real talk parsha: beshalach [ex 13:17–15:26]

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

manishtana fact no. 11: im a big fan of aquaman.

not so much the costume but the character. i think he’s highly underused and has a lot of untapped potential b/c its easier to write him off as a third string character. but the dude is the king arthur of the sea, PLUS he can command fish…of course while that sounds kickass on paper, it doesnt really work so much in real life. fish have a memory span of about 3 seconds. thats why they die if you put too much food in the water: theyve literally forgotten that they JUST finished eating and so eat themselves to death. so with a power to command fish you’d really end up getting nowhere:

fish: hi aquaman!

aquaman: you! fish! come here!

fish: sure!

aquaman: black manta has a bomb. i need you to–

fish: hi aquaman!

aquaman: yes, hi, great. look, you’re gonna have to swim down to the–

fish: oh wow! hi aquaman!

aquaman: ok, SERIOUSLY pay attention!

fish: sure thing aquaman!

aquaman: good. now the fuse line is–

fish: hi aquaman!

see? kind of a useless power. the kind of useless power which is only second, apparently, to being leader of the jewish people:

israel: yay! 10 plagues! you rock moses!

moses: great! but lets hurry cuz egypt is on our backs right now.

israel: what? why is egypt trying to kill us? why dont you ever do anything GOOD for us moses? we hate you!

moses: uh, what? ok, nevermind. quick into the sea that’s splitting over here!

israel: excellent! moses you’re the best!

moses: um…thank yo–

israel: hey you got any water?

moses: not…not on me right now, n–

israel: you suck moses! i dont know we ever listened to you!

moses: what the f…*ahem*…ok look, i threw some wood into this pond here. drink.

israel: dude! thats why you’re the man moses!

moses: are you…are you guys really okay? cuz it–

israel: OMG moses, can you try to NOT have us die of hunger?

moses: how are you even—

israel: ooh! quails!

moses: okay, im really not–

israel: seriously moses, we’re HUNGRY!

moses: you cant be ser–

israel: ooh! manna!

moses: honestly, this is just ridic–

israel: got any water moses?

moses: but you just HAD–

[punches a rock]

moses: HERE! here’s ur water!

israel: YAY MOSES!

Gd: heeeey moses…can i talk to you over here?

moses: sure

Gd: yeah…im gonna need you to not do that again.

moses: no problem

Gd: good. cuz, like, i will srsly kill you if you do that again.

moses: never happen again

[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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real talk parsha: bo [ex 10:1–13:16]

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

so, after pharaoh’s back and forth yo-yo game with moses, egypt gets hit with the last of the plagues, including death of the firstborn.  not sure if anyone realizes, but death of the firstborn is quite possibly the most devastating plague anybody can get hit with. and i say this not b/c of the obvious “death” part [or b/c im a firstborn myself–shout-out to all my erev pesach siyum heads] but b/c death of the firstborn is the plague that just keeps on giving:

[audience applause]

maury: welcome back. now this is imhotep and anck-su-namun. imhotep says that he feels his 3 yr old son mathayus may be child of another man.  but his wife anck-su-namun denies ever having an affair and claims that little mathayus is his.  let’s hear your side of the story imhotep.

imhotep: see, im an overseer, right? i spent a lot of time out of the house whipping hebrew slaves.  its my job, yknow? im just tryna take of my family, so im out of the house a lot.  then moses comes along and turns all the dust to lice, so now there’s nothing for the slaves to do and im out of a job. so i come home early and i see this ardeth bay dude creeping out the back of my house.

anck-su-namun: oh you STILL on that? it aint even like that. you just need to care of yo responsibilities. this is YO child!

[audience applause]

imhotep: whatever! whatever! you dont KNOW me!

maury: so imhotep, look at little mathayus there.

[picture of mathayus appears on screen]

[audiences “awww”s]

maury: why would anyone wanna deny that child?

imhotep: well, see, i THOUGHT he was my son.  but then i come home after that whole death of the firstborn plague? and mathayus is still alive. what the [bleep] is THAT [bleep] about?

anck-su-namun: look, i dont even know why we here. i told you horus was watching over him.

imhotep: plz, thats that [bleep].

maury: well ive got the paternity test results right here and we’re gonna get to the bottom of this.

[audience applause]

maury: imhotep…in the case of  3 yr old mathayus…you are NOT the father!

[imhotep jumps up, anck-su-namun runs offstage in tears]

imhotep: i TOLD you! i TOLD you!

see? keeps on giving.

[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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“Should Old Annoyance Be Forgot…”

here we are with 2009 on its way out and 2010 on its way in. as such, id like to list five new year’s resolutions of sorts [many of which have been inspired by aliza hausman]. now this isnt a list of things that i want to do, but of things i want others to do. and yes, i realize that im a big fat jew, so why am i jumping on the secular/pagan new year’s deal? well, b/c the things id like to see resolved spring from a decidely un-jewish frame of mind and thought, and since you bastards obviously didnt pray any of your idiocy off on rosh hashana, maybe this time you’ll get ur act together. LOL! [no, not really. not even a little bit.] anyhoo.

1. stop telling jocs that they’re too sensitive/complain too much/are career victims. really, its great that u perceive that ur particular inclave is joc-friendly [altho, to add just a lil bit of credence to the merit of ur purported statement, you may want to, i dunno, ASK the jocs in ur inclave how THEY actually feel the community treats them, not how you THINK they feel or SHOULD feel based on your necessarily limited knowledge and experience of the situation]. no, white ppl, just b/c you converted does not mean you are an automatic authority on the woes of the joc community. sure, you might feel some needling due to ur convert status, but that does not even begin to open ur mind to the waves of microaggressions and grade-a ignorance a joc undergoes on a near-daily basis.

1a. as an addendum, id also like to call a halt to statements like “i dont think its THAT bad.” “do you really experience THAT much racism?” “are you sure what ur experiencing isnt just slight unease?” [all of these are actual quotes, btw]. now, [although ill prolly get the same waves of emails asking why i feel the need to devolve to physical violence as i did for my jocslapping video] im gonna give you an example:

imagine that i was complaining that as a joc i was getting punched by people on a constant basis and ur response was “are you really getting punched THAT hard?” see, ur missing the point THAT IM GETTING PUNCHED. stop asking me if im really getting punched “that hard” or “that often”, just STOP FUCKING PUNCHING ME.

2. please, everyone, get over the assumption that racism and ignorance only exist in the orthodox jewish community. the reform and conservatives just do it in hipper clothes and with better hair.

2a. as an addendum: non-orthodox jocs, us orthodox jocs who speak of our negative experiences are not crazy. we feel great that you’ve had such lovely experiences, but sadly that has not been the case for all of us. it isnt something that “we” are “putting out there” or what “we” are “doing”. and although, no, not all ashkenazi or other non-jocs are rabid, horse-riding, sheet wearing racists, yes racism is pervasive and institutionalized in american judaism. please stop trying to tell us its not. when synagogues have in their constitution that “this congregation will not encourage or interfere with making proselytes under any pretence until he, she or they provide credentials…and, provided he, she, or they are not people of color” [congregation kaal kadesh, south carolina] and that the congregation is limited to “white isrealits [sic] only” [another synagogue whose name i cant recall at the moment] then yes, its institutionalized. when a rabbi receives death threats before attending their pulpit b/c they’re black [rabbi alyssa stanton], then yes, its pervasive.

3. randomly, j***h’s witnesses, please stop trying to recruit me while im walking down the block on shabbat in my jewniform. clearly, ive already been drafted by a team. however, im sure some of those guys over there in the dugouts could use your help more. and by “guys in the dugouts” i mean “those Gdless drug dealers over there on the corner”.

4. ppl who dont support/believe in the state of israel are not any more un-jewish than you are. theyre un-ZIONIST. yes “anti-zionist” is usually code for “anti-semitic”…if ur a NON-JEW. but if you ARE jewish, then you know the difference. please stop being so holier-than-thou. if i dont believe ur supporting the state of israel makes you a death-eater, then me not supporting the state of israel shouldnt make me lord voldemort. either way im sure we can BOTH agree that flying planes into buildings is a very not good thing to do.

5. black [and other ethnic] ppl: please stop condescending/pitying us jocs b/c you feel we abandonded your savior to be jews. more importantly, stop patting urselves on the back for remaining so blindly faithful to the religion that was forced down your throat and most responsible for stripping away ur original culture, enslaving you and oppressing you.

thank you for ur time.


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Real Talk Parsha: Vayetze [gen 28:10–32:3]

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

so does anyone else wonder why lavan takes it so personally after jacob just up and books?  i know i do.  i mean, did lavan forget their first meeting? forget the fact that jacob had to send him a coded message which essentially translated to “anything you can do i can do better”.

when jacob first shows up in aram–fresh from having been robbed along the way and pushing a huge stone of a well–lavan greets him…then, as the midrash tells us, lavan is disappointed that jacob has no gifts and wealth with him [remember, lavan was around for eliezer’s “prince ali” routine for rebecca] and, on a hunch that jacob is hiding it on his person, proceeds to fondle and kiss jacob to find the wealth…right.  looking for jacob’s “jewels”. no kidding.

one: ive always assumed that pushing a rock off the mouth of a well was exhausting work.  well, it’s obviously more exhausting than i thought since it apparently leaves you completely powerless to defend against YOUR UNCLE SHOVING HIS TONGUE IN YOUR MOUTH. two: no wonder jacob got the hell outta dodge the first chance he got.  lavan was apparently one of “those” uncles.  y’know.  the “let’s play in uncle touchy’s naked basement of shame” kinda uncles.


[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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real talk parsha: toldot [gen 25:19-28:9]

and this week we have the parsha on the forefather with the most useless p.r. agent in the history of the bible. not only does isaac only squeeze out just one section, but his spotlight gets stolen halfway through but jacob and esau. i mean think about it. you say abraham and you think, “oh yeah, the first dude. the dude that circumcises himself. the dude in the furnace. the dude who sacrifices his kid. the dude with the three angels.”  say jacob: “right!  he was the dude with the evil twin! and the twelve kids.  and the birthright trick.  and the goat trick.  and opened some whupass on an angel.”  but isaac?  “uh…that guy who got tied to a rock…and, oh yeah, he didn’t know his kid was evil.”

although to be fair, isaac grew up in abraham’s home where he didn’t really see ppl be shady.  [except, y’know, that whole deal where ishmael would shoot arrows at him and call it “playing”, but apparently that was completely forgotten water under the bridge.]  but rebecca was on point, because she, unlike isaac grew up in what was apparently biblical compton:

rebecca:  what’re you doing over, esau?

esau: yes, mother?

rebecca:  don’t gimme that “yes mother” bullsh*t, mother*cker.  i axed you what your @ss was up to.

esau: but why would you speak to me thusly?

rebecca: aight look.  first, cut this shakespeare bullsh*t.  second, i seent you n***a, aight?  that ish might fly with isaac, but don’t bring that this way, na mean?  i smoked tougher gangstas than you, aight?  back in my hood, you woulda been iced in a camel-by with the quickness, ya feel me?

and that’s why isaac loved esau, but rebecca loved jacob.  also, everyone talks about how jacob was a trickster.  but if isaac grew up in vanilla-land with abraham, where did jacob get all tricksy from?  i think rebecca was teaching him some hard street lessons on the low, na mean?  i mean, that birthright hustle he pulled on esau?

[esau twitches, sniffs heavily]

esau:  yo man.

jacob: what’s good?

esau:  hook me up man.

jacob:  hook you up?  whatchu talkin bout?

esau:  you know what i’m talking bout.  gimme that lentil-ish.  that good red sticky icky.

jacob: i dunno man.

esau:  yo, you know i’m good for it.

jacob: i dunno…you mad hot right now.  wearing them nimrod threads.

esau:  yo, c’mon, bruh.

[jacob sighs]

jacob:  aight, look.  imma hook you up this one time, aight?  this one time.  but imma need your birthright.

esau: pssh.   aight, man.  done.

jacob:  and run them pants.

esau:  the pants too, man?

jacob:  yo, you wanna get wet or what?

esau:  aight, aight.  take the pants.

and let’s not forget the blessing switcheroo like so scheme out of “the sting”.

rebecca: yo jacob.

jacob: what up, ma dukes.

rebecca: look, your pops is tryna give esau the blessing little man.

jacob:  what?  esau?  that’s that bullsh*t.

rebecca: i know.  real talk?  i can’t stand the mother*cker.  so you needs to get up in there and cop that ish.

jacob:  trick pops?  i dunno…

[rebecca slaps jacob]

rebecca: i ain’t taught you no sense? acting like i ain’t gave you no home training.  git yo @ss in there, boy.  and don’t worry about ya pops, i got him.

ahh…the family that hustles together, stays together…or something.

[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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Real Talk Parsha: Chayei Sarah [gen 23:1–25:18]

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

well, after last week’s virtual cornucopia of cannon fodder, we’re left with fairly slim pickings this week, what with sarah dying and abraham buying the cave machpelah [haggling yet again].  but, for all those ppl who hate reality tv and/or disney fairytale stories, we have the eliezer/isaac/rebecca story.  just think “the bachelor” mixed with equal parts “aladdin” with a dash of “cinderella” for good measure. 

i mean, really, didn’t eliezer seriously show up at rebecca’s all prince ali ababwa style?  with, like, gold noserings and bracelets, camels, quite possibly a magic carpet, fifty elephants, lions galore, bears and tigers, a brass band and more, forty fakirs and cooks and bakers and birds that warble on key?  [by the way, yes i said “gold nosering”, to all those ppl shaking their heads at the crazy piercings that are all the rage with the kids nowadays].  but anyways, was her family really surprised when she decided to bounce the next day?  i mean, aside from the wealth just leaking from eliezer’s eyes [and remember, he was just the servant], just the day before rebecca was apparently the water-fetcher-girl of the household.  agreeing to marry this mysterious “isaac” dude was obviously a step up from her current situation.  then again, maybe rebecca was the passive-aggressive, femme fatale type…now that you mention it, her dad bethuel mysteriously dies…rebecca is the sole overseer of the household’s water supply…she doesn’t stay around for the funeral….hmm…you’d better look out, eliezer.  something tells me you’re gonna dearly pay for that whole “give me and my camels some water” ploy…oh look.  you’ve disappeared from the bible after you bring rebbeca to isaac…

kinda makes that scene where Rebecca covers her face when she sees Isaac approaching seem that much creepier, huh.

also, abraham stars in “how abie got his groove back”, shacks up with keturah, and has himself some more kids.  take that, viagra.

[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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Real Talk Parsha: Vayera [gen 18:1-22:24]

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

now this week’s portion is full of all kinds of juicy bits.

after circumcising himself and having tea with his three visitors, abraham’s first official act as a jew is to haggle with Gd.  no seriously.  abraham tries to jew Gd out of destroying sodom, eventually trying to weasel some redemption out of Him for the low low price of ten righteous guys.  abraham fails, because, y’know, he’s up against GD, and in atonement for this, abraham’s descendants are cursed to haggle with everyone they ever meet in life, ever.

also, we are introduced to the evil that is sodom and gomorrah, whom the midrash takes the time to expound on the depths of their evil.  now to all you religious parents out there: sure, you worry about what your kids see on tv and stuff, but you should really watch some of those midrashes, too.  i remember my pre-teen self trying my darndest to convince myself how evil sodom was when i read that they buried one of lot’s daughter’s alive in a nest of ants while naked and covered in honey.  wasn’t very succesful.

tween me: damn those sodomites, covering naked women in honey.  that’s just…that’s just horrible…and, uh, evil…and stuff…bastards…

anyhoo, somewhere in that whole ordeal lot gets it on with not one, but BOTH of his daughters.  fantastic.  and by “fantastic”, i mean “wtffnswtf?” (“what the f**ing f**k?  no, seriously, what the f**k?”)

in more child troubles, sarah tells abraham to kick ishmael out because she doesn’t like the cut of his jib or how he treats isaac.  abraham says they’re just kids having fun.  the midrash tells us that ishmael used to shoot arrows at isaac.  really?  is that what you think kids do for fun??  although, in abraham’s defense, his childhood consisted of dodging sacrifice duty, ducking armed guards from the king and playing hopscotch in burning furnaces.  he probably wished someone would just shoot arrows at him.

at last, we end with the binding of isaac. great stuff.  a father selflessly sacrificing his son.  a son eager to help his father fulfill a divine commandment.  the midrash says, in fact, that isaac asked abraham to tie his hands so that he [isaac] didn’t inadvertently invalidate the sacrifice.  yeah, okay.  i’m sure that’s how that went down.

isaac: father?

abraham: here i am, my son.

isaac: behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

abraham: Gd will seek Himself out the lamb for the sacrifice.

isaac: um…okay.  i mean, it was kinda Gd’s idea for us to come out here and offer a sacrifice, so, i dunno, just seems kinda random.

abraham: Gd works in mysterious ways.

isaac:…alright…anyhoo, can i at least hold something?  i mean, you’ve got the firewood and the matches and everything.  i kinda don’t see why i’m even here, rea–

[isaac has moment of realization]

isaac: are you SERIOUS?

abraham: uh…Gd will seek Hims–

isaac: oh, save it, alright!  dammit! you couldn’t have told me this three days ago?  “hey son, wanna go for a trip where i end up killing you at the end”? sacrifice me?  yeah.  better tie my @ss down, old man.

[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 ain’t the place. it’s less “onkelos” and more “onion“, get me?]


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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?]


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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–


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?



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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?


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