Jewschool: The Vort: Vayechi – Endings and Beginnings

Originally published on Jewschool.com.

I’ve always been something of a post-modernist, fascinated particularly with the ways in which form and content intersect, interact, support and destabilize each other. Blame it on an early obsession with Stephen Sondheim from an early age. (Yes, folks, that link is a peek into dlevy’s early high school adventures on the internet. But I digress.)

And the seasons, they go round and round...With that in mind, I find it particularly delightful to encounter parshat Vayechi during the week that our secular calendar advances a page. You see, the content of this week’s Torah reading involves Jacob putting his affairs in order at the end of his life, bestowing blessings on his sons (but not his daughter) and two grandsons (you can guess whose progeny they are) before shuffling off this mortal coil. But the form — oh, the form! First we’ll notice that this is the final nugget of Sefer Bereshit (aka Genesis, not the Peter Gabriel/Phil Collins band), the first book of the Torah. When this story ends, we get a flash forward to everybody’s favorite Easter Passover story, The Ten Commandments Sefer Shemot (aka The Book of Exodus, no not the Leon Uris one). That’s a new book – same scroll, but with a nice big, clear differentiation in the text. Plus, we divide our reading up so that we don’t get into that story until next week. And in case anyone wasn’t sure, we’ll all leap to our feet on Saturday morning and sing “חזק חזק ונתחזק” to punctuate the end of our current book. So between the end of the patriarchal era (ha! as if!), the end of the book of Genesis, and the rhythm of our Torah reading that keeps us from reading the next chapter until (at the very least) later on in the afternoon, we’ve got a nice, tidy ending to our story. Continue reading

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Jewschool.com: Further Innovations in Progressive Kashrut

Coauthored with The Wandering Jew. Originally published on Jewschool.com.

As readers might remember, dlevy and I like to cook. And we’re all about the organic, free-range food in our kosher kitchen. Okay, so one of us is all about the organic and free-range, and the other likes food that’s, well, gross. Sugary, deep-fried, processed, in a can? That’s dlevy’s idea of delicious. My influence can only go so far.

For what it’s worth, only one of us plucked and kashered free-range, local, nearly-organic chicken this year, and it wasn’t TWJ. Enjoying deep-fried, sugary goodness and caring about the planet and what goes into our body don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Organic Batter BlasterBut we were thinking: While others who care about Jewish food are affirming their views, and giving themselves pats on the back, at the Hazon Food Conference in California, what can we do from Jamaica Plain, MA? And then dlevy found his inspiration: Organic Batter Blaster! On many a grocery shopping trip, dlevy has lusted over this product, while I’ve laughed and mocked. The only thing stopping him from purchasing it in the past was the lack of hecksher. (Un)fortunately, that is no longer a hindrance as Organic Batter Blaster is now OU certified.

Join us as we take the OBB for its virgin run:

You down with OBB? Yeah, you know me!

PS: Suck it, Hazon.

PPS: Thanks to my brother, Frederick, for giving me the camera. He happens to be the author of 15 Minutes of Fame: Becoming a Star in the YouTube Revolution, but please don’t blame him for this video.