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By Sol Pitman, March 16, 2011

JTTA,  March 15, 2011 - In what some are already calling a "ritual revolution," Rabbi David Q. Gladstone has officiated at the first fetal bar mitzvah ceremony for an as-yet unnamed male being carried by a member of his congregation.

The unborn child, identified through ultrasound imaging as a male, was called to the Torah last Tuesday during the congregant's morning "Really-Alternative-Shabbat- service," when the father placed a microphone to his wife's belly so that the congregation could hear the primordial sounds being made by the fetus - sounds that Rabbi David Gladstone referred to as "proto-proto-Hebrew".

The congregation's cantor, Eleanor Z. Maayan-Moscovitz, accompanied the fetus on tabla, a middle-eastern drum, and harmonica, as well as chanted a wordless melody called a niggun.

Authorities in other movements have challenged Rabbi Gladstone over the question of whether an uncircumcised fetus may receive Torah honors. It is,
however, expected that the ceremony will take its place among many other innovations that have made Rabbi Gladstone's congregation, Beth Kadmon, the
fastest growing spiritual community in northern Metro Los Angeles.

A unique institution in the North American Jewish world, Beth Kadmon does not have a fixed address and does not require its members to be Jews, pay
dues, attend services, or possess any Jewish knowledge in order to be affiliated with the congregation.

Asked about the size of the synagogue, Rabbi Gladstone said, "I can't give a precise figure because of the way we define our congregation, but it surely
must number in the tens or even hundreds of thousands."

If his estimates are correct, Beth Kadmon is the largest synagogue in the world.

Rabbi Gladstone went on to explain that "Our members believe that a synagogue should not occupy physical space, taking their philosophy from
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Conservative rabbi who taught that Sabbaths are cathedrals in time, not space". Congregation Beth Kadmon has taken this
idea to a new stage: its services are held whenever a group of congregants meet, whether shopping at a local Home Depot, mall, big-box store, or

Said Rabbi Gladstone: "Wherever and whenever they meet, it's going to be the Sabbath for at least the next hour. They send me a text message to notify me
of the location. Then I decide whether or not I feel like joining them. They don't really need me in order to observe the Sabbath. We've heard the call
for shorter, easier services, and all my congregants carry my worship service as a file - or can download it in minutes from our website - wherever they are. It doesn't take any specialized knowledge to conduct our copyrighted "Shabbat-in-an-Hour" experience.

Formerly affiliated with the Synagogue for the Advancement of Random Access Judaism, Rabbi Gladstone, a former employee of Microsoft Corporation, called
his new congregation "a giant leap toward fully-democratized, user-friendly Judaism. Our aim is to create for Judaism what McDonald's is for dining out."

Rabbi Gladstone explained that he was approached by the family with concerns that their unborn child was already heavily scheduled immediately after
birth and would be too busy to learn properly the fundamentals of Jewish life. They were unwilling to enroll him in any program of Jewish education because his infant physical and intellectual acceleration pre-pre-preschool - which begins three months after his birth - as well as extracurricular obligations - would leave no time available for him to meet congregational standards, which they conceded were minimal but still "too much".

Rabbi Gladstone quoted the father as reasoning: "Since there are so few standards remaining, what's the point of fulfilling any of them?" Rabbi Gladstone agreed with this perspective and then offered to waive the restrictive requirement that the child be able to communicate verbally and demonstrate insight into a biblical text  in order to minimize any offence that might be inflicted on the family by imposing arbitrary expectations of their unborn child.

Said Rabbi Gladstone, "In a way, I am simply stretching the boundaries of the widespread dissatisfaction with modern Jewish life by moving Judaism toward a purely pre-verbal and non-verbal medium for expressing the core of Jewish spirituality. I am repelled by the idea that Judaism must be defined by or even oriented toward competency in the use of language and symbol systems. One of my teachers once said that the four-letter personal name of God is the sound of a breath, but by forcing families to wait until a child is born, we have discriminated against those who are at the pre-breathing stage in their spiritual development.

Pointing to a schedule listing congregational programs including "The First Letter in the Word 'Yoga' is "Why," "Let's Give God a Holy Headache!: Drumming as Petitionary Prayer," and "To Scream is to Pray."

Rabbi Gladstone added: "My new approach moves Judaism toward purely mindless - in the Buddhist sense, of course - ritual that is consistent with the
widespread Jewish movement to spiritual naturalism, in which random motions, grunts, gasps, and other pre-verbal sounds convey a state of pure communion
with God."

Referring to the Chassidic niggun, or wordless melody chanted by the cantor, Rabbi Gladstone added that "We are moving toward purer forms in everything
we do. Even chanting a niggun demands a high level of skill and may invoke feelings of inadequacy among those attempting to join in. As a theologian who views synagogue life as a form of performance art, I am looking to recreate the moment when God looks upon the world and sees it as formless and void and then begins to act upon it. It's the point we're at in Jewish life in North America. This isn't Sura and Pumbedita; this is 'Tofu va'Vohu', and a pure pre-consciousness, ripe for reshaping into the New Eden.

"I believe that all Jews must be brought to the level of what I call 'the New Chaos' which breaks down all the comfortable forms of our lives in North America, including those imposed by contemporary ethics, morality, and idealism. A teacher of mine - whom I can't mention by name because he is under indictment for breaching the code of ethics at the seminary where he is a teacher of spirituality - says we have to bring Jews into a condition that precedes the divisiveness and separation God imposed on the universe when he imposed the system of mitzvot and the halachic system upon us.

"The practice of fetal bar- and bat-mitzvah and many of the other new rituals of my congregation are helping to advance a time when everyone will be free to do as he or she pleases to others without fear of oppressive judgment."

"I am reimagining Judaism from the bottom up so that Jews will be able to remain  forever at the very bottom of things, at the foundational level, which is devoid of all obligations, values, and morals that might cloud our perceptions. People will pay my kind of Judaism no-attention, leaving it pristine, ideal, and at a distance from any and all concerns that might compromise its purity.

"I hope that my pioneering efforts will yield hundreds of other congregations that bring pure chaos back to Jewish life."

Editor's note: The above article was written by Rabbi Pinsker of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue as a "Purim spoof." It is completely made up. Happy Purim


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