What’s Jewish About Downton Abbey?

I started watching this show a few years ago. I’d seen documentaries about its real-life setting, Highclere Castle, and I’d been hearing rave reviews about it, but I’d never actually seen it. But I could not for the life of me get the commercials out of my head. So I checked Season One out from the library.

I was hooked. Wealth, servants’ gossip, and illicit affairs (Yes, I’m talking about you Lady Mary; you didn’t really think I’d forget the whole Mr-Pamuk-died-in-your-bed affair in a hurry, did you?) It was everything that a good story should be.

But the further in I got, the more it began to disturb me. Downton was uncannily similar to biographies I had read about the Hasidic rebbes. A passage in Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman particularly stuck out to me: “Where, I wonder, is the brotherly love that G-d commanded Jews to feel for each other, now, in this community that calls itself holy? Back in Europe, Zeidy says, no one would dream of fighting to be called a rabbi. In fact, they often turned down the position when it was offered to them. A man truly worthy of being a rabbi is a humble one. He is not in search of power or recognition. But in this day and age, rabbis are chauffeured in black Cadillacs and have private ritual baths built into their opulent homes. They are the celebrities of the Hasidic culture.Children trade rabbi cards and boast of having rabbinical connections. On Purim, the holiday of masquerades, they Scotch-tape long beards made of white cotton balls to their chins, drape themselves in faux-fur coats, and walk with the aid of a shiny wooden cane. What more does every child dream of than to grow up to be a rabbi, or at least a rabbi’s wife?”

Deborah is right. Modern-day rabbis have become entirely too damn much like the stuffy, English well-to-do Crawley family portrayed on the show. A man who really is worthy to be a rabbi is humble, modest and doesn’t try to climb up the social ladder.

What do you think?


Crispy Mushroom Cheese Appetizer

1 pack garlic naan

4 tablespoons basil pesto

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

2 cups sauteed sliced mushrooms-use a blend for more flavor

Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Saute naan in oolive oil until crispy on both sides. Remove from pan and top with remaining ingriedients.

Do you have a delicious way to tweak this recipe to make it your own? Share it in the comments section below.

10 Reasons Jews Should Vote for Bernie Sanders

I used to think that it was a bad idea to mix religion with politics, but I’ve decided to cast that belief aside. So here goes:

  1. He supports universal healthcare. Taking care of one’s health is essential, for how could we serve Hashem if we did not? Here’s what the Lubavitcher Rebbe said.
  2. In the early 1960s, Clinton was volunteering for a senator who voted against the Civil Rights Act. Sanders, however, was getting arrested for protesting segregation in schools.  Still not sure how that affects us as Jews? Does this ring any bells?
  3. Sanders voted against the Iraq war (the one Bush got us into), in which 37 Jews were killed. This doesn’t sound like a lot compared to all the casualties, but of course, the media and the American people could give two cat shits about this.
  4. He isn’t ashamed of who he is but doesn’t shove it down the throats of those that don’t want it, unlike a choice few other politicians I could mention but who shall for the time being remain nameless.
  5. His top ten donors aside from voters are labor unions, in which American Jews have participated since the 1880s.
  6. He opposes the death penalty. Here‘s what Judaism says.
  7. He opposed bombing Syria.
  8. Mr. Sanders was against the No Child Left Behind law. Education is something which the Torah places extremely heavy emphasis on. According to this, a father is commanded to teach his sons and daughters Torah.
  9.  Sanders never once denied the existence of climate change. Click here for more information about the Jewish response to global warming.
  10. And lastly, but certainly not least,  Mr. Bernie wants to redistribute the nation’s wealth more equally between the rich and the working class.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Liked this article? Have other reasons aside from the ones listed above why Sanders should be the one to call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home? Did this post pique your interest and curiosity? Share your thoughts, opinions, and feels in the comments below! #feelthebern

Coffee with the Besht

Who was the Besht? The Besht is an acronym for “Baal Shem Tov,” or “Master of the Good Name.” His full name was Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, and he is known as the founder of Chasidism. The Chasidishe movement is prevalent in our American society today. Pop culture doesn’t even begin to describe the wide rainbow of the frum world. You’ve got your BTs, you’ve got your slut-shaming Haredi asshats, your relaxed-but-still-frum Jews, and your innovative Hasidim.

Until about three hundred years ago, everyone had their own shul: One for the carpenters, one for the rich scholars, one for the extremely learned and pious Torah teachers, and even one for the dirt poor dregs of the Jewish world.

But the Baal Shem Tov  wasted things to be different. He wanted Jews of all shapes, sizes and colors to daven as one. So he founded the Hasidic movement we all know today. Yes, I’m talking about the black hats, the fur shtreimels, the wigs, the long skirts, and the yeshivas you’ve undoubtedly seen or heard about. They’re one and the same.

The Besht taught that everything happens because of Divine Providence. For example, if you’re crossing the road on the way to the library and you drop some change, that was beshert. You can find a list of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings (including the one mentioned here) here and a biography of him here. What do you think?

Weekly Parshah Commentary: Vayakhel

This week’s parshah is Vayakhel, in which G-d tells Moshe Rabbeinu how to build the Mishkan. But when you think about it, it’s really about relationships. The Mishkan is a symbol of Klal Yisroel’s relationship with Hashem, which is why the Mishkan had to be decorated so lavishly. After all, if the head CEO at your company were coming to dinner, would you serve him/her ramen noodles in a paper bowl? Of course not! S/he’d be served the choicest meats, the most buttery rolls, and the ripest fruits in your best china bowls . Serving G-d is much the same. Would you do it half-assed? No! You’d strive for your personal best.

Preserving a relationship with G-d isn’t easy. Take it from me; I used to think He hated me for all the bad things I did. I lied. I stole. But slowly, I realized that I was right. G-d may have hated me, but He sure as hell needs me, else I wouldn’t be here. To quote a very wise woman who shall for the time being remain nameless, we’re put in this world to do stuff.

I struggled in my faith many times during my life. Hell, I still do. But at the end of the day, I always thank Him for everything. No argument lasts forever, and mine were no different. What do you think?