Columns - 2001


    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    Given the history of Judaism, one might wonder if we do, in fact, live in the image of the Big G in some small way through our being motivated by the Almighty $. Specifically, the catering dollar.

    Don't get me wrong. I like caterers. Especially when they serve those little frosted cube name-cakes with the French name I can't spell or pronounce in public, or any dessert uncontaminated by four layers of fruit. Or at least when they don't put anything in my food in response to lost business attributed to this column.

    As you flip through the pages of this newspaper (if you're reading this on the web, this technical writer is compelled to remind you that flipping the screen is not recommended), you will likely find announcements for births, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, bnai mitzvot (or, in Yiddish, "bar mitzvahs"), and various other generally positive and heavily catered events. What you won't find, however, is a single announcement for a bris.

    The bris is the one Jewish lifecycle event we never see announced in the newspaper. Why?

    The clever reader might say that there are never bris announcements because the birth announcement pretty much takes care of establishing the timeframe for the bris, unless there's a particular medical issue with the child. We are currently looking for another clever reader. To apply, email

    Not satisfied with the answer, and compelled to seek the truth by the natal cries of every newborn male member of "the club", we did what any respected media outlet would do to seek a reliable answer to a pressing societal issue: we took a poll.

    The results of the poll cannot be disputed. Neither respondent is from Florida. Without question, they both believe that we never see newspaper announcements for a bris because nobody wants to save those clippings.

    But before you get all snippy with me, let me remind you that you're too late. This column is, after all, dedicated to waxing poetic and prophetic about all slices of ritual life.

    But cutting back to our main topic this evening´┐Ż (If it's not yet evening where you're reading this, slow down. Spell out the words. The Mishna tractate Baba Gump clearly states that you must wait until there are three stars in the sky before you can begin reading this column. Unless it's cloudy, then you can start when the six o'clock news is talking about Auburn basketball. It's also okay to read during lunch if you're in a crowded restaurant where you can make a scene from laughing too hard while reading this.)

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled topic, Jewish history is replete with examples that prove that the catering industry had it in good with the Big G. First, look at the examples above and find one Jewish ritual where food is not involved.

    Okay, Yom Kippur. I heard that. Yea, you in the bunny slippers and blue robe. Nice try. All Yom Kippur does is make you so hungry that you can't wait to get to that break fast and all the yummy bagels. You'd pay $25 for a pound of week-old lox by then. Heck, out here in California, you could almost get a whole tank of gas for that these days.

    Of course, that observation applies only to cars. Not those oversized, gas-guzzling, view-obstructing, wedging-themselves-into-spaces-marked-"compact"-that- their-glove-compartments- are-too-big-for, acronym-named mini-houses that are becoming more popular with people that have no business in control of a machine bigger than a Pontiac T1000 than questioning Bush's cabinet appointments.

    Now, if today's ritual glitz and gefilte fish doesn't convince you, let's look throughout Jewish history for the canonized soups du jour:

    Adam and Eve. Who do you think put that apple there? It's a major plot point. Without it, do you think we'd have been exiled from Eden to face a world where you can't have your Chick-Fil-A on Sundays? (Or every day out here, goldarnit!)

    Noah. Okay, they don't include the pantry inventory list from when they loaded the ark, probably because the canned soup didn't beget anyone. But you better believe somebody brought along more than a granola bar to feed all those happy floating couples. If not, your only alternative is to put forth that the ark was a forty day survival-of-the-fittest Survivor prequel that explains why some species are extinct and why others are only endangered thanks to mankind.

    Abraham. Three "strangers" show up and faster than you can say "Jewish Grandmother" he invites them in and gets Sarah cooking. This was a significant event. According to Baba Gump, this is the event that prompted Jewish mothers to spend the next several thousand years making sure their sons never go more than 94 minutes without a meal or lecture on not eating enough. Who do you think made email popular with college students? Now they can find us anywhere.

    Jacob. Have you ever noticed how there's always one son who's the hunter and one who sticks around, helps mom, and does the gardening? How does this happen? Maybe the Big G is a vegetarian. I doubt it. I'm created in His image (using PhotoShop), and I'm not a vegetarian. (Vegetarians who mistakenly think I just said they're ungodly can complain to Please write poorly so I can make fun of it in my next column.)

    The Exodus. Moses emails everyone that it's time to "go north, young men." Do they pack their bathing suits for the Sea of Reeds? No. They decide to make a cake to celebrate! It's the fourth quarter, the army's crossed the fifty yard line, and they don't have time to invent the egg timer, let alone to wait til it goes off and add the frosting. Now we have matzah. Two thousand years later, we have microwaves. We're ready this time.

    So, next time you go to a bar mitzvah where the kid's first two years of college tuition has gone into getting Oingo Boingo to play live during the party between the cheese and dessert courses, even though kids today are too young to remember Oingo Boingo, all in an inaugural-gala-like dress-fest to celebrate the coming of age of a kid who couldn't spell haftarah any better than he could read his haftarah earlier that day without cracking a smile every other sentence when his voice cracked or he used that as an excuse for making the Hebrew sound like Sanskrit, remember that maybe it's not about the "important" lessons on life, responsibility, faith, virtue, and ethics that we've traditionally been taught to care about in that old last millennium that we just left in the dust like another popular vote winner.

    Maybe it's just about the brie being served when it's just at room temperature.

    After all, a lesson can only last a lifetime. But a meal can last for hours.

    Unless you had the turkey that tasted a bit too much like chicken, then the meal might not go away until the next morning.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who fervently believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that nobody knows anything beyond a shadow of a doubt. Especially if it's too cloudy to see your shadow.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.