other Jewish friends at this time of the year. But I decided against it because I knew that you wouldn't be doing anything special to celebrate (except maybe to get a little neurotic about your non-observance).

Is is rude to offer holiday greetings for a Jewish religious holiday to someone who is not observing the holiday? Under those circumstances, wouldn't one be offering the greetings just because the person is Jewish?

By the way, please don't say Happy Kwanza to me just because I'm black.
Don't most people say things like Merry Christmas and Happy Easter without even knowing if a person is a practicing Christian? Or do we not care about those because they're so commercialized?

I have to admit that I don't know many Jewish people. I'm sad to say that my impression of the religion comes from movies like Garden State, and that I think most Jews fall short of being "active." But since I'm admitting these ideas were formed by movies, feel free to ignore them.
My Jewish friends are all over the map with respect to their degree of religiosity. I don't think that one can make assumptions about this sort of thing -- especially not based on what is portrayed in the movies.

I think, however, that many people often assume that others lack faith or don't practice their religion simply because they don't talk about it. In academia, in particular, there seems to be a (mistaken) presumption that we are all atheists.

I don't know whether a Jewish person thinks that it is rude to be offered holiday greetings SOLELY because they are Jewish. I find it rude when people say Happy Kwanza to me because I know that they are only saying it to me because I am black -- seems awfully essentialist to me.
well the biggest problem, really, is that without knowing the holiday you really can't know what to say, no matter who's on the receiving end. for example, "happy holiday" just doesn't work for yom kippur, which is a solemn day of atonement, the most solemn day of the year. i figure, when in doubt on any score (the meaning of the holiday, the feelings of the person) that silence is golden.
Oscar, let me know when you get the urge to reactivate your Judaism, and I'll send you Grandma's kaddish cup and the Shabbos candlesticks. I don't need them, because I'm not Jewish so much as a Jew-witch (that's what a group of us Pagans-who-used-to-be-Jewish call ourselves these days.
Laughing. Well, I needed some absolution myself. So I'm afraid we'd better think of a third person to feel guilty to. How about Henry Kissinger?

So what was your portion about? Mine was about how many pigeons you're supposed to slaughter to effect a cure for leprosy. Lovely. Just the thing to make a lifelong passive Jew out of me.

Did you ever see Bar Mitzvah Boy? It used to play on WNET sometimes, back in the '70s. The title character walks out of the synagogue in the middle of his bar mitzvah and ends up reciting his Haftorah standing on his head in a playground somewhere.

I'm still giggling about Jew-witch.
Phantom -- I'll tell you what my bar mitzvah portion was if you promise that you can't use it to determine my exact year of birth.
Ah, I'm not that Torah-literate by a long shot, but I'm sure someone out there is.
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