The Orthodox believe in Jewish literacy, and most of the rest of us couldn't care less. Rabbis and other creatures have a monopoly on Judaism. This is a turnoff in a world that is increasingly secular and that has turned away from religion. Jews are simply turning away from Judaism.
I like his optimism, ' I said. 'I like the way when he and some other rabbis saw a jackal in the ruins of Jerusalem, and the others began to cry, he laughed and said that just as the prophecy of the destruction of the temple was fulfilled, so the prophecy of the rebuilding would also be fulfilled. I like that.
From the Rabbis of the early Talmudic age I learned that there is never a last word on God. There's, you always continue to question. Even God himself could be questioned and you can keep arguing with one another and there will be no end to this conversation about the divine because no human expression of God can be ultimate.
According to Jewish legend, only the very wisest and very holiest rabbis had the power to make golems, animated servants of clay. Strictly speaking, the golem is not in the same class with Frankenstein's monster, because the golem is neither alive nor dead. He is, rather, the ancestor of all robots.
Elohim," the name for the creative power in Genesis, is a female plural, a fact that generations of learned rabbis and Christian theologians have all explained as merely grammatical convention. The King James and most other Bibles translate it as "God," but if you take the grammar literally, it seems to mean "goddesses." Al Shaddai, god of battles, appears later, and YHWH, mispronounced Jehovah , later still.
Robert Anton Wilson
We have revealed the Torah, wherein is guidance and light. The submissive prophets ruled the Jews according to it, so did the rabbis and the scholars, as they were required to protect Allah's Book, and were witnesses to it. So do not fear people, but fear Me. And do not sell My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule according to what Allah revealed are the unbelievers.
I persist in preferring philosophers to rabbis priests imams ayatollahs and mullahs. Rather than trust their theological hocus-pocus I prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical historiography: the laughers materialists radicals cynics hedonists atheists sensualists voluptuaries. They know that there is only one world and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely deadly sin.
(When asked merely if they accept evolution, 45 percent of Americans say yes. The figure is 70 percent in China.) When the movie Jurassic Park was shown in Israel, it was condemned by some Orthodox rabbis because it accepted evolution and because it taught that dinosaurs lived a hundred million years ago-when, as is plainly stated at every Rosh Hashonhan and every Jewish wedding ceremony, the Universe is less than 6,000 years old.
The conventional explanation for Jewish success, of course, is that Jews come from a literate, intellectual culture. They are famously "the people of the book." There is surely something to that. But it wasn't just the children of rabbis who went to law school. It was the children of garment workers. And their critical advantage in climbing the professional ladder wasn't the intellectual rigor you get from studying the Talmud. It was the practical intelligence and savvy you get from watching your father sell aprons on Hester Street.
For the Hebrews, names provided a direct link with the Creator. They understood words as being the creative fire of God, the 'black fire on white fire' of His Law. Every utterance and every act of creation through which He revealed Himself was not only word made flesh but fire made flesh. The word for 'being', yesh, 'to exist' or 'to have substance' was flame-breathed. The word for 'fire', esh, was embedded in the word for 'being' and in the very notion of 'being human'. The rabbis were said to have asked: Why is the word for 'woman', ishah? Because she is fire, esh. Why is the word for 'man', ish? Because he too is fire, esh. They noted that when the Hebrew letters for 'man' and 'woman' came together they produced a new word as part of the union: yah, a reference to Yahweh, the Name of God.
GERTRUDE Gertrude Appleman, 1901-1976 God is all-knowing, all-present, and almighty. -A Catechism of Christian Doctrine I wish that all the people who peddle God could watch my mother die: could see the skin and gristle weighing only seventy-nine, every stubborn pound of flesh a small death. I wish the people who peddle God could see her young, lovely in gardens and beautiful in kitchens, and could watch the hand of God slowly twisting her knees and fingers till they gnarled and knotted, settling in for thirty years of pain. I wish the people who peddle God could see the lightning of His cancer stabbing her, that small frame tensing at every shock, her sweet contralto scratchy with the Lord's infection: Philip, I want to die. I wish I had them gathered round, those preachers, popes, rabbis, imams, priests - every pious shill on God's payroll - and I would pull the sheets from my mother's brittle body, and they would fall on their knees at her bedside to be forgiven all their faith.
Hell, there're already too many psychologists; too many everythings. Too many engineers, too many chemists, too many doctors, too many dentists, too many sociologists. There aren't enough people who can actually do anything, really know how to make this world work. When you thing about it; when you look at the way it really is; God, we've got - well, let's say, there's 100 percent. Half of these are under eighteen or over sixty-five; that is not working. This leaves the middle fifty percent. Half of these are women; most are so busy having babies or taking care of kids, they're totally occupied. Some of them work, too, so let's say we're down to 30 percent. Ten percent are doctors or lawyers or sociologists or psychologists or dentists or businessmen or artists or writers, or schoolteachers, or priests, ministers, rabbis; none of there are actually producing anything, they're only servicing people. So now we're down to 20 percent. At least 2 or 3 percent are living on trusts or clipping coupons or are just rich. That leaves 17 percent. Seven percent of these are unemployed, mostly on purpose! So in the end we've got 10 percent producing all the food, constructing the houses, building and repairing all the roads, developing electricity, working in the mines, building cars, collecting garbage; all the dirty work, all the real work. Everybody's just looking for some gimmick so they don't have to actually do anything. And the worst part is, the ones who do the work get paid the least.
As a convinced atheist, I ought to agree with Voltaire that Judaism is not just one more religion, but in its way the root of religious evil. Without the stern, joyless rabbis and their 613 dour prohibitions, we might have avoided the whole nightmare of the Old Testament, and the brutal, crude wrenching of that into prophecy-derived Christianity, and the later plagiarism and mutation of Judaism and Christianity into the various rival forms of Islam. Much of the time, I do concur with Voltaire, but not without acknowledging that Judaism is dialectical. There is, after all, a specifically Jewish version of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, with a specifically Jewish name-the Haskalah-for itself. The term derives from the word for 'mind' or 'intellect,' and it is naturally associated with ethics rather than rituals, life rather than prohibitions, and assimilation over 'exile' or 'return.' It's everlastingly linked to the name of the great German teacher Moses Mendelssohn, one of those conspicuous Jewish hunchbacks who so upset and embarrassed Isaiah Berlin. (The other way to upset or embarrass Berlin, I found, was to mention that he himself was a cousin of Menachem Schneerson, the 'messianic' Lubavitcher rebbe.) However, even pre-enlightenment Judaism forces its adherents to study and think, it reluctantly teaches them what others think, and it may even teach them how to think also.
There is a moment in the tractate Menahot when the Rabbis imagine what takes place when Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. In this account (there are several) Moses ascends to heaven, where he finds God busily adding crownlike ornaments to the letters of the Torah. Moses asks God what He is doing and God explains that in the future there will be a man named Akiva, son of Joseph, who will base a huge mountain of Jewish law on these very orthographic ornaments. Intrigued, Moses asks God to show this man to him. Moses is told to 'go back eighteen rows, ' and suddenly, as in a dream, Moses is in a classroom, class is in session and the teacher is none other than Rabbi Akiva. Moses has been told to go to the back of the study house because that is where the youngest and least educated students sit. Akiva, the great first-century sage, is explaining Torah to his disciples, but Moses is completely unable to follow the lesson. It is far too complicated for him. He is filled with sadness when, suddenly, one of the disciples asks Akiva how he knows something is true and Akiva answers: 'It is derived from a law given to Moses on Mount Sinai.' Upon hearing this answer, Moses is satisfied - though he can't resist asking why, if such brilliant men as Akiva exist, Moses needs to be the one to deliver the Torah. At this point God loses patience and tells Moses, 'Silence, it's my will.
One of the questions asked by al-Balkhi, and often repeated to this day, is this: Why do the children of Israel continue to suffer? My grandmother Dodo thought it was because the goyim were jealous. The seder for Passover (which is a shame-faced simulacrum of a Hellenic question-and-answer session, even including the wine) tells the children that it's one of those things that happens to every Jewish generation. After the Shoah or Endle¶sung or Holocaust, many rabbis tried to tell the survivors that the immolation had been a punishment for 'exile,' or for insufficient attention to the Covenant. This explanation was something of a flop with those whose parents or children had been the raw material for the 'proof,' so for a time the professional interpreters of god's will went decently quiet. This interval of ambivalence lasted until the war of 1967, when it was announced that the divine purpose could be discerned after all. How wrong, how foolish, to have announced its discovery prematurely! The exile and the Shoah could now both be understood, as part of a heavenly if somewhat roundabout scheme to recover the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other pieces of biblically mandated real estate. I regard it as a matter of self-respect to spit in public on rationalizations of this kind. (They are almost as repellent, in their combination of arrogance, masochism, and affected false modesty, as Edith Stein's 'offer' of her life to expiate the regrettable unbelief in Jesus of her former fellow Jews.) The sage Jews are those who have put religion behind them and become in so many societies the leaven of the secular and the atheist.
SIPS FROM THE CHALICE OF MOSES KEEPS ME IMMUNE FROM THE BITE OF A COBRA FROM SLIPPING AND FALLING INTO A COMA THE SEALS ARE BROKE, WE SEEING THE SIGNS WHAT WAS HIDDEN IS NOW REVEALED I TAKE IT IN SILENCE DECIPHER THE LANGUAGE. KNOWING TOO MUCH: DANGEROUS SOME HAVE DIED IN THEIR SLEEP BUT MANY HAVE DIED PAINFUL LISTEN TO WHATEVER MY BRAIN SAY I CALL IT A CASE OF INTUITION WHEN I LISTEN TO EVERYTHING MODERN-DAY ROME WITH GOVERNMENT IN CONTROL POLITICIANS GETTING SNAGGED IN THE NET, CELL PHONES FROM ALL SIDES, WATCHING THIS ECONOMY CAPSIZE GUILTIES BEING BAPTIZED, FROM PRIESTS TO RABBIS SPOTS GETTING BLOWN, BOXES IN THE DRAG LIKE CARS GETTING TOWED THEN THEY BLAME IT ON THE COKE RIOTS IN LONDON, SMELL OF CHAOS IN THE AIR IS QUITE PUNGENT WAR'S JUMPING OFF LIKE BUNGEE SECRET SECTS IN EFFECT, INITIATION IS SEX PARTNERED UP WITH THE SAME BODY PARTS MALES ALIKE ACQUIRING WEALTH, SELLING THEY SOUL TO MARKET PRICE SERIOUS GAME, ROLLING THE DICE PHANTOM KILLERS BEHIND BRASS SHIELDS, WILL-POWER ROUND TABLE OF BROKERS WHOSE MAIN GOAL IS DOMINANCE UNEXPLAINED SIGHTINGS IN THE SKY PROVOKE FEAR HOW CAN THERE BE FAMINE IN THE PLACE WHERE ALL THE GOLD IS? DIPLOMATS GETTING CASES TOSSED THEN ROLE-REVERSE THE CRIME AS IF THEY WASN'T AT FAULT I'M KEEPING IT LITE, AS TOLD BY MY COUSIN CHUCK "YOU SAYING TOO MUCH MY NIGGA", I GIVES A FLYING FUCK WHY WHISPER WHEN MY VOICE IS LOUD? WITH COMMON SENSE TO ADDRESS THE CROWD MY MAMA SHE BLESSED WITH CHILD GOD'S GIFT, IN FORM OF A MALE WITH A VISION TO SEE THINGS, BEFORE THEY MANIFEST THEMSELVES
Apollo Brown & OC
A Great Rabbi stands, teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife's adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death. There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine - a Speaker for the Dead - has told me of two other Rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I'm going to tell you. The Rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. 'Is there any man here,' he says to them, 'who has not desired another man's wife, another woman's husband?' They murmur and say, 'We all know the desire, but Rabbi none of us has acted on it.' The Rabbi says, 'Then kneel down and give thanks that God has made you strong.' He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, 'Tell the Lord Magistrate who saved his mistress, then he'll know I am his loyal servant.' So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder. Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, 'Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.' The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. 'Someday,' they think, 'I may be like this woman. And I'll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.' As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman's head and throws it straight down with all his might it crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. 'Nor am I without sins,' he says to the people, 'but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead - and our city with it.' So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance. The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis and when they veer too far they die. Only one Rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So of course, we killed him. -San Angelo Letters to an Incipient Heretic
Orson Scott Card
Many people in this room have an Etsy store where they create unique, unreplicable artifacts or useful items to be sold on a small scale, in a common marketplace where their friends meet and barter. I and many of my friends own more than one spinning wheel. We grow our food again. We make pickles and jams on private, individual scales, when many of our mothers forgot those skills if they ever knew them. We come to conventions, we create small communities of support and distributed skills-when one of us needs help, our village steps in. It's only that our village is no longer physical, but connected by DSL instead of roads. But look at how we organize our tribes-bloggers preside over large estates, kings and queens whose spouses' virtues are oft-lauded but whose faces are rarely seen. They have moderators to protect them, to be their knights, a nobility of active commenters and big name fans, a peasantry of regular readers, and vandals starting the occasional flame war just to watch the fields burn. Other villages are more commune-like, sharing out resources on forums or aggregate sites, providing wise women to be consulted, rabbis or priests to explain the world, makers and smiths to fashion magical objects. Groups of performers, acrobats and actors and singers of songs are traveling the roads once more, entertaining for a brief evening in a living room or a wheatfield, known by word of mouth and secret signal. Separate from official government, we create our own hierarchies, laws, and mores, as well as our own folklore and secret history. Even my own guilt about having failed as an academic is quite the crisis of filial piety-you see, my mother is a professor. I have not carried on the family trade. We dwell within a system so large and widespread, so disorganized and unconcerned for anyone but its most privileged and luxurious members, that our powerlessness, when we can summon up the courage to actually face it, is staggering. So we do not face it. We tell ourselves we are Achilles when we have much more in common with the cathedral-worker, laboring anonymously so that the next generation can see some incremental progress. We lack, of course, a Great Work to point to and say: my grandmother made that window; I worked upon the door. Though, I would submit that perhaps the Internet, as an object, as an aggregate entity, is the cathedral we build word by word and image by image, window by window and portal by portal, to stand taller for our children, if only by a little, than it does for us. For most of us are Lancelots, not Galahads. We may see the Grail of a good Classical life, but never touch it. That is for our sons, or their daughters, or further off. And if our villages are online, the real world becomes that dark wood on the edge of civilization, a place of danger and experience, of magic and blood, a place to make one's name or find death by bear. And here, there be monsters.
Catherynne M. Valente