Slacking Off In The Hood

Pico-Robertson shuls are no different than other shuls in the United States over the summer. Attendance slacks off.

Most American synagogues abandon adult education classes in the summer.

When Jews leave town, they often don’t bother to take the sacred text with them.

They’re away from the eyes of the community and so they let down on their observance and study.

This morning the rabbi said there should be no time off from God.

He bemoaned how kids in his religious school were unaware of the Torah portions between the middle of Bamidbar (Numbers) and the beginning of Devarim (Deuteronomy) because they and their parents check out from serious religious observance and study during the summer.

I want to voice a contrarian perspective.

Orthodox Judaism demands so much that is not from God that I have sympathy for those who want to take a summer respite from the inane demands of the rabbis.

Let’s talk about yom tov sheni — the extra day of a Jewish festival because 2,000 years ago, the rabbis weren’t sure of their calendar calculations. That we still observe this restriction today — making Passover and Succoth into eight days instead of seven, Shuvuot into two days instead of one — is a clear violation of the Torah’s command to not increase or decrease its mitzvahs (commandments). Yet many Orthodox Jews go along with this extra restriction because it’s the price of belonging to an Orthodox community.

The prayers have only been multiplied over the years. They are beyond the endurance of mere mortals. The observant Jew has to pray for over an hour a day. That’s insane. This is time that would be far better devoted to studying the sacred texts rather than repeating by rote the inventions of some bloke a thousand years ago.

Rosh Hashanah morning davening goes for about six hours. That’s nuts.

We have this huge number of prayers to get through — so big that only the most pious can say any of them with any serious intention — because the rabbis don’t have the balls to cut back on the liturgy and to challenge the rulings of other rabbis a thousand years ago.

Laws that were made by man can be changed by man.

I’m fine with ascribing the Torah to God but don’t ascribe the rulings of Rabbi Shlemiel in the eighth century to God and don’t force me to repeat his poetry as part of the divine prayer requirement.

The average Orthodox Jew looks for ways to slack off that are communally permitted, and this means in the United States taking summer’s off from serious religious observance and study (while still keeping shabbat).

If God has a human bone in His body, He’ll respect this.

Don’t hate, HaShem, congratulate. Your children have defeated You.

About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (, he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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