We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, December 22. 2019
Differing Chanukah Stories Still Argued--Repost from 2012 and 2014 with 2019 additions at top and end re: during Holocaust
Dec. 22, 2019: My son is in Rome, en route to Jerusalem for a course during last week of month. Jews filled a large plaza in Rome for first night Chanukah menorah lighting by Chabad, with dancing in the street after.
The earlier written narrative of the Maccabean revolt against Hellenization and outlawing Jewish worship differs in emphasis from the later “official” Jewish take on the result.
The portion of the Apocrypha (biblical era writings not included in the Jewish Bible) dealing with the events does not mention a miracle of one day’s sanctified oil for the Menorah lasting 8 days. The Book of Maccabees speaks, instead, of eight days of rejoicing the victory to substitute for the eight days of the Torah requirement to celebrate Sukkot, which were missed due to the fighting. The eight days celebration of Chanukah (i.e., rededication) became a custom for every year.
Several centuries later, in the Babylonian Talmud (finalized approx. 5th century, Common Era) interpreting Jewish law and customs, the narrative takes on a new twist, emphasis on G-d’s “miracle” of the oil, which downplays the emphasis on the accomplishment of mens’ arms to retrieve the Temple and Judaism from Hellenistic extinction.
What had happened?: The fall of the Temple and the dispersal (Diaspora) of surviving Jews. No longer having a state, Jews had to survive through craft or accommodation (different than assimilation) to the religion and politics of the states they lived within and not by emphasizing their abilities to fight, not to mention win, when persecuted.
The rise of Zionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s emphasized Jews’ ability to fight and win, and to deserve and have a state to protect Jews from thousands of years of oppression, persecution, and murder, based on thousands of years of roots, presence, worship, investment, hard work, and unceasing yearning for Israel. The more secular Zionists’ pragmatic emphasis stood in stark contrast to the more pacifist or accomodationist teachings that had dominated for almost two millennia.
Today, although a small minority within Israel still cling to illusions of a “miracle” of Palestinians and Muslims transforming their hate into peace, a larger proportion of Jews in the US and Europe – less existentially threatened – cling to such illusions. In Israel and elsewhere, Jews light the eight lights of the Menorah with the extra “helper” light, but the emphasized meaning behind the ritual differs. Adherence to G-d may have given Jews the internal strength to fight and survive, but it was not (as during the Exodus) G-d who directly intervened.
Regardless of this difference, the overriding and more important thing that unites Jews is that regardless of how to get there, either way requires faith and hope. Without faith and hope, necessary for resilience, Jews would not have had reason, cohesion or the internal strength to survive the depredations and challenges to existence of the past two-thousand years since the fall of the Temple to the Romans. Hatikva, Israel's national anthem, means The Hope.
As long as the heart within
Our hope is not yet missing,
Chanukah starts tonight. Come celebrate the miracle of endurance and survival.
The Credo, by Zionist poet Saul Tchernichovsky:
Laugh at all my silly dreams!
For the most part, Hanukkah is a minor festival, with few specific obligations about what Jews can or cannot do over these eight days. But this story of tenacity and hope took on special significance for Jewish people during the Holocaust.
s Found Ways to Mark Hanukkah
Amid the Holocaust's Horrors, Many Jews Found Ways to Mark Hanukkah
Amid the Holocaust's Horrors, Many Je
Tuesday, October 29. 2019
Friday, October 11. 2019
Like the Greeks, the Jews were prone to animal sacrifice. Human sacrifices were not unusual (see Abraham) but when animals were precious possessions, these were real sacrifices too beyond the symbolic.
Christians didn't keep Yom Kippur because Christ's death was taken as the ultimate sacrifice to cleanse all sins for confessors and believers. A final human sacrifice. However, Mother Church kept weekly confession and Lent anyway. Fortunately, because of human need. I do not get the doctrine of that.
I have a personal confessor, but a Jewish pal and his family do group confession over dinner on Yom Kippur. Even his kids and parents speak out about their dark sides and their shameful actions, and their aspirations to be more worthy of G-d. Wow.
Not in a million years can I imagine my Protestant family doing such a thing.
I read this bit: How Christianity Co-Opted Yom Kippur to Explain Jesus’ Death
I welcome any insights into all of this.
Tuesday, October 8. 2019
Each year at the start of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, I ask a question, usually how to be more constructive and helpful in my personal relationships in general or with a special person. The answer eludes me and it troubles me that I can't see the way.
As I go through the days of prayer and reflection, various alternatives come from my mind, only to be rejected as too unreal or hollow or evasive or inadequate to the need.
On Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, the longest night and day of prayer, and of a 25-hour fast, the worry that I won't find the answer gets more urgent. My fear rises of not finding the answer. As my mind gets submerged in repetitious prayers and wanders, as I get more light-headed with hunger, as the prayers of repentance get more fervent, an answer always comes late in the day, from my heart.
It's never what I thought it would be. It is complete. It is not complex, though requires more focus, discipline, understanding. It always works for the coming year.
Life is only complicated when avoiding simple truths.
The miracle brings me closer to the person I want to be. It keeps me coming back for more.
Saturday, September 7. 2019
Sunday, April 21. 2019
"Be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him." Mark 16:6
Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
The wonderful tune which brings back every Easter in one's life, and a few tears, too. Composer? Unknown. Words by Charles Wesley, 1739. The verses were written for the opening of the Wesleyan Chapel in London, in an old foundry. Hence the term Foundry Collection of hymns.
The rest of Wesley's verses of the song are on the continuation page, below.
Continue reading "Christ the Lord is Risen Today! Happy Easter"
Friday, April 19. 2019
Good Friday is a Christian day for prayer and reflection - not that every day is not.
A quote from Kevin McCullough:
Image: El Greco, 1695
Thursday, April 18. 2019
"The Last Supper" is thought to have been a Passover seder. That supper was the source of Communion: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again."
In our church, we remember this event with a group Passover supper on Maundy (Middle English, "holy") Thursday, eaten in silence. No wine, though, as a consideration to the abstinent.
Below, Bassano's Last Supper (1542), depicting the reaction to Jesus' prediction that one of them would betray him.
Sunday, April 14. 2019
Sunday, January 13. 2019
His Seven Story Mountain is a literary masterpiece, in my personal canon of must-reads before death.
Sunday, December 30. 2018
Saturday, December 29. 2018
Sunday, December 23. 2018
Interestingly, it was what was termed a "parody," that is, a recycling of his previous music which had been written for secular purposes.
If interested, here's Bach, The Master Recycler
Here are 7 minutes of it, with the Atlanta Boy's Choir and period instruments:
Sunday, December 9. 2018
It's a centuries-old complaint that Christian morality detached from its religious roots can turn into a monstrous and terrifying thing. Take utilitarianism, take angry moralizers, take witch trials, take communism, and a hundred more examples of humanist evil.
Christianity is not primarily about morals and resistance to humanity's animal nature. I think Christ was clear about that in word and deed. I think he was clear about it, and that Paul elaborated on the religious truth that transcendent blessings like those of faith, mercy, love and kindness, hope and good cheer, are consequences nurtured through interactions with God and Christ through the Holy Spirit. Not rules, but secondary effects which can bind people together through God's graciousness and His tough sort of love.
As One Cosmos often explains, earthly gravity pulls us to the x-axis, the horizontal plane, of daily life and its struggles, but there is the vertical axis, the transcendent axis, available to us and for which we were born.
It's been part of my religious "journey" (I hate that smarmy expression) to come to realize that spiritual warfare is not Good vs Bad or Evil, but the inner battle of holding highest what is most high vs. the temptation to worship false idols. "I, me, mine," etc etc. Even pride in virtue is a false idol - it is about Self Love.
"Stop that, Bird Dog! No more preaching! You ain't no eddicated Preacher!" Well, ok, but Advent is our chance to be pregnant, in a spiritual sense, with holiness, and a time to have a dramatic chance to feel reborn ourselves as naked babies. That's the story of A Christmas Carol.
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Happy Advent. Whether my theology is correct or not.
Almost forgot: this is what prompted this Advent post: Our New Religion. Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects.
Sunday, July 8. 2018
Sunday, June 17. 2018
My heart beamed Friday night as my sons welcomed the Sabbath with perfectly sung prayers. My heart broke Saturday night as my sons fought while I grilled a perfect wild-caught salmon, and I got indigestion instead of the meal I thought I deserved.
I'm reminded of the saying, "A Man's children and his garden both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season." And, the growing goes both ways as we fathers grow, have to grow -- into the men we want to be under our children's careful observation, into the men that they need.
We yearn to please but, most important, to pass on life's lessons.
Father's Day is full of platitudes and real feelings, of missed and appreciated opportunities. And, of how much we care by just being there. I'm reminded of
There's a wisecrack, "If God is so perfect, how do you explain us." As fathers, we're not perfect, but we try to find and know the ways to be better, and most of us find it. We continue to strive, and so may our children, with a higher hand to reach for and give us the strength to be better and have hope.
It's not easy being the father or the child.
Sunday, April 1. 2018
From a piece on Thomas Merton at Crosscurrents:
Saturday, March 31. 2018
From Vanderleun: Judas: A Saint for Our Season
Friday, March 30. 2018
This column confronts the anti-Israel agenda of trying to disassociate Jews from our thousands of years of roots and attachment in favor of relative newcomers, many indeed only since Israel brought relative prosperity to the formerly barren desert. Most recently, UNESCO ignored the Jewish temples on the Mount in Jerusalem -- our holiest place-- instead just referring to the site by later Arab names.
Here's the column, well worth the read, about Jews as a people and a religion, with Passover and its narrative being highlighted for its a central portion of our daily prayers, our ethic, and our unending attachment to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount-- regardless of diaspora and persecutions.
Passover, with the first Seder, begins tonight.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a member of the Institute's iEngage Project, and a contributing editor to The New Republic. His latest book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, was named the 2013 National Jewish Book Council Book of the Year. His autobiography, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, has just been released in paperback by HarperCollins.
Continue reading "Passover Answers Whether Jews Are A People Or Just A Religion"
Sunday, March 4. 2018
Beliefs that eat people alive.
I used to deny it, or rationalize it. A bit of that came from wanting to boost myself up by mentally putting down others. That is not only sinful, but a complete and futile waste of mental energy. I recommend prayer, with humor, as an approach to malignant envy. My preaching to myself this Lenten season is to confirm that Christ is my rock, not my damn self.
Saturday, February 24. 2018
Sunday, January 7. 2018
Tuesday, December 12. 2017
The miracle of Chanukah, the celebration of which begins tonight, is about more than the sacred oil lasting eight days. It is about the determination of mankind to overcome despair, to rise up in our faith, to have freedom. This meditation is appropriate:
Odetta, great folksinger and inspiration to many others ("The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta."- Bob Dylan), explains the meaning of one of her favorite songs. Listen closely. Then clap hands and sing along with her.
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