Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Friday, July 11, 2003

Failure of the Day: Mishpucha

For those of you who don't know, mishpucha is Yiddish for family, sort of. I once saw Jon Stewart interview Joe Lieberman and Jon asked some jew-specific question and JL hesitated for a minute. JS said quickly, "It's alright, I'm mishpucha," and flashed him the Hebrew letter shin with his hand (which you know as the Star Ttrek "Live Long And Prosper" gesture), the first letter of the word Shalom, which conveys both a greeting and the word peace.

That bit of exposition out of the way, let's get on to business. There's a Webzine I like quite a lot called Jewsweek. It's very entertaining and cool, but it also reminds me of what I disliked about going to temple, when I used to go. Let's just say I am not on the "Israel can do no wrong" side of the fence and leave it at that.

But when I comes right down to it, I love being Jewish. I don't believe in a single religious idea, but I am still considered Jewish (except according to those hard ass orthodox, but pretty much nobody but them and their pals are Jewish according to them anyway) because Reform Judaism is so laid back that you don't even have to so much as believe in god, and you can still consider yourself a "cultural Jew."

I bring this up because of an article I read in Jewsweek this morning that manages to encompass everything that that I think is cool about being Jewish. Some Jews who apparently have a LOT of time on their hands have begun bar and bat mitzvahing their dogs, in a ceremony called, appropriately enough, a Bark Mitzvah. No kidding. This warms my heart so much I can't begin to tell you. It's hilarious.

Even more hilarious is the debate surrounding the practice—not just the debate about whether the ceremony should occur after 13 people years or 13 dog years, which is a whole new level of silliness—but the debate about whether such ceremonies are, dare I say it, kosher. The humorless Rabbi Avi Shafran is firmly anti-bark mitzvah, whereas Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels is more of a go-with-the-flow kind of Rabbi, and happily performs the bark mitzvahs the temple parking lot.

I have to say, I just love this whole thing. I don't think there's nearly enough silliness in religion (as Robyn Hitchcock says, "There are no jokes in the bible, Keith, and it's a crying shame"). So let's hear it for my mishpucha homies for rectifying that.


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