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Samson Raphael Hirsch removed Kol Nidre from the Yom Kippur service one year, in hopes of minimizing anti-semitic rhetoric surrounding the prayer and the belief that it authorized Jews to behave immorally in business. He immediately decided this was a mistake and brought it back the following year, but it's fascinating to me what the boundaries of 'reform' were in the mid 19th century and how they're different from what contemporary Orthodoxy considers legitimate as topic of potential halachic reform. It's unthinkable that an Orthodox figure today would contemplate removing such a central prayer from the Yom Kippur liturgy. On the other hand, there are things we do today in a Modern Orthodox synagogue in terms of approach to texts and scholarship, not to mention womens' involvement, that Rav Hirsch would have found unthinkable.

Even more striking is the story of early 19th century Saxe-Weimar, which sought to encourage Reform Judaism for various political reasons. For a fifteen year period from the late 1830s to about 1850, they forbid prayer in Hebrew- to the delight of the most radical Jewish reformers and the agony of the rest of the Jewish community. Which reads to me as the Chanukah story in miniature. I think I mentioned in my last post on the book that Meyer's position seems to be that the story of the rise of Reform Judaism is inextricable from the story of Jewish emancipation in Western Europe, and large parts of Western European Jewry existed in a sort of suspended half-emancipated state in the early 19th century where religious reforms were newly possible, but they represented an actual zero-sum game because they were dependent on state support. Berlin had a single synagogue for its 3000 Jews, and it was actually illegal to have an alternate house of worship, so when the traditionalists were ascendant the reformers had to have secret illegal prayer services and when the reformers were ascendant the same was true for the traditionalists. And mind you, both were competing against the third option- Jews who didn't care about religion either way and if it got too hard would happily convert to Christianity for the economic benefits, which of course was the state's plan all along. It seems like after the 1848's pan-European upheaval, political conditions improved enough that Orthodoxy and Reform could uneasily coexist, and that's when the denominational split as we know it today more or less began.

I've read before more social-history-oriented accounts of the battles between Orthodox and Reform, but they tended to be at such a localized level that I hadn't understood the consequences of these battles in their greater context. Still, I find myself wishing for more of the social history kind of stuff than Meyer is interested in providing. He discusses polemics back and forth about decorum during prayer services- typically the Reformers favored a more orderly, Christian-style prayer service and the Orthodox a more unruly, chaotic prayer, or so I'm given to understand, but he doesn't supply a lot in the way of details about the actual experiential differences. A contemporary Orthodox shul is more likely to have a lay chazan, and to have different people praying at different volumes and different paces at the same time as the chazan, but it does not strike me as the kind of chaos that would spur the Reformers' outrage- I can't tell if this is because I am used to it, or if it's because contemporary Orthodox prayers have also gotten more orderly as a response to popular preference in the past two centuries.
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Posted this on facebook a couple weeks ago; I saw something the other day on Dreamwidth that made me think it probably was worth posting here too:

The secret reason I'm not okay with everyone cheering on the punching of Nazis is because lots of the leftists cheering the punching of Spencer are fond of calling Zionists Nazis. Where by Zionists they mean Jews.

So when I say "I'm worried about who gets to decide who is a Nazi and can be punched," I mean "I'm worried they're going to punch my family." When I say "I'm worried about the unforeseen consequences of mob justice," I mean "I'm worried about anti-semitic pogroms."

I'm testing out this idea of not talking in code. We'll see if it's a mistake.
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I Puritani by Bellini, staged by the Met

Look, we already know I don't give a shit about most 19th century opera, this is not news. The first act of I Puritani was a total snoozefest of moderately unlikeable characters, tepid plot twists, and attractive but not particularly character-driven bel canto vocal lines. And so I decided to skip out on the second and third acts, which according to the summary in the playbill were "Act II: Totally misogynistic mad scene" and "Act III: Surprise! Everything works out in the end".

Just to fill out the post, thoughts on the new season at the Met: I was terribly excited to learn that Luis Bunuel's puzzlingly surreal and emotionally complex film El Angel Exterminador had been adapted as an opera and would be staged by the Met... until I learned that Thomas Ades was the composer. [personal profile] freeradical42 and I skipped the second half of his Tempest because we were so annoyed by the way he'd simplified Shakespeare's characterizations, and I did make it through his Powder Her Face, but it was an endurance feat. Maybe the third time's the charm, but I'm not super thrilled about the prospect of seeing him ruin another favorite text.

I'm amused but unsurprised that the Met is already staging a new Tosca, and that their advertising is highlighting its similarities to the Zeffirelli Tosca. Never change, Met. Never change. I am a little... regretful... that I have not seen the current, much-maligned Tosca production and have now missed my shot, but on the other hand, me and Puccini never get along.

And I am very intrigued by the new production of Cosi fan tutte, set at Coney Island? That has the prospect of being a total blast to watch.
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The weather yesterday was amazing. Not amazing for February, amazing stam. Mid '70s, plenty of sun, a little wind. I pulled out my bike for the first time since October and went for a nice ride. Two nice rides, actually- I rode a couple miles toward Target, where I was planning to buy milk and a new pair of earbuds. Then I realized I'd forgotten my wallet, so I turned back home. My second ride I instead went to the Rite Aid that's only about a mile away. All told I think I rode six or seven miles, which is pretty good given how little exercise I've gotten all winter. Target, which is about a ten mile ride roundtrip, remains an elusive milestone (er... target) . This is I think the third time I've attempted to ride there and gotten caught up short for various reasons. Hopefully as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer I'll make bike riding a regular thing again, and get better at it.

When not riding, I was vidding. I have actually finished a reasonably decent Equinox vid first draft, which is shocking to me given how recently I got the assignment. There is a particular combination of song inspiration and fandom familiarity that results in me knowing exactly what goes where- my Noah vids were like that. It also involves not being a perfectionist, which can be hard but is also I think worthwhile. [personal profile] chaila had a great (locked) post on her vid process in which she described "6) Get a full timeline! YAY! It's almost always shitty, but WHO CARES FULL TIMELINE." And it's really true- it's stunning how quickly a shitty full timeline can go to a satisfying full timeline once you get to the full timeline stage- the wrong spots jump out at you once you can see the whole shape of it. Of course sometimes you hit the full timeline and realize your whole arc is wrong and you need to rebuild the whole thing from scratch, but eh, that's vidding. They call it the worst hobby for a reason. I've already started a second vid in the same fandom, but this one is definitely going to be much slower going... I'm much less certain about how it fits together.
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Ran a neat D&D one-shot last night. Set-up was that the players were unpaid interns on their first day at a zoo full of D&D monsters. I drew up the zoo map a year or two ago on a previous occasion when I thought I was going to be running a one shot, but never actually ran it. This time when I was asked on short notice to run something I thought it'd be easy to pull it out of my bag, but it turns out I'd lost all prep materials besides the map drawing, so I had to scramble a little to think up some story hooks in the hour before the game. But it worked really well in practice.

In the hour I had, I typed up a schedule and a task list for the interns and embedded all the storyhooks into these materials, which the interns found on a chalkboard in the employee only area of the zoo's welcome center. There were hooks like "Feed the owlbear" and "Sing to the manticore" and "Make sure all the oozes are accounted for" and "Don't feed the trolls" The great thing about this was that it meant that for much of the adventure, I didn't need to advance the plot- the players took over management of the schedule and advanced the plot for me. All I did was serve as timekeeper and occasionally inserted an NPC to stir things up. This suited my natural inclination as DM to not do very much.

There were a lot of hysterical scenes- the drunk satyr in the petting zoo, the lovelorn chimera escaping his cage to seek the lovely hydra, the sphinx needing to be given a new riddle, but my favorite was probably the payoff on a gag from the schedule- an item said "Feed the minotaur", but there was no minotaur cage on the map. The interns ran all over the zoo trying to find a minotaur, but when the zoo's owner showed up at the end of the day to evaluate their performance, he told them "That says manticore"- the unfed manticore who got increasingly grumpy throughout the day in spite of being sung to.
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After the rally, I met [personal profile] ghost_lingering and Jon at MoMa. They had a sort of special installation in recognition of Trump's travel ban on visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. I say sort of because I'm not sure whether it really comprises an installation, exactly, except that it does.

The installation, such as it is, consists of seven paintings by contemporary artists installed in MoMa's fifth floor galleries, which typically host the museum's permanent collections- that amazing and confusing collection of Picassos, Matisses, Magrittes and Van Goghs that are the museum's most reliable draw for visitors. I've written before about how MoMa constitutes a canonical avant garde, a 'Revolutionary Orthodoxy'. The seven paintings installed in this gallery present a deliberate and sometimes really unsettling disruption of this paradoxical conservatism.

I commented partway through that it sort of felt like a treasure hunt, to wander through these familiar galleries and spot the painting that was out of place. Sometimes it was instantly obvious; other times the work blended until you took a closer look. A Sudanese painting set beside a Picasso guitar sculpture showed similar geometries and a similar color palette- and an utterly different sense of composition.

Each of the paintings had a note beside it noting that the artist was from a country whose travel into the US was being restricted by the executive order, making clear how such an executive order would impact our artistic and cultural exchange with the world. But the positioning of the art within the context of MoMa's permanent collection made a sort of opposite argument, namely that these works of art are not scary, they are not foreign and weird, they're perfectly recognizable as part of the normal discourse of the art world. And that cutting these seven countries out of our American lives isn't cutting out the Other, something separate- it's cutting something out of our very heart.
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Hundreds of Jewish umbrellas came out today, braving the hail and the sleet and the cold, to Battery Park, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, to say that Jews understand our moral obligation to help refugees and not deny them safety. To commit to continue fighting against Trump's hatred. To speak about our love and connection with the Muslim community. To remember the past and pray for the future. And to say that we were strangers once, in the land of Egypt, and because of that it is a mitzvah to love the stranger.

(better pictures, not taken by me)
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I made three or four vids for Festivids this year depending on how you count.

My assignment was for [personal profile] skygiants, who requested a Blazing Saddles vid. She requested "a really wacky vid that embraces the genre satire; I also think you could do some really neat stuff going in the exact opposite direction and digging into sharp edges of what the film is actually about. " I didn't do either of those things, exactly. Rather, I think what I did is take the film's narrative beats nearly totally seriously. Blazing Saddles is a scathing satire of the Western genre which rigorously hits every single narrative trope of the genre it can find and rigorously checks off every required plot point of the standard Western plot. And each time it hits a required point, it informs you that it is doing it. The result is that even though it often doesn't feel like it because you're too busy laughing, Blazing Saddles is sketching out the epic saga of Sheriff Bart and his victory over the forces of evil. I tried to bring that into focus without forsaking the important themes that arise from the satire, of the erasure of minorities from the 19th century West, of white supremacy and the importance of alliances and teamwork to defeat it.

Two Against One

The song I chose to vid "Two Against One" by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, is incredibly apt for this balancing act. It's the work of a biracial musician reinterpreting the classic Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, a complicated marriage of blues and folk and spaghetti Western. I think the lyrics are actually about self-sabotage- read closely enough the 'two' opponents Jack White is faced up against are his own tendency to betray himself- and himself in a mirror! The lyrics, though, are vague enough that you need to listen closely to understand this, so I read nearly all the lyrics against their actual meanings. The 'two' is usually used for the good guys, against the one being the bad guy, as I was emphasizing the teamwork theme. The thrust of the vid is: Bart shows up in town alone, the classic Western loner, hated by everyone both for Western trope reasons of the feared outsider and because of basic racism. He forms an alliance with Jim, becoming for the first time Two against One, then enlists the the poor townfolk, women and children too, in the fight against the evil white males with institutional power.

Then I saw [personal profile] yinetime was out for pinchhit and they requested the Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. Some of you may know I've been working on a vid for this film for the past two years. It's a six minute long vid and I've laid a good timeline for about three and a half minutes of it. So I wasn't about to finish that in two weeks for Festivids, but I knew the source really damned well, so I asked myself "Do you think you can make a vid for this in two weeks?" I decided, before claiming the pinch hit, to spend a few minutes testing out ideas to make sure I could pull it off. I usually do this when claiming pinch hits for fic. In this case, I sat down and an hour later I had a full timeline for a two and a half minute long vid. And I mostly really liked the timeline! So I claimed the pinch hit.

Brings the Flood

"Brings the Flood" is set to Neko Case's ambiguous fairy tale of faith "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood". My vid centers Naamah, Noah's wife, and the ways in which Noah betrays her. He is the 'fox' of Case's song: handsome, spiritual, dangerously cunning, and for all that he loves her, not always acting in her best interests. But Naamah is cunning, too. In the end, Noah stands over Ila, preparing to kill Shem's daughters in order to annihilate the human race, and he looks at Ila and he sees his wife in her, and he overcomes the snake for her sake. And all through it, Naamah endures, endures the pains and betrayals that come of trying to live a moral and fulfilled life in a world that doesn't explain what moral means. And then the rainbow comes and tells both Noah and Naamah that forgiveness has come, even though it cannot quite wipe away the flood of tears.

And then I recalled another song I'd noticed when scanning my music library for songs about floods and oceans and water: "Theme from Flood" by They Might Be Giants, the goofy radio-jingle of a theme song for the TMBG album of the same time. And I said two things. First "Wouldn't a Noah vid to this be hilarious?" and Second: "I told [personal profile] sanguinity that I just made a treat in an hour, to try to throw her off the scent of guessing I made the Noah pinch hit. But she's still going to know that I made the Noah vid, because of course I made the Noah vid. But if I made a TMBG Noah vidlet that will clearly only take a few minutes of work, she might think this is the Noah vid I was talking about, and somebody else made "Brings the Flood". Except she's still going to know I made "Brings the Flood", because of course I made the Noah vid." So I made "They Might Be Nephilim", this overly obvious Ferretvid, because it made me laugh and because it might decoy [personal profile] sanguinity, though probably not. And then [personal profile] thirdblindmouse made "Chess: The Musical", which is basically the exact same joke. I'm awed by how similar they are.

They Might Be Nephilim

That's three vids. What's the fourth? I made a third Noah vid, but I didn't post it because it's a little messy and also because if I'd posted three Noah vids, there wouldn't have been any question in the world that I made all three, especially since I reuse a lot of clips in complementary ways from vid to vid. The third vid is a Tubal-Cain POV vid about his relationship with Noah. It's set to Arcade Fire's "Ocean of Noise", off an album dismissively but for these purposes appropriately titled "Neon Bible". "Noah" is very much a film, I know I've written, about the way that it can feel that if the Creator has a plan, it's never communicated very well to the actors carrying it out. Noah is prophetically warned of the flood, but that doesn't tell him how to respond to it, doesn't give him certainty about what redemption may or may not come. And Tubal-Cain is given even less than Noah. All he can see is that the power to rule has been placed in front of him by the Creator and he sees that as his own sort of prophecy, an obligation to act in the Creator's image by creating a civilization of great strength and achievement.'s annotator sees "Ocean of Noise" as a struggle for primacy between absent father and rebellious son, but I don't find that perfectly obvious. More clearly, it's a song about an opposition that may appear rational, but if examined decays into an ocean of noise. In the end, Noah and Tubal Cain are both just fighting for the survival of themselves and the people that matter to them.

Ocean of Noise
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This Week... I would like it to be over.

We have various government proposals due at various point this week. As a result, I went into work for a half day on Sunday, worked late on Monday, and on Tuesday I was there until 10PM. Most of the proposals were submitted then, and I left on Wednesday only marginally late, but we have one more due Friday around noon, and... now we are getting 8 inches of snow today and I have decided I do not wish to drive into work, so I am assuming my boss is going to be upset at me for not being as available to work on the proposal as he would like. I haven't actually heard anything from him since I emailed saying I wasn't coming in, and offered to do whatever I could do from home, so maybe he's managing... in spite of hyperbolic threats yesterday against anyone who couldn't get into work because of the snow.

In the meantime, I have a snow day, albeit at the moment a somewhat tense one as I wait to see if I actually am going to have to do work or if I'm free to relax and enjoy the day stuck in my apartment. I cannot wait for these damn proposal deadlines to be over for a while.
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I get great benefit from the Orthodox Union, including but not limited to its kashrut cerrtification, and I am a part of several communities that provide funding to and work closely with the Orthodox Union. I've been part of Orthodox Union sponsored youth groups and participated in a number of Orthodox union sponsored events as an adult. I generally have supported their lobbying efforts in Washington on a wide range of issues related to the Jewish community, and their outreach efforts to provide Jewish services to Jews in localities that cannot sustain a dedicated synagogue.

And so when I say that the Orthodox Union's recent ruling on women acting on clerical roles in OU affiliated synagogues seems ill-thought, you should read that as my feelings being a lot more extreme than that and being moderated only by my deep and longstanding admiration for the institution.

I'm presently in the middle of reading Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Rabbi Micha'el Rosenberg's new book Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law, which I've literally had pre-ordered on Amazon for two years. I will have more to say on this subject when I've finished reading it.
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Festivids revealed last week!

I received two lovely gifts. Both are vids for The Cape, a superhero TV show from about five years ago that pretty much landed with a thud, but which I've always loved. It was doing camp Batman when Chris Nolan was doing grimdark Batman, and it was doing it beautifully, with a sense of humor and a sense of social justice, and so even though the dialogue was usually ridiculous and the characters weren't emotionally full creations, I loved it. I do love a glorious failure.

Chess: The Musical, except not at all is um... hard to explain. Chess is the bad guy in The Cape, a billionaire crony capitalist with multiple personality disorder who goes around in a mask killing people. They Might Be Giants are one of my favorite bands. This is a match made in casting heaven. It's also the kind of vid where if it weren't FOR me, you'd be guessing that I was the one who made it. I <3 it so much.

For I am the Cape (AKA The One with the Raccoon) is my main gift, and it's just glorious.

The first time I signed up for Festivids, four years ago, I jokingly said that I thought all vids should be made to Eastern European wedding dance music. And my vidder apparently dug that up and made me a The Cape vid to Eastern European wedding dance music. And it works! Which I am of course not surprised about, because all vids should be made to Eastern European wedding dance music, that wasn't a joke at all. No, definitely not.

The Cape is at its heart a debate about vigilantism. On the one hand it keeps shouting at you that vigilantism is a terrible idea, that one man fighting crime can't take down a corrupt system and that if he tries all that's going to happen is he's going to get hurt a bunch, and the people he loves will keep getting hurt, too. Yet it keeps valorizing Vince and his struggle anyway, because when you're stuck in a corrupt system and you can't take down the system, what else can you do? The show flirts with Richard Schiff's wonderfully ridiculous Patrick Portman, beleaguered director of Palm City's broken prison system, as an alternative in-system hero- and then Portman dresses up as The Cape himself for a costume party!

Ultimately Vince comes to an uneasy compromise where he works outside the system with Orwell to prop up the honest parts of the system, including Portman and his public defender estranged wife, against the forces of corruption and indifference.

This vid shows that evolution, how Vince moves from anarchy and unaimed criminal behavior that results from his untrained vigilantism and slowly learns how to be a useful agent of political change. And it does it without any lyrics to support it, just using the sheer rhythmic momentum of Eastern European dance music to show Vince dancing his way through his ad hoc training and into the fray as a hero for Palm City. It's such a beautiful, brilliant vid.

I've liked a lot of other vids I've seen, and I encourage people to check out the rest of the list, but I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight two in particular that I think are particularly amazing.

A Better Son/Daughter is a vid about Carrie Fisher, her life and her struggle and her triumph and what she meant to all of her fans. I dare you to watch this without crying. Seriously, I dare you.

Anything Goes is a Pitch vid, about Ginny Baker and the glass ceiling the show depicts her fighting to shatter, but it's also about baseball history and the way sports has always litigated culture, but with nice neat endings in a way that culture doesn't always have. It's incisive and thought-provoking and also just gloriously optimistic.

Like I said, there's a lot of other great stuff in there, including my own vids, which I will reveal in a week, but those two are for me the cream of the crop.
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I've started reading Michael Meyer's Response to Modernity, his attempt at a history of the entire Reform Movement in Judaism. I'm only thirty pages in and it is fantastic, but also tantalizing. I feel like I want to read a whole book about every two pages of this book. (This is partially because I am still in the 1810s, when the history of the Reform movement was essentially intertwined and indistinguishable from the history of Haskalah and other Orthodox reform movements.)

Topics I want to read whole books about now:

-Jacob Emden and 18th century Anti-Sabbateanism (Was that actually a thing? A hundred years after his conversion and death, people still thought Shabbetai Tzvi was Moshiach?)

-Moses Mendelssohn (everything I've read about him is hagiographic and notes the fact that all of his grandchildren ended up Christian as some sort of ironic footnote, but Meyer represents him as a more confusing figure who used his tremendous reputation for scholarship to direct the public discourse, but ultimately set a path for disciples who repudiated his fundamental principles while speaking in his name and citing his precedents.)

-Eliyahu Baal Shem (Ancestor of Emden and not at all related to the story, but the offhanded reference made me curious to look up his Golem legends)

-Napoleon's Sanhedrin

-The history of Jewish emancipation in Western Europe ( so far much of Meyer's story seems more like Reform Judaism began as a political movement than a religious one)

-Ashkenazim vs. Sephardim in early modern Jewish Amsterdam
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Vividcon posted its dates. It is the weekend before Worldcon. I have flight tickets to Finland the Sunday of Vividcon. So... I'm not sure if I'll be going to Vividcon. It's still possible- I'd just fly from O'Hare to JFK Sunday morning and do a self-transfer to the flight to Helsinki, which leaves JFK at 5:40PM. But that's a lot of travel.

But I want to go to Vividcon. I had a great time this year in spite of missing a third of the con because of travel issues. And I have a Club Vivid vid I've been working on that I would like to dance to in person. Hmm.. I'll have to think about this.
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Not in God's Name by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

I found this book sometimes interesting and thought-provoking, but more often I found it frustrating. I didn't read the whole thing, though I did read large chunks of it and after a certain point I started skipping around to read chunks of different chapters to sample as much of it as I could take. It's Rabbi Sacks's effort to talk about a lot of related issues involving the intersection of religion and militism, and there are so many different topics and so many different ideas and Rabbi Sacks as a moderate traditionalist is trying to navigate such a precarious middle ground that it feels like every chapter contradicts the chapter before it.

Rabbi Sacks's chief argument is, perhaps, that religious violence is not the result of particularism, of sectarian identification, but of the warring impulses of particularism and universalism. It emerges when a particular sect with its particularist ideology decides that it has the moral imperative to impose its ideology on others. He claims that this is a natural consequence of theological dualism and suggests that the Jewish form of monotheism was introduced as a competitor to this dualism, to the idea that the Other is the Enemy. Also, I think, that anti-semitism exists because of the threat this ideology poses to dualist sects.

But then he waves away the violently dualist passages in Torah in a sloppy and inconclusive chapter called "Hard Texts" in which he says that the Rabbanim always understood these violent passages as not really impelling violence (which is mostly true), but doesn't offer a compelling alternative explanation for why these passages are violent, simply claiming that people in the Biblical era were more violent and needed this violent language in their holy texts for some reason.

I wanted more from Rabbi Sacks. I made a similar argument a few years back with regards to Artscroll's choice to render 'thy two breasts' in the Song of Songs as "thy twin tablets of Law". It's fine that two thousand years of religious tradition understand this text as metaphorical, but it's important to recognize how metaphors work in Judaism. We recognize that there is something to be taught from the p'shat, the literal meaning, even though as a matter of practical halacha we don't observe the p'shat. Rabbi Sacks does not offer a convincing reason why there are Biblical exhortations to genocide, even though they are not observed, and I think it weakens his overall case for Jewish theology as uniquely suited to being an Or LaGoyim.

On the other hand, I don't know any thinkers offering better explanations for these verses. There may just not be a good answer to this question.
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A Sestina for January 20, 2017. (395 words) by Lanna Michaels
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Original Work, United States Politics
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Additional Tags: More Joy Day, Sestina, Politics, Jewish Themes, It occurs to me that I am America

A sestina for More Joy Day. (note: not actually joyous.)

Sometimes people write poetry for me
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Exhausting couple of weeks. A week ago Saturday night was [personal profile] freeradical42's bachelor party, which I hosted. We braved the snow- everyone was late as a result- but it was a really good, chill time. It was the sort of hangout we used to do when we were in our early twenties and have been too busy and dispersed to do too often lately- dinner and then a laid back trip to a bar with lots of beer choices. My commitment from day one of planning was "The only strippers at this party will be wire strippers." I gave [personal profile] freeradical42 a pair of wire strippers, and the other groomsmen gave him a pair of gardening hoes and a bottle of coke. Because my friends are all as terrible as I am. So now I know I can plan a bachelor party, woo!

I was also in the city Tuesday and Thursday- Tuesday for Puzzled Pint with [personal profile] ghost_lingering, Thursday for wedding rehearsal and dinner with [personal profile] freeradical42's family. Wednesday I spent in bed with a cold.

Then Sunday was the wedding. It was wonderful. [personal profile] freeradical42 and I met at CTY more than fifteen years ago, when I was sixteen. I'll be 32 in April, so yeah, we've known each other just about half our lives. We've done a lot of crazy shit together, we've grown up so much together, and he's been there so many times when I've needed him, that I'm incredibly happy that he's found this happiness. And his wife, who doesn't have an LJ I can tag that I recall, I've known nearly as long, and she's an amazing person who complements him so well.

The ceremony was in a beautiful hundred year old synagoguge on the Upper West Side. I served as one of the eidim, the witnesses to kiddushin. Because of this, I was asked to hold the ring- I did not lose it!!! The Rabbi spoke well, the musicality of the chazan singing the Sheva Brachot with choir backup was lovely, and then it was over and there were hugs. Much hugs.

And then the reception, with so much dancing my legs were barely holding me up the next day, and the surprise arrival of [ profile] allandaros, who had a health issue come up at the last minute and almost missed the whole affair. [ profile] theslammer brought a bunch of CTY frisbees and we danced with them and then we drank an alcoholic version of the Passionfruit. Also a whole lot more hugs and some great conversation with amazing people, and good food and good alcohol and happiness. Happiness, man. It's a good thing.

Then Monday I had D&D and Tuesday I had a second date, that also went really well. I am very hopeful about this. I am also struggling to figure out how to balance my post-wedding exhaustion and introversion with my desire to push that forward. A large part of me wants to spend the next week all by myself curled up in a ball not having any human contact. Instead, tonight I'm going to dinner with my parents. Or really, I'm going to tech support my parents' printer, with dinner thrown in.
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(Very sorry to be missing the in-person experience this year. Everyone who's in Cambridge, have fun!)
seekingferret: White text on blue background. Yuletide: Good for the Jews (yuletide)
Dear Purimgifts Author,

I write the same letter for Purimgifts every year. Purim is a time of topsy turviness, of sudden reversals. What I want most out of this exchange is to be surprised. Thank you for writing for me!

seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

It's Edith Wharton, of course it's fantastic.

Everyone in the book is terrible, and Wharton's marvelously honed condescension shows how little respect she has for most of the characters in the book, but she nonetheless manages to conjure empathy for their position: New York high society is constructed on a certain kind of order and its members are trained from childhood to be committed to making the hard choices required to uphold that order. The techniques they've established are so robust that even the dullest members of society understand their role in holding up the edifice.

What really struck me is her portrait of Newland Archer, who has enough intelligence and has had enough exposure to the arts and to other forms of society that he knows how toxic the rules of New York high society are, but he nonetheless can't escape its straitjacket, because of his own faults. Because he can't see May or Ellen or Janey as people rather than as women, because he likes it when society compliments him and dislikes it when society insults him, because he finds the order of New York society attractive in spite of himself.

You spend most of the book groaning at Newland Archer's fatuousness, and you strongly suspect he's never going to overcome it. But you also resent him a little in the small places when he does half-heartedly resist. Ellen knows full well that there's no version of Archer who will ever actually be emotionally available to her. She knows that whenever he teases her with the hope of rejecting New York's rules, it is just a tease. She has seen 'the Gorgon' and it has opened her eyes, to borrow Wharton's marvelous metaphor. Still, in spite of this, Wharton recognizes that Archer is by many standards a good person. He is a good father, an always appropriate husband, a loyal friend. Sometimes he is even able to stand, however briefly, against society.

I also really enjoyed Wharton's descriptions of the opera and of its place in New York society. The modern Met is a very different kind of institution, especially the way I experience it, but I liked how Wharton engaged with it, with the repeated performances of Gounod's Faust with Christine Nilsson as the diva, holding new meaning each time it's experienced, even if many of the attending were barely paying attention. "Archer turned to the stage, where, in the familiar setting of giant roses and pen-wiper pansies, the same large blonde victim was succumbing to the same small brown seducer."
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Rogue One

I haven't posted because I haven't really had much to say. I enjoyed it, but ranked it somewhere in the middle where it comes to Star Wars movies. I might go ANH/TESB/TFA/R1/TPM/ROTJ/ROTS/AOTC, with a considerable jump between TESB and TFA, and considerable uncertainty in the ranking of TFA/R1/TPM/ROTJ.

Rogue One had a great set of characters, a fun story that generally kept moving well, but its commitment to not being a Saga movie threw me out of it periodically. The lack of title crawl, the ending, the color palette, the sometimes boring locations... They were going for a much more mundane version of the Star Wars universe, and they succeeded. And in some senses that's a really cool thing. I like [personal profile] ghost_lingering's post about how ambiguous the 'right choices' were and [personal profile] skygiants's post about how central the nitty gritty details of archiving was to the plot. But it's also... not the reason I fell in love with A New Hope. Star Wars is a universe where there is a Dark Side and a Light Side and those things are kept cosmically in balance by a unifying Force. In that sense the Star Wars movies are generally profoundly conservative, in the best sense of the term. The Force is a presence in this film, but a more uncertain one- the film captures a moment when the Force is out of balance, and balance will not be restored until the end of the film this one is a prequel to, so I think there is a sense of structural incompleteness. I have not yet had a chance to watch Rogue One and A New Hope back to back, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that transition works.


seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

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