Monday, May 23, 2005


Saw this online and I laughed out loud:

All Jews, regardless of their belief or disbelief, pray the same prayer, only with a different dialect. The traditional Jew prays, "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad." Not to be outdone, the atheist Jew prays, "Shema Yisrael, I deny Eloheinu, I deny Echad." And the agnostic Jew recites, "Shema Yisrael, I dunno Eloheino, I dunno Echad."


Hrafnkel said...

Ach! And where did you find that? I have seenit somewhere before and was going to post to TFSG about it but forgot.

Orthoprax said...


Found it here:

One of the selected speeches of Rabbi Harold Schulweis which I found rather enjoyable.

mushroomjew said...

Wow, that is really funny.
I'm wondering whether I should substitute that instead, since Shema is only prayer I still say on a daily basis.

Vilda Chaya said...

I can start praying again! I just didn't know how to say the words anymore. Funniest thing I've read in a while. Thanks for posting!

Hrafnkel said...

Schulweis sounds like quite the Reconstructionist with his acceptance of us skeptics. But do we even blieve in the neshama? One of my dad's friends, a surgeon, has been known to say,"I have cut open many people and I have never seen a soul."

Orthoprax said...


From what I've read of the guy he is conservative/reconstructionist in his beliefs and approach to Judaism.

If you read what he means by things he doesn't believe in an actual eternal soul as a _noun_, as a thing. But rather as a process of being passed on in genetics, heritage, tradition, and memory. Eternal life is not "out there" but within and between us all.

Very poetic but also nearly nonsensical. He's rather naturalistic in his approach to the world but tries to fit some sort of Jewish belief and terminology into things.

If one were to ask him if the Torah is true or not, he'd answer with the question, "Is the Mona Lisa true or not?" It is what it is and taking anything in the Torah literally is a way to ruin.

So us not believing in an actual soul isn't really a much different view from his own.

Anonymous said...

Nonsensical? I thought that dvar rocked! It really spoke to me; different strokes for different folks, I guess. His view of God as a verb rather than a noun is awesome.

Orthoprax said...


Hey, I really liked it too but the point is that he's really just trying too hard. God has never been a verb and turning "caring" into faith is just mixing up terms.

It really is a nice idea which removes empirical claims from Judaism and turns skeptics into heroes but I can't imagine anyone taking it seriously.

What does it mean to believe in "acts of kindness"? Nothing at all.

Chana said...

That's very amusing.

How did it happen that I switched schools? It's a complicated story. Would you prefer the condensed version or the long one?

Either way, my parents are very insightful/special people.

Orthoprax said...


I'd be curious to hear anything you'd be willing to tell me.

Your parents must lean way to the left in Orthodoxy to permit something like that. If not then your parents must be even more unusual.

Chana said...

All right, will be quite happy to relay the story to you. And actually, no, my parents are quite Orthodox- not right-wing, because that implies close-mindedness, but the Torah u'Madda kipa-srugah wearing type of right-wing. My father is the Baal Keriah/Korei, for example, at our he moves within all the Orthodox circles.

And yes, they're pretty unusual.

The reason they'd let me attempt such a thing has to do with their family background and the way in which they raised me. My mother is Sephardi and from Uzbekistan (but her English is perfect with absolutely no trace of accent), she emigrated when she was 18 or so. Her father was the wealthiest man in his community, known as Moshe Gibor Simantobov, the man who built the mikveh, gave out tzedakah, etc. There they were all persecuted, etc, by various Muslims who lived there- it was the time where shechitah, donkeys, and pogroms were all the norm. She went to the elite KGB school there- all Non-Jewish, of course, and came out perfectly fine. More so, in fact, because she doesn't have textual knowledge- better yet, she has practical knowledge. Knowledge of halachah, kashrus, the various laws...much more than we learn in high school nowadays.

My textually learned father, on the other hand, is an American Ashkenaz whose parents survived the Holocaust, so he had his own battles to fight growing up to find a type of Judaism that was truthful, since he, and his father (my grandfather) saw so many examples of hypocrisy. My grandfather worked for the IRS and saw many religious Jews who cheated on taxes, for instance. My father finally found a wonderful role model (it wasn't easy) and based his knowledge and parenting on this man's style. He and my mother both went to YU.

There they both felt an affinity with R' Soloveitchik, which they have passed on to me, and his understanding of Orthodox Judaism.

I think this background of my parents is a prerequisite to understanding how they could possibly switch me, as I will unfold that story.