Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Touching G-d

So basically it's like this. Just as one can touch a physical, tangible object with his hand, so one can touch a mental "object" with his mind. For example, a person can rest his hand on a table; he is putting one physical thing into contact with another. How can a person put himself or herself into contact with G-d when He is Invisible and not something that we can detect with any of our physical senses? How can physical beings such as ourselves come into contact with G-d, a purely spiritual Being? How can we be even sure that He exists? This can be answered by trying to answer the question, "What am I?"

The answer is pretty simple. First we have to answer the question, "Can I percieve my self?" Am I able to say that, yes, I am definitely present, that I am definitely here? Not many people will say that they do not exist, for at the center of existence is perception. The body is the only part of me that I can see, and therefore it is no problem to conclude that it exists. However, physical sensations are invisible, but my ability to feel them tells me that they exist without a doubt. When I touch an object, I am absolutely sure that it is really there.

Emotions themselves are invisible and untouchable, as well as the sensations that they register, yet we are absolutely sure that they are real because we are able to sense them. When I feel an emotion, I am absolutely sure that it is really there, I feel it with my heart in the way that a hand feels a table.

Our minds are definitely invisible, there is nothing that we can do to see our mind, yet it is absolutely clear that our mind exists because we can sense our own perceptions and can think about the outside world, the empirical world. In the way that a hand touches a table, and in the way that a heart touches an emotion, the mind touches an idea. Therefore, just as a table is real and exists independently, so too does an emotion really exist; it is not just a product of the heart's ability to feel it any more than a hand causes a table to exist. In the same way, an idea is real and is not created by the mind's ability to perceive it any more than a hand's existence causes the table to exist. It exists externally and it comes into contact with the mind.

Imagine if we were just a body. A body itself has no powers of perception other than nerves, it is an entity in and of itself; it is an inanimate object that was designed to be able to move; we see that a dead body feels nothing. A body is not the source of its own life; we know this because when a "person" dies, the body is motionless. Therefore, we understand that there is something beyond the body that gives it life. We can say that perhaps it is the brain, but the brain being a physical organ in and of itself, dies too, so we must wonder, what is the brain's source of life?

An emotion is a sensation that a living being has in response to a variety of internal and external stimuli, allowing living beings to interact with other living beings. But emotions also are not the source of a human's being life, because a particular state of being is not the same thing as the being itself. The emotions of the human, such as anger or joy, employ the body, such as with fighting or dancing, but they do not cause it to have life. If this was so, if emotions were the source of a human's life, when the emotions ended, so would life. Therefore, we can only conclude that there is something beyond emotions that endows a person with life.

The mind allows a living being to ponder his existence beyond both his body and his emotions, it allows him to center his attention outwards, while emotions only allow the being to consider his own internal status. Therefore, a being's emotions are not the source of his ability to connect with other beings, because they are purely internal, and even though other beings also have emotions, it is the mind that allows the being to consider that other beings also have emotions. In other words, your emotions can be directed towards other people, which is fascinating really, because emotions are completely self-serving tools; it is the mind that allows us to direct our emotions towards other living beings. Therefore, it is the mind that employs the emotions and the body in order to create relationships. But the mind is also not the source of life, because the mind is just the tool that makes sense of the internal and the external happenings; the mind does not give the person life by being able to think about that life. Unfortunately, there are mental disorders where a person's mind essentially disappears, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's, but the person does not cease to exist in such cases. Therefore, we have to conclude that the mind is not the source of a person's existence, or life; perception is not what makes us alive, because perception can end and life continues.

The soul serves as the human's true sense of self. It cannot be said that the body is "me," because I do not necessarily feel myself to exist in the way that my body looks. My emotions are not "me" because they are ever-changing, regardless of how I understand things. Rather, they are states that I exist in in response to external and internal stimuli. My mind is not "me," although I am able to perceive and understand things by using it, and my mind can be affected in powerful ways by the information that is put into it. However, no matter what information of any sort (ideas, music, imagery, relationships, sensations) I introduce into my mind, and no matter how powerfully my understanding of things is altered due to my mind's exposure to those things, I have a sense of self deep within me that is untouched and unaltered by those things. My existence is independent from those things that I expose myself to - my nature cannot be changed. Therefore, what I am cannot be changed, a soul cannot be altered by any internal or external presences. My body feels things, my emotions run wild, my mind travels to all kinds of places, but neither of them can change my soul, rather, the ways that they are used either allow, or keep me from, getting into touch with what I am, with revealing my soul, which is really me. I can only know myself by treating my body, emotions, and mind, with respect and care, and only then am I able to get in touch with my deepest self. Once I get in touch with my deepest self, the soul, then I am able to begin treating my soul with respect and care, I can begin to put my soul into contact with G-d, which means that I have to be mindful to treat my body, emotions, and mind, as tools of holiness. This requires that I pay attention to what I do with my body, what emotions I feel, and how and what I think. Only then can I alter my soul, it can only move upwards, not downwards. The mind, emotions, and body can move downards, distancing me from my soul, but when they move upwards, they move me closer to it, and when I contact it, I can move it upwards closer to G-d.

The soul is the source of life, but however, it is not the source of its own life, because it also does not make sense that the soul willed itself into existence. Therefore, we understand that the soul was "made" by G-d, that G-d put "some of Himself" into the human body, as Genesis states. The next "step up" is G-d Himself, He is above the soul, unknowable in absolution to the human being, but nevertheless entirely and deeply experiencable, since He made us from Himself. If we are a soul, then we are deeply and absolutely intimately a part of G-d Himself, we were made in His "image." G-d's "body," His "emotions," and His "mind," are the models for our body, emotions, and mind, and the soul is a piece of G-d.

You must put yourself into contact with G-d by touching Him with your soul. How do we move our soul? Since we are souls, we have to learn how to move, in the spiritual sense. We can move our bodies, we can move our emotions, we can move our minds, but how do we move? How do we move ourselves, how do "our souls" move? Once we can do that, we can move our soul towards G-d. We use the mitzvot, the commandments. G-d can move towards us, but He waits for us to make the first movement, otherwise His movement would perplex, shock, and damage us, as if our entire foundations were suddenly changing without our understanding or will for them to change. This is why G-d gave us free will, once we desire it, it can happen. When we walk down that path, it happens, we see G-d as a direct function of the input.

The sages of the Talmud say that we must first control our bodies, emotions, and minds, and only then do our souls bring G-d into focus, and we begin to "see" Him. However, people today cannot do this on their own, or at least only a superminority of humanity can do this, which is the reason that G-d gave us the commandments, they allow us to near G-d, they teach us how to put our bodies, emotions, minds, and souls into contact with Him without having the ability to find out how on our own. Only Abraham was able to derive the commandments from within himself, but the supermajority of us have no clue how to do that.

Through our souls, we can see G-d. Where do we see Him? Since we control our bodies, our emotions, and our minds before we see G-d, we begin to see all of these things as being of G-d; we don't see G-d in them, we see them in G-d. It is then that we see our soul as being a part of G-d; we no longer see it as something that comes into contact with G-d, we understand that it, that I, that the person, is a part of G-d, that while we are we, while we are individuals, that we are seemlessly connected to G-d. The Kabbalah speaks of this process as removing the layers from an onion. When we use our bodies, emotions, and minds properly, we strip away the layers and reveal our souls, and shortly after, we reveal G-d.

G-d can do this on His own, as He has done it a few times in the Torah, but it would be in vain for Him to do it for us. Not only would it be in vain, it would be damaging, for the sudden revelation of G-d to a human, His sudden peeling back of all of the layers, skipping the process, would be extremely violent and would sent a human being into a state of shock and would probably kill him or mame him. Therefore, nearing G-d needs to be a process, not sudden and instant. Indeed, when G-d gave the Torah to the Jews, He revealed Himself to them all, and they all saw Him, without being ready. When they saw Him, they yelled to Moses, "Let us not near the foot of the mountain, lest we see G-d and die!" At the giving of the Torah, it is reported that all who were there experienced prophecy, and that they "heard lightning" and "saw thunder";the natural world itself was shattering as G-d was revealing Himself to them. This is why G-d keeps Himself "hidden" from the world. Every individual contains both the internal ability and the external commandments to expose this revelation of G-d, and He is waiting there "on the other side" for us to reveal Him, ever patiently, and when we do this, He shows Himself to us.

G-d is a figment of our imagination

A little "philosophical" nugget for the night, and I would appreciate any feedback that ya'll have on this. To cut to the chase - is it possible that G-d is really a function of the human's mind to believe that He exists, trumping if He really exists or not? Is the belief that G-d exists more important than His existence? Therefore, if G-d did not really exist, it wouldn't matter, because the belief would be more important than the fact.

Maybe G-d is an illusion of the mind. This idea is actually more far-fetched than the supposedly far-fetched belief in the existence of G-d.

Let us assume that G-d was a figment of the mind, that the mind was able to produce a notion that He exists, but which negates His actual existence. For example, it would be like wearing glasses to make your eyesight better, but which also made you see things that weren't really there. Your eyesight was improving, but you also saw things that did not really exist. If somebody sold me glasses like that, I should want my money back!

As it is, G-d is not fully knowable to the human mind; He is an absolute Being, and our knowledge of Him can always be only finite and in line with our abilities to understand. Think about it, it would be a dauntingly complex process -- the mind creates an idea of G-d that is only partially knowable so that it fools a person into thinking that G-d actually exists but is not totally knowable. As the person comes to know G-d more and on deeper levels, the mind gradually removes its own barriers and develops the idea.

This would require the brain to have infinite abilities, beyond the consciousness of the individual, meaning that the mind has a degree of independence from the human that possesses it. If the human being was in charge of his mind's own growth, it would require him to master all areas of his brain so that he could allow it to leak information to him as he became ready and to believe that he was not in control.

The information that a person’s brain records cannot come together in a coherent whole if the person does not believe that there is a pervasive unity to all that exists. If there was no unity in all that exists, then all information, and everything that exists, would exist in discordance with everything else, and eco-systems, for example, would be impossible. In an eco-system, everything is related in some intricate way; in the same vein, the entire world is an eco-system, and in a world where concepts exist and not just physical objects, we must have an eco-system of concepts.

Nobody can deny the importance of an eco-system, and it is hard to deny the importance of understanding the function of the parts in the eco-system in their relation to the whole. It would be equally foolish to conclude that there is no whole, that only the parts exist. This discordant view would cause the world to fall apart, which is why every religious and philosophical system believes in a coherent whole. Perhaps evolution can be credited for creating the physical world’s eco-system, but we cannot credit evolution for its creation of the need for a conceptual eco-system. Even if everything is united, if the parts “just happened to fall together perfectly” and were not put together, then nothing would keep them from falling apart. If the forces that created this world and the order in it were random, then they could just as easily randomly cease to function, but this hasn’t happened yet.

Thinking that G-d exists because humans desire Him to exist, would be like creating and programming a computer to help you with life's most difficult problems, but to cause yourself to forget that you were the one that programmed it in the first place. In reality, since you were the one that programmed the computer, you don't really need it because all the information that it contains, it contains because you contained it and programmed it likewise. It would be far more feasible to believe that the computer really did know everything, and that it was programmed by somebody much more knowledgable than you. The former concept is incredibly far-fetched because we are still discovering basic functions of the brain itself - it would be impossible to say that we, as human beings, endowed the brain with all of the information that it has. It is more logical to believe that something else created the brain, which we already believe was evolution.

It would be rediculous and impossible to conclude that G-d is a figment of our imagination. This would mean that the mind is, as we go along, inventing an infinite, perfect, and absolute notion of G-d, and as we near understanding more, it invents more information to make accessible to us, and it does so completely arbitrarily! If the brain was actually able to create a perfect idea and to contain it in an accessible lobe, then the brain would be G-d!

This is an eery notion that says that, somehow, every brain is made in the same way with the same abilities, and that tabs are kept on each brain in order to know when to give it more information; it is as if each brain were hooked into a "Matrix" of sorts, and observed all the time by an external consciousness, which acted upon it from time to time. It says that each brain is actually part of a bigger brain and that each human being has a section of that brain in his or her head; it says that we are all hooked into a Matrix. Somewhere, there is a huge brain just sitting and thinking, a huge conscious, intelligent, brain, and we are just mini-brains with bodies. Our brain (the one in our head) would have to be "more infinite" than the (supposedly) infinite ideas it leaked into our minds. In other words, if the brain was able to complete such a daunting and complicated task, it would have to have unlimited and unrestricted access to information, and the ability to leak information to us as it wanted, and yes, it would also have to posses free will, the ability to decide - it would have to have a mind of its own, a connection to a mainframe.

If brains had minds, i.e., they would not be under our control, it would render any creature with a brain a hopelessly schizophrenic being. This is not too far-fetched, for our brain takes care of the majority of our body's functions, such as digestion, breathing, keeping us alive while we sleep, and causing us to drop hot things, and we have absolutely nothing to do with these things. Our body is truly schizophrenic, but this is normal. The brain takes care of all of these tasks independently and without our permission, but we are incredibly thankful (or at least we should be), so can we say that the brain has a mind of its own?

Indeed, this is what certain types of scientists say about G-d, that it is a schizophrenic but distinctly human voice inside the head. Interestingly enough, they do not say that the body's functioning is a product of the human's desire for it to function! Is digestion a figment of our imagination in the same way that the brain's mental functions are?! The brain's physical functions are automatic and necessary, but the brain's mental functions are not! Is this not a physical age?! Does digestion occur because we wish for it to occur? If so, we would be dead by now, because we have other things to do than worry about making our bodies carry out vital functions; we wouldn't have gotten so far evolutionary if we had to spend all day long thinking about making our body's work.

Scientists do not say that our body is schizophrenic, rather, they exalt and revere its amazing abilities, but at the same time brand belief in G-d as schizophrenic, and primitive. Is the body's primitiveness not the its key to survival? Perhaps "primitive" is the wrong word, perhaps "simplicity" is more accurate. All of this smacks of intelligent design.

We have not even begun to tap into the full potentials of the brain, so the notion that the brain somehow is a carrier of dense amounts of information is not far-fetched at all, and it is a wonder if we will ever be able to approach the horizon of the brain's outerlimits. It is hard to imagine that evolution has created such an organ through random chance alone. People who assert that G-d is a figment of the mind's imagination, probably unknowingly, are buying into this theory without realizing how impossible it really is; it is more likely that G-d exists, and it leaves the former alternative unbelievable and full of superstition and the latter starkly believable and rational.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

If I had known
When I decided to wear a kippah
That some Jews who see me in public
Feel hesitant and might avoid conversation
Quickly turn their face 180 even though there is nothing there to look at
Or that, by debating with Arabs in public arenas
That Jews would pretend not to see me
But would talk to me the next day
I would still have done it
For there is nothing better in life and no better richness
Than to tap into your identity
Like a watery reservoir beneath the earth
And to live as you were created

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A very old poem (about three years, or maybe more)

The moments before sleep I welcome death
For sleep is death, but only partial death
It is not really for me to say
I lay down on the bed after a day of physical activity
Arms sprawled to my side, limp
This is remarkably death-like
Please G-d keep my soul within its physical container
Only so that I may rise tomorrow
Afford another 24 hours by which I can bring Your Presence into this world
Let me be Your slave
Oh perfectly just Master
You put food on my table
You calm my emotions
You make me burn like fire
You control my inhibitions
You lead me with the yetzer hatov
You bring good my way
Please make those close to me happy and right in their ways
Let this world be ripe for the picking
Those who hate me, they hate me for wicked reasons
Deal with them justly Hashem
Just as You deal with me
Keep my head high as they whip me from the sides
I hate them sometimes Hashem, calm my hate, for if I hate them
Then I worship them, and I only desire to worship You
I cannot love those who hate me, I will destroy them
If You don’t stop me
We have a job in this world, so many have fallen from it
Turned their face away from their task
Those who hate us tempt us with the tendency to defend ourselves
I want to break the teeth of those who hate me
I feel no compassion for them
I want to smash them
But I only believe in You
We cannot defend ourselves Hashem
Only You can defend us
Break them G-d, smash them G-d, in that eloquent way that only You know how
For I will go after their souls like a dog at a neck, You will preserve them and save them
I am a murderer Hashem
I do not want to murder
Before I sleep
I welcome death on my bed
If I arise with the sun
Is entirely in Your hands
What is left for me to do except hand over my soul to You?
If You preserve the evil, then I trust You will preserve me, despite my shortcomings
And horrible mistakes
Like a friend who holds your precious belongings for you until you can retrieve them
You hold my soul in those hours of the night
I trust You fully with it
Cover me with this black blanket
Droop the lids over my eyes
Let me see nothing of this world
I prepare myself for partial loss of lifeAdon Olam

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To Violate the Sabbath or not to Violate the Sabbath; What Kind of Question is That?!

Exodus 16:22-30 (Torah) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Christian Bible) are the verses in discussion here.

According to the English Standard Version of the Christian Bible, Matthew 12:1-8 reads, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of G-d and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Torah allows one to violate a commandment in order to save his life, and is usually applied to a situation such as eating on Yom Kippur and violating Shabbat. The text of 1 Samuel 21:1-7, to which the verse in Matthew refers, indicates that David was hungry, having escaped due to Saul's intent to kill him. According to Rashi, David needed to eat in order to survive, so the Kohen, Ahimelech, after being assured that David and his attendants were in a state of ritual purity (because the show-bread had to be kept in such a state), gave him the bread. In Jewish Law, this is known as "mesirat nefesh," or saving someone's life, which allows the trangression of six hundred and ten out of the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah. Therefore, David's consumption of the bread was proper in the eyes of the Law, which G-d gave.

Second, Exodus 16:22-30, when the Children of Israel are wandering in the desert and receiving the manna, reads, "It happened on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of food, two omers for each; and all the princes of the assembly came and told Moses. He said to them, 'This is what Hashem had spoken; tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to Hashem. Bake what you wish to bake and cook what you wish to cook; and whatever is left over, put away for yourselves as a safekeeping until the morning.' They put it away until morning, as Moses had commanded; it did not stink and there was no infestation in it.
Moses said, 'Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Hashem; today you shall not find it in the field. Six days shall you gather it, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, on it there will be none.'"

That was the background context, this is the verse of emphasis;

"It happened on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find. Hashem said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings? See that Hashem has given you the Sabbath; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.' The people rested on the seventh day."

Deuteronomy 4:2 reads, "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, that I command you." This commandment was given to the Jews before entering the Land of Israel, when G-d informs them that their (willful) violation of the Law will cause the surrounding nations to remove them from the Land. The time in which Jesus and his disciples violated the Sabbath (in Israel) was about 3,000 years after the entrance to the Land, and although the Talmud gives its own reasons as to why the Jews were exiled from Israel, it is interesting to note that Jesus lived a matter of thirty years before the destruction of the Temple and subsequent occupation and exile, by which time his words had already spread and began turning into Christianity.

The Christian Bible states that the Pharisees told Jesus, "
Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." It seems that Jesus responded by citing "mesirat nefesh," the commandment to violate a commandment in order to save one's life. The Gospel says that "his disciples were hungry," so the point is that they were right in eating from the field. However, could they not have gotten their food from some other place? Surely they knew that to violate a commandment was allowable, but the last resort.

Matthew says, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat," but the Torah says, "Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day." Jesus and his disciples, per his own command, did exactly as the Children of Israel did in the desert, they refused to observe G-d's comandments and teachings!

Furthermore, even though Moses himself was not collecting food on Shabbat, G-d chastized him
because he was the leader of the Jewish people, and Moses was not exempt from the Law in any way. Is it not fitting to say that since Jesus was a Jew, and he was a leader, that he led Jews away from proper observance of the Law and actually had them violate G-d's commandments? The point is that Jesus and his disciples had another option that citing mesirat nefesh. Why hadn't they prepared food during the week, as the verse in Exodus commands? If they were hungry, wouldn't the Pharisees had given them some of their food, or invited them over for a nice Shabbos meal rather than chastizing them for violating the Sabbath?

Living under, and rebelling against, an occupying foreign power is not new to the annals of Jewish history. So I decided to make a brief historical comparison/contrast between Jewish behavior and Muslim bevahior under the control and sovereignty of an "other," since it has immediate modern relevance.

Suffice it to say that, after Egyptian slavery, the minority status of Jews historically began with the Babylonian invasion and conquest of Israel, which was met with the Assyrian one. In these historical events, the majority of Jews were taken from Israel into the home countries of their invaders, where they eventually became a part of the culture (in that special Jewish way), and their stay there was put to an end with the creation of the State of Israel. For example, ancient Babylon eventually shifted to Muslim control (7th century) and majority and later became modern-day Iraq, and both Babylon (the polytheistic geographical ancestor of Iraq) and Iraq, the Muslim state created in the 19th country, had a Jewish minority population that mingled its own culture with that of the "host population" and therefore remained alive and Jewish. At times, Jews would flourish, and at other times they would suffer, but religious Jews read and study something known as the "Babylonian Talmud," which is today's authorative compilation of Jewish law, and guess what, it was compiled by the Jewish sages during their years in Babylon. One of the most luminous Jewish texts, touching on every aspect of Jewish life and enriching the Jewish population with spirituality and a connection to G-d, was compiled on the home grounds of the invading country. Why cannot Muslim Palestinians thrive in the "Zionist entity" in the way that the Jews flourished in the Babylonian one?

In the Jewish lexicon, "Babylon," even thought it is an empire or kingdom that no longer literally exists, is a term connected to the invasion and attempted destruction of Jewish religious life, culture, and identity, and is therefore a negative term. The term "Babylonian Talmud" is in no way associated with that same negativity, to the contrary, it is the more authorative of the two compilations of the Talmud (the other being the Jerusalem Talmud, the holiest site of Judaism) and is therefore positive. The Jews viewed the term "Babylon" in the way that Palestinians view the term "Zion" and a rough parallel to "Babylonian Talmud" would be "Zionist Hadith," yet we see no such body of Muslim law expounding upon and uniting the world's Muslims. It is hard to imagine an extremist Muslim religious population flourishing under Jewish sovereignty, and our imagination is not put to the test today. The religious/spiritual life of Jews in Babylon flourished, the religious/spiritual life of Muslims in Israel is stagnant, oppressive, and murderous.

The obvious tension here is of hallmark significance; the Jews of Babylon, facing ultimate destruction, responded by creating the body of Jewish Law that would foster their flourishing and energetic existence into the future. They dealt with harsh and bleak adversity, not by trying to overthrow society, not by murdering Babylonians, not even by merely and passively trying to find a way to survive, but by spiritually re-establishing themselves on Babylonian turf for their own sake and in their own private quarters, therefore defeating the potential stagnation with flying colors. Every scholar knows that this era in Jewish history is associated with a rich flowering of intellectual and spiritual life, with the Jewish sages and rabbi's of the world sending letters to the Babylonian rabbi's concerning matters of Jewish Law and the rabbi's responding accordingly - a concordance known as the "Responsa." However judging by the circumstances, it should have been the grayest, poorest, bleakest, and most desperate time for the Jewish minority, but it was a "golden age."

Fast forward to today's scenario; unruly Muslim minorities has always lead to secession and the creation of Muslim states. In a basic sense, Muslim soceities find it difficult, unbearable, and intolerable to live under the sovereignty of any peoples that is not Muslim. Historically, it is true that there were times when Muslims lived peacefully in countries run by non-Muslims and flourished, but clashes began due to the fact that Muslim theology locates it at a place where it can never take the rank of an element in a society; it must be the society in which another takes the role of the element. Islam places a high value on Muslim sovereignty, not just in its holy sites (the way Judaism does), but in any place that Muslims are a sufficient population. Jews too have historically rebelled, or at least bad-mouthed their oppressors, but they were not in a constant state of readiness to see the fall of the country's order in which they lived and to replace it with a Sanhedrin, which is more-or-less is expressed in Islam as a Caliphate, an organized body of religious leaders that institutes (the respective) religious law.

Jewish religious longing has always gravitated towards Jewish religious sovereignty in Israel, the origination of Judaism and the only home to its holy sites. Muslim religious longing has always gravitated towards Muslim religous sovereignty anywhere in the world where there is a Muslim population, and the two neccessarily intersect in Israel, where Jewish holiness meets an unruly Muslim population. Suffice it to say that this Muslim population, whatever internal difficulties it faces and which are none of my concern, is willing to murder and destroy in order to overthrow and replace. This is why there is no peace between Israeli's and Palestinians, and it is the same reason why there was no peace between them before and during the founding years of the State of Israel.

The Muslims, in a very foundational way, are a deeply religious people; perhaps the world did not understand that the creation of the State of Israel was an insult to Muslim religious sensibilities, but the Muslims living there definitely knew it. In a world where cartoons infuriate Muslims, it should come as no surprise that Jewish states do as well. Yet, it is an insult to Jewish religious sensibilities to hand over their "Mecca" to people who view it as constituting only one part out of all places that Muslims live, which is known as "the Umma." In Islamic thought, religious ownership of land is predicated upon the basis of a Muslim population living within that land, and since there are Muslims living in Israel, it means that Israel is Muslim. This is the oppressive regime that is the Muslim peoples who wish to see Israel taken over; it is not the State of Israel that oppresses the Palestinians, but it is the Palestinian minority that oppresses Israel, exactly in the same way that the extremist Palestinian minority oppresses and bullies the majority population into agreements and concessions.

Living as a flourishing and successful Muslim minority in any state, not to mention, the State of Israel, is not an option as far as the general Muslims trends are concerned. The Muslims who would not mind living in such a scenario are far outranked by those who despise it and wish to see it destroyed - the former are an ultra minority, and if not, then they are paralyzingly silent and stunted by fear of extremists, torture, and death. If it is unnacceptable for Muslims to find themselves under foreign rule by any one of the nations of the world then just how unnacceptable is it for them to find themselves under Jewish rule, the nation that Islam associates as the ultimate in religious backwardsness, the people who G-d beckoned to submit to Him but rejected Him to His "face?" Indeed, there is a place for Jews in the scheme of Islam, a quiet submissive place, and in the event that Jews are loud and resistant, as we are also known for being towards our oppressors, there is another place, and that place is called "jihad." Therefore, we equally have a place for them, and it is not in Israel.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It was as a closed door
I understand how sinning can destroy buildings
Buildings fell, I do not recall with joy
The words barely came to me, they did not flow
The rivers were damned up
Vision is dark when the light has dimmed
And words written on walls are hard to see
That is the nature of darkness
As one walks farther from the light
He must squeeze harder for inspiration
Like a resistant orange that refuses to yield juice
He who sins squashes the fruit of produce
He must struggle just to understand
He has to get his proper footing
He recalls the past and longs for the future
When he once understood, now he does not
He needs to be pushed in the right direction
His words are like that of a child
Anger kills, it smashes and fades things
It strips away life - it is let out of a jar
Like a snake, and it wiles its way into things
It shuts one's eyes, and he cannot see what he writes
Like soil with a covering, G-d keeps out harmful rays
Anger comes like a rushing wave
Washing away the topsoil, and the ground is left to burn and parch
Like leather without wax
It cracks and breaks
Just like one who has been bitten by the snake of his anger
He channels it wrongly
G-d will, G-d willing, hear his words and act

Monday, February 13, 2006

To our Jewish Leader...

A farewell to Sharon

By Yoel Marcus

The news that there has been a sudden change for the worse in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's condition, and that his life is in immediate danger because of damage to his large intestine - which was broadcast on Saturday morning - shocked the country. After two strokes, a series of brain operations and a deep coma that has lasted for five weeks, and now another critical operation and his life hanging by a thread, I thought that this is not the end of which Sharon was deserving.

An acclaimed fighter like him was liable to have been killed on the battlefield or by a fanatical assassin for having shelved the dream of the Greater Land of Israel or even to have been taken by death in a storm, like Raful (Rafael Eitan). The news that he is cut off from the world, "in serious but stable condition" and now also "critical condition," and with his life "in danger" just when he had made the great dramatic turnaround in his life sounds like a Greek tragedy.

Twice Sharon swept the country after him by storm to controversial goals. Both times he was not there when he was most needed. Once in the Lebanon War, and a second time in the relinquishing of the dream of the Greater Land of Israel and the ending of the occupation at the price of painful concessions. In Lebanon he was mistaken in thinking that it was possible to achieve a peace agreement between the two countries with Christian leader Bashir Gemayel. I remember Sharon waving around a "draft peace treaty" at the Newspaper Editors' Committee. In fact the paper was not signed and was worthless after Sabra and Chatila and the assassination of Bashir Gemayel. But Sharon as deposed defense minister was not there to get us out of the long-term mud into which he had led us. It took 18 years of bloodshed before prime minister Ehud Barak gathered the courage to get us out of Lebanon overnight in May 2000.

Now that Sharon has brought about a political turnaround in the founding of Kadima, a mammoth party that was intended to lead Israel to the end of the occupation, entailing an expected struggle with the settlers that will not be easy, he is sunk in a deep coma. He is in serious but stable condition, and perhaps still on the verge of danger to his life, and the irreversible fact is that he is not here when the strength of his leadership is most needed.

Many members of the public blame Sharon for having been the father of the settlement movement. The truth is that Labor was the first to have initiated settlement in the territories, on the grounds that this was mainly security settlement - whereas Sharon, as the founder of the Likud, scattered the Jewish settlements and the outposts over the territories for political needs, in order to create an irreversible situation of total control of the West Bank.

There were those who said that in this way he atoned for having evacuated Yamit in accordance with prime minister Menachem Begin's instructions. The settler leaders, among them his comrades in arms, reminded him that just a few years ago he said that "the fate of Netzarim is like the fate of Tel Aviv." So he said that. There came a point in time in his tenure as prime minister when he said that "things you see from here you don't see from there." A point in time when he realized that he had been mistaken in his passion of many years to annex territories and recognized the necessity of the turnaround. The ability to admit mistakes was part of his political
maturation and his ripeness as a national leader. Fact: Today Netzarim and all its sisters are no longer in Gaza. Nor are we.

As commander of Unit 101 he rescued the Israel Defense Forces from the military stagnation into which it had sunk after the War of Independence. From the 1950s to the 1970s he established standards for reprisal actions and the war on terror and was considered the father of the aggressive IDF military doctrine.

Sharon's greatness was that at every stage he recognized the turning point. His attitude toward the settlers changed when he recognized the limits of force, and the international pressure to put an end to the occupation. Kadima responded to the wishes of the majority of the public to arrive at an agreement, and thus immediately gave it a massive majority for shelving the dream of the Greater Land of Israel. Its organization as a leading and rousing center party was so swift that it seems as though Sharon sensed he would not be there to lead it.

As he lies on his deathbed, cut off from what is happening, between critical condition and danger to his life, it is infuriating to see the Schadenfreude of the extremist rabbis and the Greater Land of Israel crazies who view his condition as punishment from heaven, and who are liable to draw encouragement from this personal tragedy which will lead to violent resistance and a civil war against those who continue his way. But their battle is lost in advance. Sharon, in a correct strategy with the correct timing, conquered the heart of the majority of the people. Kadima will gallop ahead even without its founder.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Something I wrote to someone I know, a response to something she said about Islam being a Noachide religion. I will post her response here after she's responded. Peace...

I've thought about that too; if Islam is a Noachide religion. Can we say that it is halachically? I think yes. The only problem with it is that it needs to (meaning that Muslims need to) believe and understand that their religion needs to live side-by-side with ours; Laws for the Gentiles and Laws for the Jews. One of the built-in problems of Islam is that, necessarily, Islam is a Noachide religion that believes itself to have replaced the Law of the Jews, and if you consider that, then this is quite an interesting little phenomenon here. Is it halachically sound? I would venture to say "yes," can these Noachides "wrinkle out the problems" in their religion, which date back to its establishment (and therefore makes it very difficult), that set it up as the finality of our religion, the conclusion? Harmonious living in Islam is struck only by Jewish submission to it (Jewish submission to a Noachide religion??), while in Judaism, it's struck by Jews being Jews and Muslims being Muslims. But we can't be blind; Islam doesn't believe in the same type of harmony that Judaism believes, and that's a problem. There's a part of Islam that would need to disappear before there could be peace between Jews and Muslims.

Question, how do we Jews help to make Noachide harmony known to Muslims when generally, and probably especially now, Muslim sentiment is growingly hostile and immature and therefore resistant to any teachings that come from Judaism which are not already described in Muslims texts? For example, the written source of the Noachide Laws is the Talmud; will Muslims accept the validity of that text? Thoughts? Yaniv...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Better to feel love and pain
Than to be free from pain and feel nothing
G-d in Heaven, may I never become comfortably numb
G0 ahead, break a little piece of heart when I do wrong
So that I may not do it
And may I feel empty when it's true
So that I may seek fulfillment
"Love hurts" is the ethos of the day
But love doesn't hurt; rather the absence
Gnashing at your soul, bruising and marking it
Leaving it raw and untouchable, like a skinned knee, but not skin deep
Fulfillment lies ahead, beautiful, rich, holy fulfillment
I await you like long-missed cousins
I fell and I was broken
But I still feel, so I may be rebuilt
Like the Temple of those beautiful Jerusalem bricks
They hold my hands in their grooves perfectly, like gloves
May my fingerprints be the notes I place within the cracks
May the waqf dust them and know that we were there
May we all be found guilty - horribly guilty, and sentenced to freedom
G-d will read them, more unique than anything these fingers of mine can write
More genuine too, identified right away in this Wall of chashmal (electricity)
G-d always knows where I am in this world, but He rejoices when we touch His Wall in joy
Identifies me and locates me in this matrix, in Zion, and Babylon will fall
When Babylon cries like a baby and falls, Zion will be rebuilt, like a lion
And its roar will be Torah
Our enemies despise it and desire it to the same exact proportion
Do not be confused but know this, there is no margin of error in their anger
The hate of their tongues is eloquent and right to the point, never lying
Know them by what they destroy

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Hebrew in Every Jew

If you're in Hebrew class, it's because there's Hebrew in you
G-d looked into the Torah and made the world, it was His blueprint
And your DNA is not A, C, G, and T
But Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, and Dalet, which I can't type on this Roman keyboard
Generations past, a backwards revelation
We are in understanding of our belonging to one nation
Under G-d
With obligations and justice for all
Past the countries and societies we were born in
We realize our equality before the Law
As we stood there together when He gave it
And even the angels of G-d are not white
Yes, we realize the essential Hebrew in all of us
Sons and daughters of he who broke the chain and the yoke
Spoke, said, "Only One."
Today we speak myriad languages, but it's time to realize the content of our words
And may the revelation explode like the thunder that we saw and the lightning that we heard
May all Jews be shaken off their foundation
Fly to the air, and take their seats with their nation

It's the Bomb

As many might have heard, the Danish cartoon depicting *the Prophet* Muhammad with a bomb in his turban has caused for reverberations throughout the Muslim world. Largely, many Muslims deem this a racist, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiment, nothing short of a clash between civilizations. According to an English reporter I heard speak on NPR just a few moments ago (as well as other sources and articles), the world's Muslim population is feeling increasingly alienated and stereotyped, even 4 years after 9/11 when things had truly gotten quite bad for them regarding the public sphere. The United State's actions in Iraq, aid to Israel, and the events occuring in Guantanamo Bay, according to the reporter, don't help the situation at all.

The reporter, either expressing his own views or views of the world's Muslim community, compared the cartoon to the "upside-down-cross-in-urine" incident, when a few years ago, in an art show, amongst other items, a piece was presented showing an upside-down cross dipped in urine. The intent of such a piece was pointless, other than to insult Christianity in the most vile, digusting, and tasteless way, and I truly wonder about the sanity of the individual that produced it.

However, as it disgusting as it was, it truly was pointless, and I am shocked that the reporter chose to categorically connect that to the Danish cartoon of Muhammad with the bomb in his turban. First of all, a cross in piss is in no way a political or social comment of any type, and if anything, it's just a (stupid and immature) opinion, almost a sick prank. The cartoon of Muhammad, on the other hand, can be categorized as a political and social comment on Islam's apparent association with the tendency for terrorism -- i.e., there is absolutely no logical connection between the cross in urine and the bomb in the turban; one says something about the world, and the other says something about the individual's unhealty mental state.

The reporter went on to say that the world's Muslim community felt as if they were being collectively punished for the actions of what "experts" have deemed an extremist minority within that community. However, when the barrage of Palestinian terror attacks were occuring on Israeli soil, killing innocent civilians, and also worthy of mention are the slaughter by Jordanian forces of Palestinians in the 70's, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and the infighting that we see in almost every Muslim and Arab country, the world Muslim community was silent. There is an old saying that "silence is agreement," and although much of the time there are many reasons for silence other than agreement (such as fear), one can never be quite sure as to the reason for the silence, because agreement is difficult to measure.

The reporter also emphasized that Timothy McVeigh's bombing of Oklohama City's
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building can in no way be related to the desire of the world's European ancestry Catholics, and therefore, the 9/11 terrorists cannot be held as representatives of world Islam. This is true, but when it comes the sociological composition of both the Protestant and Catholic society, at least in America, there is a clear distinction between Catholic and Protestant maniacs who are ready to kill for their beliefs and Catholic and Protestant maniacs that are willing to go to Church for their beliefs; America is one such country where this distinction is possible. Therefore, it is needless to say that McVeigh is not representative of all white American Christians, because the lines have already been drawn and people have already spoken out (long ago). In the Muslim and Arab countries, this development has yet to occur. That is the difference.

Nevertheless, this does not retract from the fact that Muslims were collectively silent about such disasters, and now their plaint is that they are being collectively pointed out as being guilty. If the world's Muslim community is perpetually silent about Muslim-related terrorism, and rather than courageously and simply stating that it's wrong, tries to find a way to contrast it with their notions of "real Islam," then we can deem them guilty of at least some degree of cooperation, be it direct or indirect.
That's the real problem here.

But it doesn't end here; many Muslim communities all over the world are getting up in arms about this ordeal and and virtually all are demanding apologies for this insult to their Prophet Muhammad, yet it is in these very same countries' newspapers that nearly daily cartoons depicting Jews as demonic, venomous, greedy, murderous creatures are found. It looks like we have a case of selective sensitivity here; a picture depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban sends Muslim communities flying off the handle, protesting, shouting, destroying property, which ended up with five people dead, but scores and scores of pictures depicting Jews as blood-thirsy vermin warrant no reaction whatsoever. It makes you wonder if Muslims really care about Jews as they say they do, oh wait, they don't say that. I spoke with a member of the Muslim Student Association the other day on campus, and near the end of our talk, he told me that their purpose was to ensure rights for all religious groups; not just Muslims, but Christians and Jews. However, you are not really calling for the rights of Jews (and Christians) when Muslim papers portray them as demons and the Muslim world doesn't condemn it.

True, it was a minority that reacted as harshly as they did, and true, it was a minority that creates the types of cartoons about Jews that I am referring to, but that's my point exactly, the majority has nothing to do with this. In fact, their lack of involvement in this is crystal clear; they, the majority, is silent when these cartoons are printed about Jews, but they violently and immaturely demand apologies for themselves. "Do unto others," as the saying goes (coming out of Jesus' mouth and found originally as one of the Torah's commandments.) Muslim do do unto others, they do unto others as they please. What we have is a loud and violent extremist minority and a silent and passive moderate majority.

The basic perception in the journalistic world is that "the two civilizations," the Muslim and the Western civilizations, need to work together to promote understanding, but they don't and shouldn't, for that's just another to way to exempt Muslim communities from taking responsibility for their own actions and problems; the only understanding that needs to occur is for the Muslim world to understand that it needs to speak about, and loudly, against its extremist elements. Something needs to be done, by Muslims and Muslims first and foremost, about the social and political decay occuring within Islam due to extremist elements that are left unchecked by the majority. It's enough of Muslims trying to smooth the violent groups over by saying that "they aren't practicing the real Islam, and we are." Well, if you want to say that the real Islam is silence in the face of violence, then go ahead, that also doesn't make you look too good. So far, nobody has defined Islam in positive terms, but only negative terms; "Islam is not____, Islam is not _____," it's never "Islam is ____," except for "Islam is a religion of peace," and if it is, then that aspect of Islam is being manifested relatively nowhere.

Monday, February 06, 2006

G-d or Me? The Clash of Civilizations...

When I write, or when I do anything that that be considered to be an ability, I always wonder if that ability comes from a source other than myself, a place higher than where I am currently situated, like a rain that comes down from the sky.

As I was going through the personal transition of being secular to being observant (religious), I began to attribute everything that I personally was able to do, or was good at, to G-d. He was a body of water and a human being was a fountain that was able to turn itself on or off, but the water came from the ocean.

I believed that my writing, let's say, which I do a lot of, and the ideas that ensued when I began to write something, came to me from G-d, that I was able to attach to Him in this process and the material that I produced, even though it came from my mind and my hand, rained down through me from Him.

Today I still believe that. This has not stopped me wondering, however, if this process, and in the same way, still occurs to people that do not believe that G-d directly influences them or is the source of their creativity, or do not believe that G-d exists at all.

I pondered the question if their abilities came to them from a certain process of detachment that they were able to connect themselves to, that they were able to withdraw, to a degree, from reality, and enter a state where they were able to connect to their inner most feelings, and in doing that, reve
al levels of truth that they were not able to in their normal state of consciousness. In other words, were these moments of clarity related to G-d at all, or to a wonder of the human mind, somehow built in to it, although not by any Creator?

All I know is that, I too have moments when I produce things, be they writing or whatever, when I attribute them to myself, or, for example, to my ability to perceive things (thank G-d for it).

However, when I have done that, I have always felt something lacking, that even though I produced something that I felt was of a certain quality, that it reflected my specific ability to understand whatever thing I was exploring and trying to convey or create. In other words, it lacked a certain luster in contrast to the things I tried to produce when I was aware that the source of human creativity (and in this case, mine in particular), is not really from the self, but from G-d. When I made it in my image, it was OK, when I made it in G-d's image, it was awesome, to a fraction of the degree that He is.

Comparing times when I have either done A or B, whenever I connected to G-d in the writing, verses trying to strong-arm the flow and take credit for it, afterwards I always
felt that I had touched a truer and deeper nerve after doing the former, (like reaching into the depths of a tooth's cavity) which in turn also created feeling of fulfillment that the latter simply did not provide me with. I felt that I touched on something that was true, and that my personal ability to touch on such a thing was virtually non-existent.

I then consider, in what ways is this different from the Buddhist practice of removing yourself from the realm of consciousness (or the world, in some cases) in order to reach another level of consciousness. But this doesn't seem to make much sense, for the human being is a being with flawed perception, and the flaws inherent in his or her perception permeate all levels of consciousness, from the most topical level (waking life) to the deepest, which Judaism says is death. In other words, there is no level of human consciousness that is perfect, that is free from all inconsistencies. It would be wrong to say; that the closer we get to our sub-conscious mind the closer we get to a purer perception, for what is it that makes one level of our psyche more pure than another? If the "pollutant" is present at one level, does it not just become distributed throughout the human psyche, like a chem
ical being poured into a river that soon dirties the entire body of water?

For example, if we are troubled in our waking life, how do we know that this trouble doesn't simply seep into our deeper levels of consciousness and pollute that too? When a troubled person sleeps and h
as a dream, sometimes the dream can be disturbing, reflecting the troubled state that he has in his waking hours. The deeper levels of consciousness are not free from disturbed emotions created by disturbing events, but are affected by them too, usually in a much more raw way. What is inherently intelligent, special, wise, or all-knowing about the inner-most level of our psyche if it is just another level of ourselves and not attached to something that is truly special?

If we say that getting in touch with our deepest self can answer our questions, then we must conclude that it is because there is something inside of us that knows everything, and since we don't know everything, that something must be connected to something that does. In other words, if by meditation we can find answers to the most perplexing questions, it is because we are contacting something knows the answers, otherwise we are inventing the "answers." Judaism says that that thing is the soul, and that's the thing that it's connected to is G-d. We don't have souls; we are souls, so by getting "close to our souls" we can find understanding, but only because our souls are connected to G-d. But if we don't believe that G-d exists, such as in Buddhism, then how can getting in touch with our "inner-selves" enlighten us? We are not connecting to ourselves, we are connecting to G-d, otherwise it is we that answer our own questions, and what stops us from answering them in any way that we want? Nothing.

Buddhists are connecting to G-d too, they just don't know it.

Furthermore, a soul is a "piece" of G-d, so in the ultimate sense of exposing the truth of our souls to ourselves, we are not just connecting to G-d, but we understand that we are actually made of the same "material." We are not G-d (of course), but we are made in His image, as the Torah states (Let Us make Man in Our image). Since we are made in His image, but not equal to Him, we need laws, the mitzvot, which will allow us to put the internal nature of our soul (sometimes called "faith") in concordance with the external nature of performing mitzvot (called "works") and therefore direct both towards the direction of G-d. There are many ways of thought that claim that since the connection of the human being to G-d is internal and essentially without obstacle (once they have been removed), that no external path is needed to reach G-d.

But the glaringly clear truth is that a human's journey to the depths of the soul is obstructed by many "unnatural" elements, things that are foreign to the soul and that come from the world outside, and since the human is in a state of spirituality, he or she makes the (honest) mistake that whatever element being experienced is from G-d, and therefore there are boundless and uncharted paths of spirituality. Anything "found inside," then, must be from G-d, and a person can then become devoted to it in the same exact manner in which one becomes devoted to worshipping G-d.

The Torah explains that this is what idolatry is (and was), and the way that I understand it, that the religious practices that were a part of the services of pagan religions stemmed from a nearing towards G-d, and capitalized on either this element or that element found in this process, and believed that they had found the "ceiling." For example, one of the polytheistic practices in what is called "the ancient world" was the "passing of children through the fire," which is what the priests of the worshippers of the deity "Molech" did in their worship of it; they burned their children alive to the god, a living human sacrifice. We can barely fathom such a thing today, categorizing it as one of the most inhuman crimes, but the "ancients" saw it differently, and it was quite understandable from their perspective.

Connecting to G-d means aligning yourself with G-d's commandments and reaching a type of harmony with Him through doing His will; it's a process that yields deep spiritual and emotional results. The psychology behind the "passing of children through the fire" was probably viewed as such by the worshippers of Molech; the emotional intensity experienced by viewing a living human (not to mention, a child) being set ablaze in the name of a god, until all the life has left the body, is so potent and so immediate that it was used as a spiritual practice, that those doing it believed that the ecstasy (and dread) that they were feeling (from the smell and sounds) was, in a way, communion with Molech. In a book written on polytheistic practices that I used as a source for a paper a while back, the author explains that the "magic" of the experience was inherent due to the very violation of life, that the life was viewed as being given to the god, and the violence and brutality of the passing served to intensify the sacrifice and therefore the religious experience.

* On a side note, I can't help but to see the similarities in this spiritual act of brutally killing one for a god and the (religiously-affiliated) act of blowing yourself up in order to kill your enemies. The former occured to Molech and the latter occurs to All-h in Jihad, and both are associated with a spiritual, emotional, and religious "high," connected to the belief that killing others (and oneself) is an act of communion with gods or G-d. During the pilgrimage to Mecca, muhajirun, Muslims making the pilgrimage, aquire stones that they throw at a structure that symbolizes Satan. At the height of this spiritual and holy experience and in the holiest place of Islam, does the act of throwing stones at an enemy gain significance that turns into an holy act in another context, let's say, when throwing stones at Israeli soldiers (Jews)? In this context, it makes sense to call Israel "Little Satan," and America "Big Satan," although it was planes, and not rocks, thrown at America.*

Surely, if G-d really exists as the Maker of the world, then He would not demand such a sacrifice from His Creations and Subjects, and therefore, in line with was previously discussed, the human desire to take part in a series of these different religious practices comes from "a little voice inside," and not from the Voice; it is finding spirituality in the brutal violation of life. This is not a difficult thing for the imagination to grasp; the ecstatic screeches and shouts of groups of baboons and coyotes when they have made a kill is apparent in explaining the emotional thrill of ending a living being's life - and it is the G-dless view of reality that puts humans in the same category with animals, and therefore there is no violation of ethics when we act like them.

Indeed, it is difficult for the "modern mind" to grasp the notion of spirituality in religious killing, for if there are no gods and no G-d to kill for (listen to John Lennon), then there is no killing, something which the killing fields of godless and G-dless philosophies detract from. We can actually pass an historical point where many perceive neither gods nor G-d, and we can assume that this is a progressive development in humanity, but the absence of G-d leaves us free to kill as we please, turning commands not to kill into convenient suggestions not to kill.

But the commandment is not "do not kill" but "do not murder;" the sacrifices to Molech were not murder, they represented no violation of life, but rather a potent innate human high produced by the taking of a life for a god. In the Torah, G-d tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the last moment, after seeing his willingness to do so, stops him and banishes this practice forever. Thousands of years later, Christians believed that G-d brutally sacrificed His own son as a redemptive act for the human race and thus they demonstrated a disturbing return to the theology of human sacrifice, except this time intimately tied into the G-d that abolished them. This is one of the things that put Jews and Christians at odds to this day. It is intimately related to the Torah's prescription to sacrifice animals to atone for sin, and Jewish law details that, in contrast to the brutal and painful killing of people to gods, the sacrifice of the animal must be painless and quick, that no spirituality is present in the suffering of the animal. This is a practice that is inherently tied into monotheism, and in an age where there are no sacrifices, there is no G-d and no sin. The eras both before and after reflect a deep misunderstanding of truth, in other words, that both polytheism and atheism, although essentially different, share in the characteristic of G-dlessness. During polytheism, humanity was ascending to the time when G-d would be revealed, He revealed Himself, and gradually humanity descended away from this revelation into secularism and its more extreme component; atheism. This means that the revelation was a metaphorical mountain of sorts, and it is fitting that He revealed Himself on a mountain.

Perhaps this is the reason that today, in the "Western world," any such type of killing is considered murder, even the death penalty, which says that those who murdered a person must, in the name of social order and principle (morality), die. There is a difference between an individual killing another and the state in which he lives deciding to end his life according to a structure of rules or norms that the Western world doesn't understand. It's an example of the potential antonymity of development and progression.

The relation between polytheism and Buddhism is that, on the surface, both involve the religious and spiritual use of idols, but deeper than this, both are manifestations that come from a connection of the human being to him or herself and not to G-d.

The point is that, shedding away your levels of waking consciousness in order to put yourself in touch with a consciousness more deeply embedded, within you will only put you in touch with those feelings that you already feel. Basically, this is to say that you are the source of those feelings, and if those feelings are the product of a figuratively speaking, "flawed" human perspective, then to put yourself into closer contact with those feelings will be to no avail, for the very way in which you perceive them is proportionally as flawed as is the human ability to perceive.

In other words, it is as if humanity looks at the world through a very advanced telescope that is able to zoom in and out and to views things from the microscopic level up to the universal level, but its lens is a bit dirty. If one were to turn this telescope internally, to make it a microscope, and to look inside him or herself, one could see the insides, but the smudges on the lens would still be present, and therefore blur the vision and creating a false image of what is actually there.

Therefore, one would have to find a way to clean the lens before being able to see him or herself in the true sense. Once one finds a way to clean the lens, then he or she begins to view things in the way that G-d views things, which is with absolutely no smudges. The cleaner the lens, which is a lifelong process, the more one sees things in the way that G-d sees things, i.e., through G-d's eyes, and attains a truer level of understanding a thing or things. In Judaism, the only way to clean our lenses, so to speak, is to live by the Torah, to put the commandments into application, and by doing this we actually can wipe all the guck of our lenses and see clearly, the way G-d sees.

One must also surround herself only with things that will maintain her spiritual cleanliness. Her cleanliness relies on her actions, which will determine the degree to which her lens is free of smudges. A clean lens is like perfectly transparent water. Coming from a human angle, this usually involves deciding what factors to eliminate, or at least to remove as highly influential elements, in her life. It is a process of spiritual filtering, but at the same time, it is a decision to expose herself to clean things. No to bad and yes to good, at the same time - for "no to bad" is only half the battle without "yes to good," and "yes to good" is watered down without "no to bad."

One cannot assume that his reliance on his own abilities of perception will yield answers that lie outside of himself, for the very fact that he relies on his own vision to perceive them prevents him from seeing them for what they really are. And assuming that the self does not exist is also not fruitful, for it seeks to nullify the pain inherent to existence by finding a way to escape the world of existence, like a spiritual self-induced coma, which is impossible. In other words, one can escape the pain by realizing that neither the world nor the self exist, and then, by taking the Eight Manifold Path, begin the process of detaching themselves from the notion of existence. By annulling the self, suffering is also annulled.

Perhaps this is why Buddhism teaches that the end of perception (Para nirvana) is the goal of the human existence, to become completely neutralized, which occurs when all of one's both negative and positive karma have been "burned up." At this stage, one ceases to be reborn as other beings, and ceases to exist. In other words, we don't really exist, and we exist in order to understand that.

How can a person yield answers that lie outside of himself by defining himself as a non-existent entity; who is to say that there any answers in the first place, for if there is no self, then there also are no questions, and then there is no reason to answer them. And of course, there is no G-d either. This is exactly what Buddhism teaches and wishes people to understand.

Christianity shares this ethos as the basis of "faith over works," the belief that believing is more essential than doing, and shares a common string with Buddhism in that both emphasize being rooted in somewhere away from earth -- in Christianity, freedom from the Law (Torah), and in Buddhism, freedom from the dictates of perception -- and Judaism says that the Torah must be the focus of our perception, the harmony of both.

The Torah teaches that calmness (peace) and existence are potentially harmonious elements, not polar contradictions, and are attainable through existence, that is, without deviating from existence in any way. By using things for their proper purposes, to be mindful of their designations by G-d and to use them accordingly, a "normal" thing becomes holy. To use a musical analogy, it would be like two voices hitting the same note and thus becoming harmonized - both voices begin to operate on the same wavelength, which produces a pleasing sound. Until a thing is used for its proper purpose, the user and the "usee" exist out of whack or coordination from each other, and the world experiences a lack of holiness and is affected negatively.

One of the most potent examples of this is sex, which can be used in the right way and in the wrong way. The wrong way to use sex would be to rape someone, to have too much sex, to sleep with a person that you should not sleep with, i.e., a member of your family, someone else's spouse, a member of the same sex, or an animal. The right way to use sex would be to sleep with your wife or husband at the right time, assuming that they do not possess one of the aforementioned statuses.

But since one can never truly not exist, then he or she ends up taking the value of life away and becoming a neglectful landlord in his own house.

One desires escape and freedom through inexistence, while the other desires truth and fulfillment as the purpose of existence. One says that the purpose is to escape misnotions of purpose, and the other says that the purpose of humanity can be lived by applying holiness to existence. One finds joy in escape from the world, and the other finds joy from the good things in the world. One deems that all is evil that has to be abandoned, and the other deems that there is evil, which should be separated from the good and that the good should be chosen. Can they be any farther apart?

Perhaps this is the difference between Eastern and Middle Eastern thought ("Middle Eastern" usually being referred to as "Western").

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A couple of excerpts from the 1978 book written by Rabbi Meir Kahane Z"H , "They Must Go." Think and judge for yourselves, do some research. The spaces indicate where I skipped to another section of the chapter.

There is an ultimate insoluable contradiction between the State of Israel that is the fulfillment of the 2,000-year-old Jewish-Zionist dream and the modern nation-state that sees all its citizens as possessing equal rights and privileges. There is an ultimately immutable clash between that part of Israel’s Declaration that created the Jewish state and the part that promised “complete equality of social and political rights to all its citizens,” even though they be Arabs and not Jews. There is – let it be said once and for all – a potential confrontation between the Jewish-Zionist state that was the millennial dream of the Jewish people and modern concepts of democracy and citizenship.

We are pained, embarrassed, thrown into intellectual agony. We hasten to avoid such talk. It is unnecessary, dangerous, irresponsible, better left unspoken. Nonsense!
Far better to meet the issue, deal with it boldly and courageously, explain it to our children and ourselves, than to have it explode in our faces tomorrow.

There is nothing for which the Jew needs to apologize. A people that has suffered ecumenical agony and that has been deprived of the rights that other nations demand for themselves own no one an explanation. The Middle East sees Islamic republics in which the Arabic quality and the Muslim character of state are inscribed in the constitution; who shouts about Arabic “racism”? Africans insist upon the blackness of their state, and exclusiveness of culture and identity are the foundations of scores of nations. Who apologizes? The Zionist state is Judaism, the need for a land of the Jews where the people can escape Holocaust and build a distinctive Jewishness that will flourish.

The very kernel of longing for a homeland through nearly 2,000 years of exile was the belief that the Jews were a separate and distinct people. In a world in which we recognize the right of self-determination for Papua, who will challenge Jewish rights?

Moreover, the Jews constituted a unique people in that they were at one and the same time a religion and a nation, a religio-nation, which had lived as a unique society and culture in its own land – Eretz Israel. On the one hand they suffered unparalleled horrors and massacres in their wanderings in foreign lands. They knew no peace in any country in which their numbers grew large and their quality shone through. There was no society, religion, or economic or social system that gave them permanent haven and rest. Jews were burned to death, drowned, cut to pieces, converted to death, Inquisitioned to death, Crusaded to death, Islamized to death, pogromed to death, and Auschwitzed to death. The Jews learned a bitter lesson in their twenty centuries of being strangers, of existing as a minority. The lesson? It is not good to be a stranger. Never be a minority. Never again!

….The Jew has no moral right to an Israel that is a non-Jewish state. But in a Jewish state let no one insult the Arab by insisting that he is equal and that it is “his” state, too. It is this ultimate contradiction between the Jewish character of Israel and the democratic right of the Arab to aspire to all the rights t hat Jews have – including to have an Arab majority in the land – that will never give the Arab rest or allow him to accept the status quo.

From the very beginning non-Jews understood this far more easily. Most Jews instinctively sensed the contradiction but could not give up the idea of a Jewish state, and so they repressed the reality. But Gentiles conversant with the problem had no such difficulties. Alvin Johnson, president emeritus of the New School for Social Research, discussed the “Palestine” problem in January 1947, one and a half years before the establishment of Israel. Writing in Commentary magazine, he stated: “It would be no simple matter to establish and maintain a Jewish majority in Palestine…. It is entirely realistic to say that the Arabs of Palestine do not want to live as a minority under the Jews, no matter what formal guarantees are given of minority rights… A national minority must expect to be oppressed. Even if it is no more oppressed that the Sudeten Germans and Slovaks in Czechoslovakia, the minority will consider itself oppressed…. I submit, the Arab-Jewish problem in Palestine cannot be solved under the scheme of majority-minority nationalism.”

Thirty-two years after Johnson made his precise observations, the majority-minority situation he warned about was in existence – more than three decades of Jewish majority rule with formal guarantees to an Arab minority.

…. Araba, the Galilee Arab village. Na’ama Saud is a young Arab Sabra. He teaches school, teaches the young Arab generation of Israel. A reporter for Maariv, Yisrael Harel, asks him (May 28, 1976) whether he accepts the fact of Israel as a Jewish state with himself as a minority with equal rights but no national ones. Saud replies: “Today I am in the minority. The state is democratic. Who says that in the year 2000 we Arabs will still be the minority? We are today about half a million Arabs in Israel. Today, I accept the fact that this is a Jewish state with an Arab minority. But when we are the majority I will not accept the fact of a Jewish state with an Arab majority.”

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I couldn't wait to post this. It's an article about a Muslim Sheikh that speaks about the Q'uran's declaration that the land of Israel is to belong to the Jews. I heard him speak about this in length on the Tovia Singer Show, which can be heard online at www.toviasingershow.com," or maybe http://www.thetoviasingershow.com/ It was very interesting. Have a good one, Yaniv...
The power comes not from the ability to say "yes" when it is screaming in your face
But to say "no" at this juncture
I saw him eating superstition
He was enjoying his meal
Although realizing that it tasted bitter
He would soon realize that it was his last supper
And he would start keeping kosher

And then G-d laughed and the world rejoiced!
The way the flesh was arranged on her skull caught my eye
And the way the flesh was strewn on her bones made me look
But I could not see her soul, for such beauties as the shade of her skin
And what cloth she covered it in
Fenced out the true desire of any living thing
A true connection
So perhaps I will attempt a union with her body
And eventually, if such a thing exists by then, I will marry it
And leave my soul hopelessly empty, connecting time after time after time
With the nerve endings that she possesses
They have the nerve to end
Lead me to a dead end, where I can create no life
I don't feel alive, but this is how I shall live my life?
Unless, of course, I deny my soul
Then I can become free for pleasure
Then my body's joy becomes my center
And our bodies can conjoin, multiplying our flesh
But our fleshes never become one
And when a new fleshling is born
It will have been in vain
And it can grow up with the vanity of its parents
Basking in the truth that it was conceived as a product of their desires
So much pleasure
Endless, boundless pleasure
The feeling justifies it
And the prices are higher than the rewards
Leaving you in debt
It was great while it lasted, but it didn't last
Leaving you wanting to pull the slot one more time
Ample room to gamble with your soul
Your body becomes your sky
So even if you shoot for the stars, and succeed
Where is your seed?
Your upper limit will be shattered by your head when you finish and stand up

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Keep it Clean...

Behind the external sounds flying into my head
Is a screen
Which separates the sounds from the silence
And in my head I hear only silence
No voices except mine own
I am exempt
My voice comes out of my mouth, but it is distant and external and removed
And when I silence my own voice
I hear G-d's voice
I want that my mind be white like the cloth of a Shabbat table
And the types of dirt that I have placed on it
May they be like crumbs
And may G-d lean down and gently blow them right off the surface
And the wine that has spilled on it now and then
May G-d wipe it with His bleach and remove the stains
Then may my head be clean, and then my eyes too
And may they turn away from unclean images
It is what you put in that is what you get out
Get the most out of life
Pure in, pure out
And then the whole world will be pure
May my colored eyes turn to the Transparent Source
Whom has no color and whose teachings have no color
And then the color of the skin is of no matter
He Who is like water
Sees clear water come out of our colored skin
Pure and clear and transparent and translucent
Watering the whole world, like His flowers
May we soak it up
Water and light and air
The photosynthesis of the soul
Solely makes one with no holes, but whole