Thursday, December 13, 2007

One day God will bring that injustice to an end
It will be at the time of comprehension
At the end of apprehension’s time
Greater than the yoke of history is the light of truth, which removes my bounds
And how much greater yet is our Only King?
Holy King?
When the kingdoms of falsehood fall
Erected in their place will be the altar of truth
On which no men die for “you shall live by them and not die by them”
Bricks of lie cannot support any a structure
The mortar of truth will comprise the eternal edifice
The skins of inauthenticity will gush peace’s water when they rupture
Then the ingenuine will evacuate the premises
He will make metamorphose truth out of culture
And we will stand glaring down from atop the precipice
The shells will fall down and rest in front of the vultures
Who will come and consume all of the vacant emptiness
The Place will have brought us to our eternal juncture
And joy will fill up the passageways in each and every residence

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Do You Know What Channukah Is?




An excerpt from the writings of Rabbi Samson Hirsch, of blessed memory:

Pages 200-201
- Chanukah represents the clash of two doctrines, two views, two civilizations, capable of molding, training and educating those who until this very day compete for the mastery of the world. Hellenism and Judaism: These are the two forces whose effect upon the nations mark the historical development of mankind, and which surfaced in Judea for the first time in the days of Mattathias. Hellenism and Judaism: when examined in depth they are the two leading forces which today again are struggling for mastery in the Jewish world. (He wrote this in the 1800's in Germany)

There is an old prophecy, to our knowledge the oldest prophetic vision: "God will open the mind of Japhet, and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9,27). If we grasp the meaning of the prophecy, it proclaims nothing less than that God will give Japhet mastery over the minds of men (יפת* is the hiphil* of *פתה) but only Shem will build homes where God's glory will find its dwelling place on earth. Japhet blossomed into יון* - the Greeks, the Hellenistic nations, whose mastery of all that is gracious and beautiful conquered the hearts of men. Shem blossomed into עבר*, the Hebrew nation which erected homes for God, and became the foundation of God's holy Law, of right and love. Both were charged to cover the animal nakedness of mankind, and were called upon to elevate man to rise in the image of God. Both were charged with educating Ham who personifies sensuality. Ham had seen his father's nakedness and told his brothers about it. Shem and Japhet took the cloth and, walking backwards, covered their father's nakedness. The prophet accompanies this scene with these significant words: "Blessed be the God of Shem, may Canaan (Ham's son) become his servant. God will open the mind of Japhet but will dwell in the tents of Shem. And may Canaan be a servant to them" (Genesis 9,26-27). The history of the world to this day is a fulfillment of these prophetic words. On the stage of history only two elements have appeared to dominate man's intellectual development and actions: Hellenism - the blossoming of the spirit of Japhet, which found expression in Greek culture, and Judaism - the spirit of Godly teaching lived and fulfilled by Israel.

It appears, however, that only the blessing, the victory and the fulfillment of the perception of God as proclaimed by Shem would prevail. The domination of minds by Japhetic culture would only be the groundwork for the houses of men into which the God portrayed by Shem would move and find his place on earth. At first minds would be receptive to Japhetic culture and then Shem's God will enter into the tents of man. While all others are subdued by Japhet, Shem will overcome Japhet.

(This paragraph is directly relevant for Christianity)

Page 207 - Japhetic culture offers man his own pleasure, his own sense of grace and beauty as the motive and measure for his own perfection; but it also leaves him subject to human shortcomings and weaknesses, errors, and delusions. The opposite delusive belief [Christianity] denies the possibility of man's ennoblement ["original sin"] and robs life on earth of all justification and happiness. The Law of the God of Shem, however, establishes God's will as the motive and measure of man's ennoblement. It teaches him what is pure and impure, refined and unrefined, holy and profane, that which pleases God and that which displeases Him. It demonstrates to man the boundary between freedom and servitude, shows him where freedom ends and subjugation begins in the spiritual-material, divine-earthly human being, and admonishes him: for the sake of your God be pure, be holy; for the sake of your God take hold of your life and dedicate and sanctify all of your earthly existence; ban all that is impure, unclean, unholy, contrary to freedom, displeasing to God, unworthy of man in the context of his spiritual and physical life, so that your surroundings be holy and pleasing to God, that God will dwell with you and accompany you, bless you and grant you good fortune, and that He shall not see in your the animal nakedness that is displeasing to God and unworthy of man, and abandon you. ונמשמרתה בכל דבר רע-כי ה' אלקיך מתהלך בקרב מחנך...והיה מחניך קדוש ולא יראה בך ער ותת (דבר ושב מאחריך (Deut. 23, 10,15)

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· יפת Yafet
· Hiphil – a Hebrew grammatical form
· פתה Fetah – an opening
· יון Yavan – Japhet’s grandson, forerunner of Greek people and religion; Hebrew word for “Greece.”
· עבר Ever – Shem’s great grandson, Abraham’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather and teacher.


Excellent genealogical chart from www.timelessmyths.com (click on picture to enlarge)

Friday, June 29, 2007

My friend Tom wrote this. It's quite cutting edge and he's not worried about saying what's on his mind.


The following is what I would say if given the opportunity to give a speech at an AIPAC conference, and the hypothetical response. Though this is a hypothetical situation, I believe the reactions in real life would be quite similar, and for those of you who disagree, I ask you to consider just how honest with yourself you are being...

..............................................................................................

Shalom, hello. I would like to start by doing a little social experiment if everyone would let me. How many in the crowd here are Christians? Please raise your hand. That's a fair amount, thank you. And how many of you believe in G-d? (The same amount of hands are in the air) Now, of you who have your hands up, please keep them up if you believe the Jews are a chosen people and they and Israel will have a role to play in the end of times (roughly the same amount of keep their hands up). Thank you, you can put your hands down. Now, how many people in the crowd are Jewish, please put your hands up (the majority of the people raise their hand). Ok, of those of you who have your hand up, please keep it up if you believe in G-d (a fair amount, though a minority, of the hands go down). Thank you for your honesty, don't worry I won't tell your local rabbi. Now please keep your hand up if you keep kosher or observe the Sabbath, otherwise put it down (about half or more of the hands drop, though many of those who keep their hands up drive on the Sabbath or keep "kosher style" or keep kosher at home but eat non-kosher food when they go out). Ok of those of you with your hands still up, please put them down unless 1) you are a man who tries to wrap tefillin every day or doesn't own a pair but would if he did, or 2) you are a woman who goes to the mikveh or plans to once you get married (almost ever single hand goes down). Thank you.

It goes without saying that Israel is important to everyone in this room. We've all devoted time, money and or energy to defending and supporting it or support those who do. We all want to see Israel fare well and succeed. It would make sense that to achieve this goal we would want to work in the most efficient way possible, as one would with any goal. In America we live by the mantra, work smart not hard. To work hard on something in an inefficient way is not only working too hard, but also an actual loss as it is a mismanagement of opportunity cost.

How many of you would go through the effort of building a car, and not bother to put the engine in it? Not a single one I'm sure. Yet my friends, specifically my Jewish friends, we need to do some soul searching because this is exactly what AIPAC has been doing. Why is this? Because it is an origination, primarily of Jews, fighting for Israel, yet lacking faith to back it up. It appeals to every politician and leader far and wide to support Israel yet fails to appeal to the leader of the entire world, G-d, for the same (at this point a disproportionate amount of people start yawning and or step outside to go to the bathroom or check their voice messages).

AIPAC is a lobbyist organization. It works hard for a good cause, and it is indeed important in a democracy such as the United States to have such lobby groups for such good causes. Yet would we depend solely on lobbying as if it would be our savior? In pre-war Germany the Jewish citizens were leading the pack in all aspects of society- medicine, the arts, science, literature, you name it. It would have been the simplest thing in the world for a lobbyist to argue on a logical basis why the Jews were good for Germany, yet that wouldn’t have convinced that powers that be. Today we use the same approach, though instead of it being that the Jews are top notch citizens of the state, we claim that the Jewish state is the top notch citizen of the world. We cite its (debatable) status as a democracy, the only one in the Middle East. We cite its championing of human rights. We cite its inventions that lead the way in the fields of medicine and high tech. We cite its innovations in preventing terrorism and their contributions to our own fight against Islamic Extremism. Do not get me wrong, these are all wonderful things, but is this all to say that if Israel wasn’t the only democracy in the Middle East, and was only moderate with human rights, and didn’t come up with any great inventions, and didn’t contribute greatly to the fight against Islamic radicals, then Israel wouldn’t deserve to be supported and defended?

Israel is the land of the bible, yet too often the only people who seem to care about this, at least enough to vocalize it, are the Christians. Jews, the very people of the bible to which Israel was designated, continually fail to make this the centerpiece of their argument in supporting Israel, often searching for any reason BUT the bible to be used. And it is no surprise… just look at the outcome of our social experiment dealing with observance levels shortly ago. To say that Israel is the land of the Jews and deserves to exist, be supported and defended as such is to contend that the bible is right, and if one wants to say that the parts of the bible referring to that are right, one would logically have to assume that the other parts might be correct as well. This would be a big problem for many of us Jews who don’t live exactly as the bible would suggest we do, or don’t do so nearly enough. It’s understandable, the bible is nice and all but following it causes for many inconveniences. It’s one thing to ask your average Jewish supporter of Israel to write a check or even fire off an email to their congressman. But to expect them to put down that delicious hamburger in order to help Israel?!? People! Let’s not get too carried away here!

This is not such a new idea, in fact it’s thousands of years old. To quote Psalm 81 G-d says, “But My people did not heed my voice; Israel did not desire Me. So I let them follow their heart’s fantasies, that they might follow their own counsels. If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways. In an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors I would turn My hand. Those who hate Hashem would lie to him; but their time would be forever. And He would feed him with the cream of the wheat, and from a rock I would sate you with honey.” Ladies and gentleman, I think we would all like to see the foes of Israel be subdued. I think we would like the hand of G-d to be turned against the tormentors of Israel. I think we would all like to see Israel sated with honey. I know I certainly would, and I hope that you all would as well. Yet what do we do? We do not heed G-d’s voice and instead we follow our own counsels. What greater counsel, if any, do the American Zionists of today follow more than this counsel, the ultimate orgy of pro-Israel feel-goodedness?

AIPAC was named the second most powerful lobbying organization in the country by Fortune Magazine in 1997 and by the National Journal in 2005. Yet for such fearsome lobbying might, how has it failed to convince a single American president to date to sign into law congress’s desire to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the true capital in Jerusalem? How come it has failed to secure the freedom of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who has spent the last 22 years of his life rotting away in prison for spying for Israel, sending the Jewish state information on its enemies that was of no harm to America, and had actually been promised to Israel but had been failed to be delivered through the proper channels. The average sentence for the crime Pollard has committed is 2-4 years, yet he was punished with a life sentence in solitary confinement, spending his days cleaning toilets so that he isn’t forced to violate the Sabbath and work on it. Indeed, a search on the AIPAC website for the name “Jonathan Pollard” or even simply “Pollard” turns up no results, though if you misspell it by using only one letter “L” then it politely asks you, “did you mean Poland?”

During my junior year of college I participated in an AIPAC student leadership trip to Jerusalem where they flicked us around the city having us listen to the best and the brightest of Israeli and American politicians, bureaucrats, and political thinkers, all of whom were continuously brainwashing us into believing that disengagement from Gaza the previous summer was a resounding success and seemed to suggest that any who disagreed were right wing extremists or religious fanatics. The full implications of the disengagement hadn’t even begun to present themselves yet so these arrogant fools were able to smile while they sold us their smug lies. Yet a little more time would show that Hamas won the election, sparking a civil war that resulted in them taking power in Gaza. The citizens of the Gush Katif area, which had by years of blood sweat and tears created beautiful homes for themselves and a vibrant economy, were forced into long term living in what was meant to be short term housing. Much of the money they were paid as compensation for their lost homes has been spent on repairs on the shoddy temporary housing they are forced to cope with. 20 months after being taken from lives where joblessness was virtually unknown, unemployment jumped to 37%. Many people have been forced to continue to pay mortgages on homes that don’t even exist anymore. Yet a search on AIPAC’s website of the words “Gush Katif?” You’d have as much luck as searching for Jonathan Pollard.

One of the biggest problems with this organization people fail to see, though it is blatantly clear if one has rudimentary knowledge of how these things work, is that AIPAC is never truly free to serve Israel’s interests because it is not independent to do so. It is simply part of a three point circle that forms a continuous feedback loop. AIPAC lobbies the American government to support Israel. The issues AIPAC chooses and where it stands on these issues is based on the current policy of the Israeli government. The Israeli government is run mostly by corrupt politicians who rather than do the will of the people, take orders from the American government via the State Department in order to cling to their positions of power.

So I suggest you all gathered here, especially those of the Jewish persuasion to take into consideration what I’m saying, think about what really matters and what’s really effective. Put down those cheeseburgers and stop kidding yourselves.

...............................................................................................

…If having made it successfully through the entire speech without having my mic shut off or being kindly escorted off stage, most people would simply wait foaming at the mouth to hear some politician up for reelection make promises and pledges of support to Israel, whether empty or not, in exchange for votes. The speech would receive zero coverage and the masses would give it little consideration while wolfing down their delicious cheeseburgers later that night fantasizing about whoring themselves out to any politician or person of power that spent the breath to say, “Israel is ok by me I guess.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

1) Exodus 20:3-6 (First Commandment)

"You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any lineness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostrate yourself to them not worship them for I am Hashem, your G-d, Who visits the sin of fathers upon children to the third and fourth generations, for My enemies; but Who shows kindness for thousands [of generations] to those wh love Me and observe My commandments."

2) Exodus 34:5-7

"Hashem descended in a cloud and stood with him (Moses) there, and He called out with the Name Hashem. Hashem passed before him and proclaimed: 'Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses' -- but does not cleanse completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."

3) Leviticus 23:27-28 (Yom Kippur)

You shall not do any work on this very day, for it is the Day of Atonement to provide you atonement before Hashem, your G-d.

4) Deuteronomy 7:9 (Before entering Israel)

"You must know that Hashem, your G-d -- He is the G-d, the faithful G-d, Who safeguards the covenant and the kindness for those who love Him and for those who observe His commandments, for a thousand generations."

5) Ezekiel 18:21-23

"As for the wicked man, if he repents from all his sind that he committed, and he observes all My decrees and practices justices and righteousness, he shall surely live, h shall not die. All his transgressions that he committed will not be remembered against him; he shall live because of the righteousness that he did. DO I desire at all the death of the wicked man? -- the word of the L-rd Hashem/Elokim. Is it not rather his return from his ways that he might live?"

6) Ezekiel 18:31

"Cast off from upon yourselves all your transgressions through which you have transgressed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit."

7) Psalms 32:1

"By David, a wise man. Praiseworthy is one who transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered over."

8) Ecclesiastes 10:4

"If the anger of a ruler [i.e., the evil inclination in each person] will get the upper hand [nevertheless:] do not abandon your position..." (Talmud, "He who wants to purify himself, will be helped.") (citation from Our Life's Aim by Naftali Hoffner)

9) Chronicles II 33:10-13

"Hashem spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they did not listen. So Hashem brought against them the officers of the king of Assyria's army, and they captured Manasseh with hunting hooks, bound him in chains and led him off to Babylonia. But in his distress he beseeched Hashem, His G-d, and he humbled himself greatly before the G-d of his fathers. He prayed to Him, and He was entreated by him and heard his supplication, and He returned him to Jerusalem, to his kingship."


10) Lamentations 3:40 (Written by the Prophet Jeremiah in response to the destruction of the Second Temple)

"Let us search our ways and return to Hashem." (57-58: "You always drew near on the day I would You; You said, "Fear not!" You always championed my cause, O L-rd, You redeemed my life.")

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

___


A Jew who wears a cross on his neck and calls himself a Christian
I look at him and all I see is
Don Quijote
With his private Sancho Panza Jesus
Chasing false windmills
Help him look in the mirror and shatter his illusions

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On striving for a better world... -

Category: Does G-d Exist?,

It cannot be natural that the human race suffers as much as it does. It cannot be a function of biology that the human world is full of injustice and resentment. Are there any other forms of life on this earth who bask in the joy of love or who recoil at the bitterness of mistreatment? Are there any other forms of life on this earth that recognize good and evil, and truth and false? Are there any other forms of life that have moral compasses? Plants, ants, dolphins, chimpanzees?

Absolutely not, the drive that human beings have to improve is a unique drive. But not only that, the innate desire to improve life is a strong implication that we feel that suffering is unnatural. But if we feel that suffering is unnatural, it's an even stronger indication that we feel that the joy of equality and justice are actually natural states. If that is true, then it would be very, very hard to accept a view that we are mere biological forms of life, for from where does a form of life ruled by biology get the impression that equality is natural? Our bodies are bound by the dictates of nature and erosion and yet our souls visualize a more complete world.

Our current paradigms of evolution tell us that death and survival of the fittest are natural functions of living things, but when we see those things, we register them as faults of the species; how can that be? Further, how can we have such a natural drive for equality if we have never experienced it? How are our minds able to conceptualize and imagine the concept of equality if we have never been through it? It's usually true that a person cannot imagine something without first having experienced something similar to it. Yet the human drive for equality is a strong suggestion that, somehow, humanity has experienced equality before and therefore the desire for it is implanted deep within the human conscious. Yet if we fumble backwards through the pages of history, we find no equality. The Torah tells us in a rather puzzling fashion that there was a time in the history of the earth where humanity experienced complete equality, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. If we assume that the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is just a story designed to explain existence, not very different from other creation accounts, how can we explain our yearning for equality as if it is something that we have lost? Is it really possible that some clever individual created the Garden of Eden story in order to explain the almost physical drive that we have for equality? If that's true, it's easy to imagine that there would be tons of other creation stories with similar philosophical messages, and they would make up the backbones of other societies. If it's possible that somebody invented the story, we still grapple with the question of "why do we want equality?"

Most things have a cause, but we do not know what has caused the level of consciousness we posses to call ourselves human and to realize that we are different from the animals. All of this throws a wrench into the belief that we are mere biological forms of life, and presents strong empirical evidence that a closer-to-perfect existence is indeed our natural state. Further, we are bothered when we do something wrong and are unhappy with ourselves. On the flip side, it also points to the existence of G-d, Who is Perfect, and created humanity with perfection. Therefore, our desire for perfection is not an illusion, it is a desire to return to the present state that we once experienced. It makes the story of Adam and Eve very believable, and to offer a radical concept, perhaps it is true.
Please, comments and criticisms are welcome.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Why Do We Need Religion if there is G-d?

What is G-d and what is religion? Without even trying to answer this question, it's clear that G-d and religion are not synonyms, for there are many religions, and we if operate under the assumption that there is only G-d, then religion and G-d can't be the same thing.

The direction of this relatively short essay will lead us away from the practical aspects of religion, such as particular beliefs, practices, etc., and will attempt to deal with some of the "basics" or universal and transcendent aspects of G-d. In other words, there are aspects of G-d that have nothing to do with the religion you practice and have everything to do with the fact that you believe in G-d. Later on in the essay, the direction will steer back to the particulars and finite aspects of religion, Judaism and Christianity in this case, and how G-d's essential nature is related to those religions.

Josh Greenberger, author of "Human Intelligence Gone Ape," postulates about the origin of the universe that, "It's almost as if there was no way for our universe to have come into existence." To summarize Greenberger's line of reasoning, if we try to pinpoint the first moments of our universe's existence by asking "what was before us, and what was before that, and what was before that?," a relatively common philosophical question, we either have to conclude that there was a first thing of which before there was nothing, or we have to say that there was no beginning and that existence is (and has always been) infinite. In other words, a child may ask, "Who are my parents? Who are thir parents? Who are their parents?" A child can ask this over and over again until reaching the first humans. You can ask the same question with regards to everything and eventually the search would trace back to the first thing in existence. The pursuits of science are also in love with this question, and so science ends up dealing with the possibility that the universe has an unexplained beginning from something before it, or that there was an actual point in time in which the universe came into existence from nothing.

However, the structures that science accepts to be true, many of them found through investigation of the universe, demand that each thing was created through the process of something else. For example, an orange came from a tree, the tree came from a seed, the seed came from organic matter, the organic matter came from... you get the point.

Science has a hard time answering how every single thing has a previous cause running forever backwards into eternity, for it is not capable of answering from material itself came. It also grapples with the question as to how something can come into existence when just before it there was nothing.

For example, the fields of science that investigate the origin of our universe (astronomy, astrophysics, quantum physics, chemistry, etc...) for the most part accept the occurrence of the Big Bang, a huge explosion of matter at the beginning of time, creating time itself, in which the entire materials of the present universe were flung out from one spot. Science is a noble pursuit, I truly do believe, and it fascinates me, but the Big Bang is an unproven theory. It's also as far back "chronologically" as science can go in explaining our origins. If that is true, the first possibility is that the giant sphere of material that eventually exploded was always there, but if it was always there, it means that something must have caused for it to physically exist. The other possibility is that it did not exist and then it existed; these are questions with which science, studying physical forces, grapples. As of yet, there are no tight scientific answers to these questions, only theories. That in and of itself is not bad, for the pursuit of knowledge is noble and necessary, but perhaps we are close to realizing that science studies forces that challenge our assumptions about the nature of just what exactly is physical.

The other entertained possibility is that there was nothing and then there was something. According to Greenberger, there is a theory (which is not so popular) stating that spontaneous creation is responsible for the creation of the universe, that indeed, from a scientific standpoint, the universe came from nothing.

According to Greenberger, "this notion is supported by the claim that sub-atomic particles have been observed appearing from nowhere." (91) However, Greenberger sites two problems with this theory, a) it's possible that the machine was simply not able to perceive things that were actually there, so when it suddenly perceived them, you came to the conclusion that there must have been nothing there before, and b) the "concept of nothing implies complete and total nonexistence, no energy, no matter, no gravity waves, no magnetic fields, absolutely devoid of any substance whatsoever. Such a state would have no force, drive, 'motivation,' or power to produce anything." (91) Therefore, an experiment showing that something appeared from nothing actually shows that there was something there, just that it was not (yet) perceivable.

Without mixing science and theology with each other, if we ponder on these scientific issues (of an infinite universe or of a universe that came from nothing), we come to a realization that perhaps the universe has no physical origins, and that's what Greenberger means when he says, "It's almost as if there was no way for our universe to have come into existence." The existence of G-d, then, would be a valid (scientific) theory postulating the origin of the universe, for it's at least a plausible explanation for the existence of the universe that answers some of the scientific qualms. "And it's this very fact that should move the concept of G-d away from the domain of philosophy and more toward reality. After such mind boggling concepts as black holes, exploding universes, anti matter, elusive subatomic particles, warped time, and curved space, G-d should hardly seem all that philosophical." (86) The existence of these "phenomena, as speculative as they are, are given a status of legitimacy"; why does science not allow for the thought that perhaps the universe has a non-physical origin? (85) It's not really that unscientific, and it is definitely not unscientific to consider it.

I have to quote from Greenberger here, because he is a bit more eloquent than me:

"Well, maybe that's the answer -- there was no physical way for our universe to have come into existence. The laws of nature, giving every indication that our entire universe is comprised of elements of finite potential, point in the direction of something of an infinite nature as the source of our physical universe. This source may not necessarily be easy to comprehend. Nevertheless, in light of the impossibility of sources to which we can relate on a physical level, this source, as incomprehensible as it may seem, must be the only rational explanation, our universe must have come into existence through 'something' which did not itself have to come from anywhere. Whats more, this is not the 'best' or the 'most probable explanation,' this appears to be the only truly plausible explanation; the being which created our universe must be a being of eternity. For without this, we are left with explanations which cannot be verified or substantiated by science or logic." (88)


Up to this point, we have only been talking about the scientific reality that whatever created the universe is likely infinite.


Getting into the Theological Mechanics


At this point in time, the essay will take a slight turn. I started off by attempting to explore some of the basics of G-d, which have nothing to do with the particulars of any religion and yet seem to be related to all of them - now I'll talk a bit about how G-d's Essential Nature as Creator of the universe is related to the particulars of religion (Judaism and Christianity in this case).

Judaism and Christianity believe that G-d is Infinite and Infinitely Wise, being the Creator of all that is. So far, the scientific sojourn into the origins of the universe aligns with these Jewish and Christian beliefs. But when we begin getting into G-d's Essential Form, from a scientific perspective, there are certain necessary attributes that a universal Creator must have.

For example, Greenberger states, detached from theological assumptions, the necessity of this Being's Nature:


"Finally, common sense will tell you that to bring a universe such as ours into existence, this being would have to possess powers beyond our imagination and intelligence beyond our conception, and this being could not possibly be bound or limited in any way by the laws of nature which govern our universe. Then, after putting these logical deductions together, you should arrive at a startling conclusion -- the concept which is G-d." (89)


He also says:

"Just as nothing in our universe can exist without time or space, so can nothing exist without having been born, formed, created, etc. But when you talk about G-d, the concept of 'birth' is not applicable. When we talk about a Being which brought everything that exists into existence, we're obviously talking about an Ultimate Source to which we were logically led to for want of any other possible explanation. Which means that what we've actually done is reached the "end" -- there simply cannot be a source beyond this. As a result, the concepts of 'origin' and 'birth' cease to exist at this point and are only products of His Creation, and He can obviously not be bound by them. If He were bound by such things, He could not possibly be the source of all that exists; something would have to have existed before Him, and we'd be back to square one. So when we talk about G-d,we're talking about that 'Final Source,' an Original Source, or an Ultimate Existence, before Whom nothing else could possibly have existed. The concept of G-d, therefore, implies an Existence unlike any other existence; an Existence to Whom the terms 'beginning' and 'end' simply do not apply; an Existence from Whom every other existence must have originated..." (90)

Judaism and Christianity believe in the existence of the One G-d, and suffice it to say that those of them reading the information contained in this post will most likely find the basic statements about G-d to be irrefutable truths. Let us look how the aforementioned statements possibly correlate with the first commandment in the Torah. In it, G-d says that He cannot be expressed in the form of anything (Exodus 20:4-5, Exodus 20:19-20). For those who do not have Exodus handy, it says, "You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostate yourself to them nor worship them, for I am Hashem, your G-d -- a jealous G-d...," and in 19-20 He says, "'You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make [images of what is] with Me; gods of silver and gods of gold shall you not make for yourselves.'" In this commandment, G-d departs the secret of His Essence to the Jewish and Gentile nations, that He has no physical, tangible, form.

Judaism

If, scientifically speaking, as Greenberger mentioned, "...this being could not possibly be bound or limited in any way the laws of nature which govern our universe" is true, then the scientific truth of a Beginner coincides with His instructions in the first commandment. In other words, the first commandment captures and unites all that is Divinely and scientifically true about G-d, i.e., the truths that make themselves apparent in both the spiritual and the physical world. It is possible that this is the "jist" of the first commandment?

The commandment says not to "make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth." It is likely that this was a reference to making idols in animal shapes, which was a popular practice among polytheists, but the commandment, years ahead of its time, states not to make "any likeness of that which is... on the earth below." Human beings walk around on the earth below as well, and if someone were to make an idol of a human being versus that of an animal, and bowed to it, it would still be idolatry. If a person believes that Divinity can be physically imagined, or looks in a certain way, even if he makes no physical representations of Divinity (I can't imagine what those would accurately be), he has created a form for himself in his mind and has created a spiritual connection to that form; herein lies the basis of the prohibition in the first commandment.


Christianity

Jesus' having an existence bound by physicality and time violates the notion of a G-d unlimited by space and time, His creations. That Jesus was born in a certain place and at a certain time indicate that he is bound by place and time. That he has to walk in order to be in a different place means that he is bound within the world in which he walks. That he must turn his head to see what is behind him suggest that he is a finite being. Anything existing within the universe it created cannot be its creator, and so anything or anyone bound by G-d's creations cannot be G-d, Who is not limited to earth. We know the date (time) and place (space) of Jesus' birth, both of which indicate that he was a created being, but if he was a created being, he cannot be eternal, and therefore not G-d.

Therefore, anything or anyone that had a starting (or finishing) point cannot be G-d. As Greenberger stated with respect to the Nature of a Universal Creator, the "... concepts of 'origin' and 'birth' cease to exist at this point and are only products of His Creation, and He can obviously not be bound by them." This would be a violation of the first commandment.

A common response might be, "True, G-d is not limited to earth, but He chose to place that limitation upon Himself." I have heard that statement before and I can see the logic in it, but it's not that G-d can't do what He wants, because He can, but it's that the world as He created it cannot contain Him and continue to exist. Why particularly G-d created the world in such a manner is a different topic, but I'll gladly discuss it if anybody wants to. For G-d to place Himself in the world would be like using a thousand-volt battery in a one-volt appliance - the appliance (the world) would be totally incompatible with the battery (G-d) or would be destroyed. Another metaphor would be like putting a thousand pound weight onto a paper towel hoping that it wouldn't rip. Now imagine an infinitely heavy weight placed upon a finite paper towel - the two cannot meet. The only way that one could place a thousand pound weight on a paper towel would be to cut off a small enough piece of the original weight and to place it on the towel. But if one did that, then he truly did not perform the miraculous act of placing the entire weight on the towel, he just placed a small piece on it, and the small piece is not synonymous with the weight itself. Further, what is every human being on the earth other than a microcosm of G-d, a small piece of the weight, for does Genesis not say that "G-d created Man in His Image, male and female He created them?" In a matter of speaking, when G-d made Man (humanity), He placed a part of His Essence into the human body of every single person, He placed Himself in flesh.

The flesh of Jesus, i.e., his body, if taken literally to be G-d, cannot be so because it was damaged during his crucifixion and eventually ceased to function, i.e., died. If G-d made Himself flesh, the body would have been invincible. Of course, one could argue that on top of deciding to limit Himself into the form of a man, He also allowed the body which somehow encapsulated Him to be mortal. This is somewhat like creating an argument for something based on lack of evidence. For example, if I tell you that someone stole my car, you could tell me that you didn't see my car in my yard on the day it was stolen. Then I could say that I actually parked my car at my friend's house that day and that it was stolen from there. When you called my friend to validate that I had placed my car there that day, he told you that he was at the store down the street and couldn't verify it. There would be no way to verify from the information at hand that my car was indeed stolen, and indeed, it would be a bit foolish to believe that it was. Likewise, there is no evidence that Jesus was G-d, for he looked like a man, spoke like a man, acted like a man, was born like man, reacted to injury like a man, and died like any other man were he crucified. Therefore, anything or anyone that had a starting or finishing point cannot be G-d. "Just as nothing in our universe can exist without time or space, so can nothing exist without having been born, formed, created, etc," it's an indication that time and space are necessary for a thing to be created or born.

Keep in mind that it is my usage of Greenberger's statements that are theological; his are deliberately unrelated to any particular religious theology. If they seem to align, it might be because the nature of the universe as created by G-d was made in concordance with His commandments.

These are not just theological or philosophical issues, which are relegated to the realm of thought and have limited, little, or no practical application; if G-d is real, these are imminent factors in understanding Him. G-d cannot be born or die, He doesn't have human biological functions, His Voice doesn't have a particular frequency, His body doesn't have a particular height, build, or a certain swing to his walk, and His eyes don't have a certain color. These things would all be relevant if G-d exists within the realm of His Creation, by which He is unbound, yet the moment He appears within His Creation, He is bound by His Creation. Remember, in Exodus 19, G-d says, "'You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven." G-d is in heaven, not on earth, and therefore we should not imagine that He has the likeness of anything that is on earth, for that would be a violation of His True Self and a clear misunderstanding on our part.

To use a metaphor, let us imagine a computer whiz who has built a computer, created a sophisticated program to run it, invented his own software based on the program, for the computer, and created a video game with characters. Now let us imagine that he wanted to place himself into the video game that he created, among his characters. He could create a program, applicable to the design of the software, that would be able to contain him within it. For it to be able to contain him, it must be complex enough to contain him. For example, if you wanted to put yourself into a bag, it must be as big you and no smaller. However, he cannot fit his true essence onto a program that the computer can handle, for he is far more advanced than the computer. Put in another way, the computer cannot process the breadth, complexity, and sophistication of his information, and so he cannot place himself inside it. So instead of placing himself into the computer, he would create a program of himself that is on the level of the computer's sophistication and that can exist inside it and therefore he can base the information contained inside this program off of himself. However, it can never truly capture his essence in all its complexity, for the computer would not be able to handle it and it would fry its circuitry. Indeed, there is neither a program nor circuitry that would be able to handle the complexity of its maker, for if so, he would have created a creation equal to him, and if that is so, he would have duplicated, or created himself. If he duplicated himself, there would be two of him, and two things cannot be equal if one has created the other. In other words, one is the creator and the other is the created. and so having the status of creator and created makes them not equal to each other. So he would have to settle for an ultra-reduced version of himself that the computer can handle, not containing in the least all of his information, and it is this program that he places into the computer. The characters in the game interact with the character-shaped program, but since it is on their level of sophistication, it is not an equal or synonymous with its maker.

Relating this to G-d, "If He were bound by such things, He could not possibly be the source of all that exists; something would have to have existed before Him, and we'd be back to square one."

The concluding answer to the original question, "Why do we need religion if there is G-d?" is that He has aligned His Infinite Nature and Knowledge with finite particulars, specially designed in order for humans to come into closer contact with Him and to do His Will. Just what G-d's Will is also different according to Jewish and Christian theology, but another topic.

Peace, Yaniv...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Religious Jewish Music is Boring

Pardon me?! That's right, you heard right; Jewish religious music is boring.

Why, you might wonder, am I saying this. That's easy, because it's true.

I actually don't believe that, but the truth is that, at least for un-observant Jews, religious Jewish music can seen stale or dorky.

The reason is very simple, and they're actually on to something. You see, secular music is unbound, that's one of the sources of emotional, almost spiritual, power that secular music has. In fact, it can be so moving that I hesitate using the word "secular" to describe it. There is a certain type of power inherent in many of the genres of secular music because it is unconcerned with notions of avoiding particular sentiments. In other words, secular music plays on all the ranges of human emotion. The secret to its power is that it regularly accesses some of the more confounding human emotions, such as confusion, cynicism, passion, anger, lust, unhindered idealism, and depravity - the result is that music has an overwhelming effect on the listener.

Religious music, on the other hand, approaches musical expression in different manner. Jewish music, such as Shabbat niggunim (worldless tunes) and z'mirot (with words) shape their components in a much different way. The goal is to not to create energy by tapping into the raw and wild emotions of the human experience, which once they are tapped almost take on a life of their own. Rather, Jewish music reaches into the heights of what makes a person unique, the soul, and creates expressions that attempt to fuse a person to more pure parts of their being. In that, the concept of holiness is an element in Jewish religious music that is not necessarily present, at least not purposely, in secular music.

We can use a metaphor of apple juice and water, with the apple juice being emotionally charged secular music and water being holiness-oriented religious music. At first taste, apple juice is much more appealing than water (I, for one, tend to only drink water when I'm thirsty); it's sweet, it has viscosity, etc... Water, on the other hand, is tasteless and plain, there is almost no reason to drink it. But when one is thirsty, water suddenly becomes the liquid life, the only thing a sweating, over-heated person wants. And the feeling a person in such a state gets is that the water is soothing and curing his entire body of what ails him as he drinks it, and unlike apple juice, the absence of sugar does not make him more thirsty, and therefore leaves an element of completed satisfaction.

Speaking in abstract terms, niggunim and zemirot have that effect; the soul yearns for an expression that doesn't speak to his "more lowly" elements, powerful emotions that can overwhelm him and remind him of all types of things, not excluding memories that he does not seek to remember. Rather, he desires a piece of music that speaks to a part of him which might be only sporadically accessed, a piece of him that raises him above his sophisticated animal emotions, making use of them as jump pads, but ultimately connecting him to something Higher than he. In truth, access to this "holiness" of which I am writing can be very similar to an emotion, and honestly, fragments of several emotions are probably ignited during the exposure to this holiness, but they all move together in a bundle towards a higher source, as if being lifted by helium. Without this holiness, which can be spoken of abstractly as an emotion of sorts, emotions on their own tend to have a sinking effect, like oil in water. If a piece of music moves a person to unbridled passion, but that passion dislodges hidden bits of negative emotion, such as bitterness or lacking, that music can have an aftertaste of melancholy or distress. Many pieces of music work on me in such a fashion, pieces that I have to say I like very much. And without treading on those pieces of music and the sentiment and significance they carry, the reason I like them is because they take to me places in which I have no control, and the experience of loss of control can be entirely breathtaking. This type of music is like an untrained animal; the moment it is released, it will do as it pleases. The sheer power of being a spectator to such an animal is magnificent, but the second the animal turns its attention to you, or does something against your wishes, you might be in trouble.

Music that attempts to ignite the sparks of holiness, or to awaken them from their dormant state, also implies an element of loss of control, but the movement is upwards, and goes along with the human being's natural desire to move in an ascending direction. The effect of secular music is not necessarily a downer, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that it moves one in sweeping gestures from side to side, bringing him into variantly different realms of emotion in close temporal proximity. The result is somewhat like jumping from a jacuzzi into a pool and then back again several times. It is definitely an invigorating experience, but it is exhausting. Holy music loosens the weights that hold a person in this world, his mundane emotions, and allows the natural lift to express itself, and the result is ultimately energizing, or calming, depending on the niggun or zmirah. This is not to say that this happens independent of the person, for he eventually can learn how to determine what parts of him are being accessed, and what parts he wishes to access, like a muscle, and can flex those parts. When he does that, he can be a partner, even initiate, the spiritual effect of that music. It is actually void to say that it can happen without his volition; he has to direct his mind and agree to move in an upward direction before it can occur, otherwise he is like a rock tied to a balloon. This is a bit different than raw and energetic secular music, which begins to move him in all kinds of directions the moment he begins to hear it; it speaks to his animal parts, his nefesh, his spirit. Niggunim and zemirot speak to his neshama, his soul, which wants to go up. The nefesh tends to be happy enough where it is, down here. However, as the Ramacha"l states in Cheshbon Ha-nefesh (Account of the Spirit), a person can use the sheer animalistic power to traject himself upwards, but like an animal, if he does not train it, it will overpower him and do whatever it wants with him.

The content of this powerful music also plays a grand role in determining what kind of effect it has on the listener; usually the content covers a broad range of things, which can be very entertaining to very moving. The listener, however, through his comprehension of words, taps into what the singer is trying to convey, and he will move only as high as the subject matter allows. Secular music has the ability to lift the person, but this type of secular music is few and far in between; we all have merited to hear particularly special secular songs that just play our chords like an expert violinist, and we cherish them, but they are rare diamonds that we collect. The very tune can be overwhelming, lifting us into a realm which we do not normally visit, and the order of the words and the message the singer is trying to convey, and his tone, all come together to create for an incredible song.

This is the effect of a holy song, but with a minor difference that ends up creating a larger gap. The holy song utilizes many of the same elements; tune, tone, and instrument, but the difference is in the content of the song, the ideas and messages conveyed in the song. Ultimately, since the only variable between the two types is content, the content is responsible for making the mind twirl when the words are repeated. We all know what it's like to reach a part in a song where those one or two sentences just send a dash up our spine and make our head tingle, but if the content of a song is about the wonder of G-d, let's say, very often the whole song can raise our awareness through our consciousness to higher things, and the tingles can be persistent. It seems that emotion-accessing songs and holiness-based songs are neck to neck with each other until they reach a certain point, and then the song of holiness advances ahead and leaves the other song behind. That the song is sung in a different language, even and especially a language one knows, can have this effect.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Four Juicy Questions -

(1) How does biology and evolution account for the human sense of possessing a soul? Can we say that the sense that we have a soul benefit us in some biological way, i.e., that it helps us to function or even survive?

(2) Even if the soul was a biological trait, not literally existing, how would something like an unconscious evolution have the capacity to create the internal impression that we have a soul that connects us to something larger, even though that thing does not exist? In other words, evolution would be responsible for creating a whole spiritual paradigm that exists in our head, and not only that, it would have created the illusion that we have a love for and an interaction with an "object" external to us, with which we can relate by means of our illusory soul. We can ask, since we have this "soul," how is evolution able to orchestrate such a thing? If it is, then we must conclude that evolution itself possesses outlandish intelligence and even desire to create. If so, evolution itself becomes something not very different from the theistic notion of G-d.

(3) On top of this, this paradigm in our head creates a network of our mind, emotions, and body, with our soul an element of ourselves composed of, but higher than, these three elements. Even if we don't believe we have a soul, we still sense ourselves in a very unique and intimate way; this is virtually impossible to explain biologically. The very value of life is ideologically and emotionally diminished if we try to explain humanity as a series of highly complex and sophisticated biological organisms.

(4) This is also reflected in our laws, which recognize a concept known as "morality." Approaching it from the biological angle, morality can have the effect of moderating society and therefore contributing to the perpetuation of the organism. However, morality reaches a point where it ceases to be convenient and actually places strain on the organism, to the point where it would actually be easier for a society, or societies, to "break down" and detach itself from concepts of morality. Nevertheless, humanity continues to, almost obsessively, cleave to the notion of morality, which transcends the physical and biological realities of being a human being (we want to feed every human on the planet even though it could be numerically valuable for a portion of the human race to die out each year). It is a nagging call to truth that keeps a person from stealing something when nobody is around; the affect on society is minimal, and even children, whom do not understand what society is, feel that resistance, perhaps more strongly. It is things like this, which spark the conscious, which is located in the "soul" and alerts a resistance within us against engaging in such behaviors. This mechanism causes us to perceive that we are not alone at the moment of the event

The fascinating question is how biology and evolution attest to these things.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Muslim Intellectual From Bahrain -

What are your opinions on what Dhiyya al-Musawi is saying?

28% of Israeli Arabs Deny the Holocaust -

According to a March 18, 2007 article by the Associated Press, 28% of Israeli Arabs deny the Holocaust. That’s somewhere in between one quarter and one third. Can you imagine if 28% of America’s white population denied that American blacks were oppressed and mistreated in the United States’ own history?

Based on the findings of Sami Smoocha, “a prominent sociologist at the University of Haifa,” “radicals in the Arab world believe the Holocaust to be a political event, and many feel that by denying it they are expressing opposition to Israel.”

I am a strong advocate that today’s generation of Jews should have already, and if not, then it needs to, shed some of the persistent anxieties about the Holocaust (which is different than forgetting it). But the issue remains; denying a confirmed event, which was a product of World War II and Hitler’s attempt to take over the world, has no place in the lexicon of Palestinian resistance to the State of Israel’s existence. How deep is the abyss between historical truths and reality among radical hatred in the Palestinian towns that the veracity of the entire Holocaust will be downplayed just to stick it to the Jewish State? Can the “radicals” involved really have free reign to smudge history as they please in order to recreate a new picture that they find more suitable? What about the countless other tens of millions of people, non-Jews, whom were murdered in the Holocaust; do the radicals also deny that? That Hitler also targeted Poles, Russians, Czechs, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others was as well part of the Zionist plot to take land from the Palestinians? We must grasp the mythical importance to the Palestinian story of underplaying the veracity of the Holocaust, but we also must understand how it factors into reality.

But the statistics of the poll are not pure theory; according to the study, “Among Israeli Jews, 63 percent said they avoid entering Arab towns and cities, and 68 percent fear the possibility of civil unrest among Israeli Arabs.” These are Arab towns and cities in Israel, not the dreary images of West Bank municipalities, but areas into which an unseasoned visitor to Jerusalem, Haifa, Akko, or Tel-Aviv, cities in “Israel Proper,” might accidentally stroll. These aren’t Arabs who thrust their rifles into the air, they are the people who drive Israeli buses, maintain Israeli roads, guard Israeli post-office entrances, and shop in Israeli malls and stores.

Regarding “the Lebanon incursion,” Smoocha found that “While 89 percent said they viewed the IDF's bombing of Lebanon as a war crime, only 44 percent said they saw Hizbullah's attacks on Israel as such.” It is important to understand that large populations of Israeli Arabs live in northern Israel, which is where the some 4,000 Lebanese rockets landed. Smoocha “expressed surprise” with his findings, explaining that, “One would have expected more pro-Israeli results among Israeli Arabs due to the uniqueness of the most recent war: a war with no involvement of the Palestinians, a war in which the lives and belongings of Israelis were endangered, a war against an Islamic fundamentalist group that most of them don't support.”

Israeli-Arab Member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi said that he could not explain the numbers indicating support of Hizbullah, but said that, “usually there is no empathy for the aggressor,” referring to Israel, not Lebanon. That would explain the 89%.

He also said that the Holocaust was “the worst crime ever against humanity,” against humanity, not against the Jews. Humanity didn’t need a Zionist state.

Also according to Tibi, “some of the sentiments [of Holocaust denial] might stem from ‘reservations about the way the Holocaust is used as a political tool.’”

At the end of the day, I can’t blame the Israeli Arabs; Israel is the foolish one. It is a misnomer to suggest that Israel should allow Arab Members of Knesset the freedom to say such inflammatory things against the State in which they live. It is really Israel’s fault, which should have long become aware that the Arab population tends to feel that Israel doesn’t have many rights, yet they are still afforded the practical freedom to say and do much of what they please.

Ah, but one could say, “Yaniv, Israel is a democracy.” True, but the Israeli democracy has not done or said anything to show that it is unacceptable to support policies that reject the veracity of Israel’s existence, while pressure is put on Jewish Members of Knesset to conform to particular viewpoints. If such thing curbing applies to Jews in the Knesset as part of its competitive nature, which can said to be sometimes unfair, why does it maneuver around the Arab Knesset party “United Arab List?”

In a March 20, 2007 article by the Jerusalem Post, Member of Knesset Taleb a-Sanaa, also in the United Arab List party, is quoted as saying, “The international community should positively consider boycotting Israel, which is endangering the stability of the region.” His statement refers to a group of yeshiva students who “moved into a Hebron home formerly owned by a Palestinian who claimed not to have sold them the house.” Would it be acceptable if a Jewish Member of Knesset said the same thing with regards to the same incident?

“According to Hebron Jewish community spokesman David Wilder, representatives of the community purchased the building through an office in Jordan for the sum of $700,000.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Purim Post!

I'm very, very slightly not able to tell the difference between Haman and Morchai right now, and I broke my glasses while dancing yesternight, so this post must be a bit off the wall, but it's abut my Purim and don't care to be logical, because it's hafuch hafchei (flipped arouind).

I woke up today after a nap a bit late to the Rabbi's house, where all my bachur freinds were, and I['m talking about an hour and a half. I got, fought my yexter harah for the punk that it is, got dressed, and went out the door. The Rabbi told me on the phone how to get to his house, which was only a twenty or so minute drive on a bus from where I lived. I only took oral directions, which usually ensures that I{m going to get lsot, but it was Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Supervision) the whole way and I found exactly how to get there. I went ins ide and it was a gerat night.

After a few hours there, I thini, I went out to go back to the yeshiva, and realized that since I didn't make it to my friends' house, Dan and Arielle, friends form Tucson who married each other, I decided to find theri house (which I've been to) based on teh street names they told me. I asked a coupel of people ehere the streets where and kinda of walked my around the Jerusalem "Nachlaot" neighborhood until I found something familiar. At that point, for the third time, I asked G-d if He could just show me teh way if He wanted to, and I thought about the street name I was looking for, Givon, and immediately after that, and I"m taling about like 2 seconds, literally, someone shouted, "This is Givon street?" At thast point my friend Arielle shouted "Yaniv!" and I knew I foudn the house.

We broke into dance and song for a few mintues and then walked down to some place near the neighborhood where we heard (I cidn't see becaue my glasses were off) Dag Nachash, a famous Israeli band, play. The first song they sang was "Baruch Ata Hashem" by ALpha Blondie, which I happen to know, and then we walked a little asnd I took a cab back to teh yeshiva, where I am writing this.

ANyway, Happy Purim, Yaniv...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

G-d of Space -

According to an article from Yahoo News written by Irene Klotz, "A small spacecraft en route to Pluto flew past Jupiter early on Wednesday" stopping at the home of the Giant Red Spot's moon (out of several), Europa.

Like something out of the book/movie "Contact," the religious fundamentalists, and even the secular humanists, and yes, the left-wingers, should be angry, for while the world's governments spend tons of money (I haven't done the research on how much) on space exploration, our own planet spins on with its own issues. Now, other than tickling our astronomical fancies, what good will it do humanity to find out if one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, has "strong evidence of a subterranean, salty ocean?" We have a huge yetzer harah (tempting, or evil, inclination) to see what's "in our own backyard," while we haven't dealt yet with the issues in our own home.

Ah, yes, it is the philosophical interests of the elitist few, driven by their misled atheistic evolutionist views, that pushes on this trillion-dollar sojourn into space.

Can it be their desperate hopes to find signs of life on other planets just to demonstrate an inkling of a conclusion that humans are not alone in the universe, or at least in the solar system? Were that shown to be true, such as if a mere worm colony, long frozen, was found under the surface of Mars, they could find evidence that we too evolved from squashable things.

Can it be the arrogant, terrified, egotism of the 21st century's clean-cut intergalactic mis-philanthropists that sends metal to Mars just to prove their fairy-tale logic that we are apes, at the expense of the less-endowed?

"'I'm hopeful that we will get some real clues about the surface of that ocean,' Bill McKinnon, a planetary scientist with Washington University in St. Louis said before the encounter." Of course he is, then we can see if aquatic humans are living there and ask them who their god is. And please don't tell me that we have to go to Jupiter's "European" moon to find out more about our own weather patterns - that's why we had the movie "Twister."

I say this tongue-in-cheek; it's only a short while before the Jew-haters start saying that this is part of a Zionist plot to occupy land! And then, instead of giving extra-terrestial landmarks Roman names, we can call them "Jerusalem" and "Hevron."

But there is something sinister here, to demonstrate the G-dlessness of the universe. In other words, if G-d's grave can't be found on Earth, where He is needed and desired, perhaps they can bury Him on Mars, Jupiter, Europa, Pluto. The sad and true fact is that those exotic burial spots go for a lot these days, and the MIR, sorry, mere, transportation to tug the proverbial casket through the black ocean of the skies would be outlandishly expensive, especially with an apparently unnecessary American-led war going on in Iraq. The "black gold" is blamed as the perpetrator of crime, but what about all the black space between us and the frigid and rigid rocks floating within it? Missions are cast to these planets and moons, which we essentially shape into huge interstellar idols bearing the names of Greek and Roman deities. And what we are constantly finding is that they, like those idols, are equally lifeless. What will happen to us when the extent of our hysterical chimpish paganism reaches its fingers and dollar bills into the distant barren black deserts when our own world is fertile with strife? This isn't a fanatical shout of distopia; nothing more that isn't already happening will not. It's almost funny; acting like apes just to show that we are. Isn't the evidence driven by the assumptions? If so, this is a very expensive and devastating fallacy.

Speaking of the starry-eyed, Bob Marley, to whom I used to listen to a lot, wrote a stellar objection in his song, "So Much Trouble (In the World)." It goes like this:

"Now, they're sailing on their ego trip
Blast off on their spaceship.
Million miles from reality
No care for you, no care for me."

And in another song, "One Love," he wrote:

"Let them all pass all their dirty remarks.
There is one question I'd really love to ask.
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?"

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Logical Conclusion of My Zionism -

In the near future, most likely, a certain question will come up with my cousins, whom I have seen this and last week for the first time in around six years. My two cousins, on my mother's side, have been like brothers to me and my sister since we were born, some of the first people our age we knew before leaving Israel for the States in 1986. Since I and my sister became observant around five years ago, realizing that our family in Israel was not sure of what to think about the change, the time has come for me to finally see our family in Israel after the change. Part of the reason for this post, like many, is to flush out all my ideas, many of which bubble in my mind during times when I am walking or on the bus.

My cousin always knew that I was a Zionist, years before I even fathomed a reality of myself living as an Orthodox Jew. I say with full comfort that nobody in my family knew that I would one day make such a decision, not even myself. My mom told me recently that she realized that I would become observant when I began to speak about Christianity with a degree of anger; why would a young man, around eighteen years old, speak with such fervor about the issues Christianity poses to Judaism. For several reasons the seeds of observance were planted in me, and I thank my mother, father, and my birth in the Land of Israel for basically being the reasons why I could not stay away from that path.

The main point of this post is for me to give written form for how my love of Israel and Zionism found their fullest expression in Judaism. There were several emotional factors in my choice of becoming an observant Jew, but Zionism's relation to this choice is perhaps one of the only factors that was totally tied to a faculty of logic - I saw no real way to continue holding Zionist views if I was not able to back them up with something more than the "run-of-the-mill" secular-backed explanations of Zionism's validity. For years during college I was an avid supporter of the pro-Zionist argument, and I still am, although I've developed my understanding of what it is a bit. Speaking to scores and scores of anti-Israel detractors, I was exposed to piles of ridiculous argumentation about the evils of the State of Israel. I had to strengthen my argument in order to efficiently cut through the falsities of their arguments and the result was that I learned a lot about the nature of the conflict, what was defensible, and what was not. Mind you, I am not using the word "defensible" regarding moral matters - I was and am convinced that Israel has the moral upper-hand; what I am referring to is what the world was ready to hear as valid defenses of the State of Israel, the Land of the Jews. Looking at it from my secular perspectives, which were also relatively Leftist, there were certain dead-ends in the defense of the State of Israel that I could not logically pass without contradicting my own views, the things that I demanded for myself. For example, and perhaps this is the singularly most important realization I eventually had, the nature of our claim to the Land of Israel, as strongly as surely I knew it to be true, was on equal footing with the publicized Palestinian claim to the Land, and the crazy Liberal anarchists with whom I argued knew it and exploited it. Despite that most of their arguments were emotional in nature and gave little attention to ideology that wasn't pseudo-Marxist, I began to realize that my arguments for the fundamental democratic nature of the State of Israel did nothing to provide it with any solid defense. If I was arguing for a democratic state, then I too should have been angered by Israel's declaration as being a Jewish state, for what would be the logical nature of a stance that there is a Jewish right of return, the hallmark of Zionist ideology, simultaneously "flaunting" how well Arabs had it in Israel. It was a crock, and it took me a while to see that. Democracy my elbow - Arabs on campus metaphorically gritted their teeth at me that I had the audacity to stand up there sporting a big Israeli flag telling people that Israel was a democracy when Arabs were unhappy in Israel. What kind of flaky democracy can I claim Israel to be when Arabs have limited opportunity and rights here? The answer? A democracy for Jews, not for Arabs. Israel was dancing around the middle ground of trying to appease its Arab citizens and grasp tightly on to the Zionist ideology, but this was a walking contradiction, and the supporters of Palestinians, who favored the democratic argument, exploited that strange and impossible attempt to please everybody. Even though their motives were driven by dislike, resentment, and evil, from a secular democratic paradigm, I would be forced to support a secular democratic Palestine. I knew in my heart of hearts that that was wrong, and so I had to contemplate my refurbish my understanding of the situation. What line of argumentation could I find, one which I believed to be true, for I had always been a horrible salesman of things in which I did not believe, that I could present to people?

The historical argument seemed especially strong to me; Israel rightfully belonged to the Jews because it was our cultural stronghold, defining who we were, and this transcended our long exiles and total loss of sovereignty in the Land, remaining transfixed even though as the Land lay nearly empty of Jews for long periods of time. This seems interestingly parallel to the religious argument, although I was making basically the same argument without buying into the religious ideologies. What this really shows is that the history and religion of Judaism are inseparable, but my mind was not yet ready to grab on to such an idea. That I couldn't make that particular case from a Jewish cultural standpoint points out the inherent limitations of culture in the acquisition and maintenance of land, for not only had we developed culture in other parts of the world, the culture of Israel had neutered itself of anyway to make a truth-backed defense of its own right to exist, for culture was ever-changing. The Arabs were on to this, being a deeply religious people (as the majority of Jews used to be), and this reason, along with the reason that the Jews in Israel had no genuine way to regain the justice of truth with culture as their only weapon, Israel would be forced to make concession upon concession of its Land to them. In the end, religion is stronger than culture, for religion is a moderator of values while culture just allows for values to seep out and to be replaced by new ones. There is no eternality with culture, for what rights does the Jewish cultural argument have to Israel? We can have a Jewish culture in Tucson, Arizona or New York, New York, or any other coastal city to which Jews have traditionally been drawn like moths to a lamp - why do we need Israel for that? The Israeli culture itself is deeply disconnected from its inherent right to be there, with many Israeli's not being entirely convinced or especially resolute about the Jewishness of the Land. On the other hand, the Arabs are convinced of their religious right to live in and have sovereignty over the Land - is this even a fair competition? Even if secular Israeli's do care, they are not in the right for making any solid argument if they are not prepared to a) stand up for what is theirs, or b) sacrifice some levels of personal comfort and peace of mind in order to achieve a measure of lasting happiness and security.

My mother told me a story when I was little kid. It went like this: during the year, a colony of ants had stored up large amounts of food through consistent work. When they saw the grasshopper, who was lazy, they asked him why he was not also storing food while he was able. His answer was that he would begin storing during the winter, which is when he would really need the food. As long as it was abundant, there was no reason to worry about having it. Come winter and the grasshopper began to starve. Remembering that the ants had a stockpile of food stored up from their work during the year, he asked them if he could stay with them and eat. The ants knew something and were willing to sacrifice a certain level of comfort and untroubled ease of mind in order to live in comfort at a later date. The grasshopper on the other hand, chose immediate satisfaction and the easy path, and the result is that when the hard times came, he had nothing (and his life was at risk). Many Jews are not willing to put forth the energy and to take up the cause of the future of their own country of residence and well-being, choosing immediate satisfaction over future guarantee. In this scenario, the Israeli's are the grasshopper, but the sad thing is that the Palestinians have not merited to be the ants, consistently saving up, for the lazy grasshopper is not a threat to anybody. Israeli's have withered and long since become ensconced in the attempt to have all the things that are currently being promoted as valuable all over the world, primarily the luster of American culture. But American culture will not promise Israel a future and then we will have no place to implant any culture, except for one that we will have to communicate in the Arabic tongue. Further, we are scared, and the more we ponder our situation, the more scared we become yet run around like caged "shtetl Jews," to borrow a friend's term. We act pathetically and the Palestinians smell our fear and yearn for it.

In the end, after a hefty amount of debating myself, I realized that the religious argument was the only one that held water that could not be spilled. The modern politics of democracy would ensure us nothing, not over the religion of Islam, and certainly not over the tactics of violence the Palestinians were enacting, which only served to sparkle the eyes of its victims - such is the nature of abuse, especially on a traumatized psyche; the abused always runs to the abuser. But for secular Jews to make the religious argument as a mere tactic for the defense of Israel would not only be dishonest and therefore a lie to everybody around, including the self, it would turn truth into an unbelievable mockery. Making the religious argument from a secular standpoint is like shooting deafening blanks; the Arabs would know it was a bluff and wouldn't even flinch. The key then is to believe the religious argument, but how could a Jew believe the religious argument without being sold on it, without really believing it? Therefore, we would be required to familiarize ourselves with the nature of the religious argument, in the same way we familiarized ourselves with the democratic one. Our religion holds the key to our survival, but should we become religious in order just to ensure our survival; would that not be dishonest foolishness? If religion holds the key to our survival, perhaps it deserves a measure of attention and analysis; what it is about religion that establishes one in eternality? Perhaps there is an element of truth in the religion of Judaism, and if so, independent yet related to the State of Israel, if it is truth, we should pursue it. But if we pursue it, we should pursue it for its own sake, and if survival of the State of Israel and its citizens will benefit from this truth, then it is only logical that we take steps in embracing it. Through Judaism we could have the real solidarity we Jews so desperately needed with each other, driven by love, for G-d and for ourselves, and so we would choose the religious path for its truth because truth can only yield good things. The Catch 22 however, would be that in order to make the only truly valid argument, after all arguments were exhausted and shown to be unworkable, we would have to cleave to our religion as solely a means for survival. That is, after all, the story of why we are still here. In other words, G-d has sent us a great test; only by cleaving to the truth can we survive, and this means a return to and revival of our religion, i.e.,dedication to G-d, our only support beam in the world. To lean on G-d for survival is the most honest thing a person can do.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Free Trip to Israel! -


Registration opens tomorrow morning, Thursday, February 15th at 9:00 AM EST at www.mayanotisrael.com.
What is Judaism? -

You can study the Torah and come to a score of conclusions; it's seemingly open enough and enough in certain points that you can get what you want from it. If you read the Torah for just half an hour you would understand that the connection between Judaism, Jews, the Torah, and Israel is crystal clear.

Let's start like this; Abraham is the father of the Jewish religion through his revelation by G-d. He settled in Israel vis-a-vis a commandment by G-d, upon leaving Egypt the Jews received the Torah and settled in Israel also upon a commandment from G-d. G-d commanded King David to build a permanent abode for His Presence and that was the Temple in Jerusalem, where Abraham went to bind and sacrifice Isaac. All of that is in the Torah.

Judah is one of the twelve tribes of Israel, whose original name was "Jacob." In English, from the name "Judah" we drive "Jew." As history has it, the ten northern tribes of Israel were driven from the land during the Assyrian invasion in 722 BCE and the rest during 586 BCE by the Babylonians. The tribe of Judah, the tribe from which King David is, remained intact and so the rest of the Israelites intermarried with them (which was already occuring) and gradually took on the name of Judah. This is how it came to be that the Israelites took on the name of Judah, "Jew." For example, my family traces its lineage to the tribe of Levi, but I am still a Jew; it's a nomenclature. Since we now use the word "Jew," we use it interchangably with "Israelite" and "Hebrew," and so we say that Moses and Abraham were Jews.

So who are the Jews?


The Jews are technically Israelites, but this is just a physical, biological understanding, which ultimately is irrelevant in defining a Jew, whose being is bound up in his soul. For example, is Jewish blood different than any other blood? Is there Jewish DNA? The first Jew was Abraham, a Hebrew, but that ethnicity is more-or-less lost to us today; does that matter? A Jew is charged with infusing the world with the unified knowledge of G-d through observing the commandments and teaching the world how to live G-dly lives as well. Ultimately, the genetic formation of his flesh is of no consequence - it is a physical paradigm that Judaism does not condone, nor is there any foundation for it in the Torah.

Many people have been given descriptions of Judaism that classify it as a pseudo-cultral-ethnic phenomenon; that's not what it is at all. There are Jews of all "races," and people can convert to Judaism, which would be impossible if it was not a religion. When a person converts to Judaism, it is said that his/her entire being goes through a change, including the body and the soul.

The Temple in Jerusalem, called the "Bet Hamikdash," destroyed the second time in the year 70 by the Romans, is where the animal sacrifices took place. The sacrifices were used to atone for sin. It is also the courtyard where the Jewish court took place in order to carry out legislation, such as dealing with disputes and carrying out sentences, i.e., the application of the Law. It was also the seat of the Torah-based Jewish monarchy and according to Torah belief, will be again when the Mashiach, Messiah, comes.

Judaism is a way of life totally surrounding the Will of G-d in every aspect of existence; if you want to call it a religion that would technically be accurate if you understand religion to mean a composite set of both practice and doctrine encompassing all of life, originating from G-d's Mind. Through observance of the 613 commandments, the Jews bring the world to the state that G-d desires; part of that desire is to inform the nations of the world, the Gentiles, that they too have obligations to G-d. These are encapsulated in the Seven Noachide Laws. All of these things are kept intact in Orthodox Judaism. That itself is a name (meaning "right" "thinking") that has been given to it, but that's fine, it does the job. In other words, Judaism is the Torah, which is the blueprint of existence. That is Judaism.

This is a very general and simplistic description of what Judaism is, you can find more intellectually probing perspectives in a series of good books, such as "If You Were G-d" by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a personal favorite, "To Be a Jewish Woman" by Lisa Aiken, who lives not very far from me, "The Other Side of the Story," by Yehudis Samet, and a really fascinating read, "The Science of G-d," by Gerard Schroeder.

One particularly good book on Jewish philosophy is "Path of the Just" by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (the Ramchal). A very good work called "The Thirteen Principles of Faith" is a short compendium of Torah doctrine written by the Sage Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, also known as "Maimonides" or "the Rambam."

Enjoy and have good day, Yaniv...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Third Intifada? -


JERUSALEM (AFP) - Stone-throwing youths have clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem and across the West Bank as protests flared again against Israeli building work near the holy city's most contentious site.

Muslim leaders have vowed to press on with demonstrations against the repair work near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of occupied east Jerusalem that has angered Muslims across the world.

Israel has mobilised more than 2,000 police to quash any further unrest after rioting in Jerusalem on Friday left 15 Israeli policemen and at least 20 Palestinians wounded.

Cracks have appeared within the Israeli government about whether to continue with the renovation work, which the Arab League condemned Saturday as a "criminal attack" on Islam's third-holiest site.

The prospect of further unrest loomed, with Muslim leaders warning that work near the site which Jews call the Temple Mount and is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary could trigger a third intifada, or uprising.

"We have a full programme of protests for the coming weeks in order to stop the Israeli crimes against the Al-Aqsa mosque," said the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, on Saturday.

"Continuing the work will increase the tension and anger among Palestinians and in the Arab-Islamic world," he added.

Six protesters were arrested outside the Old City's Flower Gate on Saturday and police had to rescue Canadian tourists whose bus came under attack from Palestinian stone throwers, police said.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israeli troops arrested 30 Palestinians who were hurling rocks at Rachel's Tomb, an army spokesman said.

Clashes also erupted in the flashpoint city of Hebron and at the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, where two Palestinians were wounded, according to witnesses.

Leaders of Israel's left-leaning Labour party called for the work on a stone ramp leading to the compound near Dung Gate to halt but others insisted that Muslim leaders would not dictate policy with street violence.

"There is no reason to yield the country to a handful of extremists from the Islamic movement who want to escalate the violence," Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said.

"This ramp will be built, it is a done deal, and there will not be a third intifada as a result," said Dichter, the former chief of Israel's internal security agency, Shin Beth.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, urged the Jewish state to take the "sensitivities" of others into account over the work.

And Labour leaders called for the government to stop it altogether.

"We must reconsider this issue, even if we are right from a legal and archaeological point of view," Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh said.

"We will only defeat the Islamic extremists if we have the support of the moderate ones and this is why it is necessary to act intelligently."

The renovations are scheduled to resume next week after being suspended for the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

At a meeting on Saturday, the Arab League described it as a "criminal attack" on the compound and urged the United Nations and the Middle East diplomatic Quartet to act to stop what it said was threatening efforts to revive the peace process.

Israel insists the works, expected to take months, pose no risk to the holy sites and will strengthen an access ramp for the "benefit and safety of visitors" after an earthquake and snowstorm damage in 2004.

The compound, whose fate is one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is where the second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 after a visit by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

In 1996, more than 80 people were killed in three days of Palestinian riots after then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new entrance to a controversial archaeological tunnel near the holy sites.


Yaniv's commentary:

"At a meeting on Saturday, the Arab League described it as a "criminal attack" on the compound and urged the United Nations and the Middle East diplomatic Quartet to act to stop what it said was threatening efforts to revive the peace process."

The only crime here is the perpetuation of a lie which says that the Temple Mount does not rightfully belong to the State of Israel. Israel repairing an area of land that should be rightfully internationally recognized as its own is well within the bounds of what is legal. Further, I have been at southeastern corner of the Temple Mount where the Israeli government is repairing the bulge, and it is absolutely impossible to even consider that repair of that area of land that would threaten "Arab interests," which are malevolent towards Israel anyway. To situate you, the area of land is adjacent to a public street with cars whizzing by and is near a huge valley and mountain, known as the "Mount of Olives." Just like the Palestinian Authority Minister of Communications communicated to an excited audience of Palestinians that they planned the second intifada and that Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 200o was an excuse to start it, this talk of a "third intifada" is exactly the same thing. Here's the video of that.

The Palestinians want war, the Israeli's want to repair an area of land that could possibly damage the larger infrastructure of the Temple Mount area. If the water damage continues there, according to a tour guide I know who took me and my yeshiva to that site, the entire southeastern region of the wall could collapse, and that in turn, just so the Muslims know, would likely damage the Dome of the Rock, which is located nearby.

I hope Israel stays firm to this policy:

"Leaders of Israel's left-leaning Labour party called for the work on a stone ramp leading to the compound near Dung Gate to halt but others insisted that Muslim leaders would not dictate policy with street violence.

'There is no reason to yield the country to a handful of extremists from the Islamic movement who want to escalate the violence,' Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said."

This might give you an insight into the seemingly irrational behavior of Palestinian mobs:

"In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israeli troops arrested 30 Palestinians who were hurling rocks at Rachel's Tomb, an army spokesman said."

Rachel's Tomb is a on a hill overlooking the east side of Bethlehem, I've been there, and that site too has absolutely nothing to do with anything happening in Jerusalem, except for a desire to demonstrate violence on the part of Palestinians. To tie that into another example, when Israel pulled its citizens out of Gaza more than a year and a half ago, the Palestinians, whom were formerly screaming and shouting and killing Israeli's in order to make them leave, screamed and shouted and killed more Israeli's for them to come back! I commented on that in my previous blogs about the Gaza pullout. Why did they change their mind so quickly? Because the Palestinian national identity, which is really just a euphemism for an Arabist war tactic, realizes that Israeli cooperation with Palestinian demands means that the Palestinian "government" can make no more demands. With that realization, Palestinian attacks actually escalated in order for Israel to call off the pullout, come back to reign control over them, and then to be forced into negotiations where it could be suckered into giving back even more land. In Gaza, just like at Rachel's Tomb, legal Israeli land (a bit different from Gaza, which is considered to be "occupied"), the rock-hurdling has the intent of driving Jews away. The overall goal is, wherever Palestinians are successful in driving Jews out of, that place receives a status of "contested" and then opens up to "negotiations." Please note, Bethlehem has nothing to do with Jerusalem, it's basically an arbitrary site for Palestinians to attack, other than a strategic intifada tactic, i.e., "desperate man's invasion."

"'We have a full programme of protests for the coming weeks in order to stop the Israeli crimes against the Al-Aqsa mosque,' said the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, on Saturday."

Excuse me, how exactly is Israel's repair a crime on Al-Aqsa mosque?

"The prospect of further unrest loomed, with Muslim leaders warning that work near the site which Jews call the Temple Mount and is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary could trigger a third intifada, or uprising."

It's not called the Temple Mount, it is the Temple Mount. It was the Temple Mount at least 700 hundred years before that mosque was erected. Doesn't anybody care about history?

The second paragraph said that it angered Muslims across the world! The truth is being exposed, it is Muslims, not Arabs, who feel effected by this - this is a religious conflict, not an Arab one, and it is sad that the majority of the world's Muslims feel obligated (and pressured) to support the "Palestinian cause" as if it were synonymous with the religion of Islam itself! For Heaven's sake, there are Orthodox Jews who oppose actions of the State of Israel, and a fringe group that rejects the existence of the State itself! Yet non-Arab Muslims feel it their duty to support "Palestine," an historically false entity. And of course, it's unacceptable for world Jewry to support Israel.

The only people who should be protesting are Israeli, and anyone who hates injustice.

I live twenty minutes away by bus from the site about which they are talking.