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Cafeteria Judaism

This is a guest post by Mark Webster. Again. His credentials this time include being a big Jew.

There has been a lot of talk about Cafeteria Christians of late, but there has not been much talk about my people, the kings and queens of double-think: Jews.

As a background, I grew up in a mildly religious home…which was, for the most part, fueled by my own desire to be more religious. I went to Jewish overnight camp for four years and day camp for six years before. I learned how to not just read my torah portion for my bar mitzvah, but actually learned how to read torah, chant the services, and a multitude of other things that now feel highly irrelevant to life as it stands.

For Jews, it is not merely a desire to follow only the laws that make sense to us, but how to interpret the laws such that we can still live our lives with the least amount of “change.” This post will delineate a few of the more major loopholes that Jews have found over the years.

1. Shaving:

In the bible, it specifically says, “27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” Obviously, in modern day society, not only would this interfere with eating, but make you look RIDICULOUS!!! (Like this!)

Perhaps it was obvious to modern day Jews that this was not the face that people wanted to have associated with their religion…so they made a loophole. “G-d says this is the preferred way, but this is totally a kosher way to cut your hair and not look like a disgusting troll!”

2. Food

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

A young, talented rabbinical student would leave immediately after school every single day. Not even a word, just leave as quickly as possible. The rabbi, after a few weeks of being puzzled by his best pupil’s behavior, decided to follow him. The rabbi kept as quiet as possible as he followed the young man to a McDonalds, of all places! He watched in dismay as his student entered the premises and ordered a bacon double cheeseburger! Just as the student was hungrily putting the unkosher meal to his lips, the rabbi yelled,

“For the love of god, stop!”

The pupil looked most confused, “What’s the problem, Reb Harris?”

“Are you shitting me?! Look at what you’re eating! You couldn’t possibly get any more unkosher if you tried!”

The young man thought for a second, smiled and said, “Oh, but it’s completely okay! You taught us!”

“What?!” The rabbi was furious, “I have never said anything of the sort!”

The student rebutted, “Ah, but, it was observed by a rabbi!”

~~~

I’m bothered most, I think, by this hypocrisy. I know so many Jews who, when I enter their house, they scrupulously have two sets of…well…everything. Dishes, pots, sinks, and even refrigerators—and then go out to dinner and have a cheeseburger.

What is their excuse? They aren’t at home. I think that so many people feel that the home is where sanctity is important, so they don’t feel it’s as necessary to follow this outside of their house, or perhaps, they relish the chance to eat the unkosher food outside of the home.

3. Sabbath taboos

Now we get into some of the more bizarre loopholes that I have encountered, funny, all of them surround the most holy day of the week…the shabbos (sabbath):

1. Lifting things (eruv)

In the bible, it specifically talks about not being able to carry things around on the sabbath…which would mean everything from carrying keys in your pocket to a tissue would be, well, outlawed! Which is, at least, inconvenient, and, at most, ludicrous!

But we are a crafty people, and have come up with a way around this. If you take a
piece of string, and wrap it around your neighborhood, you are free to break this law because…well, I don’t have any clue. Honestly, this one has baffled me since day one. Why does a piece of string…or a wall, for that matter (which is what the string is used to represent), prevent god from getting pissed at you?

2. Turning on and off lights (timers)

Many Jew folk I know also have their lights on timers during shabbat because there is also a prohibition for CREATING THINGS…which includes creating…and destroying light. So, as a measure for you being able to function at night without having to spend the night with the lights on, we have decided to employ the use of timers on our lights. This allows us to have the lights turn on and off at reasonable hours BY THEMSELVES so we don’t have to, which means we aren’t breaking the laws of shabbos because we didn’t do it…except…who set the timer in the first place? Why doesn’t that count?

My question is…why make the loophole in the first place? Why not just redact the laws that we find so…uh…stupid? You KNOW you aren’t going to follow the rules because they’re asinine…otherwise you wouldn’t have made the loophole to begin with!

This is post 36 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.