Columns - 2005

    Splitting hares

    By Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    By popular lack of complaint, this column returns a special feature that was introduced last year.

    It was originally intended as a special Ask the Rabbi feature, with one of the greatest world-renowned authorities on Jewish law and custom.

    However, as you both might recall, a now-former assistant entered us into a contractual obligation with a slightly different source, providing a slightly different feature: Ask the Rabbit.

    Lettuce continue.

    It is wonderful to be asked back again, to provide wisdom and perspective in this Ask the Rabbit column. Rabbits have had such a small place in Judaism through the centuries.

    Daniel was in the lion's den. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice a ram. And we didn't even get sent in to kick some Egyptian butt in even one of those plagues.

    Can you imagine what it's like being a small minority of a small minority? (Unless you're a Jewish college football player, like Navy's placekicker, you probably can't.)

    Anyway, I'm here to answer the questions from people like you: actual readers of this column. And as soon as I receive any, I will. Until then, I'll answer these:

    "On a recent Friday night I was out for a walk. I saw a quarter on the ground. It was tails. Not one of the state ones, an older one with the eagle on the back. Am I a worse Jew if I pick it up, or if I leave it?"

    If you're a Jew who doesn't believe you should handle money on Shabbat, then you should leave it on the ground. If you're a Jew who doesn't care if you handle money on Shabbat, leaving it on the ground is an affront to a popular Jewish stereotype.

    If you're still undecided, flip a coin. Conveniently, you have a quarter right there.

    "I went out on a date last Friday night with a girl named Christine, had shrimp for dinner, and tried to dance at a club. What was the worst thing I did, Jewishly speaking?"

    You asked the question at all.

    Though if I had to guess, having not seen it, the fool you probably made of yourself dancing at the club was punishment enough.

    "I'm a native Hebrew speaker, visiting Paris. If I'm in a caf´┐Ż waiting for several orders of gourmet Asian tea, and I see several cups waiting to be picked up, how do I ask if they're my teas?"

    Say, "les chaiyim?"

    "What do you think of the comedian Carrot Top?"

    I'm not a critic, so I won't judge his humor. But something makes me hungry when I see him, or when I dial down the middle.

    "What do you think is a halachic view on all these television shows that do makeovers for people?"

    I don't watch them. Though I admit that I've seen The Hare Stylist a few times.

    "What do you think of the recent outcry against people saying 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'?"

    Please, it's January. Do we really need to talk about Christmas?

    When someone says Merry Christmas to me I feel just as awkward as the next Jewish rabbit. It's not bad, it's well intended. It's just not my thing.

    I'm not going to correct people and say I'm Jewish. Especially because some people just say, "so? You still celebrate Christmas, right?" And I say, "only economically." It just makes things awkward, gaining nothing but awkwardness.

    But I've heard so many people complain about stores and companies being forced to say happy holidays, and disparaging those who might be behind such a "movement." I think we're better off dealing with hearing "Merry Christmas" than being painted as we are for people being restricted to saying "happy holidays."

    That's just my preference, but at least with "Merry Christmas" we're not being overtly insulted.

    Let's fight the bigger fights that matter more, and avoid the knucklehead stuff.

    "While we're talking about the holiday season, how is it that Chanukah isn't the big holiday with all the lights?"

    This is a great question. Chanukah's been around at least as long as Christmas. Chanukah is sometimes called the Festival of Lights. How is it that Christmas, and not Chanukah, is the holiday all decorated with lights on the houses, yards, trees, pets, and gates?

    Simple: They beat us to it. And there's a lot more people who celebrate Christmas than Chanukah, so the people selling the little twinkle lights market to the larger consumer base.

    But if you ask me, the real reason we don't do it now is because if we start putting up these big light displays, we'll seem like we're making Chanukah even more like Christmas. We started giving presents, sending cards, and doing all this other stuff for a minor holiday because of its proximity to Christmas.

    But putting up lights would actually fit the holiday. Next year, I hope to see clever displays of Macabee scenes, and houses covered with blue and white lights, that blink from right to left.

    "What's it like growing up as a Jewish rabbit?"

    Since I've never grown up as anything besides a Jewish rabbit, I have no real basis for comparison.

    "Is there a Jewish belief about whether someone gets good luck from carrying a rabbit's foot?"

    I always have two with me, and I still have trouble getting a good parking spot. But if I had my way, the only people going around with a rabbit's foot would be those who are walking on them.

    How would you like it if rabbits went around carrying people parts? Why don't we just make baked goods from women's fingers?

    "If you could, what's the one thing you would change about Jewish ritual or ceremonies?"

    At weddings, less chicken dance. More bunny hop.

    Doug Brook is a technical publications program manager in Silicon Valley who was proud to see, for the first time ever, three and a half colleges from Alabama in bowl games this year. For more information, past columns, and other writings, theatre, and current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.