A Vice President, a Sacred Space

I went home for Shabbat. Home meaning my parents’ house, which despite knowing I shouldn’t — I have an apartment I pay rent on and a wife and kid I come home to — I still I think of when I say the word “home.” I’ve put my parents through a lot of forced changes, from surprising them with the fact that I’d become religious to the time I called up to tell them — from Australia — that my wedding was going to be 12,000 miles further than they might have anticipated. They’ve had to re-kasher their kitchen between 2 and 4 times, depending who you ask.

I’m telling you all of this to preface the fact that, on Friday, my mother (who’s also, I should note, a lifelong Democrat) went on a harsh, Obama-directed rant.

“Why does he think he’s so important?” she huffed. “What, he already chose his vice president, and he thinks he’s too good to tell the rest of us? The news said he’s going to text his followers. On Friday night!! I know I’m not, you know, so religious, but I bet there’s a lot of people out there who are pretty miffed that they’re missing it.”

I mean, seriously. One lone Orthodox Jew swipes the man’s prayer in a PR stunt, and he takes it out on all of us?

It’s an ironic twist of fate that eight years ago, when an Orthodox Jew was almost sworn in as vice president (and, ahem, won the popular vote), there was almost no public outcry over how he’d be sworn in when the inauguration was on Sabbath. When Joe Lieberman was asked, he shrugged it off and told reporters that he’d walk. I was actually there, Inauguration Day 2001, when he went to the early-morning minyan and walked the 28 long blocks between Congregation Kesher Israel and the White House.

But I’ve always found, Orthodox Jews tend to expect less of the outside world than the outside world expects them to. Usually, when stuff like this gets tossed our way, we shrug it off and look for a way around it. In this case, that way wasn’t too hard to find — we just waited till sunset, then had a look around the web. When it’s other stuff — like last week, when our friend Avigail’s train got stranded until minutes before sundown — you have to go a little farther. (In her case, she found an Israeli hairdresser, who she kept calling “her Zohan,” who locked her bags away until Sunday morning.)

In the meantime, my sister redirected me to this Wiki on Joe Biden — an honest and morally praiseworthy human being who raised his daughters as a single father after his wife’s untimely death. I like the sound of the guy, and I’m from Philly, so we have many fond memories of tax-free shopping in Biden’s home state of Delaware. And I might be quick to forgive him for ignoring my community.

I’m not sure, however, that I can say the same for my mom.

Posted on August 25, 2008

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