Friday, June 27, 2014

Statutes and Ordinances

For Parshat Chukat 2014: As Abq Jew most recently pointed out (see Got Red Heifer?) in March (for Shabbat Parah), we Jews just can't seem to get enough red heifers. Or, for that matter, enough of The Red Heifer.

זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה׳ לאמר

Back in March, the Taste of Torah Blog told us

The ritual of the red heifer is confusing,
self-contradictory, arcane, and downright bizarre.
But this is far from a new or modern observation.

To which Abq Jew replies

Of course it doesn't make sense! It's a hok (חק)!

In reply to which Abq Jew hears you ask

What's a hok (חק)?

OK, here goes.

A hok (חק) is a statute ...
as opposed to a mishpat (משׁפּט),
which is an ordinance.

Doesn't that clear it up? OK ...

The Rabbis taught in a baraita (an outside-the-Mishna law from the same era) that a mishpat is a commandment that we would have figured out even if the Torah had not commanded it. Examples include the laws about murder, rape, pillage, and similar inappropriate behavior.

But a hok is a commandment that we never, ever could have figured out by ourselves, because it (mostly) doesn't make sense. Examples include the laws about shatnez (can't wear linsey-woolsey), halitzah (get out of marrying your sister-in-law after your brother is Photoshopped out of the picture), and similar mishegas (that's a technical term).

But the classic hok of all hukim is the Red Heifer.

So let's talk about Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

Abq Jew saw that look of excitement on your face!
Right through Al Gore's Internet!

OK ... so let's not talk about Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Or the Social Contract and their differing philosophies thereof. After all, Abq Jew is a trained engineer!

But we (and generations before us, and probably generations after us) must ask the question

Why do we follow the Torah?

The classical answer is

We follow the mishpatim (ordinances) because they make sense.
We follow the hukim (statutes) because ... G-d said to.

Abq Jew, however posits

We are used to the mishpatim, so we believe they make sense.
But the mishpatim really make no more sense than the hukim.
We follow both hukim and mishpatim because ... G-d said to.

So, Abq Jew hears you ask

What does the Red Heifer have to do with the Ladybug?

Incongruously, the Mostly Kosher Blog (which has, alas, gone dormant) has an answer!

In Hebrew, a ladybug is known as

פרת משה רבנו - Moshe Rabbenu's Cow

Let's take a hike on this appellation trail. Whence could this name possibly derive?

From Rashi, of course.

Rashi comments that the Red Heifer was to be brought specifically to Moses, and would be forever associated with him.

And so, says Mostly Kosher,
So what would a Heifer named after Moshe be called? Moshe Rabeinu's cow! If this midrash is to be accepted, then all red cows, were probably nicknamed "Moshe Rabeinu's cow". 
It is not a large leap of the imagination from a Red Heifer to the ladybug. Both are red, and the ladybug has spots like a cow. Hence I speculate that over the centuries the ladybug got the nickname of the Red Heifer, but the origin has been forgotten

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greetings from Chabad Thailand!

Commemorating 20 Years Since the Rebbe's Passing: Chabad of New Mexico is honored to present a special speaker and program this Thursday evening.

Rabbi Yosef C Kantor
Chief Rabbi of Thailand
Thursday June 26 at 5:30 pm
Click here to RSVP!

From Torah Cafe:
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, originally from Australia, moved in 1993 to Bangkok, Thailand to become Chief Rabbi of the city and director of Chabad of Thailand. 
He and his wife and family have built up a network of Chabad Houses and outposts throughout Thailand. 
Over the last 20 years, many thousands of Jews, from Israeli backpackers to businessmen from around the world, have joined them for a meal, a Shabbos, or longer. 
They have assisted and directed rescue efforts during national disasters and are the place to call for families who have lost track of their loved ones in the far east. 
And if you'd like a preview  - here is a video!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Blinding Attack

On Ambiguous Headlines: Like many of you, Abq Jew follows the news during the day on the various and varied news sites that make up (which is to say, comprise) what we sometimes fondly and too often not fondly call "the media."

Here is a headline Abq Jew caught the other day on

NMSU graduates blind auto mechanic

Maybe he's been reading too much bad news lately, and maybe there's too much bad news lately that's being reported. But Abq Jew's immediate reaction to this headline was
My God, why would intelligent, educated people, who had studied for years and been graduated from one of New Mexico's finest institutions of higher learning, act in such a mean, cruel, vicious way?
Fortunately, this reaction didn't last long. The sub-heading was

Man gets inspiration from daughter,
says graduating felt like a dream

Here is the full, inspiring story, which you can view and / or read on KOAT's website.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. —Some things you have to see to believe, but believe it or not there is a blind certified mechanic in New Mexico. 
Clifford Alderson recently graduated from New Mexico State University with an auto mechanics degree. He said he listens to diagnose a problem, and then feels his way around the vehicle to get the job done. 
He said his daughter is his inspiration; she has the same genetic disease that made him go blind. 
“I need to leave something for her,” said Alderson. “I think this is one of the things that she can work toward.  If dad can do it, I can do it too.” 
He said graduating felt like a dream. 

Graduate, by the way, may be either a transitive verb (which takes a direct object) or an intransitive verb (which does not). So claims Grammar Girl, whom Abq Jew trusts implicitly. And explicitly.
When you say that someone graduated from a specific college you are using the intransitive form of "to graduate" because the verb has no object. Let's say Squiggly got a degree from Burrow College. Although it's a bit archaic, the formal way to say this using the intransitive form of the verb "to graduate" is to say, "Squiggly was graduated from Burrow." The more modern way to say it and still be correct is "Squiggly graduated from Burrow." You need the "from." Squiggly graduated FROM Burrow. The shortest form of this sentence would be "Squiggly graduated." If you think about it that way, you can see that "from Burrow" isn't an object, it's just a prepositional phrase that tells you more about where Squiggly graduated from. 
The thing is, when you say, "Squiggly graduated Burrow," you've turned "to graduate" into a transitive verb. By definition, the act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. Schools graduate students. You could say that Burrow graduated 600 students this year. However, if you say, “Squiggly graduated Burrow,” you're making Squiggly the subject and Burrow the object and saying that Squiggly did something to the college. It's possible Squiggly did many things to the college during his tenure there. He may have damaged the college, delighted the college, or desecrated the college--but he didn't graduate the college.
Graduate, by the way, may also be a noun, which is where Abq Jew was misled.

Graduate: One who has received
an academic degree or diploma.

Which brings us to the famous (well, well-known) conversation between Alice and the March Hare, featuring the Dormouse.
March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.  
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know. 
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, 'I see what I eat' is the same as 'I eat what I see'! 
March Hare: You might just as well say, that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!  
The Dormouse: You might just as well say, that "I breathe when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe"!
Oh, and Abq Jew could continue with a sly segue into the also famous (well, also well-known) book by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Where, Abq Jew hears you ask, did that crazy title come from?  "From this story," says Abq Jew.
A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. 
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. 
"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." 
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 
Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.
As they say,

Starting the sentence with a capital letter wouldn't hurt, either!

And finally, in conclusion, Abq Jew must (yes, he must!) end with this photographic tribute to his favorite daughter, Alex the Boston University Graduate.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A New Milestone: 1,812 Facebook Likes

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  On June 16, 2014, the Abq Jew Facebook Page achieved 1,812 Likes.

So, Abq Jew knows you business owners and organization leaders are asking

How does Abq Jew (an entirely online venture)
serve the Jewish community of Albuquerque and beyond
and fit into my marketing plan?

Here's a breakdown of the latest numbers for Abq Jew:
  • The Abq Jew Web gets more than 3,000 pageviews per month, from more than 900 visitors.
  • The Abq Jew Blog gets more than 9,000 pageviews per month from more than 1,000 visitors.
  • Each Abq Jew Blog post is syndicated to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Duke City Fix.
  • Abq Jew has an email list of 300+; plus 1,812 Facebook page likes; 1,140+ Twitter followers; and 270+ LinkedIn connections.
  • Google’s #1 search engine consistently produces Abq Jew high up on page 1.

Advertisers! Partners! Give Abq Jew a call!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grasshoppers In Our Eyes

For Parshat Shelach Lekha (Yo, Get Outta Here): Two years ago it was moths (see Learning Hebrew in the Time of Mothra). This year, Burquenos, we have myriads (see Myra Myra) of flying grasshoppers, attacking us singly and in swarms, day and night, wherever we go and whatever we do.

One New Mexico grasshopper. Shown actual size. Just kidding.

The sight - indeed, the very thought - of grasshoppers, of course, brings to what is left of Abq Jew's mind their mention in this week's parsha. Shelach Leckha, it turns out, has some interesting things to say about the relative size of grasshoppers.
 הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ, אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-רָאִינוּ בְתוֹכָהּ, אַנְשֵׁי מִדּוֹת.  וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ, אֶת-הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק--מִן-הַנְּפִלִים; וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים, וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם.
The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. 
And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers [lit. we were as grasshoppers in our eyes], and so we were in their sight.
Swarms of New Mexico grasshoppers. Shown on radar. Really.

Who is big, and who is small? Jay Stanton New offers this commentary. Mr New speaks specifically in reference to the LGBTQ community - but his words, Abq Jew is sure, will resonate with all of us.
These words offer a snapshot into human nature. When hearing that a task is difficult, how often do we respond to a challenge by convincing ourselves we are inadequate to the task ahead? This portion plays on universal tendencies to underestimate ourselves and let our worries overtake our reason. It is all too easy to see the courage of Caleb, and yet to identify with the concerns of the ten scouts. 
. . .
The ten scouts perceived themselves as grasshoppers in comparison to the huge Anakites. We do not need to dispute this claim. Maybe the scouts were scrawny in comparison to the Anakites. If not in “reality,” it’s certainly how they imagined themselves. If they were smaller, and even if they simply imagined themselves to be smaller, they had reason to fear. However, the next step in their logic is problematic.
The scouts go on to say that they “must have looked” like grasshoppers to the Anakites. This step in their logic seems based solely on projection – the kind of imagination that produces monsters under the bed. As humans, we are not blessed with the ability to read minds. We can anticipate, after much practice, the actions of people we know, but we cannot know exactly what is going through their heads. All the more so, we cannot know what goes through the heads of people with whom we have never interacted.
Presumptuous and counterproductive, assuming the thoughts of another is rarely fruitful. Instead, it tends to reduce the imaginer to a childlike state. Lawrence Kushner, in the book Five Cities of Refuge, recounts a teaching of the Kotzker Rebbe:
Menahem Mendl Morgenstern of Kotzk says that it’s all right to say you feel like a grasshopper in your own eyes – that means you’re alert – but when you start guessing what you look like to someone else, you’ve given them permission to define you, so you’re still a child. For this reason, Caleb, who refuses to let anyone else define him, is a man and, along with Joshua, was one of only two men of the wilderness generation to live to enter the Promised Land.
Another radar view of the grasshoppers swarming over Albuquerque.
Abq Jew must disagree with the first part of the Kotzker Rebbe's statement. With all due respect

It’s not all right to say you feel like a grasshopper in your own eyes. Unless it's this grasshopper.

West Side Albuquerque grasshopper. Shown 1/24 actual size. Still kidding.

But as for the second part of the Kotzker Rebbe's statement (and the thrust of Mr New's commentary), about guessing what others think of you - Abq Jew firmly believes that

Happy Friday 6-13! Mitzvah Day!
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ida Comes to Albuquerque

Now Playing in Santa Fe: The Guardian calls this award-winning film
A small gem, tender and bleak, funny and sad, superbly photographed in luminous monochrome  …     a powerful, poignant story.

Currently playing in Santa Fe
Coming soon to Albuquerque

Other reviewers proclaim
A film of exceptional artistry whose emotions are as potent and persuasive as its images are indelibly beautiful. 
One of the best films of the year. Not to be missed. 
Bracing, beautifully wrought, and provocative.
From acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love) comes Ida, a moving and intimate drama about a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows, makes a shocking discovery about her past.

Ida is currently playing at

CCA Santa Fe

Starting Friday June 13, Ida will be playing in Albuquerque at

Guild Cinema

Century 14 Downtown

Here is more about this film:
18-year old Anna (stunning newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska), a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. 
Naïve, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. 
This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism. 
In this beautifully directed film, Pawlikowski returns to his native Poland for the first time in his career to confront some of the more contentious issues in the history of his birthplace. 
Powerfully written and eloquently shot, Ida a masterly evocation of a time, a dilemma, and a defining historical moment; Ida is also personal, intimate, and human. 
The weight of history is everywhere, but the scale falls within the scope of a young woman learning about the secrets of her own past. 
This intersection of the personal with momentous historic events makes for what is surely one of the most powerful and affecting films of the year.
Abq Jew has not seen Ida yet, but he certainly intends to. The East Coast Jewish press and the many Jewish film festivals around the country have been raving about Ida for months.

Here is the trailer.

It haunted me. I can't wait to see it again.
A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Friday, June 6, 2014

Myra Myra

A Shabbos Calypso Party: As Abq Jew has occasionally mentioned (see Morningtown Ride and Away By The Sea That Was Red), the Australian folk-pop group The Seekers have just wrapped up their 50th Anniversary 'Golden Jubilee' Farewell Tour of the United Kingdom with appearances at London's Royal Albert Hall.

About The Seekers and Myra, Wikipedia tells us
The Seekers were formed in 1962 in Melbourne by Athol Guy on double bass, Keith Potger on twelve-string guitar and Bruce Woodley on guitar. Guy, Potger and Woodley had all attended Melbourne Boys High School. 
In the late 1950s Potger led The Trinamics, a rock 'n' roll group, Guy led the Ramblers, and, with Woodley, they decided to form a doo-wop group, the Escorts. 
The Escorts had Ken Ray as the lead singer and in 1962 they became the Seekers. Ray left the group to get married. 
His place was taken by Judith Durham, who was an established traditional jazz singer, having recorded an extended play disc on W&G Records with the Melbourne group Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers. 
Durham and Guy had met when they both worked in an advertising agency – initially Durham only sang periodically with the Seekers, when not performing at jazz clubs ... 
The Seekers performed folk-influenced pop music and soon gathered a strong following in Melbourne. Durham's connections with W&G Records led to the group signing with the label. 
Their debut album, Introducing The Seekers, was released in 1963. Their debut single was the bush ballad, "Waltzing Matilda", which appeared in November and reached the Melbourne top 40 singles chart ... 
The Seekers were offered a twelve-month position as on-board entertainment on the Sitmar cruise liner, Fairsky, in March 1964. 
In May, they travelled to the UK and had intended to return to Australia after staying ten weeks, but upon arrival they were offered work by a London booking agency, the Grade Organisation. 
They signed with World Record Club and issued a single, Myra – which was co-written by the group ....

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Yes, Abq Jew realizes exactly what day this is.
May their valor never be forgotten.

This day in sacred convocation we remember those who gave us life.
As we reflect upon those whose memory moves us this day, we seek consolation,
and the strength and the insight born of faith.
- Yizkor Service, Siddur Sim Shalom -

From a series of then-and-now photographs
compiled by Reuters photographer Chris Helgren.
See more here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Singing Ruth

A New Song for an Old Story: As Abq Jew ® first noted three years ago (wow! like it was yesterday!) in  A Murder of Crows:

Several thousand years ago, all Jews then living, all Jews ever born, and all Jews ever to be born gathered beneath Mount Sinai to hear God speak to us. There were, Abq Jew believes, more than a few rabbis among us. A whole drasha-load of rabbis.

We celebrate this wondrous event every year on the Holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, exactly seven full weeks after the Holiday of Pesach. When God freed us from Egypt, there was a reason: so God could give us His Torah.

This year, Shavuot begins on Tuesday evening, June 3rd. Come celebrate at the

And as for the Book of Ruth - let's turn to our friends at G-dcast. Abq Jew has talked about G-dcast before (see, for example, Xnay On The Sheepnay), but to refresh your memory:

G‑dcast is a new media production company.
Our goal is to give every Jewish child and adult the chance to learn the basics with zero barriers to entry.
No matter where you live or what you know, we have meaningful and fun Jewish learning for you online.

And as for Singing Ruth, G-dcast says
Sometimes a journey chooses you. The Book of Ruth tells of Ruth the Moabite choosing to make the Israelites her people. Ruth is well-loved for her loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi and is often called Judaism's most famous convert, or Jew by choice. 
Singer-songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins took the story and turned it into a delicate song, beginning the chorus with Ruth's words to Naomi plucked straight from the Hebrew Bible: "And where you go I'll go/where you live will be my home." 
The Book of Ruth is traditionally read by Jews on the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai as well as marking the beginning of the harvest season...which is depicted in our film centered around fields and threshing rooms. 
Did you like this film? Consider donating to G-dcast!

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!

Celebrated since Biblical times,
Shavuot is now the favorite holiday of