Columns - 1998

    Rabbi, open our eyes!

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    This month we open our mailbag to share the insights and observations of both our loyal readers, who have found inspirational and thought-provoking items which we have mercilessly ripped from today's headlines like the tag from a mattress.

    The first item comes from California, one of the first states to bring you affirmative action, and the first to repeal it. This haven for militantly unbridled progressive liberalism recently saw a sit-in protest in a government building broken up by police spraying pepper spray in the protesters' eyes.

    You may have heard about this. A home-video of this eye-opening incident saw considerable play on most major network newscasts, and a recent episode of "America's Runniest Home Videos."

    Nobody remembers what the protest was about anymore, but it will be remembered for performing the public service of giving people something new to protest about. You know it's a slow day when protesters are stuck protesting something that happened at another protest.

    The following quote appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, published in San Jose, Calif. -- a city which often seems like it's from another planet. The quote is from one Sigrid Cox, of Sausalito, Calif. -- a beautiful, artsy town just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Mr. Cox, who organized a subsequent anti-pepper-spraying protest on behalf of the group Earth First, said, "We were trying to show that Earth First isn't a fringe element. We had pretty impressive individuals. We had people who run companies. We had clergy. We had a Jewish rabbi.

    "Well, he's not a rabbi, but he's a Jewish optometrist."

    You may laugh. However, we believe that Mr. Cox is unknowingly reinforcing the fact that there are, not one, but two professions dedicated to making Jews see the world better. And they have much in common. Most Jews only see their optometrists and rabbis once a year. But at least optometrists let us read a magazine while stuck in their waiting rooms until we become Medicare-eligible, a luxury that is sorely missed during High Holiday sermons.

    The next item comes from Los Angeles -- a city which really IS on another planet. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times, covering news in Beirut, Lebanon, discussed the new guerrilla recruitment drive for this Shiite Muslim movement with a terrorist history. The article was entitled "Hezbollah works on image" with the subtitle "Islamic group uses good deeds, recruitment to polish reputation."

    What is the Hezbollah version of "Uncle Sam Needs You"? One popular recruitment ad promotes their hope for peaceful coexistence by stating, "The person should have the mental, psychological and physical ability to join in military operations for tasks such as planting bombs and attacking outposts."

    Experts do not expect a significant increase in enrollment resulting from this campaign. There is no explanation for this, though we theorize (we don't "guess"; a post-graduate degree allows one to "theorize") it may be because the ad was in English, and most of their potential recruits speak Arabic.

    But you have to respect the truth in advertising. Perhaps synagogues should try such a tactic in recruiting members and volunteer leaders. Such an ad might read, "Pay a percentage of your income to our synagogue, in return we'll let you give us most of your spare time and have you sit through four-hour meetings scheduled during Monday Night Football."

    Or, for those who haven't attended minyan in the past few weeks, "Those hundreds of dollars don't seem like much when you're stuck out in the rain on Yom Kippur instead of in our comfortable pews atoning for your sins, including, by the way, not volunteering time to your synagogue. Do they?"

    Finally, in business news, the LAD (Lord Almighty Dollar) himself, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, recently said, "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient."

    Rumours (since they were first reported in England, they're "rumours" not "rumors") that Microsoft is planning a new chain of IHOWs (Internet Houses of Worship), specialized for every religious denomination in the world, could not be confirmed. Orthodox Jewish sources decried such a practice as unacceptable. "How can you have Shabbat services on the internet if you can't use electricity?" asked one Orthodox rabbi who asked to remain anonymous in his email dated Saturday, Jan. 3, at 9:30 a.m.

    All attempts to reach Gates for comment on this subject have failed. He was nowhere to be found at the Catholic church his wife, Melinda, attends. "There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning," Gates has said. One can only wonder, given recent events, if he and Microsoft are courting disaster.

    The question is, as we all crawl out of bed every Saturday morning to check our email and aimlessly surf the Web until we notice it's three in the afternoon and time to start the day, "Is there something more we could be doing on a Saturday morning?"

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley, the heart of the computer industry, located in Northern California. Not to be mistaken with Silicone Valley, the heart of cosmetic surgery, located in Southern California.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.