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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Run Home Jews, Run Home

Below is a cute article about a reform rabbi who is altering his diet before running the marathon in Boston to fit the requirements of Pesach. There are also other Jews in the article who have decided that eating chametz in preparation for the Marathon trumps Pesach concerns. The article seems to have some elements of Kidush Hashem by showing the devotion of Jews to Pesach, and some elements of Chilul Hashem by showing how some Jews are willing to throw away tradition of 3000 years in order to run 30 miles in Boston.

However, the truth is that once again our focus is lead astray by a mis-framing of the entire issue...

The real issue is that Jews, with their tremendous spiritual and activist energy, are spending it all on unimportant things. The Jews in this article feel proud that they can run a marathon on a stomach full of Matzah. They thing it is some kind of religious sacrifice and athletic sacrifice all at once. But they are wrong. The whole purpose of the Jewish religion is to serve G-d and not to run marathons on foreign soil. On Pesach, instead of running a marathon on a stomach full of matzah, these Jews should consider packing up their house and preparing for Aliyah on a stomach full of matzah. Then they too can relive the Exodus from Egyptian materialism and bondage.

In general, American Jews find "important" issues to take part in or debate vigorously. The Orthodox deal with things like the endless Eruv construction debates, mini-bugs in water, and blood-drawing during ritual circumcision. The Reform-Conservative care about Darfur and running marathons in Boston. All of these have one thing in common: they are excuses not to deal with the central issue of our time and that is building the nation of Israel through the advent of the Jewish State. By making themselves feel as though they are involved in important issues, or by deluding themselves with the belief that American Jewry somehow helps Israel, American Jews quietly create an atmosphere where their existence is never challenged. Sadly, the fact remains, that the Jewish State is waiting for the last naglah (load) of Jews to come home so that we can move forward. They are holding up the show.

Hey Jew, your home is not America! You don't need to run a useless marathon around Boston! Run home Jew, run home!


"Is It Kosher? Jewish Marathon Runners Balance Passover With Prep For Boston"

BOSTON - Jonah Pesner is looking ahead to his crucial carb-loading, fuel-up meal on the night before running his first Boston Marathon. On the menu: matzoh.

It’s not the usual choice for marathoners loading up on carbohydrates to drive their run, but Pesner, a rabbi, has limited options.

Passover begins just two days before the April 21 marathon, and the holiday’s strict dietary rules mean Jewish runners can’t eat bread and pasta, the normal staples in the days before the big race.

Besides matzoh, which is unleavened bread, Pesner plans to pound down foods such as potatoes during a rare "carb-load seder" the night before the race.

Pesner never considered breaking the dietary rules for the sake of the race, which he is running with his wife for an autism charity.

"For me, running the marathon is a very spiritual quest," he said.

The marathon is always held on Patriots [team stats] Day, a state holiday that falls the third Monday in April, and often comes within the weeklong Passover holiday.

Marathon organizers try to be sensitive to religious concerns, but major changes to suit various religions aren’t practical, said Marc Chalufour, spokesman for the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon’s organizer.

"You’ve got 25,000 runners and you obviously want to be sensitive to the needs of all of them," Chalufour said. "But you can’t make a change to accommodate some of the runners at the expense of the majority."

The dietary restrictions for Passover forbid eating leavened foods, such as bread, cake, beer or pasta, which have yeast or other fermented grain products.

The prohibition is traced to the roots of the holiday, which marks when God sent an angel to kill first-born Egyptian sons, but spared the houses of the Israelites. Soon after, Pharaoh freed the Jews, who fled in such a hurry that the dough they took didn’t have enough time to rise.

Jews usually hold a Passover seder, a meal with religious rituals, in their homes on the first two nights of the holiday, which is usually observed for eight days.

The level of observance varies. An Orthodox Jew, for instance, does not work or drive on the first two and the last two days of Passover, so he or she would not run a marathon on those days.

It’s not an issue for Pesner, whose liberal Reform branch generally suggests followers hold a seder on just the first day of the holiday, though the dietary rules are observed the entire week.

Pesner, 39, acknowledges he has questions about the effects of his diet on his race. Matzoh is known to have a binding effect on the digestive tract.

"It’s definitely a concern," Pesner said, chuckling.

Sandy Karpen, a real estate agent from Scottsdale, Ariz., said he and his wife, Sharon, are changing their tradition of attending seders the first two nights of Passover to accommodate their training. The second seder is the day before the race, and Karpen and his wife wanted to rest, rather than attend a seder on what is typically a long night.

Their rabbi from the Conservative Jewish tradition advised them that Jews may fulfill their obligation by observing only the first day, and said they could do the same.

The 17-time marathoner admits to some guilt about straying from his lifelong tradition, but has no regrets.

"I guess sometimes you’re looking for justification for what you’re doing," he said. "My rabbi said it was acceptable to do, and that was good enough for us."

Karpen, 49, and his wife ate fish and potatoes before their last long runs as sort of practice.

"The last thing you want to do is change your diet or change anything you’ve been doing throughout your cycle," he said. "You never want to experiment the day of the race."

Wayne Cohen, from Houston, figures that on the day before the marathon, he’ll have egg whites and fruit for breakfast, rather than pancakes, and salmon with potatoes for dinner, instead of a carb-filled pizza.

But Cohen, 51, has decided he’ll break Passover rules on the morning of the race, when he’s planning to eat oatmeal without water and likely some pieces of bagel. Cohen has run about two dozen marathons, and decided he doesn’t want to mess with his normal race day routine.

And he’s not feeling guilty about it.

"I’ve pretty much convinced myself I would be a hypocrite if I said it would," he added. "It’s not like I’ve been perfect in my religious beliefs.

"I’m beyond that," he said. "I’m not going to worry."

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  • At 11:53 PM , Anonymous Bryan said...

    "central issue of our time and that is building the nation of Israel through the advent of the Jewish State".
    Such a simple and obvious phrase. I wonder why Jews don't get it.

    And I'm excited to try the Tiveria marathon. I hear it's terrible!

  • At 1:04 AM , Anonymous josh said...

    Hashem, please have mercy on those Jews, they know not the damage they're doing.

    I live in Israel. I remember the first time my oldest child noticed that people were driving on Shabbat. At about 4 years, she wasn't yet clear on the concept of Shabbat prohibitions, but she already knew that people driving on Shabbat are confused. I don't know from where she picked that up, but it was the truth. Jews driving on Shabbat are confused and so are Jewish runners giving up celebrating Pesach (it does not matter what aspect) in order to run a marathon so they can get a nice certificate, a dinky medal, and self-gratification.

    They are confused, they probably have no clue how much they are giving up.


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