Monday, 29 April 2019


The always inspired and insightful This American Life reprises acts from earlier episodes to reflect on the Ten Commandments just after Pesach and Easter and the way those fundamental rules bind and perpetuate social order and how transgressions are addressed.
All of the stories are interesting but it was especially the first vignette, a memory by Shalom Auslander, in which a pupil at Chabad (Jewish Religious School) is informed that he bears one of the seven-two names of God and as the third Commandment directs, “shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Peace was not the most common epithet for the divine but a strict interpretation of the law and customs (chumra) dictate that not only must special care be taken to avoid blasphemy and not to invoke God’s name to do harm, writing it down created something holy out of the profane and had to be handled in a fitting fashion. Ephemera and papers bearing the name of God were to be collected in a shaimos (name) box and once full, buried respectably in a storage structure (genizah) at a synagogue or cemetery according to tradition. School assignments and paper lunch bags from Auslander were permanently archived along with retired torah and prayers.