Categories
Jewish Personal Religion

How Sushi has Challenged my Belief in God and Religion.

Sushi and God, Sounds crazy huh? Well… not quite as simple or as crazy as you may think:

Before I begin, this has been a long time coming, and I’ve thought over this a thousand times, but it’s become more poignant tonight, I think….

So I’ve been talking to someone for a while about going out for sushi, and we’ve not been able to find a time… Then, today I was about to text suggesting tomorrow when I remembered that it was Passover still.

For those that don’t know, Passover is the commemoration of the exodus of the Israelites from the Egypt. When they left Egypt, they didn’t have enough time to bake bread for the journey so ate the unleavened cakes… Cast yourself forward a few thousand lifetimes – Supposedly, in a nutshell, in order to observe passover, Jews nowadays don’t consume any bread or flour based products (which could rise.).. they also don’t eat any items that expand(Peas, rice, beans…etc) … and we change all our crockery, and cutlery over to special Passover sets… clean the house from top to bottom, and even sell our “non-Passover” products to non-Jews so that we don’t own any during passover.

I MUST add that we don’t all do all of the above…!!!

Also, one of the subsets of Jew – The Sephardim – do not prohibit the consumption of the “things that expand” (Also known as “Kitniyot“)

In my house, we change the crockery and the cutlery, and we don’t consume any Flour products or any items that expand. This is where my questioning began.

Where did the Israelites do this when they left Egypt… the next year, they didn’t whip out their second set of everything that they shlepped through the Desert to commemorate what they did the year before… Did they?!

Further more, the extremes to which people go to in order to observer passover: “Kosher for Pesach Tea bags, Milk, Washing up liquid…” DOES SOMEONE CRUMBLE BREAD INTO NORMAL TEA BAGS/ MILK/ WASHING UP LIQUID?!

It’s a known joke/fact, that to make something Kosher for Passover, you must do 2 things:

1) Attach a label that says “Kosher for passover”

2) Increase the price by at least 15%.

So, people say that you have to buy everything “Kosher for Passover” but my personal view is that, as long as there is nothing prohibited in the item, then you are ok – E.g. Where is there anything prohibited in Salmon, or ready salted crisps, or salad, or chocolate….

So according to some… by eating my crisps and chocolate, that aren’t “Kosher for Passover” I’m in contravention of the laws. But honestly, what is there that is prohibited  in your normally, perfectly fine fish/chocolate?!

 

My biggest bugbear is the custom of Kitniyot (expanding foods). As if you are Sephardi (Of Spanish or Portuguese background – sometimes including Israel) you are allowed to eat rice and beans and peas… SAYS WHO? … having done some research, it’s a bit hazy and the main consensus of the Ashkenazi (non-Spanish or Portuguese) Rabbi’s of years go by the ruling that you shouldn’t eat them where as the Sephardi ones disagree and say they are ok to be eaten on passover.

I draw your attention to the word Custom. It was decided by some Rabbi’s many years ago… Does that mean it’s what god wants?

 

Talking of God, let’s try and get back on topic (although I have SO MUCH TO SAY).

My next thought was, well what if I DON’T KEEP Passover… I know enough people that don’t… they haven’t been struck by lighting…

I don’t observe other festivals like the weekly Sabbath or the Omer. So to Sudo Quote the Haggaddah (The service book for the Passover services) WHY IS THIS FESTIVAL DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER FESTIVALS?

The short answer is: It’s not.

For me, the long answer takes a look at why I observe what I observe, and why I don’t observe all the festivals

I find the rules and regulations, which define what we cannot do, to be somewhat crazy. For example: On the Sabbath, normally, you wouldn’t be able to push your buggy from home to synagogue, but if you place a piece of wire around an area, then you are able do push your buggy as well as other things restricted without the wire (This is called an Eruv)

The one that annoys me the most, is the use of timer switches during the Sabbath… You are not allowed to flick the switch and create a spark… however you can know that at 6pm when it gets dark, the Timer switch will kick in and on come the lights… It’s breaking the Sabbath by proxy.

 

I could go on all day and night about the niggles of “religion” which annoy me. However I find religion is the wrong word for the practise of what I personally do.

I LOVE the Jewish Heritage. The music, the food, the global community, the togetherness and the special bond. I’ve walked through the Streets of Poland, and visited the concentration camps, and learned how hard it must have been to be Jewish in previous times. AND I felt a special bond to Israel when I visited (But I’m not sure I’d move out there… I feel a special bond to the UK too!)

I will not look to marry ouside of the “faith” as I’d like my children to share the same heritage as us, the “Jewish people”…

However, I wonder how much of our heritage and practise is Tradition Opposed to how much of our heritage and practise is Religion.

To quote Tevye, from Fiddler on the roof…. “You may ask, how did this tradition start? I’ll tell you…. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.”

I know that the majority if not all of what I do, is because of the tradition… I don’t think there’s much more belief left in me. However that wont stop me from going to synagogue and singing, the songs/saying the poems (oh sorry, prayers)… or keeping kosher… and Strangely, even though my logic says that this is all crazy… I won’t be going for Sushi until after the end of Passover.

 

EDIT: After thinking long and hard, I did actually go for sushi the night after writing this!!!!

Categories
Jewish Personal

The Jewish Dining Experience

So it’s Grandma’s Birthday… and she decides we’re going to that well known Restaurant in Edgware… I say McD’s, but she reminds me it shut years ago, and says “you know THAT kosher one down the bottom” No more to say, Anyone, who’s anyone, knows where I mean.

 

So off we go.  We’ve a table booked for 8pm, but we don’t turn up till twenty past. “just in case they aren’t ready for us.”

We walk in, and instantly everyone is looking at us. Up and down they stare, with their faces saying a mixture of:

  1. Do I know you?
  2. could you be a shidduch for my daughter/son/mother/brother/sister/dogs brother’s sisters son
  3. Am I sure I don’t know you
  4. I don’t know you, what are you doing in here meshugganeh.

Everyone looking, that is, Except the waiters and waitresses.

 

Eventually one of them throws my Grandmother a “YES” in a suitably abrupt fashion. Grandma explains we have a table for 5, and the waitress again says “YES”. After a few Yes’ we get dragged through the diners, all doing the faces above, to our table.

 

Turns out, of course, that Grandma knows not one table of people, BUT TWO.

 

The woman on the table next to us (who Grandma knows) Starts talking to us, and says “So, where are you living now?!” When Grandma tells her “Barnet” the woman answers with “Is it nice”.

 

What’s she expecting as a response?! “No, It’s horrible but I suffer in silence”. It’s not a holiday apartment it Costa del Otzenplotz, but Barnet, not even ten minutes down the road!

 

Anyway, we order drinks, three of us order Coke, so the waiter says “I’ll bring bottle it’s cheaper.” with a tone that makes you feel like he’s doing you a favour for it to be cheaper. Only in a Jewish Gaff.

 

Starters were more-or-less uneventful, with the odd funny comment coming from the table next to us, including a chat about the squirrels that got into Grandma’s shul. I might have mentioned The Ashkenazi (Grey) and the Sephadi (Red) Squirrels and how they made up a minyan….

 

THEN I decide to inspect the porcelain. Upon standing up, almost every head in the place shoots into position, and plays again through the faces mentioned above. THEY KNOW THEY DON’T KNOW ME!

 

Main course comes, I’ve ordered too much, and I’m draying through the beef burger wishing I’d gone shishlick when the other table we know comes over to say hello as they leave. The waiters and waitresses, take this as prime time:

Carefully they watch as we natter to the other people, and while our eyes are averted and our hands are talking, they try to remove anything surplus from the table, like a game of Jewish Jenga.

Waitress was caught however on the selection of 3 sauces, to which my brother declared “Oh, it’s fine, you might as well take them” despondently.

 

Thankfully mother manages to mouth to the waiter, who takes with subtly the fact that it’s Grandma’s birthday and he manages to bring her desert (sticky toffee pud, for those who care) out with a candle in it.

This prompts the table next to us to wish happy birthday, and even for one of them to ask “Well, who’s birthday is it?” while the candle was still burning in front of Grandma.

Eventually, Dad tells the bloke that he looks familiar. BAD MOVE. This initiates the mission of the Jews at dinner: Find a link. Links are suggested as follows:

  • What Shul do you belong too?
  • Who’s the Rabbi?
  • Who was the Rabbi Before that?
  • Before that?
  • Do you play tennis?
  • What do you do for a living? Taxi driver?
  • Do you know: Sid, Shlomo, Hymie / Cohen, Goldstein, Ubeplatz – they all drive taxi’s?

They should have settled on “did you have a bit removed on the 8th day”!

Eventually, they find a vague link through my brother’s girlfriend from Manchester, and the bloke next to us’s Son’s fiancée – I was happy for this palava to be over.

 

In the confusion however, intermingled with the Hymie’s and the Shlomo’s the table has been pretty much cleared, and it’s only by good judgement, that I held my glass at all times, and was still left with it.

 

All of a sudden, there is a dreadful “clacking” noise. Someone’s desert is ready and the chef is banging it on the table at the back for service. The waiter doesn’t hear, so my brother picks up the salt cellar, and starts clacking that. Then the pepper, then a glass, then all three. Eventually the waiter comes over and says to my brother “What” to which my brother (A trainee chef) replies “He wants you” (pointing to the chef) and the waiter replies “NO, What do YOU want?”

 

Eventually we get the bill, pay up, and head for the door. Prompting the scouting of heads again… This time it’s a splattering of:

  1. Not sure he’s a good shidduch
  2. Why haven’t they said hello, I’m sure I know them now they are leaving.
  3. Sid –  ask them where I know them from as they walk past.
  4. Why are they leaving now, they got here after me, was something wrong.
  5. Where’s my bloody dessert.

What a Kerfuffle… but I’m full up…. and you can’t say it wasn’t an experience.