For the last couple of Torah portions, Moses has been communing with the Lord on Mt. Sinai. Think of it – 40 days, one on one, undivided attention, no pesky, whiny interruptions from the Israelites. The ultimate spiritual retreat. And this week’s portion begins in the same mode, with instructions for a census and 1/2 shekel head tax for the upkeep of the Tent of Meeting (we’ll read this again soon for Shabbat Shekalim), a copper wash basin for the washing the priests’ hands and feet, recipes for spice-infused sacred anointing oil and sacred incense, the appointments of Bezalel from the tribe of Judah as artisan-in-chief and Oholiab as his assistant. Finally, the Lord tells Moses to emphasize to the people that they must keep the Sabbath as a sign of all time between the Lord and the Israelites, for, on that day after Creation, the Lord “ceased from work and was refreshed.” (31:17, JPS trans.) Then Moses is given the two tablets, and he prepares to go back to the people.
Meanwhile, back at the camp –
Some say that, when Moses says he’ll be gone 40 days, it isn’t clear if he means he’ll return on the 40th day (as the people thought) or after the completion of the 40th day (the reality). Thus, when he doesn’t appear on the 40th day, the people freak. Whether there is or is not a date misunderstanding, the people clearly have no inner certainty that Moses would come back, so they asked Aaron for something to hold onto emotionally and literally: the Golden Calf (actually young bull, with all the pagan fertility rite associations, etc.). Aaron complies (probably in fear of his life, though his lame excuse “I threw the gold into the fire and this calf jumped out” makes me wonder), the people worship it boisterously, the Lord threatens to destroy the people but Moses prevents that, Moses comes back (with Joshua, who’d stayed at the foot of the mountain) and smashes the tablets, grinds up the idol into dust, strews it on water, and makes the people drink it. The Lord does punish the people, by means of a plague and withdrawing the Divine presence, and the people repent. Moses goes back up the mountain for another set of tablets and tries to build on his intimate relationship with the Lord by asking to see the Lord’s face. Since he would not be able to survive that, he gets to see the back of the Lord instead.
Note that, even though he is told by the Lord, while he’s still on Sinai, about the people’s misbehavior, Moses does not actually get angry with them until he nears the camp. According to Ovadiah Sforno (15th c. commentator, Italy), the angry flared up because of the joy with which the calf was worshiped, especially the dancing, which was symptomatic of a much deeper problem than panic at possibly losing their leader: “When Moses saw that the Israelites were rejoicing in the desecration that they had created he became angry and despaired of his ability to correct this egregious sin.” (http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/parsha/5762/kitisa62.htm Also vol. 6 of ArtScroll’s A Daily Dose of Torah, pp. 50-51) There are several other interpretations of the tablet breaking, but I’ll save them for the future.
Jokes only a Catholic can get… [oh come now! IGP]
This information is for Catholics only. It must not be divulged to non-Catholics. The less they know about our rituals and code words the better off they are.
AMEN: The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.
BULLETIN: Your receipt for attending Mass.
CHOIR: A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.
HOLY WATER: A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY.
HYMN: A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the congregation’s range.
RECESSIONAL HYMN: The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly since most of the people have already left.
INCENSE: Holy Smoke!
JESUITS: An order of priests known for their ability to find colleges with good basketball teams.
JONAH: The original “Jaws” story.
JUSTICE: When kids have kids of their own.
KYRIE ELEISON: The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and baklava.
MAGI: The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.
MANGER: Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph wasn’t covered by an HMO. The Bible’s way of showing us that holiday travel has always been rough.
PEW a medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.
PROCESSION: The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, the celebrant and late parishioners looking for seats.
RECESSIONAL: The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.
RELICS: People who have been going to Mass for so long they actually know when to sit, kneel, and stand.
TEN COMMANDMENTS: The most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.
USHERS: The only people in the parish who don’t know the seating capacity of a pew.
God the Artist (sent out in 2005)
A Sunday School teacher began her lesson with a question. “Boys and girls, what do we know about God?”
A hand shot up in the air. “He is an artist!” said the kindergarten boy.
“Really?! How do you know?” the teacher asked.
“You know – ‘Our Father, who does art in Heaven. . .”
The Movie (sent out in 2004)
For the classic orgy scene (around the golden calf) in Cecil B. De Mille’s biblical epic The Ten Commandments (1956), the director narrowly skirted the bounds of 1950s acceptability. Half-naked nymphs writhed in simulated ecstasy; men toted women off behind the rocks at the foot of Mount Sinai. During the filming, the festivities were interrupted by the appearance of Charlton Heston (Moses) with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” he cried as scripted. An assistant director then called, “Lunch!” and turned to leave – and was amused to hear one of the girls in the orgy scene call out: “Party pooper!”
[BTW, the picture above is The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin 1633-36, Oil on canvas 153.4 x 211.8 cm, National Gallery, London I found it at laurashefler.net/arthistory2010/?p=433 . IGP]
The Mother of All Excuses Place
Hello friends, welcome to The Mother of All Excuses Place. Over the years, everyone where I work has always thought that we should be writing down all the excuses everyone there has given for not coming to work that day. We all thought that it would make a very entertaining book to read. Well we never got around to writing that book, but with the popularity of the Internet and the ease of making a web site, I decided to publish all the calling in work excuses I, or people that submit them, have heard over the years.
Plus I have sections for missing school and homework excuses, police or accident excuses, kids excuses, getting out of family events and holiday functions, breaking dates, doctor excuses, doctors note, missing church, wedding, diet excuses, why I ate that, debt excuses, tax excuses, not paying the rent, getting out of home repair excuses, unwanted house guest excuses, jury duty, defense excuses, not voting, no sex, miscellaneous excuses, excuses for becoming addicted to online slots, excuse related humor and funny things that people do stories. We have all used or heard excuses for missing just about everything. If you have a suggestion for a new excuse page or would like to submit an excuse, please go to the Submit Excuses page and send them to me!
A few examples of the thousands collected there:
From Work Excuses 1 Thru 200
- 29. Hello, I’ve used all of my sick days and I’m calling in dead.
- 78. I won’t be in today because I can’t find my clothes
From School and Homework Excuses 400 to 600
- 405. On the day that my chemistry term paper was due, I realized that I had left the 50 page report sitting in my printer tray at home. When my teacher asked me where it was, I responded, “Oh, that? Its not important. But if you must know, It died two days ago.” The next day, when I brought it in , I said, “Miracles can happen! My paper rose again on the third day! Praise the Lord!” — I received full credit.
From Missing Church [or synagogue services…] Excuses
- 4. Real Mysterious Sounding, “I just had this feeling I shouldn’t be there.”
- 122. There is too much praying going on.