Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Religious absurdity

The extremes Orthodox Jews go through in order to keep the Sabbath have always seemed to me absolutely insane and ridiculous.
At the time when the Bible was written, turning on the light meant starting a fire, an activity which indeed was a lot of work. Every activity banned for the Sabbath was basically a pain in the ass.
3000 years later, not anymore.
But the Orthodox go through these insane lengths to keep the Sabbath. So now you have elevators that stop on every floor. You have people who tell you you can't steep a tea bag in boiling water, or your children cannot play Lego (it's building), or that toilet paper needs to be pre-cut, God forbid you exert yourself wiping your tuches on the Sabbath. In a Jerusalem hotel, an Orthodox woman can request that a non-Jew operate a blender so she could feed her baby lunch. Which is awful. Is mashing a banana considered taboo during the Sabbath? Haven't these people lost all sense of perspective?
They have taken the beautiful, meaningful, civilizing biblical concept of a day of rest and turned it into the most banal, impossible obsession. Instead of worrying about the toilet paper and the tea bag and the switch and the blender, why not really use the Sabbath to reflect on your moral behavior in the world? If God existed, I doubt It would be cheering the genius who decided that steeping a tea bag is a sin.
But since modern life is getting more modern by the minute, even the Orthodox have to come up with ways of cheating their own crazy rules. So now there are inventions like this:
...the Kosher Lamp, with a shade that can be twisted to block out the bulb’s light but that does not turn it off.
..Zomet created the metal detectors used to screen worshippers at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in a manner that uses electricity in a way not prohibited on the Sabbath (WHICH IS?). It also developed pens that use ink that disappears after a few days, based on a rabbinic interpretation that only forbids permanent writing,(!) and Sabbath phones, which are dialed in an indirect manner with special buttons and a microprocessor. (YOU HAVE TO BE JAMES BOND) According to Mr. Marans, the Israeli army bought 1,000 of these phones in 2007, so that Orthodox soldiers can take part in military operations on the Sabbath and holidays (!!!). Hospitals and medical personnel also use these technologies. “Obviously they are needed to protect the country, but we want to limit the desecration of Shabbat as much as possible,” Mr. Marans said.
What desecrates the Sabbath in my view is the perversion of the original intention of the Bible.
What, may I ask, is the difference in effort between twisting a shade and flicking off a switch? None. Moreover, leaving the light on for an entire night seems a bit irresponsible in these Global Warming times, no?

Rabbi Herschel Schachter, the head of the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University in New York... said... "if you make the burden slightly lighter, it’s O.K. The Torah doesn’t want to make life impossible.”
You don't say... It is not written anywhere in the Torah that thou shalt not steep a tea bag or use a cell phone or ride in an elevator. The whole point of the Sabbath is to make life easier for mankind.
So what the hell happened?


  1. Anonymous11:28 PM

    "What desecrates the Sabbath in my view is the perversion of the original intention of the Bible"

    You are, of course, entitled to your view but, in light of the fact that you profess disbelief that God exists, I gotta ask:
    What on earth do you actually know about the original intention of the bible?

  2. I respect and admire the Bible as a magnificent literary, legal, historical and moral text written by human hands and minds.
    Even if I don't believe in God, I can read the Bible, analyze it and reach my own conclusions about its intent, like any other text.