Friday, January 14, 2005

I'm Back!

Seems like leaving and returning is always cause for a big blog.

Well, I'm back, after a week in our nation's capital. Not much to report- mostly work. The first night I was there, I took a long walk around the city, looking over the impressive preparations for the inaugural (which, sadly, I don't think I'll be able to make) and various monuments. I'd never seen the Korean War Memorial before, and it's really nicely done. I'd had my doubts about the World War II Memorial, but seeing it for the first time, I was blown away. I also paid homage to Lincoln at his Memorial, and got choked up reading his Second Inaugural Address.

The rest, as I said, was pretty much work, meals at the JCC, davening at Kesher Israel, a very friendly shul indeed whose website was invaluable (and with a "Quf" of its name on the cornerstone clearly corrected from "Kaf"- hee!), and downtime at the (luxurious) hotel. (OK, I'll lay off the links a bit.) Some friends- especially a blogger and commenter at this site- called and made things much better. (If you're a Lamm, don't tell your family an ex [not the aforementioned blogger] called you, or they'll start planning your wedding.) By the way, I apparently look suspicious enough that they pulled me over for special screening both coming and going. At least, I hope it's suspicion, and not just random stuff to be fair to Arabs. (There was an elderly woman with me too, come to think. Oh, I feel secure.) Eh. I'll forgive this. I guess I have to.

Upon returning to shul this morning, I was greeted with all sorts of "The Kohen's back!" statements and remarks about how others "got to be Kohen" in my absence, how they always wanted to be kohanim, etc. I was polite enough, but these people? Have no idea. Don't get me wrong- I think it's great to be a kohen and would never give it up- but I wouldn't wish what I've been through because of it on anyone.

Speaking of religion, I find it odd that non-religious Jews see a need to justify themselves when they're around me. It's actually happened to me a few times- people refraining from eating non-kosher meat, opting for vegetarian stuff instead, etc. I guess that's a good thing.

Speaking yet further of religion, on the plane back, I sat next to a young man who spoke a Slavic language to his family. Before eating, he crossed himself extensively, and did so again when the plane landed. You know, I wish Jews were that comfortable in expressing their religion (as in the former action- of course, Christians are the majority here), but, more importantly, that we had that relationship with God in which we actually feel Him when landing in a plane. I imagine many of us do, but more should. Me, I missed saying tefillas haderech and only was reminded of it by this young man. To quote Joyce, "I wish we had something like that in our Church."

More religion! I seem to have missed the explosion of the Slifkin story into the general consciousness. My God, they've really screwed him. God bless him. Maybe I'll buy The Science of Torah after all. I hear this is really causing crises of faith for some. Pulling for you to see the light!

In time for Parshat Bo, I hear they're remaking The Ten Commandments. It's so cheesy, with that dialogue and all, but the actual Exodus scene always gets to me.

Yet more religion! Norman Lamm, as might be expected, has weighed in on the Gaza issue with the old "The Rav says pikuach nefesh outweighs kibush haaretz" argument. Of course, this is wrong on so many levels, halakha included- but let's look at logic. There's a concept of milchemet mitzvah, to conquer land. War involves risk of death, by definition. Hence, the Land of Israel does outweigh pikuach nefesh. Me? I blame all these midrashim that pretend that no Jew was ever killed in a war in Tanakh. It's childish and leads to mistaken notions like this. To repeat: We are commanded to wage war to conquer land. War is dangerous. Q.E.D.

OK, one more religious piece before I go on to secular politics. I just got the latest Torah U-Madda Journal. It has a review of the whole Reinman-Hirsch book. Besides having a pedantic first footnote (reading between the lines: "I wish I didn't have to use the goyish term 'Orthodox.' I wish I could pointedly refer to Reinman, and not Hirsch, as 'Rabbi'."), it fails to point out that Hirsch chose Reinman as a strawman, who, sure enough, couldn't respond to many of his arguments. The only reason Reinman comes out on top is because Hirsch is even more ignorant than him.

Today, by the way, is the 35th anniversary of the infamous Radical Chic party. Read the book.

So, the New York Times, arbiter of all that is Right and Good in this world, gleefully announces that media- and power-whore Eliot Spitzer has nailed Macy's for racially profiling shoplifting suspects. Here's one line:
The store's official policy is to handcuff detainees if they are determined to
be dangerous, but in a number of cases investigated by Mr. Spitzer at New York
City stores, almost everyone was handcuffed, regardless of age, size or
behavior, according to officials close to the investigation.
Of course, one wonders if they handcuffed regardless of race. That, after all, is the whole point here- and if they did, there's no racism claim. Well, there's also this, earlier in the article:
Mr. Spitzer's investigation found that most of people detained at a sampling of
Macy's stores around the state were black and Latino, a disproportionately high
number when compared with the percentage of blacks and Latinos who shopped at
those stores, according to the complaint.
Of course, one may wonder if the proportion of shoplifters is disproportionately minority. If so, Macy's was just doing its job. But as Peter Brimelow once said, this is a question we may Never Ask.

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