Thursday, January 05, 2006

I'm Too Stupid to be Jewish

For the record, let me state: I am not now, nor have I ever been Jewish. And from what I'm seeing, it doesn't appear that it will ever be one of my options. I have had many Jewish friends, several Jewish girlfriends, and I've even been to a Passover seder, but, until recently, I never realized what a complicated proposition it is. My first inkling that I was too feebleminded for Judaism came from The life of a rabbi in Yehupitz. In this blog, I found the following post:

Being stood up

I hate being stood up.
A balebos makes an appointment and then just doesn't show up! It happened twice this week alone! I mean with two balebatim.
Forget kovod harav. Where's kovod?? Just a sense of respect for another human being!
I am seriously upset over this.

I, too, would have been seriously upset about this, except for the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about. Fortunately, Yehupitzer Rov spelled it out for me in his comments and I'd lay odds that words like stupid, gentile, and schmuck were going through his head while he did it. If so, it would be hard to argue with him. It gets worse. At Gil Student's blog, Hiruhim Musing, the first thing you see is this note:

Caution: This blog is la-halakhah ve-lo le-ma'aseh. Consult your rabbi before following any practices advocated here.

Again, I was at a loss, but I figured that such a stern warning could only indicate that serious Hebrew naughtiness would follow. It may well have. I wouldn't be the one to ask. If it did, it didn't resemble any of the forms of naughtiness that I am familiar with and I am well versed in these matters. However, reading Hiruhim Musing was not a total loss. I did find this post informational:

Kashrus Alert

I called the Vaad HaRabbanim of Flatbush and confirmed the alert below. The restaurant technically also has supervision from Kehillah Kashrus but I suspect that it has been removed also.

FYI, I had dinner from there Monday.
Kashrus Alert
The following kashrus alert is from the Vaad Harabbanim of Flatbush on January 3, 2006.

Effective immediately the Vaad of Flatbush has terminated its hashgacha at Nosh Express Restaurant located at 2817 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY for kashrus reasons.

I'm not real sure about Vaad Harabbanim but I will definitely be crossing the Nosh Express Restaurant off my list. A terminated hashgacha just doesn't sound like the type of thing that I should be fooling with.

This may be one of the few times that I have appreciated modern Christianity. If nothing else, it's tenets are easy to comprehend: If I don't send a check to the preacher on my TV, I go to Hell. It's just that simple. I may not agree with it, but unless I get a whole lot smarter, I'm afraid it's the only option that I've got.


At 11:13 AM, Blogger Joshua Berlow said...

Most reformed Jews (the largest US denomination) would have a hard time with these terms as well. These posts are written by more orthodox Jews, most of whom are in New York (but there are some right here in Baltimore). Most Orthodox still can speak Yiddish, an old form of German that is written with Hebrew characters, with some Herbrew words thrown in as well. Most American Jews know no more Yiddish than you do.

"Kashrus" simply means Kosher. Restaurants are monitored to keep their Kosher status; obviously someone that does only eat Kosher (again a tiny minority of American Jews) can only eat at a restaurant that maintains its Kosher status. I don't recognize the other terms either.

Actually becoming Jewish is simple- my wife did it. You get a sponsoring Rabbi and take a couple of night courses, and Presto- you're Jewish.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger AnonymousCoworker said...

"send in a check, don't go to hell"?

What about keeping your filthy hands off of yourself you pervert?

You are so going to hell.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Zenchick said...

you're not stupid, you just need clarification. What on earth are you doing reading all this ultra-Orthodox stuff on the internet? Oy VEY.
(and for the record, I'm Jewish. Lots of us are stupid :-) )

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Zenchick said...

p.s. Joshua: it's "Reform", not "reformed" (as if to indicate some redemption from wrongdoing :))

At 5:45 PM, Blogger tfg said...

Yes ACW, I have accepted my eternal damnation as a foregone conclusion. When you get down there, look me up and I'll get you a good job.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger OORANOS said...

Have a good time

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Atheism - all of the fun - none of the hard rules.

Try it!!

At 1:40 AM, Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

most of those terms are hebrew, not yiddish, though some are; most of the readership of that blog are Orthodox Jews, but not all, and most are not 'Ultra-Orthodox', otherwise we wouldn't be blogging.
the byline of my blog is Aramaic, and my blog name is a hebrew-english-aramaic pun.
it's not an issue of smarts; it's a different language and culture. it's just probably a bit bizarre to see it on blogspot.

At 2:59 AM, Blogger lamedzayin said...

There are very few ultra Orthodox bloggers because most ultra Orthodox Jews don't use the internet. You are reading Modern Orthodox blogs, a very different thing.

A very small percentage of American Jews, Orthodox or not, speak Yiddish anymore. It's really a dying language spoken only in a very few enclaves. None of the words you discussed were yiddish - all were Hebrew. Remember that most Orthodox Jews speak and read Hebrew at least semi fluently (not enough to be mistaken for an israeli, perhaps, but more than enough to get by in conversation) and that most Orthodox Jewish men (and many women) have a similar fluency in Aramaic, the Hebrew from services and study texts and the Aramaic from years of Talmud study in school and beyond. That's where most Orthodox jargon comes from.

My screenname lamedzayin, for example, is Hebrew for 37. It's a joke of sorts, since there's a Talmudic legend that there are 36 hidden righteous people in every generation. I'm claiming to be the 37th, just waiting for one of the 36 to slip up so I can move up in the rankings. Most Orthodox Jews get that reference right away, but even if I translated it to 37 for you, or if you spoke Hebrew and read it yourself, you wouldn't get the joke without the accompanying cultural references.

Finally, words are conjugated differently in Hebrew than in English. Kashrus means kosher status, but even if you recognize the word kosher, you wouldn't necessarily, as an English speaker, recognize kashrus as the same word. A Hashgacha is a kosher certification, and a mashgiach is a supervisor who gives it. Same word. Do you see it? Ignore the vowels; Hebrew words are identifiable by their consonants, with the exact meaning depending on the vowels but not changing the base word.

It's not that you're stupid - it's that you're reading things written in a specialized jargon and with a cultural context you don't have.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Gil Student said...

Thanks for the link. Here's how some of my readers got here:

Thanks for the link and, no, you're not too stupid to be Jewish. I generally translate everything but I'm not consistent.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger karla said...

Ah, those mysterious, smartypants Jews.

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Angel one said...

Keep in mind, every profession and interest has it's own vocabulary. Orthodox judaism simply borrows a lot from Hebrew and Yiddish. If I were to read a medical journal I doubt I would understand a single sentence. Today I tried to read a few things about skydiving (I had a sudden interest), and found that even in something inherently non-technical there was still a significant vocabulary barrier to overcome - it's natural for any field or interest that you're not familiar with.

As a side note, much of what Joshua Berlow told you in the first post is wrong. I think he's defining "orthodox" incorrectly, and becoming a Jew is not something that can be done overnight.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Joshua Berlow said...

Keep in mind, if you've got three Jews in a room, you'll get (at least) five opinions.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Gil Student said...

Keep in mind, if you've got three Jews in a room, you'll get (at least) five opinions.

I totally disagree.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

if you walk up Park Heights Avenue between Seven Mile Lane and Glen Avenue soon after nightfall this Friday night (or any Friday night), or Saturday morning between about 8 and 12, you won't be able to walk 10 feet without meeting an Orthodox Jew, and plenty of them are absolute nitwits.


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