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Nitel Night

December 28th, 2008 No comments

Via He Lives I found this Haaretz article on Nitel Night– Christmas Eve for the Hasidim, who have all kinds of commands and superstitions about it.

On Christmas Eve, known in Jewish circles as Nitel Night, the klipot (shells) are in total control. The klipot are parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to the forces of good. According to kabbala (Jewish mysticism), on the night on which “that man” – a Jewish euphemism for Jesus – was born, not even a trace of holiness is present and the klipot exploit every act of holiness for their own purposes.
For this reason, Nitel Night, from nightfall to midnight, is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study. …

The Knesset correspondent of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Zvi Rosen, relates that celebrated Hasidic admorim (sect leaders) would cut a year’s supply of toilet paper for Sabbath use (to avoid tearing toilet paper on Sabbath) on this night. Actually, this disrespectful act has profound kabbalistic significance, because kabbalistic literature extensively discusses Christianity as waste material excreted from the body of the Jewish people. Today, precut toilet paper for Sabbath use is available on the market; thus, the custom’s relevance has diminished. …

…an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was once asked to eulogize Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and a secular Jew. After a few moments, he came up with three positive traits: Herzl had never spoken while putting on his phylacteries, had never thought about Torah matters in unclean places and had never studied Torah on Nitel. …

In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not observe Nitel at all. “The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah,” quipped one Lithuanian Jewish cynic.

I found hasidic discussion forum threads on Nitel Night here and here. They aren’t all that interesting, but they show that the customs are alive.

Categories: jokes, judaism, religion Tags:

A Spell Checker Story

December 26th, 2008 No comments

I forget where I saw this, but it’s a good story.

I once worked at a company run by a Canadian guy who would go ballistic every time a document with misspellings or grammatical errors hit his desk. The offending author was subject to excoriating humiliation during international webcasts, conference calls and meetings.

The President’s 2nd-in-command was a man (weasel, actually) best described as “a man Will Rogers never met”. One afternoon The Weasel went on vacation, but left his unguarded laptop logged-in and unsecured on a conference table. I spent over an hour adding all sorts of common spelling mistakes to his computer’s spell-checker dictionary. A cat could have tap danced its way across the keyboard and the spell checker would not have flagged any errors.

I really enjoyed watching The Weasel get berated over the next few months for his error-prone reports. Why he continued to trust the spell checker even after it consistently let him down is beyond me.

Categories: computers, jokes, writing Tags: