Thursday, April 25, 2013

long overjew

Let's laugh at some Jews. I don't mean in a Holocaust-y kind of way, merely at the ridiculousness of some of their more outlandish religious practices.

You'll recall my unseemly chortling over the kosher telephone, the kosher light switch, the kosher lift and the kosher fridge. Well, here's a rather more public display of hilariously unreflective obedience to authority, however barking that authority's rulings may be: a bloke sealing himself inside a plastic bag on a plane.

An over-cautious approach to on-plane hygiene, you might think, or perhaps it was just that he wanted to ensure not a single morsel of airline food would pass his lips. But no, it's nothing as sensible as that; apparently certain ultra-Orthodox Jews are so pure that they will be irredeemably tainted by proximity to a cemetery. And not just any form of proximity, this is strictly vertical proximity we're talking about here. You can sidle up as close as you like in terms of horizontal separation, right up to the boundary fence, and you'll be fine, but even if you're 35,000 feet above it you'll be tainted. Look, I've drawn you a picture.

So the critical thinkers in the audience will be asking the following sorts of questions:
  • What form does this impurifying agent take?
  • How might we detect it?
  • Why does it only spread vertically and not horizontally?
  • Does it go down or only up? What if you were in a Tube train under a cemetery?
  • Why does the plastic bag stop the zombie voodoo but six feet of earth, 35,000 feet of air and the aircraft superstructure doesn't?
  • How would you tell, after the fact, if you or someone you were with had become impure owing to unwitting exposure to cemetery-based tainting? Is there a test?
  • Is there really anything about intra-aircraft impurity security in the ancient scrolls?
What I really love about this is that the answer to the last question is clearly "no", so you (as an orthodox Jew) need to rely on the teaching and interpretation skills of your local rabbi. In this case the rabbi, one Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, came up with the plastic bag solution after some serious thought and just making a whole bunch of stuff up at random, as follows:
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, the leader of the Lithuanian Haredi community in Israel, published a halakhic ruling in the past stipulating that Cohens mustn't fly in this plane because they are prohibited from flying over a cemetery. Later, Rabbi Eliashiv found a solution to this issue, ruling that wrapping oneself in thick plastic bags while the plane crossed over the cemetery is permissible.
So basically in the absence of anything in the Torah that says Thou Shalt Not Fly In A Plane Over A Cemetery he just pulled something out of his arse.

There does seem to be a bit of previous for all this stuff in modern Judaism, though. If you've ever encountered the concept of an eruv then you'll be forced to marvel at the ingenuity of modern Jews in subverting the supposedly unquestionable tenets of their whole religion. It is amusing to the non-believer, though, to see the utterly ridiculous contortions the devout will go to to be able to still live and do stuff that they need to do while obeying some squinty-eyed version of the letter of the law of their own particular brand of idiocy, while ignoring the most obvious solution to the problem, which of course is to abandon the idiocy altogether.

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