Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jerusalem Gay Parade Not So Happy

I just read that last Thursday Israel-time, which must have been a week ago, where a religious Jew stabbed three people at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. This will be a sweet one for the "religiousity critics" who will have an open-wide opportunity to bash the "system" for advocating hatred. Before they do that, however, they will have to convince people that it was a hate crime. More on that in a moment.

Firstly I want to say, "Shame on you" to the Jew that stabbed that other Jew, and maybe to the rabbi's that didn't see it coming. This type of thing cannot be seen as a kiddush Hashem, or sanctification of G-d's name in English, which is only relegated to taking your own life, and only if you are forced with idolatry, adultery, or murder.

According to the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, a hate crime is:

1) any of various crimes (as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation)

Unlike in other religious traditions, such as Christianity, homosexuality is not a "cardinal sin," because theologically speaking, there is no greater or lesser violation of the Torah, every violation is equal. Out of all the sexually forbidden relations of the Torah, homosexuality is only one of them.

They are:

Not to have sexual relations with your mother--Leviticus 18:7
Not to have sexual relations with your father's wife--Leviticus 18:8
Not to have sexual relations with your sister--Leviticus 18:9
Not to have sexual relations with your father's wife's daughter (from your father)--Leviticus 18:11
Not to have sexual relations with your son's daughter--Leviticus 18:10
Not to have sexual relations with your daughter--Leviticus 18:10
Not to have sexual relations with your daughter's daughter--Leviticus 18:10
Not to marry a woman and her daughter--Leviticus 18:17
Not to marry a woman and her son's daughter--Leviticus 18:17
Not to marry a with a woman and her daughter's daughter--Leviticus 18:17
Not to have sexual relations with your father's sister--Leviticus 18:12
Not to have sexual relations with your mother's sister--Leviticus 18:13
Not to have sexual relations with your father's brother's wife--Leviticus 18:14
Not to have sexual relations with your son's wife--Leviticus 18:15
Not to have sexual relations with your brother's wife--Leviticus 18:16
Not to have sexual relations with your wife's sister--Leviticus 18:18
A man must not have sexual relations with a beast--Leviticus 18:23
A woman must not have sexual relations with a beast--Leviticus 18:23
Not to have homosexual sexual relations--Leviticus 18:22
Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father--Leviticus 18:7
Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father's brother--Leviticus 18:14
Not to have sexual relations with a married woman

The Torah talks about twenty two forbidden sexual relations. However, people that prefer to have sex with their mother, father, brother, sister, brother's childen, or sister's children, do not generally hold incest pride parades. The point is that homosexuality is just the most common out of these acts, and it might just be that many of the other forbidden relationships are not very common today. What this means is that being opposed to homosexuality is not a hate crime, which is what gay rights advocates try to imply. A hate crime is generally committed when a person has a seething dislike for a certain race, sex, creed, gender, or orientation, teetering on the verge of obsessive hatred. Now it takes a certain amount of "gusto" for an unprovoked person to put the blade of a knife into another person's body, but it would be inaccurate to label this an incident of religious fundamentalism for the simple reason that for Orthodox Jews to suffer from a seething hatred of homosexuals is essentially unheard of, it would be much more common to see Palestinians suffering from an endemic hatred of Jews. Oh wait, we do see that.

Furthermore, the article says, "'The ultra-Orthodox waved banners reading, 'Homosexuality is abnormal' and 'Homosexuality is not an incurable disease and may be treated with psychiatric care.'" Clearly the nature of the signs were not inflammatory, such as, say, 'Homosexuals are going to Hell.' The article also says that the "ultra-Orthodox" protestors, some one hundred people, tried to attack the marchers and were forcefully removed from the area.

The point is that this indicent is just a small piece in the puzzle, Israel's secular religion-resistent scene does not take into account that Israel is the religious, spiritual, historic homeland of the Jewish people, and that it should not come to anybody as a surprise when Jews who take these values seriously get offended and upset when other Jews take pride in, to use a graphic term, pissing on these holy sites. Now gay people might not hold these values to be self-evident, but many Jews in Israel, the Holy Land, do, and their feelings have to be respected just like anybody else.

Another point. Is Tel-Aviv not a more appropriate place for such a parade? Why must homosexuals flaunt their lifestyle in Jerusalem, unless I am mistaken, maybe they are trying to show the Jewish world that "in-your-face" gay people also value the religious traditions of the Torah. Stabbing is wrong, but gay people have to realize that they live in a world where there are people who hold religious and spiritual beliefs, many of which run very deep, and to flaunt a gay parade in the middle of Jerusalem, the physical center of that religious and spiritual tradition, is a major insult to the people who hold those beliefs. Let's be honest, how many yeshiva bachurs wake up in the morning and say, "Let's go find us some faggots?" Fanaticism is a two-sided coin.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The War

This is a relatively short post. I'm not going to talk about the truths and mistruths about the criticism's of the war. Instead, I revert my attention to a particular "caste" of people in America that fume at the war and come to far-reaching conclusions about it. Just to let you know, I was born in Israel and as a result, my interest in Middle Eastern affairs has always been quite high. I want to let you in on a little secret. Years before September 11 occurred, I had already discovered something about the common American's knowledge of anything Middle Eastern; it was almost non-existent. When I was in high school, was talking to one of my good (non-Jewish) friends about my upcoming trip to Israel over the summer. To paraphrase him, he asked me if in Israel men have several wives that make do all their work for them. Of course I told him "no," but because he knew that I love Israel, he thought that maybe I was fudging the facts to make it look good. Anybody that's been to Israel knows that men in Israel either have zero or one wife.

Here are some other cases of general ignorance of Israel, and to a larger degree, the Middle East. These are non-fictional accounts:

1) Yaniv: I am going to Israel this summer.
Girl: Oh, I would never go there.
Yaniv: Why not?
Girl: Oh, you know how they treat women there.

2) Yaniv: I'll be gone for the summer, I'm going to Israel.(wearing a Star of
David necklace)
Manager: Are you going on a mission?
Yaniv: No, I'm Jewish.
Manager: So?
Yaniv: (giving her the benefit of the doubt) Jews don't go on missions.
Manager: (Look of confusion)

3) Yaniv: I'll be in Israel this summer. (Still wearing that Star)
Manager 2: Are you going on a mission?
Yaniv: Jews don't go on missions to Israel because it's a Jewish country.
Manager 2: (Look of confusion)

Anyway, those are the funniest out the funny things I've heard people say about Israel. I have also realized that many people didn't know the difference between Israel, Iraq, Iran; the letter "I" must have confused them. The same goes for Libya and Lebanon and Syria and Saudi Arabia, and my favorite one; Pakistan and Palestine.

The point is this; before 9/11, many American's could barely point out where half of the countries in the Middle East were, and now we see people speaking about it as if they became over-night experts. I think this is rediculous. If you don't know anything about a country or countries, where they are, when they came into being, and what their relationship is with each other, or with your country, either shut your mouth or open a book before you open your mouth. Ignorance makes free speech worth less than the Tic-Tac's that you bought to make your opinion-riddled breath smell good. For example, I know almost nothing about the situation between North and South Korea, so instead of expressing a naive opinion, I just ask.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Religion of Science

Science is a religion. It explains our origins, it places us in the larger scheme of things, and it seeks communication with other life forms that are more developed than us and that come from far away places. In one aspect, it is definitely humbling to recognize our smallness, another characteristic shared with religion. These are the perceivable positives of this form of scientific inquiry.

However, there are also negatives to it. The flipside of scientific advancement allows us to believe that we are everything, in spite of our smallness. The combination of believing that we are miniscule with the perception that we are everything carries the very imaginable reality of divorcing us from the notion that we are obligated to an absolute notion of right and wrong that must be pragmatically applied in every place that the human adventure takes us. If we are small, then we are here together on our little marble of dirt that we call Earth, responsible to each other, but if we are everything, we are alone, and we can do whatever we want. Some people, such as me, call this a divorce from G-d, while others call it a divorce from conscience; they are the same thing. In that world, values, morality, and objective truths will be pushed aside to make room for the ventures of scientific discovery. It would be unwise to live in a world where absolute morality informed by the reality of G-d and scientific advancement become two civilizations at odds with each other; human history has been a testament to what happens when civilizations clash.

The Light and Dark of Science

This is the dark side of science, whereas the light side of science cures illness, provides nourishment, teaches us how our bodies and the world around us works, etc... The light of science shines only when science reflects on the boundaries of human experimentation and on its practical moral implications. I would even go as far as to say that the best scientist is the one that will consider these realities as a part of his or her scientific discovery and not as an extraneous factor.

The Science of Religion

If science is a form of religion, a belief system, then it can be said that religion is a form of science, a form of understanding. Science studies "how" and religion studies "why?" Religion understands and believes that every question can be answered by asking "how," so similarly, science should embrace the notion that every question can also be answered by asking "why?" Take the Creation account of Genesis for example, which lays down "the West's" fundamental understanding of human nature with such clarity that it would be in the bounds of reason for the intellectual to believe that it really happened. Anyone who has felt a loss of control in the face of temptation can testify to what both Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden when tempted by the snake. Only after their deed were they painfully aware of the consequences of their actions, at which point the effect had already become clear.

Let us consider the verse from Genesis that says, "A man shall leave his father and mother, cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." In the movie "Jerry Maguire," in the infamous Oscar-winning scene, Tom Cruise looks at Rene Zellweger and says, "You complete me." Indeed, we feel that our mate is our half, a common vernacular in society, which of course, however, is trumped by my mom's famous statement that was passed down from her mother, "Every pot has its lid." I also personally like the statement, "The man marries up."

Back to the point, is it any wonder why a relationship between a man and a woman, without other partners, are the best-functioning relationships? Consider this. Human consciousness is divided into "us" and "them." When it comes to human relationships, we see the same thing occur, except in the singular form. We have "you" and "I," there is never a "he" or a "she." That's why they are grammatically titled "first person" and "second person," while "he" and "she" are "third person," and we know that the third person is always the odd man (or woman) out. "You" and "I" is the most intimate pair that can be created. Looking at it from a conceptual standpoint, when one person refers to another as "you," the "you" is the sole individual being addressed, and only by one one other individual, the "I." Adversely, the "I" has her or his sole attention on the "you," and when the you responds, it is only to the "I." What we get is a pair, or bond, or unit that is made up of two conscious individuals; to refer to an additional "he" or "she" would dramatically cut away the level of intimacy that exists between the two individuals. In other words, the interaction between two people is far more intimate than the relationship between three or more people, which is why romances work best in pairs and not three of a kind, four of a kinds, or full houses.

Two is the Happiest Number that I've Ever Seen - When it Comes to Relationships, That Is

Looking at this biologically, should we not see wisdom of design in that "you" and "I" is the most intimate setting and that humanity comes in two sexes? If polygamous relationships were the way to go, then perhaps humanity would be made up of three or more sexes, of which one individual from each sex would have to be present in order to complete maximum intimacy or procreation. The point is that when we are in a relationship, we only need the other person to make us feel complete and happy. Imagine it the world had three sexes, being around the other person would still make an incomplete unit, and we would need to wait for the third. But with two, all you need is the other person. It is interesting to consider that while monogamy means to be with only one other person, that when two people are monogamous, they become one. This is the way the Hashem says it should be in Genesis when He says, "A man shall leave his father and mother, cleave unto his. wife, and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).." Polygamy does not yield the same conceptual nor pragmatic integrity; "poly" means "many," and when many people come together (in a romantic or sexual sense), they do not become one. In fact, many studies on polygamy show that there is almost always a person in the polygamous relationship that feels left out or misused. Even most animal species function monogamously.
Talk Deity to Me

*I run the risk of writing something that has been written before, but I plead innocent because I have not seen it with my own eyes.

Science is useful, important, and necessary, like religion. Like religion, it explains our origins and pinpoints our place in the the universe and in the larger scheme of things - evidence of behavior that seeks self-definition. It believes that communication with an intelligent life-form residing somewhere far from here is possible. Some scientifically-oriented minds even believe that these beings possess a wisdom that has exceeded ours, and that they can bring us to a new plain of human understanding; if it walks like a deity and talks like deity, then it must be a deity, even if they are called "aliens." According to Merriam-Webster's Online, the definition of the word "alien" is:

"1 a : belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing : STRANGE,"

"b : relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government : FOREIGN," or

"2 : differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility."

News to Earth, these types of ideas are typical of religion, and if you were to compare them to religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the "Western religions," have to say about our understanding of Hashem, you would find that they were very similar.

For example, G-d is not of this world, meaning that He does not reside in it in the sense that we do; the world that He has created is a place that cannot contain Him in His purest form. The reason for this is because He is not physical but spiritual, or how philosophy renders it, metaphysical. Jewish teaching, however, has always said that people can make this world a vessel for G-d to reside in, allowing Him to make His Presence felt, by acting in proper moral ways. Definition 1b makes sense only when applying to other humans because of the arrangement, agreement, and bond of love that G-d has with humanity. Definition two is only true to a degree because even though the character and nature of G-d are essentially different than that of humans, we are compatible with Him. These are the parallels between belief in the existence of aliens and the belief in the existence of G-d.


However, there is a fundamental difference; those who believe in aliens believe that they are a race, i.e., several, while people who believe in G-d believe that He is One, meaning both in the singular sense and in the sense that He is an inseparable being, and that any level of understanding what He is can only be done through the scope of complete unity. In light of this, we uncover that the belief in aliens actually begins to share more in common with polytheism, belief in many gods, than with monotheism, i.e., belief in G-d. So while it seems accurate at first glance to compare belief in aliens to belief in G-d, it seems more accurate to compare belief in aliens to belief in gods. Recall the post titled, "We Love Tom Cruise - Veneration of Culture," we saw that the images and beliefs in humanity's oldest deities get passed on from generation to generation in different forms; is it possible that aliens are scientific imagination's cutting edge gods? Furthermore, were the "ancients" yesterday finding in various deities what the "contemporaries" are finding in aliens today?

Let us take a little look at the Hebrew language's expression of such concepts. In Hebrew, the word "zar" means "strange" or "foreign," the exact same words in the definition for alien, meaning that "zar" also means "alien." In the Tanakh, the deities of the other nations were described by the adjective "zar," strange or foreign. In modern Hebrew, if something is "muzar," it is a strange or wierd thing, and a "zar" is a stranger. Also in the Torah is the phrase "avodah zarah," which means "strange" or "foreign worship," or in other words, "idolatry" or "polytheism." The word "chai" means life (Le-chayim! To life, or cheers!). A "chay zar" would then be a "strange life form," but in the modern Hebrew it refers to an alien in the sense of a green guy with bug-eyes. In the Hebrew language, and therefore in the Jewish mindset, there is a conceptual corellation between the worship of foreign gods and the belief in aliens. It therefore makes sense that the corellation is unintended because there is no way that three thousand years ago anybody would know that the people of the 21st century would believe in aliens, but rather it is a product of Judaism's similar response to both polytheism and to the preoccupation with aliens.

Another corellation between deities and aliens is the fact that they are so dang appealing, specifically to look at. Aliens look "cool," which is why kids draw them and why people hang their posters up. The deities also look cool, which is undeniably the reason that people were so drawn to them - it is our physical nature as human beings that drew us to gaze our eyes upon them. They are romantic and exotic, and sometimes appeal to our anger, fear, or lust (or all three). The belief in aliens also comes with fear; people believe that aliens want to probe us, to take us away from our homes in the middle night when nobody else can help us. If the aliens are gods, then they are demonic gods, gods that want to harm us - they are "devils." Apparentally, devils can come both from the center of the earth and from the expanse of the sky - but G-d has no physical point of origin, no location, and no destination, He simply is. The ancients believed in deities and the "contemporaries" believe in aliens, time evolving the gods into vastly different beings - but the G-d is not subject to time; what was once true is always true. G-d is appealing, but not appealing in the same way as the deities or the aliens. He cannot be looked at, and therefore His beauty cannot be appreciated by the eyes. He cannot be touched, and therefore He cannot be appreciated by the body. He is not limited to the human imagination, and experiencing G-d, communicating with Him, is felt through living and is both a deeply personal, communal, and ultimately, a universal experience.

If the Jews rejected polytheism, and certain forms of polytheism recycle themselves throughout the ages in different forms, then it only makes sense that Jews would also perpetually reject their contemporary manifestations as they popped up. Suffice it to say that "zar" is never a word that is associated with the belief in Hashem anywhere throughout the Tanakh, Talmud, nor in any rabbinical or philosophical Jewish works; rather, belief in G-d is the norm of human existence. The word "strange" or "foreign" usually comes with connotations of unwantedness, and in some cases negativity. If the same word is used both for deities and for aliens, and if we have already established a philosophical parallel between them, then it would make sense to say that both concepts, polytheism and belief in aliens, are different ways of looking for the same thing - expressions of subjective philosophy.

"What does a philosophy of subjectivism have to do with both dieties and with aliens," you may ask? The answer is that each society believed in dieties that emphasized (and venerated) certain values, whatever values that they deemed important, values that were related to the physical world around them. In doing so, their philosophies and theologies were necessarily as subjective as their particular physical environment. Similarly, the belief in aliens venerates beings that come from other worlds, other solar systems even, and if those beings have civilizations more advanced than ours and teach us their values, then our values are placed into the realm of subjectivity, which leads to relativism. The fact is that aliens have not arrived here yet, but those people who anticipate them await a sort of "Messianic Age" if you will, not that one that establishes a belief in G-d that unites all humanity, but rather, an age that seeks to liberate people from absolute truth. Human liberation from absolute truth, which brings chaos, is the reason why Judaism has always rejected the subjectivity of the gods, and it is the same reason why Judaism today rejects other modes of relativist thought. The transformation of science into a religion, with aliens being cast as gods, is an example of this other-world-oriented attempt to liberate humanity from absolute truth.

The word "chai" means life (Le-chayim! To life, or cheers!). A "chay zar" would then be a "strange life form," but in the modern Hebrew it refers to an alien in the sense of a green guy with bug-eyes. In the Hebrew language, and therefore in the Jewish mindset, there is a conceptual corellation between the worship of foreign gods and the belief in aliens. It is strange to note that the corellation is unintended because there is no way that three thousand years ago anybody would know that the people of the 21st century would believe in aliens, but rather it is a product of Judaism's similar response to both polytheism and to the preoccupation with aliens. If the Jews rejected polytheism, and certain forms of polytheism recycle themselves throughout the ages in different forms, then it only makes sense that Jews would also perpetually reject their contemporary manifestations as they popped up. Suffice it to say that "zar" is never a word that is associated with the belief in Hashem anywhere throughout the Tanakh, Talmud, nor in any rabbinical or philosophical Jewish works; rather, belief in G-d is the norm of human existence.

Throughout all human history, deities have come and deities have gone, but G-d has remained a constant; not exotic but captivating, not exacting but expecting, invisible but imaginable, incomparable to anything that we know of, yet we were made in His likeness.


* Note: Deities, aliens, demons, vampires, dragons, morbid creatures, and other mythical creatures are all different expressions of these human tendencies. If you pay attention, you will see that sexuality and/or violence is something that they all have in common.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

We Love Tom Cruise! - Veneration of Culture

Thousands of years ago, before the religious expression and philosophy of monotheism was introduced to the world, the different forms of polytheism were the world's forms of spirituality. Each peoples or nation was defined by its deity or deities; Marduk, Tiamat, Ba'alzevuv, Asherah, Molech, Rah, and Osiris, just to name a few. As cultures and peoples developed, deities were passed on from one culture to another, usually going through some form of transformation to make it more applicable to the peoples adopting it. For example, Asherah was a Babylonian goddess that the Assyrians later adopted and renamed "Astarte." Some historians of ancient cultures believe that the Greeks adopted Astarte under the name "Isis," their goddess of love. As cultures adopted deities from previous peoples, they also altered their physical appearance to conform to their specific notion of beauty.

We Shall Make gods in our Images

For example, when statues or two dimensional portrayals of the deities were made, they were shown wearing the contemporary clothing and possessing the body type that the culture associated with beauty; such as certain type of vestments, facial structure, curvy bodies, height, weight, and musculature. Their bodily and facial gestures, as well as their behaviors, indicating values and morals, were also taken into account, be they warlike, peaceful, lustful, or nurturing. In short, the people portrayed their values through artistically presented works of art. The physical world, be in natural or societal (man-made) provided the different sculptors with plenty of models by which to create the images of their deities.

Other religious systems believed in deities that were the rulers of certain natural elements that they depended on for survival, such as the Nile River (Egyptian religion) and proper weather in its due course (many religions). Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian religion were especially concerned about procreation, pregnancy, and birth, and all of them therefore believed in goddesses of fertility. These religions venerated the figure of the woman - an act indicative of the the importance of life.

We can also imagine the correlation between sexual arousal and the physical act of forming the statues of the deities. Consider the statue of the Egyptian god Osiris sporting a huge erection; did a human hand not pass over the length of the member, replicating the erotic act of masturbation? Today we can digitally and electronically create erotic artworks on our computers, and in a way, they are worshipped.

Let Us Make Man in our Image...

Monotheism, starting with Avraham, presented a new concept - that Hashem, the One G-d, has no body or physical presence, and that humanity can gain knowledge of Him by adhering to given instructions that are based in morality and value judgments. We did not make Him, He made us. It is based on the notion that the source of all existence; life, death, sustainability, joy, war, peace, etc., are not scattered all over nature in different forms, but come from one Source, and that Source is Hashem. Therefore, one need not make statues that replicate nature and then venerate them, but rather to direct his or her needs to the Maker of Creation in the form of a plea, question, or statement. This means that Hashem has no figure, all of which are products of the world around them and are therefore value statements of their own. Since He has no figure, and His nature cannot be perceived by casting one's eyes upon anything, physical appearance ceases to be the pinnacle of importance. In this tradition, the human body is not venerated, nor the figure of animals, nor the physical appearance of plants, trees, cosmic bodies, or forces of nature. Physicality takes a backseat, and meaning, purpose, essence, and action take a front seat. Jewish artwork reflects this value; the majority of Jewish (Biblical) artwork tends not to portray biblical figures, such as Avraham, Sarah, Yitzchak, or Moshe (Moses), but rather a scene, nature, a building, or an artistically-rendered verse from the Torah. The importance of the message surpasses the imagery.

*Note: before the Talmud was written down sometime in 1st century Common Era, matters of Jewish law and explanation were entirely oral in nature. The prophets of the Tanakh were most likely excellent orators.

Interaction with Hashem is therefore fundamentally different than the way that a believer in a specific deity (or deities) found communion with them. The value statements of monotheism are instructions, the commandments of the Torah - are independent from the cultural values of the world around them. They stand in opposition to the belief systems and thought-patterns of the surrounding cultures. They have no "color" of their own, but instead are transparent, like water. Like them, their Maker has no color or shape or physically imaginable Presence, He is something that exists outside the normal run of the mill. In fact, He is its Creator. His gender is a human way of talking about Him, and the Kabbalah delves deeper into the understanding of the nature of Hashem with regards to the feminine and masculine aspects. He is not the product of what a particular culture depended on to survive, such as the Nile River or rain in its due course, but He is its source.

Today, one cannot necessarily jeer at the belief systems of the polytheistic religions, but can understand their shortcomings in their veneration of physicality, of the body, and of appearance; thought-processes that failed to yield a holistic understanding of reality, a slice of eternity. This is what monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) strive for. Throughout human history, the deities and the values surrounding them have always been recycled through popular forms of expression. Asherah became Astarte became Isis, the erotic statue of the Greek goddess of love cupping her breasts, became the pornstar of the same name. Poseidon's muscular body and courageous appearance is Marvel's Hulk or Arnold Schwarzenegger's killer jaw bone, inflated arms, and bulging six-pack; another porn star. And when these two people have sex, it is when the deities had sex with each other. These are the images that portray our culture's idea of what defines beauty; they are the luxurious material deities of today's secular religion, our society builds monuments to them and worships them. The poster in your room or the picture in the hallway is your household god. What was once a statue of the Egyptian god Osiris, sporting a huge erection, given its shape by a human hand, is now a picture of a naked body on the page of a magazine in your local K-Mart pickup line, touched up by an expensive graphics program. We seek strange forms of spirituality by pushing our sweaty, tightly-covered bodies up against strangers in clubs that encourage the expensive and temporary loss of consciousness, and the end of the night we leave with nothing, sometimes with less than what we came with.

Veneration of Value

We humans are quite sophisticated beings. We are brilliantly-designed enough that we have the capability not only to venerate bodies, appearances, etc., but are able to exalt behavior, attitudes, atmosphere, ambience; this is the absolute wonder of the human being. We can choose to be enamored by values such as sexual exploits, aggression, manipulation, and popularity, but our infinite value as human beings created by Hashem is expressed by our ability to be equally enamored by a just human being, truthfulness, compassion, courage, and overwhelming joy - each of these things come together to form a particular type of lifestyle. If we are going to venerate values, let us find a way to venerate the right ones.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Muslim Fallacies about the Torah and Judaism

In Muslim religious tradition, there are several arguments that try to prove that Jews corrupted the Torah, rendering Judaism an invalid religion. Before examining some of these, consider that the significance of a premise, or a reason to believe something, takes precedence over the idea itself in some cases. For example, when someone tells you something, you must consider two things; the content of what they are saying, and the reason for their saying it. Even if the content is trustworthy, if the premise is arguable, then the information might have to be discarded. For example, if I say that Baskin Robbins ice cream tastes bad, and that my home-made ice cream is the best, my premise is that my ice cream is the best. Even if Baskin Robbin’s ice cream does taste bad, I am only saying that because I want people to buy my ice cream.

The Torah is corrupt.

The first “allegation” is that the Torah is corrupt. What would be the reason for this argument? Islam was trying to gain followers, and since Judaism (and Christianity) was a religion with many followers, Islam attempted to discredit it. This is reason enough to cast doubt on the argument that the Torah was corrupt. In other words, it had to be said to be corrupt if people were to come to Islam.

The basis of this allegation has to do with Avraham and his children; Yitzchak (from Sarah) and Yishmael (from Haggar). Yishmael was the first-born son, and the Muslims are correct in stating that in that time and culture, the first-born son would receive a blessing from his father. However, the Torah says that Yitzchak, the younger son, received his father’s blessing. Since Yitzchak was the second-born, Muslims say that they do not believe that Yitzchak really received the blessing, but that at some point in time Jews altered the text to write Yishmael out of the blessing that was rightly his. Since Muslims claim the genealogy of Yishmael, they say that Islam is the product of his lineage, the correct religion, and that none of the Torah can really be trusted due to this alleged corruption. Therefore, Muslims believe that the entire Jewish Bible is a product of falsehood.

However, a slightly deeper look into the text will reveal an overlooked fact; Avraham was younger than his brother Nachor. As the text says, Hashem chose Avraham for His covenant, not the first-born Nachor, but the second-born, Avraham. To be consistent with their allegation, Muslims must also argue that the Jews corrupted the text to write Nachor out of his blessing, but since Muslims also tie their heritage to Avraham, to do so would be saying that Islam is also an invalid religion. Furthermore, Ya’akov, Yitzchak’s son, was Esav’s younger brother and he received the blessing; would not the argument apply here too? And what about Yoseph, he was the younger of ten brothers, and Moshe, who was Aharon’s (Aaron’s) younger brother? Did the Jews write all of these people out of their blessings, or was Hashem consistently choosing the second-born for His covenant?

Since not all Jews are from the Tribe of Judah – Judaism is not a real religion

I once heard an opinion that Judaism doesn’t really exist; the basis for this opinion is the word “Jew,” which is connected to the tribe of Judah. This is discussed in the section titled “History of the Word ‘Jew.’”

Jews are white, but Avraham was dark-skinned

This is a funny argument because not all Jews are white. I would imagine that Arabs from countries in the Middle East would have known this, but perhaps those countries have been Jew-desolate for so many years that many of these Arabs have never seen a Middle Eastern Jew. Judaism is a religious identity, which cannot be bound by skin color. Indeed, this was one of the teachings of Muhammad; it is a wonder that it is not extended to Jews. We cannot really expect his followers to apply his teachings to European Jews when he himself had a problem with the Jews of Mecca and Medina, who were probably dark-skinned.

The Semites of Semantics

The world “Islam” means “submission” (to G-d) and the word “Muslim” means “submitter.” In Arabic, unlike English, there are no capital letters. Therefore the word is “muslim,” pronounced “musleem.” The English word “Muslim” means “a member of the religion of Islam,” but in Arabic, it is simply an adjective that defines one who submits to Allah. The Hebrew word is "meshalem," meaning "to make complete," "to make perfect," or "to make peaceful," but does not contain religious meaning. This issue of semantics has allowed Muslims to traditionally refer to Jews and Christians as “muslims,” with the lower case “m,” based on the notion that they were submitting to Hashem. However, since the religions of Judaism and Christianity were deemed corrupted, Jews and Christians were no longer considered muslims (lower case “m”), but could be rectified by their becoming Muslims (capital letter “m”). Some Muslims will try to tell you that there is no difference between “muslim” and “Muslim,” and linguistically that is true, but conceptually, there is a member of the religion of Islam, and there is a submitter. Jews and Christians are not muslims, so they must become Muslims. When talking to Muslims, it is hard to observe that this is indeed the linguistic thought process behing the usage of the word "Muslim." A Jew or Christian that genuinely believe in G-d cannot be called “muslims” because they practice a corrupted faith; they are not to blame, but they must convert.

The Semantics of Semites

The word “Jew” has no such conceptual definition; the linguistics of the word “Jew” does not imply faith or submission because it is derived from a tribal affiliation, as explained in the section “History of the Word ‘Jew’”). Rationally, it is possible to say that there were Jews that did not follow their religion, they did not cease to become Jews. If a Christian does not believe in Jesus, he or she is not a Christian. If a Muslim does not believe in Allah and Muhammad as His final prophet, he or she is not a Muslim. But semantics-wise, if a Jew does not believe in Hashem and in the Torah, he or she is still a Jew. It can be said that he or she is not an observant Jew, but they are still a part of the people that makes up Jewry, they are still a part of the family.

What's my Shem?!

A Jew will tell you that they are Jewish whether or not they believe in Hashem. If a person comes from a Christian family but they do not believe in Jesus, they will not say that they are Christian. A person cannot really be deemed a Muslim if he or she does not believe in Allah and Muhammad as His final prophet. Out of all three, only Judaism incorporates a bond between Jews that transcends faith and observance, although faith and observance are essential to Judaism.

Judaism Advocates Slavery

The basis of this point is based in Muhammad’s teaching that slavery should be completely outlawed. The argument brings up that in the Torah is a commandment explaining the rules of treatment of an “'oved,”('abd in Arabic) a worker, or slave, which casts doubt on its origin from Hashem. This is based on a misunderstanding, for the person was more like an indentured servant who would volunteer to work as payment for theft or the destruction of property, and when the Year of Jubilee came, he or she would be freed. The Torah instructs how to properly care for and treat the worker, and that he was to be treated in accordance with many of the same rules that applied to non-workers.

If Judaism advocates slavery, then Islam advocates polygamy. The Q’uran allows for polygamy, but similarly, an educated reading yields an explanation. A man was allowed to take up to four wives, but the reasoning behind this was not to create a harem, but to provide for a woman that did not have a husband. After officially marrying her, she was totally independent from him; the marriage was purely technical, not sexual. When she was able to, she could “divorce” him. Again, the logic has to be applied consistently.

History of the Word "Palestine"

What is the origin of the word “Palestine?” Today, the word connotes the ethnic Arabs known as Palestinians that live in the areas of land surrounding Israel, titled “the Occupied Territories, or “shtachim,” in Hebrew, meaning “the camps” or “refugee camps.” But let us examine the historical development of this word. In 1932, the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, an institution whose goal was to motivate nations of the world into military, economic, and political cooperation, gave the now State of Israel, established in 1948, the name “Palestine.

This name was to be a neutral name for the inhabitants of the region, indicating no favor to any religious, ethnic, social, or political group. At this point in time, anybody living in the roughly established borders of Palestine was known as a Palestinian, which included Jews and Arabs both. Arabs were known as “Arab Palestinians,” some having been there for centuries and others because they came from many surrounding countries. As far as for the Arabs living in the region before it was named Palestine, they were not known as Palestinians but rather by their respective family grouping, usually a tribe or another grouping. From 1932 until 1948, Jews who were making their new lives there were not known as an Israeli’s, but rather as “Palestinians,” or “Jewish Palestinians,” and it is true that during this period of time, references to Palestinians were largely references to settling Jews. Before moving on, wrap your mind around the notion that Jews were returning to the land of their heritage after thousands of years, finding it exceedingly difficult to live in other lands, trying to make their future in the land of their past. Israel is the land of origin of the Jews. In fact, it is the only reason that they can be called “Jews.” (Read the posting "History of the Word 'Jew'")

Many of the Arabs were and are of the xenophobic notion that since the Jews that first came to Israel did not look like “the Jews of old,” due to their having lived in other countries for several generations, that they were somehow “not real Jews.” In short, this is a negation of identity based on appearance and culture. If we look past physical appearance, we will realize that appearance and culture do not negate their right to have a future in their birth land. There are black Muslims, Arab Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Philippine Muslims, white Muslims, and Iranian Muslims; do they all have the right to visit Mecca freely? According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad taught that there was no place in Islam for hierarchy between Muslims; if Muslims were to extend this teaching to the Jews, “whiteness” would not be an issue. It is important to mention that there is much racial and ethnic variation among Christians too (Mexican, Arab, Anglo, African, etc…).

The point is that the surrounding (Arab) Muslims were xenophobic towards the Jews based on the simple notion that they were European, but had fewer problems accepting the Jews of Arab countries because they shared cultural similarities, and perhaps had the same skin tone. However, when these same Middle Eastern Jews expressed the desire to live in Israel, the Muslims turned on them and many were kicked out (such as my grandparents). Therefore, the cultural similarities shared between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims were only skin-deep; their identity as Jews had to remain submissive to the Muslim hierarchy, and once they decided to step out of it they became enemies of the state.

It should be clear by now that the Arab intolerance of Jews had less to do with their being European and more to do with their being Jews. This is the basis of the claim that anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism; the Jews returned to and established Israel based on their right to live there as Jews, a right that the Arabs rejected. The rejection is related to both religious and political reasons, based on centuries of traditional Muslim teachings about Jews. Indeed, religious Muslim teachings, based in the Q’uran and Hadiths (commentaries on the Q’uran) teach that the Jews corrupted the Torah, leading Hashem to withdraw His promise from them. In short, Muslims believe that Jews have forsaken their right to Israel, and even to Hashem’s favor. The (shared) Muslim belief in the existence of the One G-d becomes irrelevant when their belief maintains that He only favors them. So even though Jews and Muslims believe in “the same G-d,” as He is commonly referred to, it ceases to matter when one group believes that He only “belongs” to them. This explains why the political slanders that come from the media sources of the Arabs known as Palestinians are anti-Jewish in nature. People who reject that anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism are perhaps not aware of the real motive beyond (readily admitted by its advocates) the nature of anti-Israelism.

Passport to Palestine

So where did the name “Palestine” come from? Going back about 2,000 years to the year 70, the Roman Empire was spreading its rule over much of the then-known world. The Jewish Holy Land, known as “Eretz Israel,” the “Land of Israel” to the Jews, was just one province under Roman rule at that time. Much of the politics for the Romans, who were invaders and occupiers of the Jewish land, revolved around the Temple that stood in the center of Jerusalem. In the year 70, the Roman army sacked and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, burning it to the ground, and tightened their grip on the everyday lives of Jews in the land of their own heritage, the land that gave birth to their religious, social, and ethnic identity. Jerusalem’s new name was to be “Aetolia Capitolina,” and (Eretz) Israel’s new name was to be “Philistina.” Philistina is the original word that later developed into “Palestine.” Today, when people use the name "Palestine," they are either misinformed, deliberate (anti-Semites), or some combination of the two. There is no logical reason for a person to refer to a non-existent country by a name that he or she wishes it to be named.

Passport to Philistina

Where did the word “Philistina” come from? Thousands of years before the Romans existed, lived an Israelite king named David. David was the king that began the building project of the Temple in Jerusalem, a central city to the land of Israel. The Land of Israel, referred to as “the land that I will show you” in the Torah, was promised to the ancestors of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by Hashem. One of the known national and political enemies of the Israelites was the Philistines, a sea-faring people living on the western coast of modern-day Israel on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and it is believed that they were a Greek people. After nearly two-thousand years had passed, when the Romans sacked and destroyed Jerusalem and overtook Israel, they renamed it, “Philistina.” The general practice of occupiers is to change names of towns, cities, entire lands, etc, in order to drive home the point that the land no longer belongs to its original inhabitants. By changing the name, the occupier attempts to drive a wedge between the original inhabitants of the land and the identity that is attached to it. The Romans took the name of the Philistines, who by this time having ceased to exist as any identifiable peoples, and applied it to Israel. By giving the name “Philistina” to Israel, the Romans were telling the Jews that their land, and their future there, was now in the hands of the Roman Empire. A deep sense of injustice and rebellion were in the air, and it was in this context, prior to the destruction of the Temple, the religious and spiritual center of Jewish living, that the movement of Jesus and his followers began. Philistina eventually became known as a region with roughly-delineated borders, much like “the Amazon,” which is a general area rather than anything that can be deemed as a country.

Throughout history, the name “Palestine,” a derivative of the word “Philistina,” was used to refer to the land by scholars, books, professors, etc. However, in the hearts and minds of Jews, many of whom were still living in the land as well as with others whom had left and been scattered to other places, Palestine was still known as “Eretz Israel,” the original homeland of their religious, social, and ethnic identity. Even through integration in their new homes, throughout the generations, Jews remained conscious of the Land of Israel, as they do today, citing both its significance to heritage and to Judaism. The essential core importance of the Land of Israel dates back to the original Biblical promise from Hashem to Abraham that his ancestors would inhabit it. Jewish theology, which believes in the entire world’s future embrace of G-dly concepts in day-to-day living, revolves around this promise, the Jews’ sovereignty in Israel, and rebuilding of the erected Temple in Jerusalem. This is further discussed in another section.

Passport to Israel

Palestine remained Palestine until 1948, when Jews established it as their political homeland and gave it the name the Modern State of Israel, or “Medinat Israel,” a country. The Jews who were previously referred to as “Palestinians,” were now known as “Israeli’s.” Logically, Ariel Sharon, the current Prime Minister of the State of Israel, was a Palestinian before he was an Israeli, both words that at points in time applied to Jews. Today, however, the term “Palestinian” has an entirely different connotation, as will now be examined. The irony of the term “a Palestinian state” is bizarre. In 1967, the same Arab states that tried to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state by destroying it, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, deployed an attack on Israel from three fronts. The ring leader behind the anti-Israel propaganda and political machismo of this movement was the Egyptian President, Gamel ‘Abd Al-Nasser. The war of 1967, also known as “The Six Day War,” because it lasted for six days, ending with Israeli victory (and survival), changed the status quo of both Israel and the Arab’s perspective on the country. In 1967, Israel’s shape and size changed, due to the land that it seized during the Six-Day War. Previously, Israel’s narrowest point was a nine-mile stretch between the city of Tel-Aviv and its border with Jordan, but after the war, the entire Sinai Desert (previously Egypt’s), the Golan Heights (previously Syria’s) and the area of land known as the “West Bank (previously Jordan’s),” because it lay on the west bank of the Jordan River fell under Israeli, and should we say, Jewish rule.

Ten years later the entire Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in the wake of peace talks between Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and between Egypt’s seemingly progressive President Anwar as-Sadat. The Golan Heights became the heated topic of land concessions between Israel and Syria, and which are still going on today. Rahman al-Qudwa The Arab states’ hatred towards Israel culminated in a war only in 1967, but Israel faced constant terrorist attacks by extremist Muslim Arab groups from before its inception, during it, up to 1967, and has faced a continuing policy of political blacklisting, televised hate propaganda for the youth, and terrorist attacks to this day. Some videos from Palestinian media can be seen here... (

Rahman al-Qudwa

In 1964, one such extremist Muslim Arab terrorist was a man named “Rahman al-Qudwa,” born in Egypt on August 4, 1929, began operating under the terrorist name “Yasser Arafat." During 1964, three years before the Six-Day War, Qudwa began employing the use of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as a means of political resistance towards the State of Israel, in line with the pre-existent desire of Arab states to put an end to Israel. Anti-Semites and anti-Israeli's commonly state that suicide bombing was the result of the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, which ignores that it began in 1964. Qudwa saw the Arab loss of the Six-Day War of 1967 as a new and powerful political justification by which to incite propaganda and inflict harm on Israel, in line with the perpetual Arab states wish to destroy it. The Six-Day War brought a population of Jordanian Arabs under Israeli rule. The already-existent Arab propaganda towards Israel made this an undesirable new state of existence for these Jordanians; no Arab, after having such distaste for the State of Israel, would want to live within its borders.

Qudwa’s anti-Israel tactic was one that neither the Arab world nor Israel had previously seen, it was to push for a “Palestinian state,” a concept that nobody has ever heard of in reference to Arabs. Furthermore, all twenty two Arab states had been established more than twenty years ago, why the sudden need for a twenty third? As was previously written, Israel, before 1948, was known as the region of Palestine, so what geographical area would constitute a “Palestinian state” in the year 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War? In fact, the Arab states did not want there to be an independent Palestinian state before 1948, as long as it was to be a Jewish state. After 1967, Arab states rallied behind the Palestinian cause, because by this point, the definition of Palestinian nationalism had taken a 180 degree turn. Qudwa tried to depict “Palestinian nationalism” to the surrounding Arab states in the way that Theodore Herzl (the founder of Zionism) tried to persuade heads of government in Europe and wealthy Jews to donate money to the new Jewish state. In other words, he employed the same mechanisms that the Zionists used to create Israel and deliberately used the same terminology to paint a picture. The only difference was that his goal was not to simply create a Palestinian state, a twenty third Arab state in the Middle East, but to destroy Israel with it. He essentially invented what was an entirely unheard of narrative for the Jordanian Arabs under Israeli rule, keeping in mind that there were no political movements for “Palestinian nationalism” between 1948 and 1967.

Qudwa used all of the terms previously used to refer to Israel to refer to the “Palestinian cause.” The term “right of return” referred to the right of Jews to return to their homeland, Qudwa used to say that the “Palestinians” had the right to return to their homeland. “Diaspora” was a term that referred to the Jews living outside of Eretz Israel; Qudwa arbitrarily used this term to describe the Arabs that left Israel in the War of 1948 (Independence War) to the Jordanians that fell under Israeli rule in 1967 and said that these Arabs were living in the “Palestinian Diaspora.” According to the Balfour Declaration, the country of Jordan was to be an Arab Palestinian state, so by living in Israel were the Arabs in the “Palestinian Diaspora.” “Genocide” was one of the known causes for the establishment of the Jewish state; Qudwa was charging Israel with a Palestinian genocide. “Jewish homeland” was among the terminology describing Israel, Qudwa said that Palestine was the “Palestinian homeland,” and interestingly enough, that a united Jerusalem should be its capital.

To paraphrase Dennis Ross, “Arafat gave the Palestinians a past, but he did not give them a future.” Even the Palestinian flag is almost exactly the same as the Jordanian flag, minus a white eight-sided star. The ethnic identity of the Palestinians is largely Jordanian, given that Arabs from various countries married each other anyway, and their culture is accordingly similar. However, since the Six-Day War, the Palestinians have developed their own culture, one which has mixed traditional Muslim Arab culture, new ideas of nationality, and seething hatred of Israel. Televised Palestinian propaganda from the Palestinian Authority television station began to say that the Palestinians were actually descendants of the Canaanites, the people that were living in the land prior to both King David and to the Philistines, the very people whose name the Palestinians carry. The Canaanites existed, but the Palestinians are not their descendants.


If the Palestinians actually believe that they are the descendants of the Canaanites is questionable, but the fact remains that the purpose of this propaganda is to recast themselves as the Canaanites, who the Israelites removed from the land upon entering it. This has clear propaganda purposes and no basis in reality. The most ironic thing about the Palestinian movement is that it ended causing great suffering, economic depression, and sadness among the new Palestinians, causing them enormous anger at their situation, which Qudwa, with deliberation, directed at Israel. The result: a group of people who think that they are historically deserving of a state of their own. By now, of course, they are in such a state of trauma, and the surrounding Arab states are unwilling to help alleviate their problems but rather fuel the flames, that one proposes a Palestinian state just in order to end their suffering. Would this be a just solution?

If anyone belongs in "Palestine," Jews do.

Satan is in Heaven

Calm down, I am not a Satanist. In Hebrew, "Ha-SatAN" means "the adversary," "the destroyer," and is sometimes loosely translated as "the evil inclination." Another term commonly used for "Ha-Satan" is the Hebrew "yetzer harah," which literally means "the evil inclination." It must also be noted that humans have both a "yetzer harah" and a "yetzer hatov," the good inclination, and it is completely within our capabilities to lead with either one. For this analysis, I will simply use the word "Satan," the English word for "Ha-Satan."

Judaism and Christianity both believe that Satan exists and that his goal is to get us to partake in evil. The only difference between Judaism and Christianity with regards to Satan is that the former believes that his job is to tempt humanity, meaning that he has a role in the divine scheme of things, while the latter believes that he is an enemy of Hashem, acting against His will. I believe that the latter view is simply untrue as well as being spiritually unhealthy, and will attempt to show why.

First, Satan cannot be Hashem's enemy because Hashem made him with the intent of tempting us. Hashem has an angel for everything, and unless we believe that Hashem is the one that tempts us, belief in the existence of Satan makes sense. However, why Hashem would banish Satan from His Presence baffles me. First of all, if Hashem banished Satan, would Satan not cease to exist? Can it be said that there is anything outside of the realm of Hashem that has the ability to exist? If Hell is entirely outside of the realm of Hashem, is it really just a name for a place of non-existence? If Satan can be banished from Hashem but still exist, it says that he has the power of being independent from Hashem; he is as strong as or stronger than Hashem, which is impossible. It only makes sense that Satan is working for Hashem, as in Job. This also means that Satan is not evil in the sense that a person who does evil things is evil. Satan is, like all angels, a perfect receptacle for Hashem's will; he does what he does out of necessity and does not derive pleasure from it. Of course, our attitude towards him has to be "less than friendly" because his function is to harm us. This is the Jewish viewpoint of Satan.

But if Hell really exists, it must be a place that Hashem condones, because if He did not want it to be, then it would not. What this means is that there is some level of G-dliness there, even if it's just enough to maintain its existence. So if Hell is a real place, all who are there barely exist, they almost do not, which means that they have almost no power or strength, or life. Hell would be the place farthest from Hashem. Therefore, if we believe that Satan is the tempter of humanity, we must assume that he is in Heaven.

The Torah's view on Hell, or "Gehennom," is that only the genuinely wicked people go there for eternity. However, "genuinely wicked" is not a term that humanity can even begin to pretend to be able to determine, and therefore the judgment is left entirely up to Hashem, who happens to be merciful. It is doubtful that kicking your little brother in the tuchus (butt) qualifies you as "genuinely wicked," although you should probably go to your room for a while and think about what you did.

Second, it would also baffle me as to why Hashem would banish Satan but not strip him of his powers of temptation first. Is it really the act of an all-wise Hashem to kick Satan out but to continue to allow him to "do his thing?" Satan's job is indeed a necessary one if free will is to exist, but if he were unchecked by Hashem in his job as a tempter, he would wreak havoc on the Earth. What this means is that Satan has built-in limits on what he can do, he cannot make an individual act in a way other than the individual is willing to act. He cannot control us, he can only confuse us, and only if we let him. Of course, we can say that Satan is wreaking havoc on the Earth, but the extent of Satan's ability is our submission to our weaknesses. If Hashem saw Satan as an unnecessary nuisance, would He not just end his existence? Clearly Satan exists, which can only mean that Hashem Himself is allowing him to exist. And clearly Satan still tempts us, which means that he has not been defeated, which means that Meshiach (Messiah) has not come yet. For this reason, I do not agree with the Christian view that Jesus defeated sin, and therefore Satan. Satan is real and sin is real, and within practical limits, it is only as real as we let it be.

Third, the notion that Hashem has to defeat Satan also confuses me. I cannot imagine that the all-powerful Hashem has to put any amount of effort into defeating one of His creations. If Hashem wanted Satan to disappear, it would be done and over with. Again, it would not take Hashem a trial-by-error method to decide if He wants Satan to exist or not; the fact that He made him shows that he has an eternal purpose.

Fourth, do angels really have free will? Can an angel do something that Hashem has not allowed it to do, or can an angel avoid its responsibility? Free will is the only constant in the human story, something that angels do not possess. In Job, Satan asks Hashem for permission to do everything before he does it - he has no free will. Can the universe really function if Hashem grants His angels, His "employees," free will? What if an angel was feeling lazy one day, or overzealous, or scared? Would they not need a Torah of their own to keep them in check, a Torah that they could reject? Look at humanity, we have free will and look at what a situation we are in. I view angels as being programmed by Hashem to carry out a certain task; they can do nothing outside of that task, which also rules out rebellion against their Maker. But assuming that some kind of anomaly occurred and an angel was able to rebel against Hashem, I would imagine that He would just end his existence and make another one. Taking it a step farther, it is hard to believe that He would even have to resort to that; would He not just reprogram the angel to do what it is supposed to do? Assuming that angels can be reprogammed, it means that they do not have free will anyway (to resist being reprogrammed).

A Note about Satanism

Here is just a thought that I will explore in another post. In the light of all this, worshipping Satan would make absolutely no sense. If Satan is an angel designated to a task, to worship him would get one nowhere. He has no power of his own and he does not answer prayers, which is something that only Hashem does. Prayers to Satan would go completely ignored since answering them is not one of his abilities. Praying to Satan is like talking to a brick wall.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

History of the word “Jew”
According to the Marriam-Wesbters website, the word “Jew” is defined as:

1 a : a member of the tribe of Judah, b : ISRAELITE
2 : a member of a nation existing in Palestine from the 6th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.
3 : a person belonging to a continuation through descent or conversion of the ancient Jewish people
4 : one whose religion is Judaism
It is comparable in that respect to the words “Christian” or “Muslim" in notating a religious identification. Unlike the words "Christian" or "Muslim," "Jew" refers to nation of people, not solely to a faith statement, although belief in an essential component. The word “Jew” wasn’t always the word used to notate a person of the faith that believed that Hashem (G-d) made a covenant with the Jewish people. Before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, the Jews were called “Hebrews,” a term notating their ethnic and racial identity, which coincided with their belief in the One G-d, hence, historians refer to their religion as “the religion of the Hebrews.” By the time that they entered the Holy Land promised to them by Hashem, their ancestor Ya’akov (Jacob), after wrestling with an angel, was renamed “Israel,” which means “wrestled with G-d.” In the Torah, a name change is common after experiencing direct contact G-d or an angel. The Hebrews were thus “Israelites,” a nomenclature showing the ancestral heritage of their forefather. Jacob, renamed Israel, had twelve sons, and each son composed a tribe, giving way to the name “the twelve tribes of Israel.” The land that Hashem promised them was eventually known by his name, hence “the Land of Israel,” or “Eretz Israel” in Hebrew. Each tribe occupied a piece of land on either the east or west side of the Jordan River.
In 586 BCE, the Bavlim (Babylonians), one of the powerful neighbors of Israel, invaded, destroyed the Temple that King David and Shlomo (Solomon) built, and took captive to Bavel (Babylon, modern-day Iraq) a large percentage of the Israelites. One hundred and thiry six years later, in 722 BCE, the Ashurim (Assyrians), a people to the North of Israel, also invaded, taking captives with them as well. In this second invasion, the only tribe that was able to keep from completely being taken over and assimilating was the tribe of Yehudah (Judah), and for that reason, many of the Israelites clung to it, even taking its name so that they would remain with their identity intact. In Hebrew, somebody from the tribe of Issachar would have been called an “Issachari,” or an “Issacharite,” Menashe (Mannaseh) “Menashi,” a "Mannasite," and so on. Someone from Yehudah would have been called a “Yehudi,” (Judahite) the origin of the word “Jew.” So even though not all Jews are descendants of the tribe of Judah, the word “Jew” is a term for a descendant of Avraham (Abraham), Itzchak (Isaac), and Ya’akov. These are the same people that received the Torah on Mt. Sinai through the hand of Moshe, (Moses) specifically notating a member of those people, now called Jews. It is a nomenclature that identifies one’s identity as coming from this religious background and heritage, regardless of their original tribal affiliation. All Jews today are called Jews, whether their lineage is from Levi, Issachar, Menashe, Reuven (Ruben), Gad, Dan, Shimon (Simeon), Naftali, Benyamin (Benjamin), Asher, Z'vulun (Zebulun), Ephra'im, or Yehudah. That is how Judaism became the name of the religion of the Jews. About eight hundred years later, the Romans would invade Israel and call it by the name "Palestine," which is discussed in the next section.