Monday, September 7, 2015

That Time of Year

Well, here we are again, at the lead in for Rosh HaShannah. Unlike secular New Year, this one is full to the scuppers with rites and rituals, evaluation and introspection. 

Sure, there are apples and honey, but fish heads? Here are some of the traditional offerings on a table:
1. Couscous with 7 vegetables: each tiny grain represents a blessing and the seven vegetables are for the 7 days of creation.
2.  A fish head is held up and a blessing recited: “May it be God’s will that we will be the head and not the tail.”
3. Beets: in Hebrew beets are silka (סֶלֶק) which is related to the word saluk (סַלֵק) which means remove. So you say, "May it be Your will that our adversaries are removed."
4. Gourds: K'rah (קְרוֹא) in Hebrew can mean proclaim, as in "May our merits be proclaimed before G-d," but there's a homonym (קְרוֹעַ) that means to rip up, as in "May harsh decrees be torn up."

I love the symbolism and the pronouncements. Growing up, we did the usual apples and honey thing, but I learned about the other customs from a variety of friends at whose table I sat. Every family had its own version. 

Which is one of the things I appreciate about Judaism. There are a zillion versions of tradition, even within a single community group. Sure, there are some groups that want to impose their version on the rest of us, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. And that's what worries me most about Israel. But you knew that. And I’m not going there right now.

There are times when religious practice needs to be accommodated, but any time someone tries to restrict the rights of others using the religion card, it's time for a reality check.  

At every job interview I have ever had, I have stated up front that I am a Sabbath observer and do not work from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday night. If the job has a hard requirement that work must be performed, I do not apply for that job. If there are schedules that can be worked out, I do apply for the job. For years, I was the "Sunday Person" in my department at Dayton's. And frankly, they were happy to have someone who didn't complain about working on Sundays. For the myriad Jewish holy days, I use vacation time, or unpaid time when there was no vacation time available. Often, I have to work with HR to make sure I can get the chagim (days with work prohibition,) but it usually works itself out. In return, I volunteered to work Christmas and Easter...and most certainly did when I became a travel agent in an office that was open 24/7. When lunch is brought in, I always hope for a non-meat/vegetarian option, but it doesn't always happen. But I'm not about to tell anyone they can't have a pulled pork sandwich or pepperoni pizza because my religion forbids those foods. 

Get my drift?


Clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky is really pushing the envelope here. She has empowered herself not to declare her beliefs, but to deny civil rights to people who don't see Biblical law the same way she does. The question becomes: can her religious observance mesh with her requirements of her job?

Eugene Volokh of the Washington Post published an excellent piece explaining the law and the Kentucky Clerk controversy: When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job? Mr. Volokh states that Ms. Davis' objection is rooted in her name appearing on that legal document. Does having the clerk's name on the document make a difference? That is the section of the law that Ms. Davis should be appealing in STATE not Federal court. Is this a reasonable accommodation…and is this what her argument is really about?

Religious observance is a hugely slippery slope and the Federal government recognizes that. Instead of further codifying the law, it allows for the application of reason in accommodating religious observance. But that doesn't help much here.

Yes, the State of Kentucky can amend their laws to remove the clerk's name from all applications, and that, according to Ms. Davis' latest proclamations, will suffice. I don't believe that for a New York minute. I think Ms. Davis and her supporters are going for something much establishment of religious practice that will subvert the intention of the First Amendment. 

I didn't think this at first, but I do now. There are people in her support group likening her to Martin Luther King. That's like comparing Ayatollah Khomeini to Martin Luther King. There aren't enough electrons on the inter-web to fully discuss why that is in no way, shape, or form even remotely close to the truth. Unlike Dr. King who was fighting for civil rights, Davis supporters are supporting the act of bigotry as an American value to prevent civil rights.

Refusing to authenticate the eligibility of two adult humans...which is what her job not a simple religious freedom issue. No one is asking for her approval/blessing on a union between two consenting adults. Her job is to verify there are two age-appropriate adults standing in front of her.  Her refusal to recognize those adults is a civil intolerance issue, and as such, has no place in a government office.

I won’t even mention Kim Davis, Musical Marriage, and what her version of the Bible has to say about that.

There was one other little thing the Bible says that might be of importance this week in particular. It appears several Exodus, in Leviticus, and again in Deuteronomy. Here's my favorite version, Leviticus 19:33-34
33 When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him.34 The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God. 

If you think this is a hot potato now….just wait until the Syrian refugees ask for asylum in the US. There’s your next GOP catfight. 

Meanwhile, just so you know...Cancer Part One went well last Wednesday,and tomorrow is Part 2. I expect to be right as rain before the sun sets at the start of the holy day next Sunday, so count on a new episode on Sunday instead of Monday like usual. Okay?

Wifely Person's Tip of the Day....the Week...the Month
May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life
for a happy, healthy, and wondrous 5776!


  1. She could have turned down this job that required her to do something that essentially caused her to go against the existing law. I have no sympathy for her.She belongs in jail for not observing the law under which she worked.Dina

  2. Best wishes and strength for you on Part 2.