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How many audience members knew that Ben Stiller's nonsensical alien Oscars speech contained part of the Hebrew prayer for wine?

Ben Stiller, who played a rabbi in “Keeping the Faith,” is no stranger to Jewish humor.

At last night’s Academy Awards, he slipped in an inside joke that I wonder how many people noticed. Presenting the honors for Best Makeup, Stiller was flamboyantly dressed as a Na’vi alien from the blockbuster movie “Avatar.”

His presentation speech in the Na’vi language was actually a string of jibberish, tongue clicks and familiar phrases blurted out in a funny accent. Anyone unfamiliar with Hebrew would not recognize two of those phrases: “Pesach,” and “Boray Pah-Ree HaGaffen.”

The guttural letter Chet at the end of “Pesach” definitely sounds like it is from another planet. Just not the Alpha Centauri moon of Pandora. (I had to look that up. I haven’t yet seen “Avatar,” but I want to).

What do you think? Is sneaking in the last part of the prayer for wine into the Avatar speech a gesture of Jewish pride? Or does it mock Judaism — or the Na’vi culture for that matter — by inferring that all foreign languages are just jibberish?

I don’t profess to intimately know Ben Stiller’s soul, but I think he meant well.

In fact, given that Avatar takes place in the year 2154, I see it as a positive development that Passover is getting some extraterrestrial airplay. We Jewish educators are obsessed with Jewish continuity, after all.

And although Judaism does not encourage proselytizing, the religion is very welcoming to all who want to learn Torah. No matter what planet you come from.

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The menorah safety railing at the Hoover Dam

As the 3-D glasses in my blog masthead will attest, I can’t help but look at the world through Jewish eyes 24/7.

This is a snapshot my husband took of the stylish safety railing that keeps pedestrians safe at the Hoover Dam.  He immediately thought of a menorah and so did I.  Although, depending on where you crop the picture, there could be too many or two few candleholders.

This is not one of those ambiguous Rorschach tests where someone sees the Virgin Mary in a parking lot oil slick or Hello Kitty in a piece of burnt toast. The candelabra is obviously there.

I often think of Stars of David when I see Sheriff’s badges and Jewish stars frequently pop out when I stare at tile floors and the tops of diner salt-and-pepper shakers.

Does this ever happen to you?  Where are some of the unlikeliest spots you see Jewish stars or dreidels or Hebrew letters?  Come to think of it, has ANYONE noticed that the Microsoft Office icons for Word, Excel and PowerPoint look like letters from the Hebrew Aleph-Bet?

Are the Microsoft icons for Office, Word, PowerPoint and Excel meant to resemble Hebrew letters?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Bible Code on you. I’m not sure what it means, but the “P” symbol for PowerPoint is the Hebrew Koof, the “W” Word symbol is a Shin, and the Excel “X” is the spitting image of an Aleph. I’ve fired off an email to Microsoft to see if there is any official comment on this.

In the meantime, what are some of your real-life Jewish Rorschach images you see in the patterns of everyday objects?

UPDATE (2/19/10): Microsoft calls Hebrew letter shapes “coincidental”

Here’s the official scoop from Microsoft spokesperson Tara Mulcahy:

“The Office 2008 for Mac icons are an evolution from the icons in Office 2004 for Mac, and represent the brand guidelines developed for the suite – Approachable, Energetic, Exacting and Elegant. Any resemblance to another icon or symbol is purely coincidental.”

I agree the icons are indeed elegant, but intentional or not, they ARE Hebrew letters!

Magen David tower fashioned out of Kapla building blocks

This is how you can tell who is the Jewish educator’s kid… Dump a crate of blocks on the playroom rug and see what the children come up with.

This Star of David tower was built by my 7-year-old son, Ari. He likes to take pictures of his creations because he hates to put the blocks back in the box and “ruin” his artistic vision. Perhaps the Louvre will call when they set up a religious symbol exhibit.

Or, maybe Ari will eventually pursue Jewish themes with his LEGOs, in the same spirit as this guy who is recreating the Bible in plastic bricks.

These images are from the wickedly clever web site, The Brick Testament:

Adam's rib before it becomes Eve - from The Brick Testament

Cain and Abel - The world's first premeditated murder from The Brick Testament.

Israelite spies penetrate the walled city of Jericho with help from an unlikely ally (go read the story again) -- from The Brick Testament.

Artist Brendan Powell Smith, who is not Jewish, also builds scenes from the Christian Bible. Most fascinating to me are the warning labels he slaps on the books of the Bible like the motion picture ratings.  There’s N for nudity, V for violence, S for sexual content and C for cursing.

You don’t realize how child unfriendly the Bible actually is until Smith smacks you over the head with it.  After all, there is always someone “smiting” someone or sleeping around in those stories.

Although I classify myself as a non-violent person, I love the word “smite” for some reason.

Anyone have any Jewish or Bible-themed block creations in their playroom?  Any thoughts on the LEGO version of the Bible — even though the toy company obviously has nothing to do with it?

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This blog is dedicated to preventing another generation from dreading Hebrew School. I seek to exchange stories, ideas and tips with other parents, teachers and everyone who shares my love for Jewish history, culture, spirituality, arts, and Israeli produce. Care for a pomelo, anyone?

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