...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jews, booze, and hamantaschen (part 1)

It's Purim! Most congregations and Jewish communities celebrate it on the Saturday, but P'nai Or's Purim party is Sunday evening. Last week during Shabbos services Reb Aryeh explained that there's Talmudic precedent for observing the holiday a day later: "So, you know, we're just following the Talmud...like we always do, rigorously. Not to mention halakha. That's what we're about in Jewish Renewal: Talmud, and halakha." He was being sardonic, of course: while it's a vast oversimplification and misreading of the tradition to say that Jewish Renewal doesn't care about halakha (I think the movement as a whole generally holds halakha in higher esteem than the Reform movement does, for instance), it is true that Jewish Renewal doesn't place quite the same emphasis on orthopraxy (correct action) that the Haredim do.

Speaking of the Haredim, last Saturday during Reb Aryeh's sermon, a congregant raised his hand and made a comment about the cognitive dissonance of seeing Haredim in Jerusalem at the site of the destruction of the Temple, talking on their cell phones: "You wonder who they're talking to." Reb Aryeh put on an exaggerated Yiddish inflection and riffed on the man's comment: "Hello, God? I can't hear you, you're breaking up! The reception's no good here--You sound like a woman!....What, you're a Muslim? You mean that really was the second coming? Oy!" Earlier in the sermon he started improvising a song called "My God," sung to the tune of "My Girl:" "Don't need no Isis, Ba'al or Ra..." He stopped himself after a couple lines and criticized the verses: "'My God,' like our God is better than their God, right?" A couple weeks ago at the Tu B'shvat seder, Reb Aryeh defined "Israel" as "All peoples who wrestle with God," drawing on the biblical tradition in which Jacob wrestles with an God in the form on an angel, who then renames him Israel. I'm excited to interviewing him, and asking him about his take (or the Jewish Renewal take) on the belief that Reb Asi explained to me, that the n'shama (essential Jewish soul) of a Jew is different than the soul of a non-Jew.

Basically, I adore that rabbi. I'm glad that I'm out to him as a non-Jew, and I'm glad that he's so cool with talking to me and letting me participate in their services and events. Being able to continue my involvement in P'nai Or is definitely a big part of the silver lining of staying in Portland next year.

Anyways, I'm totally excited for Purim, and I'll blog more about it the morning after.