Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Mardi Gras - Kosher or not Kosher?

Originally posted 1/30/08, 10: 25 PM, Eastern Daylight Time
I recently chatted with an acquaintance who told me he was headed for New Orleans. Knowing full-well that the major religious event in the USA this Sunday [02/03/08] was the forthcoming Super Bowl XLII - I was curious as to why he would head to NEW ORLEANS and not to ARIZONA!

My curiosity was soon satisfied when my compadre said that he was going to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras and that in addition he he has been doing so for the past 10+ years. We digressed to discuss the impact of Katrina etc., but I was really curious as to how an Orthodox Jew - albeit a very Modern Orthodox Jew - would find it in his busy schedule to celebrate [inebriate?] Mardi Gras as an annual Chag.

Bishlama, if he went just ONCE, I could rationalize his action, and chalk it up to intellectual curiosity. But once he has been there and done that and continues to go for the next decade, is this not a true annual ritual?

Funny, methinks that I protest a bit too much but am I the ONLY Orthodox Jew in North America who suspects his fellows of engage in borderline, or even outright, Avodah Zara? [Oh yeah! So go ahead and mention my longstanding worship of the NY Yankees or of my intense loyalty and devotion to the Bobby Orr era Boston Bruins!] All kidding aside I was not close enough to this fellow to give him any kind of hochacha [and being a Mets fan he would not have listened to me anyway] but I really wonder where are our priorities! At least the Arizona Super Bowl is a secular Avodah Zara that probably could be justified



Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Where to draw the line? If one takes a right wing position towards the secular the line is drawn in a heavy fashion that leaves out anything that is outside the realm of Torah, narrowly defined. But once one argues that the world of Torah includes the embracing of the
secular to some extent (that
we wish Yefet to dwell in the camps of Shem) the demand arises to disntinguish between what is proper within the world of the secular and what is improper. That calls for the drawing of a more subtle and fine line which is
harder to draw. That would seem to be the issue here. If you reject the entire secular world then what is the difference between Super Bowl and Mardi Gras? The result of those many who maintain that the secular world has value is thus to defend both Super Bowl and Mardi Gras -- but is that truly viable within the hashkafa of Torah? That is Rabbi Wolpoe's question. Given the roots of Mardi Gras in Catholic thought and the present method that the "partying" of Mardi Gras is expressed this question is indeed most powerful. It demands from the truly dedicated Modern Orthodox Jew the need to draw fine lines which may demand more thought and more commtiment and more Torah understanding than the drawing of the thick lines of the more right wing individual.

Just to the aside, specifcally in regard to sports but with application to this entire issue, see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

By Divine Synchronicity I just learned in the Mishna yomit cycle Avodah Zara 1:3. See it's contents and then revisit my post and find a striking resemblance!

Garnel Ironheart said...

Fine lines my buttocks!

Mardi Gras is firmly based on a Catholic holiday but has evolved into a festival of debauchery that would make the ancient Romans and Greeks blush in embarrassment. There is no justification for a Jew participating in it, any more than attending a Catholic mass just because the music sounds all purty.