real talk parsha: lech lecha [gen12:1-17:27]

real talk parsha. because obviously Gd has a sense of humor. just look at your face.

look, yeah, i get it. abraham, isaac, moses–all of them were much better people morally and spiritually than we are.  but sometimes, they do things and its like, “oh yeah.  he’s a dude.”  like this week, for instance.  sarah isnt having kids, so she offers abraham her maidservant hagar.  one-sarah is an awesome wife.  two-yeah, abraham’s definitely a guy.  i mean, who’s really gonna say “no” to bringing in another chick?  did sarah even get to finish the sentence?

sarah: look abe, im not getting you any kids, so maybe you should take hag–

abraham: done.

like, no joke.  this is a dude who talks to Gd, like, ALL the time asking about stuff. am i gonna have a son?  what does my descendants future look like?  should i listen to sarah and send my son away?

but this?

sarah makes the proposition in one verse, and in literally the next verse abraham says yes. not a pause, doesn’t even break a sweat.  but when Gd says, say, “I want you to circumcise yourself“, abraham heads over to his giant buddies aner, eshkol, and mamre to get advice.  which was probably a very interesting conversation:

aner: he wants you to do what?

abraham: yeah, Gd wants me to circumcise myself.

eshkol: seriously?

abraham: yup.

mamre: well, it’s Gd and all, so I guess you should do it…but circumcise yourself? have you seen what happens when people cut their own hair?

so yeah, pretty selective, that sly abraham, on what does and doesn’t need a second opinion. but well played, sir, on the handmaiden scenario. this is for you.

[slow clap]

also, apologies to jim gaffigan.

[disclaimer: please, do not expect “real talk” to make actual biblical sense. if you are looking for a legitimate commentary of meaning and substance, this aint the place. its less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]

–MaNishtana

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Real Talk Parsha: Noach [gen 6:9-11:32]

real talk parsha. because obviously Gd has a sense of humor. just look at your face.

“it’s the end of the world as we know it, but i’m not feeling particularly fine.”

yep, in this parsha, Gd flips out doug ramsey style and orders the world to “shut it down“!  of course, “shutting it down” in this case means “engulf the world in copious volumes of scalding water“.  noah, his fam, and a choice few animals escape into the ark and survive the death and destruction going on outside to eventually build a new world.  crazy, right?   i mean, the flood lasted for a whole year.  a whole year in an ark with just your family??  not to mention your wife [who, unless you’re cham, you’re not getting any from] and a gajillion animals you’ve gotta feed.  the midrash tells us that this one time?  noah showed up late to give the lion his food?  and the lion just wilds out and slaps and/or bites him. 

well. no kidding!

i imagine that about six months in, things in the ark started turning sour a la “the real world”:

this is the true story…of 1.5 million species of animals…picked to live in an ark…survive the apocalypse together and have their lives hang in the balance…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real…

noah: hey lion.

lion: sup, man.

noah: things were crazy with the ostriches, but i got your…what?…what’s that look for?

lion: you know how long i’ve been sitting here waiting, man?  six hours.

noah: look, man, i’m sorry but-

lion: sorry?  oh you’re sorry.  you got me sitting up here next to these zebras all day, with no food, but you’re sorry.  cuz that’s really what i need to see when i’m dizzy from hunger–a bunch of black and white lines running back and forth all day long.

noah:  well i already told you i can’t do anything about the arrangement i–

lion: well you better do something, homey.  cuz if i hear one more thing from that damn deer over there talking about how i ate his daddy, imma–

deer:  but you did eat my pops, you–

lion:  SHUT THE [BLEEP] UP! IF I HEAR YOU [BLEEP] ABOUT THAT [BLEEP] ONE MORE [BLEEP] TIME, I SWEAR TO YHVH I’M GONNA BITE YOUR [BLEEP] HEAD OFF THE MOTHER[BLEEP] SECOND WE’RE OFF THIS BOAT–

deer:  mother[bleep], WHAT?

lion:  what?  WHAT, bambi?

deer:  BAMBI? i wish a mother[bleep] would.

noah:  yo man, calm down!  just calm do-

lion:  get the [BLEEP] off me you-

[lion bites noah]

noah: [BLEEP]!  that was my [bleep] LEG, man! [bleep]!  what the [BLEEP] is wrong with you? [bleep]!

lion:  yeah, well, i bet your @ss’ll be here on time next time, won’t it?

craziness.

–MaNishtana

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the other black meat

“[cham] emerged from the ark black-skinned, and all his descendants are also black forever”—the midrash says, 1980

ahh, the good ol’ “hamitic myth”.  very multi-purpose, this one, capable of building bridges between jews and christians even, as not only was it the logic employed by “religious” european christians in the face of slavery as justification for barbaric acts of subjugation, it is also one of the pillars behind the subversive culture of racism and condescension that lurks within the bowels of Judaism

for the uninitiated, the “hamitic myth” or “curse of ham” is as follows:  while in the ark, Gd commands that every being within refrain from marital relations with their spouse.  all comply with this command with the exception of the dog, the raven, and ham.  the dog and raven receive punishments, but ham, according to the most prevalent interpretations, has his skin turned black, and so all his descendants are black-skinned forever.  and so that how negroes were born.  alternatively, when noah and family leave the ark, noah plants a vineyard, gets plastered, and passes out, naked.  ham happens to pass by and see naked passed out noah and commits acts [depending on the interpretation] ranging from doing up his dad, castrating his dad, or doing up his mom.  excellent. anyhoo, when noah wakes up and gets caught up to speed, he curses canaan, ham’s son, to forever be a slave to his brothers.  and that’s why it’s okay to make black ppl slaves.

are you guys all still with me? great.  now pay attention.  this is where things get complicated.

the problem with the hamitic myth, is that none of the sources attributed to it actually state it.  the myth is supported by ambiguous talmudic statements which were translated by later medieval european commentators [most notably rashi] who no doubt looked at these sources through the lens of their society and applied racism where it was not originally intended or implied. and let’s face it: medieval europe wasn’t exactly the most “yay, black people!” place in the world.

to recap, the myth claims that the children of ham are cursed with black skin and are destined to be slaves because of the sin in the ark and the abuse of noah. which is false. ham was cursed in his skin for having relations in the ark, and only canaan was cursed to be a slave to the other brothers. the children of ham weren’t cursed in their skin, and not all the children of ham were cursed to be slaves. now on to the sources.

one of the chief and earliest sources [if not the first] is sanhedrin 108b which states:

שלשה שמשו בתיבה וכולם לקו כלב ועורב וחם כלב נקשר עורב רק חם לקה בעורו

loosely translated, the line reads “three copulated in the ark and they were all punished: the dog, and the raven, and ham.  the dog [will be] tied [i.e., presumably as a pet], the raven spits [apparently this is part of the sex act for ravens], and ham was smitten in his skin.”

note there is no mention of skin color.  hence, this line could mean ham was stricken with any number of ailments in his skin.  my personal opinion on this is that the aforementioned “smiting” was tzaraat/leprosy based on:

1-leprosy seems to be Gd’s modus operandi for “smiting”-type punishment [see pharaoh (gen 12:17/arachin16a), moses (ex 4:6), miriam (num 12:10), gehazi (2 kings 5:27), uzziah (2 chron 26:19), et al]

2-leprosy is one of the punishments for sexual immorality (arachin 16a)

at any rate, based on this verse, there is no substantiation for the assumption that ham was turned black.  which is interesting, b/c the footnote for the quote i posted at the very beginning of this piece lists sanhedrin 108b as its source. wait.  what’s that you say?  well look at that.  apparently, the first hint of color is added to this 6th century source through an 11th century footnote by the famed author of the first comprehensive commentary on the talmud, the medieval french rabbi rashi.  rashi explains “smitten in his skin” to mean: “i.e., from him descended cush (the negro) who is black-skinned.”

hmm.  the plot thins.  also, not sure why cush is suddenly in the ham-canaan equation, but anyway on to bereshit raba 36.

ר הונא בשם ר יוסף אמר: אתה מנעת אותי מלעשות דבר שהוא באפלה לפיכך יהיה אותו האיש כעור ומפחם

ok, so noah says to ham that since ham [going according to the opinion that ham castrated noah] prevented noah from doing what is done in the dark [i.e., the wild thing], ham’s seed is cursed to be, according to popular translations, “dark”.  there’s a problem here though, since the word for dark is אפל not מפחם, and although i’ve seen several translations which render מפחם as “dark” or “dusky”, it actually means neither.  מפחם is actually related to פחם, which means “charcoal”.  meaning the line in bereshit raba should probably translate “your seed will be like charcoal”.  having skin like “charcoal” is very different from being “dark”, “dusky” or even “negro”.

on an additional note,  מפחם as used in the context of the above line does not even necessarily have to mean “dark like charcoal” as it shares the same root with שיתפחמו which means “deface” as in the example given later on in the same source:

אמר המלך גוזר אני שיתפחמו פניו

“the king declared: i decree that his effigy be defaced.”

The interpretation of מפחם relating to “deface” supports my leprosy hypothesis since leprosy can be seen as a form of “defacement” both physically and socially.

however, staying on the translation of “charcoal”, let’s jump forward to 18th century spain where me’am loez quotes the 6th century tanchuma as stating ham received five punishments, three of which are:

1-his eyes became red, 2-his lips became “thick and gross like those of a negro”, 3-the hair of his head and beard became kinky. [by the way, noticed yet how there’s no discernable link from ham’s curse of blackness to canaan’s curse of eternal slavery? or from canaan’s curse of eternal slavery rebounding back to all of ham’s children? or ham’s cursed skin being inherited by all his children? perhaps im just overlooking a source…]. anyhoo, we reach another snafu, since, again, the “source” doesn’t exactly state this:

וחם על שראה בעיניו ערות אביו נעשו עיניו אדומות, ועל שהגיד בפיו נעשו שפתותיו עקומות, ועל שחזר פניו נתחרך שער ראשו וזקנו, ועל שלא כסה הערוה הלך ערום ונמשכה לו ערלתו, לפי שכל מדותיו של הקב”ה מדה כנגד מדה

translation? ham’s eyes became red. his lips became twisted or crooked. his hair became singed. big difference between “thick and gross” and “crooked”, right?  between “kinky” and “singed”? combine this whole picture of a red-eyed man with singed hair, twisted lips and skin like charcoal and we get a figure resembling someone who’s been burned, no? perhaps divine-fire style ala nadav and avihu only not killed because he was necessary in the repopulation of the Earth? at any rate, i think its pretty safe to say some creative embellishment took place over the course of the centuries.

also, rebounding canaan’s curse of slavery to all of ham’s children, rendering מפחם as “dark” or “dusky”, and extending ham’s curse to all of his line offers the following problems:

1-if we go by the interpretation that all of ham’s offspring were cursed with dark-skin forever, thereby leading to the conclusion that all dark-skinned ppl are descended from ham, the problem is that elam, asshur, mesha, ophir and sepher are descended from noah’s son shem [who is also the progenitor of abraham and thus all jewry].  according to aryeh kaplan in “the living torah“, these nations are identified with medea[persia], assyria, mecca, india, and southern arabia, respectively. all of these peoples and places range from “dusky” to “dark-skinned.” so if dark-skinned people exist only because of the curse on ham and canaan, how did these nations end up with dark skin?

2-moses’ hand turns white. as white as snow, in fact. now if he was a fair-skinned person, then this means his skin turned an unnatural shade of white, which means by extension, ham and cannan’s skin turned an unnatural shade of black. or, if he were darker-skinned and thereby so shocked at the change of his hand color that it was compared to snow, then this means he was considerably dark-skinned, which again begs the question how, if all dark people were so colored because of ham’s curse?

3-canaan was cursed. this is why eliezer was sent to find a wife for isaac from abraham’s family instead of from the canaanites they lived among, b/c there can’t be a good union btw the blessed [isaac] and the cursed [a canaanite girl]. if the curse is extended to all of cham’s offspring, this is problematic, considering that moses marries tzippora, who is later identified as a cushite, thus descended from cush, one of ham’s offspring, and therefore cursed.

do ppl still question why jocs need a voice? or need to step it up in terms of observance and participation in judaism? why we need to establish our own? there’s a whole wealth of options and interpretations that arent even being humored, let alone considered, and judaism for the past thousand years or so has for better or for worse been looked at solely through a european lens. lets get the rest of the picture out there too, shall we?

–MaNishtana

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Real Talk Parsha: Bereshit [Gen 1:1-6:8]

real talk parsha. because obviously Gd has a sense of humor. just look at your face.

so here we are at the start of it all. the beginning of this wild crazy place called the world as we know it. if anyone ever needed any proof that the first man and woman were in all likelihood black, its right there in black and white for everyone to see. because adam and eve arent in the garden of eden two seconds before they immediately start lowering the property value.

at any rate, the sages traditionally place the blame of the forbidden fruit eating on adam for adding an additional unnecessary fence of not touching the tree to the actual rule of not eating from the tree. as any good rabbi knows, there should be at least 7-12 unnecessary fences around the gate that leads to the bridge that’s in front of the brick wall which surrounds the moat which protects the tower which houses the actual rule in the dungeon that my father bought for two zuzim, a kid, a kid.

other sages say it was adam’s fault for not checking to see if the food eve was offering him was “kosher.”

i say they’re all being too hard on adam. guys, back me up here. after all, we all know how unlikely it is for us to know the eye color of our closest female acquaintances b/c our eyes rarely make the strenuous trek north of a woman’s neck. and thats when she’s fully clothed. eve was naked. adam didnt stand a chance.

adam didn’t check if the food was “kosher”? more like he didnt even realize the nice naked lady in front of him had even given him something to eat in the first place:

eve: so i was in the garden talking to this snake right?

adam: uh huh

eve: and he was like eat this food, it’ll make you, like, a god or something?

adam: uh huh

eve: anyway–are you even listening?

adam: uh huh

eve: anyway, i had some of it and it tastes alright and stuff, but i dunno.

adam: uh huh

eve: here you try it.

[adam absently takes fruit, bites]

adam: uh huh

eve: see? you feel any different?

adam: uh huh

Gd: um, hey guys…whatcha doing?

adam: nothin

Gd: cool. i was just…adam, are–are you eating the one fruit i specifically asked you not to??

adam: what? what’re you–

[adam looks down at hand]

adam:…oh well this isnt good.  this isnt good at all.

Gd: so, like, can i get an explanation or something?

adam: i–i just–and she–her–with the boobs, and the, and the…the boobs?

Gd:……….okay, so im just gonna ask eve, okay? okay.

see? no chance.

–MaNishtana

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Urban Parsha V’zot HaB’racha [deut 33:1-34:12]

urban parsha”.  it’s just like regular torah.  but ghetto.

and so moses said: “look y’all im about to be out. for real. now imma spit y’all some blessings one last time. ru-bizzle don’t let ppl punk you cuz y’all small right now, you feel me? ju da man, G got your back when ppl tryna run up on you. l-veezy, y’all got the urim v’tumim cuz y’all held it down. G be smiting y’all enemies in the loins. that’s some serious ish right there.  bennie man, G got mad feelings for you.  jo-jo there’s two of y’all so y’all  get mad blessing with all kinda crazy ish like suns and moons and hills and mountains and heavens and earths and all that kinda ish. zeb’loon y’all be cheesing when you out there on tour, and lil izzy y’all be feeling mad nice in y’all crib. mr g, y’all dudes be crazy, tearing dudes heads and arms off.  that’s some lion type-ish. d.a.n. y’all got some of that lion jump-off too. naphtallyman, y’all be easy posted up in the dirty south, ya heard me?  dr a., e’erybody’ll be feening to cop some of y’all oil. sim-simma, you aint get none cuz im still tight with y’all acting a fool over that kozbi shorty, but G got ur back anyway.

peace out my dudes.”

…and so we’ve reached the last installation of “urban parsha“. hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as i have. but never fear! starting up with bereshit will be “real talk parsha” and you’ll be able to find all of “urban parsha” archived over at http://urbanparsha.wordpress.com/. see you soon….

–MaNishtana

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They Call It “Networking” Nowadays…

so in my latest display of blog whoredom, step two is complete and the MaNishtana store is open over at cafepress.com.  sure its only a couple of buttons and a mousepad right now, but dont worry. more is to come. also, i may find myself writing over at jewcy.com. im all afluster. will keep you posted.

–MaNishtana

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Tonight at 8

so this is a lil bit quicker than id thought, but the first of new changes coming to the blog is already up and running: the MaNishtanaTV channel over at youtube. the stuff there will be generally more lighthearted in tone than whats here at manishtana central [lol. “manishtana central“] but it should still be some pretty juicy stuff. the first vid is up [i personally think its kinda “meh“. im sure you will too] but things should only get better as we go along. lemme know if there’s anything you wanna see on it. anyhoo, let the games begin.

–MaNishtana

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As Seen On TV!

so im in the editing room, editing some blog footage of mine with a friend. some white dude sees the text “manishtana” next to this black dude on screen [me]. you know the kind of white dude. the [secular, jewish] kind whose ears perk up when hebrew terms find themselves inappropriately leaving ethnic mouths, so they feel the need to investigate on behalf of the jewish people as compensation perhaps for being religiously lax in their own lives.

anyhoo, he asks what the footage is about since he sees me in it wearing–and i quote–“what is called a yarmulke in my world.” now im incognito at the time [“incognito” meaning i like fedoras, so i was wearing one and not particularly feeling like taking it off to prove i was jew-flagging], so i just play the rough cut of the vid, since a simple viewing of it would answers his questions.  of course, his moment of clarity was not exactly how i expected:

“ah, i see. the character is jewish.”

[headdesk]

couldnt have MADE that up.

oh, yes, MaNishtanaTV is coming ppl. b/c print is becoming increasingly inadequate to berate ppl via.

–MaNishtana

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Urban Parsha Ha’azinu [deut 32:1-52]

urban parsha“.  it’s just like regular torah.  but ghetto.

and so moses began his song, which sounded suspiciously like its beat was sampled from “i’m on a boat”:

Send “Haazinu” Ringtones to Cell
Moses ft T-Pain
[Intro (T-Pain)]
(Shortayyyy) Aww yeah
Getcha ears ready it’s about to go down (shorty, yeah)
Miriam and Israel y’all had y’all chance (yeah)
But now its time for me to step up here
I’m runnin this, let’s go

[Chorus (T-Pain)]
I wrote a song (I wrote a song)
I wrote a song (I wrote a song)
Everyone listen to me cause I’m singin my new song (singin my new song)
I wrote a song (I wrote a song)
I wrote a song
Take a good hard listen to the motherf****n song (song, yeah)

[The Lonely Island (T-Pain)]
I wrote a song motherf***r take a listen here
Heaven, Earth, take a seat and gimme your ear
Like rain and dew I’m flowin and I can’t go wrong
You can’t stop me motherf***r cuz I wrote a song

G is perfect, y’all (y’all) G is faithful, trick (trick)
You all crooked like a wack-looking broken stick (stick)
He set them nations up, gave them they own land
But you special Israel, so he keep you in his hand

He found you in the desert, kept you fed and ish
Got you the manna, that fulfilled your e’ery wish
But listen up now, that’s as real as it gets
I wrote this song motherf***r, don’t you ever forget

Had y’all all regal, on his back like an eagle
But y’all wanted to bail and go and mingle
G’s the king of the world, but y’all went and kicked him
Running after new g’s like y’all aint picked him
{Shut the f**k up, this song is REAL!!!}

F**k swords, he’ll send plague, motherf***r (motherf***r)
F**k men, he’ll send beasts, motherf***r (motherf***r)
He’ll send nations unleashed, motherf***r (yeah)
Y’all wish y’all were deceased, motherf***r

Hey y’all, if you could see y’all now (see y’all now)
Arms spread wide praying to a cow (to a cow)
G’s the only g, to this I avow (I avow)
Anyone one next him, that is just impossible

[T-Pain]
Yeah, don’t worry y’all I’ll still have ya backs
When y’all captors get too hard with the smacks (yeah)
Believe and pray to me, oh (all hands up high)
They’ll never think they’d see the day
When the big G comin they way
Believe me when I say, I’ll blow them away

[Chorus]

[T-Pain]
Whoahhh
Sha-sha-shorty, shorty
Yeah yeah yeahhh

Send “Haazinu” Ringtones to Cell

[good lord i think i felt brain cells die writing that. and this is how some people speak?  for real?  cmon now, didnt what you just read seem even vaguely ridiculous?  well thats how you sound.  lets get it together black ppl.  acting black is acting black. acting ghetto is just acting stupid…

…as for “urban parsha“…hey, when something is really, truly, internally yours?  you can have a lot of fun with it.  shabbat shalom.]

–MaNishtana

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Urban Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech [deut 29:9-31:30]

urban parsha”.  it’s just like regular torah.  but ghetto.

and G said “my word is my bond. i had abraham, isaac, and jacob’s backs cuz we was boys. and now im sayin the same thing to y’all. you roll with me and i got you. but you run with some next g dudes, and we got problems. now y’all heard how imma go in on y’all if y’all try to punk me. but if y’all wanna bounce back and get ya mind right, i’m feeling that. y’all just gotta respect the game and do the damn thing. im not tryna make this hard for y’all, so don’t be on that ‘its too far for us. we need a dollar cab and ish’ tip. cuz, real talk? everything i told y’all is right up on you. y’all don’t gotta look for it.”

and moses said to joshua “im like a hunnit twenny, man. you takin over. you gonna be the one bringing the jew crew through, na mean? so when you roll out, put ya game face on and be about it. you do that and G got ya back. now get over here and hold this blessing real quick.”

and moses said  to israel “i need y’all to spit this piece right here like every seven years, aight?  and e’erybody gotta come through, cuz y’all need to check yourselves sometimes and be reminded how G does.  in fact, hold up.  lemme break y’all off with this freestyle one time.”

[good lord i think i felt brain cells die writing that. and this is how some people speak?  for real?  cmon now, didnt what you just read seem even vaguely ridiculous?  well thats how you sound.  lets get it together black ppl.  acting black is acting black. acting ghetto is just acting stupid…

…as for “urban parsha“…hey, when something is really, truly, internally yours?  you can have a lot of fun with it.  shabbat shalom.]

–MaNishtana

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