Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.
So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.
I love, love, love a good deal. I follow half a dozen deals blogs on Twitter (here’s my list, my secret weapon). And I pride myself on never, ever paying full price on anything. Black Friday is one of those days that usually isn’t worth getting out of bed for (or throwing on your skinny jeans after a big meal). There are a few exceptions, and I’m here to tell you what they are. Are you shopping for a conservative in your life and can’t decide what to get them? Here’s some gift-giving ideas:
1. For the academic
Do you have someone in your life who has been eyeing the Victor Davis Hanson series in the PJ Store? Or perhaps someone who is just a history buff? We have three different VDH series on sale this Cyber Monday on World War II, the Odyssey of Western Civilization and The Western Story; all three will be 30% off this Cyber Monday! The guide to WWII is a six-part lecture series and both the Odyssey of Western Civilization and The Western Story come with eight lectures and eight accompanying e-books. They’re sure to expand the mind without drastically shrinking your wallet.
2. For the news buff
Do you know someone who loves to spend an afternoon or weekends catching up on current events or the latest music news? While few smaller conservative publications are participating in Black Friday sales, it’s still worth taking out a subscription to magazines like Commentary, National Review, and The Weekly Standard. The website DiscountMags has other subscriptions for magazines like The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and Food & Wine, all at a drastic discount. Keep an eye on their site — their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are always spectacular.
3. For the fashionista and fashionmister
I first heard of Sword & Plough because of a Kickstarter campaign they were running to get the company off the ground. Successfully funded, they are now running a full shop and will be releasing new designs for Black Friday and will be offering 10-15% off for these designs (all the ones on their website are backordered and thus won’t be discounted) on Black Friday in addition to free domestic shipping over $100. Sword & Plough have several different components that make them a great company to order a new bag from:
- We empower veteran employment by working with companies and non-profit organizations that employ veterans as sewers and manufacturers, and we ask our partners to scale with us by hiring veterans to meet the growing demand for S&P products.
- If the fabric doesn’t have a cool story, we won’t use it. We recycle thousands of pounds of military surplus that would otherwise be burned or buried. Because our bags are made from repurposed military gear, they are also water, fire and UV resistant!
- Our goal is to emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives. We aim to remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and veterans face, and the power that every person has to help.
Holiday-themed fiction has become sadly predictable: ‘Tis the Season for Santa, reindeer, and family reconciliation. Not that we don’t love tradition and feel-good endings; but it feels like it’s time for something a bit…different.
So for Liberty Island’s first annual Holiday Fiction Contest, we’re asking for you to surprise us. Pick your favorite genre–sci fi, fantasy, mystery, military, what have you–and, using the basic conventions of that genre, tell an interesting and compelling story with a Christmas or Chanukkah backdrop.
The best entries will be featured in Liberty Island’s end-of-the-year blockbuster release, and may be collected in a themed anthology in the future — so be sure to send us your best stuff. And something new: we’ll pick one overall best story and the winning author will receive a gift package of Liberty Island swag.
Entries are due Monday, December 8th. Length should be between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Email entries to to firstname.lastname@example.org; please put “Holiday Fiction Contest” in the subject line.
We look forward to reading a dozen stories about killer android reindeer!
They are veterans not victims. Every once in a while, Hollywood captures the nobility of the American veteran. Coming home may not always be easy, but those who have worn their country’s uniform have done much to nurture, shape, and enrich this nation. Here are 10 movies that tell their story.
1. The Searchers (1956)
This story of a complex and conflicted veteran “hero” fighting his personal demons and a savage frontier is widely regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made. It’s based on a novel by Alan Le May which draws from actual events that occurred in 1836. On film, the story is moved to after the Civil War. John Wayne plays one of the three million veterans who came home after the conflict. When his niece is abducted during an Indian raid, Wayne embarks on a violent 10-year search to find her. In the end, he rides off into the sunset, triumphing over both hatred and adversity.
Sally was right when she complained in the Peanuts Thanksgiving special that it was too soon to learn about another holiday because she wasn’t even through with her Halloween candy yet. And she couldn’t have had that much candy as she’d spent Halloween in a pumpkin patch with Linus, and her brother came home with a bag of rocks.
With Halloween, the US candy calendar begins. Now, I’m not a strict candy limits mom. When my eldest was three years old, we hit about half a dozen houses. This was in Eaton Square, an area of London that was just coming up to speed with American traditions for All Hallows Eve, so we aren’t talking about a ton of candy. I let him eat to his heart’s content. My mother did not approve, but as she cautioned me, Patrick got about half way through his bucket, then stopped and asked for water and if he could have the rest tomorrow. His tummy didn’t like all the candy, he told us. I beamed, of course, and let him watch The Great Pumpkin before bed. (He slept fine, by the way.)
From August 22, 1929. The beginning of the experiments that would become Fantasia a decade later.
On the street I live on, well over a thousand kids will appear on this spooky night (we hand out, oh, about $300 worth of candy in a couple of hours, no joke). The town literally blocks off my street for several hours, it’s such a big thing. Will I have fun scaring the crap out of small children, and handing out ready-to-eat diabetic comas in small packages? You bet!
Given the article title, I find it impossible to begin this without the following being the first selection.
1. Classics IV – “Spooky”
Friday the 13th may be the series that popularized the slasher movie genre, but Halloween is where it started. Before Jason Voorhees, audiences were terrified by Michael Myers, also known as The Shape, and the Boogeyman. Unlike his fellow members of the genre’s “Big 3,” Jason and Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers’ story is one that has been re-imagined, splintered, and rebooted probably more than any other besides Universal’s stable of classic movie monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein. What follows is a look at the various films in the Halloween franchise, grouped by what’s worth watching sober to when a drinking game is necessary.
Classic Duology: Halloween I and II
Halloween is considered a classic, and the pieces are all there for one: iconic villain, haunting score, and a terrifying scenario are all present. Michael Myers may not be as flashy as Jason or Freddy, but he can be more frightening in his simplicity. John Carpenter’s original finds horror in the mundane, showing Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie and her friends being boringly normal as Michael lurks in the background, unseen as his prey goes about their lives in blissful ignorance.
The formula slashers continue to follow to this day in some regard is laid out here as Michael stalks his victims one by one as the obsessed and arguably, equally unhinged Dr. Loomis tries to enact the solution he felt should have been used all along to end Michael’s reign of terror– murder. The climax is one of the most tense and horrifying in the history of the genre, as one madman tries to save Laurie Strode from another.
If you’re still operating under the false notion that pop culture doesn’t have a real impact on everyday life, take a look at America’s oldest example, Sleepy Hollow, New York.
When Washington Irving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon, he probably had no idea that his short story would inspire the beloved town of his youth to turn itself into a living homage to his tale. Settled in the late 1600s, the village was originally an agricultural and manufacturing zone of Tarrytown, New York. Nicknamed “Sleeper’s Haven” by early Dutch settlers, Washington Irving picked up on the Anglicized version of the name, “Sleepy Hollow” when staying with family in the area as a boy. Eventually millionaires like John D. Rockefeller would build mansions around the industrial zone that would become known as North Tarrytown at the turn of the 20th century. But it was Irving’s story that proved eternal when, in 1996, the village voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.
Street signs are orange and black, as is one of the village’s fire trucks. The Headless Horseman is the school mascot who, dubbed the nation’s “scariest high school mascot”, runs through every football game at half-time. Police cars and fire trucks also bear the Headless Horseman logo with pride. Halloween is celebrated throughout October with haunted hayrides, street festivals, a parade encompassing both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown’s main streets, several ghost tours and performances of the Washington Irving legend. The Great Jack O’Lantern blaze puts Christmas light spectaculars to shame and Horseman’s Hollow turns a 17th century Dutch mill into a gory homage to the headless Hessian.
The Old Dutch Church, Ichabod Crane’s presumed safe haven, stands guard over a vast “garden cemetery” designed to allow Victorian families to picnic with their dearly departed. Tours of the cemetery can be taken both day and night and feature stops at the graves of Washington Irving and those who inspired characters in his tale. A fair runs every weekend alongside the cemetery, providing tour groups with the opportunity to walk the grounds with alcohol in hand. The gas station on the other side of the infamous bridge hawks t-shirts and other assorted Headless Horseman souvenirs. And if you’re hungry, there’s always The Horseman Restaurant, a hole in the wall diner that promises you’ll “lose your head” over their milkshakes.
Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.
Those with long memories will recall that Wes Craven’s Scream, which came out way back in 1996, was praised for its hip “self-awareness,” coming as it did in a particularly “meta” era of ’90s postmodernism, full of overrated cult fare like Pulp Fiction and Clerks. The film’s edginess consisted in banging on the fourth wall without quite breaking it. In one scene, for instance, a horror-movie fanatic and video-store clerk (remember: 1996) played by Jamie Kennedy tells his fellow teenagers about the “rules” of surviving a slasher film.
One of these “rules,” which is now common knowledge, is that in order to survive one mustn’t practice the carnal arts. Those who do it always get it. What the less eloquent might call “c*ckblocking” is an established horror-movie tradition. In the first Halloween film, Michael Myers ruins one couple’s tryst by stabbing the guy and then assaulting his teenage girlfriend—which might sound like a standard Friday evening at Roman Polanski’s house, but for an audience of 1970s suburban teens it was genuinely frightening. Come to think of it, every horror movie has a boyfriend character, football letter jacket and all, who gets his head caved in while fetching a few beers from the fridge. Each series has its own tropes. The Friday the 13th movies rely on the obligatory sex-in-the-woods scene: two camp counselors set up a tent, and before long Jason shows up with his machete for an especially kinky threesome.
Editor’s Note: This is the second pre-Halloween list this year. The first was “The 10 Worst Horror Films on Netflix: Drinking Game Edition.” What would you like to see next in this series before Halloween next week?
As it is with art or humor, horror is subjective. What might frighten one person might do nothing for another. And especially today, when there are so many things in our modern world that are scary, fright has been parsed virtually to its constituent components.
What scares modern audiences is more likely to be found in threats that grow directly from real life. Thus, films of past decades, whose themes may have just rolled off the backs of viewers like water off a duck, now resonate with renewed discomfort.
A new uncertainty has gripped modern society as it struggles to meet a rising restlessness. New monsters represent the looming chaos that threatens to overturn our heretofore predictable and comfortable lives. We can sit before our theater-sized TV screens in our cozy McMansions snug in our gated communities and pretend the rising chaos of the outside world won’t effect us, but in the back of our minds we know that isn’t true. That when our leaders take their hands off the tiller, or drop the reins, control is lost and confusion ensues followed by a metaphoric zombie apocalypse. Thus, perhaps, watching our monsters where they remain safely imprisoned behind the television or movie screen, we can pretend all is fantasy and that really, there’s nothing to worry about…until the schools close due to an Ebola scare, or there’s a run at the supermarket when the power fails, or a riot breaks out at a pumpkin festival, or a bomb explodes at a marathon event…
A relative latecomer to the monster sweepstakes, the creature from the film Alien (1979) definitely deserves a place of honor among the best of all time. In a single move, the alien creature (not to be confused with Universal’s Gill Man) brought the haunted house genre into the 21st century and created a horrific being perfectly suited to an age where technology and science was reaching its apogee, threatening to get out of control on any number of fronts!
The eight-day Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday, which begins on Wednesday evening, commemorates the Israelites’ 40-year trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. As God commands (Lev. 23:42-43):
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days….
That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt….
Today, many generations later, sukkot—makeshift, decorated huts—sprout all over Israel for the holiday, recalling the ancient Israelites’ rude, temporary dwellings in the desert.
But Sukkot is also an autumn harvest festival, and very much tied to the Land of Israel itself. It occurs in early fall, a wonderfully warm-cool time of year with clear nights, perfect for gazing up at the stars through the thatched roof of a sukkah.
Sukkot is, then, a good occasion to look back at some of the archaeological finds from the Land of Israel over the past year (on the Jewish calendar, running from September to September). I’ve only chosen some of the most striking, since in any given year there is intensive archaeological activity throughout the land and numerous finds. These discoveries link the ancient past to the present and reinforce Israelis’ rootedness in an archetypal landscape.
11. Wonder Woman
Her fresh, All-American face premiered on comic book stands during World War II, making her the greatest enemy of the Axis powers. Daughters of original readers would go on to be inspired by Lynda Carter’s televisual portrayal of the superheroine in the 1970s. The Wonder Woman arsenal includes a dual-function tiara with bracelets to match and the awesome Lasso of Truth. Before there was Lara Croft or a chick named Buffy, Wonder Woman proved that strength could be sexy and gave Captain America a run for his patriotism with her flag-bearing style.
Freedom in the United States of America doesn’t just mean expressing your freedom of speech or your right to petition the government. Sometimes, it’s about the freedom to fail … and fail we do … especially, it seems, when beer and explosives are involved.
[Warning: Language advisory]
10) Brazilian Rocket Science
I don’t know any Portuguese curse words, but I’d venture a guess that this video from São Paulo contains some choice epithets. Never, ever, ever hold the fireworks in your hand. Just don’t.
About a decade ago at a friend’s party I began chatting with another guest who, in the course of our conversation, informed me that he was an Orthodox Jew.
This information gave me an opening to ask my favorite question, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?”
His answer was memorable, “Jesus wasn’t Jewish,” he replied.
My jaw dropped and I was almost speechless. Initially I thought he was kidding until realizing he was not.
Then, after a short conversation volley he said, “Well, that’s your opinion.”
Years later I have never forgotten that incident because the fact (not opinion) that Jesus was born, lived and died a Jew is one of the few universally accepted Biblical “facts.”
As one who was born and raised a Jew — but since 1975 has believed that Jesus was and is the Messiah — I have made a hobby out of asking traditional Jews, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?” The reason I continue asking this question is because the answers or I should say non-answers are always so intriguing.
Here are three examples (but you will have to read to the end for the most recent and intriguing example of all.)
A fews months ago, I posed “the question” to an old friend who is a secular Jew, not religious, but very proud of his heritage. His replied, “I don’t know. I guess Jesus had to be born of some religion so it just happened to be Judaism.”
My husband loves to tell this true story he calls, “How Myra Accosted a Rabbi at a Bar Mitzvah.” A few years back we attended a Bar Mitzvah of a friend’s son. Afterwards at the reception, using my sweet, inquisitive voice I asked the Rabbi, “Why was Jesus born Jewish?” My husband describes the Rabbi’s face as looking like he had just encountered Satan. After gaining his composure the Rabbi answered, “No one has ever asked me that question,” as he quickly excused himself and dashed to the opposite side of the room.
Then there was the time I was having a heated argument with my non-religious Jewish father (now deceased) about Jesus and my conversion to Christianity. My father had great disdain for ALL religion because he strongly believed that religion was the root cause of every war in human history. During the course of our discussion I asked him, “What was the religion of Jesus?” He replied confidently, “Jesus was Catholic.”
John Phillip Sousa on 33 1/3 blasts from the Hi-Fi — yes, you heard right, “Hi-Fi” — conducted by my flag-waving Grandfather, proudly standing at attention at 8 o’clock in the morning in the doorway of his open garage, wondering why it took us so long to get there. We may have been at the shore, but Memorial Day was not about a barbecue on the beach.
My grandparents lived down the street from my Great Uncle and Aunt. My Grandfather idolized my Great Uncle (his brother), naming his only son after his brother who had spent World War II as a gunner on a Navy ship in the Pacific. Having broken his back before the war, my Grandfather wasn’t able to get into the military during the conflict. Instead, he busied himself crafting knives to send to his buddies overseas (yes, they censored letters, but allowed knives to be carried through V-Mail) with the instructions “leave them in the enemy’s guts and I’ll make you a new one when you get home.”
My grandfather also played a key role in the war effort, one that goes overlooked when we take the time to honor the troops on Memorial Day. Recruited by the FBI in 1940, my grandfather and his father played a key role in the creation of the Iowa Ordinance Plant, the largest shell and bomb loading facility in operation during the war.
In the autumn of 1940, when a fairly isolationist population still dismissed the idea of entering into Europe’s conflict, my grandfather was pulled out of his job as a tool and die maker by two fairly typical FBI mugs. They strapped secret plans for a military facility, designed by Day & Zimmermann, Co., to his body and handed him a train ticket and a gun with the instructions, “Don’t be afraid to use it.” At the age of 23, my grandfather was the perfect cover: “If anyone asks, you’re on your way out west to go to college.” His job was simple: Escort his father, recruited by the government for his skills as a tool and die maker, to San Francisco to convene with a number of highly skilled Americans engaged to prepare America for war.
It’s easier somehow, to think of “war casualties” as stark numbers on a spreadsheet, disconnected from the human lives attached to those numbers. Unless a combat death suddenly crashes into our safe little world, we seldom stop to think of the lives represented by those casualty numbers we hear on the news — the families whose lives were shattered in an instant and for whom there will alway be a missing piece. The little boy who was too young to form memories of his father who was killed in action. The father who won’t be there to teach his son to throw a baseball or ride a bike or be a husband. The daughter who won’t have her father there to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. The mother who will grieve the death of her daughter until she takes her dying breath. For those families, there is no list of casualties on a spreadsheet. There is only one casualty that matters — the one that turned their world upside-down and left a permanent void in their lives.
Memorial Day is the time we set aside each year to remember and to show our gratitude for those who paid the ultimate price to secure the blessings of liberty for the rest of us. As we honor that sacrifice, let us also remember the families who bear the terrible burden of carrying on without their loved ones. Those families who will always have an empty place at the dinner table and an ache in their hearts.
What is wrong with my children? Why won’t they let me completely immerse myself in their lives?!
Beverly Goldberg, The Goldbergs
Last week, my husband and I fell over laughing at the best line in the entire first season of ABC’s The Goldbergs. Just renewed for a second season, the autobiographical series created by Adam F. Goldberg (no relation) features, in his own words, “the orginial sMother” Beverly Goldberg, archetype of Jewish moms the world over. In his comic genius (complemented by Wendi McLendon-Covey’s masterful performance) Goldberg has managed to take a figure much-maligned over the past few decades and craft her into a clan leader who is as lovable as she is obnoxious. With her ballsy, brash bravado, Beverly is the living, breathing Jewishness in a show otherwise lacking in Jewish culture. For The Goldbergs, Jewish is not about kashrut, holidays or simchas; it is about a mother who smothers her children with equal parts love, confidence, and overprotection.
Thanks to Freud and Friedan, Jewish moms have taken a beating over the past few decades. Friedan used her own mother’s discontent with being a housewife as the impetus for her brutal criticisms of motherhood and housewifery, going so far as to describe the latter using Holocaust imagery. What Friedan failed to note early on was the antisemitic influence on her mother’s behavior. Not only was her educated mother forced to become a housewife the minute she married, she was also the victim of lifelong antisemitic prejudice. This attitude, something internalized by both mother and daughter, would later come out in brute force through Friedan’s feminist critiques of the Jewish mother. It was a position that Friedan would eventually come to regret. According to historian Joyce Antler:
…in later life [Friedan] has joined the modern aspirations of feminism with the popular emblems of her Jewish heritage, understanding that the myth of a controlling, aggressive Jewish mother has been as dangerous to the self-esteem of Jewish women (including her own) as the earlier “feminine mystique” was to all women.
The real-life Beverly Goldberg views her son’s television show as a “validation of everything she’s ever done.” I’d take her observation a step further; I believe Adam F. Goldberg’s seemingly simple, humorous portrayal of “the original sMother” is a much-needed cultural validation of the Jewish mother figure at large. Beverly Goldberg may not have the zaftig figure of her televisual predecessor Molly, but she has a zaftig heart, one that infuses the kind of family love into a sitcom setting that hasn’t existed since the Huxtables went off the air. In the midst of intense cultural debates on the value and future of motherhood, Beverly Goldberg’s intense devotion, undivided attention, and proclivity for jaws-of-life hugs are refreshing.
Happy sMother’s Day to Jewish moms around the globe. Just please remember to let your kids come up for air once in a while.
In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:
A) in the comments
C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email.
The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.
Liberty Island: A Gen-X Gandalf Mom Casting Thomas Sowell Spells
See also, from some of the moms at PJ Lifestyle:
Rhonda Robinson: 3 Steps to Rediscover the Lost Art of Mothering
Bethany Mandel: 8 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Is Best for Moms Too
Rhonda Robinson: 10 Myths from the Mommy Wars
Imagine a new country suddenly emerging somewhere in the world, a country based on America’s old Constitution and nothing more. This new country has no taxes, a strong military, a free and open press, and a limited government.
Would you pack your bags? Let’s head out for the Atlantis of Atlas Shrugged, or Sarah Hoyt’s Eden colony in Darkship Thieves, or Heinlein’s lunar base in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. We’d miss our old home and feel sorrow over leaving our old country, but to be free of the increasing weight of totalitarian government? Color me gone, and my family too. We did it once, generations ago, when we got on a boat and headed to America. We could do it again.
This is why Mexico is a failed state. Rebels who object to a government unwilling to preserve individual liberty and protect private property have an Atlantis shimmering and beckoning on the horizon. They’ve packed their bags and moved here, some legally and some illegally. Some have died in the deserts of the American Southwest, murdered by coyotes or succumbing to thirst, willing to die to gain freedom.
Left behind are the people who either engage in corruption themselves or have no energy to fight it. Consider Michoacan, Mexico. Almost half the state’s population lives in the United States. Those left behind endure passively as corrupt government officials make deals with drug cartels and refuse to protect people’s safety or private property. Their rebel for liberty, their Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, isn’t around. He’s moved to America.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory in 1862 of a small, ill-equipped Mexican force over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. It took another five years before Mexico gained independence, but the 5th of May is celebrated as the symbol of Mexican freedom. Today’s rebels should fight to free Mexico and turn her back into a vibrant and wonderful country, but I can understand how the lure of freedom in their neighbor to the North is too much.
Because if you had a free country to emigrate to, would you stick around here and fight it out, or would you pack your bags?
Saint Patrick’s Day is an outrageous celebration of my Irish heritage. On that day adult Americans of all ethnic backgrounds feel free to wear green derby hats and shamrock necklaces, pack into bars and pubs to drink green beer and, if they’re really serious about celebrating the Irish way, end the day by vomiting and passing out in the gutter.
I’m offended by this, and it has to stop! Okay, just kidding. I don’t care a bit. The Irish are a fully integrated ethnic minority in America and St. Patrick’s Day is proof. You know your heritage is not an issue when you can poke fun at yourself.
I don’t know how to make the Martin Luther King holiday as genuinely warm, funny, and celebratory as St. Patrick’s Day, but I’d like to try. Just last month a school system had to apologize for serving a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon on Martin Luther King Day. How sad that the African-American holiday commemorating such a great man is about grievances and not praise. Why shouldn’t we all celebrate Martin Luther King day with soul food, vibrant African designs and colors in our decorations and celebrations, and a sense of fun and gratitude?
I fear that instead of moving towards celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a positive affirmation of African-American heritage, we’re moving in the other direction. Columbus Day has come under such attack that this brave Italian hero and explorer is accused of genocide and celebrations in his honor are protested. The very word “Christmas” has been banned in some schools. How long before someone wants to ban St. Patrick’s Day?
May this never happen. Long may the green beer flow in the pubs of America on St. Patrick’s Day. May the green derby hats continue to be perched on the heads of all, may the Leprechaun decorations continue to be ridiculous and offensive, and may you always feel free to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
images courtesy Shutterstock: Patryk Kosmider
There are a lot of great lines in the megillah of Esther. The one most often quoted comes from Mordecai: “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position for such a time as this.” It smacks of drama and makes for an excellent movie poster catchphrase. But, it wouldn’t hold half its meaning without the point-blank observation of evil Haman’s wife, Zeresh.
Upon listening to his frustration over Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, Zeresh tells her husband to hang Mordecai. But, when she finds out Mordecai is a Jew, she does a complete 180 and admits:
If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a Jew, you will not get the better of him; on the contrary, your downfall before him is certain.
And this is before Esther convinced the King not to massacre the Jews. It’s refreshing to know our reputation precedes us. But it isn’t a reputation we Jews are always glad to have; we aren’t exactly in it for the fame. In fact, like Esther, our first instinct is to keep our heads down and fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Speaking of “the crowd”, modern feminists have managed to twist the humble Jewess into the villain of the tale, instead opting to celebrate the Persian Queen Vashti for her refusal to appear before the King at his whim. Think: Her body, her self, Persian style. Docile, compliant Esther, meanwhile, is a mere pawn whose beauty comes in handy to persuade the patriarchy to let her live another day. This simplistic interpretation, totally ignorant of the promise and perspective of God, relies on the feminist myth that a woman’s worth is in her ability to manipulate her body to her advantage. Esther could never be considered a hero to these women, because she was inspired by a sense of purpose that outweighed the importance of her own skin.
“Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father’s family will perish,” Mordecai warns before adding, “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.”
Vashti Feminists like to think the story is about Esther using her body to pursue the King’s favor. In reality, Esther pursues God’s purpose for her life and the life of her nation, Israel. She didn’t choose to sacrifice her body to the Persian King’s whims. On the contrary, Esther chose to devote herself, body, mind and spirit, to the living promises of God. The King, the death decree, even evil Haman, all of them were nothing more than plot devices in the ongoing love story between God and Israel. Esther, Queen of the Shadchans (Matchmakers) arrived on the scene as a reminder that “relief and deliverance will come”.
Esther was just a regular Jewish girl, redirecting her focus away from herself and onto the bigger picture of God’s plan for humanity. Crowned with the desire and humility to walk in faith, she is remembered as a Queen among her people. Vashti-feminists are oblivious to this plan and the honor it bestows, because their focus remains on the image in the mirror, not the person within, let alone the others who may be around.
Thank God, Esther decided that fitting in with the crowd was a bad idea. Had Esther followed feminist mantra, she would have dismissed Mordecai’s warning and followed the example of Queen Vashti, only to wind up exiled or dead. Instead, she trusted that God’s plan involved every part of her, including her beauty, and used all of her gifts to that end. Typical feminists favor Vashti because they worship tragic beauty; Biblical feminists admire Esther because she plays to win.