Friday, December 28, 2007

Get A Life

From this week's (US) print edition of the Yated:

Dear Editor,

In the News Tidbits of the Parshas Miketz edition of the Yated, there was a headline "Brrr, Old Man Winter Has Made His Appearance."

This expression, as well as another commonly used expression, "Mother Nature," is simply kefirah, suggesting that there is another power in the world besides for Hashem. While I know that this wasn't the Yated's intent nor is it the intent of people who use these terms, the Yated, as the Torah newspaper, must be very careful as to how everything in the newspaper is written. Perhaps other people should not use these terms either.

Lechvod Shamayim
Symcha Zylberberg

Saying "Mother Nature" is kefirah??? I find that quite funny since (aside from possibly some pagans -- and even then I'm somewhat skeptical) no one seriously considers that there is an actual power out there named "Mother Nature" or "Old Man Winter." I don't think that there is any Orthodox (or Conservative or Reform) Jew who uses this expression to seriously mean that there is another power out there other than HaShem. The expressions used are just that -- expressions used to anthropomorphize an aspect of nature and the climate. They are not meant to express that the personification of nature has any power at all. I suppose by the same token, the writer would object to the use of words such as "tantalize, "odyssey", "nemesis," "panacea" and others that have their origin in non-Jewish myth.

And, while we're at it, certainly phrases of hyperbole and idioms should be banned on the basis of sheker (falsehood). After all, none of us would ever really "move heaven and earth," "lay down the law," "read someone the riot act," view someone as the "apple of your eye," "cherry pick" arguments, have "egg on their face," or "food for thought." No one among us has "big bucks" (unless they raise really large deer), buys things for "a dime a dozen" or even "makes ends meet." No one really believes that "money talks," no one "pays the piper" (unless you hired a musician) and even the most miserly among us don't "pinch pennies." The richest among us don't have pockets that are any deeper than anyone else, no one truly looks out for "number one" (except maybe a numerologist) and very few of us actually work for a "slave driver," no matter how hard our bosses push us.

And certainly none of us "bring home the bacon."

In other words, expressions and idioms are a normal, everyday part of the English language. If you're going to get upset about expressions that are clearly not meant to be taken literally (and to label them kefirah!!) then you've got to cut out a lot of the English language.

The Wolf







15 comments:

G said...

If this is the same S. Zylberberg that I'm thinking of (not sure how common of a last name it is) this may have been written with tongue firmly in cheek.

--regardless, your point and especially the post title is well taken

Anonymous said...

What about the Shabbos Malka?

-suitepotato- said...

Some people practice Judaism like it was invented by Adrian Monk. Step on a crack... nope, mother's back ain't broke... Hmmmm...

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

lol.

actually, it definitely felt weird all the times R' Soloveitchik used the term Mother Nature in "The Emergence of Ethical Man".

Jacob Da Jew said...

"then you've got to cut out a lot of the English language."

Gee, why do you think the cheder boys speak such horrible English??

Now you have your answer.

aryeh-baltimore said...

Stop all of your nitpicking...

Ezzie said...

Eh, speaka English!? A shanda.

mlevin said...

Actually old Man Winter in Russia and it's neighbor countries is the same guy we refer to Santa in America. You know that fat guy with a beard and he brings presents. So, while we in America may not see it as a literal power, many children in Eastern Europe await his coming with presents every year. They believe in his existence. They believe that he bring cold on the land. They believe that he lives on the north pole and they believe that he will melt in the heat of the fire.

Would that qualify as A"Z? I think it would.

-suitepotato- said...

I have graying hair, it turns white covered in blown snow, I stand outside and shovel. My wife stands in the warm house with a cup of hot chocolate for herself and yells, "hey old man, make sure to put salt on the steps!"

I *AM* "Old Man Winter". I still worship G-d though. Sorry to disappoint those looking for a power other than G-d. Even us mythical beings have to submit.

But so far, He hasn't told me to shovel your walk yet so get cracking.

BrooklynWolf said...

mlevin,

I'm not certain that a belief in Santa Claus constitutes Avoda Zara. After all, while seemingly impossible things are ascribed to him (the ability to deliver presents around the world in one night, the ability to know who is naughty or nice), to my knowledge, no one actually ascribes divinity to him.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

As a follow up, I'm curious if the letter writer would object to phrases such as "nature abhors a vacuum" and "water seeks its own level."

The Wolf

mlevin said...

Wolf - sorry I wasn't clear. Old Man Winter in Russian mythology brings cold with him. He freezes over the whole world thus increases his ruling territory. But somehow he gets overpowered by Spring and retriets to north pole where he gathers his strength and attacks again. By that time spring is old and tired and looses to Winter...

So, unlike Santa, he has power to freeze and bring cold.

Kylopod said...

Don't forget the days of the week--all named after deities. Even that holy language Yiddish uses that system.

Lion of Zion said...

i think you lost a post?

Tzipporah said...

mlevin - are you talking about Morozko? He is certainly not the same as Santa Claus. He's a god of weather, and is ascribed the power not only to bring the cold wintry weather, but to banish it or reduce its effects, when entreated.