How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

June 26, 2008

Movie review: You Don’t Mess With the Zohan

Hilarious. Chock full of Adam Sandler’s typical bathroom jokes and 80s-centric humor, this movie (Flash heavy site) won’t disappoint his enormous day-to-day fan base. But the movie is also packed with tons of audience-specific gags that are only truly funny if you a) speak decent colloquial Hebrew, b) spent time in Israel in the 80s and early 90s, c) are otherwise familiar with Israeli culture, d) are familiar with the NY Israeli scene, or e) all of the above. Jenn and I laughed nonstop, but there were definitely lots of moments that we looked at each other and thought, “Is anyone else getting this?”

To give you a taste, check out this old SNL sketch, which undoubtedly helped germinate Zohan:

There are several motifs at play in that bit that appear, in more or less polished form, in Zohan.

Wait, did I just refer to “motifs” while talking about an Adam Sandler comedy? BWAHAHAHAHA!

Go see it. There are a lot of fun cameos, there’s even a nice underlying message, and you’ll laugh a bunch. It’ll be good for you.

June 23, 2008

HDYJ Podcast: Episode 1

Filed under: Blogging,Family,fun,Life Online,Podcasting,technology — howdoyoujew @ 13:33

So this newest version of WordPress I’m now running, after that wacked-out update, has this handy “add media” gadget right in the interface instead of relying on a plugin, so I’m going to try it with the already-recorded episode 1. If this works, I’ll come back at ‘ya with another show this week… Here goes nothin’: How Do You Jew episode 1

June 22, 2008

High time

Filed under: Blogging,Good News,Podcasting,webcomics — howdoyoujew @ 22:38

It’s high time I updated my theme anyway.
It’s high time I went to bed for the night.
It’s party time because I recovered my blog!!! Hooray!

Coming up: Official posting of HDYJ podcast episode 1, to be followed shortly by episode 2; review of Beards of Our Forefathers; a new theme for the site; and news about our exciting summer.
Stay tuned!

June 17, 2008

test post

Filed under: Uncategorized — howdoyoujew @ 22:38

can i see this?

June 5, 2008

Kaiser Temperamental

Filed under: Family,Good News,Health,Parenting,video — howdoyoujew @ 21:37

There’s that Kaiser joke I was looking for the other day…

Anyway, I realized I forgot to post the proof of my daughter’s cuteness from that visit, so I needed to come back here, and I also got some more information about the reasoning behind her not getting the shot a day early.

First, the cuteness (with apologies for the low quality; I took this with my Treo 650):

Now, the reasoning, which still is irritating but at least makes more sense than the “she might be given an extra shot because no one would know she got this one” explanation I got on Tuesday.
A nurse who heard me talking about Hadarya’s ordeal at the doctor’s office the other day was quick to explain that the CDC monitors vaccinations and levies fines on clinics/doctors that violate the timeline. Thus, it would have cost Kaiser $10,000 if they’d violated the timeline (and gotten caught, I guess). All this is one nurse’s version, of course, and I took it with a dose of salt, but it was certainly more satisfying than the first excuse I heard.

Oh, and the follow-up appointment with the shot today went fine. Barely a flinch, and we’re good until the 2-year physical/checkup.

June 4, 2008


I’ve been wearing a kippah full time now for three years, I think (somebody can check me on this; I’m pretty sure I have previously blogged about this), and that one little mitzvah definitely has me thinking more consciously about all the other mitzvot I observe and those I don’t.

There are some mitzvot that I can observe daily, others that present themselves less frequently but with some regularity (various Shabbat observances, for instance), and then there are those that only occur irregularly and that I have no control over – namely, those related to life cycle events that are not my own. I’ve had the honor of being a kvatter at a bris (the person who carries the baby boy to the sandak, the person who will hold him during the circumcision), I’ve held the chuppah and signed the ketubah in a wedding, I’ve participated in taharat ha-met, and this week, I witnessed the delivery of a get.

I was recruited for this last task in typically impromptu fashion by my friend and teacher Rabbi Scott Meltzer, with no question posed as to my willingness to participate nor warning given as to the purpose for which he was pulling me (and a fellow congregant) out of the congregational meeting for which we had gathered at our shul. Since I’m not entirely daft, I guessed what we were doing when the Rabbi walked us up to his office accompanied by a couple who didn’t display the kind of joy you reserve for, well, joyous occasions. We all stood in the Rabbi’s office and listened to him read the document in Aramaic, translate/explain it in English, then instruct the man on the proper procedure of delivering it to his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and finally guide her in the final steps (literally – the woman takes 4 steps away after taking possession of the get to signify that she accepts it), making the deed official.

I was uncomfortable for a bit, feeling like I was standing in this couple’s personal space, witnessing something so intensely private and painful. But I recognized, too, that, just as the wedding is a communal event, so this too must be. After all, these two individuals deserve their own happiness, and they could not find it with each other. Just as witnesses were required when they declared their commitment to each other, they had to go through this ritual, witnessed by two unrelated members of the community, to free them to seek that happiness with someone else, both times according to the laws of Moses and Israel.

And, like with my previous opportunities to fulfill life cycle mitzvot, I got a chance to reflect on and marvel at the wisdom of the sages who framed these rules, and thank God that I am part of this tradition.

Oh, and Paul: Yes, I purposely waited until the end of this post to acknowledge our in-joke just to force you to read all the way through it so that maybe you’d learn something. Yeah, I know it’s not really our in-joke if Family Guy has lampooned it.

HMO = Hellacious Medical Offerings

Filed under: Family,Health,Parenting,technology,work — howdoyoujew @ 21:16

OK, that was a stretch, but I couldn’t come up with a good Kaiser joke. I just need to vent my frustration at the situation I encountered yesterday when I took Hadarya for a physical and vaccination appointment.

Now, I’ll begin by saying that we love Hadarya’s pediatrician. Dr. S is a sweet, caring professional who takes her time with us and seems genuinely enamored with our little girl. Unfortunately, she works for an organization that is peopled with automatons blindly following rules and regulations and apparently at the mercy of the computer system they so proudly inaugurated within the last year or so. See, we made this appointment a couple of months ago to make up for the 18-month checkup we missed because Hadarya was sick, and the automaton who made the appointment had access to all our previous visits, of course. We are first-time parents, so there was no way for us to know that the second Hep A shot Hadarya needed had to be given at least six full months after the first one. Kaiser staff who work in the pediatrics department, on the other hand, should presumably be informed of this fact, yet our appointment was set for a date exactly one day short of this six-month period. Thus it was that after checking Hadarya out and giving her a clean bill of health, the doctor informed me that we were early and she was so sorry.

Did I mention that all this was happening between 8 & 10 in the morning, meaning that I was missing work?

She went on to say (in between further apologies) that Hadarya could, in fact, get the shot, but that the computer system wouldn’t register the early shot and that someone might try to give Hadarya another Hep A booster after the six-month mark passed. I was so flabbergasted and pissed about the one-day error, that it didn’t occur to me until after I made another appointment for later in the week and left the medical offices to argue with this absurd line of illogic. How, exactly, with me (and, by extension, Jenn) knowing that Hadarya got her shot already, would someone else give it to her again without our knowledge or consent? It’s not like she takes herself to these appointments. Yes, she’s developmentally advanced, but even we don’t think she’s THAT precocious.

I honestly got more angry with myself after I left the medical offices than I had been at the system. I was mad for not standing up for myself and my innocent daughter, to whom I’d given a prophylactic dose of Tylenol to help ease the anticipated pain of the shot and who would now have to go through another doctor’s office visit, with all the inconvenience that entailed for all of us. I was mad that I yet again allowed myself to be cowed by the arbitrary authority of someone in a white coat, while I find myself able to rail against all sorts of authority when not faced with it directly.

Yeah… I guess that’s it: I felt like a wimp, and that made me mad, because that’s the last thing a father wants to feel like, no matter how old his little girl is.

June 2, 2008

D’var Torah: B’Chukotay

Filed under: religion,San Diego Jewish Community,Shabbat,Torah Commentary — howdoyoujew @ 16:04

Yeah, I know I’m posting it a week late, but I delivered it on time (Shabbat, 24 May 2008, 19 Iyar 5768) at Tifereth Israel. Among other things, B’Chukotay is notable for the inclusion of the tochecha, the section of punishments I refer to below, which, according to tradition, is to be read quickly and quietly, in contrast to the rest of the Torah reading this or any other week.
In this week’s parasha, BeChukotay, we reach the end of the Book of Leviticus. It is here that Moses passes along to the people of Israel God’s admonishments to observe the mitzvot and prosper, along with God’s warnings that if the people fail to observe the commandments, punishment will ensue.

The rewards include a bountiful land & plentiful crops, general prosperity, peace with Israel’s neighbors, and, in the case of those not interested in making peace, enemies withdrawing in defeat from the mighty Israelites.

Similarly, the punishment for failure to observe the mitzvot is delineated in graphic detail: drought & famine throughout the land, hunger to the point of parents having to eat their own children, war and consequent defeat, and finally exile – the ultimate punishment for a people whose very existence and relationship with God is tied to a specific parcel of physical space.

Speaking as we are in the early 21st century, in the diaspora, looking from afar as Israel marks its 60th anniversary while under relentless missile attack and constant attempts at “smaller, more minor” attacks, it may seem like things aren’t going so well (I’ll remind you that a suicide truck bomber failed to kill anyone but himself with four tons of explosives at the Erez crossing from Gaza Thursday, and another suicide bomber was shot and killed as he tried to detonate his explosives at a checkpoint outside Shchem in the West Bank on Monday). Sure, not all Jews follow all the mitzvot, but is that really what the text – what God – wants us to achieve?

It’s significant to me that the language used in this section of the parasha, the blessings and curses, is, in contrast to the language used later when talking about the endowments and sacrifices, communal language. That is, it always talks about “the people” doing or not doing this or that, and being rewarded or punished, en masse.

Reading this, I was immediately reminded of the Talmudic saying, kol Israel arevim zeh la-zeh – all Jews are responsible one for another.

Little did I know that, in coining this phrase, the Talmudic rabbis were commenting on this very parasha! Specifically, on chapter 26, verse 37 (page 751),

–>This is where I read the Hebrew. I gotta figure out how to display Hebrew properly in my posts… images, perhaps?<-- “With no one pursuing, they shall stumble over one another as before the sword…” No lesser a commentator than Rashi first explains the verse literally, envisioning people bumping into and falling over each other in their frightened retreat. But he then cites the Talmud's midrashic comment, found in Tractate Sanhedrin:

“”…they shall stumble over one another…” meaning one will stumble over the sins of another for all Israel is responsible one for the other.”

Thus, the “stumbling” the Torah warns about is not physical, but spiritual; that the sinning of one – an individual’s failure to follow the mitzvot – will cause others to stumble, eventually bringing the promised retribution from God.

The Hebrew root word that is here translated as “stumble” is CaSHaL, which also means “to fail.” The double meaning is itself significant, for when one stumbles over the sins, or failures, of another, that means the stumbler failed as well.

This spiritual stumbling itself could be interpreted in a couple of ways:

First, one could stumble over the sins of another in the sense that one observes another sinning and is tempted to, um, “join in the fun.”

Alternately, the stumbling could refer to the result – the punishment being meted out on all the people as a result of the sins of some.

This means, friends, that we can’t just look the other way when we see sinning, or the failure in others to observe the commandments. Not only would this be an active shirking of our stated responsibility for one another, but if I “look the other way,” I cannot easily continue walking along the straight path I was headed down in the first place – and I would thus be that much closer to stumbling myself.

Either way, the lesson that we are all responsible for one another should not be lost. There may be individuals in the community who, for a variety of reasons, are incapable of observing some mitzvot without assistance. Some may need a little more… “encouragement” than others. We all need to do our part to live lives that warrant reward, and persuade others to do the same.

Peace on earth, plenty of food, adequate social support for those who can’t support themselves, etc. – all this is possible, and it will come, as the text suggests, as an act of or a gift from God. But not in the way many people expect such gifts.

Gifts from God are rarely obvious miracles of Biblical proportions. We are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and we all have within us the capacity to carry out God’s work. We must engage in this work if we are to enjoy God’s blessings.

Shabbat shalom.

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