Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why some shortcuts and not others?

Rabbinic Judaism is full of leniencies and loopholes. You can find perfectly good justifications, justifications great Rabbis have endorsed, to skip parts of davening, to end Shabbos early, to dress more comfortably, to cover your hair less onerously, to eat less discriminately. There's also rabbinic room to accept evolution, to severely limit Divine Providence and to question the authorship of various biblical passages and verses. But, most OJs take advantage of nearly none of these opportunities to take things a little easier. Instead the polite ones say, "No thank you. That isn't how we hold." (The obnoxious ones throw rocks and mutter about "modernishkes")

So why has it become universally acceptable to "hold" like this:

Siyum - This Wednesday Night at 7 PM Join Akiva Tolchin and Shaul Yaakov Morrison on making a siyum on masechet Sukka at Smokey Joe's. Smokey Joe's meat menu will be available. This is a great opportunity to learn Torah and eat a meal that you are sure to enjoy.

The Mishna Brurah says this sort of thing is wrong and forbidden, yet no one blinks. Why?  Some answers:

- First-world frummies are spoiled babies who genuinely suffer when they go too long without meat

- They are also deeply insecure about their manhood, and find it effeminate to eat salads and quiches. Just listen to the jokes a certain type of OJ will make if he finds out someone likes fish.

- They have timid, unadventurous palates (Which is also why they insist on burning their steaks. There is almost nothing as unintentionally hysterical as watching an OJ drool and moan and go all orgasmic when biting into a ruined "Well done! Extremely well done!" rib-eye.)

- The wives are lousy cooks who can't master something simple like putting a piece of salmon in a pan with some aromatics for three minutes per side.

I know these answers are incomplete. Other commandments are harder to keep, yet people make it a point of pride to power through. Look at the hats and ties they wear on hot summer days. Look at the way some people clean their homes for Pesach. So why do the Nine Days make it OK to be a wimp?  

And more significantly, the Kashrut certification agencies who famously over-reach in other matters are silent about this.  I promise you that Smokey Joes would not be permitted to cross the Mishna Brurah on any other issue. So why this one?

*Don't miss the point. I'm not troubled that people are eating meat during the Nine Days. Do what you like. Stomp on all the longstanding customs and traditions for all I care. I'm just intrigued by the psychological and sociological forces that conspire to create changes in Judaism. On so many other matters we slide to the right, yet when it comes to filling our stomachs with animal flesh the slide is in the opposite direction. Interesting no?

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