(Written and emailed Friday, 5/11/12. Sorry I forgot to post it then!)
Yesterday was Lag B’Omer, the 33rd (in the Hebrew alphabet, lamed=30 and
gimel=3, whence “Lag” for 33) day of the counting of the omer, which began
the second day of Pesach. The period between Pesach and Shavuot is a
semi-mourning period which is suspended on Lag B’Omer, allowing activities
like weddings and other celebrations, picnics, hair cuts and beard
trimming. Archery was also a custom, possibly as a reminder of the revolts
against the Romans like the Bar Kochba revolt (132 CE). In one tradition,
A plague killed which had killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students at the
time of the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome (132 CE) ceased on Lag B’Omer.
Another tradition holds that Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, a disciple of R. Akiva
who survived the revolt, continued to defy Rome, hid for years in a cave
with his son, became a mystic, and died on Lag B’Omer. For more
information, see, e.g., the article by Francine Klagsbrun at
Anyhow, this week’s Torah portion, Emor, begins with laws concerning
special restrictions for the priests (Ch. 21 and 22). A person contracts
ritual impurity on contact with a corpse, so a priest cannot tend to dead
bodies except for his parent, child, brother and virgin sister; the high
priest cannot even for those. A priest cannot marry a harlot or divorcee;
the high priest additionally cannot marry a widow but only a virgin. To be
fit for offering sacrifices, a priest also has to be physically “perfect,”
i.e., not physically defective or incomplete (21:18-23 lists unacceptable
defects). The sacrifices themselves must also be defect free. Chapter 23,
which is also read on the first and second days of Sukkot and the second
day Pesach, deals with the “fixed times,” i.e., Sabbath and holidays:
Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot (with Shemini
Atzeret, but not Simchat Torah, which is post-Biblical). Yes, there are
obligatory sacrifices, but this time the descriptions are fleshed out (no
pun intended) with rituals specific to each holiday (like eating matzah).
Chapter 24 includes directions for kindling the lamps with pure olive oil
and an incident of spoken blasphemy. The blasphemer is stoned to death, so
this is followed by laws concerning capital punishment (e.g., for blasphemy
and for murder) and appropriate restitution in cases of assault,
formulaically described in 24:20 as “fracture for fracture, eye for eye,
tooth for tooth.”
What do these seemingly disparate chapters have to do with each other? One
clue is found in verse 22:27 in which we read that an animal must stay with
its mother for seven days before it can be sacrificed. Why seven?
Maimonides explains that the animal is not yet fully “complete” (viable?)
until seven days have passed; similarly, a boy is not circumcised until it
has lived a week. There are sevens throughout this portion: resting on
the seventh day (commemorating the completion of Creation), eating matzah
for seven days, singling out the seventh day of Pesach as a holiday,
counting seven weeks (7×7 days) from the second day of Pesach to Shavuot,
and celebrating Sukkot for seven days. There are also seven lamps to be
kindled (Exod. 25:37). And just a few weeks ago, we read about a seven-day
period of seclusion for Aaron and his son’s as part of their ordination
(Lev. 8:33-35. All of these promote reaching a stage of being fully
conscious of the special service to the Lord being performed, a state of
completeness and holiness. And that state, completeness and holiness, also
describes the priests when they are fit to offer sacrifices. Thus, the
sevens running through the portion connote the striving for completeness
and holiness by both priests and Israelites.
Archery Jokes (lightly edited)
Q: Did you here about the airhead who shot an arrow into the air?
A: She missed.
Q: What did the archer get when he hit a bullseye?
A: A very angry bull.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
It’s very uncommon for two archers to have the same score. Everyone knows
that bow ties went out of style years ago.
Perfection in Japanese technology
They’re still laughing about this at IBM.
Apparently the computer giant decided to have some parts manufactured in
Japan as a trial project. In the specifications, they set out that they
will accept three defective parts per 10,000.
When the delivery came in there was an accompanying letter.
“We, Japanese people, had a hard time understanding North American business
practices. But the three defective parts per 10,000 have been separately
manufactured and have been included in the consignment. Hope this pleases
Google Logos for Jewish Holidays
Lawyers and lightbulbs
Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, he’ll have the janitor do it. But, you’ll get the following bill
Item Charge (What it really means)
Lawyer’s time, (1 hr.Min.) $400 You sucker.
Staff charges $250 The secretary prepared bill.
Research fees $422 BMW payment due.
Consulting fees $431 Senior partner’s BMW bill.
Delivery expenses $34 Had messenger deliver it.
Rule 453.957(B)(1) charge $394 Second partner Volvo bill.
Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” (1979): The stoning scene (abridged a tad)
by Graham Chapman & John Cleese & Eric Idle & Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones &
Mother: Ah, how I hate wearing these beards.
Brian: Why aren’t women allowed to go to stonings, mum?
Mother: It’s written, that’s why.
Beard and stone seller: Pssst! Beard, madam?
Woman carrying donkey: Oh, look, I haven’t got the time to go to no stonings. He’s not well again.
Donkey: Oink! Oink!
Beard and stone seller: Stone, sir?
Mother: No, they’ve got a lot there, lying around on the ground.
Beard and stone seller: Oh, not like these, sir. Look at this! Feel the quality of that, that’s craftmanship, sir.
Mother: Ehm…all right, two points, ahm…two flats and a packet of gravel.
Beard and stone seller: Packet of gravel. Should be a good one this afternoon.
Beard and stone seller: Local boy.
Priest: Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath…..you have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of our Lord, and so as a blasphemer…
Women disguised as bearded men: Ooh…
Priest: …you are to be stoned to death!
Women disguised as bearded men: Aah!
Matthias: Look, I’d had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was: “That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehova!”.
Women disguised as bearded men: Oooh!
Priest: Blasphemy! He said it again!…By virtue of the authority vested in me…
Rock thrown at Matthias: [Bladonk]
Women disguised as bearded men: Ooh…
Matthias: Oh, lay off! We haven’t started yet!
Priest: Come on! Who threw that? Who threw that stone? Come on!
Women disguised as bearded men: She did! She did! He did! He did! He did!
Woman: Sorry, I thought we’d started.
Priest: Go to the back!
Woman: Oh, dear…
Priest: Always one, isn’t there? Now, where were we?
Matthias: Look, I don’t think it ought to be blasphemy, just saying “Jehova”!
Priest: I’m warning you! If you say Jehova once more…
Rock thrown at Priest: [Bladonk]
Priest: Right! Who threw that?
Priest: Come on! Who threw that?
Women disguised as bearded men: She did! She did! She did! Him! Him! Him!
Priest: Was it you?
Woman II: Yes.
Woman II: Well, you did say Jehova!
Women disguised as bearded men: Aiiih!
Rocks thrown at Woman II: [Multiple Bladonks]
Priest: Stop! Stop! Will you stop that! Stop it! Now, look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you understand? Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say Jehova!
Women disguised as bearded men: Aiiih!
Rocks thrown at Priest: [Multiple Bladonks]
Large boulder crushing Priest: [Bladonk]
Woman III: Good shot!
Women disguised as bearded men: [Applause]