Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Like chocolate with syrup hair
Jumping, walking
She is fine
And finite
That's just fine
She takes up space
So I won't give her my time
Until the time, has arrived
When the orange falls from the tree
Do not date her
For she will become dated, in her mind and in yours
Once, twice, three times a body
There is nothing new -- all is old
But her soul is eternal gold
She will not want to give to one who does not want to give
So give her your life - and you will stay alive
The only way to make a woman yours is to marry her
Marrying her will keep her fresh, and keep you fresh
The preservative of life
Always grapes and never raisins
You will be raising in the sun
A Kiddush with your cup overflowing on a set, white-clothed table
If you do not marry her, her wind will lead her away
Supervised by G-d
You will see her strong side, and you will become weak
Do not date her forever, marry her forever

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Concerning Hamas and Fatah - the two political Palestinian terrorist groups competing for control in Israel... IDF faces two-headed Hamas monster

While final results from the Palestinian Authority Legislative elections are not expected until the weekend, the army has already reached the conclusion that Hamas has turned into what some officers are calling a two-headed monster.

One head rejects Israel's existence and continues to assemble an army in the Gaza Strip while directing attacks against Israel. The second head is a politician, which has caused senior IDF officers to ask whether the military's longstanding policy of no contact with the group will change.

Until now the army has had a clear attitude toward Hamas - no contact at all. The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has for years bypassed the radical group even when dealing with routine issues such as water and electricity supply that affected cities run by Hamas mayors. The only official contact the army had with the terror group, one officer said Wednesday, was when soldiers arrested Hamas operatives or killed them.

But now, with Hamas as a political party, the "no contact" approach might need to change, senior officials admitted Wednesday, and the army might need to begin speaking directly with Hamas politicians.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Itzik Eitan backed up that notion Wednesday, claiming that Israel, which he said failed to curb Hamas's rise, would most probably find itself talking to the group in the near future.

"Our failure to see through the different [peace] processes with the PA has led to the Hamas's drastic political rise," said Eitan, who retired from the IDF in 2002 after serving as OC Central Command. "If the Palestinian Authority had been responsible and taken action, the Hamas's climb would have been stymied."

Another example of a "process" Israel missed out on, Eitan said, was the evacuation of the Jewish community in Hebron. Following the 1994 massacre by Baruch Goldstein, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had the opportunity to evacuate the settlers.

"Just look at what is happening there now," Eitan said. "Look at the violence over the evacuation of a couple of storefronts."

From the army's and Eitan's point of view it is too late to stop Hamas. Representatives already run large PA-controlled cities such as Kalkilya and Nablus, and if the radical group forms or joins the next PA government they will almost certainly be high-ranking cabinet ministers. "It'll be pretty difficult to ignore them if they are running the health and social ministries," one Israeli official said.

But even if Hamas enters into a PA government, senior defense officials stressed, Israel's security will outweigh any other consideration and the army will not be restricted from taking military action against the radical group.

The relationship, one officer said, would be twofold: "During the day we can talk to them and at night we can arrest them."

As to the question of how to deal with Hamas, the answer, one official said, may have come from Hamas itself. Earlier in the week, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leading Hamas candidate, said the group would talk to Israel but only through a third party, similar to Israel's relationship with Hizbullah.

For now, the army said it was willing to continue the "no contact" approach, but officials said Hamas would begin to realize that it had an interest in talking with Israel.

"We will continue supplying them electricity and water since that is not the question," one senior Civil Administration official said. "The real question is whether they will recognize Israel's existence and we can sit down with them to negotiate a final agreement."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How Do We Know That G-d Really Exists?

The ethos of evolution is "survival of the fittest," the theory that a species will survive only when and if it evolves a particular trait that will give it an advantage over another species. For example, we can look at a bird with a sharp beak and compare it to a bird with a round-ended beak. The sharp-beaked bird is able to crack open shells and eat their insides, consuming the majority of food with shells, leaving the round-beaked bird to eventually die out. In line with the evolutionary mode of thought, a species does not survive if it inherits a trait that will prevent it from surviving, and if it has that particular trait, then it survives.

The same people that state that the theoretical model of evolution is the replacement of belief in G-d basically do not realize that, if humans' existence can be attributed to evolution, then the formation of the human ability to perceive the existence of G-d (and deities in general) is just as well an evolutionary development. In other words, our ability to perceive the existence of deities is very much so an evolutionary development.

We are forced to examine this; do useless evolutionary developments, or mutations, occur in nature, and furthermore, does a species survive even with such a mutation?

The answer that most will say is "Yes," a species can survive, and many do, with mutations (or in other words, some sort of change in the species).We must look at the human ability to perceive the existence of G-d through the lens of evolution and wonder if the (complicated) human mind has somehow "found" a way to create the illusion of G-d within the mind in a world which is actually void of it. Again, if a development occurs in a species that does not benefit it, the species will die out, so do we conclude that the human ability to perceive G-d is a trait that causes it to survive? If we are to define the human being as a complicated animal, then we must view "faith," "spirituality," or "religion" as evolutionary traits, just as the bird with the sharp beak.

Furthermore, we cannot pretend that something such as evolution, a process but in no way a living, conscious thing, could have ever created anything. Rather, atheists illuminate an interesting paradox, they speak of evolution as having "created" life and somehow developing it from simple to complex forms. Again, the assumption here is one of intelligence and control, that a force of understanding exists beyond the evolutionary process, one that is physically invisible yet can be empirically identified through the effects of development. What we see here is staggering; atheists speaking about evolution in very similar terms that theists use to speak about G-d's Creation (hence the need for atheists to attempt to distance evolution and G-d from each other as much as possible). What is going on here; what mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are being fulfilled by evolution to the atheist and by G-d to the theist? Indeed, our beliefs and theories expose similar needs; human needs, and these needs strongly imply a human connection to something larger.

Interestingly enough, it's not the first time in human history that people have believed in one thing as an attempt to believe in something larger. The Talmud, in the section describing the nature of idol worship, explains that the people who worshipped various idols did so in hopes of connecting to the highest form of transcendence possible. In other words, they exhalted physical images around them, and the human form, and worshipped them as deities in order to break out of the limited and limiting human psyche and to enter the realm of the transcendent. The Talmud explains that they perceived the Oneness inherent to all existence, but it was so massive, great, and awe-inspiring, that they assumed that they could honor It by honoring its Creations. Once they did that, they moved from honoring the Creations to worshipping them, hence introducing a mental, spiritual, and theological disruption between them and It. Only by developing a direct connection to it could they achieve purity of spirituality - there is no intermediary between man and G-d; no force, no lesser diety, no object, and no man.

The Torah also describes G-d as a white light, and the breakdowns in understanding G-d's nature as various colors of light, in the same way that a rainbow is actually the breakdown of pure light into different wavelengths. Using the light analogy, each of the various deities is not a deity in and of itself, but rather it is an element of G-d, an aspect of Him seperated and distinguished from the whole, but imagined and manifested as an individual god or goddess. The allure of such practices is clear, for it doesn't necessarily seem evil due to its association with G-d. However, when the whole of G-d is broken into many disparate pieces, separated, and each one is viewed as a whole in and of itself, causing it to be imagined according to the abilities and tendencies of the human mind and manifested as such, and existing as an opposite from other deities, it led to the birth of some gruesome religious practices.

For example, the Torah recounts the Midians whom worshipped a deity named "Ba'al of Pe'or." Worship of this god was carried out when its worshippers defecated for it, or the priests of Molech (another deity) when they "walked their children through the fires," or in other words, sacrificed their children to Molech by burning them. When the unified source of everything is broken into pieces and each piece is viewed individually and imagined as such, when people insist that the transcendent source of existence can be anything, then any divine manifestation is possible. At this juncture, no rules of logic determine the manifestation of this god or goddess; the most primitive human urges, tendencies, and wants surface to the forefront as expressive forms of these deities and in the form of the deity's desires.As science has progressed, the gods and goddesses have died, filtered by time and knowledge, if you will; but G-d is pervasive. In the terms of evolution, they have become extinct, did not develop the necessary traits for survival, passed away and have been replaced by something better; this is because they do not really exist and therefore are not able to perpetuate their own survival.

The belief in evolution is a product of the noble human effort to strive for something bigger, to not be fooled by the matrix which we call our perception, and to stubbornly scratch at reality until we have removed the veils of illusion and revealed the truth. However, it shoots high, but only as high as the lower stars; it assumes that nothing floats above them and therefore ends it search there. This is humans' 20th century scientific mind's version of the Talmud's description of idolatry; we perceive the absolute height of transcendence, but are content with believing (and running our lives by) the notion that our efforts should end short of its pinnacle, or in this case, that evolution is more believable and less lofty than the belief in G-d, and even though it is not truth, it's easier to come by and less demanding. It's chic spirituality, it's cool religion, it's fun faith; it's a vivid painting stretching to all corners, not a blank canvas, it's lauging gas, not oxygen, it's Pepsi, not water. Science and the vastness of the universe to which it connects us is awe-inspiring and humbling, and "awe" and "humility" are religious/spiritual emotions.

In other words, we have our pie and eat it too; we gain access to some spirituality, just enough to hold us over, but do not have to change our lives or patterns too drastically. But "jack of all trades, master of none," applies here; we have some form of spirituality, but have not mastered it, and we are somewhat detached from a spiritual existence, but not completely.

But what if we need that connection so desperately that our minds have created that larger thing, whatever it is? Assuming that G-d does not exist, how can we account for the human's ability to perceive that He does? Is it a genetic function of evolution that causes the human brain to give the person the illusion that G-d actually exists, even though He is not real, for his or her own sake?We can say that a mind that perceives things that are not really there is in a state of illness and needs to be healed, for there are such mental conditions as schizophrenia, which cause incredible suffering in the individual's mind that has it.Yet billions of mentally healthy people world-wide believe in the existence of G-d (and even gods), and furthermore, that this belief manifests itself positively in their lives and gives them purpose, joy, and direction, essentially making them mentally healthier. Is belief in G-d then, a "happy schizophrenia," a fluke of nature that causes people to believe that there is a living Source outside of them with Its own will that intervenes in their lives and tells them what to do?

Furthermore, humans are extremely social "animals," and therefore, this belief can be transmitted and taught from one intelligent ape to the other, from parent ape to child ape, from teacher ape to student ape, from religious leader ape to religious student ape, and therefore forms what we call "civilization."Then perhaps the human belief in G-d is a form of social conditioning. However, this does not account for the fact that humanity still believes in G-d, so even though it is taught, we must wonder how we went from apes that could not fathom G-d to human beings that could. How can we have ideas?

But again, our ability to perceive "invisible" things is uniquely human; we can perceive many things that do not really exist, such as Snoopy and Barbie. Snoopy exists only on paper and Barbie as a disfigure of what women should look like, but they don't really exist. If this is true, how can we say that to believe in G-d is not exactly the same thing, except on a magnificently huge scale?

The answer is fairly simple; most people, even though they read Snoopy to their children and buy them Barbie's, therefore accepting them as mental models, are keenly aware that they do not really exist, that they are just figments of the human imagination. They do not, for one instance, believe that Snoopy or Barbie could have created the world, knowing that it was humans that created them, and they do not believe that Snoopy or Barbie communicate with them, connecting them to a higher plane of existence.Therefore, we are left with the distinct realization that spirituality is real, but cannot attribute it to any of these man-made things, and therefore are left to ponder the whereabouts of its source. How is it that an unconscious force of nature has designed a mental structure to help us survive, is taught to us through our society, felt in the core of the human experience (psyche, mind, our soul), is understood as a literal (but not physical) living Being, and yet does not really exist? How can the human mind create an "alter ego" within it, which can be shared by every single individual, and yet see to it that the human being continues to function in mentally healthy manner, healthier actually? Even those that, through their rational and conscious ability to, decide to reject that such a Being exists, it is left indivertibly on their soul. After considering these things, we are forced to grapple with the notion that G-d most definitely does exist, a rather perplexing, awe-inspiring, and ultimately moving recognition.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Many, many gods...

The cornerstone of monotheism is the existence of the One G-d, Whom is referred to by different (yet related) names in different monotheistic religions.

The defining essence of monotheism is that G-d is one, which means a few different things. First, it means the simple thing that only He exists, and second, the slightly deeper meaning is that He is One, meaning that everything is in Him; everything is a part of Him and nothing is without. This is what sets monotheism apart from polytheism/paganism, which declare their belief in the existence of several deities, all with their own powers and controlling a separate element of existence. Indeed, the polytheistic view sees the world as a splintered place, broken and in its very essence divided, with no potential of unity unless the gods and goddesses were to unite.

Christianty also believes in the "G-d of the Hebrews," as He is referred to in the scholarly tradition. Aside from the fact that Jews and Christians both believe in the existence of this One G-d and believe that He runs all existence, one of the explicit differences between G-d, in both traditions, is His nature.

Judaism ascribes the nature of His complete Oneness, which is the only logical assumption when considering what G-d really is. Furthermore, such a thing is stated in the Torah and all over the Tanakh, so it's not just a matter of assumption or human perception.
While Christianity agrees on the United nature of G-d's existence, some of its traditional views pose problems to it.

For example, G-d has an "arch rival" in the Christian tradition, and that arch rival is Satan. Suffice it to say that Satan also exists in the "Jewish tradition," but everything is a part of G-d's Creation, and therefore has a defining role, which does not end. Satan's role in the Jewish tradition is to tempt humanity to go off the proper path of living, and G-d Himself decided that this is the way that it should be in order for human beings to have the ability to be faced with making wrong decisions; only then can free will have any meaning.

In the Christian tradition, Satan is the enemy of G-d, i.e., he exists outside of G-d. If we wanted to speak of these concepts in other terms, we could say that there are two deities in the Christian tradition, a good god and an evil god, G-d being the good god and Satan being the evil god. If one is in charge of all that is good and the other is in charge of all that is bad, which is the nature that Christianity ascribes to each deity, then we can logically say that one is the god of good and the other is the god of bad, and that the two are locked in eternal struggle. Suffice it to say that this is the view that Christianity holds and not my own conjecture.

The belief of Jesus as the son of G-d introduces another "character" into the equation, that the good god had a son, a semi-divine being, whom was half human, and that god (god jr.) manifested himself in the form of a member of the people that that god chose to fulfill a certain task in the world.

It doesn't end there because the evil god also had a son (whom is known in the Christian tradition as the "anti-Christ), and the son of the good god is then eternally engaged in battle with the son of the evil god, just like their fathers. Two gods locked in struggle, and their sons, somehow divine beings, also locked in struggle in the names of the father gods.

In other words, a clear distinction between good and evil is drawn, which is necessary and healthy, but the two are splintered and distinguished from each other completely, to the point where G-d is not seen as being the Maker of all, for evil now is considered to exist outside of G-d, something that which G-d does not have control over. This results in a view encompassing almost everything in the category of evil (if pushed to the extreme) such as physicality, and sex, for example. According to fringe Christian groups, and perhaps mainstream groups as well, sex is seen as a product of sin, and since humanity relies on sex for procreation, we are mired in sin that is otherwise inescapable (unless one accepts Jesus). Sexual desire and sin is deeply associated with the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, which who else but Satan tempted (and taught) the first couple how to carry out. It is also why Jesus is necessarily seen as a being without sexual desire, it puts him in line with goodness, perfection, and holiness. Nevertheless, G-d Himself apparentally "procreates" in that He created His son Jesus by impregnating a human woman, Mary, who is the Jewish human mother of a semi-divine being.

In other words, it is similar to polytheism for the simple reason of divine duality, of two opposite and opposing forces that are locked in struggle. The only thing that can be said to be monotheistic about it is that good wins out, that G-d eventually wins, but even this is difficult to fit into the puzzle because G-d is all-powerful, and He does not have to struggle against evil; He does not have to struggle against anything. Rather, it is humanity that has to struggle against evil, and that is Judaism.

Judaism too recognizes that G-d has different attributes, such as Kingship, Mercy, Justice, Father, and Creator, amongst many others. In Jewish thought, you will never hear people referring to G-d as "G-d the King, G-d the Merciful, G-d the Just, G-d the Father, and G-d the Creator" in the same way that He is referred to in Christianity as "G-d the Father, G-d the Son, and G-d the Holy Spirit." Since G-d is One, we do not refer to His different attributes in separate notations; G-d the Father is no different than G-d the Just is no different than G-d the Creator. He is simply G-d and Father, Just, and Creator are different attributes that He posseses. He is not broken into a separate essence based on one of the Divine attributes.

For example, when one prays to G-d, does he decide to which attribute of G-d he prays? Does he say, "Today I will pray to the Father attribute and tomorrow I will pray to the Mercy attribute,"? No, he simply prays to G-d and G-d decides what do to with the prayer, with which attribute He will listen to it. If a person prays to either the Father or the "Son attribute," then he is acknowledging that the attributes are separate enough from each other to be considered entities that have the ability to stand on their own, and this constitutes polytheism; each attribute becomes a "god."

The attributes of G-d can be more or less described as "characteristics," but "Son," a relationship, cannot be sensibly categorized as a characteristic. A person can be patient, vengeful, and artistic, but "son" is not one of his characteristics, but it is another person altogether.

If there can be three expressions of G-d that together constitute One, why can't there be more than three? 1+1+1=3, but if it can be said that 1+1+1=1, then the formula can be repeated as many times as one wishes, you do not have to stop at three. This is a polytheistic understanding of Divinity.

Friday, January 20, 2006

No New Revelation Category: Religion and Philosophy
How can a revelation replace another if the revelation (is claimed) to be reiterating, not replacing, another (not previous) revelation? This would be like replacing something with another version of the same thing. With respect to Islam, this is the true backbone of the religion, its replacement of the Judaism and Christianity that came before it; this claim deserves some attention.First of all, we must contend with the notion that a revelation replaces another in the first place. For example, Islam's central belief is the replacement of Judaism and its tenets; why? The answer that Islam gives is that the Jews, the supposed followers of Judaism, went off the path and strayed from the message of the Torah and the reiterations of the prophets. Not to mention, they also deliberately altered the text for their own purposes, i.e., to advocate a lie that they were the only chosen people.However, why must one group's revelation be intended for another? For example, G-d gave the Torah to the Jews when there were no other people in the world that were ready to accept and embrace a notion of pure monotheism, and it is necessary to mention that there were no Muslims alive at this point in human history. If the Muslims had been alive then, then they could have accepted the monotheistic point of view. Thousands of years later, when the Arabs, through their figure Muhammad, had their own monotheistic revelation, it did not suffice them to live with it on their own, they felt that they had to spread their particular monotheistic viewpoint to the Jews. The question is "why" and the answer is that they viewed (and had to) Divine Revelation as a continuing process. In this they are right save for one minor mistake; the Jews also believe in continual Divine Revelation, but in the sense that G-d reveals Himself from one group to another until the whole world is united under Him. To contrast, Islam believes in continual Divine Revelation in the sense that one Revelation has to replace another; it is not sufficient that different groups of people exist in the same world with different understandings of pure monotheism. This attitude is what gave the Jews the ability to accept the theology and existence of Islam, while the opposite of this attitude is what made Judaism intolerable Muslims. We must also wonder what more there is to be learned by a new revelation; if G-d gave the eternal Torah to the Jews, there is nothing new for Islam to teach to Jews, which would also mean that Jews can remain Jews and be honest to G-d's will. This makes Islam irrelevant for Jews, which is one reason why Muhammad had such a violent reaction to Jews when they rejected him.But it doesn't make Islam irrelevant for Muslims; they were not around when the Torah was given to the Jews, and it's quite possible (and wise) to consider Islam "Torah for Muslims," the problems begin when Muslims want Jews to become like Muslims. For instance, Muslim tradition explains that the prophets of the Torah, which describes them as "Muslims," castigated the Jews for straying from G-d's message, which would have returned them to G-d, to submission, or Islam. When we consider that the prophets were Jews telling Jews to return to the Torah, it makes sense, but when Muslim tradition defines those who followed G-d as Muslims and those who didn't as non-believers (who just happened to be Jews), then we get a formula for confusion. Indeed, we can say that Jews are still supposed to live with the Torah, while Muslims are supposed to live with Islam. It is inaccurate to say that Islam replaces Judaism, but rather that Islam replaces polytheism for Arabs in the same way that Judaism did for the Hebrews. Having said that, there is nothing for the Jews in Islam; all that they need and indeed, all that G-d asks of them is required in the Torah. Islam is not a "final revelation" in the sense that they replace one another, it is "the only revelation," for Arabs. Islam should be careful not to turn the final revelation into the final solution.Furthermore, let's be honest, the Jews have been around longer than the Muslims, which has given them the opportunity to shift with the times and adapt their own monotheistic tradition in concordance with the Torah's Law on their own; there is nothing that Islam, the Q'uran, or Muslim jurisprudence can contribute to this process. In fact, all it can do is the opposite, it can fight the Jews and try to force change on them in ways that they do not approve, which, unfortunately, it has done repeatedly and continuously through history; this can largely be attributed to its necessity of viewing itself as the final and only revelation that everyone must conform, confirm, and convert to. Jews have had their own struggles with the surrounding world when it came to the exposure of monotheistic ideals to the pagan and polytheistic world and have caused struggles and even rifts in the Jewish religious sphere, not to mention, another religion (Christianity). Islam should worry about its own internal realities and less about Judaism's life, which, not to mention, would be an adviseable political strategy for Arabs when it comes to Israel; there is a clear connection between these two Muslim attitudes towards things external. Islam's aggression is also attributed to the power (that it once had), which meant that it reached harmony with its neighbors in ways other than letting them practice their own religions, but through power.But the struggle to bring the knowledge of monotheism to the world cannot end, although it will have to change in form without taking away from its core truths, and violent force is not the proper, nor the effective means. Islam cannot be blamed for attempting to unify people under a monotheistic vision, for this too is the Messianic vision of Judaism and the Torah; the only thing that can be called into question is the method, and even more than this, Islam's urge to replace Judaism as part of this process of bringing knowledge of monotheism to the world. If monotheism is truly what Islam wants (which is what the Jews want), then it will have to relinquish its belief that it has the monopoly over G-d and see Judaism and Jews for what they are, the original and perpetual bringers of this type of knowledge to the world, not as corrupted sinners. Notice that Judaism does not call for, or try, to replace Islam with Judaism, for considering Islam's numbers and purported belief, it is clear that it has a high potential for goodness; we are all waiting for it to be unlocked and released. Afterall, Jewish tradition says that Ishmael did t'shuva (a loose translation of 'repented') and was a "tzaddik," a righteous person.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sanhedrin - 1: Paul - 0

There was a conflict of interest at the dawn of the destruction of the Second Temple; should people practice Judaism, which is exclusionary, or should they defer to Christianity, which is all-encompassing, allowing all those who have faith to join together?

The answer is interesting and simple; when Jews live as a minority and are being threatened, they seek to bring Judaism into the mainstream consciousness as to gain favor in the eyes of the powerful and numerous population of which hosts them. This is what a group that survives must do to continue surviving; those who favor biological explanations can see it as a biological function that allows for perpetuation.

When everybody feels threatened, the response level is macro, that is, everybody responds in one way or another to the imminent threat, and to the Jews living under the Roman occupation, the occupation itself and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash were that threat to Jewish survival. There is no saying just how individuals will react in such a situation, which, like war, brings out from a human being previously unknown facets of behavior. The path taken by groups can be foretold with a certain degree of accuracy.

And it was in this context that Paul tried to bring Judaism to the Gentiles, not because he saw the Covenant that G-d made with the Jews as being exclusive and tribalistic, which is how Christian belief explains it, but because he was preparing, in his own way, for what he knew was coming up, the Jewish nation being faced with utter destruction, dispersal, oppression, and spiritual malaise. If he could make the Gentiles, the soon-to-be overlords of the Jews, find favor in Judaism, then by blending the communities and removing barriers he would have reduced the future threat that the Jews would have faced, for why would people want to harm themselves? In other words, by making Jews similar to Gentiles and Gentiles similar to Jews, he would save Jews, and in the meanwhile, a Gentile’s becoming more like a Jew is a clear step up from the paganism that Gentiles practiced. The key here is the word “similar,” which shares a root with “assimilate,” by making Jews and Gentiles similar to each other, by assimilating them to each other, he was trying, in his own wacky way, to ensure the physical survival of the Jews.

How did he do this? He tried to blend the theological and spiritual elements of Judaism with the various forms of polytheism in the Roman Empire, which is what, more or less, gave birth to the Trinity, a theological construct that recognizes the existence of the One G-d “of the Hebrews,” yet attributes to Him three separate, yet fully united characteristics, sometimes referred to as “persons,” one of them being a physical being. It is necessary to say that many of the polytheistic belief systems believed in this type of duality, or tertiarity, or the union of several separate beings enjoined as one and worshipped as thus; the Trinity cannot be both Judaism, both monotheistic and satisfactory to the Gentiles as the same time.

However, that wasn’t the only option; salvation to Jewish people came from the assembly of the Sanhedrin, who transferred the entire millennia-aged Jewish oral law into written form, the oral Torah, or the Mishnah, and therefore ensured the survival of the Jewish people. During the time when the Sanhedrin was standing and the Temple was in existence, Jews, common and high, would go to the Sanhedrin to deal with issues of Jewish law. When the Temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin was dissolved and dispersed, so the men of the Sanhedrin wrote down the entire law so that every Jew could then refer to it on his and her own, making it a part of their lives without a leadership that would bring it to them. Not by morphing Judaism into a sacrosanct alliance with polytheism was the Jewish nation to survive, but by a privatization of Jewish law, by putting it into the hands of the very Jewish people that were supposed to live by it, but introducing the concept of self rule when there was no central rulership and when the Roman occupation saw to it that there was no centralized Jewish authority. In other words, every individual Jew was subject to the Torah’s law on his or her own accord and by their own will and desire to put themselves in contact with Jewish law. It was a test that we, thanks to G-d and the Sanhedrin, passed and therefore survived.

Concerning the Gentiles, the Oral Law prescribed the Seven Laws of Noach, or the Noachide laws, which were a set of monotheistic instructions for the nations. Everything that exists in the Oral Law goes back to the beginning of the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai, including the way in which Gentiles are to live their lives out in a G-dly manner. The truth about the Noachide laws, however, is that they pre-date the 613 commandments given to the Jews, as the Talmud ascribes them to be given to Noah and his family after the occurrence of the flood.

Now there was a conflict of interest; did Gentiles have to follow the Noachide laws, the seven basic monotheistic ethical laws, or could they accept Paul’s vision of a utopian amalgamation of Judaism and various forms of polytheism that would “bring them into the fold” of the Covenant, to “graft them” into it, as the Christian Bible reads? The Gentile followers of Paul now began seeing the Judaism from whence their new religion came as an exclusionary, tribalistic way of life, having never practiced it or being introduced to its internal workings, which made Paul’s urgings easy to believe. Paul, of course, had inside knowledge about Judaism and the way it functioned, and even though he tried to channel the Gentiles in a specific manner, the nature of all movements is to morph and change, and the Gentiles that became known as “Christians” were not fully united under Paul’s vision in the way that he hoped they would be, and created their own leadership and institutions, especially after he died. The Noachide laws were not to replace Judaism as such, but to exist alongside Judaism, a proposed harmony between Jew and Gentile under G-d. The movement started by Paul, due to the fact that it existed in contrast to Judaism’s “exclusionism,” had no other direction to take than to move towards a theology of replacement of Judaism (this is the same as Islam’s view of Judaism, but not the same as Islam’s view of Christianity, which understands that it was inclusive, but corrupted, unlike Judaism, which was both exclusive and corrupted).

The real question that has to be asked is of utmost importance; what is more important for Jewish survival, quantity (ensuring continuity) or quality (Judaism in a true form), or is the point so essential that survival itself outranks all other matters? In other words, is survival in any form more important than the number of Jews who continue to associate, or more important than the way in which the Jews believe and practice, i.e., in line with the essential standpoints of the Torah? When survival and continuity are threatened, is it justifiable to say that Jews should continue to exist in any way possible just so that they continue to exist?

The answer, of course, is "yes," but only if we presuppose that the threat is so powerful that we will have to stray from our roots in order to survive. In other words, this view insists that there is no way to both maintain the true form of Judaism and the continuation of Judaism - that either one gives or the other. In other words, we can deduce that his intentions were good, but largely motivated by the fear and anxiety that the body of the Jews would be attacked (that is, physically) if we didn't begin to assimilate more with other people. However, he had to convince the Gentiles to join, and telling them that Jews and Gentiles have to form one contiguous community in order to ensure Jewish continuity would be rediculous and unacceptable to them. Instead, he had to genuinely convince them of the theological motives of such a communal and social alliance, hence the watering down of Judaism and its subsequent "mainstreaming." Paul tried to Judaize the Gentiles, whom were polytheists before they accepted the religion of Christianity.

But is survival not more important than form? Of course it is, but again, even if such a movement suceeds in ensuring survival, the mixing of Judaism and various forms of polytheism would also cause Judaism to disappear, only over a longer period of time. The strangest irony of this matter is that the movement might protect Judaism, but only temporarily, and eventually it and polytheistic religions would bleed into each other, and all those Jews that were a part of this movement would have disappeared as well.

The answer remains then, in no different way then than now, the only real way to ensure the continuity of Judaism is to be true to the way the Torah explains that it should be carried out. As we see today, the only Jews that are identifiable as Jews today are those that didn't become a part of the Jesus movement (the movement that Paul advanced) - be they Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, atheist, or agnostic; even though they are different, they all identify as Jews. Eventually, his movement became Christianity; the Jews that joined it didn't remain Jews, which would have been to Paul's dismay were he alive when they began being called "Christians," and Christians eventually began persecuting Jews, and we all know where that led to.

The answer is that Paul's movement had nothing on the Sanhedrin, whom, along with arranging the Oral Law into Written form (Talmud), composed the Amidah prayer, also known as the Shmonah Esrei, recited daily in Jewish services. Their efforts directly and successfully led to the continuation of the Jewish people, and it is fair to say that they are heroes when it comes to acting selflessly for their fellow Jews.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Demons, Vampires, and Other Monsters Created by the Christian Theolgical Imagination in an Attempt to Literarily and Literally Manifest the Worst Spiritual Evils in Physical Form -

I wrote this paper back in the day, about two years ago...

Throughout the ages, Christianity’s psyche has been plagued with darkness. Just a look at modern-day movies will show you that these dark ideas, who have their root in Christian imagination, are still being produced to this very day. But it would not be accurate to say that Christianity is dark, indeed its first adherents thought it was the brightest thing in existence, but in the years to come, Christianity’s imagination and paranoia would prove to produce one of the darkest realities in human history. Dracula, werewolf, and the Devil himself are the manifestations of such darkness and are all rooted in the “dark days” of Christianity. But going even further back, we ask, how did Christianity produce such darkness? The answer is Jesus. So instead of moving back through time from now to Jesus, we move from Jesus forward, and meet somewhere in the middle.
Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. I cannot attack this idea, although I fundamental do not agree with or believe in its theological application. Sacrifice was an already apparent idea in Judaism, which is how it found its way into Christianity. But Judaism moved the reality away from sacrificing humans to sacrificing only animals, which involuntarily was ended when the Second Temple was destroyed. Jesus dying for the sin of humanity was, in the Christian mind, the ultimate sacrifice of all time, “for God loved the world so much that He gave it His only son,” Jesus. Abraham too was ready to sacrifice his son in the duty of God, but as it turns out, this was just a test to see if Abraham would really go through with it, and he would have, but was stopped. With Christianity, we see a return to the idea of human sacrifice, although Christianity can’t quite sort out the nature of Jesus since the concept of the Trinity found its way into the religion. What I mean is, was Jesus a man, God in the form of a man, the son of God, the Messiah, one of these, some of these, or all of these? How could Jesus be God in the form of a man AND God’s son at the same time? This would require that God was His own son, or that Jesus was his own father! The only logical explanation that a Christian can give about the nature of Jesus is that it is totally enigmatic and that we cannot understand it, an answer that also found its way into Christianity since Jews accepted an absolute nature of God that they humanity could never understand, but could speculate about. It’s another spin-off.

So how is all of this darkness rooted in Christianity? Simple. It has to do with his death on the cross. The “light” that his death gave to the world was short lived and fizzed out soon enough after he died, with painful repercussions. Since early Christianity, a sect of Judaism, couldn’t get any more Jewish converts, it next turned its eyes to the Gentile world, which means the inclusion of pagans and polytheists into the fold. Christianity soon caught like wildfire, but among vast groups of people who were not “true Christians,” that is, were not originally Jews. What this means is, that the concept of pure monotheism was foreign to them, and the only way that they could understand it was by adapting it and mixing it with their polytheism, which is why the concept of the Trinity was so easy for them to understand. Indeed, that concept was not around when Christianity was still a sect of Judaism. The result? A huge population of Christians who couldn’t agree on the nature of their Lord. The solution? The Nicaean Creed, which sought to unity Christendom under one fixed notion of God (Jesus) and His nature. Once this was completed, resurrection (a peaceful creed) was no longer the norm, but seeking revenge on those who killed the Lord was, that is, the Jews. All following Crusades that took place were rooted in the effects of this creed. That is why God told the Jews not to believe in the gods of their neighbors lest they be attracted to them. Some Jews in the Second Temple period (the to-be starters of Christianity – the writers of the Gospels) obviously did not heed that command and inadvertently started the precursor to Christianity, which would soon become a force to be reckoned with, and a damaging one as well.

So the Jews were the fundamental enemies of Christianity and it had eventually gotten used to seeing the Jews as just that. In times when economic despair or disease fell onto areas of Christendom, Jews would soon be blamed. Indeed, everything that was bad was related to the Jews, because they were the murderers of God and were His enemies, and He continuously punished them for their iniquities, in a sense, making them like Jesus, God’s sacrifice for the world, except that they weren’t innocent, as Jesus was. Most fittingly, Jesus was a Jew. The Christian concept that God is punishing the Jews is fundamentally different than the Jewish one. The Jews believed that God punished them for breaking the Law, Christians believed that God punished them for adhering to the Law and not to “the new law,” Jesus. Jews were the “other” in those ages, and they were eternally viewed with skepticism and distrust, which caused an eventual process of a cycle of distrust amongst Jews and Christians, which is why Jews, when they had rare liberty to do so, chose to close themselves off from Christian society. That too would later become associated as a negative stereotype of Jews by Christians, that they were tribal and exclusionary, and these beliefs about Jews have reverberated through Muslim doctrine as well.

It’s possible that the Jews would have suffered less if it wasn’t for Christianity’s over-active imagination. But why did Christianity have such a strong imagination? The answer is, the mixing of pagan and polytheistic beliefs into Christianity, which indeed seem almost inseparable from it without dismantling Christianity. Christianity expounded on the concept of Satan, which I talk about in other posts (Satan is in Heaven).

But what’s with the whole preoccupation with forces being actual physical beings? Ahh, it’s all coming together now. If God is a formless being but understood by Christians as having a physical form (an absolute prohibition in Judaism) in Jesus, and Satan is God’s eternal adversary, then Christianity necessarily needed a an adversary who also had a physical form, and that was the Christian concept of Satan. What do we have here now? God vs. Satan, but not a formless God, which could obviously smite the physical being Satan, but a God with a form and a body who had to literally fight against the Satan, who also had a body and a form. So now we have humanity stuck between a tug-of-war between Jesus and Satan, but the two of them exist in physical form, so they can really push us around. That is another spin-off of Judaism because Judaism already had the concept of good vs. evil, but that battle raged inside of us every single day. The
personification of two spiritual realities serves to comfort and satisfy the fragile psyche of the human mind, but it was specifically prohibited in the Torah by God, and perhaps because it is too much of a comfort. When we accept these realities and forces in physical form, we cease to focus on and understand their spiritual significance and allow ourselves to “slack.” Another negative outcome that this transgression produces is that we, as humans, can easily associate a people that we consider to be an enemy with the physical manifestation of this force and therefore consider them to be a physical manifestation of that force as well. Indeed, in these dark times, Jews were depicted with horns and gross physical characteristics, and “good” Christians were depicted as glowing, angelic, Godly figures.

But the Christian imagination didn’t stop there; it became ever-perverted, even more than it had been. Perhaps it was the continuing eventual downward spiral of Christianity, but it is more likely that it got even darker because of the economic and social decay of the areas in which Christianity was the established religion and was therefore influenced by that decay. A good thought to entertain is “chicken and egg” in style, did Christianity cause the darkness, or did the already present darkness darken the Christianity, or did Christianity cause the darkness which eventually darkened it even further? Either way, the darkness caused a traumatic paranoia in the Christians, and they vented it in several ways. The first way that it was vented was through all of the things that religion necessarily tries to regulate, the strongest one being sex. In these dark times, sex became a testament to the evil inside of us, an instrument of the Devil himself. Just to make it clear, in Judaism too, sex is seen as an instrument of the evil impediment, but only when it causes harm. When enacted with husband or wife (lover), it is an act of God. Of course, people will not stop having sex because it is an innate urge, so the people who continue to have sex (almost everyone), will by proxy believe that they are doing something evil and innately serving Satan. That is why sex is seen as Satanic, and it is also why sex takes on a ritualistic connotation in Satanism and other forms of Devil-worship. It is important to note, that no such marginal beliefs have sprung from Judaism (thank G-d).

This darkness, by no means, affected only Christians. As said earlier, it was also poured out onto the Jews in any society that they were in. It is damaging enough to believe that the Devil has gripped you in your God-given natural urges, but it is even more damaging to believe that someone else is a product of that same being. As long as that idea was around, the Crusades were right around the corner. Note the movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Count Dracula was a Christian apostate from God (Jesus) because his wife had committed suicide when she was mistakenly informed that her husband was killed in battle. He then devoted his life to resisting and rebelling God. It’s important to note that he was not an atheist, he just had a fierce hatred for God, whom had brought this calamity upon him. There is a scene in that movie in which Count Dracula says something about “sinners,” it quickly struck me that Count Dracula, although he actively showed his hatred towards God, probably had a deep resentment for the Jews of his society as well.

On a different note, it is very possible that the vampires in that movie were actually representative of the Christian view of Jews at its worst. Near the end of the movie, the townspeople go on a hunt for all the sleeping vampires in the town, this has an ironic twist of humor in that it is reminiscent of scenes of the Crusades, which had been happening all throughout European Christian history. In the 1950’s, Americans had a deep-seated fear of Communists, and the fear of the “unknowns” in society was physically manifested by countless tales of alien-invasion, which existed all the way up to the 1970’s and possibly later, with similar fervor. It is very likely that vampires (and other creatures of darkness) were not just the symbol of Christian apostates, but of Jews, who in and of themselves could also have been seen as essentially Christian apostates.

The darkness of Christian Europe affected everyone, both the Christians whom suffered from the planting of its dogmatic seeds, and the Jews that were attacked after those seeds had germinated. Yet, these dark demonic movies are still produced every year, although seemingly in smaller quantities. Furthermore, Christians have liberalized to the degree that they have tried to “undo” the horrors associated with the dark Christian mentality. They have done this by accepting the Jews (as the Torah speaks of them) as God’s eternally chosen people and thus, they can respect the Jews. But Christianity cannot liberalize past a certain point without falling off of its foundations, and in essence, topple itself. And furthermore, it cannot change past a certain point without returning to the womb from which it came, which is Judaism. This means that although Christianity can outwardly express respect for Jews, inwardly it (necessarily) needs to remain honest to itself and to its creeds, and therefore, there will always be a level of resentment towards Jews, even if minimal, and always silenced in this politically correct society in which we live. The paranoia lives on…
This is something that I wrote about two and a half years ago, soon after coming back from my Birthright trip to Israel. It was the beginning of the culmination of the events that eventually led me to begin what is commonly referred to as an observant lifestyle, or religious, or traditional, or orthodox, or whatever; I just prefer the term "Jewish" because that term rung truer than the rest.

Captain’s Log -

June 15, 2003:

I just finished reading a book called “Abraham.” Can you guess what the book is about? If you said “Abraham,” then you’re right. But what does that mean? What does something mean to be about Abraham? The book is about Abraham’s role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and what the significance of that is. But I’m not gonna write about the book in here. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Judaism lately. Actually, not the religion of Judaism, but how it fits into my life. It’s fair to say that I’m secular, but I don’t like the tone of that word, it’s almost atheistic. I value Judaism, the religion, and I bring it into my life openly, but perhaps I have become a little closed to some of it, which I actually did by my own merit. I used to say that I don’t agree with everything in Judaism, which is a practice, a religion, a set system of beliefs. When I was younger and I heard people say that I thought it was stupid because I thought that they were just rebelling and they didn’t know why, now I see that there is more to it than that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they WEREN’T rebels without causes. After weighing some things and going through some trials and errors, I have decided that I would like to bring a little more of Judaism into my life, that is, a little more of the practices of Judaism. Some things in Judaism I find highly satisfying and humbling and cleansing, such as not working or driving on Shabbat, not eating certain foods, Yom Kippur… But some things turn me off, and possibly because they aren’t part of Judaism. So what is Judaism? Judaism is the movement, and in some places in history, an institution, that sprung forth from Abraham’s “revelation” from God that there is only one and spiritual enlightenment is rooted in attempting to reach that God and a better understanding of the world. Now that makes sense, what doesn’t make sense, or much sense, are some of the practices and actions that have found their way into that upward climb and have been formalized within the thought-pattern of that climb as part of the duty of a human (in this case, a Jew). I don’t know which ones came later or first or even when, but I know what sounds artificial to me and what sounds right. Let’s face it, some things got into the religion in times when Jews were trying to be different from others, or were forced into it (ghettos and that sort of thing) and therefore, they aren’t part of the original “covenant.” Like halacha, for example. I think that it’s foolish to what extent halacha goes. I know that it would be impossible to have Judaism without it since some text is very vague, but I see Jews who put their energy into keeping halacha but not into thinking right, which I see as much more important. If you wanna do both, then good for you, but if you think that you’re being a good Jew because you keep all halacha, you’re a moron! I used to say that there is no such thing as a bad Jew. I would say that to people who felt that by not doing things they were bad Jews. There is such thing as a bad Jew, that is it! Someone who thinks Judaism is just about doing what is right but not thinking or feeling what is right, THAT is a bad Jew! That is a Jew that is out of touch with the world around him or her, and consequently, that is a bad human as well. I don’t reject certain practices because I immensely respect Judaism for its emphasis on doing and not just thinking or feeling. You need to move yourself through the actions, become what you are thinking, become what you are feeling, that way it is made REAL. I have such a high reverence for that that I LOVE my religion. Yes, I love it, I love that action, that thought, that we are connected to the world and a part of it and therefore we cannot truly be IN it if we do not MOVE like it, MOVE within it. It is very humbling, and that’s why physical things are very important in Judaism, such as the Wall. That is one reason why I broke out crying there, amongst others. That God is in physical things, not physically in them, maybe they are in Him. Either way, the Wall transcends verbal explanations of why it’s so important to me and to Jews. When everything else physical in Judaism can become dogmatic and pointless when stripped of thought and feeling, the Wall can NEVER do that! The Wall CREATES life, it tells me what I AM, not what others are NOT. It shows me where I’m FROM and grounds me THERE. But it also shows me that because of all these things, I am able to be selfish for it, but it tells what I AM, and I AM not selfish (I want not to be), and that is why the Wall hurts so much, something that I love so much. It puts me closer to God, and maybe that’s what hurts. Proximity is everything. When you are from God, far from His warmth, everything else is relative. Everything gives off some kind of heat, some real, some perceived. But when you are from enough away from the source of the warmth, it doesn’t matter if you move back ten feet or if you move forward twenty, there is a certain distance that you can be from God where small movements are irrelevant. But when you move significantly closer to God, the warmth becomes significantly more comforting. And there is a certain distance from God (never actually reaching Him until death) in which the warmth is so comforting and so pleasing, that not being able to be in closer proximity to God hurts, it actually hurts! Because of proximity. If this is the warmth that I feel being only here, and it is SO immense, then the actual love and warmth that God has to offer is OVERWHELMING! And it hurts because you want to be in that place with God, but you know that you are far and you feel yourself reaching out to Him and Him reaching out to you, but HE can’t touch you because you will die. And you are ultimately thankful for HIS being just so you can feel the IMMENSE warmth that He has to offer. And it is because you know that there is a perfect place next to God waiting, it hurts you that you are not there, that you are here, on Earth, only allowed some of God and in small increments, step-by-step. It hurts that you are in a world of chaos, you live for that warmth, you LIVE for it. You allow yourself to live and help others to live, you inject life into the world, and this is the only way to act out what you felt when you were in such close proximity to God. God accompanies the carrying out of His duty with amazing satisfaction so that you will LOVE IT, and you will do it more. You should do it anyway, but we are a physical creation and it’s the added bonus that God gives us when we do something that He would like us to do. He gives us warmth.

June 17th, 2003

I am beginning something new in my life. I am going to start keeping Shabbat. Maybe observing Shabbat is a better term, but it still doesn’t hit the nail on the head. Let me think of a better way to explain it, a way that will actually do a good job in expressing the intention of Shabbat. The week has seven days starting with Sunday and going all the way through Shabbat. Sunday is yom rishon (the first day) and Saturday is yom Shabbat, a derivative of the word sheva, which means seven. The days of the week are yom rishon, yom sheni, yom shlishi, yom revii yom chamishi, yom shishi, and yom Shabbat. The first six days literally mean “the first day,” “the second day,” and so on. But the last day is called “yom Shabbat,” which doesn’t mean “the seventh day” literally. “Yom shivi” means “the seventh day,” and the reason that it’s name is different than the other days is because it stands apart from the rest, it is different. It’s difference is expressed in its name, which is deliberately different so that its different “status” may be recognized upon simple usage of the word. One who understands that in Hebrew that “Shabbat” doesn’t fall into the counting pattern from one to seven, they will automatically see something different about the word. And that is the intent. You can automatically see that the week being seven days long and the last day being the emphasized one, standing apart from the rest, is fashioned after the “Creation” story in Genesis, which states that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and hallowed it out as a day of rest for all humankind as a remembrance that He rested on that day. But to seek to live your life in this pattern, a seven-day week does not mean that you place a literal belief in the story of the seven-day Creation. You do not need to believe that it is literal in order to view Sunday as the first day of the week, work hard for six days, then allow yourself the seventh day as a day of rest. Furthermore, we humans live in “time,” we operate with the knowledge of the concept of time, which provides a skeleton for an otherwise free-flowing world in which we would be lost. Every “day” the sun goes up and it comes back down, that is a day, and it is a healthy structure. If the day is a healthy structure, then so is a week (and so on). It provides then that it is not unhealthy at all to view the week as a seven-day structure, if that is what you prefer. Keep in mind too that the WHOLE WORLD has accepted the idea of the week, time broken into a seven-day period, whether or not they have any religious affiliation; it is simply convenient. To add to that, the human psyche works well with the idea of beginning and end; everything starts and everything ends, the sun goes up and the sun comes down. It is the very breaking of time into sections, the very breaking of existence into events, that assigns a meaning to our lives. Who knew that such an arbitrary “man-made” structure could be so healthy? But it is hardly man-made, we just fill in the gaps. Nevertheless, the concept of a seven-day week in which one works for the first six days and rests on the seventh is a healthy way to combine sectioning off time and the concept of “beginning” and “end.” Perhaps it is with a Jewish bias that I am saying this, but that is exactly the point, I am Jewish and if I want to live my life with this type of week, opposed to the “Christian” week, then I can. Shabbat is a day which is supposed to be opened-up for relaxation, both physical and mental. It is a time in which you can leave all work behind and use to be with your family or your friends or yourself. It is a time in which you can stay at home. The Torah says that nothing should do work on that day, that all your animals should be given rest from the drudges of the hard week. In modern Judaism, according to halacha, this is interpreted to include machines and cars, they should not be worked. If you look at them as animals that need to be rested, that is foolish. But if you look at the concept behind it as operating a vehicle forcing you to work, or using the vehicle that you use during your work-week, then it makes more sense. Then the car actually becomes the animal, using your oxen to plow your fields or your camels to carry your water, it rests and hence so can you. Furthermore, Jews who observe Shabbat do not “go out” on that day, no clubbing, no partying, etc… Although this is fun, it is not relaxation. Hence a distinction between fun and relaxation is made, and relaxation is favored. Other than the physical relaxation emphasized, is a mental and spiritual relaxation. If you are not working, not driving, and not partying, then your mind and your soul are allowed to relax as well. You do not need to worry yourself with the concerns of the week, nor with your studies, nor with your financial situation, nor with the girl that you like, nor with anything. It is a true opening-up time which allows for total relaxation; body, mind, and spirit, to fit the “hippyish” cliché.

Before I came to this conclusion, I used to TRY to make Shabbat special, I would TRY to observe it. I tried to force physical actions into Shabbat hoping that they would become significant to me, but that never happened. As a result, Shabbat was just another day for me, just a day to go partying with my friends on. But now, a couple of years later, Shabbat is quite different for me. It is an extremely humbling experience and I am forced to tie it back to one thing; the visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

This was the day after we visited it. It just so happens that on the Birthright trip that I went on in the Winter, we stayed in Jerusalem for about one and a half weeks. On Friday night (the days officially start at night), Shabbat, we had the choice of going to a Shabbat service of our choice of observance level; reconstructionist, reform, conservative, orthodox. I wanted to do something different, so I went to the reform one where a cute girl proceeded to show us how to do Yoga. I decided that, while this was fun, that it really wasn’t what I should be doing. I felt as if I was missing out on something, and that I was letting something down. I felt as if I wasn’t helping to bind the week as it properly should have been (for myself and for Jews, and for Shabbat itself, which is considered a queen in Judaism). Although at the time, these thoughts were not conscious, I had a nagging urge telling me to go to the Orthodox service. Luckily the Yoga session ended quickly, so I put on my socks and shoes and hurried down to the Temple. I arrived there and the people were so happy to greet us, American Jews coming to Israel, to Jerusalem, to observe Shabbat. They were happy that people were actually coming. We entered the synagogue and sat down. As the service went on, I began to feel somewhat alienated from the service since I did not know the prayers they were singing (they must have been Ashkenaz or something), so I really felt nothing. But I was happy about something. In Judaism, Shabbat is a queen that comes to greet you, and you invite her with open arms and let her in. You can say that this is what I felt in the Yoga room, that I was missing something and that something was missing me, it must have been ha-malkat ha-Shabbat, the Shabbat queen. Here I was in a synagogue, with fellow Jews, in Israel, in Jerusalem, on Shabbat, and we were singing and praying and banging on the piews, never silently allowing Shabbat to enter the room, but accepting her with a grand ovation, “Please please come in, you are welcome!” The more vigor I accepted her with, the more my heart opened, and the more my heart opened, the more I was able to grasp the significance of this moment in time and this place and with these people. When the numbers on your digital watch change from 11:59 PM to 12:00 AM, you hear a little beep and you know it is the next day. But that is how science records time-changes, this is how the human heart records; my heart was beating furiously, my head was tickling, my eyes were slightly watering, my breathing became fast, my heart expanded with the feeling of love and connection to my fellow Jews, and at the same time, with the world and all that were in it, I felt that I was going to explode, I felt higher, as if I was being lifted, I felt in-tune with everything, a part of it yet still a vessel of my own, I felt the actual fabric of time, the actual flowing of the river and it was flowing through me and through the synagogue and through the streets and through Jerusalem and through Israel and probably extending its way through the world in its own fashion, I felt time CHANGING with no breaks, I felt Shabbat coming, and it was here. This might have been what one calls an epiphany, and it all started off with walking into a synagogue and feeling nothing, it changed me.

That night, we had the option of going to a Shabbat service at night. Considering what I just had felt at the synagogue and that this was new to me, I decided not to go, but to let the events and emotions of this night to sink in. In the morning, we also had the option of waking up early and going to a Shabbat service, but I decided on the opposite, I stayed in bed. I decided to fulfill my “relaxation duties” to God and to myself, I would live out the Shabbat as it was intended, I would rest in my bed. Remaining in bed was my Shabbat service, the sounds of my breathing while sleeping were my prayers, fully living out what Shabbat was about, relaxation. In this, the meaning of Shabbat and of worshipping God reached their highest significance for me, the highest that I had ever felt, and it was so easily done! But it had not easily come, it was rather quite painful and it started with the visit to the Wailing Wall, which I felt had opened me up, raised me a little higher, showed me the world as it was, taken something out, maybe put something inside, and caused me to cry like a little boy as if no one was watching at that stone structure. I cried like the day I was born next to Suzanne and Dan, who cried like me, and we hugged each other. That was a turning point on my Birthright trip, and it was a turning point in my life, and I don’t intend to let what I learned that day become useless.

Almost as beautiful as the welcoming of Shabbat, is the leaving of Shabbat. The service wishing Shabbat away is called “havdalah,” which literally means the physical word “separation,” or “distinction.” Havdalah does just that, it separates Shabbat from the rest of the week. Again is the concept of time and beginning and end. But there is one difference; Shabbat is not considered to be just a time that is different from others, it actually gains a sort of higher status than the rest of the days. It is not just a different time, it is in a different time, it is in a different place, it is entirely different from the week which follows it, it is holy, and havdalah seeks to physically, mentally, and spiritually make that difference, to build that little wall between the holy and the normal (which is also holy, mind you). This is something that I did not understand before my experiences in Israel on Shabbat, and I never understood when others did it. When I heard people speaking about Shabbat, trying to explain to me certain things, I considered it, and them, foolish, and I as understanding and wise. I wondered why they didn’t make a better effort in trying to explain to me the significance of Shabbat. But it would have been fruitless, as fruitless as the previous sentence in trying to explain what Shabbat was. Now I realize that something that I didn’t then, and probably something that those who I asked did realize, that I was asking a question that could not be answered, or at least not by a human. It took those experiences that happened to me that day to answer my question, and they are totally unproduceable by a human being. It was the events of the day and the day before it that made it happen, it was life, it was nature, it was me not knowing what was going to happen, it was walking in the dark, it was amazing, it was God.

June 17th, 2003 – On Time

The Earth revolves around the Sun giving us a period of time of light and a period of time of dark, a full day. The modern world considers the rising of the sun the “beginning” of the day and when it sets the “end” of the day. Science, rigidly living by the sectioning off of the concept of time, considers the “day,” or the “morning” to start at 12:00 AM, which is interestingly enough labeled “midnight.” Of course, by this logic, the day is twenty-four hours long and “ends” at 11:59 PM, at night. But there is an inherent flaw in this reasoning, although it is very convenient. Assuming that time can be accurately sectioned off in minutes, it is logical to say that 11:59 is the last minute of the day and that 12:00 AM is the first minute of the next, but can time not be broken into infinitely small units of measurement? If this is true then what happens to the last millisecond of the day? Or to a measurement even smaller than that, or smaller than that? If you think like this, time is not a series of blocks of time, however small they may be, but actually a superfluous stream in which we insert breaks in order to allow ourselves to understand it better. The Jewish night, according to modern Judaism, starts when the sun goes down. This is determined by the sighting of the first three stars in the sky when enough light from the sun has disappeared so that the first three stars (dim lights) can be seen. The Jewish morning must start when the sun comes up, that is, when no more stars are visible. This provides that a day is never actually 24 hours long, but shifting during the seasons of the year according to the placement of the Earth in relation to the Sun.