Yamim Noraim Roundup – 5768

A few odds and ends today from non-work life:

  • Last night I posted my Rosh Hashana derasha which was a fun challenge to write and deliver. R. Schnaidman gave me a time range of 30-35 minutes which is normally beyond how long I can talk, so for the first time in many years I had written out most of it beforehand and spoke both from the sheets and extemporaneously. Feedback was positive, though one person asked if it was intentional that I didn’t cite any Zohar or Ba’al Shem Tov.

    I said yes, and politely explained that I was following my mesorah. After all, it was Rosh Hashana…

  • As certain individuals know, we had some now resolved issues with my landlord. Apparently, lots of other people had worse experiences: there’s a class action suit against them.
  • I know this is late for Rosh Hashana, but this song seems relevant (music starts at 2:18) even if it doesn’t count as an official zemer.
  • Speaking of simmanim, the line between what is an innocuous simman and outright avoda zara is somewhat complicated. I gave a shiur on it some time ago, and based on far too many conflicting sources, couldn’t reach a definitive conclusion. I did conjecture that the degree of seriousness which one takes these simmanim is likely proportional to the potential issur, with the litmus test being how one one would feel if the simman wouldn’t be performed. For example, R. Tendler once told us that a woman came to him Erev Yom Kippur looking for a chicken to do kapparot because if she didn’t, she would die that year. That, he said, was avoda zara.

    Regarding the simmanim of Rosh Hashana, I’m beginning to think that most are fine given that most are simply puns – some even bilingual puns. In other words, they seem more for entertainment purposes rather than a magical act. For another R. Tendler example, I first heard from him the one “lettuce, half a raisin, celery” = let us have a raise in salary.

    If you still take these seriously, then in addition to avoda zara problems, you likely have no sense of humor – which could pose problems when people start calling you an idol worshiper.

  • In what should some as no surprise, I don’t do kapparot following Shulhan Aruch’s admonition that it’s darkhei emori. I also have never been a fan of tashlich especially since a former Hindu co-worker once asked me, “what was that thing where you pray to the river.”

    However, for efficiency’s sake I suggest that next year we could work on combining the two practices during the asseret yemei teshuva by simply flinging chickens into the water – perhaps even feeding them bread first. I’m sure God would really appreciate that much more than doing them separately as it would double the mehillah power.

  • And on a more serious note, through a great set of hashgachic circumstances (and the ubiquitous chords directory I will soon be teaching an Introduction to Jewish Guitar. Even with some nervousness, I’m really looking forward to the entire experience which I hope to recount afterwards.

If I don’t post before Yom Kippur, Gemar Tov to all. Looking back at what I last year I don’t think I can even hope for less erratic blogging given my new work schedule. Despite the infrequent or sporadic posting, we still had an eventful year with preliminary thoughts and detailed rebuttal of the Conservative Teshuva on Homosexuality and the aftermath, a conflict and conversation in Washington Heights, the RCA’s gerut policies, and of course, the Negiah.org fiasco. However, I can and still will ask forgiveness if I have inadvertently or unnecessarily offended people through carelessness or laziness. Although I do stand by what I write I freely admit everything could use more editing, not just for typos, but for tone or imprecise syntax.
Naturally I have no idea what the next year will bring, but I do hope to at least maintain the status quo of quality (if not quantity). Thanks again for reading, commenting, and reminding me why I’m still at this nearly five years later.1
Shana Tova,
Josh
Update: I will be sans computer for a few days while it’s being repaired, and as such may be slower in responding to e-mails or the like.

1. Yep, it’s been that long; the forthcoming retrospective should be fun.

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