Yes, I got up a bit earlier than usual today to watch the wedding service of Wills and Kate. I loved her dress. I enjoyed all the pomp and ceremony and costumes and music. During the very Anglican service, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in detail about how marriage is a holy estate, intended to be permanent, and not entered into lightly. Husband and wife are reserved for one another. Which brings me to this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim (“holy,” plural adjective). “Holiness” in Judaism denotes something that has been set apart as special, as a wife is made holy to her husband and a husband to his wife through marriage. Indeed, the stage of a Jewish wedding in which the groom gives the bride the ring is called “kiddushin” (often translated “betrothal”).
We’ve been reading about sacrifices and ritual purity, but that’s not sufficient to achieve holiness. And why be holy, other than the recognition that life will generally be better if people treat other nicely? And at the beginning of Kedoshim, we are told, quite simply (19:2), “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” This concept is often referred to as the concept, “Imitatio Dei,” imitating God. It is repeated in 20:7 and 8 and implied by the phrase “I am the Lord” which appears 15 times in this portion, punctuating groups of laws.
How to be holy is described in the laws that follow 19:2, which largely deal with daily life. And there are plenty of them; I read that Kedoshim contains the third highest number of laws of all the weekly Torah portions. Some are directly from the Ten Commandments (identifying verses related to commandments 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 is an exercise left to the reader). Some are quite general, like 19:19 (see also 19:37), “You shall obey my laws.” Many deal with honesty and fair treatment (don’t lie, don’t steal, use honest weights and measures, judge without bias toward rich or poor, etc) and taking care of the poor (e.g., leave some of the harvest for them). Some are puzzling, like the prohibitions on mixed wool and linen fabric and rounding the corners of one’s beard. And there is a cluster of laws in 19:14-18 that I feel represents the core of Kedoshim:
You shall not curse the deaf, nor place a stumbling block before the blind.
You shall not go up and down as a talebearer among your people; neither shall you stand against the blood of your neighbor.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
If you can manage those, many of the others follow as a consequence.
A clergyman was walking down the street when he came upon a group of about a dozen boys, all of them between 10 and 12 years of age.
The group surrounded a dog. Concerned lest the boys were hurting the dog, he went over and asked “What are you doing with that dog?”
One of the boys replied, “This dog is just an old neighborhood stray. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to keep the dog.”
Of course, the reverend was taken aback. “You boys shouldn’t be having a contest telling lies!” he exclaimed. He then launched into a ten minute sermon against lying, beginning, “Don”t you boys know it”s a sin to lie,” and ending with, “Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie.”
There was dead silence for about a minute. Just as the reverend was beginning to think he”d gotten through to them, the smallest boy gave a deep sigh and said, “All right, give him the dog.”
Night Stealing [abridged]
A man got a job as a night watchman at a factory. There had been a lot of thefts by the night shift workers, and so every morning it was his job to check their bags and pockets.
Things were going along very well the first night until a man pushing a wheelbarrow of newspaper came through his gate. Aha, he thought, that man thinks he can cover up what he is stealing with that newspaper. So he removed the paper only to find nothing. Still, he questioned him about the paper.
“I get a little extra money from newspapers I recycle, so I go into the lunchroom and pick up all the ones people have thrown away.”
The guard let him pass, but decided to keep a close eye on him.
Week after week it went on. The same guy would push the wheelbarrow of newspapers past the guard’s checkpoint. The guard would always check and find nothing.
Then one night, about a year later, the guard reported for work only to find a message telling him to report to his supervisor.
He walked into the office and before he could say a word, the boss said, “You’re fired!”
“Fired?” he asked in total surprise. “Why? What did I do?”
“It was your job to make sure that no one stole anything from this plant and you have failed. So you’re fired.”
“Wait a minute, what do you mean failed. Nobody ever stole anything from this place while I was on guard.”
“Oh, really,” the boss answered. “Then how do you account for the fact that there are 365 wheelbarrows missing?
From the New York Post, May 28, 1997:
STUNNED WIFE SUES HER GENDER-BENDING “HUBBY”
by David K. Li, Post Correspondent
Santa Ana, California — You can’t argue with this as grounds for divorce.
A California woman ended her marriage in March when she found out — after almost a year — that her spouse was another woman, court papers said.
Now Correen Zahnzinger, 24, is suing alleged gender-bender Valerie Inga, 29, for fraud and infliction of emotional distress.
Zahnzinger claims she believed — during two years of dating and their married life together — that Inga was actually Antonia Marciano, a man.
The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court last week does not explain how Zahnzinger was fooled. Zahnzinger’s lawyer, Steven Zwick, said Inga targeted his client.
“You’d pick her out of a crowd. She’s an attractive woman,” he said.
Inga could not be reached for comment, but a close friend said she knew exactly what she was getting.
“There was no fraud. She knew what she was doing. They lived together for two years. How could she not have known?” the pal said.
Zahnzinger is also suing for breach of contract, claiming Inga failed to pay her $300,000 in hush money to keep quiet about their marriage.
[There was a similar case involving a man who believed he’d married a woman who turned out to be a man. This inspired the Broadway play (and later film) M. Butterfly. IGP]
Strange Judicial Opinions
Live Long and Prosper, But Don’t Enact Retroactive Laws
In an otherwise dry, but well-written opinion involving legislative police power and retroactive laws, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett invoked the ultimate high authority for Baby Boomers everywhere.
No, not the U.S. Supreme Court. Star Trek!
Quoting the utilitarian principle that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” Justice Willett cites to Charles Dickens and Mr. Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Willett explained in a footnote:
The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh …” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”
As Star Trek sources go, The Wrath of Khan is a good one. Definitely more authoritative than, say, TheTrouble with Tribbles.
— Robinson v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 54 Tex. Sup. J. 71, 99 n.21 (Tex. 2010). Thanks to Tamara Davis by way of wired.com.
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/6271/offic045.html. – dead link. Sent out in 2003
Weights and Measures
A meat counter clerk, who had had a particularly good day, proudly flipped his last chicken on a scale and weighed it.
“That will be $6.35,” he told the customer.
“That really is a little too small,” said the woman. “Don’t you have anything larger?”
Hesitating, but thinking fast, the clerk returned the chicken to the refrigerator, paused a moment, then took it out again.
“This one,” he said faintly,” will be $6.65.”
The woman paused for a moment, then made her decision.
“I know what,” she said, “I’ll take both of them!”