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Sanbelat the Horny

Sanbelat the Horny was horny.

He adjusted the black hat and suit he was wearing, wiping the sweat from his brow. A black hat and suit were the last thing you’d think of wearing in the Middle East, but this what Moses had worn when he left Egypt, so it figured that those devoted to fearing God would do the same.

He gazed at the sexy images that peered back at him from the bottom of the earthenware bowls he had lined up on the ground. In 3,000 years, Rabbi Ken Spiro would explain that this nudity would represent the depravity the world had been plunged into until the Jews had lit up the nations.

Illustrative photo of the illustrations in question.

Dunno, Sanbelat kind of liked things this way. Without these bowls, he’d be forced to just masturbate to bible verses. Ezikiel 23.19 – “for their cocks are like horses, and their semen flows like donkeys”. Song of Songs 7.3 – “Your tits are like pomegranates”.

He was paraphrasing, but only slightly. That’s the gist. He wasn’t great at memorization, but he knew those words well.

The verses were juicy, but these images at the bottom of the bowls were juicer. Every month Earth&Wear would release a new edition of their bowls, with the Figure of the Month™ carved in the bottom. You had to collect them all.  

You know what wasn’t fair to Sanbelat? That his name would never catch on. Other bible names would totally stick. Daniel. Jonathan. David. Judah, who incidentally had a predilection for whores.

Sanbelat had a real ring to it – but it would be relegated to fictional-sounding stories, like this one.  That said, Sanbelat felt there was still hope. Onan literally had masturbation named after him. If he played his cards right, maybe lust would be named after Sanbelat the Horny.

He remembered the day the finger arrived in the mail, by courier. It belonged to a concubine who’s man had let her be gang raped to death. Aghast that something so evil could occur despite his total complacency, he’d chopped her into pieces and sent her off to all the rest of the tribes.

To communicate his point.

Sanbelat didn’t get what the big deal was. Rape wasn’t even prohibited in the Torah. Although personally he preferred that the women he had sex with actually wanted it. It was more fun that way.

Everyone else was particularly enraged by the actions of a small group of hooligans, and so the remaining tribes had started a civil war and killed almost every single human from the tribe of Benjamin.

Realization suddenly dawned that killing every single human from the tribe of Benjamin would mean they would cease to exist, and, full of remorse, they remediated the situation by allowing the remaining men to kidnap their daughters and progenate the next generation.

Disaster averted.

Sanbelat had a girlfriend. She actually wasn’t even an Israelite, because the Torah didn’t explicitly prohibit dating a non-Jewish woman. Hell, Jacob has married a non-Jewish woman. Four of them, in fact. He was gonna buy the rights to her marriage, just as soon as saved up enough camels.

His Rabbis would admonish him.

“Sanbelat,” Rabbi Ishmael would say (another name that didn’t really stay in style), standing beneath the tallest palm tree, as was the custom of Men of Authority. “You should study more and jerk off less.”

Sanbelat would try. But there was very little to study yet. Just a few books.  The five books of Moses. 12 out of the remaining 19 books that would eventually be written.

Esther hadn’t happened yet. Chronicles was only partially Chronicled. Definitely no Rashi or Tosfot to endlessly debate.

Sanbelat’s other classmates didn’t fare much better. They’d crowd into the synagogue, the very same ones that would be unearthed by archeologists centuries later. They’d do everything they could to avoid any sort of livelihood-making activities. Those were women’s jobs, along with cooking and cleaning and making babies.

And let’s not even get started with serving in King David’s army. Hell no.

Sanbelat was keeping the world aloft with every holy word he spoke. Huddled over the parchment by the light of an oil lamp, pouring over writings that would be illegible to modern day Jews, he was truly a light unto the nations.

Proverbs 5:19: “I love sucking graceful nips”.  

Sanbelat gripped his dick with determination.

It was hard being a Yeshiva Bochur in 1,000 BC.

But someone had to do it.

The Frame

He could see the frame, always. 

From the moment he was born. 

The frame. 

It was a gilded frame, and very ornate. Like the kind that framed those old fashioned pictures in his grandmother’s old fashioned dining room when he came to visit. 

With lots of unnecessary curls and leaves and shit.

He lived in two places at once. 

In his body, feeling the everpresent tightness in his stomach, the weight that could always be attributed to something. 

It was always there, and there was always something. 

An upcoming test. 

A page of talmud he’d read 18 times instead of 24. 

The pointlessness of it all. 

He lived outside as well. Zoomed out, seeing himself from behind his head, from the corner of the room, from a birds eye view. 

Looking down at the classroom, through the ceiling. Looking down on Rothchild square full of swarms of children trying to decapitate each other with a soccer ball. 

He could see the frame. 

The frame was the old city walls, 400 years old, that kept people in, and kept people out, and made for a pretty good eruv so you could actually carry things around on Shabbat. But some people still didn’t. 

The frame was laws. 

Starting with a blessing when you opened your eyes and ending with a blessing when you closed them, with many more blessings interspersed.

Along the way: prayers, bowing, reciting, suppressing, reviewing, denying.

The frame was God. 

A shadowy presence that he knew better than to imagine, but which he sensed. 

It was dark foreboding which loved him dearly, a consciousness that observed him constantly while ignoring him completely. 

It was everywhere outside of him, like walking through a cloud that conformed to the shape of his body.

His soul, he imagined, was shaped like a glowing cross. Nothing would persuade his mind otherwise. 

He escaped to better places. 

To fantasies of superheroes. 

He was harry potter and darth vader and neo all in one. A good darth vader, of course. 

He was always with a crew on the way to save the day. 

Here he had friends, or at least people who took orders. 

Here he mattered. 

He held assault rifles. He ran up steps while crouching. He was prepared. 

But his gun always had a cartoonish bend to it. As though his mind were telling him, you can’t even get a fantasy straight. 

When he masturbated, which he did frequently and with great reluctance, his mind would sing him songs. Religious songs, which he normally hated, but which now turned to earworms to accompany the thrusting and the grinding. 

His brain sang him songs about Torah, and loving to study, which was news to him. Try not to enjoy this.

He could see the frame not just in space, but also time. The whole world was only 6,000 years old. Each lifetime, only 80, 90, 120. All this, a prelude for eternity. The proportions didn’t make sense. 

Praying for messiah to arrive any day, as the deadline for the world’s end slowly approached. 

One day the world would know His One True Glory. And shortly thereafter it would all disappear. 

What even was the point? 

Blue cups without handles. 

Fluorescent lightbulbs. Two legged shtenders. 

There were good shtenders and bad shtenders. He always liked the small ones, with the leg rest at just the right height. Never really cared for the very fancy adjustable ones. 

Standing, sitting, bending, tilting, he became one with the shtender, gyrating out all the anxieties that come from seeing everything and knowing nothing. 

Fans attached to the wall, Air conditioners set to 16 degrees. Broken windows. He got pneumonia. 

Stone and cement, everything hard and unflinching. Fashioning popsicle sticks into spears through incessant rubbing, as the bible has prophesied. 

Following trails of dried blood from the school steps to the parking lot. Was it a nosebleed or a broken heart?

He often wondered about the point. The point of endless repetition of verses. Of names of plants which no one could identify. Of laws that pertained to buildings that were now rubble. 

He wondered why he was dumber than everyone else, as was demonstrated by him not understanding anything. 

Why no one answered all the glaring questions that only he saw. Why everyone else had self-discipline and all he had was self-loathing.

He wondered how the Torah made you a better person while everyone around him, who seemed quite well-versed, behaved like a complete ass. 

He wondered how you knew when to take a break, since knowing that would require trusting yourself and if there was one thing he knew is that we can’t be trusted.

There were 70 faces to the Torah, but some were prettier than others. 

Some looked like a snarling Rabbi, screaming red-faced as flecks of spit flew out of his mouth. 

About children behaving like children and other despicable things. 

About being a desecration of God’s name. 

Of not having a share in the world to come.

Even when he left religion behind, a pile of hatred and nostalgia that he preferred to pretend didn’t exist but which was always right behind him, he still saw the frame. 

He saw it in the interchanges between customer and cashier. Good morning. How are you? I’m good. 

In the inequities that Reddit surfaced daily. In the wars around politics and land and gender identity. 

In the viral posts and the comments of lascivious men. You have beautiful eyes, you know that? I’d love to get my hands on those eyes.

Seeing the frame meant containing contradictions without having a frame to contain them. 

Meaning inside, meaninglessness out. Nothing you ever did ever extended past the frame. 

It was the edge of the universe. The part which we no longer understood, except for this: nothing matters beyond that point.

It was a small world, this universe. 

Stretching from one ear to the other: the milky way, instant coffee, potato and hotdog stew with all the hotdogs removed, fake cologne by Hugo Boss. 

Each Jewish soul is incredibly precious, Arabs are donkeys, we should all strive to die as martyrs, muslims are terrorists, this undershirt is too scratchy.

He could condense it all into his mind.

The holocaust, pogroms, hate, pretending to love, actually caring. 

He was the frame.

Dik Picks

You want proofs of God? I’ll give you proofs of God.

How is it, that the word Zayin, which means both Fuck and Dick in Hebrew, looks so amazingly like a dick when turned on its side?

Checkmate atheists.

And it’s the 7th letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which we know is the holiest of letters. Kabbalistically, this is be

cause sex is actually a huge, throbbing mitzvah when done in the right way and in the right time, which is not at all and never.

Double checkmate.

Here’s the original amazing text that inspired this all:

Thank you Miss Mandelbaum, for making this a school I want to go to.

Things eventually became colorful, as the verse sayeth “And I shall cast the rainbow in the cloud”.

Bonus video:

Conditioning for Pleasure

I’ve been working with a coach on experiencing pleasure. It’s not that I haven’t experienced it at all, but it was few and far between, and I did not enjoy my day-to-day existence.

I can probably say I started experiencing joy for the first time about a year ago.

My default mode of going through the world was surviving. I am now working on thriving, which requires a completely new way of being to come online.

As always, I am struck by where I come from. How it promised it all and delivered nothing.

My mother would wax poetic about how Eskimos have 100 words for snow (they don’t) and how jews have a hundred words for joy. Because we’re so fucking joyous, right?

“Worship God with Simcha. Come before him with Renana.” If you sang it with enough fervor, maybe you’d start feeling it.

Noach Weinberg’s fundamental, absolute beginner class was The 5 Levels of Pleasure.

Leave it to that dude to take what is supposed to be a felt experience and turn it into an hour-long mental masturbation meta-analysis of what pleasure was supposed to be like. Including deeming certain pleasure “counterfeit”.

Figures, this coming from the community that taught the secrets to a happy marriage before they all got divorced.

And so, as usual, I am building it all up from scratch, experientially instead of intellectually. And instead of starting from zero, which would be sad enough, I am starting with a deficit, unlearning all the bullshit that was ingrained in me by my parents, aish, and orthodox Judaism.

I’d tell them to go fuck themselves, but they might enjoy it.

And that wouldn’t be allowed.

Shlemple Joins the Army

Join Shlemple on a whimsical journey of soul crushing death and destruction. Sure to be a direct hit for the whole family.

I Hate Being Jewish

Cards against Humanity is one of my favorite games. It’s funny, it’s simple, and it’s not very competitive.

When it’s my turn to judge, those who know me know that certain cards are automatic winners. Cards I deem so hilarious that everyone else can just give up and go home.

Auschwitz. Hitler. Self-microwaving burrito.

What even is a self-microwaving burrito? Teiku. No one knows.

As a child, the term self-hating jew was thrown around a lot. Especially when certain names were mentioned, like Noam Chomsky.

My mother brandished the term with particular frequency, and I recall the particular derision in her voice. The amount of judgement that only someone who deeply hates themselves can muster up.

Hating your Jewishness is frowned upon. Hating your very essence is the most Jewish thing you can do.

What even is a self-hating Jew? It feels just as magical, as self-sufficient, as capable, as a self-microwaving burrito. “Instead of needing to rely on others to be hated, you just do it to yourself.”

I hate being Jewish. At this point, not because of anything I’ve done personally or that we’ve done as a collective. As it’s been pointed out, for most of history we’ve been victims, not perpetrators.

I hate being Jewish because contending with anti-semitism is a royal pain in the ass.

It feels like an amplification of the general human condition, and my anti-natalist views towards being born. To be alive is to suffer. To be Jewish is to suffer more.

My reaction to human suffering, and the despicable behavior of humans who often perpetuate it, is revulsion to the point of not wanting to share the same earth with these creatures.

To be alive is to suffer, and I think we should think deeply before dragging more people into this world of suffering.

If you’re predisposed for additional suffering, I think this requires even deeper contemplation. If you’ll be giving someone a genetic disease, for example. Or if you’ll be making them part of a persecuted minority. You’re setting them up for extra pain.

To be Jewish is to suffer in ways that many people don’t need to. I don’t believe it’s metaphysical, but I do think Jews have suffered disproportionately throughout history, and up until today.

To grapple with the immeasurable suffering of our ancestors. To struggle with simmering antisemitism that is always right beneath the surface, or, as the case currently seems to be, right above it.

It boggles my mind that people’s reaction after the holocaust, or after October 7th, is to double down and bring more humans into this godforsaken earth.

I don’t comprehend the concept of being proud because you’re disproportionately hated. It’s not an indication necessarily that you’ve done something wrong, but hey, wouldn’t you rather be proud about being universally loved?

I resent being human, grappling with the suffering that is part of the human condition.

I resent being Jewish and grappling with the extra suffering that is my lot.

The least I can do is not perpetuate this upon anyone else.

“But then they’ll have won,” you’ll admonish, clutching your Jewish star. “In the battle of good and evil, it’ll be evil who’s prevailing.”

Maybe it will be.

Returning to Footsteps

My partner and I recently attended a retreat organized by Footsteps, the organization that supports (mostly) Orthodox Jews leaving religion, especially in the New York area.

The retreat was wonderful, and I am grateful to the organization for creating such an enjoyable experience, with a lot of generosity, abundance, and acceptance, all traits that I was sorely lacking during my upbringing.

I learned to juggle. I taught acro yoga. I played laser tag for the first time in my life. I hosted the largest ever game of Kiruv vs. Orthodoxy, and shepped loads of nachas as people laughed at the cards.

Below are some additional observations, in no particular order.

How lucky I am

I had a fucked up childhood, and yet other people’s lives are so much worse. People at the wrong end of a custody battle, with little access to their children, and no support from their families. Contrast that with my partner leaving religion like I did, our aligned values around raising our kids together, and the partial acceptance my parents have shown.

The more conservative your upbringing, the more fucked up you’ll be

I was fortunate to be raised with fluent English, with secular education being celebrated, to a degree, even if as a means towards an end. You can see the difference in how messed-up Yeshivish/Lithuanian families are compared to the far-worse Hassidic families are. The latter gives you even less education and marks even the English you speak with a distinct accent that sets you apart.

The predominance of Queer and Neurodivergent People

It’s hard to know if this is the cause or the effect, but it was clear that religion becomes a whole lot less tolerable if your sexual preferences are different, or if your brain works differently than others on an intellectual, emotional, or social level. Footsteps also probably disproportionately attracts these types of individuals, because of the extra support and community they feel they need.

The presence of trauma

Trauma is everywhere, right beneath the surface. It’s in the lack of eye-contact and the nervous mannerisms. It’s in the laughter around dark personal stories that aren’t funny. It’s in the rampant sexual abuse that is implied and almost explicit in some people’s journeys. It’s in the costumes many people put on as they prepare to get on a bus back to their closeted Orthodox lives.

How far I’ve come

I was at the last retreat, pre-covid, four years ago. It was interesting to have a milestone to see my progress since then. How much I’ve healed from my traumatic past. How much I’ve moved on from my identity as an ex-religious person. How much my social skills have improved. I saw some people I recognized from four years ago, and not all of them have fared as well. For my growth too, I am grateful.

Never was it more obvious that the more religion equals more pain than at the Footsteps retreat.

Fuck religion. Thank god for Footsteps. They may not be perfect, but their heart is in the right place.

I don’t think I’ll be going on another retreat, because of how far I’ve come. But I’m grateful for the experience and what I learned in this one.

Asking the Big Questions

A recent memory came back to me.

At the age of around 14, I remember bursting into tears in front of both my parents. I didn’t understand, I told them, what the point of all the Torah study I was doing that I engaged in for about 12 hours a day. What was the point of it all? It was so obviously irrelevant from anything to do with reality.

I remember my parents being at a loss, both intellectually and emotionally.

My mother told me father to give me a hug. So he did.

They tried to give reasons, it didn’t go very far.

We went for a walk, and bumped into the neighborhood Rabbi, Avigdor Nebentzal. “Let’s ask him,” my mother suggested.

He gave a beaming smile and explained. Something about Torah changing us, or supporting the world, or something like that.

My parents asked if I understood. I said yes.

They asked if I felt better. I said I did.

A few things stand out to me in this story, beside my mother delegating affection to my father and him awkwardly complying.

How plagued I was by existential questions from the youngest of ages. How the importance of knowing why I was doing what I was doing stood out as a crucial requirement. (apparently not everyone works this way? Apparently Simon Sinek needed to write a book about it?)

And also, how my parents had no answers. How they sent me to school every day to do something that they couldn’t articulate. That they were placated by answers delivered by random rabbis on random street corners. Until they met them, or had they arbitrarily not done so, things were still just fine.

To me, the artificial application of meaning on top of something that viscerally felt meaningless is metaphorical for much of my experience of around religion. There was a brute-forcing of my own intuition into the squareness of religious practice.

The will of God is so. This is how it’s done. Now figure out how to be happy around it.

Embracing Uncertainty

Growing up, in school, we’d be reading the same page 40 times, when the Rabbi would stop the class for a spot check. If you had lost your place, you’d be publicly shamed – yelled out, or sent out of the classroom.

We were reminded that in the olden days Yemenite kids would read with oranges under their chin. If they looked up and the orange dropped, they’d be beaten. We’d never had it this good.

(I got very good at playing along while letting my mind wander, or skimming the page to find the right spot if a surprise check was suddenly initiated)

Not knowing, uncertainty, became a very dangerous thing.

Religion demands certainty.

You must be certain that your butthole is clean. That you concentrated during the first paragraph of Shmone Esre. That you remembered to say Ya’ale Veyavo on Rosh Chodesh.

In return, Religion promises certainty.

Certainty that you’re the chosen people. That God is listening to every word. That everything you do matters. That these times, indeed, are the end of days.

It takes greater courage to live in uncertainty.

To not know the point of it all. To not know what your role is. To not know who to turn to when the going gets tough.

And yet, uncertainty is an essential part of life.

Essential for humility, to continue to learn and admit what you don’t know.

Essential for the scientific method, questioning even things that we seemingly take for granted.

Essential for spontaneity and play. No one wants to play a game where the outcome is a given.

Over the years, I developed an aversion to uncertainty.

A clenching of the stomach when I woke up, around the day’s many unknowns.

An artificial confidence for spouting answers even to things I know nothing about. (this is known in professional circles as “bullshit Shore confidence”)

A deep dislike of replying with an “I don’t know” to the endless questions my 10 year old poses to me (you are usually only about two follow-up questions away from an “I don’t know”)

For me, it also combined with an obligation around masculinity, to be a provider and protector. It wasn’t enough to try, I had to succeed. I had to take responsibility for outcomes far beyond my control. A surefire recipe for anxiety.

I am actively working on accepting ambiguity.

Of deliberately playing in the unknown.

Of feeling safe even with no guarantees of safety.

Because, despite what religion claims, reality would like a word. And that word is uncertainty.

Hashgacha Pratis Generator

Are you in need of some chizuk in this trying times?

Do you need an anecdotal story that will remind you without a shadow of a doubt that hashem is looking out for your every move to make sure you are safe and protected?

This handy generator will generate the exact right story that will resonate most strongly with you, based on your unique preferences, gender, and religious outlooks.

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Hasgacha Pratis Generator

An Unbelievable Hashgacha Pratis Story

This is the story of .

So there he was, on his way to fulfill his holy mission, when suddenly , in a shocking, but not surprising, display of antisemitism.

He was sure all was lost, and that he was a dead man. He muttered a final Shema to himself and prepared to return his soul to its creator.

Then he looked down and saw that instead of penetrating his own body, it had simply pierced the that he carried around with him at all time.

He let out a sigh of relief. He knew in his heart of hearts that his salvation was due entirely to the .

The stranger looked at me. “And you know who that person was?” He smiled.

“Who?” I asked.

“That person,” he replied slowly, “was me.”

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