List on the 3s” is my semi-regular series for which I create and present a list of something whenever we hit a date on the calendar which includes a 3. My last one was on May 13. My next one will be on May 30. And then on May 31. And then June 3. I really didn’t think this out so thoroughly, did I?
First things first: Thanks to all of you who have been reading my blog and replying to it. I apologize profusely for not answering comments in a timely fashion; things have simply been extremely busy. But I will answer all of you. It may take a bit of time, but it shall be done.
Let me begin by quoting an excerpt from Leviticus chapter 23, verses 15-16:
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה
עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם
What does that all mean? Don’t ask me; I only translate from English to Hebrew! But here’s the gist: You will count from the second night [of Passover] sheaves of a specific kind of barley — for seven weeks you’ll be doing this until after the last day of those seven weeks, which will be counted as fifty days.
So — this is exactly what happens in traditional circles: we count the forty-nine days from the second day of Passover. Day number 50 is Shavuot, a holiday sometimes described at Pentecost (Pente = 50) which commemorates Moses receiving the Torah from Mount Sinai. Instead of offering up barley as a sacrifice, however, people just count.
Anyway — today is day number 33 of that counting. It’s commemorated through a holiday called LaG b’Omer which means, quite lietrally, “the thirty-third day of the Omer.” (Are we not a predictable people?) You can Wikipedia the phrase and see some of the wacky traditions of the holiday which include giving young kids toy bows and arrows to play with. Fun and dangerous — the ultimate combination of child-rearing!
To commemorate this day, I present some more hilarity through ritual as I present this list. Keep in mind that not all of these are followed by all Jewish people; some customs have been phased out and some are specifically regional. But they’re all just… well, weird. I apologize that I’ve only included five; I’m just in a bit of a hurry today…
Shiny’s Top 5 Wacky Jewish Religious Traditions
5. Tashlich – throwing bread into a moving body of water to represent throwing away transgressions
I actually like this one a hell of a lot better that #1. (Don’t peek yet!) It happens on the Jewish New Year: We think about the things we did wrong, and in order to be better people next year, we symbolize our drive to improve ourselves by thinking of our sins and chucking them into the water. Hey — ducks need carbs, too!
(As with all of these — feel free to Google or Wikipedia certain words such as “Tashlich” for more information.)
4. Covering the Challah Bread while reciting the blessing over the wine
This is a regular ritual: Before a traditional Sabbath or holiday meal, a cup of wine is poured and a benediction is recited over it. Then a similar benediction is recited over bread, the staple of a mean.
But the wine always comes first. It’s a controversial decision, but that’s the way it is.
So — (and I swear I’m not making this up) we cover the bread during the blessing over the wine so the bread doesn’t get jealous that it doesn’t have first dibs at the blessing! Look it up if you don’t believe me. Personally, I think it’s a marketing ploy by the folks who manufacture challah bread covers…
3. Getting so drunk on Purim to the extent that you can no longer distinguish between good and evil.
Purim is a holiday celebrating a victory of the Jewish people whose lives were spared from extermination about 2400 years ago in the Persian empire. The king of Persia at the time, Achashverosh, was a big partier. Everything seemed to revolve around alcohol, so it gets infused here as well. And, literally, the Talmud says to drink until you don’t know the difference between the hero of the story and the villain of the story. There have been many schools of thought as to how drunk that would be… (Check Wikipedia for more about Purim.)
2. Tu b’Av
This is a holiday in the middle of the summer — the meaning of “Tu b’Av” is, literally, “the fifteenth of the month of Av.” That’s most of what we know about it.
According to the Talmud (tractate Ta’anit, 30b-31a), Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem: Unmarried girls would dress in simple white clothing (so that rich could not be distinguished from poor) and go out to sing and dance in the vineyards surrounding Jerusalem.
So — it was literally girls going all out big pimpin’. Except not. Because, well, simple white clothing. Anyway — weird…
(CAUTION: Read below before playing. Not pretty.)
Some follow a tradition that, before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). a live chicken is purchased and is waved over the heads of a person’s family or community, thus helping to absolve them of any sins of greed before the holiday. The sins are allegedly transferred to the chicken, which is then slaughtered and donated to the poor. Even those in the more traditional communities have deemed this to be controversial. Some have opted to use a sack of money instead and then donate it to charity in the same way.
I have never participated in this ritual.
Well, that’s enough for me. I’m off to a weekend in the beautiful Catoctin Mountains (pretty close to Camp David) with no internet, no twitter, and only intermittent cel phone reception. I’ll be back on Monday — and will likely be even more behind on my comments. 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend…