1/ Since the beginning of the #TrumpCrisis, I've had ever increasingly difficult #YomKippur davening because of the burden I feel to act as a 'sanegor' (defender) for my community and for the Jewish world at large.

(This is in addition to the vast ways I need to improve myself)
2/ I'm not a gadol, a posek, or anything close to a tzadik. But after seeing so many rebbeim & gedolim openly support Trump (ym'sh), erase women from Jewish life, and encourage anti-vax shtuyot, I considered the tenuous possibility that I would need to act as a communal sanegor.
3/ With the established leadership descending into avoda-zara (DJT), shefichat-damim (COVID denial) & arayot (dehumanizing women), I needed to step up - out of safek-nefashot - and use all of my halakhic, rhetorical & philosophical ability to devise kappara for the Am Kadosh.
4/ Yes, it's a gross chutzpah for me to think I actually have the stature as national sanegor, an ironic arrogance that could jeopardize my own kappara.

But there's no joy in this. It has been a terrible emotional burden and the difficulty of finding excuses is excruciating.
5/ I'm not a gadol hador by any decent, rational measure. But sometimes Yiftach is all we have left (in USA terms, in a weird scenario the Sec. of Transportation could become POTUS). Whatever arrogance I displayed is offset by the compassion I need to dredge up to save others.
6/ On Yom Kippur there can be a howling solitude & despair, and I made it worse by trying to excuse people I normally find inexcusable.

For me, though, it was the best antidote to arrogance and my general desire to exact justice on people I think are bad.
7/ #Yonah is an important model for me & my task. Yonah is "Ben Amitai" which means "son of Truth." Yet he's commanded to deliver a message of mercy to a city of pagans that are destined to cause great evil against the Jewish people. It offends Jonah's "truth" identity. He flees.
8/ Hijinks ensue, there's a storm, a whale of a fish, and when Yonah relents and accepts his mission, it is ridiculously effective. The lessons are broad, extreme and (as I said below) comic. But satire is a great teacher.
9/ After Jonah saves Nineveh, the "son of Truth" complains that God is too compassionate by conspicuously removing "Truth" from the "13 Middot" - the canonical description of God.
10/ At the end, God shows that Jonah's devotion to Truth is small-minded, vengeful, and selfish. Jonah cares more about a pumpkin tree that God's compassion created for his comfort than he does for a whole city. Satire, but deeply true about truth-lovers like me.
11/ When I wavered in my pleading for mercy and felt kappara was undeserved - and there were conspicuous, ridiculous incidents that I davka interpreted as hashgacha-pratit because it made my task even harder - I remembered Yonah, angry about gourds & not real human pain & lives.
12/ The gift of #YomKippur is that of total mercy & grace that we need to balance a life of injustice & cruelty. Truly, I can't know what people are personally struggling with that makes them act abominably. And YK is not the time to demand strict lines of punishment.
13/ My desire that people be punished for obviously terrible things is Yonah's desire for his leafy gourds. If I'm a servant of God's truth then I must know my ignorance is almost total.

We say this in Ne'ila: plea for repentance not death.
Ezek. 33:11
14/ At a later time I will try to detail the arguments I used to find excuses. The liturgy is incredible in helping with this, both in the poetry and Tanakh citations. See Ezek. 33:11 above & 18:23, 32 (p.724 in Artscroll)
15/ And, if possible, either here or in an essay, I will try to recreate the philosophical labyrinths I wound myself through in order to devise a way to save my people. The portents are not good. Very "second Temple" decadence. See BT Yoma 23a.

16/ All for now. Please God next year we can look back at this time of crisis - where we sit in masks with armed guards outside to protect from visible & invisible marauders - and feel closer to the Shabbat of Shabbat Shabbaton. #ReshetKeshet

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More from @JoshuaCypess

17 Sep
1/ Nearly every Shabbat & Yom Tov since I left the pulpit I've prepared a drasha & shiur that I know I won't be able to deliver. I've described that for many artists the need to produce the art overwhelms an actual audience. The art compels them.
2/ I define art broadly to encompass every creative faculty that arises from the multiple intelligences, talents & perceptions in human capability. We know singers or painters are artists, but so is a teacher or philosopher. IMO society doesn't define an art, humanity does.
3/ Not everyone who has artistic talent or drive or vocation needs to have a feeling of compulsion. My chiddush (intellectual innovation) is to say everyone with that need to create has the soul of an artist whether they are recognized or not.
Read 26 tweets
15 Sep
1/ One more #NFL thing before the Day of Atonement. Last night's #MNF was very satisfying as a #Steelers fan. The ending of the game was nuts and I want to reproduce the nutty live-texts I sent to my sleeping son, not expecting it to become a saga of silliness.
2/ [11:31 PM] 55 yard FG to send it into overtime!

{Little did I know that this would be the least surprising thing of overtime. I should also add that many people expected BAL to go to the Superbowl and the Raiders to get a top 5 pick in the 2022 draft} Screencap from the ESPN app, score 27-27.
3/ [11:40 PM]: RAIDERS WIN
[11:41 PM]: wait hold up
[11:42 PM]: CORRECTION. will be at the half yard-line

{It was so exciting to think LV would get the ball and then just drive down the field and score. Of course, it couldn't be that simple. TD taken back.} ESPN screencap. 7:22 in OT, score still 27-27, LV in red zon
Read 8 tweets
14 Sep
1/ MacDonald died? Oh man.

First of all, I wish there was a website to find out if I'm allowed to publicly like a dead guy. Like a list of crimes so I know how to calibrate the right mix of sad, or happy, that he's dead.

[Please do that in Norm's voice]
2/ Certain people who're called "an [artist]'s artist" usually are extremists in that craft, and often unrecognized by all but a niche audience. In comedy, one of my areas of expertise, that doesn't always yield someone I personally enjoy.
3/ E.g. I detest Andy Kaufman's comedy because, for me, the barely disguised intend was cruelty. Other comedians work for "their time" like Lenny Bruce who I wish I found funnier than I do.

MacDonald was in that category.

(and this comment is great)
Read 8 tweets
14 Sep
1/ My son, new freshman at his high school, got the cover article in the weekly Torah journal, which was an awesome piece of nachas over #RoshHashanah

A few comments I feel I should make (and download available at this BE"H static link):
2/ I did not help him directly in any way. Despite my eager offer to discuss and/or proofread, he successfully shielded himself from my relentless, avid desire to help him with a D'var Torah.

I say this because (1) it's a really good piece & (2) all the language is his.
3/ However, as a gift to me, he did say that he learned "tautological" from our many conversations (yes!) and from my meta-perspective, I see he followed the advice I give to all my homiletics students based on my decades of speeches, articles, classes & other media.
Read 9 tweets
13 Sep
1/ A thread to catalog my stray comments about the NFL yesterday (as part of my academic 'obsessive archiving' heritage).

Overall, the #Steelers had an amazing road win over Buffalo mainly because of a stifling defense, which is fun in retrospect but during the game is stressful
2/ The comment below is actually from my sports-watching partner, my sportsman son, who is wise & savvy beyond his years.

Melvin "Boy Named Sue?" Ingram draws a holding penalty instead of getting a de jure sack but de facto it is one.
3/ BAL & NE are experts in bad-faith rulebook exploitation. Examples abound (see CBS link). 2 most common: the "Flacco Ball" (badly thrown deep pass designed purely to draw DPI) & having the OL hold on every play to DDOS the refs.
Read 11 tweets
12 Sep
61.01/ Week sixty-one, Sept. 11-17, 2021, thread begins here.

Week 60 below
61.02/ I am a fan of the professional sport of American Football and, as a child of Pittsburgh, a particular avid supporter of the #Steelers. I apologize ahead of time for some intemperate comments that may be made during the season which could be non-sequitur for non-NFLers.
61.03/ From last night at the #Mets-Yankees game, a scandal that Fox's cameras lingered on that hateful flag. Ironically it symbolizes the way 9-11 was perverted by corrupt bad-actors from day one.

Read 38 tweets

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