Sep 22, 2008

News and Information: Your Not-so-Daily Dose.

A couple interesting things to write about/share. Some news, some not, but all educationally fascinating.

+ I think I'll leave any and all comments on the new GLBT siddur that is in the works to the write-up FrumSatire did over on his blog . I'll be honest: I'm incredibly liberal, but some of the new prayers in the siddur make ME uncomfortable. Just check out the blog. Prayers for unexpected intimacy? You'll catch my drift.

+ I have failed miserably at preparing anything coherent to share about the upcoming new year -- Rosh Hashanah -- leading us into 5769. Luckily, other people are way ahead of me on this. Who, you ask? Well, Ilana-Davita posted up some information last week that you can find here , and she also linked to Leora's blog , which also has some outstanding information about various food symbols for the new year, not to mention a beautiful piece of art. Then there is Jew Wishes who has one heckuva comprehensive list of websites for the High Holy Days, not to mention a suggested list of books to pick up. But I promise to have something. I need to have something. I am starting off 5769 as a graduate student, with a boyfriend, in a new state, far away from just about everything I was and knew at this point last year. I have sort of become a new person. I'm miles away from my hashkafah of a year ago, not to mention miles physically and emotionally away from who I was. It will be an interesting start, I think.

+ Over the weekend Evan and I were debating the details of kashrut and why chicken is considered meat and fish isn't. To be honest, I'd never thought about the whole issue of why fish is parve, but he got me thinking. I've been doing the vegetarian thing (okay, I faltered on Sunday ONCE and had some buffalo chicken wing/ball things while watching the Patriots game), mostly because I'm torn about the whole kashurt and interpretation of the meat/milk law as being ALL dairy and ALL meat (except fish, you know, since it's parve). Being a vegetarian is my effort to move in that direction, though there are a boatload of other reasons why, and I'll post more on that after I collect my thoughts and do some reading (hat tip to A Simple Jew for some thoughtful links).  So back to the point: Fish is parve, which means it's neither dairy nor meat, so it can be eaten with anything and this makes Jews stoked because it opens up the options for protein with a dairy meal. Thus, after some exhaustive searching on my Blackberry, I came across the website for Beth Tzedec (a Toronto congregation) with an interesting and thoughtful discussion of the issue. The question posed was: "The Torah tells us not to seethe the kid in its mother's milk. A chicken does not have mother's milk. Why isn't chicken parve like fish?" And the answer by Rav Roy Tanenbaum:

The answer to your question illustrates how laypeople help to determine the scope of Jewish law. The Talmudic sages were of course aware of the fact that chickens do not have mothers' milk. But before establishing the category of chicken, they wanted to know how the average person in the street uses language. So they [asked] ... the following questions: "If you sent a servant to the market to buy meat and he came back with fish, what would your reaction be? Alternatively, if he came back with chicken, what would your reaction be?"
The scholars learned that most people of the time included chicken in their normal understandaing of the word "meat" whereas they did not include fish. This is still true today as illustrated in the fact that when we wish to exclude chicken we have to use the term "red meat."
So to avoid confusion among the masses of people, the sages incorporated chicken under the halakha of meat.
So what can I say? It comes back to making things easier and less confusing, but at least I now have an explanation.

+ I'm adding several books to my Amazon Wish List (feel free to shower me with gifts at any time), though mostly as a reminder to read them at some point, not necessarily to procur, considering my reading list is quite heavy as is. The first is a new book by Brandeis Professor Jonathan Sarna (yes, you guessed it, his father is Nahum Sarna, whose books I have been reading for class) about the American Jewish experience, but more importantly about renewing the Jewish experience both ritually and religiously. The book is "A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew ," and you'll note that the title is taken from Qohelet! I'm also throwing on David Sears' "The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism ." And lastly, thanks to Jew Wishes , I'm throwing on Elie Wiesel's "Legends of Our Time ."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking me! :)

You said you had nothing, but look at this post and all of the people and blogs you linked to. That in itself in my book is something+++. See, you didn't even think about that aspect, now did you? ;)

Also, you did mention particular books.

I saw "A Time to Every Purpose in the book store is now on my Amazon list. LOL.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the entire GLBT siddur can be dismissed based on that one prayer, which simply blesses an intimate encounter. As a G myself, though, I find that Sim Shalom works for me just as much as anything else, and that I don't really need my own extra-special siddur to feel holy, but I totally respect those who do. Still, it still kind of bothers me when I see frumsatire and you going off on the very idea of having a GLBT siddur with prayers that bless intimacy. It kind of smacks of homophobia, although I know you do not mean it that way. Your GLBT readers might think otherwise. Would you have made the same comment about a special siddur for African Americans, eg, a siddur incorporating specifically African American experiences? GLBT people have to read about the sanctity of what a man and a woman have or could have constantly--reams of text about marriages we cannot have, but one little mention of blessing a sexual encounter violates even "liberal" comfort zones.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Lorri: I suppose you're right. It IS a step in the right direction :) I was happy to link you. If you pick up "A Time to Every Purpose" and read it before I do, let me know what you think!

Judah: I am by no means dismissing the siddur. After all, I am an identified bisexual (SHOCK AND APPAUL, OMG! -- though, I haven't dated a woman since 2002). So if a group wants their own siddur, so be it. I suppose it can be in the same realm as the five million different versions of haggadot that are out there for GLBT, feminist, vegans, etc. I guess my beef is how it, or the prayer specifically, relates itself to Torah. I don't think your example is at all relatable, since if this prayer had appeared in a Reform or regular old siddur, I still would have a HUGE beef with it. It isn't about sexual preference, it's about the point of the prayer. A blessing for intimate encounters with STRANGERS is what I have a problem with. If there were a blessing for intimacy, I'd be all for it. It is the stranger aspect that has me shaking my head. Torah supports sex, we all know this. Shabbos sexin' is a mitzvot. But it's the random/stranger aspect that I find myself uncomfortable with. Torah doesn't support sex with random people. If the GLBT community wants to support sex with random people, that's one thing, but relating it to the Torah or saying that the Torah supports it is a completely different.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess you must have known that mentioning the special siddur would cause a bit of a ruck?! (FYI, here in the UK we refer to the LGBT community - it took me a second to understand what you were talking about!).

My thoughts - I don't agree with the fact that a group (any) is proposing to have something in their siddur that will sanctify one-night stands. I had one of those once and will never do it again. It was meaningless, messed with my head and I felt cheap. No matter what the sexuality, I personally don't think it appropriate. On top of that, I don't think it appropriate that people liken gay intimacy to rape and murder - but again, that's just my opinion - everyone is entitled to have one. Personally I wouldn't feel the need to have this special siddur - but then I attend a liberal synagogue where the 'thank you for making me a man' and the consideration that male/female is the ony way, has been dealt with accordingly.

On a lighter note, I own one of the books on your wishlist - thanks to Jew Wishes for the idea! It's the Book of Customs. It's on my bedside table. I can't wait to get into it!


Anonymous said...

I will let you know if I buy/read it.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying. My apologies for reading you wrong. And thank you for taking the time to read it. Looking at my own post, it's almost like I am saying "random sex" is specific to GLBTs, which, of course, is dead wrong. My own view of random sex is just a sad "calisthenic" for the desired true loving encounter we all yearn for. And this calisthenic often has grave consequences emotionally and physically. Thanks again.


Gorski said...


I think it's quite possible to be liberal without letting one's liberality affect one's worship...

In fact, I think it's necessary.

Once you start defining your religion in terms of your politics, you've brought God down to the level of the worldly. That's when you start running into people who try and make their church a political movement, or Christians who say that Jesus was a political reformer (he was not--"Render unto Caesar" etc.; you remember this from your days as a Protestant)... or much worse through history.

I, of course, can't speak to your context exactly--in a lot of ways all the language changes, even if we're talking about the same Creator who hung the same stars in the same sky.

But it strikes me that anybody trying to limit God to the point where they can not only fit Him in a box, but fit Him in a box that was meant for someone else, first (liberal or conservative, etc)... is probably doing it wrong ( :

So, worship God--not by binding Him in a box the size of your politics, and not by rewriting your worship of Him to accomodate your politics--but by simple worship. God is the same no matter who we are.

My two cents, as ever.

peace to you, my friend,


Anonymous said...

For those who are opposed to this siddur because the Torah doesn’t support “sex with strangers” I ask where does Torah support GBLT marriage or GBLT rabbinic ordination? I could be wrong but I never saw any support for this, to the contrary only opposition. I have heard people insinuate things about David/Nathaniel but that isn’t the Torah and it is a bit far fetched I think. If we are going to open up Tanakh as source material then I can think of two “sex with strangers” incidents. The Book of Judges with tribe of Benjamin (chp 21 I think) and Book of Ruth, Ruth and Boaz. While both events aren’t necessarily motivated from sexual desire, still it does show sex with strangers. So it seems to me that there is more support for sex with strangers in Jewish Tradition then for GBLT marriage/ordination. Again perhaps I am wrong but if so I would love to see the support. Without this I am left to conclude that those who don’t support this siddur aren’t using the Torah as a measure but rather their own personal biased views as a “moral compass” And no I am neither advocating nor supporting random sex with strangers. Just desiring to both make a point and inquiry into Jewish tradition for GBLT marriage/ordination. PS-I had a ONS once and have mixed feelings on the matter but again I am not using this experience in my argument.

Ilanadavita said...

Thanks for linking to my blog.

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