Tag Archives: prayer

What If God’s Not One of Us?

3 Mar

I was in high school when that Alanis Morrisette* song came out and I remember being very confused at the positive reaction. Was I slow, or was everybody else?

Like “Isn’t it Ironic”, in “What if God was one of us”, Alanis tries to be brilliant, but comes across more as under-educated. (For the record: rain on your wedding day is not ironic.) The concept of God being one of us is cute but dumb. What I’m saying is obvious, but I think people like the concept as an extension of God’s love and empathy towards us. Personally, I don’t think that’s a very likely concept either.  

Think about it for a minute. Here we have God, an all-powerful, perfect entity. There is nothing that can exist without him, and nothing that can cause him the slightest danger. He, a being needing nothing, decides to create the universe for whatever reason. Not being able to fully understand what an existence like his means, I’ll agree that his reasons can seem unfathomable to us, and still be perfectly logical to him. However, now you say that he understands our problems and then empathizes with us to help us out. Understands? Fine. But feels human feelings? Impossible. He is a perfect being. He has no fear or desire or any other emotion.

(I know it’s getting a little dry, but stay with me here. I’m building up to something at the end.) Continue reading

Rediscovering Prayer

10 Dec

My path back to prayer happened a few days ago, totally by accident. No planning or reading beforehand, no intention of prayer at all. I was heading up the stairs to go to work, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just stood by the foot of the stairs, looking at them, with no energy to walk up. I was just at a total loss until an old forgotten prayer, like an old forgotten friend, popped up in my mind. “Fuck”, I said softly. Then again, with a little more conviction, “Fuck”. My circumstances didn’t change at all, but somehow I found the strength to continue on, just taking it one step at a time with a whispered word of Fuck on my lips.

I didn’t think about it again until I was at a client trying to fix something that just wouldn’t go. I was getting more and more frustrated until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Suddenly, I stopped trying to fit the pieces together, put everything down and uttered a soft, heartfelt “Fuuuuck.”. The next second, I picked up the two pieces, and -miraculously?- they fit together. 

So I have found strength in Fuck. When things get too bad, I pause and turn to Fuck. Sometimes it’s such a relief to be able to stop and realize that I can’t do everything myself, and turn things over to a higher power.

Big Mohammed’s House

3 Nov

comedian daily show john oliver

Click here to watch video:http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-may-5-2011/big-mohammed-s-house
 
Listen, you might think The Daily Show is slanted. You might think it’s a brainwashing under-30 Democratic vote producer. You might think that Jon Stewart has lost his comedic credibility by siding with a political party. But nobody’s interested in your nerdy rants about keeping comedy sacred, so either keep them to yourself, or write them as other people’s hypothetical thoughts. Also, The Daily Show employs the best talent in the business, like (Cmoh”r) Jon Oliver, so you have to watch the show sometimes either way. 

Side note: It’s probably halachically ok to let Muslims daven at shul, but depending on how they interpret the trinity, many Christians wouldn’t be allowed to. Everybody agree? Ahh, the awkward moment after learning uncomfortable new halachos. Can you feel it? Gevaldik!

My Reason/Excuse For Not Caring About Yom Kippur

9 Oct

I think one of the main lessons of the story of Yonah that’s read on Yom Kippur is that even the greatest men, with the greatest intentions, can’t understand God’s master plan because of their own biases. (You know, the Navi Yonah didn’t want to prophesy in Nineveh and give them a chance to repent because they were Israel’s enemies, but was forced to and was then taught a lesson by God to help him understand.)

Anyhow, I think the same thing is true with our tefillos. Just because the people who wrote the prayers saw Yom Kippur a certain way, doesn’t mean that that’s how it should be for us. The piyutim especially, begging God to spare us for one more year, save us from our enemies, calling up merits and mercy and promises and tears in exchange for salvation. These don’t apply to us, in my opinion. They were written by Jews who feared for their lives from peasants, cossacks, lords, etc, and truly put their faith in God. And it’s wrong for us to shtup our own thoughts into these prayers like some people tell us to do. Unless you mean it, don’t pretend to- God probably isn’t that stupid.

These prayers were written by fearful oppressed people living in horrible conditions. It makes sense that they bargained with God as if he were a dictatorial king- that’s what their entire reality was. We, however, don’t live in fear. And since we don’t have to, why would a person intentionally put himself in a scary, unhealthy environment like old-country religion? Approaching God, religion, spirituality with such a mindset doesn’t work for most people in America because it makes God seem like an out of touch, paranoid, insecure, control-freak. He doesn’t belong in reality, and he doesn’t seem real. If you want to gain benefit from faith -and I think that there can be a lot to be gained by having faith, even today- you can’t use the old way. It’s false, it will always feel false, and it will be extinguished if made to face reality.

Here, the old problem of Mesorah comes back. The tefillos are part of our heritage. You can’t throw parts of the religion out because they don’t make sense to you. You’re separating yourself from the rest of the Klal. You need to reach a consensus with representatives from all groups of Jews, which will never happen, because you’d have to meet with people who still isolate themselves in communities that haven’t left the feudal ages. What do you do? Cut out the rotten branches, and with it, your ties with the community; or leave the pieces in that threaten to destroy you and the whole tree?

I wish someone in the frum community had an answer, or at least the guts to deal with this elephant in the room.  As of now, I just read over the tefillos mechanically to be yotzeh zein and not exclude myself from the tzibbbur. Sometimes I’ll selectively pay attention to a sentence that catches my eye and ignore the concluding part that makes me think, Wow, that’s unhealthy. But honestly, it’s a very screwed up way to daven, and not prone to sustained fits of kavanah, which is what praying is supposed to be about.

If I were in charge, I’d either have the whole thing rewritten from scratch (in a non-dead/foreign language), or keep shema and then a whole bunch of topic keywords that everyone could skim and use as jumping-off points for personal prayer.

Anybody else have some thoughts on this?

Random Thoughts #8

18 Sep

~Glee is a very polarizing show. Some people hate it, other people are gay.

~Personally, I think Tosh.0 was a better choice of name than The Soup 2.0.

~I think that prayer is a lot like the lottery. There’s nothing wrong with buying a lottery ticket every day, because ‘Hey you never know’. But when you’re spending all you’ve got on lottery tickets, you might want to rethink your life.

~You can make yourself happy or miserable at any point of the day by thinking one of the following 2 things:

1. Someone right now is living in a tiny shack, starving, with flies circling them. What exactly are you driving yourself crazy worrying over? Go buy a bagel and lox sandwich right now and ess gezinteh heit.

2. Someone right now is having sex. Right now. While you’re busy heating up that soup in the microwave. And someone else is doing it with someone so hot, you’d pee your pants if they so much as looked at you.

~The oldest living animal ever recorded was a 400 yr old clam. What a gyp. Thats barely an animal, or alive. I was expecting to find at least a sea turtle, or hugh hefner or something. Stupid Snapple caps making me read those tiny words while driving.

Shvartza Volf

29 Aug

Here’s one of the deepest Jewish stories, both psychologically and spiritually, about the meaning of prayer and repentance:

Shlomo Carlebach – Shvartza Volf (Black Wolf)

And here’s somebody making fun of it (hilariously, until about halfway through when he pretty much runs out of material):

Drinking on Purim

8 May


(Originally posted on Frumsatire)

You might not know this, but the holiday of Purim is traditionally a good day for davening. This is because the salvation that came about only happened after the Jews got together and prayed.

Now, many people have come out against yeshiva bochurim drinking on Purim. These people are a modern reincarnation of Haman. They are trying to destroy the two most important Purim customs, drinking and prayer. As a former Yeshiva bochur, I know that being drunk on Purim is a purely spiritual experience. When else do you get such heartfelt prayers as these?

“Owowow. My head! Oh my God, I think I’m gonna die.”

“Lord, I’m in your hands. Please guide my car on the straight path. Let me not swerve left nor right from it. And deliver me not into the hands of that evil cop.”

“Hashem, make sure my Rebbe doesn’t see me peeing on his car.”

“If you let me just throw up now, I’ll do whatever you want. Seriously. I won’t jerk off for a week. Ow! Ok two weeks.”

So moving! It’s like witnessing a modern book of Tehillim in the making. May the mouths of the evil ones be silenced so that this holy custom shall never cease from Israel.