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Friday, September 10. 2010
Just returned from the second day of Rosh Hashanah services. We search within ourselves for error, correct it, and develop ways to be better. As the Jewish new year begins, the Torah reading for today is Bereshit Bara Elohim: “In the beginning G-d created…”
A millenia ago, Biblical and Talmudic scholar Rashi wrote a homily in which bereshit could be rendered bishvil reyshit, “For the sake of beginning did G-d create the world.” The point is that we’ve been given our start, and then what we do with ourselves is in our power. Another famous Jewish Rabbi, Joseph Soloveitchik, wrote, “The most fundamental principle of all is that man must create himself.”
My Rabbi, then, passed out this quote from Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech: “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
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...so there is the universe, and every individual will decide for his or herself whether it has meaning or not. If you choose that it does, then it does, because you chose it.
Because we don't choose whether or not to be in the universe, we could say free will is a myth and we live only in fate and destiny.
But because we do choose whether it has meaning or not, we have free will all the way out to the end of space and time, the two eternities between which, from birth til death, we travel.
Kind of fits with my own view of God and the Universe. I've always thought that God isn't in the business of grand gestures. When you think about it, the apocalyptic nature of the Old Testament Bible stories gives me the idea that when God does interfere in a grand way, the situation only becomes worse. In the New Testament, God becomes a little more subtle. My own view is that God does not directly interfere in His creation's lives. Instead he uses a lighter touch so that people won't be sure what, or if, He has done anything at all.
In my mind, God just shows us the way - he doesn't make us take it because we have "free will" to do as we wish.
y'all are doing serious damage to the idea of a sovereign creator... but then, prideful humans have always done that, from Adam on down to our scholars, scientists, philosphers, priests, and rabbis.
I often think that God didn't give us "free will" so much as He gave us "enough rope to hang ourselves".
i was seeing what i wrote as being below the level of the Creator --just a thought on an earthly vision. didn't mean to offend. But yes we all must watch that pride thing --even in judging others on that fallen condition, i think --
Goodness, rabbis are as transparent and as silly in their desire to be hip as pastors are. This is the stuff that can make you clench your jaw in church and wonder if others are feeling the same (in my experience, about 50% of them are).
Dear Mr. Kessler:
When, if ever, do the leaders of your community apologize to the innocent victims of your community's mistakes?
I am not speaking here about the state of Israel--you know that I am speaking about the power of the community's "NETWORK".
When do you make amends to the innocent victims that have been criminalized?
I'm not sure what you are talking about, but I'll take a guess.
If by "Network" you mean or infer that Jews are a monolithic community in contact with each other for common goals, esp. specific political ones, then that boogaboo sounds like the old "conspiracy" accusations. We're politically and socially diverse, often at battle or disagreement with each other.
If you mean something smaller than all-encompassing, just some segment, then that's not the "community", to use your word, but some individuals.
Members of other religions could be IDd in similar sub-groupings.
And what "amends to the innocent victims that have been criminalized" in your words?
A BIG Huh? to your question.
Oh dear God Buddy--sometimes you do us all real proud! Thank you for jerking up on the reins and giving me the head to reason on my own !
Thanks, AP. i was just noodling with that timeless eulogy Broken Trails that robert Duvall (as Prentice Ritter) gave at his friend the Chinese woman's graveside:
We're all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth 'til death. We travel between the eternities.
Miss facultywife, please ma'm, don't do that. The financial crash was ecumical. There happened to be some prominent Jewish names atop some of the offending financial houses but there'd be Irish names in a police scandal, black names in an inner-city scam, Italian names in a mafia bust, and so forth. Jews get especially scapegoated somehow --if there's 100 communists in a room and 3 of them are jewish, it'll be a roomful of jewish communists every time --a cognitive cul-de-sac, seldom examined.
In fact the only people who never seem to stand out in these things is us scandinavians --either we're better at staying out of trouble, or --because we can't work with others --we won't be the marquee names atop organizations.
We will instead be located in the rural plains, sitting out the barn muttering to the livestock. "Yah, Daisy, you good milk cow, you betcha, and Spot, you good dog, you betcha," we will drone and drone, red-eyed drunk, fondling a shotgun and squinting out a filthy window into the low winter sun, praying Spring comes early.
Wasn't Rowling in turn putting her twist on John Lennon's "imagine there's no heaven, and no religion too"?
If one is to believe in God and the manner of creation, I am one who thinks that, while he certainly did "create" the universe(s), it may not exactly be the way we think.
Given that this is still a work in progress, Garrett Lisi's "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" is probably the one theory in physics that just might describe the mind of God and creation. While Dr. Lisi is not a "believer", the theory combining quantum and Einsteinian/Newtonian physics may unintentionally give proof to the existance of G-d and the hand behind creation.
In my own tortured and admittedly strange logic train, this fits the Rowling quote quite nicely. We find it hard to understand the nature of "free will" and G-d and the other issues surrounding belief, but with Dr. Lisi's work, we may be able to understand how G-d did it. :>)
"We do not need magic to change the world" indeed - just another level of understanding, patience and time.
We start the annual Torah-reading cycle anew on the last day of this month's festivities - on Simhat Torah, the last day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
... my guess is that your synagogue rejiggered the liturgy to give a nice symbolic moment to the assimilated American Jews who shortchange themselves the joyous week-long holiday, and only show up for the grueling, breastbeating "Days of Awe" that come before.
The classical sequence is:
Jewish New Year - return to ONE's SELF: After a year of straying from the core truth, re-establishing one's status as a child of G-d, and G-d as "Our Father, our King" - in the words of the most well-known prayer for this time of year. The liturgy only hints at repentance, mostly focused on G-d as King and Father.
Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement - Return to G-d: After re-establishing our inherent value as souls in G-d's image, and reflecting on our personal/family/communal/universal goals, we ask forgiveness for our shortcomings, and for the MISPERCEPTIONS that led us to ignore/betray our true, best selves. The day of ultimate purification - the one day year when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
Sukkot - Tabernacles: with our new clarity and G-d's forgiving grace, we start anew to live joyously before our loving Father, gathering strength for the coming year. The simple huts recall the faith of our ancestors in the desert, and remind us that we already have all we need.
On this holiday a series of 70 sacrifices were brought in the Temple, symbolizing the 70 nations of the world.
Simhat Torah - rejoicing with the Torah: on the last day of Sukkot we restart our annual reading of the 5 Books of Moses.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
In Israel, this sequence comes just as the dry, hot season wanes, and the first dews and rains of the agricultural cycle begin. This is the exact opposite of the experience in temperate climates - where these holidays unfortunately are overlaid with elegiac, autumnal regret.
BTW, I recently learned that leaving God's name incomplete by spelling it G-d is not actually necessary. I cannot locate where I read it at the time - I still think Volokh's though I can't find it - but the rather credible Jewish author made reference to a rabbi-professor at Yeshiva University who would write out "God" on the board on the first day of class specifically to drive the point home.
You read that in an anecdote that Doc Merc wrote. However, it is not strictly correct. Traditionally, and particularly in the Orthodox tradition in which I was raised, G-d is correct.
As a general rule of thumb, practicing Jews do not write the name God because of the laws delivered by Moses which are found in Deuteronomy 12:3-12:4. In this passage, the Jews are instructed to destroy anything and everything associated with their rival’s gods, and they are not to let this happen to their own God. Writing G-d instead of God is one way to prevent others from destroying the name of God.
Jews interpret the law given by Moses as a prohibition against transcribing the name of God, because they feel that if God is recorded onto a piece of paper, there is the possibility that the name will be disrespected or destroyed in some way. The general concern with writing G-d in its true form is that it might be erased, defaced by being crossed out or scribbled upon, torn, thrown in the trash, or ravaged in some other way. Writing G-d instead of God communicates the writer’s idea effectively, but since G-d is incomplete, there is no risk of defacement. The Jews have other names for their creator besides G-d, including Hashem, YHVH, Elohim, and El Shaddai, which are also not written in their complete form.
There are, however, exceptions to the prohibition of writing God rather than G-d. The Jews believe that on occasion, it is acceptable to write God when there is no likelihood that the written word will be defaced. This includes the written form of God in the Torah, which is the Hebrew Bible, also found in the first five books of the Christian Bible. Writing the name of God is not prohibited when it is done carefully, with foresight and respect.
Due to the advent of technology, namely computers, which were obviously not around when this law was written, The Jewish community under careful deliberation has decided that it is acceptable to write the name of G-d on a computer as long as it is not printed to a permanent form. Rabbis have decided that deleting the name G-d on a computer, though not encouraged, is not in violation of the commandment not to write the name of G-d.