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A Brief Introduction to Midrash

LET US MAKE MAN….Said Rabbi Tanhuma son of Banya, Rav Berahia in the name of Rav Leazar, “[God] created him [Adam] as a husk (גולם), and it stretched from one end of the earth to the other, as it is said ‘My embryo [גולמי], have your eyes seen’” ( תהילים: קלט, טז). Rav Joshua son of Nehemiah, Rav Judah son of Semon in the name of Rav Leazar, “The whole world was filled with his form. Eastward to Westward from whence? As it says ‘Prior and ahead have you restricted me” (ibid). Northward to southward from  whence? As it says ‘from the edge of the heavens to the edge of the heavens (דברים: ד, לב). And even into the space of the earth itself from whence? As it is taught, ‘You laid your hands upon me’ (תהילים, שם); as it is written ‘remove your hands from upon me’” (איוב: יג, כא).

The text I set in front of you is unmistakable in origin. It’s a midrash, and this is one of my favorites.Read more...Collapse )
I subscribe to the RSS feed for Oxford University Press' blog. It's a pretty cool resource. Someone major on every project they've got going writes a short article on their areas of expertise. This cute little number caught my eye, posted of all days on International Women’s Day, and it got me wondering if it presents an example of how much Men's Rights Activism has penetrated into the mainstream culture, and if our future must contain more conversations sounding like this author. Is domestic violence a woman's issue, he asks?Read more...Collapse )

Is there a word for the class-oriented version of mansplaining? I feel bad posting a vid like this when there are so many good pieces of Modern Orthodox satire that, I'll say it, restore my hope in our community. I kinda mean that. Sure they to provide only smallest increments of hope, but I'm not gonna deny the feeling. They prove an ability to laugh and the presence of self-awareness. They seem to celebrate and critique at the same time, and the best of them don't compromise on either. And instead of linking any of the entertainment and satisfaction I've enjoyed these past several years from good vids, I post this messed up piece of work. Arguably what we find here is nothing more than a classic town-versus-gown problem. Me, I can't help but think of how class-based values and religious values intertwine, sublimation hard at work in the process, confusing an already tangled mess of moral thinking. Uptown Funk is supposed to be an anthem. It's not the Sugarhill Gang or Michael Jackson or Prince but it references superficial aspects of them to celebrate their celebration of an inner city world filled with life and color. And then comes this bunch of middle-class religious boys dressed up ghetto-eighties style, joking about getting mugged, and favorably concluding with "Hey, you know this neighborhood you call home? It's actually not bad. Nope. How suprising! It's really not that bad!" The MO humor is actually pretty funny, but the arrogance that goes with the territory, its patronizing qualities and cluelessness to boot--especially how they keep going full-speed ahead, remaining so utterly self-assured--it embarrasses me, really.

I do find it incredible that as many people were involved in this project as there had to be, not one thought to autotune that guy's voice to keep it in key. And if that were the only problem, I'd totally live with it.

Welcome to my first post in a long while; I'm kinda worried that the style of this one will be too much like academic prose because that's what I was reading before I came on here. So, there’s this mammoth post I wanted to do about Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. Like, on everything in it. I wanted to contrast the aims of magical realism against those of GRRM’s realism-injected fantasy. How do they relate to reality or escape from it? I wanted to write of how realism itself in modern art and literatrue has always had a socio-political edge to it. I had a sneaking suspicion that what GRRM was doing amounted to an inversion of magical realism, searching for truth and identity from within the occidental fantasy. I wondered at the role of realpolitik, and its political motivations. I wanted to talk about the quality of the writing too, it’s improvement, and my suspicion that Martin might have assigned himself a task too big for him to pull off.

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And the Real Travesty Is...

The petition for Shalom Rubashkin is second in popularity to legalizing weed. Combine all petitions about decriminalizing cannabis in some way or another and it doesn't come close. It ranks higher than abolishing puppy mills or reinstating Glass-Steagall, or putting an end to the Patriot Act, corporate personhood, and the TSA. So what the hell is the point of a movement like Occupy Wall Street if it's so clear nobody in this country knows what they want?

This vid is so rantworthy I couldn't think straight if I got started.
The first time I gave a reading of Sam Shepard's True West I was at a lit gathering with friends, and I managed to captivate the whole room. It's a beautiful thing, the sound of complete silence falling on everyone seated, all eyes and ears focused on the work being read.
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This Has Been a Three Minute TV Review.

Free Agents, the US version. The retro wardrobe (pic doesn't do it justice), the corporate cultural setting, the requisite sexual and political tensions that go with that territory, and all that shtick with the business of spin. Which doesn't at all sound like Mad Men.

On the other hand, it is just a non-threatening comedy, taking place in the present day, nothing demanded of the viewer to make him wonder about our own society and where it came from. It replaces all that heavier and scarier stuff with a sometimes Seinfeldesque sense of comedy, but other times it's all about the gag-characters, like that wacky, creepy boss living in his own world, or the lioness of a secretary who'd get fired in a second in real life, or nerdy guy with glasses! Yay for nerdy guy with glasses and his never-failing ability for comic relief! All of which sounds exactly like Mad Men. Or maybe I mean The Office, with a few cookie-cutter typed characters slipped in.

Not everything needs to be Mad Men. I can accept that as easily as I'll slip into a new guilty pleasure.


One of these days I'll have to write a more comprehensive guide to all the fake, moral gambits posed by authoritative religious types in the ortho world. Some of my favorites of these include telling the skeptical yeshiva kid it'd be intellectually dishonest for him to reject a torah he doesn't know, so he should, of course, finish shas first or the choice he makes can't objectively be respected. Or admonishing an uncertain teen that they can't possibly do such-and-such co-ed activity until they know every subconscious motivation they have is for pure, not even a tiny bit sexual reasons. Otherwise it's assur. These sorts of false challenges—moral bullying really—pop up in chareidi and MO communities alike, although they're more common in the MO community. Chareidim have a more diverse tool chest at their disposal that includes demands for total obedience, to wit: "It's what the gedolim say," or "it's not part of out mesorah to ask such questions." At the hearts of both communities, though, lies the intellectual process that is learning, and it calls for a probing mind, even if you police that probity to extremes. This is why both communities eventually offer their questioning kids moral choices that really aren't choices, questions which reframe the muddly bits of complex human feelings into issues of striking and utterly false clarity.

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A Very Short Thought on Smurfette

Just before the DDOS attack I was typing out a whole new post that's now being rethought and revised. It's coming. For now, something a Facebook friend's post drew my attention to—basically a cultural read on what Smurfette means. The Smurfs started out as a Belgian comic from back in the sixties. This is an original cover.

The phrase might be considerably more awesome in any other context.

I'm fully aware that the cover also says this is a story of the Schtroumps. And call it weird, but I kinda want this as a poster in my apartment.

Why I Love Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance was creative director of The Globe for ten years. A son of two English teachers, he was born in the UK and grew up a good part of his life in the US. But here's how I fist discovered him...

First there was this

Then this

And this (responding to someone asking why authorship of the plays matters to him as an artist)

Now to me authorship doesn't matter much, but he makes the most genuine argument I've heard for why it matters, and I liked listening to it. Wish to god I could get the complete Richard II BBC broadcast, but at least I know how it ends: