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February 2018
Making the Miracle
In the Land of Miracles, one man's miracle is no dream.

The Biker Girl
An icon of freedom on the day before Passover.

A religion made for take-out. A story for Chanukah.

Tearing the Toilet Paper
When miraculous meets mundane: Chanukah.

The Purim Rebbe: A Guide from the Perplexed
Help like this you don’t get every day!

Finding the Lost Ark
The original 'Raider,' working on faith, is deluding himself - and us

Against Family Values
In praise of the wild, sexy, unpredictable amusement park of reality.

The Purim Rebbe: A Guide from the Perplexed
Help like this you don’t get every day!

In a corner of the dim study hall at World Naarishe Headquarters, two Hasidim sat at a table, a large volume open before them. One gave a great sigh: "Oy!" His partner responded with another great sigh: "Oy!" And so it went. "Oy!" "Oy!"

Then, in an outrageous violation of decorum, one replaced his sighing with the high-pitched sound of a penny-whistle. The other pulled a whistle from his pocket and responded in kind. And so it went. "Oy!" "Oy!" "Toot!" "Toot!"

Suddenly, Rabbi L'chaim Shikker, the towering (or maybe "tippling" is more accurate) Torah personality of our generation, swept into the room wearing his famed kapote, on which can be read every meal he has eaten since 1983. "Reb L'chaim," I pleaded, "explain to me the mystical significance of these strange activities."

"They're studying a verse from Torah, what else?" grumbled the holy man, pulling a pastrami sandwich out of his kapote. "What a question. You never heard of 'An oy for an oy and a toot for a toot'? Then the Rebbe sat down and began to read from a pile of letters which, despite his age and unusual degree of inebriation, he still answers personally.
* * * *

I notice that when Jews part after a wedding, bar mitzvah, or similar occasion, they say, "Only simchas -- joyful occasions." Don't they know that life has both joyful and sorrowful experiences?



In my youth, studying Bible, Mishnah, Sodom and Gemara, I learned that originally there were no celebrations, only pogroms and an occasional funeral. In those days, people would say to each other, "Only tsuris, troubles," to keep themselves focused on reality in a healthy way.

Now everything has a sugar coating. In the Passover Haggadah, a lot of people remove "Pour out your wrath" and substitute "Have a nice day." But I'm with you, and I wish you a lot of misery from your children.
* * *

Let's get down to basics. Which is more important, the letter of the law or the spirit? Ritual observance or deeds of kindness?

                            -GEE DASH DEE


Judging from your name, you must be an Oriental Jew. My grandfather, Norwegian Chief Rabbi Olaf HaShalom (or the Alter Shikker, as he was known, after the title of his great Purim cookbook), once made a detailed comparison between the Jews of Taiwan and the Jews of Taipan. Taipanese Jews were extremely strict in ritual observance. Once they ate meat, for example, they never drank milk again; and it is forbidden, according to a midrash found in a kugel fossil, even to think about their family-purity observances. But they were stinkers, if you know what I mean.

Taiwanese Jews, on the other hand, liked to eat out in Chinese restaurants, but they supported all the widows and orphans on the Mainland. After the Mandarin Chinese licked the Szechwan in the Tongue Wars, both communities perished in anti-Jewish rioting. Uh, what was your question?
* * *

I notice that the Jewish papers publish recipes for Purim, recipes for Passover and recipes for Cholent. When is Cholent and what does it celebrate?



You again? Ordinarily, no one gets two questions, but I don't want to risk you mixing up happy occasions with Cholent. Cholent, which commemorates the crazy stews God is always getting us into, begins with cries of delight, continues with moans of distress and requires a long nap afterward. In other words, it's like every other Jewish holiday.
* * *

My fiancé and I are both religious, and we agreed that once we are married we will be even stricter than we are now - glatt kosher and everything. But now he says he wants to be that strict even before we marry. He says if I really loved him, I would go "all the way" right now. I really think it's important to leave something for after one marries.

                              -MAIDEN IN DISTRESS


Our Sages (Kama Sutra 875b) take various positions. In general, the rule is that the pious do mitzvot early. Therefore, I suggest that you stay away from your fiancé on Friday evenings until after your wedding, just in case he knows what's a mitzvah on the Sabbath.
* * *

My boyfriend spends all his time getting a suntan. Isn't this a waste of time?



All the Early Sages are in agreement that getting a suntan takes priority even over learning Torah. That is why they are known as the Tannaim. In fact, Rabban Gamliel used to stay out on the beach till so late that he was no longer considered one of the Early Sages. From this comes the dictum, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, you're an Amora."
* * *

We buy the shirts with the chicken-soup stains already on them, that's how come.
* * *

My son is a thief. Do you think it would straighten him out to send him to an Orthodox school?

                                  -SAD DAD


In these situations, a Reform school usually is better.
* * *

Couldn't you just fall down from such wisdom? Before you do, be sure to purchase Reb L'Chaim's hot collection of "99 Practical Jokes to Play on Your Rabbi." Like, on the day before Passover, mail your favorite holy man a slice of bread or a nice onion bagel. It's a regular "loaf riot" when he opens his mail on the festival. Boy, will God be mad at him!

And if you long to know why the Almighty wants large cities reduced to rubble, whole regions of the earth to ecological disaster areas and their human and animals inhabitants to fertilizer, send for New World Ordure, Reb L'Chaim's key to using current events to demonstrate the inevitability of arcane religious speculations. Remember, nothing is so awful that it isn't part of God's special plan for the Jews.

Both books are yours for a bottle of sweet wine and some cold cash. But act fast, before our supply (of sweet wine, that is) runs out.
* * *

Do you have a question for Reb L'chaim, the man who observes the whole Torah but hardly notices anything at all? Write in care of this web site. Always include a lot of money and a bottle of shnapps for postage and handling. 



First published, in different form, in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

Is Real Life Good Enough?
Nothing ever happens on my settlement.

The Road to Revolution – And Back Again
The Sixties, brought to you by smart Jewish kids from the 'burbs.

Life After Zionism?
Yes, Israel’s getting Americanized -- but don't step on my blue-and-white suede shoes.

Women, Interrupted
The Holocaust in resident memory.

Grandma Knows Best
Neo-conservative ideologue Midge Decter must be right. After all, she says so.

Gen X Goes Bonkers
The furies of depression, in the feminine mode.

A Wounded Hero
Varian Fry mounted probably the most successful private rescue operation of World War II.

The Language Where Jews Lived
Yiddish is dying – but don’t plan the funeral just yet

War Story
This is the war that never ends.

Housebroken -- Sort Of
Post-modern, 30-something and single - it's no way to live.

Every Rat Has His Day
Marketing is in the saddle and rides mankind.

The Crushing Sadness of the Road Not Taken
The meaning of your experience may come years later.

A Disappearing Family Album
What Americanization costs a Jewish family.

A Real Groucho
He was funny but not nice.

Half a Loaf of Wisdom
Jacob the Baker's wise sayings come half-baked from the oven.

Gerald L.K. Smith Revisited
Liar, racist, demagogue – the voice of a generation.