Thursday, June 29, 2006

Heilman's Howlers

Grampa ("Abe") Simpson is known for rambling on and on, making incoherent claims regarding life in the old days and such. One famous example:
We can't bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere - like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you'd say.

Now where were we? Oh yeah - the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...
In "Sliding to the Right," Prof. Samuel Heilman does his best Abe Simpson impression with bizarre and plain wrong observations about Orthodoxy. Some gems:

-Even a putatively lenient interpreter of law as the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, head of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim Yeshiva in New York, took the view that, as it in a responsum written to a Detroit school principal, "according to all authorities, co-education is absolutely forbidden."

-Yeshivas became increasingly popular because they took children in at a young age and occupied them for long hours - a fact not lost on Haredi families with many offspring who could use the help of the school in caring for them.

-There was another basis for the centrists' discomfort -- the liturgy whch impressed on those who recite it daily, as did these Orthodox Jews, that they needed to "be forgiven for we have sinned and be absolved for we have transgressed." Multiple times a day and in a variety of prayers, they recited the words that reminded them that wrongdoing and desire for exculpation were an inevitable part of their lives... Thus, if there was something structural that might tip the balance in their increasingly ambivalent cultural stance away from engagement in the modern world ... their liturgy was ready to give expression to underlying feelings of culpability that were in any event part of their post Holocaust Orthodoxy.

-Another sign of the "slide to the right" could be seen in the Sabbath day culinary habits of members of puatively modern Orthodox synoggoues. Post-services refreshments at these places of worship -- the kiddush -- which once featured sweet herrings -- either pickled or cream -- manufactured by old-time American food companies such as Vita and Season, were more and more often supplanted by the more traditional European salty herring, schmaltz, to the point where those who favored sweet herring would be derided by their co-religionists as Amerikainers, Yinglish for Stupid American. This process, which I call supplantationism, is like supplantation, but with more syllabyles.
(OK, the last one was me).

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