Thursday, July 23, 2009

Correction, Please

About a month ago one of UTJ's newer (well, actually, older) MKs announced he had an important point to make. Unfortunately it revealed a laughably myopic and self-important view of Jewish history and religion:

Knesset Member Menachem Eliezer Moses, chairman of the Haredi-religious United Torah Judaism party, has found that an animal welfare bill supported by the government could make his shtreimel an endangered species. The shtreimel is a unique fur hat traditionally worn by members of Hassidic sects on special occasions.

MK Moses wants fur imported for use in making shtreimels be exempted from the general prohibition. "It is inconceivable," he said, "to support a bill that outlaws imports for such a clear and important religious need."

Pardon my ignorance, sir, but exactly what "clear religious need" is that? As a friendly neighborhood rabbi, I'm certain you'd be happy to show me the many detailed halachot on shtreimels. Inquiring minds want to know.

Moses, who is a Belzer Hassid and also a rabbi, explained to the coalition representatives the meaning and importance of the shtreimel to the sector his party represents.

he UTJ leader was at pains to explain that he does not oppose the proposed law entirely, "but I request that the law include an appropriate exception stating that import for religious purposes will not be infringed and will not be considered a violation of the law." With a call for the government ministers to amend the law, MK Moses added, "We are not in the Middle Ages, when Jews were forbidden to use explicitly Jewish symbols."

The shtreimel an explicitly Jewish symbol? Um... no. We stole the shtreimel from Polish noblemen, who presumably then stopped wearing them because even back in the 1700s, Jews were not considered all that cool.

It's funny MK Moses mentioned the Middle Ages because, contrary to what he's semi-implying, we didn't HAVE shtreimels back then. The frigging Reform movement has been around longer than Jewish shtreimels. This guy claims that the earliest Jewish use of shtreimels were by the early Chabad hasidim, which would still only be c. 1770s. He also notes that Peter the Great, or should I say Pinhas ben Alexei, the Tzaddik of Romanov, wore a shtreimel.

Thanks to the power of the internet, I was lucky enough to find a picture of this magnificent specimen of Torah-True History:

Agh! The Yiddishkeit, it buuuurns!

Incidentally, I like this last line. Apparently someone at Arutz Sheva has a sense of humor:

The shtreimel can be made from genuine or synthetic fur, with the latter actually more common among Israeli Hassidic Jews than those overseas. The Rebbe of the Gerrer Hassidic sect, in fact, issued an edict that his followers may only purchase spodiks (a style of shtreimel) made of fake fur and that cost less than $600.

Hmm, if only the Belzer rebbe (or Viznitz?) would follow the Gerrer's lead.

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