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Apr 15 2013

More on plastic bags warding off impurities

Readers will recall the post about the Orthodox Jew of the ‘kohen’ variety who wrapped himself up in a thick plastic bag in order to prevent himself from becoming ‘ritually impure’ by flying over cemeteries. There were many questions raised by me and in the comments about how this was supposed to work.

We may have an answer because Jerry Coyne also wrote about it and in his comments there was someone who claimed to be a kohen and gave reasons for this weird behavior.

Go over and read the full explanation. It is a hilarious example of convoluted reasoning that only religion can produce. I am going to flag just one thing.

Since, for a time, all planes departing Israel’s only international airport flew over a huge cemetery directly West of the airport it was a certainty that Kohanim on the plane would be “exposed” to this impurity.

All that said, as a Kohen myself, I certainly do not do this when I fly from Israel as it true with most Kohanim. There are two reasons, first the government ceded to requests to change the flight path, so that most of the time flights do not go over the cemetery. Second, and more import to me, there’s a general concept that, when possible, Jews shouldn’t do things that make Judaism look foolish.

So we have the government of Israel changing flight plans in order to accommodate what can only be described as crackpot beliefs! And I thought that the Sri Lankan government changing the time zone (scroll down to the Post Script) to accommodate Buddhist crackpot beliefs represented the height of idiocy. They clearly have strong competition from the government of Israel for the title of the most laughable pandering to religion.

As for not doing things that “make Judaism look foolish”, that ship has long sailed for all religions. Their ritualistic practices are all patently foolish, not seeming so only to the similarly indoctrinated.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    As for not doing things that “make Judaism look foolish”, that ship has long sailed for all religions.

    You’re doing it again! LOL!

  2. 2
    kenbo

    “The Rabbis of the Talmud determined that the impurity emanating upwards from a corpse has no end.” – from the hyperlinked article.

    Does “upwards” always mean “away from the center of the earth?” Also, if a “roof” blocks the impurity, why not the “floor” of an aircraft? How about flying over the ocean, where possibly millions of people have been “buried” over time? Also, what about graves or bodies that are unknown, like an ancient battlefield (which are probably plentiful in and around Isreal)? Is there an “expiration” for the impure emanations? So many questions…

    But the biggest one is why not just put a plastic bag on the seat you are sitting in instead of wrapping yourself up in it? If the plastic blocks the impurities (which is another topic I would love to explore) as they “rise up” why would one need to envelop oneself in plastic?

  3. 3
    NinetyEight

    What about kohanim in space? With the rotating Earth’s graveyards beaming impurity in all directions would the spaceship need to be shielded by a plastic bag?

  4. 4
    janiceintoronto

    So if he was flying -over- the cemetery shouldn’t the bag cover the bottoms of his feet?

    Hey, it’s an important question!

  5. 5
    kraut

    I`d rather have him put the bag over his head – prevents him from breathing…in the impurities.
    And a Darwin award to follow.

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    “Second, and more import to me, there’s a general concept that, when possible, Jews shouldn’t do things that make Judaism look foolish.”

    An interesting factoid about this. Strictly speaking, polygamy and concubinage remain perfectly fine in Judaism: both exist in the Tanakh, and the Talmud has several tractates giving the rules and regulations regarding multiple wives and the difference between a wife and a concubine. Prominent religious scholars such as Gershom ben Judah (in the 10th century) and Maimonides (in the early 13th century) worked hard to suppress plural marriages, as they were seen as wicked by the Christian majority. Other scholars argued that the practices should be retained as part of God’s command and as a distinguishing characteristic of the Jewish identity (along with long beards, earlocks, etc.)

    Despite historic opposition, plural marriage and concubinage are seeing a resurgence in Israel among the ultra-orthodox.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Jews shouldn’t do things that make Judaism look foolish.

    Wow, well, that doesn’t leave much. Corned beef and bagels?

    If you take the foolishness out of any religion, what’s left? Some music, some food, some velvet blacklight posters…

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    “The Rabbis of the Talmud determined that the impurity emanating upwards from a corpse has no end.”

    Some black holes, like M87 have amazing gas jets; Earth had corpse impurity emanating through the entire universe. I wonder if the rabbis determined if it emanates faster than the speed of light or not. How do they “determine” these things, anyway? And is that process similar to “making shit up”?

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    With the rotating Earth’s graveyards beaming impurity in all directions would the spaceship need to be shielded by a plastic bag?

    This one wonders why the plane’s fuselage isn’t apparently good enough to offer as much shielding as a plastic bag. But if a plane’s fuselage isn’t good enough, then neither is a spaceship’s hull.

    And, presumably, they don’t travel at sea because of all the dead that have been buried at sea.

  10. 10
    Dunc

    I’m curious as to why the impurity only emanates upwards

  11. 11
    Vote for Pedro

    Anti-gravity. Clearly something our physicists should investigate in more detail…(hint hint)…

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