Getting Up and Going to Bed Song

There's a song in our morning squabble.
Bowl of cereal for a seer
Glass of milk for Melchizedek.
Put on your clothes with strangled oaths.
Bring your bit of everything.
The evening wants you to believe
How all rest leads to rightness
Your pillow stone straight at the head
Comforter smooth as eighty proof
Feet as warm as you can get.

Under sheets refrain is: breath by breath.


What does a Conservative commentary on the Shulchan Aruch need to have?

1. An introduction placing the SA in context within the general halachic philosophy of the C movement, answering (or at least approaching) such questions as these: is the SA normative? some of the time, maybe? or all of the time? (It can't be normative all of the time, because no law code is normative all of the time. Customs, other halachot, and the march of history supplant numerous rulings in the SA.) If it's not normative, what is it?

2. A general answer to the question, "what do we do when the halachah is immoral" (e.g., when we are told that cheating non-Jews in financial dealings is okay so long as they don't know about it; or when it is assumed that women are not intellectually fit to learn Torah or participate in community life)

3, I am a cultural nationalist, so I think any such commentary (okay, I'll bite: maybe the one I'll try to write) needs to be in Hebrew. Or Yiddish. But English is fine...just so it is an English thick with references and cultural suppositions of the halachic/midrashic/Jewish religious literature. But *at the same time* whoever comments needs to be able to make reference to the social and natural sciences without being apologetic or succumbing to special pleading.

Anyone for rising up in the morning in the lion to do the Divine will....Convo-style?


Where is the Conservative Shulchan Aruch?

I was talking with a friend about all manner of things (mostly his research, which I do like to hear about). We got onto the topic of the Chofets Chayim, and I mentioned that whenever I learn the Shulchan Aruch, it's as if the Chofets Chayim is commenting on another work entirely, so different his world view seems from that of the Mechaber and the Rema.

So I thought: where is the Conservative commentary on the Shulchan Aruch? Shouldn't there be a maestro halachist somewhere in JTS (or UJ, or Schechter) that can bestride the centuries, bringing Caro's mystical magid into our studies?

Failing that, maybe the lay public can try, in the spirit of open source Judaism. An act of massive chutzpah? Sure. But what of worth was constructed without it?


How do you define religion?

Check out this discussion from philpapers.org where Jim Stone of the University of New Orleans tries to do just that.


This blog is very nice

This one, here. It is about books of poetry. You will notice that the blog's title is booksofpoetry (or alternatively BOOKS OF POETRY) so you won't forget it. Nor should you. Go read it.


I wouldn't say no, either

I keep trying to think who besides Michael Wex they could get to do the Yiddish for Chabon's Policemen's Union, but I can't come up with anyone else.

Oh, except...


Does stress cause hypertension? A view from the real world

If you ask a doctor, they'll say that stress doesn't cause hypertension ~ or, at least, they will analyze "stress" in biomedical terms (catecholamines and what not). But every clinician has had the experience of patients who are sure that they know when they have high blood pressure: it's when they get stressed.

In a thought-provoking talk at the International Conference of Communication in Healthcare (which I return from tonight), Barbara Bokhour (from Boston) et al. helped reframe my experience with their analyses of interviews done with patients with uncontrolled hypertension. Patients have their own models for hypertension (psychological stress playing an important role in these) and they take action to self-treat, by trying to reduce their stress.

Among the researchers' interesting findings was that patients might be etymologizing hypertension into "hyper" + "tension": if you have high blood pressure you must be really tense.

I had two thoughts about this. 1. Why not co-opt these patient models, telling them that anti-hypertensives reduce stress (on the heart)? Not entirely deceptive. 2. What if we just started calling it "high blood pressure"?


Galgal ha-machzor

The Rabbinical Assembly continues to be liturgenic.

Before Yom Kippur I got a look at a PDF (uncorrected, not for distribution, highly radioactive, not proofread, and under the strictness of Conservative cherems. Also available here) of the new RA High Holiday machzor, scheduled for publication in May, 2010.

Readers of this blog (hi, Dad) might know that I have bitched and moaned in the past about the Conservative machzor, vintage 1978, with its worst translation in the world and assorted theological missteps (confessing our sins against the victims of the Holocaust!).

Features of the new machzor, or at least what I saw of it, that I like:
  • Retaining (or reviving) the double-acrostic al-chet.
  • Revising and in many cases improving the English translations.
  • Including piyyutim (liturgical poetry) from a variety of locales and centuries, including some not familiar to me (your machzorage may vary).
  • A marginal commentary that is helpful but not in your face. It's not as scholarly (read: nerdy) as I would like, but I'm not sure that was their goal.
  • A great acrostic alternative to Avinu Malkenu.
Features I could do without:
  • Tortured & corny rationalizations for including the imahot in the Amidah. If you include them (I do), then do it, and include the option in the machzor. But vague yeasty talk about "listening to women's voices" won't move anyone anywhere but away from inclusion.
  • Keeping the silly English acrostic as a translation for the al-chet. It's still silly.
I'm looking forward to seeing the final version.