Tuesday, March 16, 2010

For the record...

Dear Uncle Milt,

It was very nice to see you and the family this weekend for Rivkie's Bat Mitzvah. The whole weekend was so great it was hard to pick out the best parts. Highlights definitely included being harassed by the photographer you hired no less than five times in a two-hour period as he begged us to pose for him, having my eardrums blasted out by an obnoxious DJ while watching 13-year-olds freak dance to Lady Gaga's "Pokerface," and dealing with you being an overbearing toolbag who insisted on introducing me to every person you knew who has anything to do with the education industry to help me "network."

I particularly enjoyed the last night when you insisted we all go out to dinner at a Hawaiian themed Mexican restaurant (not even sure how that works). The best part had to have been when you forgot Grandma's wheat allergy, then got pissed at her for refusing to order a "taco-less taco" and announced loudly to everyone that you had "lost your appetite" and spent the whole dinner sulking like a three-year-old. Fun times.

But there is one thing that's been bothering me. Apparently the morning of the service when I was in the bathroom you took the opportunity to mention to Abbot Yid that you were absolutely not going to loan me a tallis because, to paraphrase, "He didn't have a Bar Mitzvah, so he shouldn't wear one."

Let's just be clear, Uncle Milt. I do not mind that Aunt Maureen is as WASPy as a mayonnaise sandwich and never converted. I do not care that you belong to an uber-Reform temple or that your primary Jewish activity seems to involve marching in lockstep with anything that comes out of AIPAC's rear mouth (despite the fact that the Rabbinate in Israel would consider your kids as Jewish as a ham sandwich). I'm willing to ignore your racist comments about Arabs and your ostentatious use of Sephardic-accented Hebrew around us ("Hey Abbot, do you have a tallit?" "What the hell is that?") I pretended not to be bothered that you made me take off my awesome Bukharian yarmulke (which your rabbi really liked, BTW) for family pictures because it looked too ethnic.

I don't even care that you had Rivkie's Bat Mitzvah in a godamn country club, or that you probably spent more on that giant masturbation session than she ever collected for her mitzvah project to help out starving blind orphans in Zimbabwe.

But just so we're clear...

The actual custom regarding tallitot is to start wearing them when you turn 13. I.e., reach the age of majority per halacha. So you can, you know, start fulfilling mitzvot. Whether or not you were technically Bar Mitzvahed or not has nothing to do with it. As long as you're going to start pulling random chumras out of your ass, you might as well go with one that actually exists and follow the opinion of Rabbi Yaacov Mollen from the 1400s.

According to another custom, men only start wearing the Tallit after they get married. Rabbi Yaacov Mollen (1356-1427), also called the Maharil, based his explanation of this custom on two verses in the Torah. Deuteronomy 22:12 states the commandment of wearing a tzitzit and the next verse, Deuteronomy 22:12 says ‘If a man takes a wife…’. However, this custom of not wearing the Tallit until marriage is not widely practiced as it prevents one from fulfilling the commandment in the years before the wedding.

This whole thing reminds me of when some random schmoe on the Internet told me that I wasn't "really" circumcised because mine happened in a hospital rather than at an actual bris. I almost felt bad about it until a Rabbi I knew told me that the idea of me needing a hatafat dam brit was like being "a little bit pregnant." Needless to say, I don't worry about it anymore.

So let me put it this way, Uncle Milt. If I'm not going to take stupid crap from Orthodox crazies who actually know what they're talking about, do you really think I care about your totally arbitrary not-even-Reform rules about tallises?

Next time I'll just bring my own.


scazon said...

Jeez, what a douche.

Conservative apikoris said...

Actually, from my observations in OrthoLand, the custom of young men not wearing a tallis until they get married seems to be the dominant one. And your uncle should know better than to use the word "Bar Miztvah" as a verb.

Tzipporah said...

Oh dear Lord.

Stories like these make me so glad that Bad Cohen's family is unaffiliated, rather than self-righteous Reform. All their Jewish melodrama happens in private homes. Like at Pesach. Which is coming up.

I think I'm going to go buy some more kfp wine. Yes, that will do it.

Friar Yid said...

Tzip- One more point in favor of having a loose-knit extended family who don't live closer than 500 miles to each other.

...On the other hand, this tends to backfire the few times where we feel obligated to be around each other.

(Or, as Abbot Yid commented on the drive home with me and my brother- "Look, it's not that I don't want to see them-- the problem is that I can't stand any of them!"

My family's togetherness is best measured in microliters.