Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fool's Day, Challah, and Hitchens

What is the Jewish view on April Fool's Day? I guess we don't really do it, seeing as we have Purim for comedic news, even if certain websites have issues with that kind of thing, but I was happy to see that everyone else in the known universe participated with gusto. Hey, even Chaim Rubin had something, though he gave it away by naming himself. It's nice to be able to say almost anything without fear of (too much) reprisal from the censoring types that make up the mainstream Jewish media. I can say anything I want on this blog, but it's rather pointless, as almost no one reads it. Besides, by identifying myself with the Lubavitch movement, I have the moral responsibility to write only things that aren't too damaging to the cause. Isn't it nice to have moral responsibility? It makes me feel really important. Of course every Jew has this responsibility, but (YYXPS's confirmation number for his DHL pickup is 143134 [I just thought you should know that])mine is special, because I claim to represent an influential segment of the community. Do I really speak in their name. Well, obviously I do. Do they feel represented by me? Does the American public feel represented President George W. Bush? Do you have your answer? Is it annoying to read a bunch of questions?

Did you know that if you forget to take Challah from your Challah before Shabbos Hagadol this year, then you have no recourse, and you must give all the Challah from that batch to a local Goy, or if you want you can flush it down the toilet. The reason, as laid out in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Oruch, is that there's no way follow the normal prescription in such cases, which is to set aside a chunk of the baked Challah on Shabbos and take Challah from it after Shabbos. Since this would involve owning Chametz on Pesach, it doesn't work. Giving that chunk to a Goy also doesn't work, because any gift to him or her must be unconditional, and there's no way of ensuring he won't eat the Challah. Telling him not to eat the Challah would place a condition on the bread, meaning the Goy wouldn't really own it, resulting in the Jew owning the Chametz on Pesach and thereby incurring lots and lots of divine wrath. Even giving it to him with the hope of him saving it would be prohibited, because if he doesn't save it then the Jew would have retroactively eaten Tevel and incurred other types, but still lots and lots, of divine wrath. So as I wrote, the only option is to completely divest ones self of the offending goods.
The above is not an April Fool's Joke. Look it up in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Oruch if you don't believe me. It's in Siman 444, Halacha 12.

Speaking of divine wrath raining down upon those sinners who don't take a little piece of dough from their bigger chunk of dough before baking and eating it...Christopher Hitchens, as demonstrated in an interview I recently saw with him on the Hannity and Colmes show (ahh, the joys of watching YouTube over someone's shoulder) has no answer to the fundamental question I blogged about a couple weeks ago, of the initial creation of the universe. Not that it's my question by any means. Hitchens' main argument seems to have the problem as Boteach's. Boteach's main argument was that the world is too complicated to have been made by anyone other than G-d. The response to this is that we're simply too stupid to understand. Fine, I agree that the argument is a stupid one. But at the same time, Hitchen's argument is also illogical. He says that religion has been responsible for more death and destruction than anything else in the world, and that reading the Bible or Koran one gets the idea that this G-d guy isn't someone you'd like to have a BBQ with, particularly as more than likely you'd be the one being cooked. The problem with this is that first of all, it's really more against religion than G-d himself. Perhaps we just haven't founded the right religion? Secondly, who says that G-d isn't a vengeful Old Testament-type? Just because he kills a lot of people doesn't mean he doesn't exist. A religious person could have problems with this, because they've been brought up to believe that G-d is really a nice guy, but again, that doesn't prove anything.
This is similar to my previous post about the guys on Mivtzoyim who didn't like the Bible because it said to wipe out the Amalekites. How do I justify this kind of behavior on G-d's part? There's the famous answer of the Rebbe, which I could've sworn I blogged about once before, but I can't find it in the archive, which is minorly annoying, because it means I'll have to write it now (possibly for the second time) for your reading edification.
In short, and I do mean short, this world is a space craft that's flying to some far out place. Like six million light years far out place (in some cases, this could be the bathroom). Obviously the original travelers won't make it there; rather their descendants will have the task of doing whatever it is space craft personnel do. About five hundred years into the mission one of the kids decides that the whole story is a crock of basted salami (in white wine[that sounds pretty nasty now that I think of it] and possibly some ketchup). He tells his parents/superiors that he's not interested anymore, and he's going to do something horrendous, like turn off one of the switches on the central computer. His parents warn him that it'll destroy everything if he does so, but he says, "Says who?" They answer that this the tradition they've heard from their parents. He says, "And who do they know it from? It seems to me that this whole thing we've got going here is one big lie. I'm going to"...too bad the ship blows up. Or something like that. Point is, this little kid ruined the mission, and now no punishment is too great for him.
The Rebbe said that the same thing applies to Torah and Mitzvos. We don't understand what's going on, but we should rest assured that whatever it is it's extremely important. If we do something dumb, of course the Torah punishes us. It's not vengeful, it's justice. In fact, the Rebbe says, 39 lashes is nothing compared to the damage that's been caused. Blaming religion for the bad it's caused is fine.
Is religion a good thing? No. Is Judaism a good thing? For sure. Is Judaism a religion? Obviously not. For more on that, ask your local orthodox Rabbi.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Real Shal.

As I don't actually have a local orthodox Rabbi I have to rely on your insights. Judaism not a religion? Is this all Judaism? Or just selected groups e.g. Reform, liberal-conservative, modern orthodox etc?

Very puzzled:
Leo de T.

The Real Shliach said...

I once heard a brilliant exposition from Rabbi Manis Friedman, or perhaps it was from Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, or perhaps someone else, explaining why Judaism is not in fact a religion, but is instead something much higher. Unfortunately, I really don't remember what they said. Sorry. If I do recall it in than of course I'll blog about it.