That Would Be “Ms. God” to You

Have you heard that God had a wife?

Eminent religion scholar Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou has revived and enriched the theory that our single dad of a God actually had a partner at one point—before some misogynistic scribes edited her out of the Torah. After examining ancient texts, fertility goddess artifacts and quotes from the Tanach itself, Dr. Stavrakopoulou posits that the first Jews worshipped both Yahweh and a female entity called Asherah at the David’s Temple in Jerusalem.

“After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife,” the Exeter professor told Discovery News.

Yes, there will be people who find the idea so blasphemous that it will cause them lifelong diarrhea. But I think it makes complete sense—there are references to the Divine Feminine (known as the Shekinah) tucked away in the Kabbalah, and even as little Shalom Schoolers we’re told that “it is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it.”

But while it’s nice to have rational proof that the Great Woman used to exist in our daily prayers, truth needs no validation, really. As a mother having giving birth to a daughter, it’s just plain OBVIOUS that Womanhood is the foundation of Creation. Did you know baby girls are born with all of their eggs—their potential children—already formed? This chain that links allllll the way back to the Beginning. “Asherah” translates as “sacred tree,” and parallels the great Goddess names of Ishtar, Astarte and Ostara—so none of this is news to anyone who knows damn well this place couldn’t have been created without Divine Female presence.

So where is She? And how did the world get sidetracked into the greedy, gluttonous, totally-out-of-whack, sacred-word-bastardizing patriarchy we’re dealing with now?

I have my own theory. Like any marriage, Goddess wanted to support her husband in this new endeavor of Making a World, but when She saw how He was running things, She had to speak up. She was probably all “Dear, what in the name of Heaven are you doing? Giant lizards with teeth? Please. And I’ve told you ten million times that letting those monkeys split atoms is a terrible idea!”

Then he called her an Astronomical Nag and told Her that everything was completely under control and that She should go cook something, which made Her so mad She sunk Atlantis. (Time management may have also been a bone of contention. After all, He says He made the world in six days; science says it was more like four billion years.)

She finally got so fed up with his dirty towels and raging floods and cosmic-range ADD and need to be right all the time that she decided to take a little break. Sure, it seems like, well, forever, but it’s the time relativity thing; to us, it’s been eons, to Her, it’s an extended vacation.

She’s probably hanging out with Her friends climbing the mountains of Mercury, writing totally epic poetry and putting the finishing touches on Her own calm and orderly Universe where idiotic things like “corporate personhood,” the underage Vietnamese sex trade and genetically-modified food aren’t even a possibility. God’ wife isn’t gone, She’s just on sabbatical.

And when She gets back, She’s going to be really pissed at the mess.

These May Be the Droids You’re Looking For

The big brains in the Computer Science Department at College of Management Academic Studies (in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv) have programmed a family of robots to perform a Passover seder—impressive, nu? But can these droids can clean the chametz from the corners?

I swear I detected a series of R2D2 beeps in there that could be interpreted as “Feh, the brisket is dry”?

*Tip o’ the kepa to Adam at the JEA for the link and to Wookieepedia for the nerd-irific collection of Star Wars quotes.

T-Shirt of the Week: That Ol’ Black Magic

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball…but that Supermoon still has me feeling all mystical. Or maybe it’s just that I’d like to stick pins in a roughly-sewn, doll-like effigy of my enemies.

In any case, guess what? The connection between Judaism and Voodoo isn’t as meshuggeh as you might think. I think I’ll look up Manbo Sallie (née Sallie Ann Glassman) when I visit New Orleans this fall for my 40th—who knows? Maybe I’ll come home a priestess for my mid-life crisis.

Jewdoo schmata available at ShalomShirts.com.

The Flower Power Hour Is Upon Us

Oooh, y’all known I love me some flowers, and azalea season in full riot in Savannah: Please read my article on “Azaleashock” in the Savannah Morning News!

(Here’s the original version below—the online version had some typos…)

The Flower Power Hour Is Upon Us
By Jessica Leigh Lebos
Spring has sprung forward and I’m waiting in my front yard. The air holds a vague promise of the months of warmth to come, but this morning it still stings cold, and I tuck my cheeks into the collar of my jacket. Now, it’s not unusual for me to stand vigil in front of my house so I can shake my fist at drivers peeling past at unacceptable speeds. But today I’m not minding the street—only the line of dark green shrubs underneath the living room window.

These bushes, festooned with tightly-spiraled buds, are about to transform my yard into a magical wonderland of color. I’m determined to witness the exact moment these buds, sleeping like hundreds of tiny baby dolls, hear the clarion call sent silently through roots and stems that signals them to swivel open and show their full faces to the world.

It happens every year in Savannah: One day everything is its usual ho-hum green, and the next morning it’s pinks and reds and purples and white in every yard, down every block, along every square—like heaven had a pep rally while we were sleeping and forgot to clean up the confetti. Continue reading

A Safe, Delightful St. Purim Equinox to All! (hiccup)

Erin Go Bragh, L’Chaim and Hail Ostara! It’s spring, and in Yentaland, that means a mash-up of celebrations that all seem to lead to the bottle. (Leprecohen t-shirt available here.)

Those of you still peeling yourself off the carpet are well aware that yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, and if you were in Savannah, you may still be peeling yourself off the pavement. Savannah’s legendary St. Pat’s festivities are the second largest in the nation—the parade was FOUR AND HALF HOURS LONG—and hundreds of thousands of people come to the city to tumble around River Street carrying plastic cups of green beer. It sounds horrifying and potentially disastrous, yet somehow it all manages to be a nice family event (if your family doesn’t mind lots of boozy hugs and kisses from strangers.)

Saturday night ushers in Purim, the Jewish holiday where Queen Esther gets her due and us normally-teetotalling Jews are literally commanded to drink until we can’t tell the difference between cursed Haman (the bad guy) and Mordecai (the good guy.) This could mean two glasses of wine or an entire keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon; it’s really between you and your liver. Personally, I usually stop when I can’t tell the difference between El Yenta Man in his Vashti costume and the President of the Sisterhood.

And then we have the Spring Equinox on Sunday, the actual midpoint of the earth’s turns; whatever calendar/religion/heritage you identify with, you can’t deny physics. Some of my fabulous NoCal witchy friends honor the celestial event with a wild, skirt-swinging ritual under the stars, lots o’ homemade mead and a feast of eggs to symbolize rebirth. I don’t know too many Savannah pagans, but I’s gots a trunkful of Stevie Nicks goddess wear and extra chicken eggs…

It’s no accident that so many cultures usher in spring with a party, right? Most of us humans spent a winter of cold toes and bleak scenery, and now that the sun is shining a little and the flowers are bursting, we just want a little hoop-dee-doo—whether your poison is cheap beer flowing from a keg on River Street, a few sips of Manischewitz in the synagogue sanctuary or just the clean night air of Sunday’s giant full supermoon. You don’t need alcohol to feel how much nature wants to party: Just take a deep breath and you could get schnockered just on pollen right now.

The key during this week of indulgence is PACING. Obviously. And leaving the driving to others (thank you for a lovely bus ride downtown yesterday, Chatham County Transit!)

The really fabulous thing is that all three celebrations require costumes of some kind—my thrifted green hippie skirt is gonna get a lot of wear.

A Blessed Blarney chag sameach to all!

Oh, and just because no one really listens to enough Jim Morrison, here’s “The Alabama Song,” just ’cause. (Especially for Aminta.)

Purim Parody Madness!

Oooh, Purim’s a’comin’ and that means it’s a mitzvah to raise your glass ’til you can’t tell the difference between a Haman and leperchaun. Or something.

It’s also the season of song parodies—and they get better every year! Jew-ish rocker mama-to-be Pink seems to have penned the choice tune to Yidify in 5771. Yes, “Raise Your Glass,” her catchy anthem to all the “dirty little freaks,” has spawned two different Purim spoofs that’ll have you head-bobbing all week:

First, fresh off their Chanukah superhit (yo, it went mainstream!), are Yeshiva University heartthrobs The Maccabeats—cute, cheeky AND kosher.

Mashing up the same song with a wild Israeli flair (and women) are the Fountainheads, encouraging us to “raise our masks”—a reminder that all the cool mommies and daddies go in costume!

Of course, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t raise a toast my very favorite Purim spoof from waaaaay back in 5667, Shabot 6000′s Shusan Shabot:

Oh, you’re looking for a version of the Purim story to go with your hangover? Shalom Sesame keeps it simple. Cheers!

Ding Dong, Meet Dana International

I don’t know how the completely fabulous Dana International has flown under my radar considering my adoration for rockin’ trannies. (I think my affection comes from the deep respect for the bravery it takes to be who you are and also the superior make-up application abilities that far surpass my own.)

I feel so darn provincial: This supergorgeous superstar is considered one of the most famous transsexual (transgender?) celebrities in the world. The disco queen will be representing Israel in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Dusselfdorf in May—13 years aftershe won the entire shebang in 1998 for her song “Diva.”

Check out 2011′s “Ding Dong“, which may or may not have the same intended double entendre as Lady Gaga’s “disco stick”:

I’m thinking we need a full-on Gaga/Dana collaboration wearing giant horns in weird places dancing around an effigy of Quaddafi…

A Mitzvah in Yentaland

I’ve been neglecting my Yenta duties since I’ve added the chapeau of “Office Manager” for El Yenta’s Man’s new venture to my arsenal of hats. I’m working hard to set him up for success, which means figuring out where to buy tri-fold paper towels, keeping sharp objects out of his way and not rolling my eyes every time he pretends to know how to use online bill pay.

Tell me, wives: If you’ve ever had to work for your husband, even temporarily, how do you manage to not stab him in the face with the plastic spork that came with the takeout lunch you brought to him without being asked and then he complained there wasn’t enough mayo? Deep breaths, yes…

There’s also been more to handle in Yentaland:

Tuesday night, a trio of Ethiopian Israelis came through Savannah to present “Israel at Heart” programs at Savannah State University and the JEA. A few days before, Ben, the JEA program director, asked me to host all three for the night after their program. Ben is a very nice young man who does not have children. He wouldn’t understand that he should be slapped for asking a harried Jewish mother with no guest room to find beds and breakfast for three strangers on a school night. But because he was so polite about it and was willing to shave it down to just one Ethiopian Israeli if someone hosted the others, I agreed with a grumble. He also used the magic words that key right into every Jewish mother’s heart: “It’s a mitzvah.”

Great, just what I needed. A guilt trip from God. But the “mitzvah card” always works on me. I mean, if Abraham and Sarah could wash people’s stinky feet after they’ve traveled through the desert, surely I could throw some sheets on the futon and scare up an extra cup of coffee in the morning for a young person who’s educating folks about Israel.

Tomer Marsha turned out to be a lovely houseguest for the few hours he was here, and the children adored him. He didn’t even mention all the dog hair on the futon.

I sort of forgot to mention it to El Yenta Man, who stayed out late at a Fat Tuesday party (what Jew can resist a good Catholic throwdown?) and was preparing to leave at dawn for an early client when he scurried back into the bedroom and whispered “Did you know there’s a black man sleeping in the office?”

(Of course I had mentioned it, but I didn’t mention it the magical number of times it takes to stick in his brain without going over the amount threshold where he accuses me of nagging. Husband-wife communication is an inexact science.)

We didn’t attend the JEA lecture, and Tomer was happy to tell us about his upbringing near Tel Aviv over fresh chicken eggs and (too weak for Israelis) coffee. He was born during the weeks his parents risked their lives to emigrate from Ethiopia to Israel as part of the mass exodus the 80s—a sabra by the skin of his teeth. Though some Ethiopian families have had a difficult time melding into Israeli life, Tomer and his family planted roots and thrived. He grew up very religious but finds more meaning in the inclusive spirituality of many Israeli youth and now lives a secular life interning at a law office and enjoying the great big fun that is Tel Aviv.

The kids asked good questions, and the boy even showed off the Hebrew that he’s been learning from all the awesome Israeli shlichim (ambassadors) who spend a year in Savannah. I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to expand our awareness of the world, and the mitzvah was worth any inconvenience.

But please, Ben, no more school nights.

Power Down Down Dowwwwnnnnn

It’s Friday, hallelujah!

While the hard-and-fast rules of a kosher Shabbat continue to elude me, and I may never, in the words of The Big Lebowski‘s Walter, be shomer f#*king Shabbos, I do have my own ways of observing the Fourth Commandment:

No laundry or dishes or anything that feels like work. I also shut off the computer, so no blogging or Facebook or email, though Saturday morning cartoons on Netlfix Wii are OK. No grocery shopping or mall loitering—but should I happen to be somewhere and a pair of shoes speak to me, I might indulge.

Some Sabbaths we loll around the house, some we show up for synagogue, some we ride our bikes through the wildlife refuge. Once in a while the whole thing falls apart and I end up driving carpool to two different soccer games or talking on the phone for hours, but I do what I can. If we light candles before midnight on Friday and get through the next day without any bloodletting, I count it GOOD.

The idea is to create a pocket of rest that is doable—even if it doesn’t meet halachic standards—because not only does it honor the Creator, we just need it. It’s the antidote for information overload, a chance to actually finish a thought, a conversation, even a book. A day without your phone or checking email can feel like weeks away, especially if you’re sharing the time with those who are most important to you.

Those hip kids at Reboot share this sentiment and have created the heretic-friendly Shabbat Manifesto, “designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”

Check out the Ten Principles:

1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.

See? Doable. And not so serious—as shown by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, creator of one of the best Jewish identity films ever, The Tribe:

You don’t even have to be Jewish to dig this, right? Of course, sometimes it’s way hard to find a Sabbath on a Saturday—especially if your son has to be in Statesboro, GA for the Social Studies Fair Regional Competition—but you find that pocket of rest where you can. Like in the parking lot at Georgia Southern University, or maybe later with a beer in the garden.

The National Day of Unplugging starts tonight, March 4, at sundown.

Anti-Semitism: Not An Attractive Employment Tactic

Both Charlie Sheen and fashion designer John Galliano both deep-sixed their careers after making anti-Semitic slurs surfaced last week:

First, bipolar alcoholic maniac Sheen sneeringly called producer Chuck Lorre “Chaim Levine” on a radio interview. Lorre, the creator of the beyond-idiotic sitcom Two and A Half Men in which Charlie has inexplicably starred in for seven asinine seasons, responded by canceling the rest of the show’s season—after he had already put it on hiatus so that Charlie could attend “rehab at home” with his pet porn stars.

Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman donned his superhero cape and went immediately into action: “By invoking television producer Chuck Lorre’s Jewish name in the context of an angry tirade against him, Charlie Sheen left the impression that another reason for his dislike of Mr. Lorre is his Jewishness.”

Sheen has gotten busy with damage control (in spite of his overworked publicist’s sudden ship-jumping,) telling CNN’s Piers Morgan last night that he shoulda known better than to piss off the Jews:

“I regret it in a way that I didn’t even think about it,” Sheen said. “I should have thought about it. Stupid, stupid move.”

Yes—if you don’t like Jews, keep it to yourself, dumbass. Have you not learned anything from your friend Mel Gibson?

One could argue that Sheen’s comment wasn’t really overtly anti-Semitic, but we Jews are quite sensitive after the all the pogroms and Holocaust and everything, so eat it, douche.

There’s no room for doubt in Dior designer John Galliano’s “I Love Hitler” rant captured on a cell phone at a Paris café that was posted yesterday (then removed), which included the charming line “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f—ing gassed.”

Galliano is also being investigated for assaulting a couple and making anti-Semitic slurs in a different incident in another Paris cafe—luckily for him, he was fired this morning, so he’ll have lots more time to pursue this very productive hobby.

People always say “Jews run Hollywood” as if it’s an epithet—but it’s just WHAT IS. In fact, Jews INVENTED Hollywood and will continue to insist that those making gobzillions of dollars there not make rude, racist remarks.

If you don’t like it, go do Aryan community theater with Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson. I’m sure John Galliano will be happy to design you something with a swastika.