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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Judaism FAQ

The satirical guide to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions regarding Judaism. 

bar mitzvah 2

Question One: Are Circumcisions Barbaric?

On September 13th, 1995, I was born to Sammy Spinner. It was a very rude awakening. The womb had been fantastic. Room service three times a day. Warm weather. Quarters were a little cramped. But it was for naught, because, on September 13th, 1995, I was literally vacuumed out of my mother.

She was pushing hard for many hours, but it was futile. I know, because I was stuck in this very awkward position, somewhere in the birth canal. I heard a slurp! and suddenly my head was affixed to a rubber vacuum, the head of which was not unlike that of a toilet plunger. It was hot, and it left a temporary burn on the top of my head. That was the first of my traumas.

They kept me prisoner for around thirty hours. This was to be expected, and, frankly, it was kind of nice. They applauded when I pooped and coddled me when I was able to make a fist. I waited, and waited. An hour is a long time when you’ve yet to have more than a week’s collection of them. But it was not long before Sammy was waving my arm for me, and the doctors were waving back. I was free.

But what to do with my freedom?

It was not long before I fell into a deep depression. I slept all the time, sometimes up to eighteen hours. The waking hours were spent gorging myself with the same bland, corporate formula. I hated myself. I broke out into fits. Sometimes it was because I had gas, other times it was because I was too hot or too cold. Sammy would burp me, give or take covers. But more often than not I cried because I knew the best days of my life were behind me. I rued my birth. It was as if I had gone to sleep in Manhattan and woken up in New Jersey. How displaced! How adrift! In these cases, there was no consolation. Sammy could never know what I felt.

Endless heaps of visitors. They all looked different, but equally frightening. Some would offer their fingers and I would grasp, but it was automatic at this point. When I did indulge them, they would look at each other, gasp with adoration, hug with all the strength in their bodies. I felt none of it.

It got so bad that, on the seventh day, I considered rolling over on my face while I slept. One last noble deed, before sending my body into the Earth. The night I was to do it, some rational thinking emerged from an odd, backward logic. I believed that there was another way. But it had to be something as equally traumatic as my birth. I needed to be jump-started, so to speak. How? I did not know. My dependence on the formula had become absolute. Sammy was no help. There was a great despondency within me, as real as bone and flesh, that I believed resulted in an utter inability to make a move on my own.

The next day I was awoken by Sammy. She was dressed nicely. She fed me, and I slept for several hours. When I woke again, I was surrounded by a group of unfamiliar men. They smiled, and were comforting. And though they looked quite different than me, they wore pieces of cloth on their heads that reminded me of my own, now faded, burn mark. One of the men chanted over me in calm rhythms. I cooed.

And then he cut part of my penis off.

It was a physical kind of pain that was quite different from the mental pain I had gone through. Though I had to admire these men for their conviction. They certainly saved me.

Question Two: What’s the Difference Between a Reformed Jew and an Orthodox Jew?

One of my earliest memories was our house lit up in Christmas lights. Sammy had hung them up all by herself. She worked quickly, but was careful to include everything: wreaths of green and red over the doorway, a whole medley of colors lining our house so that it looked like a hand-drawn cartoon. When she was finished, a great grin came over her. She waddled over to me and scooped me into her arms. Said, “Looks good, huh?” Rocked me up and down until I said, “Yes”. Gave me a red-lipstick kiss right on the nose. “My little Rudolph.”

We walked across the street to the house opposite our own. It was a small Colonial that my mother had been trying to sell since its owners got into financial trouble and killed themselves six months prior. Why don’t they just kill me? is what my mother had said at the time. Six months later, dust had begun to accumulate in between her crow’s feet. She paced back and forth in her pantsuit. Dusted herself. Licked her thumb and cleaned my nose, which was awful.

A mini-van pulled up to the curb of the Colonial. A woman got out.  Her name was Linda, and she was looking to buy a home on behalf of the Rebbe Judd Oppenheimer, the infamous and enigmatic leader of the Hollywood Jews. Linda wore a long skirt, and her hair, which was parted from the middle, drew back into her neck, forming the shape of an onion. According to Sammy— this ugly hairdo, with the van and the seemingly desperate avoidance of schlump—this was the informal liturgy of the Orthodox Jews.

“Shalom, shalom,” Sammy said. She was almost clapping her hands in excitement.

“I’m sorry, the Rebbe couldn’t be here,” Linda said. She looked at me. “Oh, but you brought your son?” She didn’t seem very enthused about it. I didn’t like her.

“He’s learning the business,” Sammy said. “Plus, we were going to go on a walk after this. Believe me, we need the exercise.”

“This does seem like a nice neighborhood for walking.”

“Let me tell you— this is the best neighborhood for walking. Oak trees. Sidewalks paved. Come Sabbath night, and Saturday, there are so many people to enjoy it with too. It’s really awesome.”

“Have there been any problems?”


“Are people comfortable with Jews here? I mean, I know, it’s Los Angeles. But still. I’m asking more for the Rebbe. He is very concerned about such things. And this is where he wants to set up shop.”

“Well, I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” Sammy said. She gestured to her house. “The only problem you’ll have is having to live across from the kind of gentile who still has Christmas lights up in July.” Linda laughed, but Sammy laughed harder.

You see, by laughing, Sammy proved that she was above all this— able to adapt to the times and stay in touch with culture. That was the Reform way.

Question Three: Why Do Jewish Conspiracy Theories Spread?

Inky dark nights. They met only when there was a new moon, and talked in the Colonial’s lounge:

“Gentleman, our time is close. Soon, the world will know our fury.” This was Artie Goldberg. He was from UTA (The United Talent Agency). A representative from each major Hollywood agency was in attendance: from CAA (Creative Artist Agency), to WME (William Morris Endeavor) and finally to JCC (Jewish Community Center). The Rebbe Oppenheimer presided over all. He was the one who invited Sammy. Out of courtesy for the Sabbath deal she offered when the Linda had finally decided to buy the house. Sammy brought me in case the group needed the blood of a virgin.

The Rebbe never spoke during these meetings, but it was his will that was done. .

“Starting in the New Year, we will be remaking Hollywood classics,” The man from CAA said. “No one doubts the power of film to change the world. So it is of utmost importance that these remakes must carry a pro-Jew message. But it must be subtle. I cannot stress this enough. If we are successful, we can finally usurp our power. Even the most cold-hearted anti-Semite will be singing Fiddler. Now, do we have suggestions for the movies?

The Unnecessarily Loud Sound of Music,” recommended UTA. Everybody nodded in agreement.

Lawrence of Miami,” suggested WME. Handshakes all around.

The Passion of the Christ (The Man),” exalted JCC. Heaps of praise.

“Well done, Gentlemen. I’ll have Harvey Weinstein on the line shortly,” said UTA.

But before the Manischewitz could be poured, a pattering of footsteps came from a nearby window. A man’s eyes poked slightly into the frame.

“A spy!” yelled the Rebbe. Everybody got up. The man in the window revealed himself to be Mel Gibson. Caught, he looked left and right for his escape route.”

“Ach! This is the third time!” said JCC, “You get now!” Gibson made a break for it, jumping over fences, patches of flowers. JCC turned around to face his companions. “I am sorry, gentlemen. This is my fault. Just a reminder for us: do not use the Lord’s name in vain. Gibson will appear and he will ruin us. Fortunately, I don’t think he heard anything. We got lucky this time.”

Years later, the Rebbe explained this night to me. According to him, to be a Jew is to have fear. It could be a fear of anything— pogroms, assimilation— in the tortured history of the Jews, there was much to choose from. But he told me, that above all else, I should fear the failure of his plan for world domination.

The Rebbe was an odd man.

Question Four: What is Assimilation?

It was the day of my Bar Mitzvah. For months, I had been studying with the Rebbe, gaining an understanding of my people, but when I got to the synagogue, it all seemed hopeless. There were so many people, and I was trembling very hard. At best, I would stammer a few words of the Torah. At worst I would measure on the Richter Scale. The amount of people here was Sammy’s fault. I had only invited twenty friends, about five of whom were gentile and had never been to a Bar Mitzvah before. Considering this, they were appropriately amazed by the fact that every man and woman over the age of sixty was Billy Crystal. The rest of the congregation was all Jewish, and abuzz with the anticipation of watching me become a man.

The Rebbe had made his opening remarks, and offered me the stage. I had only said half a dozen words before my legs and hands started to violently shake. This caused the synagogue to wobble. Chairs and tables started to collapse. People lost their balance and fell down. A portion of the ceiling caved and blocked the exit. There was screaming, but that was only because nobody wanted to get dirty.

We were trapped.

I climbed over people, trying to make my to my friends so I could explain to them the great fortune and relief of not having to speak the Hebrew language. They were pinned right by where the exit was. A heavy piece of drywall blocked the way.

“That’s it, we’re goners,” I said, noticing this. My good mood had left me.

“We’ll be in here forever,” a friend whined.  In fact, the whole congregation whined. I suspected that, if heard from the outside, we would have sounded like one large droning insect.

“It’s not too bad,” said one of the gentiles. “I think I can lift this drywall if I use my legs, and if I got some help.”

“Don’t,” I said. “Please, no— you’ll hurt yourself. My cousin once injured himself on a construction site.”

“Oh, yes,” cried my cousin from somewhere among the rubble, “It was a terrible, terrible splinter.” Suddenly the whole congregation grew frenetic, telling my gentile friends not to lift the wall. But the gentiles insisted they could. To prove it, they easily lifted the wall an inch. But everybody went mad, so they gave in and put it down.

“What do you all suggest we do then?” asked the gentile. “We’ll never get out of here.”

“We’ll wait for help!” someone yelled. And we did.

Three hours later, the rescuers had started to lift the rubble with a crane. But for so many it was already too late. Dozens had perished. They had starved to death. Prison hymns had been written, sung, and gone out of fashion.

Of course, there was no hope for the gentiles. Surrounded by so many Jews, they had little choice but to say, ugh, and give in. To have held on to their beliefs would have assured their death by lecture. We must have been trapped fifteen minutes before they too were kvetching with everyone else. In these troublesome times, our world was confined within the collapsed synagogue, and these gentiles, deprived of any other option, were forced to make amends with Hashem. It wasn’t necessarily bad for them. Just a natural process. Troubling? Perhaps a little. But I can say without hesitation that they entered the synagogue as gentiles, and left as disappointments to their sports teams.

It was a dream come true.

Eli Flesch is a contributing writer for The Centennial Magazine. He can be reached at magazine@theaggie.org.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons. 



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