Aloha Friday: Apples and Honey

Tomorrow begins Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. We’ll be spending the next two days in temple, praying, but also eating. It has been said that the Jewish Holidays tend to revolve around food (either feasting or fasting). To some degree, this is true. Rosh Hashana’s traditional foods include a challah bread (round instead of the usual straight line) with raisins, some form of “new” fruit (pomegranates are a favorite), teiglach (a crunchy dough boiled in honey) and, of course, apples and honey.

My Aloha Friday question is: Do you have any food related traditions?

Bonus Aloha Friday Question: Have you ever eaten apples & honey? If not, try it! If you have, have some more anyway!

Here’s wishing everyone a sweet year!

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the MckLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #5

Dealing with Hatred and Bigotry

The recent Holocaust Museum shooting and the focus on White Supremacist James W. von Brunn has brought up a lot of memories for me.  Being Jewish, I’ve dealt with bigotry a few times in my life.  The first time I encountered it was sitting in the hall in school with a friend of mine.  He introduced me to another friend of his.  This guy, knowing that I was Jewish, starting spouting off some very anti-semetic things such as "Hitler should have finished the job" and such.  Now, I’m not usually a violent person, but my friend had to restrain me from decking this guy right in his hate-filled mouth.  My friend apologized and tried to claim that the guy was a nice guy despite his views.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t want to be associated with anyone like that.

My next experiece dealing with hate came from within.  I was sitting in my high school Biology class talking with some classmates.  We were joking around and I make a joke regarding Jehova’s Witnesses.  Someone else in my class turned to me and said "I’m a Jehova’s Witness."  Now, I don’t know if he was serious or what, but his words hit home.  I suddenly realized that I wouldn’t like it if people were making bad jokes as the expense of Jews.  So why was it alright for me to make bad jokes at the expense of someone else’s religion?  (Of course, the answer is that it wasn’t.)

This led me to "discover" that my father was quite bigoted.  I don’t think I quite noticed it before, but he was.  He’d make comments about "modern" (for the time) music being "whites listening to black music when it should be the other way around."  He’d see a black man walking in our general neighborhood and wonder "what’s he doing here?"  That sort of stuff.  He didn’t hate other groups per se.  He just thought less of them because they weren’t like him.  Growing up with that kind of attitude is infectious.  It takes a conscious effort to break the cycle, but after that Biology class remark, I made that effort.  I won’t say that I’m 100% free of my father’s prejudices, but I recognize them whenever they try to bubble up (a rare event nowadays) and actively push them from my mind.

My third experience came during college.  A friend of mine, who worked for the school paper, leaned over to me during class and told me not to get upset.  Apparently, the paper was approached to run an add and they accepted it.  The ad, actually a 27 page insert called "The Revisionist", was from a man named Bradley R. Smith and detailed how the Holocaust never happened.  He seriously claimed that not a single Jew was gassed to death by the Nazis, but instead Jews made up the Holocaust to gain sympathy.  Needless to say, I was enraged.

The paper’s editors tried to justify the printing of the 27 page "ad" by saying that he has a right to free speech and that they were simply presenting both sides of the argument.  My response was that, while he had a right to free speech, they had no responsibility to promote his speech.  Their decision to do so was their own, not born of any Constitutional necessity.  In addition, there are no "two sides" and there is no argument.  The Holocaust happened, the evidence for it is clear and its historical authenticity was proven long ago.  Would the paper, I asked, run an ad claiming that slavery never happened and blacks were always treated nice by every white guy they encountered because it "would be presenting both sides" and it would be giving the ad’s authors "their right to free speech"?

My college’s Hillel chapter ran a counter-campaign and I, and others, wrote letters to the school newspaper lambasting them for giving a voice to this Holocaust Denier.  Some others also wrote letters.  One, outragously, claimed that those who died during the Holocaust would be happy to see that we are arguing over whether it actually happened.

During my college years, I also had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  It had many powerful exhibits like having to walk under the "Work Makes One Free" sign that once marked the enterence to a concentration camp or the room filled with shoes.  When I entered one of the cattle cars used to transport Jews to the camps, my mind tried to picture fitting as many people inside of it as the sign indicated the Nazis stuffed in there.  It just couldn’t grasp how they all fit in.  Of course, I realized, that was because I was thinking of fitting *people* inside.  To the Nazis, they were stuffing in beings that were worse than animals so they didn’t care how atrocious conditions were in the car.  My mind was being limited by my own humanity.  (Thank goodness!)

The most powerful exhibit, however, was surprisingly one meant for children.  It was called Daniel’s Story.  In it, you walk into the life of a little Jewish boy named Daniel just as the Nazis came to power.  His life seems pretty normal as first, but as you progress through his life (by moving from room to room), Nazis intrude into his life.  At first, it is just small things like having to wear a yellow star, but you end up staring at the entrance to a concentration camp.  The exhibit masterfully connected you emotionally to Daniel, so when the tragic ending occurred, it hit me hard.  I’m not one to cry in public, but I was extremely near tears.  Only a odd fluke that I found mildly humorous (a letter by a child hanging on the wall who the same name as me) kept me from breaking down completely.

In addition, I found a renewed reason not to hate others different from myself while in the Holocaust Museum.  One section described how Hitler approached a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  To simplify matters, he basically told them to keep out of his way while he killed the Jews and they would be left alone.  They, however, didn’t think it was right and opposed him.  For their opposition, they were put in concentration camps and killed.  From this I learned that, despite your differences with someone, you should always try to find the good in them.

Unfortunately, I just can’t find any good in James von Brunn or in people like him who turn their hate-filled views into violence.  I hope he survives his injuries only because he deserves to be tried and convicted of murder and locked away for the rest of his life.  My condolences go out to the family of the slain guard and my thanks to out to him and the other guards who kept this tragedy limited to only one life lost.  Had they not reacted as quickly as they did, more innocent lives could have been lost to this madman.  I think an appropriate response to James von Brunn’s hate is information.  Where there is ignorance, hatred thrives.  We should all strive to learn more, whether it be about a group of people who are different than us or about an event in history that we don’t know all the details about.  The more we learn, the more the light of knowledge shines, driving hatred into the ever decreasing shadows.

My First Giveaway Win

On December 17th, Ima on (and off) the Bima posted a Chanukah giveaway.  She was giving away copies of Bruce, Bruce the Chanukah Moose.  I entered twice (once by posting a comment and a second time by tweeting the contest).  The next day, Ima notified me that I had won.  It was my first online giveaway win ever!  A few days later, B informed me that a package had arrived for me.  I ripped it open and inside was a copy of the book (along with a CD with music based on the book), 3 bags of chocolate gelt and a dreidel.

I’ve already read NHL the book, played the songs for him and played dreidel with him using the gelt.  He begged to be able to rip open his coins and eat them, but I told him that he couldn’t play with them if he did that.  (Empty foil wrappers don’t count!)  I let him eat a couple, but most were saved for future dreidel games.  Thanks to ImaBima for everything!

So Proud Of NHL and My Nephew

Last night, we had our traditional Christmas meal: Chinese food.  First, we ate out at a Chinese buffet.  After engorging ourselves on Chinese food (and sushi!  yay!), we stopped by a CVS that we saw was open on the way to the restaurant.  We walked through the aisles casually shopping.  The store’s manager came over and wished us a Merry Christmas.  Normally, this is where B or I reply "Happy Chanukah" to gently inform the person that we don’t celebrate Christmas.  It’s not that we’re highly offended.  It’s more of a reminder that December isn’t solely Christmas territory.  For whatever reason – full bellies or the nice way he said it – we decided not to respond in our usual manner.

NHL, however, replied: "Happy Chanukah.  We don’t celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate Chanukah."  I was so proud of him at that moment.

Then he proceeded to inform the manager that we were heading home now to light the candles ("Have Chanukah" in NHL’s terminology).  Then he decended into "stream of consciousness talk" where anything that popped into his head came out of his mouth without any regard for other people lacking the references NHL was making.  We were leaving by this point and tried to keep NHL quiet on the way out.  The manager was nice and didn’t seem annoyed by NHL’s ramblings.

After we got home, I called my parents to see how they are doing.  When I told him about the CVS event, he told me about something my nephew did.  Apparently, he told my sister to light a fire in the fireplace just in case Santa came down their chimney.  When I was a kid, I’d do the same thing.  I knew Santa wasn’t real, but just in case he was and just in case he mistook our household for one that celebrated Christmas, I wanted to "inform" him that we didn’t.  I guess I wasn’t one for subtly.

We don’t have a chimney/fireplace in our house, so we won’t be carrying on this tradition at home.  I don’t know if my sister told him the story or if he came up with it on his own.  In either case, I’m so proud of my nephew for carrying on a Christmas tradition.

Shackles of Habit

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Two nights ago, B stayed home with the boys so I could go to Temple.  Usually, I sit with B’s family (aunt, uncle, and grandmother), but when I got there, I couldn’t see whether they were in their usual spot.  It was also so packed that I didn’t even know if there was an open seat by them.  I wound up sitting in the back all by myself.  It wasn’t bad, though, because I had some time to pray and think.

I was thinking about my A Self Divided post when I came upon the following line in my prayer book:

Will You open our prisons
Release from us shackles of habit?

Suddenly, something occurred to me.  My "religious side" (as I put it in my last post) wasn’t clinging to the six hour rule over valid religious arguments, but out of habit.  I have been following that rule for about two decades and changing something that you’ve done for that long, it’s hard to change.

Now, I value change.  I happen to think that it isn’t "flip floping" when a politician changes his position provided he does so based on new information.  I also think that religions need to be able to change as the world changes.  In my opinion, many of the reasons behind certain religious rules no longer apply in today’s world and should be done away with.  Yet, how could I expect my religion to change if I was unwilling to change?  Unfortunately, I (like many people) often find it hard to change.  I cling to old practices far longer than I should.


Case in point: When I was in college, I decided to grow a beard.  It was ugly, didn’t match the rest of my hair for some odd reason, and made me look over 30 years old.  All my friends were candid about how awful it made me look and tried to get me to shave, but I persisted.  Finally, I decided to shave it off.  Good thing, too.  B hates facial hair!

When I first began following the 6 hour rule, I was in Hebrew School.  I was told that it took 6 hours for meat to digest in your stomach and that was the reason for the wait.  However, when I recently looked into reasons for waiting between eating milk and meat, nothing mentioned digestive durations.  So I really shouldn’t hold onto 6 hours simply because "that’s the way I always did it."

This doesn’t mean that I’m about to ditch all of my religious beliefs.  I still believe in many of them.  This particular one, though, had been vexing me for some time.  Deep down, I knew that I should move to waiting 3 hours, but I was afraid to change.  I can’t say that I’m entirely fearless now, but I’m willing to make the change and see how things go.

Habit can be a strong force to overcome.  Are there any things that you do completely out of habit?

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