Posts Tagged ‘Torah’

The Wring of the Lord

Posted in General on June 26th, 2012 by Eugene Finerman – 7 Comments

Leon Trotsky and Meyer Lansky evidently were unavailable, so I was the synagogue’s third choice to conduct this Friday’s Sabbath service.  But am I ready to be the Jewish Elmer Gantry?  My first attempt at faith healing proved rather tactless.  I thought the lady was paralyzed and I laid hands on her botox.  My thumbprints literally left the impression that she had been lobotomized.  The synagogue’s malpractice insurance is dealing with it. 

As part of the Sabbath service, I will be discussing this week’s Torah portion.  Here is a summary of it:  the Israelites moved to Kibrothhataavah after we were caught stealing the towels at Ramada, then on to the more pronounceable Hazeroth, then Rithmath because the schools were better, then Rithmonperez for the lower property taxes, and forty-seven campsites later Aaron died.  He may have been 125 years old; he certainly felt it. 

I have to believe that every word of this story is true because it is soooo boring.  “And they set out from Terah and encamped at Mithkah.”  Any fabrication would have enlivened it.  “The dragons of Mount Shepur attacked our encampment–eating Aaron alive and carrying off Zipporah to breed a race of  fire-breathing flying accountants.”   

Hey, this is a Reform Temple.  I can get away with it.


The Missing Eugene

Posted in General on May 3rd, 2012 by Eugene Finerman – 5 Comments
You probably thought that I had succumbed to old age and now was in Hell’s TV lounge, watching Jeopardy with Satan–and beating Him to the answers. (I think that we would be evenly matched in history and politics; He’d have the advantage in economics and psychology, but I would be better in the arts.  Out of courtesy, I might let Him answer a question about John Milton.) 
Rest assure, however, I am not there yet.  I am still in the Purgatory of learning Hebrew for my bar mitzvah.  To memorize my Torah portion, I have resorted to mnemonic tricks.  “Yogi bear is annoyed, needs a shave…Bo Derek owes me a backrub.”  There is a risk that I might accidently recite that instead of the actual Hebrew.  Fortunately, at a Reform synagogue no one would know the difference.
And I must admit that I have found another distraction:  history fan clubs on LinkedIn.  I joined one group and, with my pedantic quips, soon was receiving invitations to join other groups.   When you are this generation’s foremost Byzantine humorist, everyone wants you. Here is an example, incited by a discussion of historical periodicals: when do they begin and end?
The boundaries of historical periods are flexible. Does Antiquity last longer in the Eastern Roman Empire than in the West?
One morning the Emperor Zeno woke up to discover that he was in the Middle Ages. He didn’t feel particularly medieval; indeed, the court eunuchs assured Zeno that he looked as classical as ever. Still, he couldn’t ignore the smirks from the history department at Constantinople University.
However, in my historic irreverence, I earned a relentless enemy.  He was outraged by my comments on Aethelred the Unready.   My new nemesis not only denounced me–in sporadically grammatic English–on LinkedIn.  He also is stalking me in other groups, publicly editing my comments even when he happens to agree with me.  I imagine that he is lurking here, too. 
Michael Douglas gets a young Glenn Close and I get this guy. So if I am found beaten to death by a copy of “Beowulf”, please notify the police of the most likely suspect.
(And then I really will be in Hell’s TV lounge, watching Jeopardy with His Eminence.)
p.s.  And here is the incendiary musing on Aethelred the Unready:

By the Numbers

Posted in General on October 4th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 5 Comments

I am planning to have my bar mitzvah next year.  (Most of you suspect that I am only 12; half of the time, my wife does.)  Forty-seven years ago, I dropped out of Hebrew school–and if you knew my classmates at the time, you wouldn’t blame me.  It was a Yiddish production of “Lord of the Flies.”

Fortunately, my family was not shocked by my rebellious irreverence; in my secular home, ancient incantations seemed less important than ethnic identity.  So I was trained to know the Jewish member of every film cast…Leslie Howard in “Gone With the Wind”, Erland Josephson in “Cries and Whispers”, half of Claire Trevor in “Stagecoach.”  At least it was good preparation for Jeopardy.

My wife Karen had a more conventional upbringing than I did, equal parts Sholem Aleichem and Philip Roth.  Years of Sunday school made her literate in Hebrew; however, at the time, her synagogue did not offer bat mitzvahs.  So the nice Jewish girl and the renegade Jewish boy were equally unmitzvahed.  No one would mistake us for Patrick and Deirdre, but we felt a desire to a fulfill our commitment to 4000 years of history, tradition and idiosyncrasy.  So the two of us enrolled in an adult bar mitzvah program.

The class began with a dozen aspiring candidates.  But the challenge and frequent absurdity of Hebrew (21 letters, half of which are k, along with 350 vowels) took a toll.  Half of the class dropped out; one lady found the gutteral exertions threatened her botox.  But Karen and I persevered.  I now have a command of Hebrew that qualifies me to be a village idiot anywhere in Israel.  And this week, in preparation for the actual ceremony,  we received our assigned chapters in the Torah.

The Torah is actually the first five books of the Bible.  We know that Genesis and Exodus have everything you’d want in a movie.  Leviticus actually can be quite funny:  imagine a temper tantrum by Jackie Mason.  Deuteronomy really is outtakes from Exodus; it would have been the added features in the special DVD of “The Ten Commandments.”  But then there is Numbers–apparently the root word of numb.  It is basically a census of how many warriors in each tribe and how many sheep each person contributed to the Israelite Bond Dinner.

So, what is the purpose of Numbers?  I believe that it was the first CPA examination.  Nothing in the book would pass a serious audit.  According to the tally, the ancient Israelites had an army of 603,550 men.  Really?  With that size army, why stop at conquering Canaan?  Take Egypt, Troy and Babylon, too.   Persia and Rome, at their height of power, never commanded half so large a force.  But Joshua did?  Either Bernie Madoff is 3000 years old, or he was following in the family business.

And, if you had any doubts, Karen and I have been assigned to read from Numbers.   Maybe we should have bribed the Rabbi.