Posts Tagged ‘god’

Wedding and Israel

December 7, 2010

I spent a lot of time researching the best time to take my vacation this Winter. I negotiated with my managers over the course of three weeks before we settled on dates.
Finally, on November 1, 2010 I purchased my tickets to fly to Israel on January 23, 2011 and to New York on February 6, 2011.

I informed my parents and siblings of my plans and I let my ex-wife know that I would be unavailable during those two weeks.

One of my younger sisters decided to accept a marriage proposal just prior to Thanksgiving.
A couple of weekends ago she warned me that they were considering a January 30th wedding. I informed her that I already purchased my ticket and if they held it that date, I probably wouldn’t be there.

On Friday December 3, 2010 she informed that they did, in fact, book the wedding for January 30th.*

I didn’t want to change my plans, but I felt like I was “required” to research my options. I called the airline. They told me I’d be charged a minimum of $250.00 to change my flight plans.
I spoke to my management. They didn’t want to be blamed (how they phrased it) for keeping me from attending my sister’s wedding, so they agreed to re-open negotiations to plan my vacation dates. However, they made it clear that they wanted me to go on vacation sooner rather than later.

(Basically, they expect a lot of projects to begin in February 2011, so they want all hands on deck.)

I called my brother in Israel to find out what he was doing and to hear what he thought. He’ll be coming in for her wedding. He offered to let me use his apartment while he’s away (especially if his whole family travels with him). He agreed that I am not obligated to change my plans because they knew the situation before they chose January 30.

* When I ask people advice, they usually ask why is she getting married so soon after meeting the guy and why does she need to get married on that particular weekend?
I haven’t spoken to her about it. However, I think my dad is imposing his belief that engagements should be short. This belief might work for ultra-Orthodox Jews and its practice might be appropriate for people who buy into that way of life, but I think it’s a mistake for my sister.
My sister is a sincere, god-believing, ethical, Orthodox-practicing, commandment keeping person. But she is not ultra-Orthodox.
She should have a “normal” Orthodox engagement period of 3 to 6 month. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe that this shortened time line will have negative repercussions.

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Something uncontroversial: Mosque in Downtown Manhattan

August 26, 2010

While looking for an uncontroversial topic to blog about I heard people debating whether NYC should allow a mosque at 51 Park Place in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that the current U.S. Constitution allows for mosques in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that while 51 Park Place is nearby, it’ll still be two blocks away. It’s not like it’s being erected on the World Trade Center site or even next door. This map demonstrates the physical closeness and remoteness of the WTC site and the mosque.

Map of mosque site and WTC site

Map of mosque site and WTC site

There were only three arguments in opposition to building the mosque. The first was legal. The current building at the site of the future mosque was a possible landmark. Since I don’t agree with giving any location landmark status, I was glad that the committee voted against giving it a landmark status. While there is still an appeal underway to that decision, I don’t understand the basis of the appeal.

The second was security. If the mosque donations are coming from terrorist groups, then that could somehow make things unsafe for New York.
The way I see it, we should encourage terrorists to give donations to American causes. The less money terrorists have, the less likely they’ll be able to fund their terrorism.
The real issue isn’t money coming from terrorist organizations, but money going to terrorist organizations.

The third was emotional. Since the World Trade Center was destroyed by Muslims and about 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center by Muslims, it wouldn’t be respectful (or “sensitive”) to build an edifice so close to the site of destruction that will encourage people to join and maintain the Muslim faith.

My perspective is the dead don’t care about what is built there. The dead don’t have feelings and they don’t have knowledge of events. So, whether we decide to green-light the project or not, the sensitivity argument is non-starter for me.
And, I don’t even care of the timing of it. In Tuesday’s Daily News paper, Richard Huff quotes John Houseman, WPIX/Ch. 11’s assistant news director, in regards to covering the ceremony at the World Trade Center site, “This will continue through the 10th anniversary,” Houseman says. “I don’t know what happens in year 11.”
From my perspective the dead are gone the moment they die. If they wanted to build a mosque on the World Trade Center site on September 12, 2001, from a “sensitivity to the dead” point of view, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

However, there are three other possible issues. Two of them are specific to the location and one is about mosques in general.
The first is sensitivity to the living. While the deceased don’t care where a mosque is built, some of their loved ones and some of those who survived the attack do care. While this a legitimate concern, it’s unmanageable. How far away from the World Trade Center site is far enough? What if there’s one survivor who doesn’t want another mosque built anywhere in Manhattan because the thought of it is too painful, the pain would still be true.
As a result, I don’t think we should indulge them. They will just have to be in pain. With time, they’ll die or move on to the next issue and the pain will subside.
The second is historical. People, like Michael Savage, who study history point out that Muslims have a history of building a mosque near the location of a victory over their enemies.
However, in this case, was their really a victory for them to celebrate? Sure, they knocked down some buildings and they killed thousands of innocent people, but it directly lead to the death of thousands of Muslims (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq*), many of them of the same group as the terrorists on the planes.
It also has the same restriction that the former argument had. If this is so close that it’s seen as a “victory” mosque, what distance would be needed to remove it from that status?

The third argument is that mosques, in general, should be forbidden because they encourage people in their devotion to Allah. Since Allah calls for the death of non-believers, a mosque could encourage terrorists and terrorism.
(Whether Allah really calls for the death of infidels or not is irrelevant, so long as Muslims kill in Allah’s name.
When Christians kill in the name of Christ, it is appropriate to say that Christ calls for murder.
And, if you believe the Bible’s version of history, when Jews killed in the name of Hashem, it was appropriate to say that Hashem called for murder.
The same is true for any other religion or group.
Since they are all fictional characters, what “they” say is less important than what people say they “say”.)

I think there is merit to this argument. However, it’s unconstitutional. If we amended the U.S. Constitution to forbid all religions from erecting houses of worship, we would resolve this problem. Sadly, many other issues would surface.

Therefore, as it currently stands, I cannot protest the mosque’s construction. I hope that it fails because of logistical reasons (lack of funding, mistakes in the blueprints, etc.), but since that’s unlikely, I’m sure a year after the mosque is built the hullabaloo will blow over. Tourists will flock to see the mosque that they wrote letters to the editor to protest and support and New York will benefit.

* I know the argument that Iraq was unrelated to September 11, 2001. However, the USA was bloodthirsty after the blow it received that day and was much more enthusiastic about taking out Saddam Hussein than they otherwise would have been.

A Serious Man

March 10, 2010

In honor of the Oscars, I’m posting a couple of movie reviews from 2009.
This one is from Tuesday, October 13, 2009:

After my adventure with “Surrogates”, I decided to make it a double feature by getting another (I’m entitled to two) free ticket to “A Serious Man”. The one really nice thing about this theater is they seem to have multiple showings of the same film in a short period of time. This time the usher was more helpful, specifying the 2nd underground floor and theater 2. I found the theater quickly and took my seat.
(One poorly designed feature(?) of this Cinema is that they alternate floors. One floor will have a restroom, the next concessions. So if you are seeing a double feature and need to use the facilities between showings, make sure you stop on a floor with a restroom.)
For some reason we had very loud people at the showing. I counted at least 5 cell phone rings and 3 assorted other cell phone sounds. All the people in the back right side decided to open up what sounded like large potato chip bags at the same moment. The guy in front of me expressed his displeasure with their noises by saying “Really?” and “Really?” again. Fortunately, the whole back right side decided to leave before the film ended. Unfortunately, they did so one by one… and seemingly by holding the door open for each other.

On to the film. “A Serious Man” is very Jewish and very strange. Some would say that is repetitive. Yiddish is used throughout the film, though there are subtitles in the opening scene. I don’t know why they didn’t translate “Dybuk”, but maybe everyone understand that word? Or maybe, there’s no real word that would define it?
This film seems to be exploring the question of why bad things happen… to anyone. When life shits on you, should you take it personally or just get out some wipes? Is hashem sending you messages or do you just have british teeth? Why bother seeing a rabbi when you can just slam your head against a wall? It’s just as satisfying. Are people evil or are they just stuck in ruts?

I would highly recommend this film for anyone who has:
a. stubbed a toe when they didn’t deserve it
b. can handle a non-action film
c. enjoys thinking

I feel like this film was beyond my understanding, but I still enjoyed the journey.
I would give this film an 8 out of 10.

Now, if you see it, please explain it to me. 🙂

Why I prayed for death

March 9, 2010

Twice, so far, in my life I’ve prayed for someone to die.

When I was in my twenties, my family was involved in a major van accident. The van flipped over multiple times. We were all seat-buckled. Otherwise, we would have ended up along with everything in the van, strewn across the highway.
I was taken to a hospital with my younger sister. I tried to get information from the nurse about the accident. I knew that my mother and her father were badly injured, but I didn’t know the extent of their injuries or if anyone else was seriously injured.
The nurse was not willing to give me any information.
I heard two nurses talking in the hallway. They said there were some “oranges”, 4 “reds”, and 1 “black”. I didn’t know the language, but I was able to discern that one person had died.
I prayed (without saying the name of diety) that it was my grandfather.

The other time I prayed for someone to die was when I was 12. I didn’t just pray once, I prayed daily for my own death. According to Jewish Orthodoxy, a child is not responsible for her sins until 12 or his sins until 13. At that time, all sins committed up until the child’s coming of age, were transferred to the young adult’s account for reckoning.

While my classmates were looking forward to Bar Mitzvahs and parties, I was dreading the impending sentence.
I knew that I wasn’t allowed to kill myself, so that wasn’t an option. The only alternative was death by god.

Mind and Body Control

February 25, 2010

Until I was three, my hair was not cut. Shortly after my third birthday my grandmother came over and gave me a haircut. From age three until after I was thirty years old, a relative cut my hair at a minimum of once every 55 days. Occasionally, I’d request a haircut, but, more often or not I’d be against a haircut.
I didn’t have a choice. I had no control over how often they cut my hair or how much of my hair they cut.
My parents, my yeshiva, and, later, my wife wanted my hair cut. Any attempts to refuse a haircut were for naught.
If I specified one area not be cut or not be cut “so low”, my specifications were promptly ignored.
Now, does that make my grandparents, parents, siblings, and wife bad people? Not necessarily. You see, they weren’t cutting my hair against my will to torture me. They were cutting my hair because their god demanded it.
Their teachers taught them, that the horrible god of the Jews required men’s hair be short.

“god” requires short hair for men because:

  • Long hair is considered “women’s garb”. Men are forbidden to wear women’s garb according to the Bible.
  • Long hair can get in the way of donning tefillin. (While this is patently untrue, it is the main reason Rabbis advocate short hair for men.)

Simultaneous to being forced to have short “manly” hair, I was prevented from shaving, trimming, or cutting my beard. Once again god was keenly interested in making me appear in “his” image.

I thought the beard made me look disgusting. (When I look back at my old pictures, I often feel revulsion and anger.) I thought it was good for me to appear disgusting, as it would help me in my devotion to god.

When I used a scissor to cut my beard for the first time (at age thirty!) in the Summer of 2008, my father-in-law spent at least ten minutes in every subsequent face-to-face meeting making fun of my beard.

From the June 2008 until November 2008, I slowly lowered the beard. People at work noticed. They asked, “What is different about Alar Bean?”, and they answered, “I don’t know, I think he’s smiling more.”

As I lowered the beard, I felt better and better.

In November 2008, after my sister begged to be allowed to cut my hair for two days straight, I got my last haircut. After that haircut, I decided I’d had enough of the degradation of no choice and of being forced to look the way someone else’s god wanted me to look.

Since November 2008 I have not gotten a haircut. In March 2009, a couple of times, I used a scissor to even out my bangs.

I think the real reason “god” requires men to cut their hair short and grow their beards long is the same reason “god” requires women to wear a hair covering once they marry. “god” wants to control people’s minds by controlling their bodies. If you can force people to appear a certain way, especially if it’s making them look ugly, you have control over them. If you can make someone feel ugly, you will mess with their self-confidence. You then control who they speak with, what they do for recreation, where they go, etc.

Recently, an internet friend suggested I get my hair evened out at a barber or a salon. I am definitely not interested in getting my hair shortened. Not yet. I could be open to a styling or getting my hair evened out. However, I would need it to be done by a professional. (Though, I’ve never before had a professional cut my hair.) There’s no way I could trust a religious Jewish person to cut my hair. god might tell them to give me a crew cut!

Below is a picture of the back of my head. What do you think I should do?

A year hair, a year thair

A year hair, a year thair

Orthodox Jews and God

February 1, 2010

Before I even start this post, let me state upfront that there’s no way for me to write everything that needs to be said in one post. So, don’t be surprised if I need to add things in the future.

My second disclaimer is if you are currently an Orthodox Jew, please don’t read this post. Thank you.

Since I “came out” to my family and some friends about my lack of religion and realization that God does not exist, a common conversation Orthodox Jews try to start is “how I know god does not exist”.

They aren’t asking because they are trying to understand my point of view. In fact, they don’t “believe” I have any proofs or reasons. They are only initiating the topic because they want to “zing” me on a logical point and “convince” to return to the fold. I have no desire to return to hell that Orthodox Jewish life is. I have no desire to believe in a bloodthirsty, barbaric, hateful, or fictitious god. I am hesitant to get into a conversation with these people because

  • I have experience, I know they’ll seize onto some logical argument and try to make me feel uncomfortable. I know I’m not only governed by logic, stubbornness is strong with me. Even if one could prove to me that god existed (which I know they cannot), I would still prefer to not believe in god.
  • I am not in the business of trying to convince people not to be religious or to disbelieve in god. For me to express my arguments fully, I might shake someone’s faith in god.

One “argument” I hear often from religious folk is, “How can you live without believing in god?”. When I ask for clarification they inevitably say something like, “If I didn’t believe in god, my life would lack purpose.”

When I point out that believing in god isn’t what gives their life purpose, it’s believing in god and god actually existing. According to them, if god doesn’t exist, did their lives really have meaning?

Another question they often ask is, how do you know what to do if you don’t believe in the Torah and its commandments. They ask as if people haven’t worked out moral codes without religion. When I was in Yeshiva we were constantly exhorted to develop our own internal compass. (There are moral questions that face us today that you cannot answer by looking in a sefer or responsa. The only way to answer them is to be “moral” and then “weigh” the issue internally.)