May 29, 2008

Jews??? History?? LOL

You guys ever get chain emails? You know, the ones that tell of an incredibly inspirational story or ones that tell of some event that happened. Either way, the sender asks you to pass it on to as many people as possible so they will either be inspired, or, keep that event alive in their memory. In the end half the people will delete them, and the other half will pass them on. Ultimately, both sides have not noticed something remarkable that just transpired.
Today, I received a chain letter.
It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead..
He did this because he said in words to this effect:'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing'.
This week, the University of Kentucky removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping t h e world and how easily each country is giving into it.It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way!
Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide! Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.
Don't just delete this.
It will only take a minute to pass this along
Ok, sounds important right? But is it true? So I checked. Turns out, the whole thing is false. Nu, so what is the big deal here you ask. The big deal is this: We live in a time of unprecedented ease of finding information and correct information at that. But yet, millions of people send out false information to millions of other people on the internet without EVER bothering to check if that information is true on that very same internet. It's just assumed that it is true because it is so fantastic and written well. If in our day and age, false historical information can be passed to so many believing people, then how much more so in ancient times?
Ultimately, this is the biggest problem I have with Judaism. As much as Judaism has a lot of inspiring stuff, its backbone is that of historical events. How on earth can I trust people back then to pass information accurately if even today people are having difficulties.

May 28, 2008

In 100 Years...

I'm a pessimist. My wife can totally confirm that. So depending on your POV this post might not be a bad thing at all. Lately, I have been feeling like I am part of a loosing team.  That team being Orthodox Judaism. I've been asking myself whether OJ will even be around in 100 years and  if so, what will it look like. "Orthodox Judaism" changed in the past. It was called the Enlightenment and because of it, certain OJ's responded by hiding, and some responded by meeting it head on. In many instances, "head on" meant reconciliation. How do we reconcile our text with science or even philosophy? Judaism is always at a need to be reconciled with something else. But for how much longer can that be done?
There is this new invention out there called the "Internet," and with this new invention, information is able to cross all boundaries. Now before you say "duh,"  realize the power of the interent is fairly new in the grand scheme of passing on information. And yet, all of us have already see what the internet has done. We have ALL been shown information that we never even dreamed existed, and if it did exist, it would have been almost impossible to access it. But no more. Information is everywhere, and not only that, social networking is immediately accessible for us to ask others what they think of this new information. So its not just information, but its the ability to cross check this information with everyone all over the world.
If this is the case, if this is obviously the state of the world, and its only going to spread, how on earth can OJ survive? Everyone all around is able to read about the ancient near east and compare it to Judaism. Everyone will be able to participate in debates and have their most cherished beliefs pulled apart. And it doesn't even need to be something so large as TMS. How many people out there were shocked to learn about the real meaning of Chanukah? How many people were suprised when you found out what really happened to the students of R' Akiva? Now, sure, you can say those aren't core to Judaism, but the fact is, they ARE part of OJ and how it is passed down from generation to generation. And when one card starts wobbling, they soon discover some more evidence of more hardcore issues and the whole thing starts collapsing.  I guess the real question is, is OJ only sustainable through ignorance? And since ignorance is ever at a loosing battle (at least with religion) in our age, what will happen to OJ in the future? I guess charedim will be around still since people will always be drawn to fundamentalism, but is charediism really an accomplishment we can be proud of? How will MO look like? Since its so open to the outside culture, there is no way to shield its adherents from the available information. So I am not saying Judaism will disapear in 100 years, only that it will most likely not be anything like it is today. What do you think?

OK, I vented a bit. Now I feel a bit better.

May 18, 2008

What's In A Name?

I just bought an interesting little book called "Understanding Hieroglyphics" by Hilary Wilson. Yes, soon enough, I will be able to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Anyways, I wanted to share with you two little interesting tidbits in the first chapter titled "Whats In A Name?"
In ancient Egypt a person's name was not just identifying label, it was part of that person's very being, and as such was far more important than names are in our modern, Western society. Knowledge of the true names of things gave power over those things. According to Egyptian myth, the god Re-Atum had only to conceive a thing in his mind and speak its name for it to come into being. Thus, as he had given everything a name at its creation, he alone had powers over all things. This same idea is expressed in Genesis 2:19-20, in which God is described as giving Adam the power of naming all the animals of creation so that man might have dominion over beasts.
Like the author, I have no idea that one can connect the two stories, and perhaps even say the Israelites were influenced by this story. But really, I believe there is a very powerful contrast between the two. For both cultures, and probably more in the ancient near east, names are highly important and symbolic. But in one story, you have a God using his power to create anything he wants and the other, you have God bestowing that power on to man as a sort of partner. Also, if you keep reading the story of Re-Atum, you see its pretty standard in terms of dieties battling on another. While walking around earth disguised as an old drooling man, Re-Atum is ambushed by a snake created from his own spittle that the goddess Isis found on the floor.While suffering great pain from the venom, he calls upon all his venomous creations, but none of them can help him. He could not summon the one snake that bit him, because he did not create him and name him, and hence, did not have power over him. So Isis basically blackmails him and eventually he yields to her demands.

Here is another little tidbit:
Egyptian gods also had many names. Some religious text include lengthy sections devoted to the naming of gods in their various aspects so that the appropriate form of a particular deity might be invoked for a specific purpose. The sun-god for example, was known by many names, each seens as a different god. The supreme solar deity was Re (or Ra), the god of the sun at its height [noon]... The creator Atum was also associated with the sun, often being named as Re-Atum. He was the sun in its descent from the noon to sunset in the west and especially in the dangerous realms of the underworld through which it had to travel each night to reappear in the east at dawn the next day... The sun at its rising and setting was Harakhty, meaning 'Horus of the Two Horizons,' seen as a soaring or diving falcon. The sun-god who was seen to ascend through the morning sky was Khepri, the scarab beetle, pushing the sun before him as a the insect rolls its ball of dung.
Ok, not too little. A little confusing, but from what I understand, a God basically had more than one name, depending on its aspect or its job. Not only that, but they basically made that aspect a god onto its own. So does this give a defense (if one is needed) to the idea that Elohim and YHWH are certainly one God, but called two different names depending on the aspect, which obviously Chazal, and, probably earlier Israelites were always sensitive to? Well, I don't know. I wikied Re-Atum and it came up with something interesting. It says he is basically a composite diety of two seperate myths:
Atum-Ra (or Ra-Atum) was another composite deity formed from two completely separate deities. However, Ra shared more similarities with Atum than with Amun. Atum was more closely linked with the sun, and was also a creator god of the Ennead. Both Ra and Atum were regarded as the father of the gods and Pharaohs, and were widely worshiped. So, it was almost inevitable that the two cults were merged under the name of Atum-Ra.
Sound familiar? Your call.

May 16, 2008

On Whether Ezra was the Redactor

Jewish Atheists takes another look at the question of Ezra being the Redactor. Yes, I know its nothing new, but it's still always an interesting topic.

May 12, 2008

Pharisees vs Saduccees of Today?

I don't remember who, (maybe S.), said that with the splinter sect within Chabad thinking the Rebbe is mashiach , scholars can gain a better understand of how Christianity developed. Everyone here has heard these Chabadnicks being compared to Christians and probably with some good merit. With the ongoing controversies recently coming from the Charedi world, I was thinking, could scholars in the future looking back at our times, get a better understanding of the split between the Pharisees and Sadducee's and how it played itself out? It looks as if there is almost a calculated attempt on the part of the Charedim to delegitimize anyone on the left (from their perspective the left being MO and RZ and anyone else). Right now we are dealing with the conversion crisis. I believe last year, the Charedim wanted to have full authority in conversions even in the US. There is even call to have the Chief rav of the IDF booted for desecrating shabbat which I believe is just an attempt to delegitimize RZ and the authority behind it. Was this what the pharisees did to the Sadducees (and vice versa)?

How much information DO we have on the Pharisees and Sadducees? Not much. Stuff in the Talmud which can hardly be taken as impartial and Josephus. These two groups, like todays MO/RZ and Charedim, obviously had some sort of relationship albeit a strained one. They even sat together in the beit din, though with obvious friction. But still, all of that information exists scantly in our text and we could never reall get a feeling of what it was like then. Thats why I would find it interesting if someone does write something about the era in which we live and do some comparison analysis of how it might have looked back in the past.

Of course, I am not trying to paint a doomsday scenerio, but for one example, what if Israel WERE to fall? RZ would most likely see its end. Like the Sadducee connection to the Temple, the RZ connection to the Land itself. Charedi Judaism would win a great victory, if one can call it such. Charedi Judaism is solely connected to the Torah and rabbinic authority which is very practical in the sense that it is very portable to take anywhere and continue from where they left off last.

May 1, 2008

THE Question of Survival

Is the answer to the uniqueness of our survival, and even  the re-establishing of Israel, nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophesy? This is the answer I have come across from some bloggers. What do you think?