Friday, October 24, 2008

Socializing and Socialism

Before we start today's about those football picks? Unbiased Giants fan is 12-0 over the last 4 weeks! And Pumpstradamus is 6-1!! Stay tuned for this week's picks to see if the hot streak continues. And we welcome all the new readers who are joining us today after googling "NFL Betting".

This weeks marks the end of the Jewish Holiday season... a terrific time of year where we can take a lot of time off from work... and nosy co-workers wondering about ANOTHER holiday are reminded that alternate side of the street parking regulations are suspended... confirming that yes indeed, it is another holiday.

Well, once again with all the celebrating, and praying and of course socializing... I waited till late in the week to start my column and guess what happened?? That bronchial bug that has been afflicting Trophy Wife for the last few weeks, found its way over to me and attacked and at the worst possible time. I have a pretty good immune system and I rarely get sick, but this bronchial infection started floating around my system on Tuesday Morning and finally struck full force late Tuesday night. It actually forced me to miss... my all time favorite holiday Simchas Torah... or as I like to call it... an 18 hour celebration interrupted by about 4 hours of sleep.

Nate missing Simchas Torah is like Santa Claus missing Christmas! ST is the celebration by my fellow Hebrews and Shebrews that God gave us the Five Books of Moses. Each Saturday morning at services, a portion of the Torah is chanted right out of the hand written Torah scrolls, set up in such a way that the Five Books takes one year to complete - and then restarted from "In the beginning" on Simchas Torah.... which leads to the celebrations.. the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis.

For the celebrations, each synagogue takes all of its Torahs, and marches around 7+ times during services on the evening of the holiday and again the following morning. In the evening all the men (and at some synagogues all the women) each carry the Torah scroll and the next morning they repeat the process, plus each man over the age of 13 (and again in some places, each woman) is called up to the Torah one at a time for an aliyah where they say a special prayer and a few sentences of the Torah portion are chanted out loud.

Since I was a kid, this has always been my favorite holiday. The kids who are too small to carry a heavy Torah scroll (trust me, they're heavy) are given little flags and they get to march around the sanctuary like cutie pies. The idea of the holiday is you are so happy that you dance with the Torahs with joy. As a kid I liked it that me and my fellow little pishers got to march and we got candy.

As I became a teenager I realized what the adults were really up to. At the orthodox synagogues, the adults traditionally dont eat till after morning services which comes after the recitation of the post-synagogue, pre-lunch prayer of the kiddush. The Simchas Torah service traditionally runs so long that you won't get to eat till after 2pm. In order to keep everybody's bloood sugar in check, a person is allowed to recite the kiddush AFTER his aliyah, at which point he and his family can eat. The kiddush also involved the consumption of an adult beverage or 2 or 3.(The observant dont drive on this holiday.) In addition, the traditional Priestly blessing which is usually recited after the Torah reading, is moved up to before the Torah reading, because traditionally everybody had done so much celebrating at that usual point in the service that they can't perform that part of the service all liquored up. Incidentally, I have rarely encountered too many drunks in my day... but I have encountered a lot of levity during that holiday. Also, in Israel, they also do the somber Yizkor Memorial service on ST, but I have never seen how they do it and how it is worked into the whole scheme of things. If anybody has seen this, please feel free to explain it in the comments section.

The levity is part of why I like the holiday so much... they do stuff you never ever see except for that one day. The kids get to run all over the place.... they also get a special aliyah when they are called to the Torah..., the adults fire off wisecracks as if they were on Hollywood Squares... (Moshe Moskowitz for the block), and the Priestly Blessing is moved to a different timeslot. The part that I find to be most incredible... it is the only day of year that we read from the Torah at night. I find this very cool for some reason, yet I don't know why. I also like the levity and socializing... which gives kids the notion at a young age that a synagogue is a fun place to be. All the traditional prayer tunes are tossed out the windows and replaced with melodies that remind you of a Weird Al Yankovic parody. For 17 yrs at my old synagogue, I used to lead part of the service with a carefully choreographed series of musical tunes... usually to blank faces, unless I stuck to the old traditions of Yankee Doodle and Fiddler on the Roof songs.... but the year I tossed in some Take a Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed - crickets.

In the mid 90s, I began a new tradition that I mentioned in the Yankee Stadium column last month. I started traveling on the holiday (you're not supposed to, but my religious observances or lack thereof is not really the point) and I discovered the Bnai Jeshurun synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side. I remember going with my friend Mike and it was like we had discovered a new island - I had never seen anything quite like this. For the first several years I went, they closed off part of West End Avenue and danced like maniacs for hours and hours. In 2001, the Jewish holidays were right after 9/11 so for security concerns they moved the festivities indoors, and that has been the case ever since. But again, they still celebrated up a storm there... and that is how they have done it ever since.

After leaving there, I would walk a few blocks over to the Carlebach synagogue, a wonderful Modern Orthodox synagogue that has an incredible night of dancing that apparently goes till the wee hours of the morning. This creates a tough dilemma. One year, I drove into the city, but Mike was not where he was supposed to be, and since we didnt have cellphones, I just assumed he wasn't coming. I had to pick up a few friends but I couldn't find parking so I momentarily parked in front of a church and went to ring their buzzer to tell them I was there. I was gone for maybe 2 minutes.. and as I got back I saw Mike had driven to the city, and parked right behind me! And I had gotten a parking ticket... yet amazingly he didn't!!

Since parking is so hard, the train seems to be a better option, but you really have to watch the clock to get outta Carlebach in time to make it to Penn Station for the last 140 train back to Jersey. As I wrote last month, in 2000 I got so caught up in all the activity there, that I lost track of time and almost missed the last train.. however because the Met Yankee World Series Game 1 went extra innings (Thank You Armando Benitez) the last train's departure was delayed, so the fans at the game were given enough time to get the train!

Now, Simchas Torah has become an annual opportunity to catch up with old friends in the city, followed by an early wake up call to get to the morning services and all the related frivolity. And yes, they actually don't discourage you from heckling and make wisecracks during services.... but only after a certain amount of people have had their little shot or shots of adult beverages. This year unfortunately, Trophy Wife and I were under the weather... we decided in advance we wouldn't trek to the City. I did muster enough energy to go to nearby Highland Park to visit 2 local synagogues on Tuesday Night. At the first, my friend Barry the Red Sox fan shmaneuvered me into carrying a Torah, even though the bug was causing some bad tummy aches... luckily the Immodium kicked in during my turn to march. After that, I visited another nearby service and ran into Rabbi Green who married me and Trophy Wife and he gave me such a bear hug I think I cracked a rib. As I strolled home at around 945 pm, I realized that my buds in the city were probably just getting their party hats ready. Oh well, I still had the Wednesday Morning activities to look forward to.

Wednesday Morning I woke up sicker than a dog and I realized what it would take to get me to miss Simchas Torah. We ended up staying home, but later in the day we felt much better so we took a little mini Torah I have had since my bar mitzvah and an Israeli flag and spent about 10 minutes marching around the living room singing Simchas Torah songs. After that, we went back to bed and zonked out from our excessive partying until I woke up and realized I had not started this week's column!

After that, I brought in the mail, and saw that a local Jewish paper published a very interesting letter to the editor during this holiday season. A doctor (of theoretical physics, whatever that means) who supports McCain wrote that if Obama wins, "The government would become much more socialistic, with the focus on helping people - this sounds like welfare". Well this guy might be a big hotshot in the physics world but its obvious he doesn't know about how tax dollars relate to welfare vs helping non welfare. Where do republicans get this idea that all tax money goes to lazy people who refuse to get a job and want to mooch off the government? Socialism Shmocialism! Government is there to help people - all people... rich, poor, middle class etc. How about the roads that are built, the police and firemen who keep us safe in our homes... the schools that provide education for all kids, and the efforts to make cars and planes safer - or work done by the FDA to make drugs safer and affordable, even for rich people? And the bank bailout which now "socialized" the banks? It will ultimately reopen the credit markets and hopefully get the economy moving back in the right direction.

Nobody except for a few fringe wacko liberals believes in giving free rides to welfare recipients who refuse to work.... and the idea of "helping all people" - not just those on welfare..... is the entire point of what we are here for - and really, isn't that what we just celebrated last week during Simchat Torah? And when did socialism get to be such a bad word? On Simchas Torah we sing a song "Next Year in Jerusalem".... maybe next year we will be in Jerusalem - on a kibbutz! Or is that too "socialistic"

PUMPSTRADAMUS PICK OF THE WEEK - Last week Pumpy won again improving his record to 6-1. This week we go to Tampa Bay the home of the Rays who we Met fans hope will beat the Phillies in the World Series. This week the Tampa Bay Bucs are in Dallas where they are 2 point doggies to the Cowboys. Sayeth the Pump: "Let's go with the Bucs, because I need some to make up the bucks that I lost in this abysmal stock market"

UNBIASED GIANTS FAN PICKS OF THE WEEK - For the 4th straight week we went 3-0... I have no idea how! That 12-0 run has put our season record at 15-6.

Giants 3 point doggies over PITTSBURGH - Could this be a Super Bowl Preview?

DETROIT 7 1/2 doggies over Washington - Is it wise to risk a 12 game winning streak with another underdog? I think the Lions will cover.

Tampa Bay 2 doggies over DALLAS - We did this a few wks ago going all doggies and struck gold. How can I possibly go against the Amazing Pumpstradamus??

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