Sunday, April 26, 2009

Afterthoughts about the Blessing of the Sun

I know it's a bit after the fact, and it won't really be relevant again for another 28 years, but this recently came up in a newsletter I received, and I simply had to say something about it.

The Blessing of the Sun (Birkat Hachamah) is a blessing recited once every 28 years, commemorating the work of Creation, and specifically the creation of the sun. It was observed this year, 5769, on the morning of April 8, 2009.

Now, many have noticed that the year number 5769 is not evenly divisible by 28. Dividing 5769 by 28 leaves a remainder of 1. One explanation that has been offered for the discrepancy, which appears to be a traditional explanation, says:
The Sages have already explained to us that during the year of the Flood, the natural order of the world was suspended.
That may be so, but it has absolutely nothing to do with why the division leaves a remainder of one.

A better explanation is simple mathematics, and should be familiar to anyone who remembers the whole debate about whether the Millenium started in 2000 or 2001. (2001 is correct, even though it is not evenly divisible by 1000)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Humorous: College Passover Memories

Yes, this is a true story, but it's a funny true story.

When I was in college, our Hillel had a Passover meal plan. A freshman on the Hillel board (let's just call her "B"), was very eager to cook for Passover dinner: she was going to use this as an excuse to learn her mother's secret matzah ball recipe. Her mother made the best matzah balls ever, and she was determined to learn how she made them. Her mother had promised to tell her the recipe in time for Passover. B told us this many times, and was clearly very excited about it.

When the time came, B prepared herself with a pad of paper and a pen (this was in the dark days before personal computers). She called her mother and asked for the recipe.

"OK," her mother told her, "get a box of Manischewitz Unsalted Matzo Meal..."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Christians for Mohammed

A news story I read today reminded me of a little fun I had on a message board about 20 years ago.

I used to participate in an echomail network called ILink (sort of an old-fashioned, pre-Internet newsgroup). One of the groups on ILink was a general religion board, and one day, the conversation turned to the subject of "Jews for Jesus," (J4J) a Christian evangelical group that claims that Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism, that Jews can convert to Christianity without losing their Jewish status -- in fact, they claim, converts will become "fulfilled Jews."

The gentiles on the board, as often happens, perceived J4J as a legitimate form of Judaism, oppressed by their mean Jewish brothers. The Jews on the board were unable to explain to any gentile's satisfaction that J4J is nothing more than fundamentalist Christianity in a yarmulke, that belief in Jesus as G-d is not compatible with Judaism, that the claim that they were "fulfilled Jews" was offensive to us, and so forth.

And then I got a little whimsical....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jewish Humor: Reuben Kushner, the Jewish Robinson Crusoe

This is the story of Reuben Kushner, the Jewish Robinson Crusoe. He was stranded on an uncharted island for ten years before he was finally rescued.

When his rescuers arrived, they were amazed at what they found. Kushner had built himself only a small, humble home in the trees, but next to it was a magnificent building. "That is my synagogue," Kushner explained. He proceeded to give them the grand tour, pointing out with pride the ornately carved pews, bimah, podium and ark, the kiddush cup, menorah and candleholders, the ner tamid, everything a synagogue could want, all made with his own hands.

As Kushner and his rescuers left his synagogue, the rescuers spotted another, different but equally ornate building next to it. "What is that?" one of the rescuers asked.

"That?" Kushner spat with contempt...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jewish Humor: Visiting Tokyo

A Jewish man was in Tokyo on Shabbat, and wanted to go to a synagogue for services. He doubted that there would be a synagogue in Tokyo, but much to his surprise, the hotel concierge directed him to a synagogue not far from the hotel.

The man entered the synagogue and was surprised to see that everyone there was classically Japanese in appearance: the rabbi, the cantor and all of the congregants had typically Asian features. Their pronunciations of the Hebrew service were a bit unusual (Balukh atah... merekh ha-oram), but other than that, the service they performed was just like the one at his synagogue back home.

After the service, the man went up to the rabbi to tell him how much he enjoyed the service.

The Japanese rabbi said to him, "Thank you! Are you Jewish?" The man confirmed that he was.
The rabbi said...