Did you notice that we didn’t post a new episode of the podcast this week?
Of COURSE you did.
It’s because we’re changing up our schedule and, surprise, in addition to a place to download our podcasts, we’ve decided to turn this site into a fully functioning blog with posts and everything.
From now on, we’ll be releasing the podcast on Fridays. Throughout the week following an episode’s release, we’ll update this site with short posts concerning the topics we talked about in the last podcast. So, make sure you’re subscribed to our site feed now, as well.
Now, for the really exciting news:
If you have ideas, thoughts or comments about the latest episode, why not write up a quick post for us? If we get loads of submissions, we’ll just be picking one per week for the blog. The rest will be posted in the notes section of our Facebook page. Or something.
Here are some guidelines:
You do not have to have a blog, anyone can post. If you’d like to be anonymous, that’s fine, just let us know.
Please keep posts between 250-700 words.
Your post may be subject to light copy editing.
We will not publish anything we deem to be inappropriate, hateful or intended to incite people. And, yes, this is totally subjective. You’ll just have to trust us on this one.
We have no money to pay you. Because we’re cheap. WE, I said.
If you’d like your post to be considered to post to this site, make sure that the post you submit is relevant to the LATEST release of our podcast, and that you submit before the following Wednesday. All others will be posted on our Facebook page.
You can e-mail these posts to hey [at] heythatsmyhummus [dot] com
You’re probably wondering why you haven’t seen another podcast materialize on our website this week. I could come right out and tell you something outrageous. Like we decided that two episodes is as fine a place to stop as any. But that wouldn’t be entirely true.
If you’re Jewish and you’re active on Facebook, it’s more than likely that you’ve seen the following “Daily Show” video on your friends’ (or your own) wall. (And if you’re not already Jewish, it’s more than likely that you’re already waist deep in the conversion process. After all, what would be a better way to watch Daily Show clips?) This one falls into the category of “much funnier if you’re familiar with this Jewish tradition that most Jews in the United States have never heard of.”
Go ahead and watch it. I think you’ll find it funny — even if you’re not Jewish.
The thing is? The story is pretty spot on. The concept of an eruv (a “fence” around an area to enclose it as its own domain) has a long, rich history in traditional Judaism. There are many rules and laws that have been passed down in Judaism and have been studied, interpreted and argued by scholars through many generations as they attempted to wrestle with conserving the traditions with applying those to practical, modern-day use.
Take, for instance, the rules of observing the Sabbath. Deriving from the Fourth Commandment (of that epic film The Ten Commandments), it is commanded that one should “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (JPS translation, Exodus 20:7). The passage goes on to explain that “work” should not be done during the Sabbath. Simple enough, right?
But wait — what specifically is “work?” Scholars of Hebrew Scripture tasked themselves to figure out what this would mean in a practical application. And they found that, later on in the Book of Exodus, there were 39 categories of activities when building the Tabernacle (think Raiders of the Lost Ark) which were, in a roundabout way, prohibited on the Sabbath. From this they inferred that these 39 activities were meant as the prohibited “work.”
One of those 39 activities is “carrying.” Which means that, according to many traditional Jews, even carrying one’s keys from place to place on the Sabbath is prohibited. Same goes with carrying your 18 month old to synagogue. Or pushing her in a stroller. End of discussion, right?
But wait — do we really want the Sabbath to be about sequestering people in their homes (within one’s home you can carry things; the prohibition is seen as going between locales on the outside)? Do we want people to be able to lock their doors as they take a nice, Saturday morning stroll? How does Judaism apply these laws towards practical, real-life issues?
That’s where the eruv comes in: those who hold by the custom will allow the eruv to enclose a larger area and treat it as one locale. So it’s as if you’re really carrying your keys (or your kid) within one place if you’re within the confines of an eruv. Is it cheating? I don’t think so. Is it a loophole? Arguably — yes.
Is it a hindrance to those who don’t even know (or care) that it’s there? No. As it’s mentioned in the clip above, it’s practically invisible. If you’re not looking for it, you likely wouldn’t know that it’s there.
But the implications of an eruv, as mentioned comically in the Daily Show piece, extend beyond a simple piece of string around the town. If there’s a large enough Jewish community wanting an eruv, it’ll likely push for an eruv. Which will likely ensure that an eruv is put up. Which will attract other traditional Jews who are looking for a place to live which has an eruv. Hence — a larger concentration of (mostly Orthodox) Jews looking for an eruv.
I think we see this in many different communities already. If there’s a large Spanish-speaking population in a certain part of town (in the USA), it’s likely that some businesses will cater to this population with bilingual signage. Which may attract other Spanish speakers to that part of town. Same goes for other pockets of homogeneous people. Which is why you might find Arab neighborhoods. Gay neighborhoods. Neighborhoods rich with Kansas City Royals fans. Places where people feel comfortable with the familiarity of their communities.
Is this a good thing? Is this self-segregation harmful to the way we interact with out neighbors? Or is it an inevitable feature of what happens when people try to feel comfortable with their own identities? Although I quite enjoy living in a diverse neighborhood, I certainly have enjoyed the benefits of living in areas where my community was surrounding me a bit closer.
Perhaps there’s an eruv around communities — not necessarily Jewish ones — which unify them as one unit, too.
… and if you ask nicely, I’ll delve into the type of eruv that allows you to lump Thursday and Friday together with Wednesday for culinary purposes. Long story…
On this past week’s episode of Hey! That’s My Hummus! you’ve heard that I observed the holiday of Purim at my synagogue this past Saturday night. I also mentioned that at my synagogue (as well as many others) it is customary for both men and women to chant the reading of Megilat Esther (the Scroll of Esther which tells the story in Hebrew).
Our congregation has a new tradition where it comes to the reading: the main characters in the story have their “lines,” but most of the narrative is just that — told by a narrator. We had one reader who chanted all of the narrative lines, and then a reader for each of the other character parts: one for King Achashverosh, one for Haman, one for Mordechai, etc.
My character to chant was that of Queen Esther. So naturally I dressed the part:
This meant shaving off the beard in full — something I hadn’t done since… well, the last time I played the part of Queen Esther two years ago. Sitting to my left (your right) is my son dressed as Shadow the Hedgehog. It’s customary for participants to dress up in costume on this holiday — traditionally as characters from the story, but it’s grown to become any costume nowadays.
I would assume Esther would look great with pink hair, right?
Given that I’m actually of Pakistani origin, I know undoubtedly that some people would be horrified by that. I also know that there are a larger number of people who don’t understand the significance of it.
It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try.
Growing up in a culturally homogeneous place (read: white American) as I did, I interacted with a great deal of people who had never heard of Pakistan. I still live in a place where most people’s experience of Pakistan boils down to a five minute snippet from CNN or FOXNews.
Some people have assumptions about the place, others have questions.
Sometimes, I feel like answering questions and addressing assumptions and sometimes I don’t. My choice to identify as Indian is actually directly proportional to how many questions I feel like answering about my identity. It’s been my experience that assumptions about Indians are far more accurate than ones being made about Pakistanis.
It also depends on who I am talking to. A sort of intellectual or social relativism occurs, if you will. I don’t hesitate to identify myself as being of Pakistani origin to those who display an awareness of the fact that similar does not equate to the same.
I do realize that’s not exactly noble, and that I’m taking away learning opportunities from people by doing that. But, you know what? It’s not always my responsibility to be anybody’s token.
I don’t have to if I don’t wanna.
Is it this sentiment that may lie at the heart of the reason for the prevalent use of the term “Asian” in various discourses in this country?
I’m disgusted not just by the racism in the video, but also the casual grouping of a continent as one people.
A few hundred years ago, Asia was known as the Orient.
The Orient… stretching over the vastness of Central Asia, China, India, Japan, and even into some areas of the Middle East.
For the English and French, the Orient was more than a word. It was an instrument, you see, aimed at diminishing the individuality and sovereignty of that region. It was a way to transform real people and places into a vast, uncharted Other. A group of “Others,” actually, which weren’t as important or capable as the people who had coined general terms to describe them.
Of course, I know that there are Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other folks from the continent that will call themselves “Asian Americans” and that those same people wouldn’t even consider me to be among their ranks. Barring the fact that Pakistan and India both occupy Asia as well, it’s incredible to me that anyone would willingly shed a unique culture, language and identity for one that is a giant blob of high math grades, technical mindedness and dutiful children.
But, then, of course, I remember all the times that I’ve said I was Indian.
Because it was easier.
Because I didn’t care enough to correct people.
Because, if I’m completely honest, I tend to think most people don’t care to be corrected and even if they are corrected, it may not change much, anyway.
All that said, on the subject of Alexandra Wallace and her Asian rant video, of which I care never to speak of or write about ever again, I will admit here that perhaps my co-host may have been right.
Perhaps the reactions to her were stronger than they should have been.
Then again, there’s a lot of history of not wanting to make waves, of keeping our heads down, keeping to ourselves, working hard and not bothering to correct erroneous assumptions that we’re just sort of fine with being othered by the word “Asian.”
And maybe all that not caring and not being bothered crashed down on the head of a thoughtless young woman with extraordinarily bad judgment.
On a completely unrelated note, if you have time and aren’t suffering from UCLA video burnout, please watch this incredibly brilliant and thoughtful response to Wallace’s rant. I have to say, I became a slightly different human being afterward.
Special thanks to my friend Kailyn for e-mailing me this video!
On this past week’s episode of Hey! That’s My Hummus! you may have heard me mention a recent news story about an Alaska Airlines flight from Mexico City to L.A. which went into panic mode. The cause for this? Three Jewish passengers, in mid-flight, took out and started putting on tefillin, which are ritual prayer accoutrements. The flight attendants observed these passengers doing something out of the ordinary (standing up soon after takeoff) with something out of the ordinary (the aforementioned tefillin) in a language with was out of the ordinary (Hebrew with a bit of Aramaic thrown in). The plane landed safely at LAX, greeted by US Customs, Border Patrol and FBI agents. The passengers explained themselves and were allowed to go along their merry way. Alaska Airlines has since apologized for the whole incident.
This is not the first time that this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Some people blame the airline for their ignorance of Jewish tradition. Some blame the specific passengers in question for engaging in behavior which went against the grain of what was considered normal. Some hold the heightened fear of air terror as the culprit here. Although I would agree that changes on the part of each of these three components may have prompted a very different experience which would not have ended in a security alert, I choose to point my finger at something else entirely:
This would have never happened if the airlines were still serving free meals on short flights.
Think about it: our children are growing up in an environment where exposure to the term “kosher airline meal” is foreign to them. Since free meals aren’t served on most domestic flights (and since the ones they offer for a premium are not specifically kosher), we’re no longer sensitized to the differences between many of our fellow passengers. And with that, we automatically cut off the notion that people who look, talk or act different are just like us. And we have many things in common. Such as the fact that the airline food in front of us, whether kosher or not, will probably suck.
Okay. It’s a bit of a stretch. But I think the environment for flying post-9/11 has put people in a frenzy to point out anything and anyone that appears to be out of place. For some, out-of-place could be anything unexperienced, such as a Jew putting on tefilin. Or a Muslim engaged in Salat (traditional prayer). Or two adults of the same sex holding hands as a couple. A diabetic injecting herself with insulin. A family dressed differently speaking in a foreign language. The list goes on and on. We’re asked to report anything suspicious, and we do. But we need to distinguish between “suspicious” and “different.” I don’t have any great solutions to this — aside from learning and asking questions.
When I fly with my wife, we have our own ritual of reciting Tefilat HaDerech, a short, Hebrew prayer which focuses on a pleasant journey free from challenges. In recent years, I’ve noticed that we’ve instinctively been less conspicuous about this ritual. We don’t huddle together to read the words, hunched over as if we’re planning something. We don’t say the words in Hebrew out loud lest we garner attention from that rare individual who might think the worst. It doesn’t bother me, though, nor would the thought of me explaining myself with a smile.
There are those in the Jewish community who have specified that if these travelers wanted to put on tefilin, they could have done so before or after the 4-hour flight rather than do so on the plane. Obviously these passengers disagreed. But I do feel that a great deal of the fears could have been calmed by a “heads up” explanation. I’m just engaging in my ritual prayer. These are just black boxes with parchment inside, and I’ll wrap them on my arm with these leather straps. I may stand up and sit down, but I’ll be as respectful as I possibly can. After I’m done, I’m happy to answer any questions while we both enjoy our delicious airline meals…
Well, I suppose I can dream about that last part, can’t I?
To conclude, I’d like to share a video. It’s of stand-up comedian and author Joel Chasnoff with a short bit about airport security and tefilin. Go ahead and watch; I’ll footnote the references after the video:
We love hummus, but we don't always talk hummus. If a Jew and a Muslim walked into a podcast you get, well... this podcast. This site is a community forum for our podcast which you can listen to here or download on iTunes. If you have interesting stuff to contribute, please let us know via the contact form on our About page.
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