Tuesday, July 7, 2020

When Enough Is Enough...

Good evening everyone....

You may remember that back in May, a woman in Central Park called the police on a black man who was bird-watching.  He had asked her to keep her dog on a leash, in accordance with posted signage.

This turned into a whole big mess.  The woman lost her job.  She temporarily lost her dog.  This week, the DA in NYC filed charges against her for falsely reporting an incident.

Mr. Christian Cooper, the gentleman who was the victim of her racist tirade, publicly forgave her soon after the incident.  Today, the New York Post reported that he has refused to cooperate with the DA in the investigation.

"She's already paid a steep price."

Mr. Cooper, thank you.  Thank you for taking a public stance about forgiveness in a world that seems to have lost that ability.

Have a good evening everyone.


Monday, July 6, 2020

When Does It End?

Top of the evening to all...

Jewish Law forbids bowing down to statues.  I wonder if the vandals who keep toppling statues everywhere realize that they are helping to avoid the challenges of idolatry.

The latest...

A statue of Frederick Douglass was toppled damaged beyond repair in Rochester.  Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave.  He spoke eloquently at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention for women's suffrage, believing that he could not advocate for his own suffrage without advocating for others.  I do not get this one.

They also got the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.  Written on the statue was "racist fish."  One wonders who the target of that graffiti might have been.  That was English.  It would have been "racistiske fisk" in Danish, if google translate is correct.

Given the destruction of one and the damaging of the other, I have realized that other statues and monuments must go the way of the world.

We go then from Copenhagen to Brussels.  In the town centre, there is a statue called "Manneken Pis."  It is a statue of a small child answering the call of nature.  This statue is glaring sexism.  Men do not have to wait in long lines to go to the washroom.  It must go.

Michelangelo's "David" must go, as it is anatomically incorrect.

In the Boston Public Garden, there is a statue of a mother duck and her ducklings.  The statue comes from the story "Make Way for Ducklings."  The statue must go, as it points to the absolute lie that the police could ever be so nice.  By the way, I would like to add in that the statue and the story are both sexist.  Ducks mate for life.  Where is the father?  Something is a-fowl here.

The legend (probably not right) of the naming of the city of Buffalo is that it got its name from French explorers.  Upon seeing the Niagara River, they exclaimed "what a beautiful river!"  They would have said that in French though - "quel beau fleuve!"  Say 'beau fleuve' a few times.  It probably did not happen, but since a statue was defaced with the words "probably racist" thereupon, we need to rename the city just in case.  Explorers were horrible to indigenous populations.

We must also rename the Nobel Prize.  While it is named in fact for the man who first endowed it, that man did extensive work in military-grade explosives.  His sins in creating weapons of war far outweigh the utter change of heart based on a newspaper mistake.

Please note: some of what is written above is tongue-in-cheek.

There are no perfect people.  If the only people we wish to honour in our statues, our currency, our stamps, and our building names must all have been perfect, then we will remember nothing about our past.  Demanding perfection will only leave us in a void, unable to build a future due to lacking a past.

I support having statues of imperfect people.  I would even like to consider a statue that is quite out of the ordinary.  A statue of Mikhail Kalishnikov would be appropriate.  In his closing years, he wrote a letter to the Russian Patriarch: "I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed other people's lives, then can it be that I, a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?"  That is a man whom we should consider.  He was accomplished, and troubled by his accomplishments.  He struggled.  That is real.  That is human.  And that is coming to terms with the imperfection of humanity.

Have a good evening.


הא גופא קשיא...

Top of the afternoon folks...

The phrase in the title is a common phrase from the Talmud.  It means that there is some sort of contradiction between two or more statements.

That was one possible title to this blog entry.  The other was going to say something disparaging about the mayor of New York City.  We have had enough disparagement over the last several weeks.

Instead of disparagement, I will refer to articles I have read.  I will then ask pertinent (or perhaps impertinent) questions.

The contradiction to which I refer is in the New York Post.

Part A:

1."My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.  I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.  This is about stopping this disease and saving lives.  Period."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, April 29, 2020

2.  Referring to the rising number of shootings in New York City, the shootings "were directly related to all the dislocation we've seen over the last four months," and "people have been pent up for months and months."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, July 6, 2020

Part B:

1.  The Supreme Court of the State of New York said that it was unconstitutional for the state to permit outdoor gatherings of up to 150 people while limiting outdoor religious services to 25.

2.  In order to respond to the increase in shootings, "of course, it's going to take neighbourhood policing" and efforts of "the clergy."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, July 6, 2020

Uhhhh, Mr. Mayor, it seems you should check your statements against your other statements before speaking.  If I may....

1.  You told the Jewish community not to gather (while actively encouraging protestors, but that is another issue).

2.  The State tried not to allow minyan, mass, and the like.

If I may ask, precisely what efforts of the clergy did you have in mind when the state seems hell-bent on denying my colleagues full use of their pulpits and you seem hell-bent on criticizing congregations that meet?

If I may ask, where exactly did the clergy fail in responding to everyone being pent up?  My colleagues did not make that decision.  We have been doing our best in a bad situation.  We would respond to suggestions from city leadership, if there were any.  Furthermore, if the failures are not those of the clergy, can you please explain clergy's role in clean-up?  There is a role, and I am sure that I can articulate it.  I want to know if you can.

If I may ask, since New York City's most recent budget eliminates more than $1,000,000,000 from NYPD's operating expenses, and since that budget eliminates two classes of recruits, and since the utter lack of support from City Hall leaves NYPD paralyzed and short-staffed, where do you anticipate finding the people for neighbourhood policing?  In answering that question, you may also wish to address the spate of NYPD retirements as a result of the violence and lack of support.

May the best of the day be yours.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Cheap Laughs....

Top of the evening everyone.

Those of you who have been in my office know my little brown coffee pot.  I have had that little coffee pot longer than I have had my children.  It lived in the apartment that my student pulpit maintained.  It has lived in five offices.  That little coffee pot was a gift from a coffee company for starting to get my coffee delivered.  More than 20 years later, it still makes a great cup of coffee.  It was used this morning.

It is to this morning's events that I dedicate this blog entry.  First, a picture of the coffee pot...

Take note.  If one wishes to fill the back part with water to make the coffee, one must open it from the left side of the pot.  Then, one pours in the water holding the carafe in one's left hand.  As a lefty, this is a dream.  Come to think of it, not only is it a dream.  It is such a dream that for years it never dawned on me that this particular pot was a left-handed pot.

My medium child wanted to make a cup of coffee this morning.  He is decidedly right-handed.  He is also very scientific, such that he is the total killjoy on the literary and theatrical journeys my other two children will take at the kitchen table.  "That would never work because (insert scientific claptrap here)."  It was thus quite the laugh watching him try to figure out how to open the top.   He finally figured it out.  Then, rather than pour the water with his left hand, he turned the pot so that he could pour with his right hand.

Having lived in a world that is designed decidedly for the right-handed, it is nice to realize that every once in a while, something is there for us lefties.  It is also nice to enjoy the cheap laugh as my otherwise-brilliant son could not figure it out.

Have a good evening everyone.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Licensing of Cyclists Redux...

Top of the evening to all...

Over the last several years, I have written several times about licensing cyclists.  Here are two of my blog entries on that: Licensing of Cyclists and 
Safety Blitz.

My thoughts have not changed much from either of these listings.  Still, it never hurts to look at things again.  So....

Mayor Tory has announced that a program to photograph speeding cars and then to issue citations to the vehicle owners will finally commence in July.  Here is the article from 680 News: 
Speed Cameras

Before I respond to the details of the article, I remind the good folks at 680 News that grammar is important.  Please note the following paragraph:

An image of the license plate will be captured and stored and if an offence is confirmed, a ticket will be mailed to who the license plate is registered too, regardless of who is driving.

Better would be that "a ticket will be mailed to the vehicle registrant."  I object to the above sentence on the grounds that it ought to be taken out and shot.  The sentence is so bad that the only way to save it is to rework it.

Anyway, the article lists several safety concerns.  These are issues that have become more prevalent since the rise of COVID-19.

1.  In 
nine locations throughout the city, 142,000 vehicles were caught speeding.  That averages out to 986 a day.  It averages out to 15,778 per location.
2.  Since COVID began, the number of cars on the road has plummeted.  However, the number of citations for stunt-driving has increased 600%.

In other news, the Globe and Mail reports that bike sales surge during the pandemic.  It is considered a safe, socially distant activity.  As well, people are not comfortable commuting in crowded trains full of potential carriers.  The article says that car traffic in Toronto was down 55% between March and May.  In the same time period, cycling traffic was up 20%.  

It is possible that once in my cycling career, I could have gotten a speeding ticket.  I managed to hit 63 kph.  I was pedalling downhill with a lovely tailwind.  Beyond that, Mayor Tory has not reported cyclists getting caught stunt-riding.  He has not reported nine locations throughout the city in which cyclists show flagrant disregard for the speed limit.

As I stated in both of my blog entries above, a license is not a guarantee that someone will obey the law.  I further repeat what I wrote in one of those entries: "I would appreciate it if someone could explain to me how licensing cyclists would bring about citywide sunshine and lollipops.  Licensing drivers has clearly not had that effect.  There is no logic whatsoever in assuming it would work on cyclists any more than it does on drivers."

At some point, people will yet again bring up the idea of licensing cyclists.  The idea is useless and irrelevant.  Enforce the laws as they exist.  Everything else will fall into place.

Good night.


Monday, June 22, 2020

Falling Church Attendance...

Top of the evening Ladies and Gentlemen...

I know.  I know.  Why does a rabbi care about falling church attendance?  It is more than just professional respect for my colleagues.

I have been watching with appall as the social upheaval in the United States continues.  Pulling down the statues of people deemed not to be sufficiently woke is the latest crusade of the politically correct.

On some level, I suppose that there is some merit to the removal of some of the monuments.  Many of the statues of the Confederate generals of the US Civil War were put there after the fact, as a backlash to the results of that war.  Perhaps their removal is appropriate.  It is certainly worthy of discussion.

I drew the line today.  Why?  Today was the day I found out that folks in San Francisco pulled down a statue of Ulysses Grant.  General Grant was a slaveowner.  He owned one, to whom he granted freedom in 1859.  He later wrote that "as time passes, people, even of the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man."  We know that he led Union troops to end slavery.  We know that he advocated for the rights of freed slaves.

Other statues were pulled down in San Francisco as well.  After toppling the statue of George Washington, it was burned with an American flag wrapped around it.  I am unimpressed at this temper tantrum.

I guess for starters, it might have been nice to have other limited pictures of President Grant in mind in toppling his statue.  Perhaps someone might have said his statue was inappropriate due to his treatment of the Jews.  As a general, he signed an order that President Lincoln had to override ordering the Jewish community out of Tennessee.  Why is that not an issue for me?  When he was President, he and his entire cabinet attended the dedication of Congregation Adas Israel in Washington DC.  He made amends.

A note from Jewish tradition:

בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁבַּעֲלֵי תְּשׁוּבָה עוֹמְדִין אֵין צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים יְכוֹלִין לַעֲמֹד

In a place where those who have returned (repented) stand, even the entirely righteous cannot stand.

I shudder to think that we now live in a world where there is no forgiveness.  I shudder to think that only absolute purity in thought and in deed, from cradle to grave, is the only type of role model we now accept.

No one is without sin.

I wonder whether or not those who are on the rampage are willing to tear down statues of Martin Luther King.  Whatever else he might have done, he was a known philanderer.  That is spouse abuse.  Here is only a small part of that history: https://nypost.com/2006/01/02/mlk-confessed-to-wife/.

However, if we are going to discuss Martin Luther King, I am going to invent a couple of lines to add to one of the most compelling pieces of oratory ever delivered, "I Have a Dream."

I have a dream that we might be remembered for our successes instead of, or even despite, our failures.

I have a dream that we might one day be judged on our growth instead of on our errors.

I have a dream that we might accept that no one is morally pure.

I have a dream that we might accept and be thankful that the list of people in history who oozed evil from every pore is a very short list.

And why did I mention church attendance?  The parable from Christian Testament (John 8:7) leaves us with the famous saying: let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

Please let this madness end.

Have a good evening everyone.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Saturday Night Fever...A Parody...

Good evening to all...

I had a different title for this blog entry in mind. This title works on its own, and I am writing it on a Saturday night.

The following is sung to the tune of "Stayin' Alive," with my deepest apologies to the Bee Gees.


Well, you can tell by the that I don't cough, I'm a healthy man, don't stand close to talk.
I've been home for three months straight, binge-watching "50 First Dates."

'Cause now it's COVID, a new disease...
And we can't run away it seems.
So we hide, beneath our beds,
And go to work in pajamas.

Whether you're with Brother or whether you're with Mother you're stayin' at home, stayin' at home.
Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin' and we're stayin' at home, stayin' at home.
Oy...Oy...Oy...Oy....stayin' at home, stayin' at home.
Oy...Oy...Oy...Oy....stayin' at home.
                                                                                                                                                              Have a good evening everyone.