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?]

–MaNishtana

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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?]

–MaNishtana

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a history of implicit violence

hey guys. im really glad that so many of you enjoyed my joc-slapping video.  funnily enough thought, some ppl didnt appreciate, the tone, language, or “implicit” threat of violence. now, im not sure if i was unclear in my intro video, or if ppl have just never actually read what i write, so lemme just say it again:whatever  need to do or say for you to change how you look at things, or how you act, or how you treat people, im gonna do. don’t criticize my methods when you should really be asking why i even need to approach the issues this way for you to pay attention. why do i need to shock and threaten you? 

in other news, the night i put up the video, a girl i don’t know, have never spoken to, and have never seen, messaged me on facebook chat at 3:20 in the morning to tell me that not only had she seen the video, but that she also felt guilty now about the times she’d stared at this black girl at work who was wearing a star of david.  isn’t that wild?  that this random, two-minute long video just–BAM!–changed something? just like that? thats CRAZY! sure its one out of millions, but still, thats really freaking crazy.  and kinda the point of why i did the video in the first place, i guess…so to all the naysayers out there: what have you done lately?

–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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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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In The Words Of Bryan Adams…

…please forgive me.

i realize that as a blogger i know have the infinite resources to offend exponentially more ppl than i couldve ever hoped for as i private individual. score.  so i apologize if ive offended you or if my words have lead to some misunderstanding.  not that im reneging on anything that ive said.  if you cant see the truth behind the ideas ive presented, well, im sorry for that too.

have an easy fast.

gmar chatima tova

–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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The Hellfire Club

kiddish clubs.what better time to discuss them than shabbat shuva. because theyre a problem.

i mean, yeah, its totally fab that you guys like each other so much that you need to go get a drink together on shabbat. in the middle of davening. [yes, the haftorah counts. if it didnt, we wouldnt do it, now would we?]. so congrats on having the kind of friendships that bards will speak of long after man has forgotten how to love. but see, the thing is that knesset/shul isnt a lodge or a social club. we’re kinda there to daven. and by “kinda“, i mean “completely“.

i mean, look,

1-aside the fact that youre ruining your own kavanna by going out to drink, youre also pissing the crap out of everyone else who isnt going b/c they dont approve and ruining their kavanna too.good job. jerks.

2-as the shulchan aruch and other sources state, one cannot eat–sorry–it is forbidden to eat before having kiddush. additionally, one may not even drink water after shacharit before reciting kiddush. and i doubt any of you guys are saying kiddush when youre knocking back your jack walker. [no thats not a typo.  ive known him long enough to call him jack. ive earned it].and i said “kiddush” not “borei pri hagafen“. that means im tashiv, vshamru, and zachor. the whole shebang.

3-so how stoked do you think Hashem is when you guys pour out of the room, completely ignore the haftorah, and come back full of alcohol? oh, its just one drink, you say? could you pass a breathalyzer? no? oh, then im sure its totally ok that even though you couldnt legally drive a car in your state, youre perfectly capable of, yknow, proceeding TO TALK TO GD. just saying.

but y’know what, never mind. im sure im overreacting and being oversensitive. after all, the first kiddish club went so well. remember that one? with those guys…what were their names…oh yeah!

nadav and avihu.

gmar chatima tova

–MaNishtana

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