≡ Menu

What non-Jews may think of some Jewish rituals

I wrote this post last night and just this morning I received word that a flight was diverted from New York to Philly because some kid decided to whip out his tefillin, and some folks thought it was a bomb. I would never daven with tefillin on a plane, unless there were other people doing it, I dont want to be tackled by an air marshal. Its not really unreasonable to think that many non-Jews and even Jews have no idea what we are doing when we are engaged in some sort of religious ritual.

One of my roommates during birthright thought that my tefillin were just straps to tie my arm in order to shoot up. This was a non-affiliated, albeit educated Jewish kid from Colorado who was in school at NYU, If someone who attended NY Jew and still not be informed about tefillin imagine those passengers from Kentucky, I would have freaked out as well.

Kiddush Levana: A bunch of Jews are gathered on a street corner looking up at the moon.

What they think: Wow I didnt know the Jews prayed to the moon God, I always thought they were monotheistic.

Lulav: People are walking down the street with lulavim on succos.

What they think: So this is when the Jews celebrate Palm Sunday, wait a second, its not even Sunday. Maybe they are doing it now because palm branches cost less when out of season, cheap bastards.

Shabbos: Its a frum community and everyone is going to shul.

What they think: Wow look at all these people wearing black, there must be a really big funereal going on somewhere. Wait, why is everyone walking to the funereal? They must be trying to save on gas, or maybe its a green funeral.

Burning of the chometz: There is a garbage can in the street and the Jews are gathered round throwing their chometz into the fire.

What they think: I wonder if this has something to do with commemorating kristelnacht? Are they burning German books or something?

Megilas Esther: Everyone is dressed up and its time to boo for Haman.

What they think: Why is everyone cheering every time they mention that man Haman?

Purim: Everyone is delivering gift baskets and most of the kids are dressed up.

What they think: Look the Jews have their own Halloween, but instead of waiting for people to ask for candy they go and deliver it.

Simchas Torah: In some places Jews take to the streets to celebrate the giving of the torah.

What they think: Look its an orthodox Jewish gay pride parade, but why are all the lesbians just watching?

{ 111 comments… add one }
  • yakov January 21, 2010, 2:01 PM

    LMAO simchat torah!!! other than that, yea it would seem like we’re being cheap!

    • sam January 21, 2010, 3:30 PM

      am i missing something, when palm branches are out of season shouldnt they be more expensive?

      • Heshy Fried January 21, 2010, 4:00 PM

        There is no demand for them any other time besides Easter. Or maybe it’s because those Jews buy them wholesale and run the media.

        • Aliza Hausman January 22, 2010, 12:49 AM

          My non-Jewish sister laughed so hard about the Palm Sunday thing. Indeed, she says she has been asked about Jews “celebrating Palm Sunday.” This is some of your finest work!

  • Phil January 21, 2010, 2:12 PM

    I’ll never look at hakafos the same way again!

    • Heshy Fried January 21, 2010, 2:32 PM

      Well have you ever thought about the fact that during tight mens dances in circles if we were all naked there would be some big problems.

      • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:09 AM


  • FrumGer January 21, 2010, 2:37 PM

    Nurse, walked in as I was finishing shacharis in our hospital room yesterday she didn’t say anything, but i am sure she was quite curious why this guy is shaking and bobbing– wearing some ancient looking robe over his head with straps, tassels, and boxes going everywhere…

    which is why vindows should never be eye level in a shul…

  • Unnamed January 21, 2010, 2:42 PM

    In high school, I was in a car with some friends after we got lost goodness knows where in Jersey. Suddenly we made a right turn and were nearly mobbed by a wave of streimel and black. My friends absolutely freaked out until I said, “Shabbat, oh yeah,” and explained why the nice gentlemen in fur hats were giving us the evil eye.
    “Oh my gosh Mark! Drive! Drive!”
    “I can’t! I can’t! They’re surrounding us!”
    Me ~ “Chill guys. They’re just crossing the street.”
    “But they’re so many of them! Oh my G-d!”
    Poor kids were never the same again.

  • Rabba bar bar Chana January 21, 2010, 3:06 PM


    What they think: “Jews sure like to feed fish!”

    • Michaltastik January 21, 2010, 11:52 PM

      What in the world is this crowd and why is traffic being stopped for them?

  • avrahamct January 21, 2010, 3:32 PM

    I would have no qualms about putting on tefillin on a plane. I would let the flight attendant know about it in advance, because if I did have a bomb, why would I tell them about it in advance? I have used tefillin on trains and in airports without any ill effect. What I don’t understand is how he could possibly have space to daven. The particular plane used to operate US Airways Express 3079, which was operated under contract by Chautauqua Airlines, was an ERJ-145, a 50-passenger, 3-abreast jet with the narrowest cabins of all jet airliners. See a picture .

    • sam January 21, 2010, 3:47 PM

      he can daven in his seat

    • Rabba bar bar Chana January 22, 2010, 12:41 PM

      I’ve been on Chautauqua (they run flights that are used as puddle jumpers for larger airlines). There’s very little room. But you can put on tfillin if you’re sitting down. I’ve davened amidah sitting down on planes when the choice has been to do that or not to daven at all.

  • shorty January 21, 2010, 3:32 PM

    Shabbat – wife (me) doesn’t clean or cook for 25 hours.

    Wife’s non Jewish husband – Shabbos Goy my a$$, she’s just trying to get me to do all the laundry.

  • Rachel January 21, 2010, 3:34 PM

    “Look its an orthodox Jewish gay pride parade, but why are all the lesbians just watching?”

    Friggin’ hysterical.

  • Hates YWN January 21, 2010, 3:51 PM

    What about Yom Kippur, when men with kittels go out during yizkor with. I was once asked by a passerby, I think as joke, about how klan meeting was going

    • Heshy Fried January 21, 2010, 4:01 PM

      Or possibly a formal wear basketball game, since everyone is wearing suits and converse sneakers.

  • abandoning eden January 21, 2010, 4:02 PM

    It’s funny that you think non-jews would have any idea what kristalnacht is. Cause they don’t.

    They probably think the same thing I think whenever I see the tons of muslim people in my neighborhood doing their religious things that I have no understanding or knowledge of- “oh, I guess it must be a religious holiday or something, now I will go about my day” the end.

    • Donna January 22, 2010, 7:22 PM

      Oh come on now. I’m very much a non-Jew and I know EXACTLY all about Kristalnacht. Some of us are educated you know … 🙁

  • abandoning eden January 21, 2010, 4:04 PM

    if you give me a list of different jewish rituals I can go describe what it would look like to my husband, and see what his initial reaction is. 🙂 I bet that would be an interesting blog post…except he already knows about a lot of them

    • pinchos January 21, 2010, 4:06 PM

      I have one, it involves running a spear through jews who fornicate with goyim

      • abandoning eden January 21, 2010, 4:21 PM

        good thing I’m an atheist, not a jew. 🙂

        • pinchos January 21, 2010, 4:24 PM

          Not to worry, i dont discriminate. after all, that argument wouldnt have saved you from the nazis

          • abandoning eden January 21, 2010, 4:25 PM

            well technically fornication means shtupping someone you’re not married to, so it still doesn’t apply.

            • pinchos January 21, 2010, 4:27 PM

              Halacha doesnt recognise your marriage and neither does my spear

              • David January 21, 2010, 7:16 PM

                sorry to break to you, but there’s no more death penalty in Judaism. I’ll leave you time alone to cope with your spear 🙂

                • eyekanspel January 21, 2010, 9:18 PM

                  This thread is hilarious. Can you please keep it going for my amusement?

                  • pinchos January 21, 2010, 9:22 PM

                    thanks, i was proud of it too. but the spear/shlong inuendo was just too easy

              • Anonymous January 22, 2010, 1:13 AM

                He wasn’t just some dude knocking boots (or sandals) with some chick. Zimri Ben Salu was the Nasi (leader ) of the tribe of Shimeon. He was bagging a Midianite princess rather publicly. When someone of such prominence who is supposed to be a role model flagrantly commits an act utterly antithetical to the cultural values of his society, I can understand dealing with him harshly.

                • abandoning eden January 22, 2010, 8:16 AM

                  really? You can understand running someone through with a spear?

                  clearly, religion is the source of all morality in this world! What would we do without it?

                  • Phil January 22, 2010, 9:16 AM

                    Abandoning Eden,

                    Them was different times, before it became politically incorrect to shish kebab evil doers.

                    Besides, who’s to say spearing someone is more immoral than what Zimri did to Cosby? (always reminds me of Bill when they read that Torah portion)

                    • offthederech January 22, 2010, 2:51 PM

                      >Besides, whos to say spearing someone is more immoral than what Zimri did to Cosby?

                      Of course! Killing someone is A HUNDRED times better than shtupping the wrong person! DUH!

                  • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:14 AM

                    Without religion there’d be a lot less war, terror, anger and parking spaces.

                    • Zvi Lampert January 22, 2010, 12:03 PM

                      It’s not religions that cause wars, its the fanatics of any movements. More war, death and misery was caused by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ho Cho Minh, Mao Zedong, etc, who were leaders of non-religious movements, than any religious conflict.

                    • Phil January 22, 2010, 3:26 PM


                      When shtupping the wrong person caused a plague that took 24,000 lives and killing the shtupper ended the plague, it seems to make sense.

                  • John January 22, 2010, 10:38 AM

                    we would be sadder and have a lot less hope. (i mean we as a society, im not doubting that you are stronger willed) whether you believe or not, it cant be denied that religion provides hope and comfort to many. Stop by Sloan and see for yourself.
                    Additionally, dont forget that the values of western civilization are judeo-christian ones, without religion we’d probably resemble some less primitive tribe where youd be speared for a lot less than partaking in treif meat.

                    • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:41 AM

                      Agreed. When religion is practiced as intended.
                      However more people have been killed in the name of one god or another than for any other reason.

                    • Truth seeker January 22, 2010, 12:10 PM

                      Avrumy, you’re wrong about that. More people have been killed in the name of non-religious causes like Nazism, Fascism and Commusim in the 20th century alone, than probably all religios conflicts in history combined.

                    • abandoning eden January 22, 2010, 1:10 PM

                      i don’t doubt that religion has benefits for many, that’s why it exists.

                      But which values exactly are based on judeo-christian values (please provide a list)? The ones that say not to rape people? not to molest children? the ones that protect individual freedom and freedom of religion and freedom of speech? the way we still have slaves? the way shrimp and pork are illegal? the way no one in western countries ever has premarital sex, or sets up a household with someone they are not married to?

                      I guess you must be referring to the ‘do not steal’ and ‘do not murder’ ones, the only 2 of the ten commandments that are actually against the law.

                    • offthederech January 22, 2010, 2:54 PM

                      Disgracefully oversimplified.

                      >Additionally, dont forget that the values of western civilization are judeo-christian ones

                      Even if you are correct, our morality is only DERIVED from religion, certainly not directly handed down.

                      Morality is in each of us. No need for daddies in the sky to tell us how to behave.

                      Lo bashamayim hi… ki koroiv ailecha hadavar meod!

                  • Truth seeker January 22, 2010, 12:21 PM

                    Eden, I’m sure you’re aware that when Jews intermarry they threaten the continued survival of our nation as a distinct entity. For a public official (who’s function is to be a spritual leader as well as a political one) to commit an act that threaten’s the nation’s survival just as the nation is beginning to take shape, is, aside from being a gross violation of the law, an act of high treason.
                    ‘Civilized’ Western nations to this day inpose capital punishment for acts of high treason.

                    • offthederech January 22, 2010, 2:57 PM

                      I’m sure you are aware…that you’re a bitch.

                  • offthederech January 22, 2010, 2:48 PM

                    >clearly, religion is the source of all morality in this world! What would we do without it?


                    • John January 22, 2010, 3:05 PM

                      offthederech, you seem like a very angry and bitter person, i suggest a litle religion in your life to give you a more positive and cheery outlook.
                      and being a big fan of irony, i loved your qouting a pasuk to make your case in why religion isnt neccesary. and there i was thinking you left out of taivehs, i had no idea it was based on the torah.

                    • offthederech January 22, 2010, 4:30 PM

                      You sound like a goy.

      • abandoning eden January 21, 2010, 4:24 PM

        and since we’re married, it’s not technically “fornication” either (which means having sex with someone you’re not married to)

        • John January 23, 2010, 7:12 PM

          u said that comment already, which is as irrelevant the 2nd time around as the first.
          And nobody said Laws are based on judeo-christian laws, it is a value system one that cherishes life, and freedom (freedom does not mean doing waht you want), check out wikipedia they have a nice article on it, hope that helps.
          And besides all of this is moot, as your approach like that of all atheists is backwards. If you accept the existence of a god who is all knowing and omniscient and blah blah, then all “questions” about how can it be moral to kill fornicaters, and immoral to eat pork fall to the way side, we dont have to neccesarily understand an all-knowing being . If however you dont accept god then there are millions of questions about religion, and theres no reason to even begin asking them, as who cares eevn if you got “answers” it wouldnt change your mind

          • David January 23, 2010, 9:01 PM

            You are making an assumption that even if you do believe in an omniscient omnipotent G-d that we fully understand the laws he has given us. Obviously religion inherently has more structure than atheism, but everything is not crystal clear. Even if Halacha is static, how time changes affects how its applied (which is why Jews will almost always break the sabbath to save non-Jewish lives, like in Haiti which might have less been common when we were mistreated.) How times change affects how Halacha is implemented.

            Concerning Phineas stabbing of Cozbi and Zimri, its not clear how we should interpret this story. A cursory reading will tell us that it was b/c he was shtupping a Midianite which lead to a plague. Was the murder condoned b/c she was a Midianite or b/c of the death of thousands and the fact that his murder would save innocent lives? This story shows us G-d’s displeasure with seeing the Jews be with the wrong people, but does that mean that if a Jew is with the wrong person and no lives are in risk the murder is still condoned?
            To say that Zimri was murdered for being with a Midianite simplifies the story and makes the Jews look bad. The Midianites were sent to seduce the Israelites and hurt them. It was mass prostitution as warfare. Zimri was endangering the future of a fragile, small nation in the wilderness by succumbing to the plans of an enemy nation to destroy them. In this sense, he was committing high treason, but the fact he was with non-Jew alone may not have been reason enough.

            So yes, being with a non-Jew with no intent to have them convert or anything does do harm to the Jewish people, but it is not near to what Zimri was doing. Observant Jews should try to encourage people like Abandoning Eden to become religious, not try to anger them and make them feel unwelcome by acting as if they deserve death. As she is an Atheist Jew we have no more right to impose Halacha on her than we do to a goy, although its obviously a mitzvah when they accept Judaism.

            • John January 24, 2010, 12:37 AM

              David, you misunderstood, what i meant was that if one believes in an omnscient god then by definition there would be some things that mere mortals cant comprehend, and therefore “questions” as to why are killings sometimes sanctioned are moot and irelevant.
              As for your asumption that that is the only reason zimri was killed, you are mistaken rambam paskens lehalacho that “kol haboel akum kanaim pogim bo” yes i know this doesnt apply today. And sorry for not sugarcoating it but abbandoning eden knows full well what shes doing she doeasnt have remorse therefore and there isnt much hope for her returning to her people, she is deservent of death (again, to be clear not by anyone including pinchas’ hand nor spear)

              • David January 24, 2010, 2:54 AM

                I’m sorry, but I only speak english (wasn’t raised Orthodox though I hope to learn more) I considered myself an atheist for quite some time too, but now I’m back to Judaism so if there’s hope for me there’s hope for anyone. (and I would appreciate a translation 🙂 )
                I understand that questions to an omniscient G-d can be moot and irrelevant, but I don’t think this story is as clear cut as other parts of the Torah. Its not okay to question G-d, but it is okay to question certain interpretations of the Torah. Personally, I don’t know why Zimri was killed, I was just raising some questions (some of which others have raised)

                btw saying she knows full well what shes doing implies she accepts your beliefs. Couldn’t Christians and Muslims say the same thing against us?

                Even if an atheist/intermarried Jew is deservent of death under Halacha, this fact is trivial today without a Sanhedrin and it just pushes people away instead of bringing them in. Its not about sugarcoating, its about being practical to expand Judaism (not theologically, in size)

                • John January 24, 2010, 10:56 AM

                  sorry about that David, The Rambam writes in his book of laws that whoever has intercourse with a non-jew zealots may kill (it loses some of its affect in translation but thats the gist of it). There is no sanhedrin involvment, but it still probably doesnt apply today
                  You are right, according to christian theology we are all going to hell for not embracing jesus, and ditto according to muslims for denying mohamed they can and do say the same about us (as an aside we believe they can go to heaven by following the 7 noahide laws.
                  We cant bend halacha to accommodate sinners, that will not expand judaism but severely weaken it.

                  • Anonymous January 24, 2010, 11:34 AM

                    Good thing I don’t get my morality from the Rambam.

                    You people and the Taliban are one and the same and you’re a disgrace to freedom-worshipping people everywhere. It would be nice if you were to be universally recognized as the dangerous terrorists that you are. Forget Hezbollah. Torah V’Daath!

                    • John January 24, 2010, 11:38 AM

                      Great comment, did you here about the torah vodath boy who blew up a plane with his tefillin?

                    • Michael Makovi January 24, 2010, 11:38 AM

                      By the way: the roots of democracy is in the political theory of Calvinism. Remember Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter? Those people are the descendants of the founders of liberal democracy.

                      In other words: democracy was created by the theocratically-inclined.

                      In short: all libertarian democracy states is that it is the government’s job to ensure no one hurts anyone else. In the time of the Tanakh, Talmud, and Rambam, one Jew’s having sexual relations with a gentile was damaging to the very fabric of society. And given that the prohibition of murder and the prohibition of intermarriage were written in the same legal code, anyone who violated one was liable to violate the other soon enough.

                      You have to judge people in the context of their times. Don’t judge Rambam for lacking religious tolerance. But the essence of his thought would have been thoroughly democratic, as was Jewish thought in general. Where did John Locke get democracy from? From the Bible.

                    • John January 25, 2010, 6:56 AM

                      Michael, are you suggesting that the Rambam had he been alive today would be against death penalty for shabos, cursing parents etc…?

                    • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 6:59 AM

                      Would Rambam be against the death penalty?

                      Well, in the Gemara, in Mesekhet Makkot, Rabbis Akiva and Tarfon say they would totally outlaw the death penalty completely.

                      Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel retorts that Rabbis Akiva and Tarfon would cause bloodshed to proliferate, by failing to execute murderers. Apparently, however, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel has no problem with not executing Shabbat violators or adulterers or the like.

                      So the Gemara records a unanimous opinion that the death penalty would be completely outlawed, except regarding murder, in which case a dispute is recorded.

                      So why talk about Rambam? The Talmud has already laid down its “Daas Torah”.

                    • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 7:08 AM

                      And Rabbis Ya’akov Ettlinger (Arukh la-Ner, the teacher of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch) and Kook and the Hazon Ish have already laid it down that today’s non-religious Jews are not like the non-religious of previous generations.

                      In previous generations, those who violated halakhah knew full well what they were doing. It was axiomatic that G-d is real and that halakhah is binding, etc. Therefore, anyone who violated halakhah was a deviant who threatened morality. After all, the prohibitions of murder and idolatry were written in the same law code, and to violate one was akin to violating the other.

                      But nowadays, say Rabbis Ettlinger and Kook and the Hazon Ish, non-religious do not rebel in the same way. They have distinguished between moral and ritual laws in such a way that when they violate ritual laws, they do not thereby intend to disavow the moral laws. It once was that if you violated Shabbat, you’d murder tomorrow, but this is no longer the case. Furthermore, the non-religious honestly believe that what they are doing is correct, and they don’t know better, from an Orthodox perspective. They haven’t been educated in a Jewishly thorough enough manner that they can be held liable for their ignorance. To be liable for punishment, you must know full well what sin you transgressed.

                      Religious coercion was conscionable, even according to libertarian democracy, back when religious observance was an axiomatic part of the fabric of society. I have heard in the name of Rabbi Dr. Jose Faur (a prominent Maimonidean) that religious coercion against Shabbat violators was conscionable back when public Shabbat violation was considered a grave disruption of the very moral fabric of society. Today, this is no longer true, and so religious coercion is no longer acceptable.

                    • John January 25, 2010, 10:06 AM

                      Micahel, youve completly misunderstood (and misqouted) the gmara i double checked, Rabbis tarfon and akiva never discuss banning the death penalty, just that they wouldnt sentence anyone, there is a huge difference.
                      And secondly youre understanding makes no sense, If all agree that there is no death penalty for shabbos, why does Rambam pasken there is? If Rabbi akiva holds there is no death peanlty even for murder, why does Rambam pasken there is (we always hold like rabbbi akiva when he argues with an individual)?
                      Which brings us back to my question, do you believe the Ramabam who paskens there is death penalty, (again, there is no gemara that says otherwise, and even if there was we foound a Rambam who aruges) would change his mind
                      and secondly (this question is new) how do you know? or is it just a hunch?
                      and in regard to your irrelevant comment about today they dont know better, that doesnt apply to those who go off the derech or abandon eden they know full well the consequences of their actions. but their lust for treif meat is too strong (im assuming they are mumar l’toeivan and not l’hachis)

                    • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 10:57 AM

                      In Judaism, you cannot just erase laws you don’t like. In Orthodox Judaism, rather than just ignoring laws (which is what Reform does), we rather reinterpret laws. That way, they remain on the books, but become null in practice.

                      Thus, Professor Marc Shapiro says (here), You have to violate the Sabbath to save everyone, but the reason given in the sources is utilitarian (non-Jews wont save us if we dont save them). Rabbi Soleveitchik said he was troubled by this. My point was that all legal systems have to operate in a legal fashion. That doesnt mean there arent moral considerations pushing you, but those are not in themselves enough to get to the result you want. You have to go through the system, the halakhic rules. When you get to the utilitarian factor, thats the rule. Thats the way to get to where you want to go. That no more means you are ignoring ethical factors than when a rabbi tries to free an agunah whose husband is missing. Hes certainly motivated by ethical factors, by great concern for the suffering of the woman, but thats not enough. You need to work within the system.

                      And Rabbi Norman Lamm says (here),Surely you [viz. Noah Feldman], as a distinguished academic lawyer, must have come across instances in which a precedent that was once valid has, in the course of time, proved morally objectionable, as a result of which it was amended, so that the law remains “on the books” as a juridical foundation, while it becomes effectively inoperative through legal analysis and moral argument. Why, then, can you not be as generous to Jewish law, and appreciate that certain biblical laws are unenforceable in practical terms, because all legal systems — including Jewish law — do not simply dump their axiomatic bases but develop them. Why not admire scholars of Jewish law who use various legal technicalities to preserve the text of the original law in its essence, and yet make sure that appropriate changes would be made in accordance with new moral sensitivities?

                      Despite all this, Rambam pasqens the death penalty because it is still technically on the books. Even if we don’t keep this law in practice, it is still on the books, and Rambam must record it.

                      Rabbi Dr. Jose Faur, one of the foremost Maimonideans in the world (he was educated in the traditional Syrian community, and was recognized as an iluy in the Lakewood yeshiva when he learned under Rabbi Aharon Kotler) has this to say, in his book The Horizontal Society: Understanding the Covenant and Alphabetic Judaism, vol. 1, pp. 406-15, online here: The style of the Mishne Tora is that of a scholarly recapitulation or transcript (Derekh Qesara, Introduction, MT I. 158) of the law that could provide a pivotal point of argument, but is not, and never was intended to be, a code as in a Civil law system which the judiciary must follow. Clearly and unambiguously, he wrote in the Introduction (I. 160) that the laws he was formulating were approximate (Qerovim) not final! Not only does the Mishne Tora contain laws and regulations impossible to apply in practice (Halakha le-Maase), but Maimonides himself did not hesitate to depart from the Mishne Tora in the application of the law (Halakha le-Maase). To alert the attentive reader to this effect, he noted that some of the procedural norms are not observed by the courts, since we do not have the means to execute the law to the hilt. (MT Sanhedrin 21:6. The same expression appears in Perush ha-Mishnayot, Megilla 1:1, vol. 2, p. 344.) … In general, we may say that an important factor in the contradictions between the Mishne Tora and Maimonides response is the failure to distinguish between the judicial application of a rule (Halakha le-Maase) and the law as taught in school.

                    • John January 25, 2010, 4:12 PM

                      Michael, It seems your approach to judaism is something allong the lines of “i have respect for prior sources but when they dont fit my opinios i will twist them until they do.”
                      If you dont mind my asking, whith which “group” do you identify obviously not black hat or “mainstream – YU” are you Gush? YCT? conservative?

                    • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 4:17 PM

                      I’m mostly a combination of German Neo-Orthodox and Turkish Sephardi.

                      I’m very close to Rabbis J. H. Hertz and Henry Pereira Mendes, who were both rabbis at JTS back when JTS was still Orthodox. Rabbi Mendes not only belonged to JTS, but he also helped found the OU.

                      So I think I’d be YCTish.

                  • Erin M. January 24, 2011, 7:08 PM

                    There is no heaven.

  • Erin January 21, 2010, 4:21 PM

    Great post! I find myself explaining things like this quite a lot!

    Of course, as a convert, I also get to explain all those “crazy Protestant traditions” to my Jewish friends.

    Religion is weird. 🙂

  • oy vey January 21, 2010, 7:30 PM

    My friend saw a picture of a friend of mine wearing tefillin while davening at the Kotel and freaked out. She thought that it was a snake wrapping it’s way around his arm, and for some reason she thought the “box on his head” was crazy.

    I live in a non-Jewish neighborhood and two of my Christian friends live nearby. They think that on Shabbos we’re not allowed to go outside because I usually stay in my house when I stay home for Shabbos.

    I’m also convinced that they think Jewish women wear wigs and tichels to cover up their horns, and the skirts are for covering up the tail- jeans would prominently display the tails bump, I hear. It’s freaking hilarious.

    Oh and don’t get me started on the Sukka. “So you guys camp in a tent…outside your house…for a week? Can you go inside EVER?”

    Ignorance is bliss…for them, at least.

    • Michaltastik January 21, 2010, 11:58 PM

      Hahahha, I was explaining to a co-worker at my old job the upcoming holiday (which was Sukkos) and she cut in, “the tents are going up? Every fall….” She lives in Mill Basin.

  • Chris_B January 21, 2010, 9:17 PM

    Yep, Sukoth is the prize winner: “Mr Goldman, you got a perfectly nice house so why are you and your family sitting in a roofless hut in your back yard when its getting cold outside?”

    • oy vey January 21, 2010, 9:20 PM

      Because we are cheap, remember? Just trying to save money on the darn heating bill!

      • Michael Makovi January 22, 2010, 3:33 AM

        The Gemara says Sukkot is in the fall, so that no one thinks we’re doing it for the weather.

        I have a friend from Australia, and because the seasons come at the opposite time, Sukkot came just when the weather was getting warm and comfortable. The neighbors yelled, “Hey, we see you’re eating outside in the wonderful weather – awesome!”

        It just proves that Israel is the real place to be a Jew.

  • aztecqueen2000 January 21, 2010, 10:46 PM

    And then there’s Pesach–“So, let me get this straight: your freedom feast consists of boiled meat, flat bread, bitter herbs and bad wine?”

    • Michael Makovi January 22, 2010, 3:31 AM

      The Sephardim eat roasted meat, and their matzah is soft, like pita. Oh, and they can put humus and tehina on their pita-matzah.

      Stupid Ashkenazim. 😛

      • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:19 AM

        Ashkenaz vs Sephard food and customs. Would take forever to satire that one.
        But as an Ashkenaz, I would prefer we adopt Sephardic Pesach menu.
        I mean, puhleez, no peanuts, rice, or corn because someone might grind them and it might might resemble wheat flour and someone might might might turn it into some sort of chometz? Ashkenazishe kopp!

        • Dave January 22, 2010, 11:09 AM

          Right. You can’t use peanuts, rice, or corn, because they might resemble flour.

          But you CAN take Matzah Meal and bake things.

          • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 7:14 AM

            The concept of minhag avot, following your ancestors, was invented by the Ashkenazim in the 19th century. By contrast, traditional Jews – both Ashkenazim and Sephardim – relied on minhag ha-maqom, following your locale. It used to be that if a Polish Jew moved to Morocco, he had to follow Moroccan minhag, regardless of his ancestry. The Gemara records this as the basic halakhah, and this line of thought runs through all the literature, until the Haredim perverted the halakhah in order to fight the Reformers. (If the Reformers violate and erase halakhah, then we can do the same – fight fire with fire.)

            So if you follow the concept of minhag ha-maqom, then you are allowed to do anything the people of your place do.

            Minhag ha-maqom does not discriminate between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. According to minhag ha-maqom, ALL **Jews** in one place must behave in a certain way, no matter where they come from.

            Let me ask you a question: do the Sephardim in your locale eat qitniot? If so, then there is no prohibition for you either, because if the Sephardim can eat qitniot, then, ipso facto, there is no minhag ha-maqom prohibiting such.

            I might note that Rabbi David bar Hayim in Israel holds by similar logic.

            • Phil January 25, 2010, 2:25 PM


              I asked some (ashkenaz) rabbis the following question:

              Since we are supposed to follow minhag hamalom, American and Israeli Jews should all be following sephardic minhagim. Israel was under the authority R. Yosef Caro before any Ashkenaz rabbis rules, and the first Jews in America were the ones that escaped from Spain.

              All the rabbis laughed and said they didn’t know, expect for one that claimed the Sepharad minhagim were never established as the “official” minhag.

              Seems like a bit of a cop out answer, although the Rabbi who told it to me was extremely learned and experienced.

              I bring it up quite often when the local vuzvuz Lubabs start with the “minhag overrides halacha” thing.

              • Michael Makovi January 25, 2010, 2:28 PM

                I don’t know what establishment of “official” minhag means.

                Rabbi Ovadia Yosef claims everyone must become Sephardi, because Rabbi Karo was here first.

                I don’t go that far, however. All I claim is that right NOW, there are Ashkenazim and Sephardim living together, and no one expects one to conform to the other – ergo, there is no minhag ha-maqom NOW.

                Today in Israel, I say there just stam isn’t any minhag ha-maqom at all, one way or the other.

                • Phil January 25, 2010, 2:39 PM

                  Personally, I think the Chassidic Ashkenazim couldn’t stomach changing there minhagim when they came to Israel and America, which is why we have the situation the way it is today.

                  A couple years ago, I told my dad the he could revert the his Tunisian minhag of eating rice on Pesach if he did hatarat nedarim. My mom chimed in and said “not in my house”. I told her that as his wife, she be forced to accept the mihag as well, even though she’s ashkenaz. After seeing the look of horror on her face, my dad said he just couldn’t do that to her.

            • Yochanan January 26, 2010, 4:12 AM

              So technically in the USA, we should be Portuguese Sfardim.

  • oy vey January 21, 2010, 10:55 PM

    Ohh yeah Pesach… good times there.

    I got a call from a Christian friend of mine the other day. She asked me what a flagel is…because I am a “kosher jew”…?
    And because, according to her, “kosher jews can’t eat risen bread”…I’m still questioning where she is getting such sources.

    She is the same friend that looks at my skirts like they come from mars (definitely checking for that Jew tail).

    • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:23 AM

      We were chatting about different cuisines, and I asked a non-Jewish friend who is a chef what he knew about kosher. He replied: “salt”.

      • oy vey January 22, 2010, 4:31 PM


        Sadly, I once had to tell off two extremely ignorant and idiotic teenage boys off for pretending that kosher salt was just some leftover burned up Jews. From the holocaust. I nearly cried. It was rough. And they were the foulest creatures I had ever met, so I didn’t think they deserved my tears.

  • Michaltastik January 22, 2010, 12:00 AM

    Wow, Hesh! I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed with your site in front of me… it’s been long enough!

  • bochur January 22, 2010, 12:17 AM

    for years tens of thousands of people have been wearing teffillin on planes and just now out of the blue it caused an issue? and the tighty-whitey bomber isn’t really an excuse because there has been 9-11 and the shoe bomber and nothing happened with teffillin after those.

    p.s. pinchas didn’t kill them with the death penalty through court, so the lack of death penalty now is irrelevant. normally the punishment is lashes, and maybe excommunication(not sure); that was a horoas shoa. if only zimri had told pinchas that he was an atheist…

    • Michaltastik January 22, 2010, 1:31 AM

      Just treat them as a convert… that should be enough…

      • Sergey Kadinsky January 22, 2010, 8:00 AM

        What can be said? The illegal Jewish occupation of the airplane seat is over!

        • DrumIntellect January 22, 2010, 11:01 AM


  • Zvi Lampert January 22, 2010, 1:21 AM

    Great post, Hesh.
    Speaking of misunderstanding the purpose of tefillin, There was a rumor floating around Israel When I was there in yeshiva in 92-93 that some Bravender’s girls were using tefillin straps for S & M.
    It never got the press that the Camp Sternberg hot dog story got, but still worthy of mention.

  • Anonymous January 22, 2010, 2:36 AM

    “ve’yaruh me’mecha” “then all the nations of the earth will see that the Name of God is upon you, and they will fear you” – The Talmud says that this verse refers to the tefillin shebeh rosh

  • Michael Makovi January 22, 2010, 3:29 AM

    After I became a baal teshuva and had been wearing tzitzit for several months, I happened to mention my tzitzit in conversation with my friend. He replied, “Oh, that’s what those are! I just thought you had a broken drawstring!”

    • tesyaa January 22, 2010, 9:31 AM

      Our friend had become a somewhat militant baal tshuva and everyone at work knew. One morning his boss asked him to come to a meeting, and he went to his desk to get some stuff. His boss said, “Hey, you’re hanging out!” He said, “No, I’m getting my stuff and I’ll be right with you.” His boss was like, “No, YOU’RE HANGING OUT! YOUR STRINGS ARE HANGING OUT!!”

  • ghottistyx January 22, 2010, 4:08 AM

    I’ve once heard that the “hole in the bedsheets” stereotype comes from goyyim seeing the tzitzit being hung out to dry and thinking they were bedsheets with holes in them. I once heard someone joking on the subject. He said that a non-Jewish person was saying that he went through a chassidish neighborhood and SAW the bedsheets with the holes in them hanging on their clothesline! So after thinking about it for a few seconds, the guy asked him “did these bedsheets have tassles hanging on every corner?” The non-Jew said “yeah, now that I think about it, they did!”

    Those of you who have been to the Old City may have heard of Guru Gill. Part of his story involves a time that he tried following the Old Testament literally. Basically, he was working as a Christian faith-healer, when he decided on his own that the New Testament didn’t make sense, so he tore it out of his Bible and began trying to follow just the Old Testament. So the first commandment he had trouble with was the one about wearing “fringes on the corner of your garment.” So he says he went to a Chinese tailor and asked her if she has any fringes. She said “oh, you mean tassles?” And she produces a tassle, the kind you wear on graduation caps. So what is a corner of a garment? When Gil tells the story, he points to his collar and goes “well, this looks like a corner, so I told her to add tassles here. And I found more parts of my shirt that looks like corners, so I had her adding tassles everywhere. By the time she was done, I looked like a couch!”

    The next part of his story involves him going to the Kotel trying to fulfil Ma’aser Ani. The Torah says you shall “bind the money to your hand,” so he took that one literally as well. He took a string, tied his money in his hand, and went to the Kotel, and began asking everyone he saw if they were “poor, widowed, orphaned, or divorced.” Everyone was giving him funny looks.

    The story ends with him going to the wall and praying for God to send him someone to show him the way. A man walks up to him and asks “would you like to try on tefillin?” Gil, not knowing what tefillin was, says “yes.” The man sees the money tied to his hand. “I see you have money. Would you like to buy your own tefillin?” Gil says “yes.” Back then, in order to get to Me’ah She’arim from the Kotel, you had to go through Har Ha’Zeitim. “Today is the yahretzeit of a mequbal. Want to go?” Gil had no idea what either a yahretzeit or a mequbal were, but he still said “yes”. Then they got to Me’ah She’arim. “You know, you should get a haircut too.” Gil said “yes”. “Would you like to be enrolled in a Yeshiva?” And Gil said “yes”. And so Gil becomes a Ba’al Teshuva.

    • Rabba bar bar Chana January 22, 2010, 12:51 PM

      he was working as a Christian faith-healer….

      And so Gil becomes a Baal Teshuva

      Wouldn’t that be a convert?

      • m January 22, 2010, 3:54 PM

        no, he was born jewish.
        originally not religious, he later be came “the central park Guru”, then a christian healer.
        he has his whole story in a book named “Coming Back to Earth: The Central Park Guru Becomes an Old City Jew”

      • ghottistyx January 23, 2010, 9:26 PM

        He was born Reform, completely unaffiliated (to this day, he has trouble pronouncing the letter “chet”); he was bar mitzvahed, but that’s about it. His story involves him going through a long journey that started with studying Jiu-Jitsu in Japan for 2 years. He wandered through plenty of the Far East in search of the many faiths. The story of The Central Park Guru actually was reported in The New York Times (I’d have to dig it up somewhere). He even has stories about times that he happened to stumble upon 770 back in his guru days, and I believe he was thrown out of there once.

        10 years ago, I used to see him at the Kotel helping people put on tefillin. Not sure if he still does (it’s been a long time since I’ve been down there). I know he also used to teach meditation classes also. Most of what I know is from public speeches he’s given and from plenty of Friday nights at his house (they used to jokingly refer to me as a Guru Gil Chassid back in my Yeshiva!)

        • David February 3, 2010, 9:42 AM

          I remember meeting Gil 18 months ago – he is still doing his tefillin thing in the Old City every morning. They say he has convinced about 25,000 guys to wrap over the years. I was wearing a 3D magen david around my neck and he strongly told me I should have it changed as within the metal bars of the 3D star was the shape of a cross. I told him ‘Just as Christianity emerged from Judaism, so to with this star of david is revealed a cross.’ He didn’t see the irony.

          His book is full of other madcap stories such as
          How he travelled naked except for a tablecloth wrapped around him, spinning wherever the wind took him
          How he refused to teach John and Yoko how to meditate on an ashram in India
          How he would meditate for 23 hrs a day clenching fists and then emerge to give a burst of cosmic energy to each of his followers!

  • Avrumy January 22, 2010, 10:38 AM

    I was once flying from Dubai to Malaysia. Being a Muslim airline, they had combined two of the bathrooms into a small private prayer room, with a rug and a compass arrow pointing to Mecca. (Something El Al has not done.)
    It served my purpose to have privacy to put on tefillin and face Jerusalem.
    When I walked out of the room, what did I see but 2 men, in full tallis and tefillin davening in full view! Kiddush hashem, I suppose. Or maybe they didnt know about the prayer booth. Nobody paid them any mind.
    Five years later this poor kid flying from NY is considered a potential threat. Tefillin in hand luggage was always given a pass at security. G-d forbid now the bad guys will start smuggling stuff in tefillin bags and boxes.

  • Frumsatire Fan January 22, 2010, 11:06 AM

    Here’s one for you: roommate saw me with my shirt and tzitzit un-tucked (I always wear them inside my trousers), looked at me very maternally and said Oh-my-Gahd, that old T-shirt is LITERALLY turning into rags, you should buy a new one!

  • Jack In The Box January 22, 2010, 5:11 PM

    All a bunch of ritual superstitoius crap..except is’t our crap

  • Phil January 24, 2010, 5:09 PM

    A couple interesting things to think about:

    1) Why do so called atheists and non believers keep reading a “frum” blog if they don’t even consider themselves Jewish?

    2) I find it strange that they don’t believe in the Torah until it comes to “proving” that the Torah is archaeic, outdated or prejudiced. That’s when they suddenly turn into midrashic experts.

    Doesn’t this seem a “tad” hypocritical?

    • ghottistyx January 24, 2010, 5:55 PM

      1) Why not?

      2) Shouldn’t a person know what it is they don’t believe in before they go ahead and disbelieve it? It’s not all that different than “da mah le’hashiv le’apikoros”. I say “da mah le’hasiv le’dati”.

      Why do I read a ‘frum’ blog, you ask? Because I like it. Here is a blog that seems pretty open to wayward views. My views–as a Jewish Athiest–are a lot more complex than the old “Ad Mattay Atem Poschim al Shnei Ha’Seiphim”.

      How is it possible, you ask? Try reading some Mordecai Kaplan. He spells it out in many of his works. I know, he’s been banned by the Aggudah; estranged from most of the JTS; and is equally critical of Ortho, Conserv., Reform, and even other Recons.; but he has a whole system of Judaism that cuts out the superstition. I know, it is a bit minimalist–basically reducing Judaism to a philosophy and cutting out the ‘ritual’ aspects–but it is a system that I find pretty logical.

    • G*3 January 24, 2010, 8:20 PM

      1) Because “Jewish” is as much a culture as a religion. And what exactly is a “so called atheist?” Do you imagine that everyone, deep down, really believes, and anyone who doesnt think like you is just fooling themselves? Anyway, most people read blogs because theyre entertaining. Theres no need for a deeper reason.
      2) Youre equivocating on believe in the Torah. Theres a difference between believing in the Torahs divine origins and believing that the Torah exists as document that can be examined. Of course atheists acknowledge that the Torah exists! It is possible to critique a text without believing it was dictated by God. It is not necessary to assume Divine authorship to point out parts of the Torah that are archaic, outdated or prejudiced.

      • Phil January 25, 2010, 8:47 AM

        Ghotti & G*3,

        I don’t believe in christianity, islam or bhuddism. Therefore, I don’t read the new testament, koran, etc. Nor do I hang out on christian, islamic or bhuddist web sites or blogs, much less comment on what they are saying, whether or not it’s satire.

        I have no interest whatsoever in visiting any of the sites mentioned above. In fact, they would be the last sites I would visit.

        I never felt the need to argue my points on atheist or reform blogs.
        That is why I find it strange that so called atheists keep coming back here, arguing their point of view with frum people in front of a frum audience.

        I’m no shrink, but maybe they feel insecure or guilty about their decision and try to justify to themselves by arguing their theory over and over to make themselves feel better.

        • John January 25, 2010, 10:09 AM

          we’ve argued in the past Phil, but this time well said

        • ghottistyx January 25, 2010, 5:25 PM

          …But for those who have gone “off the derech” but still have that pintelle yid in there somewhere…

          Discuss with Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and whatever else have you I’ve done. Difference is I wasn’t raised within their faiths so most of what I know is what I’ve read in books and perhaps attended the occasional pow-wow of theirs. Thus, I could go on their blogs and have discussions with them, but I have less to work with as I know much less about them than I do about Judaism.

          I read this site because I find it funny. Of course, I could just read in silence and keep my views to myself, but that’s not my style. Of course, times I’ve been in the presence of other religions, I’ve been happy to participate in discussions as well, but in those cases it was much different as I actually was speaking as a true outsider.

          I’m no shrink either, but I think that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…I feel no more insecure or guilty about my decision to leave than I do about the slant of my nose or the fact that I’ve been circumcised.

  • Heshy Fried January 25, 2010, 3:36 PM

    Wow 100 comments on a funny post – who woulda thunk it

    • John January 25, 2010, 3:48 PM

      really, funny?
      congrats though

  • Yochanan January 26, 2010, 4:17 AM

    I think someone should organize a flash mob to do the Thriller dance at a Kidush Levana.

Leave a Comment