Sunday, August 23, 2009

Battling Swine Flu with...a Shofar? Stephen Colbert Responds

You've got to wonder: How did this guy get through security with that thing? Don't they have metal detectors? You'd think it would have set off some type of alarm. Also, The passenger sitting in front of him doesn't look too happy. Sure, we've all had our in-flight horror stories - the baby that won't stop crying; the guy playing loud music that everyone can hear; the lost luggage. But I've never heard of anyone having to sit in front of a trumpet player on a flight. But I digress...
When I first began to see the reports, I instinctively cringed. Now, I'm not a kabbalist and I certainly don't know any kabbalistic prayers, but I've never heard of a prayer for a specific disease. And if there was a prayer that could rid a country of a disease, I'm not sure that I'd first go after the Swine Flu. (Anyone heard of cancer? Heart disease?) I've also never heard of blowing a trumpet or shofar to ward off H1N1 - but who knows? I could be wrong.
So it makes me wonder when people with the title "rabbi" make proclamations like,
"The purpose of the flight was to stop the epidemic," Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri told local media. "We are certain that because of our prayers, the epidemic is already behind us."
What I do know is that pictures and videos like these look absolutely ridiculous, and make a mockery of what the Judaism that guides and informs my life. Judaism is very much about connecting to God through the prism of the Torah. It is very much about study, instilling our lives with eternal values, improving ourselves, and living meaningful and productive lives.
Judaism is not - I repeat not - about using semi-magical formulas to rid a country of a specific virus with really good PR. (By the way - who's the Swine Flu's publicist? He should get a tremendous raise.) This smacks much more of Madonna's Kaballah than my Judaism. Just read this comment on USA Today about the Swine Flu flight:
LMFAO ... OMG this is funny. I thought Israel was supposed to be a country with ties to the 21st Century; instead we see that is closer to the lost tribes of New Guinea.
Absolutely and pathetic, the idea that Jewish Juju will have any effect on whether swine flu enters Israel.
You folks need to get lives, already.
I couldn't agree more.
I also know a little bit about public perception and modern media. Somehow, religious Jews just don't seem to get that modern media (1) feels very threatened by us (2) considers us backward and anachronistic and (3) looks for every and any opportunity to promote these two "facts." Just as a "Chassidic perp walk" makes for great copy, so too does a video or image of Chareidim throwing rocks and diapers at people looking for a place to park, or blowing a shofar at a virus from 15,000 feet.
Thankfully, Steven Colbert has come to the rescue, pointing out just how incredibly ridiculous the entire escapade seems. (He also makes a pretty good point: If you really can get rid of the swine flu, why just for Israel? Why not for the whole world?) Anyway, Colbert makes the point better than I could - and he's not a bad ba'al tokea either. Maybe Steve's got a future in kaballah. I've seen stranger things.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag- German Campaign, Russian Dogs & Flying Rabbis
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests