Monday, June 26, 2006
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin On Chabad
Judaism Comes Alive
Setting: Third meal (shalosh sheudes). Saturday evening. Modern Orthodox shul.
A congregant gives a talk about the mitzvah of redeeming the first born. It only applies to sons. Traditionally, there was no bracha (blessing) recited when daughters were born.
The rabbi explains that was because sons were held in more esteem than daughters.
A woman comes alive and speaks out. She and her husband are visitors to the shul. They're dressed in white. Her every hair (almost) is covered, indicating piety. Her behavior screams newcomer or baal teshuva.
Woman to the rabbi: "What do you mean sons were more important than daughters? That bothers me. Say something to make me feel OK."
The rabbi explains that in ancient times, sons were more valuable than daughters because they could do more manual work.
The wife is the upset. "I thought halacah (Jewish Law) comes from a higher place [God]?"
Rabbi: "Halacah is made by men, rabbis."
Wife: "I thought women were exempt from most of the [time-bound mitzvot such as thrice-daily prayer] because they were at a higher spiritual place and didn't need it?"
Rabbi: "Do you want my opinion?"
Rabbi: "That's 20th century rationalizing [for the sexism inherent in some of Judaism's practices]."
I got a charge out of seeing someone take Judaism seriously and to challenge the rabbi and care enough about the matter to get upset.
Normally I find Modern Orthodoxy emotionally cool. People aren't too friendly for fear of appearing needy. Their religion is so demanding they don't spend much time thinking about why they observe they observe it the way they do or how their religion is challenged by modernity and the scientific method. The most serious Modern Orthodox fear secular learning that challenges their faith.
Fishel, Rivkah, and Leah: A Tale of Tumult
Ralph Peters Addresses Wednesday Morning Club Breakfast On His New Book - New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy
Wednesday, June 21, 8:30 a.m. Here's a .wav file of his speech.
I find out that David Horowitz's assistant is former B-movie actress Elizabeth Kaitan, who stars in my favorite Air Supply video, Making Love out of Nothing At All. I go home and Google her body of work. Impressive! Good Girls Don't (1993), Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force (1989), Assault of the Killer Bimbos (1988), Scandalous Simone (1985) and Violated (1984).
By contrast, Ralph can only manage this (according to the CSPC press release):
What happened to the days of good looking eager flight attendants?
Are Bloggers Journalists?
Massive Baltimore Rally At Home Of Man Who Won't Give His Wife A Get (Jewish Divorce)
Rabbi Efraim Ohana's parents live in Los Angeles. His father Samuel is a rabbi and his mother Yvonne operates Hadar catering out of Burbank.
Ugly George Interview
George (born June 13, 1941 according to IMDB) calls me Monday night, June 19: "You may be richer than I am but I'm more famous. Is that true?"
Luke: "I have no money."
George: "Just good looks."
Luke: "I hope so.
"When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
George: "Many different things, least of all a guy who picked up girls and got 'em nude. I wanted to save society. I wanted to save America from the baddies. I want to kill the commies. All the things I was taught to do in my straight borsch-belt right-wing American upbringing."
Luke: "When were you born?"
George: "Depends upon whom you talk to. I don't want to make fun of journalists, but sometimes they lie. I know the guy who started the Biography series on A&E. It's full of crap. Journalists write what they want to write. Every journalist provides his own answer."
Luke: "What do you say?"
George: "I don't say anything. You've got to understand, Luke, that I am in New York, the so-called capitol of journalism. I've been interviewed a hundred times. Every time the journalist has his preconceived ideas of what he's going to say before they interview me. They want me to confirm what they think already. If I say anything different, they say, 'Oh, you're just lying to cover it up. You really mean this.'
"I've learned to answer 'Yes' sarcastically. I'm asked, 'You really love women with large breasts?' I say yes. They say, 'You really hate women. You despise them. Picking them up and filming them is your way of disguising that you really despise women.' I say yes. They say, 'You're always surrounded by women but underneath you're secretly gay.' I say yes.
"That's what you do in New York when you talk to wiseass journalists who have their own agenda."
Luke: "Have you encountered any journalists that you respected and trusted?"
George: "Very few. One guy you're probably too young to remember -- Hugh Downs. I'm in the land of liberal big-mouth hypocrisy. No one here in journalism is a conservative. Hugh Downs was one of the few journalists who not only wanted to interview me, but said hello to me on camera and signed a model release. He was on ABC with Barbara Walters, a typical big-mouth phony liberal. She would never say hello to me. She ran away from me. I can give you a hundred journalists who ran away rather than talked to me, like Dan Rather."
Luke: "Are you still a conservative?"
George: "I am anything anyone wants me to be. I am a real person. I pick up real girls. That's why the show was called 'Truth, Sex and Violence.' You know that many years ago there was a lot of controversy and people said there was too much sex and violence on television.
"You're aware that there are a thousand websites imitating me without real girls. Almost all those girls are contacted in advance or paid in advance or plied with drugs and liquor in advance. It's set up.
"When people watch my show, they say, 'This is real. This girl doesn't want to pose nude and he's talking her into it. She doesn't want to go into a hallway.' No girl ever said yes to me. Not one. I had to be a great psychiatrist and figure out when they said no, what they really meant by that.
"Girls with great bodies in New York get hit on 50 times an hour. The last thing they are looking for is a guy coming up with a camera who says, 'Let's go into a hallway and pose nude.' They're used to guys coming up to them handing them business cards and saying, 'Do you know who I am? Do you know who I know? I know Mike Ovitz. Do you know that I am best friends with David Letterman and I'm going to get you on the show.' The name dropping here is unbelievable. 'I know Luke Ford. You should come into a hallway and give me a BJ because I know Luke Ford.' Your name is dropped fifty times an hour here."
Luke: "Which values have you retained from childhood?"
George: "God, country and the American way.
"Did you look me up on the net? Did you put quotes around 'Ugly George?' Did you see the unimportant people who put 'Ugly' in front of their name to get noticed? Did you notice that one of the most unimportant is a guy named George W. Bush? I know a journalist in Washington and I asked him to relay this to the president: 'Mr President, you're just the president of the United States but I'm a sex star. I outrank you.' Apparently he's gotten that message.
"You may have noticed Ugly George Steinbrenner, Ugly George Clooney, Ugly George Lucas and so on.
"The word 'Ugly' is becoming one of the most used words on the net for the sole purpose of getting on my search pages, which I'm proud of."
Luke: "How often has the scorn that you've endured gotten to you?"
George: "I have the greatest weapon in the world -- it's called the TV camera. Rather than shoot people, which I might like to do... I have people come up to me and say, 'You're filthy and disgusting and how dare you have that show on cable. How dare you pick up those girls.' I resist the urge to punch them in the mouth or shoot them. I whip out my camera and say, 'Would you like to say that on camera?' They run away. They do not want to be on the show that they are watching.
"Teddy Roosevelt and I say that the television camera and cable TV is a bully pulpit. It scares the s--- out of phoneys. If I'm on a moral crusade, it is to unmask phoneys. Nearly everyone likes sex of one sort or another, but only in New York are they loudmouth about it. Only in New York do they say, 'I love my wife. I love my husband. I wouldn't watch a show like yours.'
"Notice that they all know who I am."
Luke: "I've read on the web that you've been homeless."
George: "They write all kinds of crap."
Luke: "Is it true?"
George: "It's not true at all but it doesn't matter.
"LA is not as ethnic as New York, but do you know that a lot of Polish peasants came to New York a hundred years ago and they were the poorest and stupidest Poles. They found out quickly that the rents were cheaper if you lived in the basement. They spun a whole lot of Polish jokes. In LA, you may not be familiar with them. There are a lot of Polish jokes on the show. I call a basement a Polish penthouse.
"Did you see the picture of me with Andrew Cuomo? You see a little grey in my hair. You see I'm a little fatter than I used to be. But I'm still doing it.
"I don't know if you know who Mario Cuomo was? Our governor here. This is his son who wants to be the next attorney general. He came over to me and stood next to me for the sole purpose of getting his picture in the paper and helping his campaign. When I say have an effect, I mean I have an effect.
"Everybody used to watch the show in Manhattan. I used to wipe out the networks three nights a week. The networks were predictable. You knew what was going to happen. I invented reality TV. On my show, you never knew when the girl was going to do it or not do it. It would happen many times that I'd be in a hallway and the girl would be smiling and I'd get her bra half off and she'd say, 'My God, I can't do this. What kind of girl do you think I am?' She'd button up and run out of the hallway."
Luke: "If you didn't go into your line of work, what do you think you would've done with your life?"
George: "I could've been an undertaker or a garbage collector. I could've been a college professor, but I said, 'Do I want to spend the rest of my life behind a desk with some morons? Or do I want to be out in the streets in the beautiful hot stinking New York summer and the freezing snow in winter to document hot girls?'
"When I started, New York had 73 channels on cable. The Nielsen people told me quietly that I was getting 66% of the ratings.
"The trouble was I was ahead of my time. None of the big-mouth liberals would come out and support me with money. But now I'm getting close to streaming my old shows and new shows on uglygeorge.com."
Luke: "How has your line of work affected your relationships with women?"
George laughs. "I'm glad you asked me that. I live in liberal-land. Many many women say to me -- you know I'm liberated. I'm not a conservative from middle-America. I am a hip woman. We have a relationship but I know you have other girls you have to pick up, and we'll have a relationship in spite of that.
"Every time, I'd say, 'You know I'm not in love with this girl. But my show has to go on. I have to pick up other girls.'
"So they'd break off and say, 'I'm liberal but I can't spend time with a guy who chases other women.' So, so much for liberalism."
Luke: "Do you think it is possible for you to meet the kind of woman you'd give up your work for?"
George: "No. That would never happen.
"Most people in the Adult industry like women but they like money better. After a while, it becomes like a job for them. They go to the office and they wear a suit and they look at pictures of naked women all day long. At 5 p.m., they go back to the suburbs. That's not what I do. I'm on duty 24-hours a day with my silver suit and my backpack."
Luke: "How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?"
George: "What do you mean what is right and what is wrong?"
Luke: "How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?"
George: "I never force anybody. My backpack is very heavy. It happened many times in the past that some disgruntled woman would run over to the cop and she would say, 'Officer, I want that man arrested. He tried to drag me into a hallway and rip my clothes off.'
"After I got finished taking a picture of the cop and his badge number, I'd say, 'Listen, wise-ass. Pick up this camera.' Every once in a while, I'd get one to do it. I'd say, 'Do you see how heavy this camera is? Sixty five pounds. Do you think I could chase anybody and drag them if they didn't want to be dragged?' As you know, you need some light to take pictures in a hallway.
"You can never do anything wrong. They know what is going on, even though they say they don't.
"You know about guilt? Later on they would say, I didn't really do it. He dragged me into the hallway and ripped my clothes off.
"Do you remember Dana DeLany from China Beach [TV series from 1988-91]? I had met her and tried to take her into a hallway. Not a helluva lot happened. She said, 'I'm going to be a big star. I can't do this. It would destroy my reputation.'
"Years later, she wound up on China Beach. If you remember the series, she got her blouse opened every week on China Beach.
"When she was promoting the movie Exit to Eden, a bomb, she was going around talkshows. She didn't have a lot to say. One day she's asked, 'Dana, you're a well-built girl. You're pretty. Did you ever meet a guy named Ugly George?'
"She said, 'Did I ever meet him? He tried to drag me into a hallway and ripped off my clothes and he said, 'You're going to be nothing if you don't pose nude.'
"It made US magazine. It made 50 other magazines.
"Suddenly, she gets an inspiration. Why doesn't she embroider the story? Every time she went around getting publicity on the news, the story got bigger and bigger.
"I understood she had something to sell. But a lot of girls, I don't appreciate it. I get them in a hallway. I set the lights. I walk into the picture and we get it on.
"Later they say, 'He had a light on. I thought he was kidding. I had no idea. He put a microphone in my face but I didn't know what it was.'
"They present it as though they took advantage of me and they couldn't get away from me."
Luke: "How do you approach women? What do you say to them?"
George: "There's no one thing. This is why I'm the greatest psychologist in history. You can't go up to girls and give the same line every time. You have to read them. The Beach Boys say, 'Good vibrations.' You have to read their vibrations and work with them.
"Many guys say to me, 'If I had a big camera, I could do it too.' I've been responsible for more nerds buying cameras than any other guy in history. And they still can't make it with the chicks. Everybody thinks it's just the camera. I like to say it's my stunning personality."
Luke: "How many women do you think you've been with in your life?"
George: "Over 400. I have videotapes of every one of them."
Luke: "You've never done it with a woman you haven't videotaped?"
George: "That's the exception that proves the rule.
"There's a tremendous amount of guilt in New York. Plus, you have large ethnic families. Every once in a while, there's an incredibly stunning woman and she says to me, 'The family would never forgive me.' A good example is [the 2002 movie] My Big Fat Greek Wedding where she says, 'My family is my life.' We have a lot of that here.
"Every once in a while we have a woman who is up to my standards who says, 'Please, put the camera away.'
"Once in a while, I lower myself to do that."
Luke: "Why do women do this with you?"
George: "They like my honest approach. This being New York, 80% of guys try to impress women with their money. I have no diamond rings. I have no limousine. I have no chauffeur, no cadillac. If I'm not taking them into a hallway, I'm taking them into a basement.
"I consider the lowest form of life on earth a beautiful female who's taking acting lessons. My idol is that Los Angeles native Marilyn Monroe. She didn't worry too much about acting lessons. She knew what the guys wanted and that's why she became a big star.
"Of course I can't say this to you over the phone but I interviewed her husband Arthur Miller, the last man who went to bed with Marilyn Monroe, two days before he died. And off-camera, he told me quite a bit about her.
"Marilyn Monroe became the biggest female star of the 1950s because she did what she had to do.
"Most women with beautiful figures who want to be actresses work as a waitresses. I consider that worse than being a prostitute.
"Marilyn never waited on table for one day in her life. She always managed to get work, one way or another, in her chosen field. What did she say? 'I have a beautiful body. You want my body. Let me use it to get somewhere.'
"Whereas we have hundreds and thousands of women walking around with portfolios saying, 'I'm going to be an actress but I'm not going to use my beautiful body.'
"Every once in a while, I pick up a beautiful wanna-be actress and I get her nude and she says, 'Gee, I hope this doesn't destroy my career.' I say to her, 'You mean your career as a waitress?'
"I'm on everything. I'm on all the talkshows from Jerry Springer on down. Every woman I've ever picked up and stayed with me long enough got on a talkshow. She could've never done that on her own. Only with me. I'm proud of that."
Luke: "What are the differences in sexuality and getting naked between Jewish women, Catholic women, Protestant women, Hindu women?"
George chuckles. "I'm glad you asked me that. Jewish women say, 'I shouldn't have let him take my picture.' My show would come on at 11:30 p.m. I'd get calls many times at 11:35 and it would be some Jewish woman, 'George, George, my Uncle Hymie just called. He said he doesn't watch the show. He just happened to turn to it by accident. And he saw me on the show and he called me up and said, 'Rachel, why would you do shmutz like that?'
"I had many guilty calls like that.
"Protestants are the best because the only Protestants in New York are wealthy Protestants and they have less guilt and more brains than anybody else.
"Catholic women have been browbeaten by the nuns. You know another word for nun? Lesbian. 'Those men want young girls for sex. You shouldn't let me touch your body.' Meanwhile, the nun is trying to touch her body.
"I've had many Catholic girls say to me, 'I went into a hallway and posed nude for you and we had a little sex and I shouldn't have let that happen. Now I'm going to burn in hell because he told the father confessor and he told the mother superior. I am doomed for eternity. They have all this bulls--- about purgatory and burning in hell and it's usually about sex.
"One of the biggest rabbis in New York a few years ago was a so-called expert in ethics. He was invited to synagogues all over the country to talk about ethics.
"He was flying somewhere. There was a ten year old girl sleeping under a blanket and he molested her and got arrested. They called off the lecture.
"The people who are the most vociferous against me have the most to cover up.
"I discovered this 1910 silent movie (A Soul for Sale?) about an alleged crusader against sex. At that time they called it the white slave trade. It turns out he's the owner of a secret whore house. In 1910, they knew that those who were loudest are the biggest hypocrites.
"We have a lot of rabbis here who are always yelling and screaming and with young Jewish girls, it is always about sex. What else would they talk to young girls about than sex? They don't talk about the opera. They're always talking to young girls about not giving their bodies away, especially not with a shaygetz [a Gentile man]. Because if you do, you might get pregnant and you might burn in Gehenna."
Luke: "Have you had any experiences with Orthodox Jews?"
George: "Oh yes. I hope you're not shocked, but I was actually in bed with an Orthodox girl from Stern College. She had a gorgeous body. She said to me, 'You're not Orthodox,' and she tried to push me out of her. 'I shouldn't let you do this. You're not Orthodox.'"
Luke: "Are you Jewish?"
George: "Yes and no. It's a difficult question. I didn't grow up that way but I found out about my heritage."
Luke: "I'm interested in getting more of your insights into the different reactions you get from Jews, Protestants and Catholics?"
George: "Where would all three of those religions be without guilt and hell? If you read the Torah and the scriptures and Maimonidies, they have a lot to say about loose women. But that was before cameras.
"You see the word 'harlot' all the time in the Bible. What they meant was that a woman would do something in a tent and somebody may or may not find out about it. But now we have cameras and cable TV and the internet and all that. For thousands of years, a Jewish woman could do something and no one would know about it. Now there are no tents left to close because it is on television. A woman could be on my show for a fwe minutes and a 100,000 people could record it off the air. Then they'd make dubs and send them to their rabbi in Jersey.
"I'm about to be seen and heard by 50,000,000 people around the world. And it doesn't show any nudity. John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
"I was at a big movie premiere years ago. John came up to me and tugged on my sleeve. He said, 'Aren't you Ugly George, the fellow who gets the babes nude on television? Me and Yoko have been watching your show.
"I turned the camera on and he did the dirtiest interview he ever did.
"I don't know if you're familiar with public access cable but it's huge in New York. I had the biggest show. I had 600,000 viewers in Manhattan alone. John knew it. We talked about hard-ons and wanking. Do you know what wanking means? It was not the standard interview. Somebody recorded it off the air. Legally, I'm trying to track them down but there's nothing I can do about it yet. They've announced they're going to put it on the internet for 50,000,000 Beatles fans around the world.
"I met John later. He said, 'Aside from the publicity, you know the real reason I asked you to interview me? I live at The Dakota [elite Manhattan apartment house]. I wanted to see how many of my phony neighbors would say to me, 'John, what were you doing on that dirty show with that fellow Ugly George?'
"He told me some of the names and I plotzed. From Goldie Hawn on down, who knocked on his door or ran into him in the lobby.
"Anybody can do a porno show. It depends on how much money they will pay as to what the girls will do. I meet regular girls, nice girls. They're not porno stars.
"I had the top people in New York City, and, because New York is like the capitol of the world, the top people in the world watching my show. They'd make copies of my show and bring them back to Saudi Arabia where it's completely illegal.
"A guy admitted to me when he was the attorney for the House Committee for Telecommunications, his job was to go to New York three nights a week, tape my show, duplicate copies, and quietly hand it out to Congressmen."
Luke: "Do you have any children?"
George: "My stock answer, which is probably true, is that I have 14 illegitimate children. You'd be amazed at how many kids come up to me and say, 'You know you're really my father. My mother told me all about you.'"
Luke: "How would you feel about your daughter doing things with a guy like you?"
George: "This is America. It's her decision. I just hope she would do it right.
"Fifty percent of the time when a young woman tells me that her mother went to bed with me, the daughter will go to bed with me. I have no idea if these girls are really my daughters or not."
Luke: "If the girl was really your daughter, would you still want to have relations with her?"
George: "No. But if she did something with some other guy and it made her famous, it would be a good thing. It would advance her. We return again and again to Marilyn Monroe and other actresses who use their bodies to climb to the top."
Luke: "How do you feel about gay marriage?"
George: "Being the libertarian that I am, that's their business, not my business."
Luke: "What about human - animal?"
George: "If the dog doesn't object... It's up to the dog.
"I know some guys who are married to some dogs. They're human. But any port in a storm. You'd be amazed at how many guys are married to ugly women because they know they won't stray."
Luke: "How do you deal with the angry fathers, brothers, husbands?"
George: "After I get my axe out and murder them, I forgive them. I say, 'The girl made a decision. What does that have to do with anybody else?' I'm a libertarian hippie."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about your life today?"
George: "I hate not having enough bread. I hope that will change soon. I hate watching everyone else take my thing, do it in a money way, do it with a tuxedo on, fake these reality TV shows... Not too many years ago, Sarah Jessica Parker walked up to me on the street and she all but admitted that I was the inspiration for Sex in the City and Real Sex.
"A few years ago, I met Norman Mailer. He thought I was great. He got money. He did a movie. It bombed.
"Time magazine asked a writer to do a story about me. The writer (Dean Brelis) was very annoyed. He came over to my studio and he barely concealed his contempt for me. 'Do you understand I'm a highbrow writer. I've written about presidents and prime ministers and the biggest people in the world. Somehow the editor of Time assigned me to you, you a public access guy who goes around and picks up girls on the street.'
"Like a lot of writers, he didn't live in the city. He lived in the suburbs. He didn't have a chance to see my show. He considered it so far beneath him, he practically insulted me to my face.
"We walked down Fifth Avenue. He said, 'I'm going to give you the acid test. I'm going to follow you by about ten paces. Don't acknowledge me. Don't turn around and talk to me. Just pretend I'm not there.'
"I started to chase a few girls. Not ten minutes passed, and he rushes up to me and says, 'Let's go into that coffee shop. I don't want to talk to you on the street.'
"His whole attitude changed. His face lit up completely. He said, 'George, I now see why I was told to do a story about you. You don't know these people but that was the president of Chase Manhattan who passed by. I know him because I did a story about him. He passed by with the vice-president. He kept a straight face while you walked by with the camera. As soon as you passed, they laughed and said, 'Did you see the tits on the babe Ugly George picked up last night?'
"And then it was the head of the stock exchange and Father So-and-So.
"Unfortunately, Time magazine never did the story.
"He said, 'The way you appeal to people in high places is unbelievable. Too bad they're all in the closet and they're not going to admit it.'
"I don't want to name a lot of names to you, especially over the phone. Kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers..."
Ugly George emails June 20:
Many of Orthodoxy's best known rabbis such as Yitz Greenberg, David Hartman, Emmanuel Rackman and Joseph Telushkin (all are favorite thinkers of mine except for Hartman) have almost no role and no influence on Orthodox Judaism (because they swung so far left in religious terms).
Greenberg got a lot of press for saying that the Holocaust changed the nature of the covenant between Jews and God. Because God did not keep up his end of the deal to keep Jews alive, He had to be more forgiving of Jews who did not live up the Torah's demands.
This is the type of fancy talk that theologians and other intellectuals love but it is meaningless. Why is the death of six million Jews in Europe during WWII change the covenant but the destructions of tens of thousands by the Romans two thousand years not change the covenant? Why does the unjust death of any person not change the covenant?
As Dennis Prager says, God gave the Jews a recipe to make a good world -- ethical monotheism. If the doctor doesn't give the medicine to the patient, the patient's going to get sick. The Holocaust wasn't the Jews fault but it was a consequence of the Jews not bringing the world to God and His moral demands.
Now that's talk that makes sense and should lead to behavioral changes (theological talk that doesn't lead to behavioral changes does not mean much).
In this 1998 book, Yitz praises womanizers Shlomo Carlebach and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
Yori Yanover writes: "In this 5th Century book, some rabbis praise womanizers King David and King Solomon."
Rob Barnett writes:
Ann Coulter At Maia Lazar's Graduation Party
Cathy Seipp hosted the party at her home in Silverlake Saturday afternoon. Ann spent a lot of time with Maia who's a big fan.
For only the second time in almost a decade (but the second time in two months), Friday Night Live was on the third Friday night of the month (normally it is the second) and this time there was no age limit for any of the activities.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life (sold about eight times as many copies as The DaVinci Code), walked in wearing jeans (where on earth did he get the idea that this is acceptable dress for a house of God on a holy day?) and a blue dress shirt. He walked down the aisle introducing himself, looking completely undistinguished yet seeming the model of the integrated man.
"He looks like he'd be the same no matter what context you saw him in," said a friend afterwards.
Warren is a natural public speaker and captivated the audience (though cell phones were going off all around me, I have never heard this in an Orthodox shul on Shabbos though I do see way too much gum-chewing in shul on Shabbos, pigs). He just came from a photoshoot with Brad Pitt for Newsweek's Best of the Best issue in two weeks.
Rick's embarking on an approximately 12-nation 30-day tour where he will meet the political leader of each country (starting with Australia's prime minister John Howard Sunday night) and many of its business elites to try to solve the world's most pressing problems.
Warren knew something about Judaism and made no foupes. He said he joined 27 religious leaders in signing a letter condemning torture. He said the U.S. has to stop using it (other than that, he didn't say anything controversial). I wonder what his stand is on gay marriage and other controversial matters such as the war in Iraq? How does he keep himself from speaking out on things where he has no expertise (a common weakness among the famous)?
10:30 p.m. I began my purpose-driven walk towards Pico/Robertson.
Saturday I went to a friend's Torah lecture over a delicious meal. He came up to me beforehand and said in honor of my earlier blog, he would not be handing out photocopies of the relevant sacred texts.
Good on him. They weren't needed. Handing out photocopies of sacred text is unnecessary unless you are going to be engaging in close textual analysis. Usually handing out these things is pretentious (an effort to make the speaker and the audience feel like they are going to do something rigorous when all they are really doing is hearing reheated homilies that challenge nobody and lead to no behavioral changes).
Then my friend courageously came out against indulging thoughts of lust, idolatry and heresy.
If only I had heard him last week, how much wickedness I would've avoided.
What's the best kosher sugarless teeth-whitening gum?
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists is a great book.
The protagonists taut yet supple mind reminds me of Rebecca.
Is that so wrong?
As I was studying the book like Torah during the Third Meal (shalosh sheudos), a friend said to me: "Why do you even bother coming to shul?"
It was a pleasant diversion from what I'm usually asked -- "Tell me about your memoir, The Making of a Gadol."
Walking home from shul, a friend asked me if I was coloring my hair.
I'm not coloring my hair. I'm using Grecian Formula. That's not putting artificial color in as much as allowing my real color, undimned by age, to come out.
I just spent half of a friend's $50 gift certificate to Amazon.com on two best of the Dallas Cowboys DVDs. The other half I must spend on Torah. That way I'm less of a dilettante than a Renaissance man.
Should a pornographer lead a Jewish charity?
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen writes:
Friday night. I read Jason Leopold's brutally honest memoir News Junkie in 90-minutes.
I kick myself for not talking to Jason when he appeared with Evan Wright and Allan MacDonell at the LA Press Club May 18.
At the time, I'd only read horrible things about Leopold and didn't have any reason to talk to him.
He was having a bad night. He'd claimed that Karl Rove (the President's advisor) had been indicted and news of it would break by May 19. It didn't.
I wrote off Leopold as a loser.
Then I read his book, recognized parts of myself, recognized some keen insights into journalism, and became intrigued.
Sunday morning, I went to a memorial lecture at a synagogue I betrayed. I had to walk into a place where I'd prayed and studied Torah almost every day for nine months only to be ejected in June 2001 when my "Levi Ben Avraham" front was pierced and Luke Ford revealed.
I had to look at the rabbi who'd given me beautiful tefillin. I had to face and shake hands with people who'd befriended me because they only knew me as "Levi" and not as "Luke Ford" the porn gossip columnist.
No matter how jaunty my hair and my swagger, I still feel sleazy.
I find it particularly nauseating to have to face up to times when I've done the dirty to others. When others have harmed me, I find it easy to hate them. But when I confront my true self and the people I've hurt, I hate that. I hate myself. I bounce between depression and anger.
I take lithium and company until I mellow out.
Sunday I take little pleasure in regaining my old seat. I mechanically shake hands and greet people. I once had close connections here but none of those friendships survived my ouster.
The people who are the friendliest know me the least.
No, that's not true, but it sounded good.
My relationship with this shul was a love affair gone wrong (because I wasn't who I presented myself as, though, frankly, if I had been honest, I would never had the chance for the affair in the first place, and it's better to have loved and lost).
Dear reader, you could walk in here and love everything about the place. The wood paneling is so exquisite, the rabbi is so passionate... But I'm returning to the scene of my crime.
I don't want to be here but it is right for me to be here. It's good for me to sit here once year for a couple of hours and re-experience the horror that my former friends felt when they read my old site lukeford.com (I sold it August 8, 2001).
Everybody gets a six-page handout for the lecture. What's with this Jewish fetish for photocopied handouts at every lecture? Even atheist Jew Eddie Tarbash uses them when he speaks publicly.
I rage that these handouts are phony. They represent what's wrong with Modern Orthodoxy. Putatively it's all about living the Torah in modernity but it's a sham.
I'm no scholar but I already know the basic Torah text and gist of the main commentators and I know how to dig up the other texts of the Jewish tradition on the internet. So what's with these handouts? I usually give them the same polite attention as those around me but only on rare occasions do I see anyone study them and write in their margins. And why should they? If a person wanted to study these texts, he could go home and do so. The only reason to go to a lecture is to hear the original insights of the speaker which are not going to be found on photocopies of sacred text.
By accepting these handouts, we all pretend that we're scholars and that we're going to delve into the text. But come on. It's a rare lecture that holds my attention all the way through, and if it does, I don't need the handouts because the lecturer always gives over the text orally.
Frankly, I'm so jaded these days, I give myself points for just showing up for the Torah and staying awake.
I may not be doing all I can to keep the Torah community alive but I want it there when I feel the need for it.
Most Torah lectures are just excuses to eat, see friends, and feel good about being Jewish without pushing oneself to think about the implications of what one is supposed to learn (and how modernity/reality challenges the assumptions from which the text is taught).
I want to get carried away when I go to a lecture so I am hanging on every word out of the speaker's mouth. I don't recall Beryl Wein or Dennis Prager distributing photocopies of sacred text before they speak.
There's definitely something phony in this practice, a fake pious obeisance to Torah, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
Maybe the problem is not in my text but in myself?
I want a speech to be as intense an experience as a good movie (such as Legends of the Fall).
Is that so wrong?
If I can feel that at a good black church, why can't I feel that in shul?
And I don't want a bunch of sweaty ugly people in either my movie or speech unless they are extraordinarily good or smart.
What do shuls do with all these handouts covered with God's name? I only carry one home when it is of particular interest to me. Otherwise it is too much trouble disposing of it (paper with God's name can't be thrown away, it can only be buried). If I am not going to dig up my landlord's backyard to bury such papers, what do I do with them? There should be a place in shul where you can dispose of your God-covered papers and old tzitzit (fringes) and the like.
Most of the time I'm in a Torah lecture, my mind wanders over the following topics:
What percentage of Modern Orthodox Jews have premarital sex? I bet at least 70%. I figure it's about 99% for non-Orthodox Jews. The only good reason not to have premarital sex is because you believe God says not to.
June 11 I don't think in shul about sex. I just feel sick.
I soothe my anxieties with several helpings of dessert.
I sit by a good man. He gives his full name. He tells me his profession. He asks me about myself. I try to keep the conversation light. "Sir," I think, "you really don't want to get to know me."
He's eaten bread. I try to avoid eating bread because you have to say a bunch of blessings before and after the meal if you eat bread and frankly it's usually not worth the hassle. Bread's just a bunch of carbs and it doesn't taste that great.
So what blessings do I have to say after my meal for eating a lemon tart (m'zonot)?
I know I have to say an abbreviated series of blessing but I don't want to.
The bread man wants to say his prayers of gratitude and I need to accompany the beginning of them. Then I need to carry off like I know what I'm supposed to say after eating m'zonot.
I rip off a few paragraphs of the Grace After Meals, put down my bencher (prayer book for meals), and move my lips while my soul and stomach churn.
Everyone needs a home. Orthodox Judaism is mine. If I have to go through the motions sometimes to stay in the club, that's a small price to pay.
I push myself to stay until I'm about the last person in the shul, which strikes me as so wrong that I abruptly rise and leave.
At 3:30 p.m., I gp to a wedding at the Reconstructionist temple in Pacific Palisades -- Kehillat Israel.
Reconstructionist Judaism reconstructed Judaism without God. I hate that.
I rant into my tape recorder as I drive down Sunset Blvd. I drive into the temple's parking structure but start to feel claustrophobic and back out and park on the street.
I walk in and see some Orthodox friends. I see some great racks. If I were not so religious, I'd imagine that it was me who was getting married and I'd never again get to possess another female body.
A pimple grows on my right cheek.
I read the chapter on how to impress women. For some reason, that's the section of the book of most interest to me. Cheating on cards, spotting a cheap suit and landing a jumbo jet just aren't high on my priorities.
The ceremony begins.
Yes, I want to theoretically reserve my right to frenchkiss in a secular setting, but not in a synagogue. At least not in front of everybody.
When I was in a particularly wicked mood a few years ago, I took my shiksa first date to the entrance of my shul where there was a security camera running and I made out with her.
But that was then and this is now. I'm a different man. I've left the part of me that likes to shock behind with my Air Supply CDs.
After the chupah ceremony, I stand in the sun and talk to a Christian couple.
"Are Jews still waiting for the Messiah?" he asks.
Though it's not possible, I try to convey to him that what is of premium importance to Christians plays little role in the lives of religious Jews. We don't wonder about when the Messiah is coming. We do our duty each day believing that eventually God will make everything right. That's all you need to know about Judaism's teachings on the Messiah and the Afterlife.
During dinner, I pick Aimee Golant's brain then run away from my assigned table to sit next to Jason Leopold.
An Orthodox friend writes me: