Friday, May 25, 2018


Have you heard of "jewfish?"

No, I'm not referring to gefilta, schmaltz herring or lox. There's an actual species called "jewfish!"

Interestingly, the jewfish is the largest kosher fish edible to Jews. Sounds rather Jewish to me! (And stick an "f" into "Jewish" and you get "jewFish")

Its newer more-"culturally-sensitive" name is the "goliath grouper," and appropriately so, as it's one heck of a giant fish! Some jewfish grow to longer than 8 feet and as heavy as 800 lbs! Don't mess with a jewfish! (And don't mess with the Jews either, for that matter).

Just like their Jewish namesakes, jewfish are fond of the tropics, and congregate near the South Florida coast.

There's even a place in the Florida Keys called "Jewfish Creek!"

However, unlike Jews, jewfish are NOT snowbirds, or maybe I should say, "snowfish." They don't ever migrate northward to colder Atlantic waters. They prefer to stay in the tropics year-round.

The origin of the name "jewfish" is somewhat of a mystery (kind of like how Jewish survival is a mystery too), though some speculate that it may have originally been "jawfish" due to its large mouth (reminds me of some Jewish bigmouths I know), so it might be more about semantics than Semitics.

Unlike Jews who prefer cohesive Jewish community, jewfish are solitary. Oddly, they are called "groupers" yet don't swim in groups! In Australia, they're called "gropers," but jewfish don't grope anyone either! Likewise, Jews are NOT groupies, and we certainly don't condone groping anyone. We Jews are ashamed of recent high-profile Jewish gropers, and think they should be locked up! A shanda!

Like Jews in Israel, the jewfish defend its territory when threatened, with aggressive body language. They have been known to attack divers, and were even seen attacking large lemon sharks! As I said, don't mess with jewfish!

Like Jews, jewfish are highly inquisitive, and fearless too, which unfortunately made them easy prey (prey, not pray) for spear fishermen.

Sadly, for this reason, jewfish are considered "critically endangered," and harvesting them has been banned since 1990. They also reproduce very slowly, so it will still be a while till their population rises to sustainable levels, even though their numbers have been recovering substantially since the ban.

(It's too bad, because unlike inferior "gefilta" ("poor-man's fish") jewfish is considered superior high-quality fish meat. Jewfish is a type of sea bass, the very largest variety!)

However, here's where their similarities to their human namesake ends, for unlike jewfish, Jews are NOT endangered! If anyone is in danger, it's the enemies of the Jews!

And Jewish population is on the rise, and so is Jewish pride and identity!

So celebrate your Jewishness! (and if you're a jewfish, then celebrate your jewfishness! ;) 

Our numbers might be small, relatively speaking, but we're the "big fish in the pond" of planet Earth.

Take a lesson from the jewfish and have NO FEAR!

In the words of our Jewish sages:

"The whole world is a very narrow bridge. The main thing is to have no fear at all!"

(Curiously, there is a bridge called the "Jewfish Bridge" in Key Largo that carries US1, connecting the Florida Keys to US mainland! A long narrow bridge indeed!)

(And since lots of Jewish Floridians traverse that bridge, it might as well be called the "Jewish Jewfish Bridge!")

Hurray for jewfish!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Never Again

Can't get psyched up for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Reasons:

1. Children getting gassed in Syria. Haunting images of last week's horrific massacre scar my psyche.

2. Jews being poached in Land of Israel for a whopping 3-million-dollar bounty per head, courtesy of PA (=UN, EU, US, etc). It's open season for Jews. Rammed with cars, plowed down with trucks, gunned down, chopped up with kitchen knives. Instant wealth and celebrity status for Jew killers.

3. Israel sandwiched between genocidal rogue regimes of their own creation, funded by nations of the world. Preschools, primary schools, summer camps, & media there teach children to hate and murder Jews, much like Nazi propagandist and Hitler Youth indoctrination of the thirties.

4. 85-year-old Holocaust survivor brutally murdered in Paris, Jewish woman beaten & tossed out of window to her death, synagogues firebombed in Europe, antisemitism rising worldwide. Outspoken Jew hatred surging on the left and right.

5. Jewish state blamed for virtually all of world's problems by prominent body representing nearly all the world's nations. Said body & its members states demand that entire regions be ethnically cleansed of Jews. No ethnic cleansing, no peace.

6. Pariah of the world once again, Jewish state reviled and deplored by academia and media. Serious worldwide effort to boycott, sanction, and divest from Jewish state. Athletes from Jewish state barred from open participation in international sports competitions. Prominent US Jews lecture Israel on why it's wrong to killl genocidal jihadists who are shooting at their own soldiers.

7. Jews declared illegitimate among the nations. Singled out for international condemnation and scorn. 3,000 years of Jewish history brazenly denied. Most ancient and holiest Jewish sites vandalized and ancient Jewish artifacts trashed.

8. Rockets fired from rogue police state (with stated genocidal mission) onto Jewish state every now and then. World aghast with condemnation when puny Jewish state attempts to defend its citizens.

9. Nearly-nuclear Iran encroaching in on their stated target, the world's only Jewish state, from close range. Six million Jews again in perilous jeopardy.

World is silent and inactive. Again.

What do they mean when they say "Never Again?" Are they serious?

It's more like: "Oh no. Not Again!" לא תקום פעמיים צרה.

What do we hope to accomplish by just passively remembering the horrors of the past, yet we stand by helplessly witnessing the horrors of the present?

At the very least, let's change the slogan to "No more" or "Let's actually stop it now, because it's happening again."

That would be far more respectful to the memories of the millions of victims of the Nazi genocide, as well as to the memories of the thousands of victims of the contemporary Oslo-inspired genocide that persists to this day.

Actually, the most appropriate slogans are "Moshiach Now!" and "Enough Galut!" (exile).  For once we experience the True and Complete Redemption, the Galut and its horrors & holocausts will truly be gone for good... Never Again.

Awesome Israel Initials

Do you know what these Hebrew letters refer to?

In the recent two decades, ever since the onset of the sms/internet/mobile-phone-era phenomenon, acrostics like LOL and ASAP have become ubiquitous. Everyone can easily recognize their emphatic meanings.  What you may not know is that Jews have writing this way for centuries, perhaps millennia.

It was not only a means to conserve ink, paper, and time, although those were presumably the major factors. The deeper significance is to express how obvious or inherent an idea is to the readers, so obvious that it was redundant to even spell it out. The mere initials invoked powerful feeling that transcend words.

The acronym above is an excellent example. Used widely throughout Jewish literature to refer to what had been then known as Palestine,[1] it is comprised of two phrases:

The first initials (אה"ק) define the location and describe its significance, while the second (תובב"א) is a prayerful wish, concluding with an article of faith. It’s truly remarkable how a few letters can convey such a wealth of meaning.

For those who aren’t familiar with the nuances of the Hebrew original, I'll delineate them here.

It stands for: “אַרְצֵנוּ הַקְדוֹשָׁה, תִּבָּנֶה וְתִכּוֹנֵן בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ אָמֵן.”

It means: “Our Holy Land, may it be rebuilt and securely-reestablished speedily in our own days, Amen!”

Simply put, it refers to the land of Israel. However, although it only contains eight initials, it expresses eleven simple but powerful ideas:

1.   אַרְצֵ  – land.

We refer to a land, not a state. The state is great, as it helps the people live in the Land. However, while the state is only 70 years old, the Land is 3,330 years old. The state owes its existence (partially, at least) to the United Nations and other international sponsors. The Land owes its existence only to its Divine Creator, and to no one else. Also, the “state” doesn’t include territories outside of its official internationally-recognized state borders, especially if there are other inhabitants in these areas who wish to have a different (or mutually-exclusive) state. The Land includes the entire expanse of the land, irrespective of any modern political realities. A Jew in Hebron is living in the Land, but not necessarily within the state.

2.   נוּ  – our.

It is our land. The Land has been granted to us, the Children of Israel, as an eternal inheritance. While most lands belong exclusively to the citizens of the particular state within whose boundaries the lands are geographically located, this Land Is different. It is inherently “our land,” and as such, belongs to all of us. A Jew living in Hebron is living in his own Land, not just in the the Land. In fact, he’s living in my land too, and in yours as well. He’s living in our land. Unlike all other lands, this Land belongs to every single Jew worldwide, irrespective of citizenship or location.[2]

3.  קְדוֹשָׁה – holy.

It isn’t just any land, or a land we love simply because it’s ours. We acknowledge that it’s sacred soil irrespective of whether it’s ours. We cherish it because of Whose presence is manifest there.[3] It is not merely beloved or cherished.[4] It is hallowed.

4.  הַ)קְדוֹשָׁה) – the (holy).

It’s not just one of many sacred lands. It is “the” holy land with definite article. The one and only Holy Land. This Land is inherently different from the rest of the mundane earth.[5] It is the location of G-d’s unique “home” on earth. It’s where G-d feels at home, and consequently, so do we.

5.  תִּבָּנֶה  – may it be built. It’s not talking about big buildings, skyscrapers or stadiums. This is a common misconception. It refers to the construction of more Jewish homes, enough for all the Jews on earth to return and resettle our ancestral land. Even more essentially, it refers to the construction of G-d's home, the Holy Temple. That’s what we mean when we refer toירושלים הבנויה, “Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem." Its ultimate building needs to be built.

6.  וְתִכּוֹנֵן  – and may it be securely established.

It's not enough for Jewish homes to be built throughout our Land. They need to be securely established for all time.

7.  בְיָמֵי – in days.

We envision and anticipate an actual time, a real day in the future, when the Temple will indeed be built on its proper site, and all the exiles will indeed return and securely resettle the Land.

8.   נוּ   – our.

In our days. May this come to fruition quite literally in our lifetimes.

9.  בִּמְהֵרָה – speedily.

Not just in our days, but speedily in our days. Not just in decades, years, or even months from now. In our days, and with speed. In other words, TODAY. In fact, we can’t even mention our Holy Land by name without immediately expressing our heartfelt yearning for reconstruction of the Temple and the ingathering of the Exiles to occur speedily in our days!

10.  אָמֵן – Amen.

This means: “So be it. It's true. I truly believe this statement and mean it quite literally. It’s not just a hopeful wish, but something that I know and affirm to be true. It’s an article of faith.[6] I know that this wish will indeed become fulfilled.”

11.  !(אָמֵן– Amen at the end, with implied emphasis.

This is a final amen. Generally, one does not respond “amen” after his/her own blessing or prayer. It’s superfluous, since one is always supposed to mean what he/she says, without any need to affirm it.[7] It’s only recited after hearing someone else’s prayer or blessing, and expresses agreement, shared belief and affirmation.

However, there’s a notable exception. One recites “amen” only if it’s to signify the end, ultimate finality, that there’s nothing after it.[8] It implies "Amen. Period."

Why is this significant here? Our sages taught that the ultimate Redemption is different from all the others in that it will never be followed by an exile, “גְאוּלָה שֶׁאֵין אַחֲרֶיהָ גָלוּת” in Hebrew, unlike the exodus from Egypt or the return from Babylon, victory over the Hellenist Seleucids or Persian-era Hamanists. All those salvations were later followed by a subsequent debacle, destruction and exile. The final redemption is truly final, complete and permanent. That is why we call it “גְאוּלָה הָאֲמִיתִּית וְהַשְׁלֵמָה ," the "True and Complete Redemption."

That's why “Amen” is recited at the end of our own prayerful wish and affirmation of faith concerning the rebuilding and secure reestablishment of our Holy Land and G-d’s eternal city. We are affirming our belief that it will be built and securely-reestablished permanently, and will never again be destroyed. And that will be the wonderful final chapter of the story of man on earth, a grand finale that will last to eternity.

May it be speedily in our days. Amen!


[1] See Tanya, Igeret Hakodesh, preface to Epistle 27.
[2] No need to call it the “Promised Land” anymore, since it has already been given and eternally deeded to us. The promise has been long since kept and fulfilled millennia ago. Now, it’s simply “Our Land.”
[3] It was cherished by our Patriarchs and Matriarchs before it was granted to them, and even before it was ever promised to their descendants.
[4] As its also referred to in TaNaKh, “ארץ חמדה,” the “cherished” or “desired” land. In fact, etymologically speaking, the very word “ארץ” (land) is a cognate of “רצון”, desire.
[5] קדוש, usually translated as “holy,” actually means “separate” or “removed from,” i.e. beyond the mundane.
[6] אמונה means belief. אמת means truth. Both are cognates of אמן.
[7] Consequently, saying “amen” after one’s own blessing is considered derisive and disrespectful in most cases.
[8] For example, some recite “amen” at the last of a group of blessings to signify that it is the end. See Berachot 45b, Rashi “הא בבונה ירושלים.” Furthermore, we recite “amen” after our own blessing in “Boneh Yerushayim,” the third blessing of Grace, to indicate that it is the end of the Biblically-required blessings. See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chayim, 188:1.

Monday, April 9, 2018

World's Most Lucrative Business

Surest way to become an instant multi-millionaire these days:

Simply murder a Jew, and be richly rewarded by the so-called Palestinian Authority.

Easy instant wealth... to the tune of 3 million U.S. dollars, courtesy of the United Nations, European Union, and of and you! That's right, our very own hard-earned tax dollars are paying for each Jew-slaying. 

Think about that when paying taxes this week.

Think about it on "Yom Hashoah" this week when we beat our chests and chant empty slogans like "Never Again."

Let's think about it when we argue bitterly about deficits, tax cuts, and lamentable lack of funds to pay for vital domestic programs.

Meanwhile, it's open-Jew-season in the Holy Land & elsewhere, and we're funding the killing spree.

Far more lucrative than ivory, uranium, meth, cocaine or opioids, Jew blood is the world's hottest commodity.

It's easy. Just get a sharp knife and learn how to scream Allahu akhbar, find a defenseless Jewish child, and you're all set.

No degree, skill, or investment capital necessary. As long as you're okay with blood and guts. (Caveat: you have to be a depraved mass murderer, which is really no big deal nowadays.)

Not only that, it'll earn you instant fame and prestige. You'll be hailed as a hero & saint, and you might even get an elementary school named after you in "Palestine," the hottest market for Jew blood ever, far more than Nazi Germany ever was.

Heck, had you been a Ukrainian peasant and dragged a Jewish neighbor to her death after gang-raping her, the most you'd get in 1941 is an approving pat-on-the-back, or maybe a bottle of German beer.

But in 2018, do the same and become an overnight millionaire! And the whole world is paying you for it!

Who needs to poach dangerous animals if you can poach Jews? If you hunt down and kill a gorilla or lion, you'll be deplored, reviled and internationally condemned.  But if you do the same to a Jew, why, you'll be a celebrated hero for life, and you'll be a martyr posthumously to boot! Your family will live in new-found wealth and celebrity status.

Yup. "Never Again" is our fervent mantra, our rally cry against the alt-right, our feel-good lip-service against racism and discrimination in "all of its forms" (read: certain specific forms that have been embraced by modern society & academia, to the exclusion of all others, especially its most historically-politically-expedient-most-widely-ignored form ever, Jew hatred.) 

That's right.  "Never again!" We say it and we mean it... (sort of)

We'll chant it again next week on Yom Haatzmaut, amidst feelings of supposed pride and feigned resolve as we sentimentally watch a dramatic array of fighter planes flying overhead.

But meanwhile on the ground, it's open-Jew-season. In our own backyard, in our own streets and buses. And WE'RE paying for it.

"Never again!" we'll cry, as Jewish blood spills freely on the street, a Holocaust survivor get butchered and incinerated in her own apartment in Paris, a block away from where another Jewish woman is bludgeoned and defenstrated, tossed out the window of her third-floor apartment to her death. Jews chopped up, gunned down, in Israel and abroad, Israelis regularly targeted by Gazan rockets. Synagogues get firebombed in Germany with barely a slap on the wrist by German judges, etc. And the response? Silence, inaction and more silence. 

The only time we hear from US Jewish politicians who supposedly champion liberal causes is when they cynically condemn Israel for eliminating Hamas terrorists.

We chant Black/Brown/All Lives Matter, but seems like the only lives that matter in "Palestine" are those of genocidal Jew-poachers. Their Jewish victims' lives don't seem to matter much. They're just par for the course.

Nothing new here, nor anything particularly newsworthy. Just like prominent news stations failed to report the beheading of a ten-month-old Jewish baby in her crib (and her parents and siblings being knifed to death in their home) in 2011. And the stations that did find it newsworthy simply reported that five settlers had been fatally attacked by Palestinian youth who were indignantly protesting "occupation."

No big deal. Jewish lives never really mattered too much. Not in 1941 nor in 2018.

Anyway, Jews aren't an endangered species like elephants or lions. The world doesn't seem to mind much if a few more million get poached, just like it didn't mind much 75 years ago.

The weird thing is how we Jews think this is "progress" and keep on chanting "Never Again."

What do we mean by "Never Again?" Never again what?

Seems to me that Jew hatred has gone on unabated since the Holocaust. Only difference is that now, WE are sponsoring it. 

Yikes. Seems that things are actually somewhat worse now than they were in 2018.

At least in the 1940's, the free world opposed the genocide of Jews, and fought to end it.

Nowadays, the "authority" that is responsible for both the incitement to murder Jews and for compensating the murderers themselves, is supported by theUnited States, United Nations, & European Union! The world seems to be "united" & "unified" against Jews more now than ever before.

If this isn't world-sponsored genocide of Jews, then I don't know what is.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Just one single human life

The entire humankind once consisted of just one single individual.

That individual was a non-binary transgender hermaphrodite, but also 100% male and also 100% female (depending on perspective, each being valid from that particular point of view.) [1]

That individual was not Jewish, nor of any other religious or cultural persuasion, nor was he/she/they atheist, agnostic, animist or theist.

The individual was transracial, and was neither liberal nor conservative. The person didn't believe in socialism or capitalism, or any ism for that matter.

This individual was as dark as the darkest-skinned person on earth, and as fair-skinned as the lightest-skinned person on earth. In fact, he/she was both the darkest-skinned AND the fairest-skinned person to have ever lived! He/she had both the curliest hair AND the straightest hair of anyone who had ever lived.

The individual was the oddest-looking and most-out-of-the-box creative person to have ever lived, but was also the most conforming, run-of-the-mill & average person who had ever lived.

This individual had the lowest IQ ever, but also the highest. More brilliant than the most intellectually-sophisticated human ever, but also as foolish as the least intelligent member of the species. He/she was actually the smartest AND dumbest person who had ever lived! The strongest AND the weakest. The healthiest and least-healthy. The most physically-fit and the least-fit. The fattest and the skinniest. The most-beautiful and the ugliest human who had ever lived.

The individual was illiterate and non-verbal with no one to communicate with, perhaps like someone who is on the spectrum.

The individual was an immigrant, forced to flee his/her place of origin [2], but also a native. He/she was both a stranger and a local, a settler and also indigenous. The establishment and the newcomer.

The person was neither heterosexual nor homosexual. The person happened to be sexually-deviant (by today's standards) [3] whose children all practiced incest [4], but was also a believer in monogamous marriage in the traditional Biblical sense! [5]

Needless to say, the individual was immodest and uncouth, didn’t keep any societal norms, wasn’t on social-media, and certainly didn’t wear fancy or dignified clothes. In fact, he/she/they didn’t wear ANY clothes. [6] The person was amoral, by today’s standards, [7] but was also pious, and at times, even self-righteously indignant and holier-than-thou! [8]

This individual was simply human, no more and no less, who suffered from fear, shame, guilt, dishonesty, denial, and was inclined to blame others for his/her own weaknesses, just like all humans who would ever live thereafter. [9]

This individual was one day old, but also a mature adult. He/she was both the youngest AND the oldest human who had ever lived!

I know this all sounds contradictory, but it was true! Or at least the Bible says so. [10]


So that no one ever come along and claim that any one particular human being's life or dignity doesn't matter.

So that no one ever dare suggest that a human being who is a one-day-old infant, or a hoary senior, or female or male or both or neither, conforming or non-conforming for whatever reason, or homosexual or heterosexual or nonsexual, or of any particular religion or culture or lack thereof, or of any level of intelligence or literacy or lack thereof, or of any level of cognitive ability or disability, or of any ethnic, political, or national background, etc. etc., so that NO ONE EVER dare suggest that this person's life doesn't matter.

That one person's life, even if that one person is ____________ (fill in blank with the human quality you find most abhorrent or least appealing), has infinite value, as much as that of all of humanity. No more and no less than the totality of all of humankind.

Save or sustain that one life, and it's as if you have saved or sustained ALL of humanity. [11]

Treat that person with compassion and dignity, and it's as though you have shown compassion and dignity to the entire world.

The way you regard that one individual is a reflection of how you regard all seven billion of us. [12]

It's a reflection of how you regard the entire Cosmos.

Look into that individual's eyes. It's a reflection of the entire universe. [13]

[1] Genesis1:27: “And God created the “Adam” in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Rashi: “’Male and female He created them?’ Yet further (2:21) Scripture states: ‘And He took one of his sides, etc.’ The Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 8:1, Ber. 61a, Eruvin 18a) explains that He originally created (Adam) with two faces, and afterwards, He divided him.” The Midrash cited by Rashi describes the original human as being androgynous, male from one side and female from the other, connected by their backsides. The “removal of the side” (typically mistranslated as “rib”) in 2:21 refers to separating the single androgynous human into two distinct individuals, who can someday reunite face to face in the act of intimate union. Of course, Rashi concedes that this isn’t necessarily the literal meaning of the text, but midrashic symbolism. Nevertheless, in traditional Judaism, there are many midrashim that are in fact accepted at face value. This is one that particularly resonates with me. See also ibid 5:2. Please note that there is no neuter gender in Biblical Hebrew, so “He created him” doesn’t mean that masculine qualities are necessarily ascribed to G-d, nor does it mean that the “Adam” is being defined as exclusively male, according to the midrash at least.

[2] Ibid 3:23-24: “And the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden, to till the soil, whence he had been taken. And He drove the man out…” Seems that Adam was evicted from the Garden and became an immigrant in the new soil he was banished to, but also indigenous to that soil, from “whence he had been taken.” So he/she was both expelled and repatriated.

[3] Ibid 2:23: “And man said, ‘This time (in reference to “Eve,” the first distinctly-female human), it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’” Rashi comments: “’This time’ teaches us that Adam came upon all the animals and the beasts [in search of a mate], but he was not satisfied until he found Eve.” — [from Yev. 63a]. “Came upon” is a euphemism for phallic penetration, both in Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew. See Genesis 29:21, Rashi, and Mishna, Keritut 3:5-6, and countless other examples.

[4] See Leviticus 20:17. The verse prohibits the marriage of siblings and describes it as “חֶסֶד” in Hebrew (pronounced “hesed”, which usually translated as “kindness”). Rashi notes that on the literal level, חסד here means a disgraceful act, since חִסוּדָא means disgrace in Aramaic, as per Onkelos on Gen. 34:14. Rashi also cites the midrashic interpretation: “If you [object and] say, ‘But Cain married his sister!’ [the answer is:] the Omnipresent [in permitting this marriage,] performed an act of kindness (חֶסֶד), to build His world through him, as it is said: ‘the world is built on kindness (חֶסֶד).’” (Ps. 89:3). - [Torath Kohanim 20:116]

[5] Genesis 4:25.

[6] Ibid 2:25: “They were both naked…”

[7] Ibid: “…and they were not ashamed.” Rashi: “for they did not know the way of modesty, to distinguish between right and wrong… until eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

[8] Ibid 4:25, Rashi.

[9] Ibid 3:8-13. 
Adam and Eve hid, were afraid, ashamed and in denial. When confronted, Adam blamed Eve, who promptly blamed the Serpent.

[10] According to traditional Jewish thought. Whether you believe in this fantastic story or not (I do, unabashedly), it begs an explanation. Hence this article, as per the sources cited in footnote 11.

[11] Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5, version of Rambam's Pirush Hamishnayos.

[12] This does not mean you necessarily need to agree with all choices that individual makes or doesn't make. It just means that you accord that individual the respect, dignity and compassion that the only human being on earth would deserve. You acknowledge the core value that this human being possesses, simply by virtue of being the one unique person whom the Divine Creator hand-fashioned in His own image, as if he/she were the only one.

[13] "Uni-verse" = "one turn." Perhaps it can be interpreted to mean: "turn back to one, i.e. our one common origin." Alternatively, perhaps it means “Returning to One.” The purpose of the universe (and its tikun) is to realize that we are all one.
(Thank you Joyce for etymological correction)

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Off the Derech?"

Just sharing a post I made earlier today to a Facebook group called "Frum/OTD Dialogue."
(In case you didn't know, "OTD" stands for "Off the Derech." Derech means path in Hebrew referring to the "path" or way of traditional Jewish life. Frum is Yiddish for "religiously observant" in the Orthodox Jewish sense. "Off the Derech" is a modern expression meaning one who left traditional-Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and embraced a non-observant or less-observant one.)
New to this group. Thank you to my real-life friend ___________ for inviting me. Not sure if I fit into the “Off-the-derech” description, but not really “On-the-derech” either. I guess you could say I’m kind of on-and-off.
This got me thinking about the term “OTD.”
Just wondering. Why is it all or nothing? Do you have to be either “Off”-the-derech or “On” it? What about people who vacillate on-and-off?
I’m struggling to find my identity here. On one hand, I probably couldn’t be considered off-the-derech, because I usually wear a yarmulka and try to keep some major Jewish observances, albeit in a rather limited (and sometimes self-serving/lip-service/auto-pilot-kind-of) way.
Not sure I’d identify as ON-the-derech either, because self-serving/lip-service/auto-pilot observance isn’t really the derech I believe in. So I’m not really “on” my derech, although in some deep way, I wish I were.
Every so often, I get back “on” the derech, but sadly, I don’t stay “on” any task for very long. Before long, I’m off the beaten path again, veering off toward some other distraction in life, and quickly forget about having ever been on any derech in the first place.
Often I wistfully wish I’d have stayed “on” a derech, but other times I get complacent and feel resigned to my off-ness.
I guess you can call me kind of “off,” but not necessarily “off THE derech,” per se. Instead, I’m kind of “off” everything. On and off, that is.
I hope those self-revelations aren’t off-putting to you. Don’t mean to turn you off, and certainly didn’t mean to turn anyone on.
Maybe we need a new distinction: O&O – “On-and-Off” (the derech). I suspect that might include lots of other people too, many of whom might wear kippas/hats/sheitels and many of whom might not do so consistently or at all.
Furthermore, I don’t care for the “TD” part, i.e. “THE” derech. Why the definite article? Whose derech are we referring to here? If there are 17 million Jews, doesn’t that mean there are 17 million derechs?
Everyone has their own path in life. My path is not the same as your path. Even if both our paths happen to be bumpy, rocky and circuitous, it doesn’t mean we share the same path. Even if we both happen to be “off” (or “on”) any given path at any given time, or even if our paths intersect. Yes, our paths might bear similarities, but they are clearly not the same path. It’s that kind of boxed-in thinking (that anyone could possibly be “on” or “off” the same derech as anyone else) that I often find so objectionable about lots of “derechs” out there.
The only derech I feel we can ever truly share is derech eretz, mutual respect.
If I respect you and you respect me, then we share the “way of earth,” i.e. consonance, balance and harmony, just as we share planet earth.
On another note, don’t mean to insult anyone here, but I find the abbreviation “OTD” a little offensive, only because of its vocalized similarity to “OCD.” OCD is a real psychiatric condition, not something one chooses. “OTD” is a choice or a lifestyle, not a disorder. Why must we call it something that sounds like a medical diagnosis?
If someone is “off-the-derech” because of a psychiatric condition, then he isn’t “off” the derech, nor was he necessarily on the derech to begin with. Rather he is suffering with an ailment of the mind, psyche and body. Is mental illness a derech (or lack thereof)?
Speaking of OCD, there’s so much suffering in the world, whether or not modern psychology has a name for it. When someone articulates a religious, religiously apathetic, or anti-religious viewpoint due to his or her own personal suffering, is it really a religious or anti-religious statement? Or is it just an expression of human suffering? The same is true for actions, i.e. deeds of religious zeal or of anti-religious cynicism. If there is suffering involved, why do we get so caught up on the religious or anti-religious part? Is that part even relevant?
Moreover, surely every decent human being (all of us who cherish the universal derech of “derech eretz”) sees it as a priority to alleviate a fellow human being’s suffering, I would hope.
If someone is suffering, my first concern ought to be to alleviate that individual’s suffering, irrespective of which derech he or she is on or off. And surely I would never wish to inflict suffering on another human being, certainly not in order to prod him on to (or off of) any given derech.
Upon further reflection, that last statement is the official “derech” I claim to adhere to. But sadly, I don’t always live up to that ideal. When I think about the past, I’ve inflicted untold suffering on lots of innocent individuals, whether by neglect or with offensive words or demeanor. I surely regret those times I’ve veered off the universal derech of derech eretz. I truly wish I could stay on that derech consistently. If you have ever felt offended or wronged by me, I would appreciate a private message alerting me to that, thereby giving me a chance to make amends and get back on the derech.
This might sound like some religious-derech creed, but I firmly believe that someday we will all realize our true potentials and arrive at the end goals of our own personal derachim, both as individuals and collectively as a people.
In that sense, one can never actually be “off” the derech, because life is really just one trajectory toward fulling the ultimate purpose of one’s soul’s descent to earth. All the bumps and detours might seem like I’m “off,” but it’s really part of an awesome and inscrutable plan. The ultimate destination is the same. Some people have a short-long path, and others have a long-short path. A lapse or detour off my path just means that my path might be longer than I originally had imagined. Moveover, just like my path can take a sudden turn to what-appears-to-be "off" my original itinerary, it can also take a sudden turn back "on", or to where ever. My current location/direction on which ever path I'm on doesn't define me. When my path get difficult and I feel like I’m battling an up-hill climb, it helps to remember that it’s particularly because of all those challenges that I’m actually ascending. At the end of all the difficulties, I trust that my soul will appreciate the awesome ascent. All of our souls.
Just to conclude, I don’t believe that anyone is ever “off” any derech in the true sense.
Wishing you much success on your derech, and hope that you find much meaning, gratitude and fulfillment along the way.
Thank you for reading till the end.