The Great Reveal

From now on, I’ll only go on dates in pajamas.

On Wednesdays.

At 10:45 p.m.

Such midweek engagements in sweats and old T-shirts, with stress and exhaustion at their peak, would eliminate some pretense — therefore saving my suitors and me time in assessing marriage potential. Presenting attractive facades of ourselves in lovely clothes, fancy restaurants and charming conversation would only delay our determining true compatibility. After all, one’s spouse is the person who sees what’s revealed “in here” considerably more often than what’s undercover “out there.”

To be sure, more than a bridal veil is lifted during the transition from courtship into matrimony. The intimacy of the latter demands that two people are prepared to pour themselves out before one another, exposing the purest and most naked part of their being with faith that it will be embraced. A sacred union requires nothing less than this kind of nakedness: a revelation far beyond the physical, and so exclusive that it cannot be attained with anyone else — not even God.

That’s what this week’s Torah portion suggests. In its opening lines we learn that a meeting with the Divine is, at its most personal, something of a formal first date. Not only must one “bathe his flesh in water,” but also “be attired [in] holy garments” (Leviticus 16:4) before getting together with God — who will be “within [a] veil before [a] covering” (Leviticus 16:2).

Like a bachelor who dons a great pair of jeans, expensive cologne and plays it cool to shield himself from vulnerability to a broken heart, the High Priest must wear fine linens, burn sweet smells and keep a safe distance from his beloved, “lest he die.” Both men understand that only fools rush in to certain relationships; conversely, the High Priest’s sons — after whom the portion is named — were just those kinds of fools.

“After the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they came near before the Lord and died” (Leviticus 16:2), we learn that it was Nadav and Avihu’s premature and over-exposed advances toward God that killed them. In their display of openness to the Divine, they became consumed in their love — literally.

Perhaps this is why Rabbi Isaac Luria said the boys were killed because they were unmarried; they mistook the nakedness that can lead to ecstatic union with one’s spouse to be translatable to communion with God.

The parsha makes it more than clear that this is not a mistake to be made. Exposure of one’s nakedness — emotional or corporeal — is a level of intimacy reserved exclusively for one’s partner in love and procreation. And to make sure we get the message, the text goes on to repeat its point. It repeats the word ervah (translated as “nakedness” or “to pour out”) in prohibitive context 24 times in a 16-line paragraph.

Be it one’s parent, sibling, grandchild or in-law, we must cover our essential states of defenselessness from one another at all times. We are not intended to reveal our totalities to more than one human being at a time.

As it is, most of us are still hiding from ourselves. Be it the disapproving grimaces we offer our reflections before the mirror or the shadows we cast over the ugly aspects of our characters, we have enough trouble confronting our own naked truths with unconditional love. To succeed in achieving intimacy with another is therefore more than enough to aspire toward.

The capacity to entirely behold the emptiness and starkness and frailty of a human being is the holiest of places we can occupy. If we succeed in embracing this place, we are rewarded with the ecstasy of reunion with the Divine.

And the competence to respect the fullness and complexity and protectiveness of everyone else is the holiest of positions we can take. If we succeed in revering this place, we are rewarded with the delight of communion with the Divine.

Somewhere between the lines of the text, we can find balance between what is concealed and what is revealed. We learn through the death of the two young priests that the Light of God is too strong to approach directly; a covering is necessary. And in that we are all made in the Image, we can more easily acknowledge the Divine light that must therefore be shining behind the veils of our fellows. In fact, the more they hide behind, the more we ought to appreciate the sanctity hidden within.

Meanwhile, late at night, in sweats and a T-shirt full of holes, I am faithful that I will come to meet someone who will see this display as holy indeed. I pray for an opportunity to join those courageous enough to commit to see and be seen in a nakedness beyond the shadows, and feel blessed in knowing that God exists in it all.

Rabbi Karen Deitsch works as a freelance officiant and lecturer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at

What is chivalry?

Once, I went out with this guy who was really traditional — not Jewishly, but when it came to dating. He believed in chivalry: If we drove somewhere, he would
always run around to my side and open the door, even though it took longer and I was perfectly capable of opening it myself.

I used to worry about encountering a mud puddle, anxious that he might try to put his coat over it and encourage me to walk on it, resulting in an extremely well-intentioned disaster for both me and the coat. He also insisted on walking between me and the curb, because he said that was the tradition in days of old, to protect the woman from the dangers of the road.

“But what if someone comes at me from the other side and pulls me into an alley?” I wondered. (We’re not together anymore.)

I’m a pretty big sucker for romantic gestures, but there’s something so antiquated about a level of consideration that puts the “court” back in courtesy. I’m all for courtesy. If someone wants to hold the door for me, bevakasha (please). I hold doors for many people — men and women — in the course of a given day, and I’m pretty sure I’m not dating most of them. If “all the people of Israel are responsible for one other,” then why wouldn’t we treat each other with respect, regardless of our marital status and with or without chivalry?

According to Wikipedia (the modern writer’s research tool, indispensable despite questions as to its accuracy) chivalry is “related to the medieval institution of knighthood … usually associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love.” Originally from the French (chevalier: one who rides a horse), today, chivalrous is “used to describe courteous behavior, especially that of men towards women.”

Today’s chivalry, if it exists at all, would have to be very different in action, if not in principle, from its medieval progenitor. One reader said that for her, chivalrous behavior would consist of “asking for a woman’s number and calling her.”

She related that she had e-mailed someone on JDate, who responded with “I’m not a computer person, you call me.”

She found this e-mail “disturbing.”

“Whatever happened to chivalry?” she asked. “Whatever happened to the man asking for the woman’s phone number and calling her? I find that JDate and other online sites are killing romance and chivalry.”

While I might find it personally inconvenient (or even annoying) when someone claims to “not be a computer person” in today’s technology age, I understand that not everyone prefers the same mode of communication. Some people are not “phone people,” but they get over it because they have to in order to communicate. If the profile interested her and if she felt comfortable, I advised her to be a little more forgiving. If it was so important to her that he make the first call, she should offer her number. Or she could tell him that she’s more comfortable handing out her number after a few e-mail exchanges. That reframing still indicates her interest, but also conveys that she’d like him to initiate communication.

Another reader went on a date with someone who did not pick her up and didn’t offer to buy her a beverage or anything to eat. To her, chivalry was simply “when the male picks the female up and walks her home. It means she feels cared for. It means she is offered a bite to eat [does not need to be expensive] or at least a drink.”

If chivalry is dead, it’s because of a conspiracy — with shots coming from the men in the book depository and the women on the grassy knoll and maybe some communist sympathizers — rather than a lone gunman. We wonder how today’s more equal social and economic ladder between men and women changes the rules of courtship. Some women are uncomfortable with chivalry, while others expect it. Men never know what’s expected of them. And everyone’s confused.

Maybe chivalry is not about holding a single door open or paying a dinner check. It’s about being made to feel like someone would ride a horse to get to you, and then treat you with respect even above the normal level they’d show a stranger, transforming your relationship with that person to a different level, one that’s more special — a love for the ages and a courtship of connection.

Courtesy The Jewish Week.

Letters to the Editor


Claims Unfounded

Professor Barry Steiner’s claims that had I written more extensively about David Irving in “Denying the Holocaust” this lawsuit might have been avoided is completely unfounded (Letters, Mar. 11). He might have better served his argument by offering some proof, however paltry.

Secondly, his question suggests to me that he has neither read “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” nor the trial record. He asks: “Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian?” It may be, but in Irving’s case, the answer is no.

Judge Gray’s words to describe Irving’s writings about the Holocaust were unambiguous: “perverts,” “distorts,” “misleading,” “unjustified,” “travesty” and “unreal.”

Gray wrote: Irving’s “falsification of the historical record was deliberate and … motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs, even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence.”

Steiner contends that Irving’s earlier writings are not fraudulent. I urge him to look at the section of “History on Trial” devoted to Irving’s distortions regarding the bombing of Dresden, about which Irving began writing in the 1960s.

He might also check and read the sections of the trial devoted to the topic. Gray found Irving’s treatment of the evidence about Dresden to be “absurd” and a “travesty.”

Given Irving’s distortions of both the Holocaust and Dresden, I believe any good historian would be skeptical about Irving’s other work and would, before relying on his findings, do what my defense team and I did for this legal battle: follow his footnotes.

Finally, regarding Irving’s ideological views, I again rely on Gray’s words: Irving had “repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people.”

If Steiner wishes to rely on Irving, that’s his choice. I just worry about what he teaches his students.

Deborah E. Lipstadt
Emory University

When Jews Lose

Joel Kotkin is on his Jewish liberal-bashing crusade (“When Jews Lose,” Mar. 18). What Kotkin should understand is that most Jews are liberal and vote liberal. We support candidates for office because of their values. Joe Lieberman learned that last year.

His comments about “Jewish power” overlooks the fact that there are five Jewish members of Congress from L.A. County.

And finally, his comments that “there is little reason to expect that a Villaraigosa administration would revive … the old Bradley multiracial coalition” is false, because the Villaraigosa coalition is already a broad coalition with a very strong Jewish component.

Howard Welinsky
Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles

In bemoaning the electoral defeat of mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg, Joel Kotkin outrageously implies that only a Jewish candidate – and only the “right” Jewish candidate at that (Steve Soboroff, not Joel Wachs, in 2001) – can represent Jewish interests.

Equally ludicrous is Kotkin’s claim that Jewish voters must reflexively vote for a Jewish candidate, since any other choice is a “rejection” or “defection.” Kotkin is so far out of the Jewish mainstream that he fails to even contemplate the possibility that Jews might believe their interests to be best served by a non-Jewish candidate, one who is able to form bonds with the multiplicity of other constituencies that populate our multicultural metropolis.

I would humbly suggest that this is a principal reason why prominent Jewish elected officials, such as U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman and Howard Berman and L.A. Councilmember Jack Weiss endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa in the March primary.

The fact is that Jews (who comprised only 14 percent of the March electorate, according to the Los Angeles Times’ exit poll) cannot elect any candidate who is not also broadly popular outside our community. The same was true of Asian support for Mike Woo in 1993 and of African American backing for Bernard Parks this March.

Of course, the classic L.A. model of a winning multiethnic, multiracial and interreligious coalition is that which finally brought Tom Bradley to office in 1973, following his 1969 defeat at the hands of a fear-mongering Sam Yorty.

After the equally despicable 2001 scare-tactic campaign of James Hahn, many of us hope and believe that the same phenomenon will recur 32 years later with the election on May 17 of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Douglas Mirell
Los Angeles

If I agreed with Joel Kotkin, I’d have to say that Jews “lost” when we helped elect the Catholic John F. Kennedy, when we supported the black Tom Bradley and when we voted for the Southern Baptist Bill Clinton. If those were “losses,” I can’t wait until we “win.”

Jews do not lose if Antonio Villaraigosa wins. We only lose when we quit the game. Whether we’re 20 percent of the voting populace, or 14, or even less, our vote matters. Every vote counts (or has Kotkin forgotten Florida 2000?). So does supporting the candidates who will do the best job of bringing all Angelenos to the table – not just candidates who look or cook or worship like us.

Kotkin is wrong to say that we are powerless unless we are in charge. His column reminded me of Hillel’s declaration: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” Except, by focusing solely on statement No. 1, Kotkin does injustice to the fuller wisdom Hillel hoped to impart.

Marcy Rothenberg
Porter Ranch

Joel Kotkin responds:

I was delighted that so many people read my column, although it’s unfortunate so many people misconstrued my comments. First, I did not say Jews had to vote for Jewish candidates. I myself supported Linda Griego in 1993 in the first round and then voted for Riordan twice. The issue here is what I perceive to be the interests of a continuing strong Jewish presence in Los Angeles. I believe the Jewish community relies on a government that is efficient, protects the public and is dedicated to keeping a strong middle class. Hertzberg reflected those values.

As for the notion that we are on the verge of a second Bradley coalition, I think this is unlikely. Jews were central to Bradley’s campaigns, not just for funding but as a voting bloc. Villaraigosa will be much less dependent on Jews for votes, and I believe, will win back union backing for his primary support.

What many in the liberal Jewish establishment fail to confront are the realities that continue to push Jews and middle-class people of all backgrounds out of the city. This starts with education, but also extends to business issues, since so many Jews are small businesspeople.

I find it odd that our so-called “progressives” seem unconcerned with what was the original mission of the progressive movement – to improve education and the public infrastructure so that more wealth can be created for the broad ranks of people.


In response to “Awareness Week at UCLA Hit by Apathy,” by Rona Ram (March 18):

As an Orthodox student at UCLA, I am one of the most visibly Jewish people on campus, and yet in my two quarters here, I have not experienced so much as a hint of anti-Semitism. I can only assume that other Jewish students have experienced a similar level of non-hate, and that is why they did not attend any events of JSU’s “Anti-Semitism Awareness Week.”

It is unrealistic to expect students to attend events in opposition to a phenomenon that they have no reason to believe exists. And maybe this is a good thing.

Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head at UCLA before, and it will do it again. But in the meantime, let’s celebrate that I can devote all my worrying to midterms and not to my physical and social well-being.

Jacob Leven
First Year Student


I’m glad to hear that the concept of “second-language immersion” has finally found its way into our local Jewish day schools (“All Hebrew, All the Time,” Mar. 18).

Why has it taken so long?

Over 35 years ago, right here in Culver City, the country’s first language immersion program began. Its success spread nationwide, and tens of thousands of children have benefited. We absolutely should add Hebrew to the list of languages (Culver City offers Spanish and Japanese) being taught in this highly effective manner.

To those who fear that students’ English skills will suffer, I can offer assurance that the contrary is true. Decades of research and anecdotal evidence, such as my own children’s academic success, prove this. Furthermore, the standardized (English) test scores of Culver City’s language immersion students are among the highest in California.

So, mazal tov to the schools and students embarking on this journey. Behatzlacha to all.

Robin Winston
Culver City

Ritual Slaughter

It is truly ironic and shameful that cruel animal slaughter methods are being undertaken in the name of Jewish law, as pointed out in your article, “PETA Renews Fight on Ritual Slaughter,” (March 11) by Kelly Hartog.

It is truly a shonda, a shameful thing, that we endorse the massive abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear and anguish, in addition to the cruel way they are killed.

Defending such conditions and practices by attacking PETA is akin to shooting the messenger. Indeed, many Jews are working to change these practices and relieve the suffering of these living creatures. There is no tradition of our faith that is older or more revered.

Lewis Regenstein
Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature

Dr. Temple Grandin, the animal welfare expert all sides support, has described the abuse at AgriProcessors as an “atrocious abomination” and argued that unannounced audits are needed to remedy its problems. This has still not occurred, and, thus, any notion that the abuses were addressed is misguided.

Announced audits at AgriProcessors are no solution and tell little. Would it be effective if police announced drug raids in advance?

As the president of the Rabbinical Assembly noted earlier this year, PETA’s investigation has provided “a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community.” (His statement and others are at

It is time we recognize the problems with kosher meat and address them; sadly, this has not yet happened.

Aaron Gross
Graduate Student in Religious Studies


Seven Days in the Arts (March 4), we incorrectly noted that Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz were starring in the current production of the play “Cops.” Mantegna and Franz were in the original production, but do not appear in the current show at the Steve Allen Theater.


Mark Miller’s nostalgic piece on “woo love” courtship struck a chord with me (“Where Is the Woo,” March 11).

Radio station KMZT (K-Mozart) broadcasts a weekly program of music and recitations of courtly love from a poet to his or her lover. It’s called “The Romantic Loves,” hosted by musician Mona Golabeck (Saturdays, 10 p.m.).

As an English major in college, I was exposed to this type of writing. I once sent a love letter to a girl in Connecticut who was back home for summer vacation.

When she got back to the University of Pennsylvania in September, she was quite cool to me. When we broke up, she said the poetic, gushy sentiments in my letter had scared her.

Richard Rofman
Van Nuys

Yossi Beilin

Tom Tugend wrote of the “Geneva accords with the Palestinians” (“Dovish Beilin ‘Not So Lonely,'” Mar. 18). Did he mean the private agreement between Yossi Beilin, who was not authorized by Israel, and the nonrepresentatives of the Palestinian gang? Each party repudiated the “accord.”

Beilin is a traitor. The World Affairs Council demeaned itself by granting him a platform and your journal by reporting this as significant news.

Louis Richter


E-mailer at the Bat

I’m a sucker for a slugger in a baseball hat. So I got caught looking at Alex, the hottie at my weekly Sunday softball game. He works for a nonprofit, volunteers at a local hospital and drinks at St. Nicks. And he has the greatest laugh.

Wise to the rules of both softball and dating, Alex threw out the first pitch. Last Monday morning, I arrived at work, booted up my Dell and heard those three little words every girl dreams about: “You’ve got mail.” Just seeing his name in my inbox made me smile. Cheeks a flush, heart a thumpin’, I opened his message.

“Hey Carin, saw you had some trouble at the plate yesterday. Wanna hit the batting cages? I’ll help you find your sweet spot. Alex”

His note is flirty and funny and screams “Let’s play ball.” I shoot off a teasing reply, and he writes right back. This back and forth, give and take, take me I’m yours, goes on for endless innings. I’m throwing heat, but he’s hitting deep. Right into the gap. The more he writes, the more I realize how charming and cheery and clever he is. By closing time, he’s batting 1.000 in the kibitz column. If Alex is this good at e-mail, I can only imagine how good he is at dinner. And dessert.

In modern relationships, cyberflirting is key. Forget diamonds. Forget pearls. E-mail is a girl’s best friend. You can edit, erase, write and rewrite your notes until you sound as casual as the dress code at the Snake Pit. And with e-mail there’s less risk. No money down, zero-percent financing. You can get to know someone from a safe distance and at a slow speed. It’s ideal for that comfortable, commitment-free courtship. Especially with a free agent like Alex, who’s hesitant to sign on with one team. He might call once a week — twice if you count a drunk dial. But he’ll e-mail everyday.

In fact, he’s in constant contact. And we’re not just talking reheated rabbi jokes and fun religious forwards. He’s always checking in, just saying “hi” and seein’ what’s up. And those feisty one-liners. Wow. He keeps my inbox happy and knows just how to hit the send button. With all this e-mail exchange, I assume my Boys-Batted-In stat is on the rise.

But just when it seems Alex and I will be typing happily ever after, he pulls the mouse pad out from under me.

Wednesday morning, I sent Alex a g’mornin’ shout out. Two days, five hours and three Cuervo shots later, I still hadn’t heard back. No reply. Nothing, nada, gornischt. I check my inbox obsessively. Again and again and again. But like Olympic Stadium during an Expos game, it’s completely empty.

How did this happen? I remember single life in the good old days. Guys always refused my offer to go Dutch, and the dilemma du jour was “Why hasn’t he called?” Now that I finally learned that a watched phone never rings, I’m thrown another “Men Are From Mars” curveball.

E-mail. The choice of a new generation.

Maybe my note didn’t go through. Maybe he hasn’t checked his e-mail. Maybe he checked his e-mail, but didn’t write back. Maybe he’ll never write back. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Maybe no one will ever like me. Maybe I’ll end up single, alone and spend the rest of my days in the alter-kacker anonymous chat rooms.

Or maybe I should just chill.

Enough with this mishigoss. The problem isn’t that Alex hasn’t responded. It’s that I don’t know how to respond to him not responding.

We girls tend to overreact, creating tsuris where there isn’t any. Especially when our flirting average dips below the Mendoza line. Well ladies, there’s no crying in baseball. We’ve got to learn to deal, get our game faces on. An unreturned call or unanswered e-mail doesn’t have to mean the end, roll credits, fade to black. Most likely, the guy is busy with work, seeking some space or looking for a challenge. Men start writing when we stop waiting. Men start chasing when we start running. So this single slugger started sprinting.

I’ve stayed clear of my compose button. I focused on friends, fun and a few other good men. And when I came back from this morning’s staff meeting, there was an e-mail from Alex.

“Sorry I’ve been MIA. Had a big proposal due, but am finally caught up. Cages this weekend?”

Now that Alex is back in the lineup, it’s time to bring in my closer and nail down that date. I’ll be getting to first base in no time.

Why I’m Still Single

A friend of mine and I were sitting at Canter’s having lunch when we were discussing my dating life — or lack of it. Since he knows what a cool guy I am, he suggested that there was just one tactic to take — to make up an ex-wife and a divorce so that I could avoid the stigma of having never been married. He went a step better — he went for the widower concept, which I liked, and embellished with the death of my wife in a tragic car wreck.

But here’s the problem: It’s not so much that I’m against lying on principle, it has its place. It’s just that I suck at it.

And in the best- (or worst-) case scenario, I would have to continue the charade with tales of my courtship and marriage, the details of the accident and whether I’m in touch with her parents and siblings, etc. I’d have to basically write my own Lifetime TV movie.

So, in the interest of honesty, and because I cannot afford more therapy, I am going to address, once and for all, the issue of why such an incredible, well-liked and modest guy has never been married.

First of all, I was a late bloomer. Although I had an amazing date for my senior prom, she broke my heart, and I had zits. So I never got married in high school.

In college, I didn’t have a car and partied a lot. I went to the weddings of several friends my senior year, and it was pretty obvious that those marriages were in trouble. My main concern was the draft. So I never got married in college.

After college, I got the most incredible job in the history of mankind, due to the fact that my father was the treasurer of a large travel agency. For the next seven years, I was a tour guide in Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cancun, Rome, Paris and Tahiti, just to name a few. I learned to play tennis quite well and got an amazing tan. Needless to say, I didn’t get married.

After that I moved to Los Angeles and became a screenwriter. I had a serious relationship that ended when I decided that it wasn’t quite right. Thereafter, I went out with every flake and insane model and actress in Los Angeles. By the way, in case you didn’t know this, struggling screenwriters are not considered marriage material by women of substance. So I didn’t get married in my 30s.

And I even made a bit of money writing screenplays, but you couldn’t call it a career — although I tried. And I made good money as a legal secretary. But you know what, legal secretary is a crappy job to meet women.

Oh, did I mention that I am the only child of Holocaust Survivors? So I had a very close home life and was devoted to my parents, who were quite a bit older than my friends’ parents, and in most cases, a lot smarter. Well, my father passed away when I was 37 and he was 86. He was a very wise man. He loved my mother deeply but he would say to me, at least three times a week, (translated from German) — “marry infrequently.”

So I did. Very infrequently.

My mother lived in La Jolla, and I went down there about every third weekend to make sure that she was OK and to pick up some free food — she would generally pack a cooler of Czech specialties and lox for me to take back to L.A. Made it rough to really get married with all that free food.

When things stabilized, my mom died. Now I was really devastated because I couldn’t really figure out why I needed to get up in the morning, so I didn’t bother. Well, not really. I went into therapy and discovered that I was really a hell of a guy, and that I had a right to feel bad.

So I got back into the thick of things and wrote a couple of computer books and decided it would be nice to find love with a good woman, but everybody I dated would ask me: “So how come you’ve never been married?”

Translation: “What is wrong with you anyway?”

So I met this woman I really liked — and I even really liked her dog, Max. I even walked him on Sundays and cleaned up his poop. She was worried I would never make a commitment, but right after Valentine’s Day, she woke up and asked me at 1 a.m., “Are you going to make $100,000 next year?”

You know, I really miss Max.

So I bought a condo on the Westside and had a big party, and all my friends said, “Man this is a great place to bring a lady.” But the women at the party all asked me, “So how come you’ve never been married?”

So I decided that instead of lying or making up an ex who died in a car wreck, I’m going to photocopy this column. At my age I go to the bathroom quite a bit, so over dinner, when I need to take a break, I’ll let her read it. We’ll see what happens.

I will also post it on dating boards online under the area, “What I’ve learned from my relationships.”

What have I learned from them? Mostly, I know that thing with the toilet seat, and a lot of times I even take tissue and wipe the hair from the drain in the shower.

Next time: Why I’m not six feet tall.