Rethinking the 4th

July 3, 2009

Bruce-USA

It’s fair to say that I am somewhat fascinated with the 4th of July.  The all-day BBQs usually satisfy my carnivorous appetite, no matter how predictable or repetitive I am still a sucker for a sub-par fireworks show, and I become giddy with a genuine patriotic joy when I see those complimentary plastic American flag covering the majority of neighborhood lawns.

There is something quite marvelous and Rockwellian about the entire spectacle. (Note: I am currently sitting at a café and the barista just started to play Bruce Springsteen – Greatest Hits. I can’t tell if Mr. Barista’s selection is ironic or sincere but needless to say, his timely musical choice works pretty darn well with the weekends Americana-inspired ambiance.)

Yet, I would like to point out that this classic mid-summer production has a void; that is, the way most of us relate to its historical purpose. It’s not that the holiday doesn’t have a connection with the past. Indeed, far from it. The day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from those big bad tyrannical Brits on the other side of the Atlantic.

I have beef with the fact that most of us don’t seriously acknowledge the historical narrative (booo taxes! booo king! yay freedom!) when celebrating Independence Day. Think about it for just a moment: the birth or our country in America is covered in a-historic, let’s just enjoy the here and the now, clothing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three world famous pastry chefs cooking up some hamantaschens for Purim 2008

I do not necessarily consider myself a religious Jew or even a celebratory kind of guy for that matter. But if I am picking and choosing my holidays with a discerning and skeptical eye, I think it is safe to say that Purim makes the cut. It is not a top five holiday (that exclusive list consists of Passover, Fourth of July, Yom Kippur, Guy Fawkes Day, and Festivus of course) but it still finds its way onto a top ten list.

Jews annually celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar (which is today’s date if you are one of those too-cool-for school non-conformists that shuns the efficiency of the Gregorian calendar and buys into that whole Hebrew calendar lunisolar thing).

The story itself, which is recorded in the Book of Esther, has the same basic narrative arc as many other classical Jewish texts – some wacko foreign hot-shot wants to destroy the Jews but the evil maniacal plan foiled and the Jews live to see another day. Yay underdogs! Yay miracles! Yay survival! And today Jews are supposed to go to synagogue, pray, and eat chow-down symbolic foods to celebrate avoiding annihilation and genocide.

And while the basic story doesn’t scream originality, the Purim account has a few out of the ordinary quirks that are worth mentioning:

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