Weekly Unscrolled Torah Portion: B’haalot’kha
What do we have here? Levites shaving their pubic hair, menorah makers, trumpets, Passover, complaining, a horrific rain of dead birds, more complaining, some moving around, murder, more complaining, racism, and even a skin rash. We are portrayed as a nation of grumbling whiners, of ultra critical, nattering nitpickers of negativism, of miserable, whiny, unreconstructed nudniks. Freedom isn’t good enough. The manna isn’t good enough for our people, evidently ill-equipped to be desert wanderers. It’s a wonder that our national symbol isn’t an image of someone with a deep frown and a wagging finger telling a waiter to send the meal back, or that our national anthem isn’t called “It’s Not Good Enough.” An invisible deity has freed you from the bonds of slavery, given you a sacred covenant by which to live, and sustained you in the desert with copious amounts of food? But, meh! What have You done for me lately? The food was better in Egypt.
Edward Portnoy is Senior Researcher and Director of Exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Eddy received his Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on cartoons of the Yiddish press. He also holds an M.A in Yiddish Studies from Columbia, having written on artists/writers Zuni Maud and Yosl Cutler. His articles on Jewish popular culture phenomena have appeared in The Drama Review, Polin, and The International Journal of Comic Art. In addition to speaking on Jewish popular culture throughout Europe and North America, he has consulted on museum exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York, Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris, and the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam.