Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Your Chosen Questions About the Chosen People

I apologize for not getting this post out earlier in the day, but I was busy making Christmas cookies and wrapping Christmas gifts. For a while there I was also away in a manger. Nevertheless, you asked me some excellent questions about Jews and Judaism, and it is my Jewishly duty to answer them. So here we go.

Li starts us off with a question I'm sure many of you are curious about:
What's the correct spelling - Hanukkah or Chanukkah? (Or have I misspelled both?)
So, you want to know the true meaning spelling of Hannukakakahh, do you? Well, it's not that simple; just like the labor/labour divide between American English and English English, the spelling of Chanuka differs depending on your background. For instance, there's Chanukkah (traditional), Hannukah (nontraditional), Chanukah (transitional), Channukkah (transactional), Kamchatka (trans-siberial), Hanukhaaaaan (nerdly), Hannoushka (jeweler), and Hanukka (absolutely ridiculous), just to name a few. You say tomato, I say Hanukkah.

In the end, it comes down to preference. And unless you spell it Hanukkah, you're wrong.

My sister anonymously asks:
Why do Jews hate Christmas?
It's not that Jews hate Christmas: they hate what Christmas has become. It used to be a day when all Christians would remain home, allowing Jews to have free reign of movie theaters and gorge themselves on Peking Duck.1 But then everyone else realized movies and Chinese food were a far better plan than spending the afternoon cooped up in the house with Uncle Ralph and a half-dozen screaming kids.

Now, every year Christians descend on theaters and restaurants in hordes, disrupting our long-standing Jewish traditions. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but do you really have to take away our Christmas? Couldn't you head to the theater on Purim instead?

1 Or, for those fond of sacrilege, Pork Lo Mein.

A different Anonymous entirely asks:
What can you tell me about hats and haircuts associated with Judaism?
That they're awesome.

I'm kidding, of course. The Jewish people are a frugal sort, so traditionally, Jewish boys get what is known as a "bowl cut," although some families have been known to splurge and buy a Flowbee. Those who claim to be truly devout (i.e. the cheapest) don't cut their hair at all, and are often mistaken for the two members of ZZ Top not named Beard.

In regard to hats, Jewish men must cover their heads when in prayer, and Orthodox men must keep them covered at all times, or else zombies will eat their brains with garbanzo beans and a nice Manischewitz.2 Some men opt for baseball caps or fedoras, but most stick with the traditional kippah, which I believe is just another name for a herring.

Oh, and the women? They can do whatever they damn well please.

2 At least, that's what it says in the torah.

Tricia J. O'Brien poses this poignant question:
Why gefilte fish???
Jews may have been treated horribly by Germans in the past, but we're not above some good ol' Schadenfreude. And that's where gefilte fish comes in. We only break it out when gentiles are present, to see their reaction when it first touches their tongue.3 We don't actually eat the putrid stuff ourselves. (It may look like we do, but watch more closely next time. Jews are experts at spiriting food into folded napkins, purses, potted plants, dogs, etc.)

3 We also make bets about whether they'll finish it out of politeness. I once made 180 shekels.

I received a litany of questions from Anthony Stemke:
What's the difference between lox and nova?
Lox is just lox, nothing more. But nova can be super.

Why the dickens can't knishes be sold outside of New York City?
The Dickens Knish Law of 1857. At the time, authors were celebrities on par with today's movie stars, and during one visit to the States Charles Dickens was heard to remark that knishes were so good they should be illegal. Seeking his approval, or perhaps a part in his next novel, Congress quickly ratified the law. The NYC exception was hastily added once President Buchanan remembered that city's Jews controlled the country's banking industry. The law has remained on the books to this day.

How come there are no Jewish hunters?
Jews are excellent gatherers. Sometimes it's just best to stick with what you know.

Can Orthodox Jews listen to Bloodrock on Fridays?
Yes, they can, assuming they turn the music off before sundown. But why would they want to, when they could instead listen to the wholesome Jewish stylings of the Beastie Boys? (There is also a small sect calling themselves "Jews for Jesus Jones," but that just ain't right, here or now. We pay them no mind.)

Falen is also interested in the details of Hebrew cuisine:
Have you ever eaten Lox? If so, what does it taste like?
Ah, yes. Bagels and lox, the loaves and fishes of the Jewish people. I've tried lox on a couple of occasions. It tastes like heaven on a rainy day.4

4 Little known fact: On rainy days, heaven tastes exactly like cured salmon fillet.

My sister Naomi (non-anonymously, this time) asks:
What is the difference between Hanukkah candles and non-Chanukah candles? And why don't they have any of the former in Boise or Spokane?
There is no difference; Hanukkah candles are non-Chanukah candles. It's all in the spelling. And there are none in the Boise/Spokane area because of the Hawthorne Candle Act of 1858.

She follows that up with a rather leading question:
What makes half-Jewish babies so gosh-darn cute?

There are three schools of thought on this matter:

1. They're not actually cute; Jews in mixed-faith marriages are simply biased toward their babies' Jewishy looks. (Yeah, this theory is complete and utter rubbish. As evidence, I submit to you Exhibit Photo-On-the-Left.)
2. It's not the Jewish that makes them cute; it's the half. Babies that are half anything are cute. Half-Asian kids are adorable. Demigods are breathtaking. Half-caf lattes, I could drink those right up.
3. Um, duh. They're babies.

And Anton Lewis brings the session to a close with:
How do Jews find true love?
Before online dating, Orthodox Jews would go to a matchmaker. Dances were held on Friday nights and they aren't allowed to turn on lights after sundown, so they needed to strike matches in order to be able to see their suitors' faces. Unfortunately, this method led to numerous concussions and burned down many a dance hall.

Today, people use There they might find some love, but not true love, because online dating profiles are rife with lies.

There's only one way that has always worked: fiddlin' on rooftops. Jews are drawn to rooftop fiddlers like moths to a flame, only without the smell of burnt moth at the end.

So there you have it. Just fiddle on a rooftop, and you'll find your true love. It's tradition. Tradition!

There we are: twelve questions asked, twelve questions answered. I'm glad I could help you understand so much about the Jewish people. Go forth and share your new knowledge. Amaze your friends! Startle your enemies! And most of all, make sure you flip your latkes in the air sometimes.

« UPDATED 12/23 »
And then (then!) another Anonymous belatedly asks:
What does the conservative branch of Judaism say about sexual fetishes — whether they are allowed when consensual?
For the love of Christ, conservative Jews don't give a lick if you have a sexual fetish. But tell me, when are you going to find yourself a nice Jewish girl and settle down? Your father and I worry.


  1. Thank you, thank you, for enlightening me. I am off to let my Jewish friends know that I am now familiar with all of their customs/rituals and they can stop referring to me as a shiksa.

  2. Nate, as always, you are absolutely hilarious. Happy Chrismakkuh from a half-breed!

  3. I knew it! Nobody's eating the gefilte fish.

    And, I'm all for women doing as they damn well please. So pour the egg cream and I'll get the icebox cake.

  4. That gefilte fish eating is just a parlor trick none of my Jewish friends go near it. After you Q&A I almost feel converted! Thanks for the Christmas present and I promise to stay home on Christmas day.

  5. Wait a minute here, I like gefilte fish, or at least the whitefish and pike quennelles.
    You obviously knew I was Christian when you said my questions were a litany.
    If the nova is super, what is the key to enjoying the lox I wonder.
    Anyway, have a happy Honiker (translucent)

  6. Lisa, congratulations on your transformation from gentle gentile to ex-shiksa! I'm glad I could help you on your way. Mazel tov!

    Kyle, thanks! And a Merry Hanukwanzmas to you from a full-on Jew.

    Tricia, luckily, as a non-practicing Jew, I also get to do what I damn well please. Egg creams and icebox cakes for all! Huzzah!

    Chuck, thanks for being considerate, but now that I've been fully assimilated into my wife's family and their Christmas traditions, you don't have to stay home on Xmas. Go and rile up the other Jews. It'll be fun.

    Anthony: 1) You like gefilte fish? Clearly, this is evidence of Stockroom Syndrome, which is like Stockholm Syndrome except instead of being kidnapped you were trapped in the back of a Kosher deli. 2) Oh, did I say litany? I meant Nittany. Like the Penn State Nittany Lions. Because Aslan the lion was all about Christian values, and I wanted you to feel at home. 3) The key to enjoying lox is to pretend you have no idea what nova is. I know that's what I've always done, except I've never had to pretend. Have a merry such and such!