Q&A with Random Strangers on the Internet, Pt. 2!

Before I begin, I wanted to bring your attention to a wonderful review of Letters to Josep that Yael Shahar, author of A Damaged Mirror, posted on her blog (which subsequently got a mention in this month’s Jewish Book Carnival). Thanks, Yael!

Onwards. Back in June, I posted a highly amusing piece (if I do say so myself. Well, Josep found it amusing, and that’s what counts here!) in which I decided to answer some questions or comments that various people typed into a search engine and somehow arrived at my blog.

Well, traffic to my blog has steadily increased in the past few months and I’ve been getting more “search term questions”–some of them more bizarre than others–in my stats. So, I have decided to do another Q & A session with Random Strangers on the Internet!

Let us begin:

“why are the jews so weird”

Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? 😛

Here are my highly unprofessional hypotheses:

  1. God could only have chosen an entire nation of weirdos to take on the role of “light unto the nations” and “a nation of priests.” A’right? Because nobody normal would agree to take on this insanity.
  2. We’ve been through a lot. You have to be pretty weird to survive 2,000 years of exile, persecution, massacres, and hatred, and still love and celebrate life. In the immortal words of Seal, “Oh, we’re never gonna surviiiiiive uuuuuunless we are a little craaazy!” We’re like your eccentric grandma who has been through so much, she doesn’t give a rat’s behind what anybody thinks about her anymore. (…Oh, you don’t have a grandma like that? I do. Hi Bubbie! 😛 )
  3. Inbreeding? Researchers found a bottleneck of only around 350 Ashkenazi Jews during the Middle Ages from which the entire Ashkenazi population today is descended. This could account for some, erm, weirdnesses.
  4. Our intense holidays seasons are enough to drive anybody completely batty. And we’ve been doing ’em for 3,000 years. So.

“jewish people are strange”

…Search terms along these lines are apparently what I get for having a post titled “15 Weird Things Jews Do” go viral.

“what’s the jew thing to do”

Hmm. Well, that depends on the context. A typical Jewish response to pretty much anything is to complain about it, argue about it with anyone who’s willing to listen, joke about it, and then sing loudly and dance the hora because it’s Shabbat/a holiday/a wedding/a bar mitzvah/a happy occasion of any sort and we’ll be darned if we aren’t going to celebrate.

“all the thins jews dont do”

That, my friend, is a very long list.

image of man with huge book with caption, "All the Things Jews Don't Do"

Of the 613 commandments, 365 are “negative” commandments (do nots).  I can’t find a comprehensive list of the negative commandments separated from the positive ones, but here’s a complete list of the 613 based primarily on Maimonides (there are other sources that list them a little differently).

But many of those are not that relevant to daily life. The most important things to know about Jews not doing is: not eating non-kosher food (click here to find out what that means) and not working or performing creative activities on the Sabbath (explained here) or on certain holidays (explained here). There are a bunch of other random stuff, and if you’re interested in learning more, you can check out my book 🙂

“why do ultra orthodox jews clap”

Because… they’re happy and they know it?

Okay okay but seriously–there is an actual thing about clapping hands. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that “dancing and clapping hands can sweeten all the decrees.” According to the kabbalah, the right hand is associated with lovingkindness and mercy, and the left hand is associated with justice. Thus, symbolically bringing them together brings mercy into justice.

Or something.

Either way, Breslover hassidim sometimes clap while they pray for this reason, and other Jews who are into Hassidism have adopted the practice as well. Especially during the high holidays.

See, for example, this little scene from “The Guests,” a (really great) Israeli film about a Breslover couple in Jerusalem:

…Yeah, shouting at the top of your lungs is also a Breslover thing. It’s kind of like the shofar, only using your voice. There’s a guy here who does this in public on a regular basis and you can hear him from all over the town.

“throw out dishes in jewish religion”

YES. THANK YOU. Contrary to the popular myth, as described in my recent post on the subject, we do not bury dishes that have been made non-kosher. In the case of ceramic dishes, they cannot be kashered, and therefore we have to throw them out. Fortunately, I personally have never had an issue with a ceramic dish; it is usually cooking utensils like spatulas and wooden spoons that get mixed up around here. You know, you’re standing over the stove, composing your next blog post in your head while you fry the onions, and–whoops! Wrong spatula.

…Okay, so I’m kind of a space cadet. But to be fair it happens to Eitan more often than to me!

“an invitation to pray for israel during the days of awe”

Consider yourself invited! We can use any prayer we can get!

“17 tammuz liquid fast orthodox jewish”

No, actually, the 17th of Tammuz is a typical Jewish fast, which means we refrain from both eating and drinking. More on Jewish fasts here, and more on the 17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks here.

“judeo arabic phrases”

Sorry, all I know are some very basic Palestinian Arabic phrases. After finishing the French program on DuoLingo, I decided to take a break from DuoLingo (which had been RULING MY LIFE for the past 2.5 years) and from Romance languages and focus on studying spoken Palestinian Arabic through this awesome website for Hebrew speakers, Madrasa.

But often, Jewish dialects of other languages are basically the same as those languages with a few Hebrew and Aramaic words and phrases thrown in. You’ll be pretty safe with “insh’allah” (“God willing”), “mashallah” (“God has willed it”), “alhamdullilah” (“Praise God”), etc., like the Muslims say!

More about Jewish languages here.

“we are the battle ground between good and evil”

Yeah, we totally are.

“was hitler an amalekite”

We Jews argue that he was, in the sense that he “inherited” the spiritual legacy of Amalek. (The actual nation of Amalek disappeared thousands of years ago, so he probably was not one in the genetic sense.) More about that here.

“king david ultimate in tshuva”

King David does stand as a very important example in teshuva (repentance). King Saul, his predecessor, lost his right to the throne because after he sinned, he refused to own up to it when he was confronted by Samuel the Prophet. King David, on the other hand, immediately admitted that he had sinned. There is an entire chapter in Psalms that is believed to have been composed by him when he was confronted by Nathan the Prophet about it (chapter 51).

More about King David and his general awesomeness here, and more about teshuva here.

“the influence of juwish on the development of islam and christianity scriptures”

I’d say we were more than an “influence”; we are the “original,” in the sense that we came first. According to Islam, our scripture is a distorted version of what God originally gave us at Sinai, and the Qur’an is the real deal; according to Christianity, God made a new covenant with humanity when He came to earth as Jesus and sacrificed himself on the cross, nullifying certain aspects of our scripture and replacing them with the Christian bible.

“two most important godly customs”

Let’s see. If I had to choose two customs that are the most important for all of humanity, I think I’d go for prayer and a weekly day of rest (what we practice as Shabbat). Prayer helps us stay connected to ourselves and to God and to hope. A weekly day of rest is good for us in all kinds of ways. Take one day a week to switch off your phone and have a good meal or two with your friends and family, to pray, and to enjoy what you have accomplished that week. Trust me, it’s great stuff.

“is ethiopian jew married another’s jew?”

If you mean, “Can Ethiopian Jews marry other Jews?” the answer is absolutely! I know at least two such couples personally, and look at this adorable music video made by an Ashkenazi Israeli who married an Ethiopian Israeli woman and wrote a song about the coming together of their families:

The singer, Yossi Turetsky, is the son of Ashkenazi immigrants from Great Britain, and his wife made aliyah from Ethiopia with her family during Operation Solomon. An excerpt from the lyrics:

We left the Land thousands of years ago
The distances between us were enormous
We longed for each other each and every moment
For you and me to unite was possible only in our dreams
But the unbelievable happened suddenly…

We are a home again–can you believe it?
We are together again–this is a sign of God’s presence
We are once again being renewed as in those days
We are here again; it is a miracle of God

More about Jewish cultural identities here.

“jew boy selection”

*wince* Too many Holocaust connotations there buddy.

“michal bat esther stabbing”

Yeah, that was scary. Thank God, she’s okay and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She has even got involved in peace activism since the attack, partially as a reaction to it.

“are different languages of the world punishment”

My friend Haviv asked me about that! Traditionally it is thought that yes, it was. But I think it’s not all that clear-cut. Here’s my take on it.

“cardboard definition torah”

I… what?

“names of the six compartments of the jewish temple”

I’m not sure what six compartments you are referring to. The Tabernacle and the First Temple had three main areas: the hatzer, the courtyard; the heikhal, the outer hall; and the dvir, or the inner hall, which housed the Holy of Holies. The Second Temple was larger and had additional areas, but that would make more than six.

More about the Temple here.

 “ur light/contrast if you want to feel the effects i’m looking for . code: select all if (!track.has weapons()) { // so what are you going to threaten me with? exhaustion gas? return threat level::none; }”

I don’t know what game you’re playing, or how on earth Google decided it had anything to do with me, but no, I do not plan to threaten you with exhaustion gas. (….???)

“letter to a friend on eid al-adha”

God bless you, Yasmina, I’ve gotten many, many views from Muslim-majority countries thanks to your guest letter.

“funny exclamatory pictures”/”exclamatory expressions”

After seeing both of these I wondered what on earth people were finding on my blog with this search term. So I Google-Image-ed it, and apparently, this picture from 10 Essential Words in Judeo-English is one of the top results:

OY.

Not exactly what I would have described as “exclamatory,” but hey, go figure.

Any other questions, Internet?! Don’t be shy, ask in a comment or via the contact page or in an e-mail to letterstojosep at gmail dot com! I love getting questions from readers!

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