Saturday, December 02, 2006

Strung Out Orthodoxy

Until I read the latest issue of Harper's, I had no idea that Orthodox Jews were allowed to string fishing lines on street lights, and the like, in New York City. [The link does not yet work since the issue is still on newsstands.] They do this to fool God -- and the City lets them use public property to do it. Basically, by divine decree, the orthodox are prohibited from doing many things outside the home on the Sabbath. It's a day of rest, don't you know? To get around this restriction they simply declare that a continuous loop of string can outline a "home" in satisfaction of god's law. In the case of New York, this "home" encompasses 4000 acres. To Orthodox Jews, apparently, god is either an inattentive idiot or a lousy lawyer.

Looking into it, I discovered that the OJs are trying to do the same thing in Santa Monica, California. However, the Lord moves in mysterious ways and is using the California Coastal Commission to tie this string scam up in knots. Farther from the coast, OJs have successfully created eruvs, as they are called, throughout Los Angeles. These god-fooling string houses exist around the world. Who knew?

This story highlights two things for me. First, religious rules are a bunch of hogwash (oops! hogs are not kosher...) and religious leaders know it. Second, governments are almost always willing to bend the rules in favor of creating "special rights" for the religiously impaired.

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