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Monday, October 26, 2009

My Sabbath Elevator

I'm thinking of changing my blog's name from "My Masonic Apron" to "My Sabbath Elevator."

Just when you think you belong to a semi-sensible religion, you get kicked, right in the circumcision-arena.

Yes, that's right, kids-- the Big Rabbis have officially outlawed Sabbath elevators.

I'll bet you didn't even know there were such things. Well, there are. And, apparently, all-of-a-sudden, they're not good enough. No-- not kosher enough.

Or whatever.

The bad news came from the pen of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who is described by the New York Times as "a revered 99-year-old scholar" and "one of the most influential voices in the Jewish world" and, if that weren't enough superlatives, why not throw in "widely considered to be one of his generation's greatest authorities on Jewish law."

Well, let me just say this: if you think this crooked, knobby-kneed handbag with nostrils isn't taking an elevator on Shabbat, you're crazy.

The ruling has thrown the Orthodox Jewish world into a tizzy, especially considering that these elevators were constructed solely for the use of Orthodox Jews on Shabbat, so that they can utilize the convenience of an electrical device without actually touching any of the buttons-- thereby allowing them not to violate Sabbath covenants. (The elevators were designed to stop at every single floor and open and close, so that no buttons need be pushed, working on the theory of, "You'll get there... eventually.")

The New York Times article I read quotes 29-year-old Yosef Ball who, with his wife, now has to climb (sorry-- "schlepp") up seven flights of stairs after synagogue on Saturday, with a baby carriage, two toddlers and three other children. Now, does this ruling seem fair to you? Apparently, God wants you to be constantly making Jewish babies, but He won't let you use the fucking Shabbat elevator to get all their crying, tired asses upstairs?

Oh, no, wait-- it's not God-- it's Rabbi McCrustyface.

And therein lies the problem. Well, one of them.

Anytime you have human beings interpreting religious law, you're going to have issues like these. And, yes, they're stupid. You want to use the elevator on Shabbat in order to facilitate your getting to and from synagogue so you can praise God and feel like you're an active participant in something larger? Go ahead. Who gives a shit? Helicopters are falling from the sky in Afghanistan. Children with swollen bellies and flies in their eyes are toppling over in Africa. Preists are fingering little boys in the confessional, and rabbis are doing it in the mikvah. And you really expect me to believe there's a God up there who gives a hot motherfuck if this poor bastard with a wife and five kids uses the goddamn Shabbat elevator on Shabbat or not?

Come on.

In case you couldn't tell, I think this entire issue is laden with stupidity, but I do think that Rabbi Elyashiv is maybe onto something that has possible legitimacy, and I think that's the issue of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy has, I feel, been like a sword of Damocles, hanging over the heads of Jewish people for a long, long time, and maybe Elyashiv is striking a blow for consistency of behavior.

See, the Orthodox community likes to have their cake and eat it, too, and maybe save some for later. Surprised?

"Well, you can't go out and get bagels on Shabbat-- but if they were made by a goy, and the water wasn't boiled on the Sabbath, and somebody else (who's a goy, too, of course) pays for them, well... then it's okay."

"Rabbi-- is having tea on Shabbat permitted? Because isn't dunking the tea bag in the water work, and aren't we to avoid all work on Shabbat?-- Well, if you just put the tea bag in and don't dunk, then it's okay."

"Gee, can I have sex on Shabbat? I mean, sex is exhausting, and shouldn't we avoid exhaustion? Well, as long as she's Jewish and she's fertile, and you've got a good shot at making another Jewish baby-- eh, it's okay. No, not just okay-- it's a mitzvah!"

Oy. You could get a headache from all the horseshit.

And maybe Rabbi Elyashiv just has a horseshit headache. Maybe he realized that stepping inside an elevator that operates on electricity constitutes the use of electricity, even if you're not pushing the fucking buttons with your own fingers, and maybe he felt it was time to strike a blow, with his gnarled, wrinkly, shaky little fist, against Orthodox Jewish hypocrisy. Maybe now the days when Orthodox Jews can benefit from modern conveniences while sliding under the radar are just a little bit gone.

Maybe Elyashiv is just saying no. No more bullshit. You're either using the elevator, or you're not. And, you know what? You're not.

I think it's also a little funny, reading about poor Yosef Ball, who made the choice to get married at 12 or whenever it was, and to have five children by 29 (and I guess that will continue until his wife's uterus falls out while overcooking chicken one night) and then wants to complain that he has to climb seven flights of stairs after synagogue. Well, you know what, pal? In the old, old days, motherfuckers walked through sandstorms in the goddamn desert to congregate to worship God. Even my father, in Israel, in the 1950s, walked eight miles with his father to go to synagogue.

I think Yosef Ball's complaints probably wouldn't hold up too well when compared to those of Job.

Frankly, I don't really care whether or not Orthodox Jews are allowed to take Shabbat elevators or not. I'm not Orthodox, and I'm thrilled about that. You know why? Because I don't have to worry about whether or not nose-picking is permitted on the Sabbath.

(By the way-- it is, as long as no nosehairs are accidentally or purposefully removed in the process, because that violates the Jewish law against cutting hair on the Sabbath.)



  1. "I think Yosef Ball's complaints probably wouldn't hold up too well when compared to those of Job."

    I love it.

    Hypocrisy is stupid. Being a Southern Baptist, I'm all too familiar as well.

    What if you just push the button with your elbows? Or if you use your erection before sex? That's killing two birds with one stone.

  2. I…don't even know what to say about this. Being a Dirty Heathen who can ride elevators and take the Lord's name in vain whenever I want, it's hard for me to understand why anyone hangs on to things like this for so long.
    I heard about the Shabbat elevator thing on NPR and thought it was absolutely fascinating.
    This is all just to say: Watch your nose hairs.

  3. Organized religion = Hypocrisy

    That is all.

  4. And seriously? This just demonstrates why I think organized religion is such a scam.

  5. I was raised Catholic. I liked it, all the pomp and circumstance, the incense and holy water. It rocked. Then I just generally walked away from religion in general because it seemed so contrived. A friend of mine on FB is always referring to herself as a "Princess of Christ", and this just furthers my self-conscious feeling that people choose their religion because it makes them feel good. That's why the more I hear about Judaism, the more I like it. You fuckers are hardcore. I was sharing with another friend a fleeting desire to go back to the days of Mass and candles and the Virgin Mary. She carefully informed me that because I'm on ye ol' birth control patch that I'm no longer eligible to be Catholic. I'm Episcopalian by default now. I decided to just burn my own candles and incense and confess to Adicus. I don't want to end up a Buddhist while I'm not looking.

  6. Oh, because I forgot to say about my Princess friend- I have ALWAYS wanted to be a princess. FOREVER I've wanted a title befitting my regal nature. If I would have known that I need only become a Southern Baptist, I would have done it years ago, but how do you take a faith seriously when one of it's major benefits is "feeling special and being a princess"? Kind of weird that I could go take a dip in a half of a bathtub sunk into an altar wall (in a white choir robe, no less) and become a Princess of Christ. Besides, she didn't even get a fucking tiara. *sigh*

  7. You are hilarious! And dead on too. I am sure that some want to hang on to that "minor suffering" so that god knows you all really love him. But...isn't he kinda busy with some other things right now? Like, more important things?

  8. Oh my. Thats just bollocks.

    How can you (not you personally, but people in general) claim to be orthodox and then bitch and moan about what it entails. (is that spelt right?)

    At the end of the day, if you believe in God and try to show him that youre living right, then surely the Big Guy aint going to turn you out of heaven (or wherever) for using an elevator or picking youre nose!

    I'm one of those that isnt sure she believes but tries herto do her best...just in case!

  9. Haha this is awesome! I am not Jewish, and I didn't know anyone who was until college - and I'll never forget being bitched around by the majority of my hallmates, because, "gee, could you come in my room, it feels really warm?" and "my roomate left his music on his computer on. i really don't feel like listening to it for three hours... i need you to..."

    I mean, what?
    And again, with the elevators, what?

    I don't think I'll ever entirely understand these concepts - but perhaps I am just a tad bitter because my ex's mother made it known that she did not appreciate my 'Sunday Person' status. Nah, I don't think that could be it, I mean it's not like I'm still cursing the poor old woman...

  10. Ah yes, the interpretation of religious canon... one of my favourite topics.

    But that's only half the problem really. Don't forget the texts themselves were originally 'divinely inspired' by God... he just used some prophet(s) as a conduit...

    I mean, even Islam, which came along some time after, has an almost-identical text but STILL they maintain that Allah spoke to Muhammad...



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