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....