Saturday, January 10, 2009

I may never understand as long as I live....

I haven't posted here in a year, and yet, of the half-dozen blogs that I intermittently post to, this one gets more visits than any other, hands-down. From all over the world. All on the topic of Jews and Rabbits. I would give a prize, if I had one to give, for someone to explain the fascination to me. Honestly.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The enlightening part... Dalai Lama, part 2

The same thing happened as I listened to the translator for the Dalai Lama at Wednesday's address on the Capital lawn as happened when I saw Thich Nhat Hahn speak in Maryland, seven or eight years ago. I wanted to hang on every word, but quickly found that an idea would be brought up that caught and held my attention, and I'd naturally go and think on it for a time, and then come back to the lecture when I'd masticated the idea pretty thoroughly. And then another idea would take me down a rabbit hole, and eventually I'd come back up again...

So as I listened to the Dalai Lama discussing non-violent resolution to international conflict, I found myself mulling over how that spliced into Stephen Covey's discussion of win/win, lose/lose, and win/lose and lose/win negotiations.

Covey, of coure, advocates going for a win/win solution, where both parties are happy with the outcome, because it's been designed to allow each party to meet their fundamental desires in the situation. It may not give them what they want in the way that they expected, but they get their needs met.

The next step, of course, in most cases is to go for win/lose. If we can't both win, I want at least to make sure that *I* win -- even if it means that you lose.

Then there's lose/lose. If I'm not going to get what I need, then I'm darned well not going to let you get what you need -- we're BOTH going to walk away unsatisfied.

And the dysfunctional response to the situation, perhaps, is lose/win. This is the one that I find I fall into when I'm really pissed off, honestly -- the one where I say, "Oh, yes -- YOU win. Go right on ahead and win, and watch me in my martyry martyrdom lose, and be all sanctimonious about it." I know I do it. Not smart or healthy -- but certainly a learned response based on years of it not feeling safe to ask directly for what I want, or expect people to negotiate with me in good faith.

So I found myself thinking about having a non-violent, peace-based response to something so profound as, say, having your country invaded. Non-violence, you'd think, would teach you to not respond with violence, which almost automatically means that the person willing to behave with violence is going to win. Could it be that the non-violent response is Covey's lose/win? But that one is the one that it's clear Covey and others see as the least healthy response, and that makes sense to me, because of the anger and resentment and self-righteousness riding under the surface in that response.

But as I continued to think on it, it's clear that the Dalai Lama is not a man prone to anger, resentment, or self-righteousness. He does not think of himself as losing, either, in the exchange.

I cannot explain the thought process that I went through, but I mulled for several minutes about it, and came to the surprising conclusion that by electing to lose and NOT feel anger or resentment, what looks like the losing position becomes the winning position, morally. Likewise, although the other party appears to win, from the ethical position, their outcome is revealed as losing -- as success without validity.

The key to the switcheroo, though, lies entirely with whether it is possible to hold the non-violent, passive position without anger or resentment, maintaining empathy for the other party.

This is the genius of the Dalai Lama.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity....

I quietly left my desk today, hopped on the Metro, and went to the Capital to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak, shortly after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal "in recognition of his enduring and outstanding contribution to peace, non-violence, human rights, and religious understanding."

It was shocking. It was enlightening. It was alarming.

Let me begin with the shocking part. A group passed out postcards that explained that there is a Chinese law preventing the Dalai Lama or other Tibetan Buddhist teachers from being reincarnated unless approved by the government. According to The Economist, this is actually the case. Bonus, there's a registry for "Living Buddhas" in Tibet.

Okay, so let me get this straight. Tibetan Buddhists believe in a cycle of reincarnation, and many of them believe that they elect to return to this world for another life to help those less enlightened come to enlightenment. And the Chinese government has legislated the activity of these people's souls after death? Honestly, it makes the mind boggle just to think of it. The sheer thought that anyone could legislate the soul's migration after death left me dazed and bewildered.

The alarming part had to do with the juxtaposition of violence and non-violence so present in the venue. Here we are awarding a man for his support of peace and non-violent resolution of conflict. The President of the United States has just received him -- the message seems overwhelmingly that we as a nation value non-violence and peaceful choices. And yet when I got home, the news reported the ever-increasing saber-rattling about the need to engage our military with Iran, preventively. Bonus -- the Capital and the Dalai Lama were being protected by guards with high-powered rifles. It was enough to make what was left of my brain after the reincarnation thing explode.

The inspiring part requires a little more time to discuss; I'll get to it in the next few days.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why aren't rabbits kosher? A serious answer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I *do* occasionally check (as I've admitted to before) to see how people land here, and I'm constantly surprised by how many google searches a) occur because people wonder why Jews don't eat rabbit, and b) end up landing HERE, of all places. So I googled the question myself, and lo, I was given myself as the third reference in the search results.

As a public service, I thought I'd provide a few links to interesting information about kashrut in general, and the proscription against eating rabbits in specific.

Note: It is very hard for me to type "rabbit," and not stop at "rabbi." If I make a reference to why rabbis aren't kosher, please forgive me. It's an inadvertent typo. Honest.

That said....

  • Here is a site that summarizes very briefly and succinctly the basics of kosher animals, kosher slaughter of animals, and keeping a kosher kitchen.

  • Here is another site that references the source in Leviticus for why rabbits aren't kosher.

  • This is a link to an online Torah with commentary (including the Hebrew, if you're feeling industrious), at the location in Leviticus (11:2-4, and specifically 6 about the hare) that discusses clean and traif animals.

The punchline simply is that an animal must both chew cud and have cloven hoofs to be kosher, and although rabbits chew their cud, they don't have hoofs, they have little feet -- and so they're out.

Here's hoping that that makes this blog a little more useful than just an "aw, dang -- back to google" pitstop on the information superhighway of kashrut trivia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Never so glad to see a parachute....

Welcome home Barbara!

Waiting for the deorbit burn....

I'm watching the live feed and waiting for the deorbit burn. Updates are also released here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

About Jews and Rabbits.

While I was stranded at the Orlando airport while returning from the Shuttle launch, I had the time and the Internet connection to do some preliminary research on the difficult relationship between Jews and Rabbits. I concluded that whether a gift of a rabbit would be appropriate or inappropriate was linked between the intended purpose of the rabbit, the time of year in which the rabbit was given, and possibly the form the rabbit took.

Rabbits as food.

Suppose you gave a Jew a rabbit to eat.... Well, rabbits are not kosher (see primary restriction on chewing cud and cloven hoof). Certainly most gentiles, and in fact many Jews question the value of remaining faithful to the dietary restrictions in the Torah, and subsequently developed by the rabbis that are now encapsulated in the laws of kashrut or "keeping kosher." Does it really DO something, to bury a fork in the ground because it accidentally touched meat and dairy? Does God really care all that much about it? Isn't kashrut fundamentally about keeping people from getting trichinosis from undercooked pork anyhow? Interesting questions for the purposes of debate, but ultimately up to each person to decide. And so you have two options here -- if you give a Jew a rabbit to each with disclosure, it's probably only an ettiquette issue, and they'll quite possibly decline. You've only revealed that you're not knowledgeable about kosher law. But if you give a Jew a rabbit to eat WITHOUT disclosure, it's a far worse thing. You're encouraging another person into sin. This is, by Jewish law, a sin in itself.

Conclusion: If you give a Jew a rabbit to eat, you're encouraging him to break a fundamental law of kashrut.
Suggestion: Don't give a Jew a rabbit as a snack. It may TASTE like chicken, but it's not nice to lead a person into sin, whether you agree with it or not.

Rabbits and Easter.

Suppose you gave a Jew a rabbit in the spring.... The line between Christianity and Judaism is fraught with peril, and in the spring, the line between Jews and rabbits is intense. After all, it's spring, it's beginning to be warm, flowers bud, baby animals arrive on the scene -- what could be more heartwarming than a rabbit that shows up on a beautiful spring day and hides brightly colored eggs for the joy of children? And yet, the superimposition of Christian folk-activity on the heaviness of the Jewish ritual of Passover may be the second most fun-unbalanced time of year. And you hear it over and over -- what's the harm in a few dyed eggs? It's not like it's about JESUS.... But it *is* about Christian interpretation of rebirth and resurrection, which draws an undeniable connection to Jesus and to Christianity for Jews, and is a line that we dare not cross, because when you give a Mouse a Jewish child who's got Easter eggs, well, the next thing you know, he'll want you to get a visit from Santa.

Conclusion: If you give a Jew a rabbit in the spring, he'll associate it with the Easter Bunny and question whether your motives are perhaps more ... insidious.
Suggestion: Don't give a Jew a rabbit during Passover.

Rabbits as Hats.

The only place where I could find an actual correlative connection between Jews and rabbits had to with hats. Improbable? Perhaps. Wikipedia has this to say about that:

"Samet (velvet) or biber (beaver) hats are worn by Galician and Hungarian Hasidim during the week and by unmarried men on Shabbat as well. Some unmarried men only wear a samet hat on the Sabbath and a felt hat during the week. There are many types of Samet hats, most notably the "high" ("hoicher") and "flat" ("platcher") varieties. The "flat" type is worn by Satmar Hasidim, and some others as well. Some Rabbis wear a "round" samet hat in a similar style to the shtofener hats, however made from the Samet material. They are called beaver hats even though today they are made from rabbit."

Conclusion: Some Jews wear rabbit hats.
Suggestion: It's probably okay with a Jew if you give him a rabbit hat.

It's probably just not okay with the rabbit.