For Christmas, Dennis Prager is Going as the Dumbest Man Alive

It’s that time of year again. The time when stores play sexy gospel choir versions of Jingle Bells on a loop, tinsel is draped over cheap crap and the most repugnant Jews to be found outside of a porn convention write essays about how much they love Christmas.

I never know why people take Dennis Prager seriously. It has to be some kind of joke that Christians are playing on Jews by picking the dumbest Jew they could find and pretending that he’s a thinker.

Prager doesn’t think. He’s a well meaning but dimwitted man who says pleasant things that are as deep as a greeting card. Usually it’s inoffensive. Prager is a Jewish Bill Cosby, the sitcom version not the real life version. If your grandma would knit it on a sampler, Prager is capable of expressing it. If there’s a dumb idea most people carry around, Prager will barf it up. The trouble is that Prager’s brand is Jewishness and he’s as Jewish as a ham sandwich on rye.

Being an ass, Prager can’t help but join the herd and write an article about how much he loves Christmas. And being an ass who trades on his Jewish roots to Christians, the damn thing is titled, “Why this Yeshiva Boy loves Christmas.”

Young Prager was in Morocco when he realized that he missed Christmas. A smart man would put that down to a generalized homesickness for all things American. But Prager spent years “thinking” about this phenomenon and coming to “conclusions”.

Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home and in yeshivas (Orthodox religious schools where half the day was devoted to religious, and half the day to secular, studies), I had, of course, never celebrated Christmas. How, then, could I miss something that I had never had? How could I, raised in an Orthodox Jewish world, miss the quintessential Christian holiday?

I subsequently spent a lot of time reflecting on why this yeshiva boy would miss the Christmas season.

Answer 1. You’re homesick

Answer 2. You’re a bad Jew

But Young Prager could have been excused on 2 for being young. Old Prager has no such excuse. He’s just a bad Jew.

I came to two life-changing realizations.

Dennis Prager uses “life-changing realizations” the way other people yawn. Every damn thing is a life-changing realization for him.

“Honey, we’re out of raspberry yogurt. And that’s a life-changing realization because why are we so driven to need yogurt. What is yogurt anyway? And where do we go when we die? Will there be yogurt there?”

First, though my yeshiva world did everything possible to ignore Christmas — we had school on Christmas Day, and we had a “midwinter vacation” at the end of January instead of a Christmas vacation — I really liked the Christmas season.

Being a bad Jew is a life-changing realization, but Prager is not aware that he’s a bad Jew. So there is no life-changing realization.

He’s the teenager who realizes he likes ham and wants to keep on eating it, but doesn’t understand the implications of that.

My world in New York had consisted of an Orthodox home, Orthodox synagogue, Orthodox yeshiva, and Orthodox friends. In that world, one’s American identity was never denigrated, but it was largely ignored. And Christianity was entirely ignored (though it was an annual ritual in my home to watch the midnight Mass from Rome).

Dude, if your home had an annual tradition of watching the mass from Rome you were not Orthodox.

And what the hell does watching the mass from Rome have to do with an American identity? Most protestants in 1923 would say you were less American for it.

Until I was in college, my contact with Christianity was almost nonexistent — except for Christmas decorations and Christmas music. Morocco made me realize that I missed something Christian and that I felt profoundly American.

And that’s the point where you should have just converted and gotten it over with.

Also Americans don’t talk about feeling profoundly American. Anyone who talks like that is an immigrant who thinks that he feels profoundly American every time he goes to watch the fireworks go off on the Fourth.

As the years passed, I came to treasure this season and to fall in love with America and its distinctive values (what I call the American Trinity: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum). While director of a Jewish institution from 1978 to 1983, I volunteered to be Santa Claus for the Simi Valley Rotary Club, of which I was a member. So, during the same week that I led Sabbath services and study for about a thousand Jews, I also went to my Rotary Club meeting (what is more American than the Rotary Club?), and I was the Santa Claus for a local department store.

I’m not sure but I think this is why we used to have stonings. But you can’t stone a man whose head is already an impenetrable rock.

It is that season now, and I never fail to get goose bumps when I hear Burl Ives sing “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” let alone when I attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah, surely the greatest religious music ever composed. I love hearing people wish each other “Merry Christmas.” When my Jewish-day-school-attending children were young, I used to take them to see homes that had particularly beautiful Christmas lights.

Confessions of a shallow man #123.

Prager thinks this is meaningful when it’s just embarrassing. There’s no larger message here except that Prager’s parents failed to pass down their religion to their son and their son is failing to pass it down to his children. It’s the quintessential failure of American Liberal Jews on display here.

And yes despite Dennis Prager getting a candy cane in his pants for Christmas, he’s still a Liberal Jew and a secularist who is too dumb to realize these “life changing realizations”.

Those who wish to remove Christmas trees from banks and colleges and other places where Americans gather are not only attempting to rob the 90 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas of their holiday, they are robbing this Jew, too.

This Jew has already been robbed of his Jewishness. There’s nothing left to rob him of but his lame adoration of the secularized trappings of a Christian holiday.

And I first realized all this in a Muslim country.

And somewhere in Milwaukee, a Jew from Morocco realized that he really does miss the sound of the Muslim Call to Prayer.

How To Make Your Chrismukkah Special

It’s that time of year again. Holiday Season. What holiday? Don’t ask too many questions. The devil is in the details, also on parts of Fifth Avenue and hanging around loitering suspiciously in the Wall Street area.

It’s that special Holiday time when families composed of a mommy and daddy who believe in different Gods (or more likely don’t believe in one at all) have to decide how many holidays they’re celebrating, in what order and why the Jews nailed Santa to a giant Menorah.

Sure they could have thought of this before they got married, but they were convinced it was going to be one of those simple little problems that could be solved with an affordable book from the STUPID LIFE DECISIONS section of the bookstore. And while there are no shortage of books, DVD’s and VCR instruction manuals on the subject… none of them get around the basic problem. Not even INTERMARRIAGE FOR DUMMIES or WORSHIPING DIFFERENT GODS TOGETHER FOR IDIOTS.

But we’re Americans. We want things solved quickly and we want them solved now. Like Iraq, or oil prices or TV dinners.

With that in mind, let’s harness the problem solving energy of an Iraqi TV dinner made out of Crude Oil with an IED stuck in the center… and solve this whole damn interfaith couple holiday celebration problem.

1. The Chanukah Bush

You’ve probably heard of the Chanukah Bush already. No it’s not what happens when George W. Bush lights a Menorah. It’s an attempt to combine an Ashera tree with a ceremony celebrating how the Jews drove the Greek Pagans out of the Temple. That’s right up there with trying to make a Black KKK. Sure you could do it, but it really misses the point.

But if you’re determined to degrade two sets of religious traditions in order to maintain the fiction that this whole mess is workable, here’s an easy guide to making your own Chanukah Bush.

First buy a Christmas Tree. Put lots of ornaments on it. Add a bunch of Menorah candles. Light them. Wait for the tree to begin burning. Try to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. Stay close to the floor while crawling out of the nearest exit. Call the Fire Department. Collect your insurance money. Try to think of the experience as a metaphor for your marriage.

2. Talking to the Children

Sure you could go the circuitous route, but let’s cut to the chase. The best way to tell the children the truth is to be honest. Or we can just get it straight from the mouth of babes.

“Mommy and Daddy decided they loved each other more than God or their heritage, and so they got married. Except now Mommy calls Daddy a Kike, and Daddy calls Mommy a Shiksa, so that didn’t work out so well. Now at the end of every year we get a big batch of burned cookies shaped like Dreidels and Christmas Wreaths.”

3. Buy a Book

Everyone knows self-help books can surmount any problems. The Samurai Mohel recommends, Padre Rabbi Flannery O’Goldstein’s MOMMY IS A SHIKSA AND DADDY IS A KIKE. There are pop up pictures too, and an attached miniature fire extinguisher.

It doesn’t really matter because at 16 your kids will either become Zen Buddhists, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews or Serial Killers. Or a few of those things at the same time. Don’t bother trying to fight it. It’s inevitable.

4. What the Hell Do We Do Now?

One of you could convert and repress your rage, while the other feels uncomfortable and begins to resent you right back. Or you could finally get that divorce you’ve been talking about. Or you could celebrate Festivus. Of course Festivus originated when a Seinfeld writer’s crazy father made them sit in the dark and traumatized them for hours, and like all childhood traumas eventually made for great comedy. You can also move to Easter Island, where every day is WORSHIP THE GIANT HEAD DAY.

5. I Don’t Have to Listen to This!

You’re right, you don’t. Close the page. It’s not that hard.

6. Judaism and Christianity are compatible.

Sure they are, just ask Rabbi Cardinal Shmuel Capistranno

7. I Wanted Useful Tips for an Interfaith Holiday

There is no such thing as an Interfaith Holiday. That’s an idea invented by marketing executives, just like using Holiday, instead of specifying which one you’re talking about.

Try telling someone you were born on a Holiday. Then when they keep asking you what Holiday, you keep repeating, HOLIDAY, WHAT ARE YOU DEAF?

There is no Chrismukkah or compatibility between Chanukah and Christmas except at the shopping mall where all holidays get rendered down into credit card debt and long lines. Chanukah and Christmas are not just traditions, they’re expressions of belief in two radically different visions and versions of history.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a deity the Jews supposedly killed, before the religion he spawned spread across the Greek and Roman world. Chanukah celebrates the Jews kicking the Greeks out of their country for trying to make them worship gods who were born, died and needed loincloths to cover up their embarrassing parts. Do you see the connection?

Chanukah and Christmas hate each other’s guts. If they were members of the same family, they would be in therapy. If you try to make your family celebrate both at the same time, you will be in therapy. Celebrating both at the same time is like trying to vote Democratic and Republican in one election. No matter how you try to make it work, eventually there will be a recount and your vote will only count once, if it’s even counted at all.

It’s possible to have an Atheist or Agnostic or Satanist family, but not an Interfaith family. If no single belief wins out, then what’s left is a big blank space.

20. What’s the Point of All This?

Suppose I have a Lexus and a Cadillac and I decide that they’re both such great cars that I want to drive them both at the same time. Now I’m obviously some kind of crazy rich Hillbilly, but that’s not the point. People try and tell me that I’m wrong, but I’m too drunk on moonshine to listen.

So I stick one foot in one car and one foot in the other. One hand in one car and one hand in the other. After a lot of acrobatics, I still can’t get either car started. Finally I decide that the only way to make my fantasy of a LexusCaddy come true, is by crashing one car into the other.

That’s exactly what I do. Two cars smash into each other in a crumpled mess of steel and leaking gasoline. Now I have an interfaith car.

Any questions? Direct them to Monsignor Rabbi Pierre Cohen at the Abbey of Our Lady of Perpetual Slivovitz. I’m done for for the evening.

Sacred Cows and Clown College

There are many unanswered and unanswerable questions.

Why is the sky blue?

Why is it sometimes pink?

Why does it sometimes turn black?

Why is there a Mormon blogger at the LA Jewish Journal and why does he offer hopelessly ignorant opinions about Judaism?

Do you see me offering my views on what Mormons need to do about their religion based on my knowledge of the religion based on a South Park episode and stuff I heard from Mormon critics?

But that doesn’t stop Mark Paredes from doing it. The topic is Women at the Wall, a group that I might almost sympathize with except for the fact that they really don’t care about praying, but do care about publicity stunts.

Everyone gave kudos to Rabbi Eliezrie for volunteering to be the Orthodox lightning rod for the evening, but I found his arguments less than compelling. His main justification for the denial of certain religious rights to women at the Western Wall was that “Jews have been praying this way for 3300 years, since the days of King Solomon.” Needless to say, his Reform and Conservative colleagues took exception to this statement. The night’s best line went to Rabbi Judith HaLevy, who noted that Jews don’t slaughter animals at the Western Wall today “even though they did it at the time of King Solomon.”

This has so much stupid in it that it’s over its accepted stupid weight.

I’m assuming that Rabbi Judy is a Reform Rabbi and has no clue about Judaism, but whatever Clown College turns out Reform Rabbis should still explain at some point between the two years of ecology, the one year of diversity and the one year with the Peace Corps that Jews (actual Jews from then until 1842) believe that sacrifices are held in abeyance until the rebuilding of the Temple.

Stupid laugh lines like these come from Stewart and Colbert politics. They’re an ignorant show of ignorance.

I can see why many Orthodox Jews are not impressed by liberal Jews’ willingness to change their traditions simply because they think that it’s a good idea to do so. However, invoking King Solomon to defend your practice of exclusion isn’t terribly convincing, either.


1. Fuck you

2. It doesn’t have to be “convincing”. It’s what the religion is.

When people do something for 3300 years this is their way of doing it. That may sound circular to people who follow a religion made up by a guy in the 19th Century but even Mormons have their traditions. I may not like that tradition. Mark and Judy may not like our tradition, but that counts for fuckall because they are outside that tradition.

I am not going to walk into the big Saints cathedral and demand that they change things and if a Mormon critic tries that same stunt, I doubt very much that Mark will be on her side. Trying to hijack someone else’s sacred space and then demanding that they account to you for their traditions is typical liberal bullshit.

No one is obligated to account to anyone else for their traditions. Reform Judaism wrote out Jerusalem and the Temple from their religion. They can no longer demand any rights to them.

If they want to pray their way at a wall, they can build their own damn wall. They gave up this one when they gave up on the tradition.

However, on a night when only one prominent rabbi in the Los Angeles Orthodox world was willing to engage in a public dialogue on religious pluralism, I do feel comfortable offering an outsider’s opinion on which argument I found most compelling.

This is why. But no, not really. There’s no dialogue to be had on religious pluralism.

If you believe that the word of G-d is unchanging, then what is there to have a dialogue about with people who believe that it comes and goes any way you please? How can you even talk about pluralism if you reject the concept of plural approaches, some of which reject the word of G-d?

After all, while the Torah does state that priests in ancient Israel were male descendants of Aaron, modern Rabbinic Judaism doesn’t have priests, priesthood, or temples. Rabbis are teachers and decisors of Jewish law, not priests.

Mark’s thought process here was that he didn’t have to actually learn anything about Orthodox Judaism before writing about it. And that’s fine. Knowing what the hell you’re talking about is exclusionary.

Sure my synagogue has priests and they are called up first to the Torah and they bless the congregation. There are even regularly blessings by the priestly descendants of Aaron at the Western Wall… but Mark is probably right.

As a Mormon I believe that the Israelite priesthood has always been conferred exclusively on men, and I understand that men were almost exclusively the teachers and judges in ancient Israel, but in a modern world with many female teachers and judges, what is the theological objection to authorizing female rabbis if they don’t hold the priesthood?

How can a human being write up a sentence, a paragraph, a post, that is this contradictory without being aware that he’s doing it? Honestly it’s a mystery to me.

Mark Paredes believes that the priesthood, his Mormon priesthood, is conferred only on men. And then he asks what our objection is, in this modern world, to female Rabbis, because we couldn’t possibly have anything in our religion with as much standing as the Mormon belief that etc…

How can one man be this blithely stupid?

Our religion is our theology. Our theology is our religion. No religion or idea stands up to sufficient examination. You can deconstruct everything into piffle and that doesn’t make you smart, it makes you destructive.

Religion is faith and tradition. You are either part of it or you’re not. We can spend 4 days explaining it and it will end up right there after all the words are spilled out. Our religion is what we do. You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to respect it. But you have to deal with it.

This is who we’ve been for 3300 years. These are the people whose traditions and scriptures you used as the basis for your own religion. And if you think that your religion has value, then maybe the original source of it has some value that you should respect as well without walking in like a tourist and gawking at all the funny Jews who still think like they did 3300 years ago.

We can argue theology and the place of X, Y and Z in Judaism, the logical paths that we took to get here, but really this is who we are. Deal with it.

So Wrong, In So Many Ways

“The war of the Maccabees was the world’s first ideological war, fought by a small band of pious Talmudic scholars who engaged in cutting stealth warfare.”

No. No, no and no.

Talmudic scholars? Really?

The War of the Maccabees wasn’t the first ideological war in history. Not if by ideological war you mean a conflict over beliefs.

And Talmudic scholars? Even by the whole “Yaakov Avinu learned in Yeshiva for twenty years” school of logic this doesn’t pass muster. How do you have Talmudic scholars before the Mishna? How do you have Talmudic scholars before Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi?

The Maccabees were Kohanim. They were also scholarly. We know they were educated. But does Aish have to sell its BT learning programs with a statement so risible?