Friday, September 17, 2021

God doesn’t want you to read this

     While this column generally focuses on weighty public issues, it sometimes lets slip a personal detail like, “I was eating a pork chop the other day...” This invariably inspires a reader to object: “PORK CHOP!?!? I thought you were JEWISH!!!”
     This is what I call a “self-reveal.” They’re carrying around this cliched notion of what being Jewish means, and a pork chop has no place on their dance card. Rather than reevaluate their obviously mistaken belief in light of new information — who does that? — they find it easier to try to hoot down the contrary fact.
     It doesn’t offend me. Little does. There’s a lot of stupid in the world, and I’m not in charge of stamping it out. I’m not even sure where on the scale of offensiveness this would go. Somewhat less idiotic than saying, “If you’re Native American, where’s your horse?” though worse than assuming that someone whose parents are from Mexico must speak Spanish.
     A pork chop doesn’t represent much of a slide from my upbringing. My mother never prepared pork in our house. But she served bacon. Her idiosyncratic personal theology saw a difference between the two, one not actually found in the strictures of Judaism, where a pig’s a pig. What part you eat isn’t the issue.
     Why shouldn’t she? Given all the contradictory nonsense that organized religion imposes upon our supposedly modern world, it seems only fair that individual participants get to inject a few irrationalities of their own. Fun for everybody.
     So yes, I’m writing this on Yom Kippur. I used to go to synagogue, back in the day. It wasn’t bad. Long. I liked the chest-pounding. You hear about chest-pounding, but how often do you actually have a chance to do it? Though the service did drag on and I was glad to shuck it. Frankly, when my boss asked “Are you writing for Friday?” my first thought was he didn’t realize the project I’d been working on that kept me from being in the paper Monday and Wednesday was done. Then I thought it could be a nicer version of the pork chop question. “Aren’t you busy praying?” Umm, no. Had I been more nimble-minded, I would have happily used my religion as a smokescreen — everybody else does — and grabbed an extra day off. But honesty is my default, and I said I’d write something. This, apparently.

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  1. L'Chaim! This is exactly the disquisition many of us chosen people would write if only we were as eloquent as Neil. Kol Nidre is of haunting beauty and carries the weight of 5782 years of struggle and oppression. And what's with that pork/bacon distinction?! My mother followed the same rule when we were growing up. Might it have been "a thing" among that generation before there were officially "things"?

  2. I believe the distinction between pork and bacon occurs because it tastes so good. That and the occasional patty melt.

  3. I am not a meat eater. Once after ordering a salad with no meat, I was delivered a salad piled high with bacon. I told the young wait I wanted a salad with no meat:
    "That's not meat, that is bacon." was the response. It took me a while to process that. So bacon is different for lots of folks I guess.

  4. Reminds me of Raold Dahl's short story "Pig." Dahl had an inordinate ability to confound one's expectations.


  5. I recall one guy who belonged to the "convenience" branch of Judaism. He never followed any of the practices of the religion but was BIG on getting time off on Jewish holidays.

  6. Old joke has a Rabbi and Priest comparing their youthful lapses from clerical discipline, the Rabbi sampling the fearsome pig meat and the Priest failing in his vow of chastity. Contemplating the differences, the good Father is heard to mutter "Better than ham."

    As a young wise ass i recall confounding my Presbyterian pastor by asking him if predestination, a tenet of the faith, meant I could rob a bank and still go to heaven. His response was that nobody worries about that stuff these days.


  7. I was introduced to Convenience Judaism at my Bar Mitzvah party. It was that night where people I didn't see in the smallish group of people at Temple earlier that day handed me an envelope and said, "You did great this morning."
    It was the beginning of a great awakening.


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