How Sushi has Challenged my Belief in God and Religion.

Sushi and God, Sounds crazy huh? Well… not quite as simple or as crazy as you may think:

Before I begin, this has been a long time coming, and I’ve thought over this a thousand times, but it’s become more poignant tonight, I think….

So I’ve been talking to someone for a while about going out for sushi, and we’ve not been able to find a time… Then, today I was about to text suggesting tomorrow when I remembered that it was Passover still.

For those that don’t know, Passover is the commemoration of the exodus of the Israelites from the Egypt. When they left Egypt, they didn’t have enough time to bake bread for the journey so ate the unleavened cakes… Cast yourself forward a few thousand lifetimes – Supposedly, in a nutshell, in order to observe passover, Jews nowadays don’t consume any bread or flour based products (which could rise.).. they also don’t eat any items that expand(Peas, rice, beans…etc) … and we change all our crockery, and cutlery over to special Passover sets… clean the house from top to bottom, and even sell our “non-Passover” products to non-Jews so that we don’t own any during passover.

I MUST add that we don’t all do all of the above…!!!

Also, one of the subsets of Jew – The Sephardim – do not prohibit the consumption of the “things that expand” (Also known as “Kitniyot“)

In my house, we change the crockery and the cutlery, and we don’t consume any Flour products or any items that expand. This is where my questioning began.

Where did the Israelites do this when they left Egypt… the next year, they didn’t whip out their second set of everything that they shlepped through the Desert to commemorate what they did the year before… Did they?!

Further more, the extremes to which people go to in order to observer passover: “Kosher for Pesach Tea bags, Milk, Washing up liquid…” DOES SOMEONE CRUMBLE BREAD INTO NORMAL TEA BAGS/ MILK/ WASHING UP LIQUID?!

It’s a known joke/fact, that to make something Kosher for Passover, you must do 2 things:

1) Attach a label that says “Kosher for passover”

2) Increase the price by at least 15%.

So, people say that you have to buy everything “Kosher for Passover” but my personal view is that, as long as there is nothing prohibited in the item, then you are ok – E.g. Where is there anything prohibited in Salmon, or ready salted crisps, or salad, or chocolate….

So according to some… by eating my crisps and chocolate, that aren’t “Kosher for Passover” I’m in contravention of the laws. But honestly, what is there that is prohibited  in your normally, perfectly fine fish/chocolate?!

 

My biggest bugbear is the custom of Kitniyot (expanding foods). As if you are Sephardi (Of Spanish or Portuguese background – sometimes including Israel) you are allowed to eat rice and beans and peas… SAYS WHO? … having done some research, it’s a bit hazy and the main consensus of the Ashkenazi (non-Spanish or Portuguese) Rabbi’s of years go by the ruling that you shouldn’t eat them where as the Sephardi ones disagree and say they are ok to be eaten on passover.

I draw your attention to the word Custom. It was decided by some Rabbi’s many years ago… Does that mean it’s what god wants?

 

Talking of God, let’s try and get back on topic (although I have SO MUCH TO SAY).

My next thought was, well what if I DON’T KEEP Passover… I know enough people that don’t… they haven’t been struck by lighting…

I don’t observe other festivals like the weekly Sabbath or the Omer. So to Sudo Quote the Haggaddah (The service book for the Passover services) WHY IS THIS FESTIVAL DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER FESTIVALS?

The short answer is: It’s not.

For me, the long answer takes a look at why I observe what I observe, and why I don’t observe all the festivals

I find the rules and regulations, which define what we cannot do, to be somewhat crazy. For example: On the Sabbath, normally, you wouldn’t be able to push your buggy from home to synagogue, but if you place a piece of wire around an area, then you are able do push your buggy as well as other things restricted without the wire (This is called an Eruv)

The one that annoys me the most, is the use of timer switches during the Sabbath… You are not allowed to flick the switch and create a spark… however you can know that at 6pm when it gets dark, the Timer switch will kick in and on come the lights… It’s breaking the Sabbath by proxy.

 

I could go on all day and night about the niggles of “religion” which annoy me. However I find religion is the wrong word for the practise of what I personally do.

I LOVE the Jewish Heritage. The music, the food, the global community, the togetherness and the special bond. I’ve walked through the Streets of Poland, and visited the concentration camps, and learned how hard it must have been to be Jewish in previous times. AND I felt a special bond to Israel when I visited (But I’m not sure I’d move out there… I feel a special bond to the UK too!)

I will not look to marry ouside of the “faith” as I’d like my children to share the same heritage as us, the “Jewish people”…

However, I wonder how much of our heritage and practise is Tradition Opposed to how much of our heritage and practise is Religion.

To quote Tevye, from Fiddler on the roof…. “You may ask, how did this tradition start? I’ll tell you…. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.”

I know that the majority if not all of what I do, is because of the tradition… I don’t think there’s much more belief left in me. However that wont stop me from going to synagogue and singing, the songs/saying the poems (oh sorry, prayers)… or keeping kosher… and Strangely, even though my logic says that this is all crazy… I won’t be going for Sushi until after the end of Passover.

 

EDIT: After thinking long and hard, I did actually go for sushi the night after writing this!!!!

The Thrill of the internet.

I ought to outline from the off, that this is not about internet porn sites. The title may suggest, but really it’s simply the thrill of the internet.

 

While researching some information relating to Windows 8 today at work, I was presented with screenshots of windows through the ages. The second or third picture was Windows 95.

Stupidly, foolishly and geekishly sounding, Windows 95 was where my computer history began. I remember watching over my granddad’s shoulder as he played games sent to him by friends on floppy disk.

 

Back then, we had no clue what was going to come of the computer and of the internet.

Windows 95 and it’s hopeful icons such as “Set up the Microsoft network”  (running in a virtual machine on windows XP!!!)

 

Our first computer was second hand… It was a sort of TV/Computer thing, which now days would be branded “Media Centre” It was way ahead of it’s time, yet suckishly lagging behind all in one go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivetti_Envision I remember it developing a fault, to which an engineer told us “your problem is you are turning it off… it’s only supposed to be put to sleep”.

 

I digressed from the internet for a short while, so let’s return…..

A short while after having the computer, my parents decided that only being able to play “Floppy Swap” with their friends was not enough, and that they would try some of this new fangled internet malarky.

Internet started for many users with the CDs that were given away by ISPs. Every paper, every magazine, HAVE A CD FROM 5 ISPs. Everywhere you looked you could find a CD from AOL with their new version of software…. the poor Sods, all those CDs in the 90s and early 00s but where are they now?! How a user chose an ISP was and still is beyond me… I’d have thrown CDs into a pile and picked the most colourful.

Those of you whom were adept in the internet usage of the 90s will remember that you had a binary choice. A 1 or a 0. Did you want to be able to make/receive phone calls or did you want internet?

When the internet choice was made, it was often accompanied by many shouts of “Get off there, I want to use the phone” OR “Oh, Aunty X said she was going to phone me at 6.30, if you’re on that computer, she won’t get through.”

Avid internet geekies will remember that many ISPs (Namely ours – freeserve) would not connect you to the internet unless after 6pm. Meaning that we’d gather round the computer at 5.40 awaiting 6 to arrive so we could dial to the world.

This waiting till 6pm gave a thrill, a magic, a mystery to the world of the internet. As a young child I often wondered if the world would end if we dialled up before 6?Would a little man explode as there was a call to early? Working in IT, I now know, We’d have just got a rejection message and no connection until 6pm.

At 6pm, a connection was created. Mother clicked some buttons, Typed a password… and the computer started making a funny noise… INTERNET HAD INITIALISED.

The internet made us, or maybe just me, feel a sense of excitement – this element of mystery which involved bright colourful (16 bit) Images, and text magically zapping down the phone line, only after 6pm.

Back in the 90s, had the Harvester EarlyBird deal been more wide spread (or even in existence  you could have popped out for your cheapo Harvester meal before 6, and then been back in time for the internet. However… as things evolve… Earlybird and Internet are both available all day now…. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Internet is now available all day. Not just all day but everywhere you go. (Ok, Not EVERYWHERE but you know what I mean) It’s so in your face that you take it for granted. Each time I tap the icon on my phone to tweet some pointless information to 600ish followers who probably don’t give a damn about my latest meal, or temperature… I forget the thrill of the internet.

Internet vs phone is no longer a binary choice… you can natter on the phone while internetting, and family rows have henceforth decreased. Internet connectivity allows us to communicate pictures, voice, video and text to eachother, around the world in a matter of seconds from within the palms of our hands, now wirelessly on our mobile phones….

I can bet you, that none of us, gathered round our computer at 6pm in the late 90’s thought, that within 10 years, we’d be internetting, from our palms, all day, at nearly 10x the speed… all without a promotional CD ROM.

So next time your internet connection goes down, or your phone/laptop battery dies… Just pretend it’s before 6pm and you are waiting for the magic to happen…. and when connection/battery is restored…. think carefully as you reconnect, as to what we could be doing differently in just 10 years time.