I'm quite scared of my email inbox.
Today, to satisfy years of curiosity, I asked the driver of a fuel tanker truck how he refuels the truck itself. Does he just siphon stuff from the back, or does he have to refuel like anyone else? The answer: the latter. Except not exactly like anyone else, because he just pumps it from storage down at the plant. But not from the back of the truck like I'd hoped.
I posted something in a forum I'm quite proud of. I didn't get responses for a few days, and then some started to come in. I'm very happy about this.
Jewish legalistic catch-22, at least based on the information I currently have:
Some dishes and surfaces can be kashered (made kosher) through various means, depending on how they were made unkosher in the first place and on what they're made of. The same process can be used to remove a kashrut (noun of the adjective "kosher") "flavor" of something: for example, you can kasher a dairy pot, making it non-dairy, and then use it for a meat dish; or you can kasher non-kosher-for-Passover silverware and then use it on Passover. The usual way of kashering something that's completely metal involves boiling water in it if it's a pot (and then somehow pouring or spilling some of the water out -- opinions vary), dunking it into boiling water if it's small, or pouring boiling water onto every inch of its surface if it's something else. This can be awkward, because usually hot things like boiling water add "flavors" or make things unkosher, not the reverse.
My roommate and I have to kasher our sink and our biggest pot, among other things, before Passover. I'm told by one friend that the process of kashering a sink by pouring water onto it from a pot renders the sink the same flavor as the pot, and so must be done from a kosher-for-Passover pot if the point is to have a kosher-for-Passover sink. I'm told by another friend that the process of kashering a pot by spilling out boiling water into your sink will render the pot the same flavor as your sink, because lots of steam will rise up from the sink surface and hit the pot.
So there are clearly ways out of this catch-22 (such as kashering the pot first, and pouring out the boiling water into something other than a sink, such as onto the ground), but I find it hilarious as it stands. Was one of my two friends wrong? Or is it really impossible to kasher a non-kosher sink and a non-kosher pot if those are the only two places you have to put boiling water?
So despite the cut text, I'm not really having a crisis of faith. But maybe it's along the same lines?
You see, I believe in God. And I practice religion. But those two things don't associate in my mind as much as you might think. Yes, belief in God certainly helps while I'm praying, for example, because praying would seem completely absurd if I didn't. (Not that it doesn't feel absurd sometimes anyway.) But a lot of my religious practice isn't necessarily tied to my personal theology. For example, I keep the rules of Shabbat the way I do in large part because I like the community I can become a part of by doing so. I keep kosher the way I do in large part because I like the continuity it provides with Jewish people across time and space. I go to services in large part because I like the routine of it. I go to the services that I go to (rather than just any services) and the retreats I go to and the potluck dinners I go to because they're fun, dammit. And so on.
The trouble is, those reasons were good enough for awhile, but perhaps aren't anymore. I was adding gradually to my Jewish practices starting in maybe 1999, and in earnest in 2001 as I started to observe things in much the way I do now, and as I started becoming part of a Jewish community. This process of me adding things to the way I practice started to plateau maybe around 2005 or so, and I thought I was settling into a set of practices that would serve me more or less for life.
But now I'm starting to feel the pull to cut things out. Especially Shabbat-related things. There are things I want to do on Friday nights and Saturdays that are just incompatible with the way I observe Shabbat now. Some of them are one-off things, and some of them are more ongoing. Some of them would be compatible with the way some people in my communities observe Shabbat, and some of them wouldn't.
So what do I do? I think the only answer is to bring God back into the equation. If there's something non-Shabbostic I want to do that wouldn't really hurt my involvement with my communities, then can I decide to do it in good conscience, or would I really think that God doesn't want me to do it? (And of course the question I need to ask of myself is a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.) If there's something non-Shabbostic I want to do that would hurt my involvement with my communities, then is taking some time away to explore that something I'm willing to do both from a community perspective and from a God perspective?
I don't really know, partly because I've never even thought to ask the question until recently. I've had enough compelling interpersonal reasons that it never mattered.
On the whole, this "crisis" is probably a good thing, isn't it?