I participated in my first Pidyon Ha’Ben ceremony today.
For those who aren’t familiar with the whole concept of Pidyon Ha’Ben, here’s some info straight from Wikipedia:
According to the traditional rabbinic interpretation, in the early part of the Bible, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, the duties of a priest fell upon the eldest son of each family. The first-born was to be dedicated to God in order to perform this task.
Following the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, after the nation had sinned with the Golden Calf, the priesthood was taken away from the first-borns, and given to the tribe of Levites, specifically to the Kohanim, High PriestAaron, his children, and their descendants. At the same time it was instituted that the first born of each family should be redeemed; i.e. they would be ‘bought back’ from the dedication to God that would previously have been required of them.
The ceremony is relatively rare, so I was both honored and very pleased to be asked by good friends of ours here in Omaha who wished to redeem their first-born son by offering me some sheqalim in exchange for him. I was happy to oblige in making the trade and the cantor from our synagogue helped out to make the ceremony a really beautiful one:
The Shulkhan Arukh states that when a Jewish woman gives birth to a firstborn male by natural means, then the child must be “redeemed”. The father of the child must “redeem” the child from a known Kohen representing the original Temple priesthood, for the sum of five silver Shekels, or equivalent in country’s currency (if it has silver currency of the correct weight). The procedure does not apply when the father is a Kohen or Levite, and does not normally apply when the mother is the daughter of one.
As “a known Kohen,” my grandfather participated in these ceremonies with some frequency for many years; I felt a particular connection with him today in taking part in my first.
Every time I read anything about Bitcoin and the collapse of the Mt. Gox exchange, this is what I’m thinking.
Took my son to the gym this morning to
play a little basketball run around for an hour and — let me tell you — my ½ inch vertical has not exactly improved with age.
I don’t know how this could have happened.
But, on the plus side, here are two pictures of my progeny during and after his workout. His assessment of our morning: “My hair got really sweaty.”
Almost 70 years ago, South Carolina electrocuted 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person to be executed by an American state since the 1800s. Family members today say he’s innocent, and while they can’t bring him back, they want his name cleared.
A black teen in the Jim Crow South, Stinney was accused of murdering two white girls, ages 7 and 11, as they hunted for wildflowers in Alcolu, about 50 miles southeast of Columbia.
Stinney, according to police, confessed to the crime. No witness or evidence that might vindicate him was presented during a trial that was over in fewer than three hours. An all-white jury convicted him in a flash, 10 minutes, and he was sentenced to “be electrocuted, until your body be dead in accordance with law. And may God have mercy on your soul,” court documents say.
Fewer than three months after the girls’ deaths, Stinney was escorted to an electric chair at a Columbia penitentiary, built for much larger defendants. The chair’s straps were loose on Stinney’s 5-foot-1-inch, 95-pound frame, and books were placed on the seat so he would fit in the chair.
On its website, CNN is asking: “Was execution of boy, 14, justice?”
This seemed to me like such an unbelievably ridiculous question for so many reasons that I was planning to do nothing but lampoon CNN in this blog post …
But then I read the comments.
And — guess what? — plenty of people think that the confession of a 14 year old is all the evidence you need for justice to be done; that the word of a white police officer who says a black boy confessed to killing two white girls is clearly unimpeachable in the Jim Crow South; that due process clearly doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to justice; and that, even if he was guilty, executing a 14 year old somehow equates with justice.
So, yeah, I guess a whole bunch of us still have no idea what justice means.
Old Man Alert
I was listening to Sound Opinions earlier today and they were discussing their “end of the year mixtapes” … which got me thinking:
It’s sad that kids today aren’t making mixtapes for their friends and/or crushes.
I’m sure they’re making Spotify playlists or whatever. But, for my money, it’s just not the same. Mixtapes were labor intensive in a way that we’ve probably lost for good. It takes no time at all to put together a playlist; I probably could have made a half dozen in the time it took to write this short blog post.
Now, most of the time, a reduction in the time it takes to complete a task is a good thing. But not when it comes to demonstrating how much you care about something (your friend/your crush) and something (music).
I remember spending hours with all of my tapes, queuing each one up to just the right spot, pressing record on my dual-tape deck, and then carefully filling out the name of the artist and song. A great mixtape was a signal of both the time you put into making something for another person and also of how much you knew about music. They were an expression of self.
Thinking back on all the mixtapes I made in middle school makes me want to dig out the tapes and CDs that are in the basement and listen to the songs that I felt other people needed to hear.
Melissa Harris-Perry has publicly apologized to the Romney family (and to all families who were offended by the segment that aired last week in which her guests made fun of a Romney family photo).
It’s a fine apology, better than the one she posted on Twitter earlier in the week (because an apology on Twitter seems to me to be the lowest of low-cost apologies). Though Harris-Perry spends some time explaining the intention behind airing the photograph, and explains that the panelists were meant to provide “off-the-cuff” comedic commentary, she recognizes in her apology that the intent doesn’t matter and that the result was unacceptable.
One thing that’s nicely highlighted by Harris-Perry’s apology is the way that a good apology tends to be bound up with the person’s conception of herself. This is, I suspect, why Harris-Perry becomes so upset toward the end of her apology. She had to offer an apology because the segment on her program was offensive to others … but also because she recognizes that it was violative of her understanding of herself. The apology, then, differs from many public apologies because it isn’t offered simply to placate others. What she hopes, with her apology, is to restore the public’s positive perception of her by demonstrating that the way the segment unfolded was very much out of line with who she is and what she believes.
We’re taking the kids to Sesame Street Live this weekend and this is the description of the show:
No matter where you’re from or where you’ve been, everyone is special – so join in! Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and their Sesame Street friends welcome Chamki, Grover’s friend from India, to Sesame Street. Together, they explore the universal fun of friendship and celebrate cultural similarities, from singing and dancing, to sharing cookies!
Given that it reads like something out of Rush Limbaugh’s nightmares, I’m pretty seriously considering live-tweeting the show using the hashtag #rightwingsesamenightmare
The only way it would be better liberal propaganda is if everything was exactly the same except Chamki was secretly from Pakistan or turned out to be in the country illegally in order to gobble up some of those sweet, sweet American entitlements (and cookies).
A question for scientists who study the erratic behavior of children:
How is it that my kids manage to sleep until 6am on the days when my wife has to wake up at 5am to get ready for work, but then wake up before 5:30am on the days when we don’t have to wake up early?
Attention, lovers of freedom:
Pregnant women, babies and kids should not drink raw or unpasteurized milk, a group of pediatricians said on Monday.
Because of infection risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Infectious Diseases and Committee on Nutrition also said sales of unpasteurized milk, cheese and related products should be banned in the U.S.
Pasteurizing kills bacteria that can be present in raw milk. It involves heating the milk to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds and then rapidly cooling it.
Yeah, but what do they know, right?
I had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time this past weekend with David Rendall, the author of The Freak Factor and The Freak Factor for Kids.
Rendall has been a guest on the Hero Report podcast and he’s got a short video of the Freak Factor concept on YouTube … but I wanted to promote his book — especially his book for kids — for a minute because I think it makes an incredibly valuable contribution.
Rendall’s central argument looks like this:
1. There is nothing wrong with you. Weaknesses are important clues to your strengths.
2. You find success when you find the right fit. You need to match your unique characteristics to situations that reward those qualities.
3. Your weaknesses make you different. They make you a freak and it’s good to be a freak.
This is an important message for all of us, to be sure, but it’s a potentially life-altering message for children who are struggling to fit in or who are always being told to sit still, be quiet, and do what they’re told.
Having children of my own was enough to convince me of the virtue of maximizing kids’ unique abilities rather than constantly urging them to conform, but spending a couple of days talking with Rendall was enough to convince me to pass his message along to others too.
A very satisfying afternoon yesterday of building and playing on the Island of Sodor with my son; he was especially pleased by my creation out of Magna-Tiles of Tidmouth Sheds to house his engines … but that might be because he doesn’t know about the $100 version of Tidmouth Sheds that can be — but hasn’t been — purchased.
It’s a rainy morning and, since we’ve been up since 5am, I asked my son if he wanted to curl up with me and take a nap in my bed. He was very excited and said that he did, as long as he could bring Cookie Monster.
We brought several more stuffed animals, for good measure, then we pulled up the covers. Immediately he started thrashing around, talking to the stuff animals in a stage whisper, and then — the pièce de résistance — he began to recite Are You My Mother? from memory, using Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Big Bird to represent the various characters.
It was as if I was a spectator in my own distant past, as this was almost exactly the sort of thing I would do to my grandfather on Saturday afternoons, after he’d returned home from synagogue, we’d eaten lunch together, and he’d offered to let me settle in for a nap with him.