Skip to main content

Torah reading: Genesis 12-17
Haftorah: Isaiah 40:27 to 41:16

One of the things that I think people find most difficult about Abraham's story (and, in general, the Judeo-Christian tradition) is the implication of "chosenness": the idea that God chooses and, by implication, loves a single person, people, or faith tradition over others. God picks favorites, it seems, and everyone else is just "extras" (like the people in movies who are there for "filler", and nobody much cares if they die as long as the hero gets out alive.)

Obviously, this idea is repugnant, and more so than ever in our modern, pluralistic world with its large variety of peoples and faiths. To try to solve this problem, we tend to flatten out the differences and say that all religions are essentially "the same" or "say the same thing". This provides an important counterbalance to the idea of "special chosenness", pointing out rightly that God loves all people (and faiths) equally. But totally glossing over the differences between faith traditions is also misleading, because it ignores the incredible diversity and creativity God has shown in his interactions with both individuals and groups of people.

One of my favorite Christian writers, C.S. Lewis, touched upon this with the following quote from The Horse and His Boy:

“Child,' said the Lion, 'I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
Follow me beneath the tangly orange lion's mane for some examples from today's reading.

First, Abraham. The son of a wealthy family and a successful businessman in his own right, a skillful negotiator and politician, the head of a flourishing household, Abraham was a success in every way -- except the one way that really mattered. He had no son, nobody to carry on his family name and to inherit all his wealth. When he died, his goods would go to the man who oversaw his estate.

Then suddenly, God called him to leave his city and with it everything he'd known, and go to Canaan, where he would do the impossible: become the father of a great nation, and with it, a new faith tradition rooted in worship of a mysterious new God.

Now, to a modern reader, this might seem a little odd. What does having kids have to do with religion? Isn't it rather besides the point, we might ask? And certainly, if God wanted to begin a new faith, he could have called Abraham to any number of different tasks. He could have given Abraham a prophecy to deliver to the people of Ur, or sent him around the countryside teaching others about the One God or performing miraculous healings. He could have commanded him to build a temple in the middle of Ur and given him a priestly vocation. He could have dictated a book of holy scriptures to him, as to the Prophet Mohammed. He could even have told him to go sit beneath a tree until he found enlightenment, and realized that all things, even children and their own children, must pass away and that non-attachment was the only freedom from suffering in our transitory world.

But he did none of these, for the secret wish of Abraham's heart was not to become a prophet, or a priest, or a teacher, or a healer, or a writer, or a guru. It was simply to become a father.

And God was willing to work with that.

And Sarah. First, like any other young woman, eagerly expecting a child. Wondering why it was taking so long, then starting to worry a little. Then worrying more. Counting menstrual cycles, trying rituals and fertility treatments, praying to the deity of childbirth, listening to countless pieces of advice from friends and family -- all of which, inevitably, fail. Praying, longing, hoping, having that hope shattered over and over and over…and finally, not daring to hope any longer. Feeling the stares of other women, some sympathetic, some vindictive. Trying not to show her tears when her friends mention casually that they're pregnant, again. Overhearing the men's voices to Abraham in the next room: "You know, you really should divorce her and find another wife." Then all at once uprooted from her home, on a mysterious journey commanded by the faceless God who speaks only to her husband. Passed off as Abraham's sister to the Pharaoh of Egypt. The utter humiliation when her slave woman proves more fertile than her.

And yet, God granted Sarah's deepest longing as well. Not simply that her husband would have a child, but that she would bear that child. To become a mother, and at long last discover both the joys and sorrows of childbearing and motherhood. To finally share in the world from which she's been so long outcast, and to have her cynical, bitter laughter at her barren fate turn to joyous laughter ("Isaac") when that child was finally born.

Hagar, too. The despised, outcast slave woman. The lowest of the low, at Sarah's continual beck and call. Bearing the full brunt of Sarah's bitter disappointment with life and her jealousy at Hagar's own fertility. Forced to sleep with her mistress' husband as a surrogate mother: seen as a pair of ovaries and a womb and nothing else. Mistreated and cast out into the desert by her jealous mistress when she did conceive. She, too, had her own dream fulfilled: to finally be equal with Sarah. Not simply to be the surrogate mother of Abraham's and Sarah's great nation, but to be a matriarch in her own right: the mother of a great nation. To Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman, God was the God who sees -- at last one who saw her, not as a pair of hands for work, not as a pair of ovaries for childbearing, but as a human being.

And Ishmael. I imagine that everyone who's ever become an older brother or sister at a young age can sympathize. Family members and friends -- hundreds or even thousands of people in Abraham's case, I'm sure -- all oohing and aahing, not over you, but over this ugly, scrawny invader. After having been the centre of your parents' universe for so many years, suddenly it's like you've ceased to exist. And for Ishmael it must have been far worse, for unless he was very young he must have already grasped what was happening: Isaac was now the favoured son and Ishmael was nobody. A bastard, illegitimate, soon to be cast out into the desert with his slave mother. And yet Ishmael, too, was given his own destiny as a warrior and the father of a nation, and "God was with the boy as he grew up", as much as with his brother Isaac.

Does God love us, and interact with us, "all the same"? No.

But does God play favourites? Does God love only his "chosen" individuals, or nations, or faiths, and ignore and despise millions or even billions of others? No.

We are not identical cogs in a giant wheel, or products on a giant assembly line, each to be unthinkingly filled by God with an identical amount of "love" and then moved on. We are individuals, each with our own past, our own hopes, our own fears, our own strengths, and our own weaknesses. And our own dreams.

God tells us each our own story, and no two stories are the same. But they are all about his love for us.

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 07:41 AM PDT.

Also republished by Elders of Zion and Anglican Kossacks.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

    by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 07:41:54 AM PDT

  •  Lovely. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, mayim, Navy Vet Terp, Wee Mama, ramara

    This series is one real reason to look forward to Friday.

    This is a great reminder that we each have our own paths.  Some are flashier than others, but all lead in the same direction: forward.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 08:11:47 AM PDT

    •  Yes, exactly! And actually, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mayim, Navy Vet Terp, Wee Mama, ramara

      Abraham's story must not have appeared particularly "flashy" to the people of his time. Having a son (or even two)...big deal! Everyone did that. Heck, the guy down the street probably had ten or twenty, and the local king probably had a harem and hundreds of children.

      It's only in retrospect that Abraham's story seems at all amazing or extraordinary, really (other than the "having a kid at 100 years old" part!)

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:02:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, mayim, Navy Vet Terp, JDsg, Wee Mama, ramara

    ...the King James Version tells the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed this way (Genesis 22):

    Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”

    And he said, “Here I am.”

    Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

    Of course, only when one is only told their own story can Isaac be Abraham's only son.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 08:25:36 AM PDT

    •  it's our story and we are the children of Yitzy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mayim, Wee Mama, ramara

      so... as far as we're concerned - he WAS the only one.

      Expecting the story of a people not to focus on the people telling the story is a bit... silly really.

      •  I'm familiar with propaganda, yes. The telling... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, mayim, JDsg, ramara, Velvele

        ...of one's "own" story has pitfalls, whether in god myth or history. It creates or exacerbates otherness. Creates divisions where there ought not be any. Makes for war. Silly it may be to expect a different, truthful approach in the creative invention that is the Tanach—other than that fundamentalists call that invention literal and have enforced some of its prescriptions with shunning, prison, torture and death.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:33:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  well since I know it's propaganda (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mayim, TiaRachel, JNEREBEL, ramara

          and it meant to be our propaganda to ourselves - I don't have a problem with it.  I'm no literalist believer.  And I don't do the "Judeo-Christian" thing because it promotes literalism, narrow interpretation and usurps what the Tanakh actually IS - the stories of the Jewish people.

          I don't claim that I have a right to the ways of the Dine - because I'm not Dine.  But everyone seems to believe they have a right to the stories of the Jews and get all butthurt they aren't included in them.

          I call bullshit on that.

          •  God promised that both (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, Mortifyd, marykk

            of Abraham's sons would become great nations. Ishmael's children are our cousins.

            And Eowyn, Judeo-Christian is a Christian concept. No Jew ever uses the phrase.

            Also, Ishmael is 13 when Abraham circumcises him (and Abraham is 99) and it is just after this that the guests come to Abraham and and tell him that Isaac will be conceived. So Ishmael is 14 when Isaac is born, and probably 16 or 17 when Isaac is weaned, which is when he and Hagar are expelled. I have long thought that the boys were important to each other, and for both of them it was a traumatic loss (okay, for Ishmael the trauma was a lot more than that).

            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

            by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:36:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Regarding "Judeo-Christian", fair enough, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara

              but I'm always at a loss as to what to call "that part of Jewish scripture/teaching/tradition that is also shared by Christianity" (as opposed to the Talmud or the rabbinical commentaries and so on.)

              "Judeo-Christian" may not be technically correct, but everybody seems to get it...

              Anyway, I love your point about the brothers being important to one another, and their separation being traumatic.

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:43:16 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think either Tanakh, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eowyn9, Mortifyd

                which is our Bible, or the Old Testament (and they are not quite the same thing) will do when talking about the shared tradition.

                The books are sequenced differently, turning the Jewish story into the Christian story.

                Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:49:42 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I've actually been told that "Old Testament" (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara

                  is an offensive and inaccurate name to use, since it implies that there's something old or incomplete about the Jewish scriptures (i.e. looking back on them from a purely Christian perspective rather than in their own context...)

                  Tanakh works for the collection of writings in question. But what about concepts -- e.g. talking about the "Judeo-Christian" God? Obviously, I'm aware that the Jewish concept of God and the Christian concept of God are not precisely the same, but they certainly do share some very central features (e.g. mercy, love, justice, omnipotence, omniscience, etc.) that make them far closer to one another than other faith traditions. Is there an adjective that would work better for this concept?

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:01:05 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If you include Islam (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    JDsg, TiaRachel, marykk, Eowyn9

                    you can call them the Abrahamic religions.

                    You could probably get away with that even if you aren't thinking of Islam so much. Actually, Islam shares a great deal with Talmud. A lot of the stories of Abraham told by Muslims appear in Talmud.

                    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                    by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:18:38 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm wary of both constructs (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Mortifyd, Eowyn9, ramara

                      because I've seen them both be used as a way to hide/erase the complexities & differences in culture -- in essence, lumping them together in one undifferentiated morass of 'those monotheist imperialist types who are to blame for all the evils of history.' Generally. (And I actually did see someone here at Kos post something like: christianity has done lots of evil, so has islam, and neither would exist without judaism, so to hell with all three.) There's actually quite a bit of leftish-ish thought out there that takes that approach, though usually with a bit more subtlety.

                      I mean, I see where people actually delving into theological stuff would use the terms differently. But this is the internet ;)

                      •  We get some of that here (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        TiaRachel

                        like anywhere else, but I saw the question as dealing with the d'var Torah community, which includes good-faith discussion from people of all three, plus the occasional troll.

                        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                        by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 10:18:55 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  the concepts are not the same at all between them (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Not A Bot, TiaRachel, ramara

                    Christianity and Judaism in terms of "belief" and even the concept of belief are universes apart.  

                    My suggestion would be to call it Tanakh because that's what it is, despite the differing order of books and our general lack of a need for translation.

                    But don't use that "Judeo-Christian" crap because there is no such animal as far as we're concerned.  That is FAR more offensive than "Old Testament" in my mind.

                    •  Tanakh when it's about the jewish book, (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Eowyn9, ramara

                      old testament (or specifically christian old testament) when it's about the christian book.

                      The thing that's offensive about using 'old testament' is that the words are often a tell for the assumption that judaism is just an incomplete version of christianity. The books aren't identical, the translations & interpretations certainly aren't, and both religions have additional texts which are (arguably) more important.

                      And of course there's the assumption, deeply/historically based in christianity and modern secular-but-christian-based culture, that the OT (read:jewish) god is harsh/'stern'/bad, only 'saved' by the jesus-event, and therefore everything bad about the religions is due to/present in judaism, and the good stuff is only present in christianity (and conversely, that only good stuff is present in christianity).

                      •  I suppose. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        TiaRachel

                        To me the "Christian book" is a complete misnomer.  It's not the Christian anything.  A translated misread prop to make their strange theology stand up.  There is no need for an intermediary in Torah. There is no anticipation of G-d in a people suit.  There is no G-d in Torah that sends people to hell for not believing in an event that never happened.  There is no justification for using Tanakh to kill Jews in pogroms, resettlements, starvation and the shoah.

                        Those things have nothing to do with us, or our G-d, and it's high time we stop pretending it's ok.

                        •  Well, yeah, but there is a book that christians (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Mortifyd, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

                          use.

                          And most christians aren't aware of their histories, have no idea what the concept 'appropriation' is (or what's wrong with it) -- they've just got these texts that (at this point) their parents and great-grandparents etc have (claimed to) rely on. Not to mention the entire structure (theoretically) of their culture.

                          (I have a theory that one subliminal reason for european hostility towards jews is that we kept our culture, while they gave theirs up to their colonizers. Turning them into colonizers themselves, of course...)

                          (Did I ever tell you about the  old neighborhood woman who got very upset when I mentioned that her italian ancestors were something else before they became christian? She'd been going on about how people should keep to their own -- marriages, cultures, whatever -- albeit in a 'more power to them!' kind of way, and I couldn't resist. But she got so upset that I gave in. Never tried to intrude on me at the cafe again after that, though ;)

                          •  Lol yeah, you did, she got REAL mad! :D (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            TiaRachel, ramara

                            I think after 2013 or so years Christianity should be able to stand on it's own beliefs and the Gospels and leave us and Tanakh the hell out of it.

                            We are not stepsiblings.  We are not proud parents.  We are the remnants of a people who have been systematically victimized by the very people who rely on our Tanakh to support their own replacement theology and I'm frankly not down with it very much.

                          •  I understand your anger about what some (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            marykk, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

                            Christians have said & done towards Judaism and the Jewish people.

                            But the idea that Christianity could "stand on its own beliefs and the Gospels" and leave the Tanakh/"Old Testament" "out of it" is ludicrous. Jesus was a JEW. He was circumcised as a Jew, brought up in the Jewish tradition, read the Jewish scriptures at the age of 12 in the Temple, and so on. He was a rabbi, for crying out loud! Nearly ever other thing he says is either a quote from the Tanakh or a paraphrase of something another rabbi at the time was saying.

                            The New Testament without the Tanakh is like a mystery novel where half the clues are missing. It doesn't make any sense.

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 04:56:48 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If he was a Jew - here's the thing - (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ramara, TiaRachel

                            he wasn't talking to non-Jews.  He was talking to other Jews and at no point claimed to be any of the things that Christian doctrine makes him out to be. And there are things attributed to him that are simply incorrect from a Jewish standpoint.  No educated Jew would say those things.

                            Very few Torah readings are done in the Temple, that's just another glaring example of what is not right about the whole story from a Jewish POV.  Those were done at the shuls, as they are today - the Temple is a place of sacrifice and work for the Kohanim and the Leviim - it is not a place where the Torah was read like a synagogue except on very specific occasions - and it was not where young men became bar mitzvah.  During the period of the second Temple it is recorded that the Kohanim were so ignorant of their own responsibilities that they had to have special coaching before they took up their offices lest the screw up and drop dead.  Details matter.

                            Every 12 year old religiously raised Jew can talk Torah with the adults of the community - what do you think a Bar and Bas Mitzvah IS?  Kids start giving dvar Torahs in pre-school and start learning Torah at 3.  Twelve is not impressive.  Five is impressive.  Seven is impressive.  The great scholars of the past showed their prowess and subtle knowledge well before twelve - it's another one of those things where it helps to be intimately conversant with Jewish culture and history as it is - not as you wish it to be.

                            Being a rabbi - lots of Jews are rabbis. It's not something particularly difficult to do - I was in rabbinical school with some damn stupid people frankly speaking.  You just have to pass an oral test on 3 sections of Jewish law - a measly three.  

                            A rabbi isn't something like a pastor or priest.  It's a person (there are women rabbis as well in all streams of Judaism now) who is familiar with the Law and able to make halachic decisions.  I go to a rabbi if I'm not sure my dishes are kosher.  Or I am unsure about which brand of cheese I should buy.  And if I don't like that answer - I find another one and ask them.  

                            It doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons, that's very true.  But what you think makes sense with Tanakh as a back up still doesn't make sense to educated Jews.  The basic belief requirements of normative Christianity are not Jewish.  They are not found in Tanakh.  They are not found in the Talmud, or the Mishna or the other Jewish sources that don't have the same "weight" as those.  

                            You're right it doesn't make sense - but not for the reasons you think.

                          •  Huge parts of the religion, though (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Mortifyd, ramara

                            (and the structures & cultures it formed) are actually descended from various other cultures -- which are systematically ignored or elided over.  And instead, there's this illusion of a lone straight line between the things related in the OT and the new, when in fact the OT (etc) is one strand in a braid. Which rankles.

                          •  Right -- for example, Christianity incorporates (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ramara

                            Zoroastrian and Greek philosophical concepts as well (particularly in Paul & the other Apostles). And a good Christian commentary should (perhaps more than most do) touch upon that. But since Jesus was raised in a Jewish context, the bulk of what he says IS influenced by Jewish thought and not by these other cultures. My scholarly New Testament has footnotes throughout the Gospels cross-referencing quotes from the Tanakh that Jesus refers to in its own teaching.

                            The Jewish tradition/influence may be only one strand in the "braid" of Christianity, but it is the central strand.

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 05:58:01 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •   By design. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ramara, Mortifyd

                            And this goes back to the 'some christians' in your comment header: the christianity that all of western christianity is based on was deliberately designed to suppress judaism. To proclaim that the church was the sole rightful inheritor of the prophecies etc., to prevent people from living as jewish (hebraic)  christians, etc. While at the same time including ideas, structures,  and basic doctrine from elsewhere (the reborn god, for example), without admitting that those elsewheres existed. It's maybe as unpleasant to write as it is to read, but it's the 'some christians' (as in doctrinal groups, not individuals) who have been respectful/good neighbors towards jews & judaism who are out of the historical mainstream.

                            Jewish texts/influences/tradition may be the main strand, but that's partly because the others have been rendered invisible. Their structures still exist, though, and can be seen in the way that strand  bends...

                          •  What? No. (0+ / 0-)

                            The early Christians didn't subjugate or suppress anyone. They were too busy trying to keep from being imprisoned, tortured, burned alive and so on by the Roman Empire! There's absolutely nothing in Paul's letters, for example, telling the Christians of the time to suppress or deny or destroy Judaism. Jesus himself said "I come not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it." He meant, of course, that he saw himself as the embodiment of messianic prophecies; whether you agree or think he was a liar or just loony, he obviously saw himself as part of that tradition, not opposed to it.

                            Christianity did not become suppressive or imperialistic till Constantine came along and merged political and religious power in his own administration, and we (eventually) got Roman Catholicism and the corrupt papacy and the Crusades and burning at the stake and all that stuff, which I agree is horrible. But none of that stuff is inherent to Christianity.

                            And what about Judaism? I mean, it's there right in the Torah: the command to wipe out and/or subjugate non-Jewish faith groups in the Promised Land (including an eternal conflict with Amalekites!). Suppression is far more "central", if you'd like, to Judaism than to Christianity, because it is commanded in the Torah. I challenge you to find anything in the Gospels that commands Christians to subjugate or suppress other faith traditions.

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:42:55 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  what about it? It's one small place, not global. (0+ / 0-)

                            We don't care what other people do - but they aren't going to do it in our house.  Christianity on the other hand is determined to erase other belief systems and replace it with the "good news" that Christianity is Judaism 2.0 - no need to even know there was ever anything else.  The vast majority of Christians throughout Christian history would have been horrified to realise he was a Jew.

                            Add to it the historical fact that Christians have killed millions in their attempt to dominate the world - crusades, inquisitions, heretic burning, the constant missionizing of the less developed portions of the globe - it's not a pretty picture if you don't buy into the concept of Christian supremacy.

                            Jesus - assuming he was a historical figure, which is not actually proven - was not some great Torah scholar or figure of the day.  He was some Jewish guy.  Not particularly learned, not capable of fulfilling the job description of moshiach - he was a victim of Roman tyranny like thousands of others.

                            Rabbi Akiva had his flesh raked from his body with heated iron combs - HE was a scholar. His students were scholars who carried and reformed the Jewish Temple based settled way of life into a portable system that kept Jewish culture alive through the exile by the Romans.  Shammai and Hillel - they were scholars and rabbis.

                            These were the Torah greats of their generation - the generation that supposedly Jesus lived in.  

                          •  So as long as genocide is localized, it's ok? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Navy Vet Terp

                            I really don't think so, nor would the International Criminal Court agree with you there...

                            "Christianity on the other hand is determined to erase other belief systems and replace it with the "good news" that Christianity is Judaism 2.0 - no need to even know there was ever anything else. Add to it the historical fact that Christians have killed millions in their attempt to dominate the world - crusades, inquisitions, heretic burning, the constant missionizing of the less developed portions of the globe - it's not a pretty picture if you don't buy into the concept of Christian supremacy."
                            "Christianity" is not some monolithic thing. There are thousands of Christian churches which have acted in many, many different ways towards other faiths, in an entire spectrum relating from the persecution you point out (of which EVERY faith, including Judaism, has been guilty!) to tolerance and acceptance and even actively researching and practicing elements of other faiths -- for example, Buddhist meditation, or writing for a series such as this one.

                            By tarring all Christians with the same brush, you are being just as intolerant as the Christians that you criticize. Also, "Christians have killed millions" -- millions? Literally?!? I think your stats are a bit off. (Just for comparison, I wonder how many Philistines and Amalekites and Hittites and so on died in Israel's war of conquest in Canaan...)

                            "The vast majority of Christians throughout Christian history would have been horrified to realize he was a Jew."
                            What are you basing this on? Seriously, any Christians who don't realize Jesus was a Jew have got to be pretty ignorant and unfamiliar with the Bible. It's right there as part of the Christmas story, for crying out loud: he was circumcised on the eighth day.

                            Look, I understand you dislike intolerant Christians. I have argued with many of them, as well as intolerant atheists, intolerant Muslims, and so on and so forth. But intolerance OF Christianity is just as bad as intolerance FOR it.

                            (Just by the way, I know about Rabbi Akiva -- ramara recommended a few months back that I read "As a Driven Leaf", which includes a retelling of the events you describe. Really an excellent book, and I totally agree -- the rabbis of that time that kept the Jewish legal system alive under Roman tyranny deserve the highest respect.)

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 09:58:30 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  lets just start with 6 million and go on... (0+ / 0-)

                            that's not even counting the Roma or the other indigenous people (Native Americans north and south, tribal peoples all over the globe) seriously decimated or wiped out by Christians.  1290 when Jews we expelled from Christian England. 1492 - when Jews were driven from Christian Spain. The Inquisition where converts to Christianity were killed anyway to prevent backsliding and give them a straight ticket to heaven. The Jewish communities across Europe and the middle east sacked and burned by Christian Crusaders.  The Easter and Christmas Pogroms of the Pale.  

                            We are hardly the genocidal champions  you would make us out to be - and interesting you conflagrate the modern secular state of Israel with the Torah mythos of Jews past.  There is no evidence - in fact there's a buttload of evidence to the contrary - that we actually commited genocide back then either.

                            My own baptist grandmother (dad's side) slapped me for saying Jesus was Jewish.  SLAPPED. ME.  So let's not kid ourselves here.

                            I don't have to be tolerant.  I don't have to be ok with the mythos of my culture being abused and denigrated through shoddy translation and someone else's agenda, no matter how awesome you think your understanding might be.  I have no gain to be had by ignoring the fact that 25% of the US population alone believes that I have to migrate to Israel and be a pawn for their End Times beliefs - which come from Christianity.

                            Dvar Torah are not some nice little essays where you tell people how you know what G-d really meant and pat yourself on the back for it.  A dvar Torah - at least a proper one - you had better be willing to back yourself up. A quiet yeshivah is where something is wrong.  Disagreement is not attack.

                            The fundamental beliefs of Christianity - the divinity of Jesus, the requirement of sacrifice to resolve the issue of Original Sin and the concept that another can stand as a sacrifice to atone for that Original Sin - are not Jewish. They're not.  And that's not even touching the trinity, Ikons versus statuary or which way the Creed should be worded or the literally thousands of other little heresies that you fight among yourselves over to this day.

                            Believe whatever you like.  But I don't have to agree with your demand to be considered kin. I don't have to agree that your understanding is valid because of the things you need it to prop up in your own completely different belief system.  I disagree vehemently with your universalist, feel good point of view that it somehow belongs to you too - and there's nothing wrong with that.

                            Rabbi Akiva was an amazing man.  He was a scholar and is vital to the understanding of Jewish thought and culture from his time as a teacher and the legacy he left behind through his students.  Jesus is not. Universalism is not. Forgoing 5000 years of distinct identity built around the Torah is not.

                            We make up less than 1/2 of 1% of the entire global population with an unbroken line of history connecting those of us alive today with those in the past through Torah.  You don't get to tell us how to understand our own history, beliefs and culture because you think it's yours too and not get some push back on it.

                          •  "Dvar Torah are not some nice little essays (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Navy Vet Terp
                            where you tell people how you know what G-d really meant and pat yourself on the back for it.  A dvar Torah - at least a proper one - you had better be willing to back yourself up. A quiet yeshivah is where something is wrong.  Disagreement is not attack."
                            Um, I know this. In fact I love debating, and was on the high school debating team, and have participated in regular weekly philosophy roundtable discussions -- so I suspect my love of argument and discussion is just as strong as yours appears to be. I enjoy disagreement. I don't know where you got the idea that I took disagreement as a personal attack, or thought that debate was a Bad Thing.

                            The thing about your viewpoint is that it seems, well, remarkably inconsistent. Going through all your comments, it kinda seems to boil down to this:

                            - The Jewish writings/stories/"propaganda to ourselves" are insular and exclusive, and this is GOOD. Exclusivity is a Good Thing, and I/we don't need to be tolerant of other religions.
                            - Except Christian exclusivity! Christians are intolerant and intent on converting everyone in the world to their viewpoint. This is very bad, whereas my own intolerance is ok.

                            So which is it? Is intolerance bad, or is it good? Is it only bad when "they do it", whereas when "I do it" or "we do it" it's fine?

                            By the way, your understanding of Christianity is kind of limited and stereotypical, as shown in statements like this:

                            The fundamental beliefs of Christianity - the divinity of Jesus, the requirement of sacrifice to resolve the issue of Original Sin and the concept that another can stand as a sacrifice to atone for that Original Sin - are not Jewish.
                            Actually, the concept of "Original Sin" is an invention of Augustine's (not Jesus or Paul). The nature of Jesus has been debated by various Christian churches for two thousand years, and there are probably as many different opinions as there are Christians. The idea of substitutionary atonement is a relatively recent one; in Paul's time, for example, Jesus' sacrifice was seen not in atonement but in "ransom" terms, giving his life in our place so that we could escape from sin/death/the devil's captivity. There are many other theories, and all of them are valid. In fact, many Christians like to discuss and debate just, or nearly, as much as Jews do. Love of debate is not something exclusive to the Jewish religion or culture!

                            If I was to try to distill the essence of Christianity down to one statement, it would be: a willingness to follow Jesus and to do as he commands. That's it. Not belief in his divinity, not belief in Original Sin or a substitutionary atonement. Simply to listen to his teachings about how to live and treat others, and then, "Go and do thou likewise."

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:15:03 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't think we are insular and exclusive (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Mortifyd, Eowyn9

                            After all, our Bible has been adopted by two daughter faiths, Christianity and Islam.  While we Jews don't insist that others become Jewish or they go to hell and damnation, we would like to see more people, and more governments, adopt the ethical principles of our Bible that were later explained and developed by the rabbis and by the founders of our two daughter faiths.  Too many politicians, who claim to represent "Values" and "Christianity", forget the call of the prophets to feed the hungry and care for the poor.  See Isaiah chapter 58.

                            "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

                            by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 02:08:54 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  the Jewish writings are what they are (0+ / 0-)

                            the formerly oral history and mythos of a people - my people.  Most people have them at some point.  We still have ours and use them - as we see fit because they are ours - within our culture.

                            You keep insisting that I have to agree to your POV that your use of them outside Jewish culture is important - and should be important to ME - and I dont. At all.

                            My understanding of Christianity as practiced is quite good actually, though my Greek is pretty crap these days.  It leans rather heavily toward Russian Orthodox and protestant strains in terms of scholarship, but I also don't care about it as a deep personal thing, it's just something interesting I studied.  To you it's something deeply personal, like how I feel about our mythos being misused.

                            I don't have a problem with exclusivity - I have a problem with Christianity's practitioners being so blinded to it they don't see they are exclusive.  We're tribal and family related - you are held together by beliefs.  Two vastly different forms of exclusivity - neither of which is inherently bad. We don't make any bones about being exclusive and never have - you don't get to decide you're in my family because we have more interesting food. Pretending you're not is bad. Pretending that you own the mythos of another people to prop yours up is bad.  It's cultural appropriation at it's worst - and it literally kills my people.

                            The dvar Torah series should be Jewish space.  I don't CARE about Christian theology points, or interpretations - the whole rest of the damn world assumes the superiority of Christian scholarly thought and right to interpret.  But we can't have even one space for ourselves and our culture without being told what it really means - and that sucks.

                          •  A Catholic scholar once spoke in our synagogue (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Eowyn9, mayim

                            And her point was that the New Testament is the only Jewish writing surviving from the 1st century CE, the Talmud coming a few centuries later.  She mentioned how Jesus created controversy by healing on Shabbat, which causes Jews to scratch our heads - of course you must heal on Shabbat, everyone knows that.  But she argued that the NT shows that this point was still in controversy in Jesus's time - a few centuries later the rabbis would gather and make their ruling.  So my point is that the time differential between the NT and the Talmud needs to be considered.  Sure, rabbis in their youths had heard elderly rabbis describe what they had heard in their youths from elderly rabbis had witnessed in the Temple, but oral tradition can get fuzzy after a few centuries.

                            "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

                            by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 07:47:29 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  At some point during canonization (4+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            TiaRachel, Mortifyd, Navy Vet Terp, mayim

                            of the Christian Bible, there was a faction that wanted to take the OT out of the Canon, claiming it was no longer necessary.

                            And for centuries, most Christians would have been shocked to learn that Jesus was a Jew.

                            Mortify'd is right though - he was a Jewish reformer, not the originator of a new religion.

                            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                            by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:39:28 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That is the point I was trying to make, though -- (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ramara, Navy Vet Terp

                            that Jesus was a rabbi who worked within the Jewish tradition, not someone who was necessarily trying to "start a new religion." I thought that Mortifyd was arguing the opposite: that the things Jesus is reported to have said were incompatible with Jewish teaching and tradition, as well as some of the stories about him.

                            Or perhaps I've misunderstood where Mortifyd was coming from -- if so, apologies.

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 07:02:22 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        TiaRachel

                        It's a good idea to treat them differently.

                        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                        by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:33:19 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

    •  The translation there is out of sequence. (9+ / 0-)

      The actual sequence is as follows:

      And He said: “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, [even] Isaac..."
      Isaac's name comes last, after all the descriptors.  And that's significant, as per one of the famous commentaries on it, which I have freely rendered below:
      God said: "Take now your son."
      Abraham said: "I have two sons."
      God: "... your only son."
      Abraham: "Each of my sons is the only son of his mother."
      God: "... your son whom you love."
      Abraham: "I love both of my sons --"
      God: "I AM TALKING ABOUT ISAAC OKAY"
      ... okay I may have gone for the funny instead of the real point here.  The original commentary does not render God as growing impatient, but rather as trying to break it to Abraham gradually to lessen the shock.

      The thing is, though, that Abraham did in fact have two "only sons."

      •  I love that one. n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:37:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I could be wrong about this, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mayim, ramara

      but at that point in the story, hadn't Hagar & Ishmael already been sent away?

      •  Yes n/t (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mayim, TiaRachel, ramara

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:57:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ramara

          In Islamic tradition, ibrahim (pbuh) made a number of return visits (at least two) to Bakkah (now Makkah) to see how Hajar and Isma'il (pbuh) were doing.  It was during one of the return visits that Ibrahim (pbuh) was told to sacrifice Isma'il (pbuh).  

          Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

          by JDsg on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 03:02:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's such a lovely story (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, JDsg

            the story of Hagar and Ishmael and the founding of Mecca at the spring.

            The rabbis gave Ishmael a raw deal, because they believed that everything Sarah did must have been good. Ishmael is the one person in the story who never says a word. (In our story he is not a baby at the expulsion.)

            I gave him a voice in a midrash I wrote.

            http://www.dailykos.com/...

            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

            by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:58:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Love this! Am glad you posted the link (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara

              as I missed it the first time around. Finally Ishmael gets a voice!

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:07:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The age of Isma'il (pbuh)... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara

              ...at the time of the expulsion is not mentioned in the ahadith; however, he is normally mentioned as being either an infant or a child, presumably a very young child.  He was unable to help Hajar search for water when she repeatedly ran between the hills of As-Saufa and Al-Marwah.  One would certainly expect a 13-year-old to be able to do that if he were that old at the time.

              By the time Ibrahim (pbuh) returns to check on Hajar and Isma'il (pbuh), the son is already married and away hunting.  Ibrahim (pbuh) meets the wife and asks her how things are going.  She complains, and Ibrahim (pbuh) leaves a veiled message, telling Isma'il (pbuh) to divorce his wife.  Some time passes, and Ibrahim (pbuh) returns again to check up on things.  He meets Isma'il's new wife, and asks her how things are going.  She's happy, and he leaves another message, telling Isma'il to keep this wife.  Presumably, this second visit was when Ibrahim and Isma'il (pbut) worked together to build the Kabah, and when Ibrahim (pbuh) was told to sacrifice Isma'il.  In the Qur'an (37:102), Isma'il (pbuh) is old enough to be asked whether to go through the sacrifice and gives his consent.

              Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

              by JDsg on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 05:17:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  This is one of the ways (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JDsg, Mortifyd, TiaRachel, Eowyn9

                that your tradition is more like the Talmud than the Torah. In several of the midrashim on the Akeda (the binding of Isaac) Isaac is an active participant - in one he even asks Abraham to tie him down because if he flinches something might go wrong with the sacrifice and it might not be ritually correct.

                Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 10:42:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  not only that but we consider Yitzy to have been (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  TiaRachel, Eowyn9

                  an adult - often in his mid 30s - during the Akidah, the idea he was a small child is not a Jewish one.

                  •  I was taught that Isaac (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TiaRachel

                    was 13 at the time, making Abraham's sons' coming of age stories make anyone else's Bar Mitzvah nothing in comparison.

                    It only is put at 33 because of the age of Sarah at his birth and at her death. But there is nothing in the Torah story linking the two except that Sarah's death is the next episode. In fact, there is no mention at all of Sarah's reaction, which is why Midrash makes the connection to her death, either from sorrow or joy.

                    The dialog between father and son sounds like a boy rather than a man, and I have seen commentaries say that the adult Isaac was mentally deficient.

                    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                    by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:26:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  yeah, I have heard that argument too - 13 vs 33 (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ramara

                      and the yeshivah I went to was definitely in the he was in his 30s school of thought  because of the age of Sarah.  remember that the parshos division is based on the calendar, not on any other particular breaks in the stories - they are mathematically important to be roughly even.  As I don't particularly believe myself in any sort of special hashgacha pratis when it comes to things like this - I follow the school of thought as it was explained to me.

                      Moshe had a speech impediment, Yitzy wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.  One could certainly argue that nearly being sacrificed might have something to do with it - but there is no clear picture of him as a great scholar, only that he was devout and sheltered. As a child of their old age - he could have been deficient to begin with.

                      •  There is also no evidence (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Mortifyd, Navy Vet Terp

                        of his ever speaking to his father again, either.

                        That I can believe.

                        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                        by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 11:55:17 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

      •  But Ishmael later returns (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TiaRachel, mayim, Wee Mama, ramara

        when Abraham dies, and both Isaac and Ishmael bury their father.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:59:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But at that point in the story, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp, mayim, ramara

          Isaac was the only acknowledged/filling-the-social-roles son.

          •  Actually (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TiaRachel

            Isaac carried the promise given to Abraham, as Jacob carried it after him. It didn't matter how they went about it, that was the predestined line.

            But Ishmael will also become a mighty nation, part of the blessing Abraham was given.

            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

            by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:40:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm thinking of the text as a story, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mortifyd, Eowyn9, ramara

              and trying to place it in some sort of historical/cultural context (in response to comments way at the top of the thread, which mentioned the 'only son' bit).

              At this point, I've lost track of whose story (in which text)  has which details.

              Thought of another interpretation, though:

              G: Sees S&A send off H&I, possibly ponders the ramifications of this polygamy thing from the points-of-view of someone other than the husband/father. Thinks 'after all that business about not having children, you only want the right child? What would you do if you lost him?' Says 'hey, y'know that child sacrifice thing those other people are said to do? Yeah, that. Go do that, for no other reason than I said so.

              A: Really? Ok, sure. C'mon, my most adored child...

              G: facepalms Not really the point -- but ok, you're devoted to me, got that. And here's an animal, so you can get that sacrifice thing out of your system. And maybe think about this whole thing for a millennia or two...

              •  It finally all makes sense! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TiaRachel

                Actually, in regards to Fishtroller's earlier comment about "playing mind games with children" I was going to say, I'm a piano teacher...and I play "mind games" with children ALL. THE. TIME. Not evil or sadistic ones, obviously, and with their best interests in mind -- and afterwards they "get" the point. But somehow there's no other way to get a concept across or teach them something important.

                Even something so simple as "you want to do it your way? Ok, here's a challenge: play the whole song that way without missing a note, and you can pass it on the spot." (Kind of like the kid equivalent of "I've got a hundred dollar bill in my pocket, and..."

                * five or so failed attempts later *

                "Hmm. That's not working out so well for you, is it? Why not try it this way instead?"

                ;D

                "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:24:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  BRILLIANT!! superb raprochement of that issue.n/t (0+ / 0-)
    •  Isaac is the final word (0+ / 0-)

      in the translations I use.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:10:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is beautiful. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, mayim, quarkstomper, Wee Mama, ramara

    Your description of the problem of chosenness, particularly of the issue of seeing everybody else as "extras," reminds me of something my rabbi has said -- essentially warning us against this worldview.  That we shouldn't get the idea that us being the Chosen People means that all the other people in the world are just characters on a holodeck (his words), there to provide background for our story.

    Or as I put it: in the real world there are no NPCs.  (Except possibly angels.  And I'm not sure about them.)

    •  Yes, exactly! Though some passages suggest (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mayim, Navy Vet Terp, Wee Mama, ramara

      that even angels have their own story (and "agenda", hopes, goals, etc.) For example in Daniel when the angel Gabriel talks about trying to get through to him but being restrained by the "Prince" (i.e. angel?) of Persia, and the angel Michael then coming to his assistance. Or in Job when the angels are in some kind of heavenly conference meeting, and Satan shows up and issues his famous challenge to God.

      In the "Powers" trilogy, the Christian theologian Walter Wink explores this idea in detail: that countries, or institutions, or even religions or the forces of nature, can each have their own "angel" or "guiding spirit", and that these "angels" aren't necessary working together...and that when they stubbornly promote their own agenda, things can get pretty nasty for the people involved. (A good example being the GOP at the moment... :D ) Of course, he quotes from the New Testament as well in support of this view, so I'm not sure how applicable it is to the Jewish scriptures by themselves.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:24:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The notion of each country or nation (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mayim, Eowyn9, Wee Mama, ramara

        having its own angel is a very common one in midrash, but I can't recall any midrashic story about those angels working in opposition to each other.

        There is definitely one school of thought saying that angels do not have free will and act only as God directs them, but on the other hand there are stories about angels arguing with God.  (Of course that isn't necessarily a contradiction; maybe telling the angels to argue with him is God's way of talking to Himself.)

        •  How is the whole "Michael versus the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mayim, ramara

          Prince of Persia" thing generally interpreted (if the angels never work in opposition to one another)? Just curious. Of course one could interpret the "Prince of Persia" as merely a human prince, but then Michael is also described as a "Prince", not an angel -- at least in my translation.

          Apparently the "man" who delivers the vision to Daniel is not explicitly described as Gabriel -- this is just assumed in the (Christian) commentary I read.

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:04:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sadly, Daniel is one of the books (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mayim, Eowyn9, Mortifyd, ramara

            that I have never studied in any depth.  I do know there are several places in the Tanakh where the text refers to a "man" and the commentary identifies said man as an angel; from a quick look at that sequence in Daniel 10, this would seem to be another such case, as Daniel's reaction to the "man" doesn't make a whole lot of sense otherwise.

            The Hebrew word used for Michael in that sequence is sar, which, yes, usually translates to "prince" or sometimes "officer" or "official" -- a high rank but not one with supreme authority (i.e., subordinate to a king or some other ruler).

            Maybe I'll take a look at Daniel over the weekend and see if I can find anything on this sequence.

            •  Daniel is in the Hebrew Bible, but (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mayim, Eowyn9, Batya the Toon, Mortifyd

              for some reason it gets overlooked in Judaism, at least the Judaism of today and probably for the past few centuries as well.  Maybe I'll take a look at Daniel too.

              "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

              by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 11:01:53 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  It is probably one of the last books (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mortifyd

              of Tanakh to be written, along with Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles - written after the return from Babylonia. Most of us don't get that far. It's not included with the prophets.

              Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

              by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:06:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  that's another one of those differences... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TiaRachel, ramara, mettle fatigue

                To us, it's a book. To Christians, it's prophecy.  VERY different starting points of view right there and changes the importance and emphasis placed on it.

                •  I'm curious -- how do Jewish commentators (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara, mettle fatigue

                  interpret the sections of Daniel that Christians read as prophecy? (Chapters 10 to 12 -- the part that begins "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel..." It certainly seems to be set up like prophecy -- what else can you call a "revelation"?

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:27:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Or for that matter Daniel 7-8, (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ramara, mettle fatigue

                    or the king's dream of a great statue (which Daniel interprets right before him as being about four great kingdoms to come in the future...)

                    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                    by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:28:59 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well, I'm far from a scholar (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      TiaRachel, mettle fatigue

                      but the prophetic books in Tanakh include the histories except for Chronicles as well as the major and minor prophets, and includes Jonah and not Daniel, and I can't quite figure it out either. For a long time I assumed Daniel was among them. My general feeling is that the grouping is historical, grouped around both the prophesied exile and the return to Jerusalem. Most of these had to do with warning, repentance and God's forgiveness and love, and were contemporary in time except for Jonah, which was related by theme and might have been written down during that period.

                      The simplest and most likely explanation is, I think, that the books of the Prophets were already compiled and written down and part of the accepted scripture by the time Daniel was written.

                      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                      by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 10:35:38 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  There are prophecies and there are intuitive leaps (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JDsg, ramara, mettle fatigue

                      and Daniel had intuitive leaps.  A prophecy requires a level of connection that is beyond the capacity of the human body - you flip out, you fall into a trance - the body is unable to maintain a normal state in direct contact with G-d.

                      Daniel had visions but he didn't reach the level of a prophet, no matter how correct or amazing his leaps of intuition were.

                  •  The Jewish Bible is in 3 Parts (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Eowyn9, mayim

                    I.  Torah:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  The traditional view is that it is the word of God, dictated to Moses who took the dictation.  It stands at the top in holiness, because Moses talked to God face to face and got the direct scoop.

                    II.  Prophets:  Which are divided into two subparts:

                    A.  Historical Prophets:  Joshua, Judges, and the two books of Samuel and Kings.  They mention prophets such as Samuel and Nathan and Elijah and therefore are included in the Prophets.

                    B.  Literary Prophets:  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 "Minor Prophets" - minor in the length of their books, not necessarily in importance.  Both sets of prophets saw God in hazy dreams so they only got the indirect scoop.
                    They are intermediate in holiness.

                    III.  Writings.  Written by people without any input from God.  They include Psalms, Proverbs, Chronicles, the Five Megillot read in synagogue - Esther, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes, also Nehemiah and Ezra, Job and Daniel.  They are at the bottom of holiness.

                    I don't know why Daniel is a Writing and not a Prophet but the theory that it is post-Exile is as good as any.

                    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

                    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:11:09 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds like the Trojan War... n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:01:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Gah! I just realized I have a ridiculous typo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, Wee Mama, ramara

    in the final paragraph. It's meant to read "no two stories are the SAME" (or "each story is unique.")

    More coffee, please... **looks sheepish**

    /goes to edit

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

    by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:28:07 AM PDT

  •  Republished to Elders of Zion ;-) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp, ramara

    For consistency from other weeks.

    Thanks for posting ~ interesting reading!

    The worst sin - perhaps the only sin - passion can commit, is to be joyless. (Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers)

    by mayim on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 09:32:33 AM PDT

  •  So are you saying, Eowyn9 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara

    that all the gods of all the various faith traditions are actually the one "God" (I'm assuming the god of the Hebrew traditions) who kind of puts on masks of creative diversity in his/her interactions with all people to express his/her love while simultaneously telling each person on the planet their own unique story? That's what I'm reading, and I am wondering what evidence you are using to make these declarative statements about the nature of this "God".  

    Surely you are not getting it from the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Issac (or Ishmael) since any god who would play those kinds of head games with adults and especially with children is not a loving god.

    There is a good reason why people supposedly "misunderstand" the issue of "chosenness". It's written right in the texts and I don't remember any footnotes telling the reader to not take that seriously. There should have been, however,  footnotes about the fact that the god of the OT and the god of the NT are definitely not the same god, unless that god is schizophrenic (I didn't send the savior yet/ I did send the savior).

    And last question. Where do atheists, who reject the proposition that there are any gods, fit into all this?

    •  I'll deal with just your last question (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mayim, Navy Vet Terp

      for the moment, since I'm about to teach and have only a few minutes: Where do atheists fit into all this?

      Well, as a believer, but an open-minded believer, I would assume that God works with atheists as well as they pursue their own life story. Certainly, common atheistic values of reason, science, freedom of thought and humanism are definitely the sorts of goals that a loving God would also pursue. So I don't think God ignores or fails to love atheists -- any more than any other members of the human race! It's quite possible that by following their conscience and reason to wherever it leads them, even in denying the existence of God, they are actually serving God (who is, both in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, Truth itself personified, in a sense!) better than many "believers" do.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:39:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Now I'm even more confused. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara

        How can a a person serve an entity that does not exist? This feels a little like the fundamentalist Christians who tell me that god is actually in my heart and guiding my life and I'm just denying it.  Or the new ager who tells me that every time I feel a sense of awe about the universe, I am actually feeling "God".

        I see what you are proposing about the nature of the god you believe in, but that god is not at all like Yahweh, so I wonder why you would write on this particular diary series, unless you are thinking that your personal god who pursues that list of those those atheistic values is somehow the same or tied to Yahweh.  It just feels to me that writing about what you envision to be the characteristics of your god would fit you better.  Of course, I'd probably give you a hard time about that too! ;)

        •  Haven't you heard of the idea that someone (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mayim, Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, JDsg, Wee Mama, ramara

          'serves' Justice or Truth or such? People whose lives are devoted to the principles of some sort of (mostly) universally-acknowledged Good?

          I see where this feels like the fundy christian viewpoint to you, but I'd suggest that at least some of that is that your perspective on the topic has been shaped by Protestant Fundamentalist-like thinking (as with many Americans, regardless of belief). Roman Catholicism (especially historically) and Judaism are very different from Protestantism (which of course has huge variations among itself), in some very deep ways. And some of these blocks you appear to find seem to me to be a matter of your expecting to think along a certain mindset, while others are using different frameworks (with similar language, of course).

          An analogy, prompted by an empty cup: I'm a tea-drinker. But when I say that, what I mean is: the beverage that results from the leaves of one certain plant, Camellia Sinensis (well, ok, Camellia Assamica, too). But plenty of people call various beverages made from other plants 'tea' as well, and consider themselves tea-drinkers -- while if I were drinking that beverage, I might enjoy it but it wouldn't be 'tea' to me. And then there are the people who only drink camellia sinensis/assamica when it's been flavored with assorted other things... and of course there's the 'sweet tea' phenomenon, and of course teabags ;)

          But when you're talking about 'tea', everyone brings their own experience. And things get confused when you get into the details, and it turns out that what they're calling 'tea' isn't remotely like what you expect them to call 'tea',
          and so what you think you're hearing isn't at all what they think they're saying...

          (kinda fell apart there. I think maybe I need another cuppa ;)

        •  Actually, I think it's rather more strange that (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDsg, ramara, TiaRachel, Mortifyd, marykk

          you, as a self-professed non-Jew, would comment on a Jewish group to tell its readers what "Yahweh is actually like." Surely they would be the experts?

          My own beliefs are not all THAT relevant to the larger discussion, but just for the record and to answer your earlier question: I am a Christian, but I am also "universalist" in the sense that I believe that all sincere human faith and worship and our sense of wonder and awe does point to a single God. (Though "single" may be a misleading adjective here...I mean, we're talking about something outside the laws of space and time and hence mathematics as we know it...)

          However, I believe that some mental images of God are more accurate than others, not really in the way we visualize God (trivial details like body and gender and even number) but what God is like as a "person". E.g. faith traditions that have depicted God as whimsical, unjust, bloodthirsty, sadistic, disloyal, demanding servitude, and so on -- though of course one could make the argument that all of these depictions creep into the Hebrew/Christian Bibles as well! In general, though, the Judeo-Christian tradition depicts God as loving, merciful, faithful, trustworthy, and above all justice and compassion-oriented. By that I mean that he/she/it wants to help humanity create a better society constructed around justice and compassion rather than greed and power.

          This is NOT to say that I think the Judeo-Christian depiction of God is the "only right" or even the "best" one -- but I think it has some important things to say about God that other faith traditions don't touch upon, and therefore it is valuable (just as they may touch upon aspects of God that the Judeo-Christian tradition leaves out or glosses over.)

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 07:33:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A Kossack whose name I forget (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, TiaRachel, marykk

            once made the analogy that God is a diamond, and all the world religions as well as things like ancient Greek thought, Taoism, secular humanism, ethical culture, etc. are the facets. Each facet brings out another bit of beauty in the stone, brings in some new lights. The facets even enhance each other, as light bounces off their angles.

            Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

            by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:38:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Ok, here's what I find frustrating (0+ / 0-)

            with a good deal of this.  There is a book called the bible. It has a section called the Old Testament which records the history of the Jewish religion through stories, etc.   In those stories, which I believe I am smart enough to read and analyze, there are lots of plot lines where the god of these people acts or speaks.  And in many of those plot lines, this god acts or speaks in terrifying and immoral ways.  So I make the analysis that this god or G-D or whatever is not a very nice deity and not worthy of worship or even consideration.  

            That is my opinion based on what I have read in this book.  Are you saying that only certain people with certain understandings (experts) are smart enough or the only ones qualified to comment?  I read the bible. I didn't read the Torah. That still doesn't disqualify my view from the realm of observation.  You are making it more and more sound like the bible and Torah and every other "holy" book is meant only for the experts to comment on.  So I guess that really does make it all exclusive. Doesn't sound like a "universalist god" to me if most people can't even read his/her "Word" for themselves.

            And finally, there are no ideas of gods that are "more accurate than others" because each god is simply a product of that person's personal imagination and experiences.   You keep claiming that there's this universal deity with great conviction despite the fact that you have no evidence to back that up, and your personal god does not translate into other people's heads. Look at how Mortifyd reacted to your idea of god. He rejected it because it doesn't match the god he carries around in his head.

            I find all of this even more confusing. There is no logic operating here and certainly no reason.

            •  Ok, taking up your challenge: (0+ / 0-)
              And in many of those plot lines, this god acts or speaks in terrifying and immoral ways.  So I make the analysis that this god or G-D or whatever is not a very nice deity and not worthy of worship or even consideration.  
              Unless you're operating according to principles of "guilty until proven innocent", this is not a logical or proven conclusion. In fact, I can off the top of my head think of at least THREE ways in which your conclusion could be wrong. Here goes.

              1) The deity in question is like, to use a metaphor, quantum mechanics. In QM there are all sorts of contradictions: light is a particle and a wave. An quantum particle is everywhere and nowhere. Etc. When we study QM, we obtain all sorts of results which appear nonsensical and contradictory from within the constraints of human logic, yet our research tells us all these results are valid. God/the OT deity may be the same way: loving and merciful even though it did say these things and perform these actions, which within the constraints of human logic appear contradictory to the principles of love and mercy.
              (Just for the record, I find this the least convincing of the three scenarios...but it's certainly possible, and we can't discount it.)

              2) God has been misrepresented. For example, if you take just a daily cross-section of what the US media/blogs/etc report about President Obama, you will come up with a vast array of statements, many of which (even on Daily Kos at times!) are critical or negative. Many have blamed Obama for things (such as the GOP shutdown) that he did not in fact cause. Obviously, since we are living through these events we can independently evaluate them and the claims made about Obama. But if someone were to read these reports in a hundred or a thousand years, they would not be able to do this so easily, and might get a very false picture of "what Obama was like."
              Of course this explanation presupposes that the OT is not the "literal word of God" and that God is willing to allow us to entertain false ideas about him/her/it, without always stepping in to give us the right idea -- but I for one don't see that as a problem.

              3) God's actions are merciful from a higher perspective. Any pet owner or parent of a young child has experienced times when they had to do or say things that seemed cruel or unnecessary to the child/animal in question -- because even greater harm would have followed if they hadn't. (For example, taking a sick animal to the veterinarian even if it is terrified of vets, or yelling at or spanking a toddler to stop them from repeatedly running out into busy traffic.) It is quite possible that God, in his/her/it's interactions with humanity, is sometimes caught between a rock and a hard place: faced with no good options and having to pick the "least bad" one to stop things from getting even worse.

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 05:30:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I have to tell you that I admire (0+ / 0-)

                your willingness to discuss and debate and I felt bad that you got a little caught between differing factions of this community about your ability to write a diary on a topic outside your "expertise".  But then you kind of turned around and did the same thing with me. I was exactly where you are now at one point in terms of your view of "god", so I am not responding out of a lack of empathy for where you are in your spiritual choices.

                1- I worked with physicists and I can tell you that they would really resent your using QM as a metaphor for discussing a god.  They really hate Deepak Chopra for that.

                2- If the texts do not reflect god acurately, then write new texts and dump the old ones.

                3- An all encompassing creator of this universe who according to you lives outside of time or space would never get caught between a rock and a hard place. And I personally don't need or want a god who views me as a child.

                •  Going point by point: (0+ / 0-)

                  1) Who cares what they (physicists) would think? (Not to mention there's plenty of QM physicists who believe in God or a deity). That's faulty reasoning. The question is not "would they like the metaphor" but "is it a good metaphor" -- which you totally failed to address in your reply.

                  2) What makes you think anything we could say about God today would be any more accurate? (Also, new religious texts are continually being written: e.g. Walsch's "Conversations with God", which -- who knows? -- could become the basis of a new religious movement in years to come!) Just because we can see the issues with someone else's portrayal of God, doesn't mean ours would be any better. It's the "mote in their eye, beam in ours" problem. At least, with an ancient religious text, we can readily see the issues. With a text rooted in our own time and sharing our own prejudices, we're more -- not less -- likely to forget the text is only one portrayal of God and believe that it is the absolute truth about God.

                  3) Sure, a creator of the universe that controlled absolutely everything within that universe would never get caught between a rock and a hard place. But as soon as you create beings that have free will, and allow them to exercise that free will, there may very well be consequences that you don't like. E.g. if we were to create AI's that could think and make independent decisions, we might well find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place in our dealings with them.
                  Regarding metaphor: if you don't like the metaphor, then just let it go. God as parent is only one metaphor -- in the Hebrew Bible alone there's many others: God as teacher, as lover, as brother, as friend, as creative artist...and so on. I find the "parent" metaphor deeply moving, but if it doesn't work for you, that's fine!

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 11:12:33 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well if you don't care what physicists (0+ / 0-)

                    think about having their work in science used to justify the belief in a god and don't honor their position on that, then why should anyone (like scientists) care what religionists think about having their ideas criticized?  Yes, there are physicists who have belief in a god (maybe 5% of them according to surveys) and they still don't mix up that belief with QM. If they did, they'd get nothing published. You can't peer review woo.

                    You just told me that ancient views of god as written in these texts are flawed and then you defend them. Which is it?

                    Believe in whatever you wish. Just don't be surprised or even annoyed when someone criticizes those ideas when you put them out in a public forum.  No religious ideas are above criticism.  And that's the way it should be. At least in a democracy.

            •  And now, regarding evidence. (0+ / 0-)
              "You keep claiming that there's this universal deity with great conviction despite the fact that you have no evidence to back that up,"...
              You're kind of hung up on this, I've noticed. You seem to be under the illusion that every statement everyone makes needs to be supported by some kind of evidence. What gave you that idea?

              For example, you obviously believe that it is very important to seek the truth and to examine all beliefs from a critical and logical mindset to try to winnow out truth from falsity. Truth is, I've noticed, a sort of god to you -- which is fine, nothing wrong with that, except you're trying to FORCE the worship of your "god" upon others. And intolerance in the name of "truth" can be just as wrong and harmful as intolerance in the name of Jesus or Allah or the like. What if I asked you to give me "evidence" for your ideas about the importance of truth?

              You have repeatedly and uncategorically stated in your posts here that God/gods do not exist. (E.g. take your statement above, "Each god is simply a product of that person's personal imagination and experiences." How on earth could you know or prove that for certain?) Suppose I asked you for evidence that there is no God? (I can sum up pretty quickly how that conversation can go -- so let's not waste out time actually playing it out:

              Fishtroller01: "You don't need evidence to prove the nonexistence of something."
              Eowyn9: "Oh, really? Please give me evidence of that statement."

              ...Silence...)

              On a slightly different track, suppose you met a teabagger who spewed out a long, vitriolic, bigoted rant against minorities, women, Democrats, and so on and so forth. Would you find it at all reassuring if they claimed to have "proof" of their bigoted worldview -- proof that they found convincing, even if you didn't? Would it make their opinions any less sickening? Would all the "evidence" in the world for their hateful prejudices make them any less of a vile individual? Wouldn't you respect somebody more who believed in equality and the dignity of all human beings, even if they could not back up their worldview with "proof"?

              In the final analysis, do people need to present proof of their values (and is such proof even really possible)? If belief in "God" or "gods" help someone to be a more compassionate, loving, creative, and fulfilled person, does it really matter whether they can prove the existence of the God they believe in, or not?

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 05:48:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, I am hung up on evidence mainly because (0+ / 0-)

                people are out there killing each other over these ideas and have been since religions were present in the world. So if one can say that these ideas are not real, then that might take the authority out of them and lessen their effects.

                I don't think anyone becomes compassionate or moral or loving or a good actor in the world because of religion. I think those are HUMAN qualities and you either develope them or your don't.  I once asked someone if they found out tomorrow absolutely that there was no god (or gods) and that Jesus (and Abraham for that matter) never existed, would they change the way they behave in the world.  The answer was "of course not". So in my book, religious ideas do more harm overall in the world than good. And that is why I would like to see them challenged more openly and taken off their pedestal of respect.   If you make a statement about the nature of the universe we all live in, then yes, you should be held to the measuring stick we use for everything else... scrutiny, reason and evidence.

                •  "People are...killing each other over...ideas." (0+ / 0-)

                  You know, this is the truest thing you've posted so far. Religious wars and conflicts are not, in the final analysis, RELIGIOUS conflicts. They are conflicts over IDEAS.

                  In the same way, the Stalinist regime starved millions for the idea of communism. Mao's regime in China persecuted millions of believers for the idea of atheism. The American government overthrew democratically elected regimes in South America for the idea of democracy and capitalism. And so on.

                  Do you really think wars over ideas will go away if you take away "religion"? Given the experience of history, I think we can safely say they'll just morph into another form. People will continue to fight over ideas even without the slightest hint of any Skydaddy or Bible or temples or the like.

                  If you really want to stop people fighting over ideas, I can see only two possible solutions. You can either stop human beings from having ideas, or you can try to promote tolerance between people who have different ideas. Given that the former is impossible, I'd suggest you try the latter. :)

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:19:59 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  So when the crusades and inquisitions and (0+ / 0-)

                    witch burnings were occuring, that had only to do with ideas and not religion??? Really ??? You don't think that the violence that went on between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland had to do with religion? You don't think that the fights between Hindus and Muslims in parts of India and other areas has to do with religion? Or the Holocaust?

                    Have you really read the bible? Have you ever read the Koran? Have you noticed in the Old Testament the encouragements to kill "the other" (anyone outside your belief system)?  You can not separate the violence encouraged in these texts from the actions that result from them. At least you can not do that honestly.

                    Of course wars won't go away if religion does. But the divine stamp of approval for them that people use to justify their actions will go away.

                    I won't even address your implied accusation that I don't tolerate people with different ideas.

                    So I guess I'm done here.

        •  There's always the old joke (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDsg, Eowyn9, marykk

          that it doesn't matter whether you believe in God; what's important is whether God believes in you. :)

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:29:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think I know why it's considered "old". (0+ / 0-)

            There's a church in my town that put a sign on it's marquee that said, "God doesn't believe in atheists, therefore atheists don't exist."  Someone in the town (I sure wish I knew who) changed the sign to "God doesn't believe in hats, therefore hats don't exist."

            I haven't met a god yet who's good opinion I would consider worth having.  Now THAT'S funny!

            •  Maybe you just haven't met (0+ / 0-)

              enough gods yet?

              Try getting out more... ;)

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 04:42:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh I met tons of them on my way from (0+ / 0-)

                being a believer to being an atheist. The problem was when I realized they were all in my head and no where else. My gods were in the forest with the great spirit and then they were inside quarks. I kept trying to find a discipline that reflected my god and there weren't any. So my choice was to either make up my own religion, or decide whether I really needed this god to live a full and satisfying life.  Starting my own religion was too much work, so I chose the latter! ;)

                •  I hope you find your gods again... (0+ / 0-)

                  There's a lot of bitterness in what you post. I think you miss them.

                  Perhaps starting one's own religion might not be necessary, but rather creatively fulfilling? People don't need to write novels or go skydiving or grow flowers or paint to survive, but our life would be so much barer and poorer without these things. In the same way, if my own God were taken away from my life, perhaps life would go on for me in a sort of inevitable mechanical sense -- but it would never again have the same depth and richness it does now. It would be like being robbed of my ability to hear and play music, or my sense of humor.

                  Anyway -- wishing you the best. :)

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 09:23:47 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes, us atheists have no joy in our lives. (0+ / 0-)

                    No depth. No sense of awe. No music. No flowers.  We don't paint. We don't even skydive!  

                    I'll let you in on a little secret and if you explored the world of atheist blogs (Adam Lee's Daylight Atheism comes to mind up front) you will see it.... life for atheists who formerly hung their joy on gods is even richer, more vibrant and more colorful without them!  When you realize that this is all we have, that there is no afterlife and no gods, everything comes into focus.  You love each day more. You love your friends and family more and have more patience with them.... because THIS really is it- reality.  And it's quite beautiful all by itself.  I am not sharing that, however, to convince you or "convert" you.  It's just a truth that you may not know.

                    Best to you too!

    •  I'll deal with "footnotes" (8+ / 0-)

      As I have mentioned to you before, Jewish Bibles are "footnoted" with the commentaries from the Talmud and Midrash and Rashi and Maimonides and others.  Unless you are reading the Bible merely as a work of ancient literature, then reading the Bible as a Jew means reading the Biblical text with all the footnotes.  The rabbinical concept of "chosenness" is that God chose the Jewish people by placing upon the Jewish people 613 commandments by which Jews are expected to live, while providing the rest of the world's population with only the 7 Laws of Noah.  A Jew is judged by his or her obedience to these 613 commandments, while the non-Jew is judged according to his or her obedience to the 7 Laws of Noah.  It is, by my calculation, 88 times as hard to keep 613 laws as it is to keep 7.  So "chosenness" is actually a burden that the Jew accepts by being willing to live a Jewish life.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 11:14:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I often feel when reading all this stuff (0+ / 0-)

        including examples like the 7 Laws of Noah, that I am stuck in the middle of a giant octopus of a bureaucracy created by thousands of years of people writing what amounts to little more than job justification papers.  Seriously, you are saying that Jews choose their chosenness by submitting to a crazy list of do's and don'ts concocted by a deity (I am very suspicious that a deity is not the author of them) thousands of years ago that act as an endless stream of footnotes from the past that everyone now spends their lives trying to sort out and make sense of.  At least that's the way it appears to me, and I have to tell you (and I hope you won't take this the wrong way), but if I had to spend my time doing that, I'd be pounding my forehead on a wailing wall too.  

        •  the mitzvos serve a purpose. (7+ / 0-)

          They are tools of growth for US to be better Jews.  Like exercises.  You don't have to get it, you're not a Jew. Believe whatever you like, including nothing if that suits you.  We have things to do.

          •  Yes, I see that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mettle fatigue

            613 things to do. Or not. Or some of it.  The question is when you look at all this, what is exactly the definition of being Jewish?  It's it one who follows all these laws, or some of them, or is it just a cultural/racial characteristic?

            I get the exercises thing, but if the results of doing them makes you a better Jew, then is that any different than being simply a better human being?

            •  It's someone who is a family member of the lines (0+ / 0-)

              of Abraham, Yitzaak and Yosef either through the mothers line or adoption. (conversion)

              Belief doesn't matter, membership does.

              We aren't concerned with humanity as a whole, we are concerned with our people and our ways.  Some people are good people and terrible Jews ritually, some are ritually perfect and completely shitty people.  But we're still related, we still have a familial obligation to recognize them as one of our own.

              We do recognize those who do extraordinary things to help Jews or that benefit the Jewish people, but other than that - what other people do is their business, not ours.

              •  I've met Jews, though, that hold exactly (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ramara, mettle fatigue, Fishtroller01

                the opposite opinion: that this type of insularity is a dangerous and limiting path to follow, and that what matters is the restoration of the world and indeed all of humanity to the state of peace, plenty and ecological healing depicted in the visions of the prophets.

                Not being Jewish I obviously can't comment which opinion (if either) is more valid or "correct". But there does seem to be a remarkable diversity of opinion on this.

                "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                by Eowyn9 on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:16:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  We're Jews. There's *always* a remarkable (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ramara, Mortifyd, mettle fatigue, Eowyn9, mayim

                  diversity of opinion :)

                  He did say

                  We aren't concerned with humanity as a whole
                  and that's mostly accurate, when you're talking about the things that jewish law & ethics holds important. Humans, yes -- but not {humanity as a whole}.

                  Judaism doesn't claim to be the one best way for all humanity, full stop.

                  •  um, radical leftist are concerned w/humanity as a (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Eowyn9

                    whole, and often not at all concerned with the minutiae of religious practice and study ('tho very culturally oriented), but as TiaRachel said, they're also not claiming to be the one best way for all humanity: they are claiming to be one among all the members of the human family and that each member has valuable stuff to bring to the discourse by which we all move forward together.

                •  the answer is "yes" on some levels (0+ / 0-)

                  however in a strictly halachic sense the answer I gave IS the answer.

                  Who are you to tell us who is and isn't a Jew when we have managed to preserve our culture for 5000 years despite repeated attempts to literally wipe us off the face of the earth?  I don't go around telling you who is in communion with your church - you don't get a say in how we decide to tell Jew from gentile.

                  I AM pro ecology, world peace and plenty - I am NOT all about everyone believing what we do is "right" or "better" than other beliefs.  What we are is what we are.  What you are is what you are.  

                  Is Christianity NOT exclusive?  It's highly exclusive - to the point Christians can't even agree on who is and isn't actually Christian - so you lecturing us about exclusivity and insularity is more than a bit rich, don't you think?

                  Honestly.

                  •  I'm not lecturing you on anything. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Navy Vet Terp

                    YOU were the one who claimed that the Jewish texts/traditions were insular and focused on Jewish culture and could care less about the rest of humanity. All I pointed out was that I have had discussions with Jews who read the texts in exactly the opposite manner. That's it! I didn't make any comments about which was better or more valid, because as you say, I'm not qualified to do so. For one thing I'm not Jewish, and for another it's not my place to judge the validity of anyone else's religious beliefs, including yours!

                    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                    by Eowyn9 on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:19:45 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Two Jews three opinions. (0+ / 0-)

                      Why do you think it's ok for you to tell Jews in dvah Torah what the Torah really means?

                      If you had say - done some research on the Jewish perspectives on Torah and given a dvar Torah on the parsha of the week from a Jewish perspective - even contrasting what you had found with what you "know" from your own tradition - I wouldn't have had an issue with it.  That might even have been interesting.

                      Instead you tell us what the Torah means from your non-Jewish perspective in a Jewish formatted space.  You are judging the validity of our culture by ignoring the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish scholarship and tradition.  Like it not only doesn't exist, but doesn't matter, because hey, it's yours now too.

                      That's what I'm not keen on.

                  •  Mortifyd, really? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    JDsg

                    Let me tell you a story. A true one. There is a young woman who I have known since she was a baby and she is very dear to me.  She married and Jewish man (her background is Christian) and she converted to Judaism at his request.  Their first child, a girl, died in the womb  when she was about a week overdue. No explanation... just one of those awful things.  Her husband's mother declared that the child died because this lovely young woman wasn't really a Jew, and this was Yahweh's punishment for that.   So don't generalize about Christian behavior and exclusivity, please.

                    •  so her MIL was a bitch. That's not Judaism (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JDsg, Batya the Toon

                      that's an ignorant bitch who is superstitious and mean.  Why do you keep insisting that superstition IS belief - or that some random anecdote from someone you know is somehow the definition of Jewish culture?  

                      The fact that you keep doing that shows you don't know what you are trying to criticize.

                      •  So you are the "decider" on who is Jewish and (0+ / 0-)

                        who is not?  Now WHO is delving into exclusivity?

                        •  I didn't say she "wasn't" Jewish. I SAID (0+ / 0-)

                          that her superstitious and mean words have nothing to DO with Judaism.  Not the same thing.

                          If her daughter in law converted, she's a Jew. What kind of conversion wasn't discussed here - so I will simply take the orthodox view and say - a proper convert is a Jew and assume it was proper.  The rabbi who acted as the supervisor of the ketubah signed off on her being a legitimate Jew - and I have no reason to argue with that.

                          So - her MIL is a superstitious bitch, and that has nothing to do with Judaism, but everything with her being a mean and superstitious bitch.

                          •  It was her interpretation of the texts (0+ / 0-)

                            that led her to her opinion. And her rabbi backed her up. So you can say she has the wrong interpretation of the texts, but then you are playing the same game that goes on ad nauseum between liberal and fundamentalist Christians.

                          •  what rabbi? where? (0+ / 0-)

                            You just keep making the story bigger and bigger...

                          •  No. The story is not mine. (0+ / 0-)

                            It was related to me by the young woman. I do not know even the name of the mother in law. The father in law divorced her.  I wonder why?

                            And why would you be surprised at this side of Judaism? There are Jews throwing rocks at young school girls on their way to school for being improperly dressed. There are tons of stories in the news of rabbis who commit crimes or teach a very very harsh view of the Torah, especially when it comes to women.  

                            Maybe YOU need to read more!

                          •  look, what do you want? (0+ / 0-)

                            At no point ever did anyone say Jews are perfect. Nowhere. But crazy people are no more definitive of Judaism any more than those crazy people in Kansas who protest funerals are definitive for Christians.

                            You didn't relate the story with ANY of that information. I based my response on what you told me - and you keep changing the story to try and score points - of what?  That's what I don't understand - what do you want?

                          •  But they ARE representative of their (0+ / 0-)

                            respective religions because the texts contain the superstition and the nastiness, often bearing the deity's divine stamp of approval on it.  That seems to be constantly ignored, danced around and/or denied.

                            What do I want? From you, nothing.  I would like to see an overall acknowlegement of my "right" so to speak to question and criticize religious ideas that are posted on a public site.  If people post stuff that makes no sense, I or anyone else should be able to point that out without all the bluster and accusations of being ignorant simply because I view the same material in a different way. I would like that, but not getting it really doesn't matter either.

                            What is everyone afraid of anyway?  That I am going to somehow sneak into your brain and take away your beliefs?

                          •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

                            If the majority of religious people actually acted like then you might have something - but the majority don't.  In fact the majority are appalled by people like that, and repeatedly say that and actually counter protest against them when possible.

                            So they're not representative of normal religious people - just the ones you grew up around.  And while I'm sorry about that - it's not the majority, or what being religious means, or normal.

                            So screaming in dvar Torah about how horrible the people who raised you are and all the bullshit they taught you is - irrelevant to the discussion.  That's not criticism, that's just you flailing about your past and making it everyone elses problem - and disrupting the actual conversation that might have been going on.

                            I'm not afraid, I'm irritated at your selfish bullshit need to make your bad childhood part of a dvar Torah.  That's what pisses me off.  You can't even wrap your head around my beliefs - so honestly, how could you change them?

                          •  two final points for you..... (0+ / 0-)

                            1- you must be projecting concerning childhood issues. Mine was great, and religiously pretty benign. I was confirmed as a lutheran in a midwest liberal congregation. Nice people that I remember with fondness.

                            2- You pretty much revealed your character with the f-u comment, so we are definitely done.

                          •  mine wasn't so bad. and it was religiously neutral (0+ / 0-)

                            there was NO religion at all.

                            You just have to keep coming back though... days later when you can finally think of something to say.

                          •  "I would like to see an overall acknowlegement (0+ / 0-)
                            of my "right" so to speak to question and criticize religious ideas that are posted on a public site."
                            I don't get it. You HAVE that right. You've exercised it repeatedly on this and other D'var Torah threads. You've thoroughly and at great length reiterated your position that belief in the OT deity, or any deity, is nonsense and ridiculous and not based in logic. I for one am fully aware of your position and I think it's pretty safe to say that your arguments, such as they are, have not convinced anyone in this group to give up whatever beliefs they may hold (in fact, said arguments don't even hold up to a thorough examination, as we found in our little debate up the page...) But you can't claim you've been silenced or that anyone here has hide-rated your comments or ordered you to leave the group or such.

                            You've been given the soapbox you wanted, and your speech seems to consist of one long rant of: "I have the right to question religious ideas on a public site! I have the right to question religious ideas on a public site! I have the right to question religious ideas on a public site!"

                            Nobody here disagrees with that. But what else do you have to say? Are you a rebel without a cause?

                            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                            by Eowyn9 on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 07:24:08 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  and we don't call G-d "yahweh" either (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JDsg, Batya the Toon, mayim

                      it's G-d, HaShem, EloKAYnu, reading out loud and not making a broucha - maybe The Lord if someone is a little weird.... but not "yahweh."

                      There are a number of reasons for that - profaning the name by saying it wrong, we don't even say that while praying, we say another name which means "My Lord."  Only the Kohen Gadol said that in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur where none of the rest of us could even hear it.  

                      Just another glaring... problem with your lecturing Jews on what you think we believe and do.

                      •  You've made it abundantly clear (0+ / 0-)

                        that no one "outside" of your particular view of what Judaism means or what being a Jew means has any right to comment. Again, who is being exlusive here?

                        So then don't write diaries on a public site if you don't want "outsiders" to ask questions or make observations.  Then you won't have worry about the club being invaded.

                        •  NO JEW says that. Not of any stream. So either (0+ / 0-)

                          you're lying intentionally - or you are putting words she didn't say in her mouth - and frankly I suspect it's the latter.

                          There is no W in Hebrew.  What you are claiming is the name - is simply not pronounceable that way in Hebrew.  The vowels used to under the letters in the siddurim of ALL branches of Judaism are from another word entirely - we have no idea what the actual vowels were - so it's wrong for that reason as well.

                          So it's not my version of Judaism - it's JUDAISM itself - reconstructionist, reform, conservative, orthodox - all of us.  It's the language of Hebrew.  It's your ignorance showing.  

                          You don't get a free pass to make shit up and pass it off as Jewishness - or definitive as Jewish culture because you think it makes your point look good.  At least not without being called out for it.

                          There is 5000 years of Jewish culture.  While it has wide variations - there is a LOT we agree on as Jews.  You keep showing you know nothing of Jewish culture and then try to claim it's religion - when culture and religion do not function the way you claim they do for Jews.  It just doesn't.  Ignorance is not a valid point of view and doesn't have to be coddled or tolerated.

              •  Not Joseph (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mortifyd, mettle fatigue

                Most Jews surviving these days are from the tribe of Judah, and some Levites and Kohains. Jews in Ethiopa and China and perhaps other places claim to be from the missing tribes.

                Joseph's sons' tribes perished with the North Kingdom.

                Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 06:54:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  The line of Abraham? (0+ / 0-)

                There's no evidence that this man ever existed. This is the kind of thing I am talking about.... statements made about reality as absolutes that have nothing concrete to back them up. These are stories... mythologies, and yet people base their whole existence and reason for living on them? Racial/cultural backgrounds in common, I can see as a basis for "membership", but not an actual lineage from a handful of figures from folklore.

                •  again, you are assuming that people have never (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JDsg, Batya the Toon, mayim

                  ever claimed lineage in the history of humanity before - and also assuming that our knowledge of ourselves and our beginnings is inherently false.  Whether Abraham as a single person existed doesn't matter - what he stands for matters.  What each person in Torah stands for matters.   And there is some truth in there, it's just a matter of which and where - and I think we are much more highly qualified and have more information than you do, as I expect you've never cracked a Talmud folio in your life.

                  We DO have evidence on a genetic level we are related through common ancestry and whether his name was Abraham or Bob - not actually the important part of the issue for us, where it's some kind of absolute for you - why?  Because you're excluded from it?

                  Just because you don't know your great grandfather 10 times back removed's first name - does that mean he didn't have one or didn't exist? Of course not - you wouldn't be here if he didn't.  That he doesn't have meaning to you - that's your problem, not ours.

                  Why do you think it's your business if I want to feel that I am a descendant of a man who left Ur, left a comfortable life and became a nomad?  You don't know how it affects me or what it means to me at all - though you keep trying to tell me what it means - so lets just stick to the simplest question -

                  How does it affect you?

                •  Well, a historical document IS evidence. (0+ / 0-)

                  It might not be very good evidence, or there might be counter-evidence that suggests more strongly otherwise. But the very fact that he is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible which is, after all, a historical document, is evidence for his existence.

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 06:42:21 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  even more complex when U include SECULAR jews :) (0+ / 0-)

              some of whom regard the history of judaism as a constant maturation process (actually i guess many religiously observant jews see it similarly) beyond the maturation capacities of any individual life, so very long that keeping track of where we've been, what we've experienced and done, what we've thought, what directions we've gone, what course changes we've tried, what we've thought OF all of that, etc ad infinitum (it's 3,000 or more years of taking notes, and no signs of stopping taking notes anytime in foreseeable future) is necessary for avoiding retracing previous pathways any more often than is useful for mastery of what we learn (because of consequences and ramifications, people often to learn more from their mistakes than from their successes, so some mistakes do need repetition ... which may help explain repeated ideas such as freedom via Exodus and freedom via Maccabees), and equally necessary for building mastery of what we are learning rather along Piaget developmental lines.

              that may be the longest sentence i've ever written.  but maybe not.  anyway in addition to secularists who often LOOOVE what can be clarified & corrected by archaeology & related sciences (as do, again, many other varietals of judaism), there's also the very interesting Reconstructionist Judaism (as well of course as Conservative, Reform, and not even beginning to get into sephardi, Ethiopian, and so on.  and THEIR note-taking.

              Ethiopian in particular poses a tremendous (and to my mind hugely exciting and informative) rapprochement challenge which will probably take centuries, an excellent additional maturation/developmental task.

              i wrote this before seeing responses previously made, so i wouldn't lose my train of thought, so --to tentatively conclude at this point-- the idea of a "definition" as limited as adherence to what appears as a crazy list of 613 do's & don'ts when the reality is that most of the world's jews don't even agree on how to interpret them and/or don't consider crucial to even try, is perhaps to get hung up on details that lifelong scholars have had the opportunity to study under a microscope but most of us don't, and most of us (hopefully) don't stress about it, so there may not be anything for you to gain in stressing about it either.  Maybe just enjoy the ride and let the right side of your brain absorb what it may and develop concepts for you in a constantly growing organic way?  just a suggestion...

      •  This is very much the case with the Qur'an. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, TiaRachel, ramara, Eowyn9
        Unless you are reading the Bible merely as a work of ancient literature, then reading the Bible as a Jew means reading the Biblical text with all the footnotes.
        While there are plenty of non-footnoted Qur'ans published, the vast majority of English translations are filled with footnotes, Yusuf Ali's version having the most (around 7000 of them).  Then there are the tafsirs (exegesis), which are commentaries to the text of the Qur'an.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 02:44:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  At least half of the 613 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TiaRachel

        have to do with Temple worship, and therefore cannot be followed since the destruction of the Temple, though I understand that there are some Kohains who practice the rituals so that they will be ready when the Messiah comes.

        And the rabbis probably added just as many back (look at Kashrut).

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:41:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the duchaning (Priestly Blessing) requires no Bais (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel, ramara, mettle fatigue

          HaMigdash, so that is done, usually on major holidays.

          Certain foods must have trumah separated in the Land, though the "tithe" is not given to a Levite or Kohen generally. The whole point of Mussaf is to read and remember what SHOULD be done during the service in the Bais HaMigdash, including the order and number of animals sacrificed.  Most of which are eaten by the kohanim and/or their families - the Talmud is full of whining about kohens and their stomach aches from the two weeks of service and eating bbq and greasy pancakes.

          The agricultural ones like letting the land rest - actually done. The personal holiness ones like observant Kohanim avoiding the dead and marrying virgins - followed.  The simple things like chasing a bird from the nest before taking the eggs - chickens count as much as any other bird - that is an agricultural one as well.

          It's not a matter of rabbis adding anything - some are only for the land and the land exists.  Some are only for the Bais HaMigdash and don't.  Chumras (strictnesses) are not the mitzvos, knowing when and where to do what are the mitzvos.

      •  the concept i was taught 2. workworkwork. n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  that was a P.S. to NavyVetTerp's Fri 11:14 AM Oct (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp

          Oct 11 saying ""chosenness" is actually a burden that the Jew accepts by being willing to live a Jewish life."  my father, a talmudic aetheist, would have said slightly differently, "makes the commitment to live by jewish principles."  i know, i know, on the face of it it does seem to beg the question of what are jewish principles.  aiming a kaleidoscope at all the answers may be the only way to explain.  

    •  The idea that the text of the bible *alone* is (7+ / 0-)

      relevant (whichever version you're looking at)  is historically far from universal.

      About the 'head games' bit: the way I've always heard the story is with some historical context: there were gods in those days who did ask for sacrifices. And this god, the god of Abraham, had to go to certain lengths to convince Abraham that he was different, and expected different things from his people -- though he did have the power to require such things from his people, as did other gods, but chose not to do so.

      Really, historical context is necessary when reading these texts -- back then, people had different ideas about gods, which of course changed over the generations. One of these changes (which I suppose is tied to early imperialism) is the change from seeing gods as a supernatural version of patriarch/matriarch/kings -- unique to their people -- to positing some sort of universalism. Sort of: 'it's ok to stop worshiping 'our' gods and worship 'theirs' instead, because they're really the same. Plus, we don't get killed or otherwise punished for not worshiping the gods of our new rulers. Bonus!'

      Doesn't Jesus say at some point that he pre-empts the old laws? There's your footnote. And, of course, your different god.

      •  I am suspicious of any deity who allows (0+ / 0-)

        texts to be generated to reflect who/what he/she is all about that can't be read by the common people and understood without footnotes and special interpretations.   The story of Abraham and Issac is simply a story of a man who cowtows to his immoral god's need to make sure his creation is really really truly loyal to him.  What kind of an immature god is that? I don't get making this story more than it is unless one feels they must make the story do some fancy dancing in order to apologize for their god's behavior.  

        Of course I understand that these stories sit in a historical context of man's understanding (or lack thereof) of the universe at that time.   We now know (mostly) that it is wrong to kill people for not believing in the same god you do ( I could take that statement into another realm of discussion, but I won't).  But this understanding did not come from the texts, which remain fixed in time. While rabbis or other religious leaders can try to make them flexible and applicable to today by linguistic fancy dancing, it doesn't solve the problems of the basic texts.  And both Christians and Jews point to the story of Abraham and Issac as some sort of noble and positive story.  It's just not.  So why even discuss it anymore? It's been analyzed to death and doesn't change.

        As far as what Jesus said about the laws... he was reported to have said many things, and then completely  opposite things, so I don't put much stock in quoting him any more than quoting any other mythological figure. Unless I'm arguing with a literalist Christian, and then it comes in quite handy.

        •  But this is simply your own personal belief, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mortifyd, mayim, Eowyn9

          though shaped by others:

          I am suspicious of any deity who allows texts to be generated to reflect who/what he/she is all about that can't be read by the common people and understood without footnotes and special interpretations.
          Here, you have an idea of what a deity should and shouldn't be. Of what religiously-relevant texts should and shouldn't be. Of how people (even cultures?) should relate to those texts, to those deities. Others disagree. And no amount of what you're really saying is this and that's wrong and pointless will convince people who are actually saying something different that you are right and they are wrong.

          Your ideas are no more nor less valid than anyone elses. The same is true for everyone else, of course. Would you be surprised to hear that, to some religious people, the deity is really somewhat irrelevant?  

          You seem to be approaching this as if people are trying to change your beliefs, to convince you of something you find iffy. But no one else who writes/comments here is at all interested with that. No one is trying to convert you. People are simply talking about their own cultural & religious heritages, from their own perspectives (which differ among the group quite a bit). You may find any or all of that valuable, or not. If you feel the discussion is a waste of time, why bother?

          (but as to that jesus thing -- I was simply pointing out something internal to the text which I believe relates to your argument. My own belief isn't relevant here, and I won't approach the question of the integrity of that text -- but it is something inside the text itself.)

          •  I ask questions in order to learn. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ramara, mettle fatigue

            I give my opinion in order to share a point of view that is not part of the conversation and may lend another understanding.   I am not Jewish. My background is Christian. But a large reason I became an atheist was because, in studying where my sect came from and why it believes what it believes, I thoroughly read its texts, texts that were rejected from the composition, and the general history of the faith.  I realized that the god(s) portrayed in the texts were human generated and quite immoral. And so were many of the stories... Abraham and Isaac being only one.   So when I see discussions of texts such as these, and the conclusions drawn dancing all around the basic fact of the immorality, I wonder why others don't see that or acknowledge it.  I do not view these discussions as attempts to proselytize. If I thought the discussion was a waste of time, I wouldn't comment. In fact, it's good that this is here for others to observe and comment on. If you were having this conversation on a Hebrew religious website, I wouldn't be there, but neither would the point of view I offer.

            Of course my ideas are no more important than others'. But one of the reasons my thinking changed was because I read the ideas of others who at that time had ideas that were very much different than mine.

            What prompted me to respond to Eowyn9's diary was her statements about the nature of "God" that were not expressed as "I believe", but as absolute facts. For example, he/she claims that the diversity of faiths stems from the same god whose unique interactions with different people cause an outer expression of essentially the same god.  I don't think Hindus would agree that their various gods are at all related to Eowyn9's god. She claims that not only is there absolutely a "God", but that this god "tells each of us our own story" and "loves" us.  Where is the evidence for these claims, and why is it not appreciated that someone be allowed to question them and/or ask for that evidence?

            •  If you're really interested, read more widely. (7+ / 0-)

              Because the perspective from which your questions/comments appear to come is, well, let's say 'not friendly' to the jewish approach. I know it wasn't intentional, but some of your comments  read quite harshly, even offensively, to judaism.

              This part:

              her statements about the nature of "God" that were not expressed as "I believe", but as absolute facts.
              is an interpretation that I suspect comes from your own experiences, but isn't shared by the others here. In this basically-jewish-but-others-are-welcome series, that "I believe" is understood to be present. That's the only way that interfaith discussion can work, really. We all have our own beliefs, based in personal experience and the teachings of others and histories and all that, and no single person or perspective has a lock on "The Truth" (for a platonic-ideal sort of truth).
              While rabbis or other religious leaders can try to make them flexible and applicable to today by linguistic fancy dancing, it doesn't solve the problems of the basic texts.  And both Christians and Jews point to the story of Abraham and Issac as some sort of noble and positive story.  It's just not.  So why even discuss it anymore? It's been analyzed to death and doesn't change.
              It was this part that had me asking 'well, why bother reading then?"

              These diaries follow a structure that jews have maintained for millennia -- every week, the next part of the tanakh (with commentaries) is read. The entire torah is read over a year, after which -- we start over again. And as we read, we talk and think about what we just read and how we understand it in today's world. That's how jews keep a hold on our ancestral (indigenous) culture -- by telling and re-telling our stories, and thinking about them.

              •  Actually (3+ / 0-)

                it's the whole Torah we read every year, with the idea that though the text may not be different, we might be.

                But, yes, study of the weekly text is an important part of Jewish life.

                Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 07:02:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  TiaRachel.... (0+ / 0-)

                I understand that these diaries are a study group devoted to Judaism, but if you don't want outsiders to comment, or you want to put barriers on what outsiders can and can not say, then as I said to Morifyd, maybe this is the wrong site for the discussion.  

                I don't see religous ideas as being any more respectable than any other ideas/opinions. If they make no sense, or have no evidence to back them up, just like a political opinion, I think they should be held to reason and scrutiny and even harsh criticism.  "Not friendly" to the Jewish approach?  What does that mean?  Any criticism is not friendly to any approach one does not agree with. My criticism of Tea Party opinions are certainly not friendly to their approach. I see no difference.

                For far too long people have hesitated to hold religious ideas accountable for the actions that result from them. Some good comes from them, but in my view, far more harm than good has stemmed from religious philosophies. So I don't give these ideas a pass.   If you say that there is a god who does this or thinks that, or you tell stories about impossible events and present them as true, you need to back those statements up just as you would be asked to back up any other statements about the nature of the cosmos.

            •  If you're an atheist, why worry about what others (5+ / 0-)

              believe or don't believe?  What does it matter to you? You have rejected what you were taught - which has nothing to do with Judaism in the first place - so why do you feel this compulsion to find religious or Jewish culturally oriented diaries and get feisty about things that you claim don't matter to you anymore?

              •  a worthwhile question. if i as a jewish atheist (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eowyn9

                am interested in and concerned and worry about what other jews and what persons of other beliefs believe and don't believe because we are all on this planet together and have too much a history of conflict rooted in or exploiting beliefs than we can afford to ignore, it stands to reason that persons of other beliefs (including atheism) would be interested, concerned, and worried too.

                not every student (and we are all students, no matter how old, how well versed, etc, like one of the ancient rabbis says in the haggadah) learns in exactly the same way as other students.  we all have different strengths and weaknesses.  you have mentioned some of your own strengths and weaknesses from time to time.  

                you also once said, approximately, "a noisy baismigdash is a happy baismigdash."  i don't entirely agree, because noise can crush and drown a gentle spirit who might otherwise have extremely valuable thoughts to contribute, but in a way you are absolutely correct, that to vigorously put forth one's own ideas on a topic and be vigorously receptive to grappling with the differing ideas and questionsof other students on this road we all share, without kicking each other to the curb along the way, can be a noisy process, and another word for noisy might be "feisty", as you suggest.

                you have a lot of valuable information and ideas yourself, so as a true scholar you must also have a lot of questions yourself, otherwise why continue to study or value continuing?  it's my understanding from other diaries where you've commented that you came to judaic experience and studies a bit later in life than some others?  if that's also correct, you must have had some wonderful teachers to have developed such depth and grasp yourself, and i think you have it in you to be a wonderful teacher too, if you can decide to see everyone else who comes to learn as being as worthwhile a student as you were.  just keep in mind that some souls need some gentleness in order to blossom, and students like that can lift you with joy just as much as noisy ones.

                or even, to use a title from Peretz, "If Not Higher".

                •  I study for the sake of Torah. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Eowyn9, Batya the Toon

                  For the lessons from the past.  For the beauty of the text. For the connection to generations before. For the ways to seek my own improvement as a Jew. For a million reasons I can't even put into words - but I don't do it because I have to, or look for truth or belief or assurance I'm right.  That's not how I roll.

                  I learned the way Jews learn, I didn't try to force Judaism to bend to me.  I learned to suck it up and get in there elbows flying and skinned a couple knees.  That's not my nature, but it is the nature of the beast I wanted to ride. So I adapted.

                  I came in late in the game - 25 rather than 40 like Rabbi Akiva - but late all the same.  And I worked.  I learned to navigate in four languages, all of which use an alephbet I am dyslexic in.  No one said this is the beginning, there is the end, or gave me a chart, or told me how to get from there to here.  I sorted it out for myself.  

                  I still sort it out for myself.  I've had chavusas - partners to learn with - both at yeshiva and out, sometimes with specific things to study and sometimes just by interest.  I am behind on Daf Yomi, but I still work at it.  I use the resources that are available to me and constantly growing and do what I love - learn.

                  No one held my hand or guided me as some special flower - I got thrown in the deep end and learned to swim.  I'm an ordinary Jew, I struggle with living a Jewish life, and I sort it out as best I can because it's on ME to do so.  Sure I can ask for advice, but I've fired more rabbis as my "spiritual adviser" than most people have ever considered having.  

                  If someone comes to me to learn, then they should learn.  If someone decides they need to tell me how to be a Jew - they're not going to have a good time.  I am Breslov because Rebbe Nachman reaches me on a vital level in his writings - and he's not going to tell me I tie my shoes in the wrong order.  I don't have time for that crap.

                  Not every student should learn from every teacher - the idea that one MUST impart information to someone who is not capable of asking or understanding - simply not realistic.  Some big time Rav isn't going to sit and learn Mishna with me and to ask them would be to insult them and show myself a fool.  

                  •  Illuminating, Rabbi M. ("the beast"?) wow. n/t (0+ / 0-)
                  •  I don't think anyone here is questioning (0+ / 0-)

                    your credentials or how well versed you are in the type of study you describe -- traditional rabbinical study of the Torah. But you yourself said in an earlier comment that there are 70 facets to Torah. Are you really saying that you, yourself, alone, are competent to find ALL of these? Isn't it more likely that others, who come from a different perspective and set of experiences, will be able to offer you a viewpoint you had never seen before?

                    What you seem to be saying is that your way of studying the Torah is the only valid way. Yet there are many ways one could approach this text, as any written text. For example, one could study it from an archaeological perspective: what do we know about the cultures it describes? From a literary perspective: how do the characters interact, and how is the plot structured? (This is the type of approach I used here, not the "Christian" perspective you keep claiming.) From a documentary perspective: by studying the writing style of the different sections, what can we determine about sources and how the work was put together? From a linguistic perspective: how can the particular words used, and their connotations and uses in other texts, shed light on their meaning here? And so on.

                    One could even (metaphorically) stand up and say: "Look, I'm not a rabbi or an archaeologist or a linguist, but based on my own life experience, this is how this text speaks to me." And this is totally valid as well. All these approaches have been used here in the D'var Torah series, and I've found all of them enlightening and interesting.

                    I don't think anyone who writes a D'var Torah here, from any perspective, is trying to "tell" you how to read the Torah. (Definitely not me.) We're offering a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes through which to see this work. Like a gift. You can take it if you like, or you can say, "Hmm, interesting, but it's not for me," and leave it. But it's simply common courtesy to let other people take it if they find it enlightening, and not shout and scream and throw a temper tantrum just because it's not within the paradigm that you prefer to use.

                    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                    by Eowyn9 on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 06:58:16 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Mortifyd- I get "feisty" about several topics. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mettle fatigue

                Religious ideas being only one of them, but probably one of my favorites.  If this group does not want someone to come and challenge the ideas being presented, or even (horrors!) criticizing them, then maybe a public site (meaning non-religious as its theme) is not a comfortable one for you or this group.

                Religion still means a lot to me as a person who cares about the quality of life on this planet and sees a lot of damage being done by religious thinking both currently and historically.  People tend to give these ideas far far too much weight in terms of translating them into actions in reality. That worries me a great deal. And Jewish thought is not above causing a great deal of problems in the world and in the US.  

                So taking some of the "up on the pedestal" "it's not nice to criticize someone's religion" stuff out of the way we usually approach religious ideas may take some of the authority out of the negative acts.

                •  you aren't educated enough about actual Judaism (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JDsg, Eowyn9, Batya the Toon, mayim

                  to criticise, honestly.  You just yell a lot.

                  Partly because you don't understand the Jewish concept of "religion" and "religiousness" aren't the same as what you knew and rejected.  The same with "belief" - there is no requirement to believe anything to be a Jew.  It's perfectly ok to be Jewish and an atheist - and STILL be interested in Torah. Or not.  Until you can wrap your head around that, you're just going to keep banging your face into a wall.

                  You assume things are the same, that what you had been told was definitive - when it's not.  What you worry about - has nothing to do with Judaism, or Torah or even "faith" and much more to do with your anger and hurt and fear of leaving what you knew.  There is no central authority within Judaism to drive the assumed "beliefs" you think exist.

                  Torah isn't afraid of critique, but you have to know what the hell you're talking about to make a reasonable stab at it.  Until you get it through your head that what you "know" about Torah is wrong - you're just going to be angry and look foolish - and waste people's time.

                  •  "You assume...what you[believe]is definitive."n/t (0+ / 0-)
                    •  stop being cryptic and say what you mean (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Batya the Toon

                      As a Jew I know that two Jews equal three opinions.  

                      But I also know that the assumptions that Fishtroller01 puts forth are based on a Christian fundamentalist tragic misunderstanding of both Torah and Jewish belief.  I've been around the block with him before.  

                      So no, I don't have to be nice about it - nor do I have to pretend that what he thinks he knows has ANYTHING to do with actual Judaism of any stream, or Torah - because it doesn't.

                      There is a difference.

                      •  So one has to be an expert on the Torah (0+ / 0-)

                        in order to comment on diaries written on Daily Kos? Seems to me that you and Eowyn9 don't exactly see the same deity in the texts and he/she is not an expert on the Torah and yet is invited to write a diary anyway.  This is a lot of bluster on your part. You simply don't like having points of view share that don't fit your mold. Or you are just uncomforable with an atheistic take on all this.  How about some honesty on your part there too?

                        •  In a Jewish oriented space, on the weekly parsha (0+ / 0-)

                          Judaism should define the space.  Not Christian interpretations of Judaism or Jewish texts.

                          I'm closer to an atheist than you are, actually Fishtroller01 - you can't let go of your fundamentalist beliefs - and I hold that Torah is the cultural and family mythos of the Jewish people.  There are elements of truth, but as a literal or historical document - it doesn't hold up.  I don't require it to. I don't need it to.  That's not why it has value to me, nor am I concerned in the slightest with a Skydaddy who is ticking off boxes as I go about my day.

                          And you can't grasp that while you keep banging your face against the wall shouting how everyone needs to listen to you because you know it's all a lie.

                          I've spent a good chunk of time pointing out why I am not thrilled at Eowyn9 writing a dvar Torah from a Christian POV - haven't you been paying attention?

                          •  Yes. I read all that. (0+ / 0-)

                            But if you are not concerned about that "Skydaddy" why would you be upset with my reference to his "proper" name?

                            I'm not viewing the OT writings from a Christian point of view anymore.  I am viewing them as a reader, period. And as I told Eowyn9, the stories are about a certain group of people and their relationship with the god they concocted.  The stories (without the Torah footnotes, which seem to be exclusive) do not portray what I would call a moral deity. It's as simple as that. So when people write diaries on a public forum discussing these stories, I ask questions and make observations.  You might not like them, but I do have the right to share them, and you have the right to debate me or ignore me.

                          •  because it's rude for starters, because not us. (0+ / 0-)

                            It's ignorant.  It's mixing 'Hebrew Christian' terms with Jews - and I'm not down with that.  It's ignorance paraded as knowledge - and I was under the impression you were slightly smarter than that.

                            You don't make observations, you flail angrily about your past and the garbage you were force fed - which has nothing to do with us.  And there's no need to debate that, because it's not Judaism or about Judaism.  It's just anger at your own family and culture.

                            Sorry, Charlie.

                          •  So you excel in psychiatry too? (0+ / 0-)

                            Good for you!

                            Google Yahweh.

                          •  you know what? (0+ / 0-)

                            Google go fuck yourself.

                          •  And just when I thought we were having (0+ / 0-)

                            fun!  

                      •  if U already kno, i wasn't cryptic. n/t (0+ / 0-)
                        •  but, ah, DID you get it right? n/t (0+ / 0-)
                          •  I have no idea what you are getting at. (0+ / 0-)

                            But then I seldom do.

                          •  then u ARE fallible sometimes. like every1 else. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Eowyn9

                            click on PARENT at my comment "if U already kno, i wasn't cryptic. n/t"

                            you'll see that you said "stop being cryptic" and then went ahead anyway and quite evidently replied to what you assumed i meant.  and you weren't too terribly far off in your interpretation either.

                            but not on the money either.   you seldom know what i'm getting at because your experiential frame of reference is too narrow and your perspective too limited to let you make the connections that are perceivable in a wider frame.  there's nothing inherently bad about that, as long as your communications implicitly acknowledge that you know yourself to be a specialist, and outside your speciality you haven't the genuine scope to comment aggressively as if you actually WERE an authority on all things jewish.

                            you describe the way you first learned ('with elbows flying', etc) as if the fact that that was your experience means that's how everyone has to experience it, even in this venue, despite the fact that in this venue of numerous other discussants there are extremely few who put one another through the mill the way you do, no matter what they've had to go thru' themselves.

                            you seem to consider yourself a disciple of a Rav 203 years too far away to say anything to you that could make you "fire" him the way you've said you "fired" so many other "spiritual leaders".  

                            have you considered that if you'd been blessed to have gentle insightful Ravs and receptive colleagues in study instead of combatants, you might be so much further ahead now that you'd have been repeatedly published in the real world?  i think you would have, and would have continued to be.  because with all your difficulties, you have remarkable gifts and you are obviously persevering with them come what may.  you SHOULD have been blessed with teachers whom you'd happily name with warmth and gratitude and affection, confident that they felt and feel the same toward you and would have wished the joy of seeing you surpass them.  you SHOULD have had a lot of things less harsh in life.  

                            many of us also should have.  when you cite your own battles as justification for carrying battle to everyone else, what you prove most of all is that you've been badly scarred and held back by too much adversity.  and individuals whom you clearly wanna teach one helluva lesson because you're certain they deserve to have things as bad as you had them or even worse - well, they're NOT learning much that way, or they would have by now.  not necessarily because they're ignorant or misguided, either - there are at least 2 other probabilities.  one is that they already had it just as bad as you did or much worseand have no more havlegah than you do about bringing battle instead of peaceable discussion.

                            the other probability is, of course, that some already know so very much about what it is to be jewish that they need give no credence to ideas served to them with violence, because they can get just as good substance or better from peaceable sources.

                            changing oneself is so damn hard it's sheer hell under the best of circumstances.   but you've already done it at least once - to become a talmid chacham!  therefore, you already have some skill and experience to draw on.  do think about it.  you can figure out better ways to make your mark, or you can continue to just slash and burn.  most likely the only person who'll get burned, 'tho, is you.   what a waste.   you really are brilliant, with a lot of promise.   and unlike some of the rest of us, you sound like you still have enough years ahead of you in which to make good, in which to prove to adversity that it doesn't own you and it can't.

                            consider this my tfilat haDerech for you.  it happens to be the only prayer i value.  y'shlach bracha b'ma'asay yadecha, i guess it should be in this situation.  good luck.  safe journey.

                          •  tl;dr (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not interested in your weird co-dependent passive aggressive crap.  If you don't like my opinions, don't read them.

                          •  Let me weigh in (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Eowyn9, mettle fatigue

                            This may be a Jewish group but we are part of a much more public website devoted to the dissemination of progressive ideas.  E of Z actually branched out from Street Prophets, which was created to disseminate progressive faith.

                            Here in Baltimore we have Institute for Christian - Jewish Studies:

                            that concentrates its educational expertise on the dual tasks of disarming religious hatred and establishing new models of interfaith understanding.
                             And they recognize they need to bring in Muslims and other faith groups.  In my synagogue, Christian scholars have give d'var Torahs, and our rabbi has spoken in churches and a mosque.  I have participated in their study groups, and have visited churches for this purpose.

                            This is a Jewish oriented group (counterpart to Anglican Kossacks) but we are open to all with these goals in mind, with the general goal that religion should not be surrendered to the narrow minded but is a tool to creating a better America and a better world.  Therefore, non-Jewish diarists are welcome, and the one restriction, that we don't try to convert others, has been more than respected.

                            "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

                            by Navy Vet Terp on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 07:31:04 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  then if you wish I will leave. (0+ / 0-)

                            It's still Jewish space and should be respected as such.  I don't write essays about the gospels from a Jewish perspective, I would write them from what I know of Christianity and maybe contrast how they appear to me as a Jew.  I don't see the reverse as being unreasonable or narrow minded - I expected a dvar Torah, not a Christian view of the OT when I clicked on the diary marked Dvar Torah.

                            Not that this bizarre side track by HM has anything to do with the diarist, the dvar Torah or anything else I can make out.

            •  good point, i think, "the god(s) portrayed in the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eowyn9

              texts were human generated".  as an atheist intensely interested in history, notably the history behind development of beliefs, i would agree with your saying that, if without including the phrase about morality because human concepts of morality were very different in the neo-lithic and early iron age from what the concepts are now, but it stands to reason that there were people back then who put great effort into being as moral as they knew how and as they could further develop moral concepts.  just as humans are doing now. (obviousy, IMO, not boehner & mcconnell et al).

              the limits of what people have materially that they can risk sharing with others without risking suicide plays a considerable role in the advance of moral development.

              possibly its idealistic to theorize that humans have always done the best they can (Don Marquis says in "archie and mehitabel", "that's an explanation, not an excuse.") but it may also be an accurate shorthand characterisation of the progress of civilization ... to the extent civilization has progressed, at least.

        •  "common people" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eowyn9, mayim
          I am suspicious of any deity who allows texts to be generated to reflect who/what he/she is all about that can't be read by the common people and understood without footnotes and special interpretations.
          How about a deity who explicitly encourages "the common people" to be literate enough and versed enough in the oral tradition to read the text and understand it as it was intended?

          Where did you get the idea that "the common people" aren't supposed to be able to read and understand it themselves?  Hint: not from Judaism.

    •  The stories here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, Mortifyd, Eowyn9

      are a collection, not a single narrative. These stories very likely were written down at a time when believing in one God did not necessarily mean that other gods didn't exist, just that they weren't ours and we weren't supposed to worship them.

      Therefore, this is a very primitive concept of God - we're talking something like 4000 or 3500 years ago. In some ways, I see Tanakh as a history of the Jewish concept of God.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 10:28:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chosen For What? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, ramara

    Over in the "Write On!" series that Susan from 29 does in the Readers & Book Lovers group we have a kind of stock setting that many of her writing excercies use: a cliched fantasy plot about the Callow Youth on an Noble Quest because he is the Chosen One.  In writing the weekly exercises, I've sometimes played with this idea:  the Youth intimidated by the expectations of Destiny; his Stout Companion feeling resentful about it; wondering who exactly chose him anyway because I sure didn't vote for him, etc.

    Several years ago when I was writing puppet plays for our church's Sunday School program, I was given the task of revising an existing play about Noah.  Mostly I just tweaked it a little and added a joke or two.  There was one part in the original script that bugged me.  

    The original script emphasized Noah's righteousness and even had Noah doing a little end-zone dance over being more good-er than anybody else.  As I said, I found this highly annoying.

    So when Noah went into his little "Oh yeah!  I'm righteous!" schtick, I had God reply:  "Don't get cocky!  There's something I want done, and I want YOU to do it!"

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

    by quarkstomper on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 02:46:45 PM PDT

    •  Noah was a good man - and that's not saying much (0+ / 0-)

      The story of Noach isn't about how awesome he is at all.  He's just the least sucky person in a world that was SO shitty G-d destroyed it.  That's still pretty sucky.

      This is why I get so irritated when people try to make Torah universal - it's not and was never meant to be.  The stories have wildly different meaning to us that to those who claim and interpret them for themselves.

      1. Chava was not lesser than Adom, nor was she made from a rib.

      2. It wasn't her fault Adom was cast out of Gan Eden - she didn't even have to leave, she just felt sorry for his ass.

      3. Original sin.  Really? No.

      4. Incest? No.  Cayin and Havil got wives from the land of Nod.  They weren't the ONLY people on earth, they were the only ones that mattered to the people of the region - because it's a regional story.  Lots of people had their own versions of it.  

      Ours just somehow ended up being picked as The Version that people want to believe literally - which is silly, because people didn't believe it literally then.  It's about pride and innocence and reaching adulthood.  Growth.  Reality.  People die. There is sickness and work and struggle and pain and gross stuff in the world - how do we address it?  By telling stories.

      Noach spent years trying to save his neighbours and they laughed at him.  Largely because he was a drunk building a huge boat in the middle of the desert and claimed G-d was talking to him and gave him the plans for the boat.

      I'd be offering the man some of my Risperdal. If it happened, which we know it didn't.  The world wasn't destroyed, there was no 40 days and 40 nights and pairs of carnivores lining up with the sheep and cows to get on a big ass boat.

      It's about having the courage of your convictions.  Standing up in the face of mockery for what you believe is the difference between right and wrong.  

      Offering space to your neighbours who are mocking you.  Preparing for things that will eat you, not just the cute and domesticated animals.  Seeing the good in a world that seems bent on its own destruction and trying to do something about it - not just for himself, but for as many people as would join him.

      •  But this universality IS inherent in the texts (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara

        themselves. From the promise to Abraham (that "all nations on earth shall be blessed through you") to the depiction of Yahweh as the only true God, not one God among many, a God who created everything, who knows and sees all and who cares for all the nations, not only Israel. To the beautiful visions in the prophets, such as Isaiah 66, of ALL the nations coming together, at last in peace, to worship in God's temple.

        The reader certainly doesn't need to believe that there is an actual universal God that these stories describe. But it's rather pointless to ask why people respond to such universal texts in a universal manner.

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

        by Eowyn9 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 07:22:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think that means what you think it does (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel, Not A Bot, marykk, ramara

          I think it's just reassurance that yeah, we have the good one, the special one that is different from everyone else. What other people believe or do is completely irrelevant - and there are many places in Torah where pagans and other deities get their shot - and they just suck compared to ours who chose us, and/or those places are opportunities for them to praise us and our smexy invisible G-d.  Mah tovu ohelecah... is not about how well decorated our tents are.

          The Torah wasn't actually handed down at har Sinai, it was compiled over years by different people who were motivated by different things - and universalism wasn't one of them.

          I think that Christians have latched onto and emphasised that in ways that Jews don't really - I don't think we honestly give a shit about what other people believe as long as we get to do what we need to do for ourselves.  And I don't see a problem with that.

        •  Actually, it was the Babylonian exile (4+ / 0-)

          that changed the idea of God from the God of the Temple to a God that could follow the people from one place to another. This was pretty radical at the time.

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 07:07:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  at risk of repeating John Romer also saying that (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, ramara

            about abraham in his book & pbs series "Testament", we are back at Abraham again in terms of early judaism both drawing upon ideas of pre-existing concepts of deity (notaby marduk in the fertile crescent and aten in egypt)  and branching off in an almost unprecedented direction by developing an idea of deity as a single consolidated one, and a portable one at that.  

            Generations upon generations later, we built a temple and perhaps because all the known world around us still held to the idea of localized deity, we backslid to that again ourselves, in a manner of speaking.  and according to ramara's comment, the babylonion exile re-taught us the portability lesson again.

            intriguing.

            sorry to have arrived so late.  much appreciation for all the terrific reading that arriving so late made available.

            shavua tov to all.

          •  Hang on, though ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9

            doesn't the book of Exodus kind of contradict that?  In that God explicitly follows (/leads?) the people from one place to another throughout the wilderness, even before the Tabernacle was built -- as a movable tent, no less?

            Also, iirc, there was a period between the conquering of the land and the building of the Temple wherein the worship was not centralized and people offered sacrifices from wherever they happened to be.

            •  I do see Tanakh as the story (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eowyn9

              of our concept of God evolving. Early in Genesis God is Abraham's personal God. There is no Hebrew people, and no actual religion as yet. The idea of Abraham etc. following the commandments is a couple of millenia later, as the concept of God's relationship to us evolved.

              In Exodus the concept had evolved to the point of God needing a home - hence the Mishkan, which was mobile, as you point out. It's the story of God leading his people to his land. The idea of God having a place is very much current - in Assyrian myth, man was created to build the Ziggurat.

              The portable God of the exile could be worshiped with prayer - not with animal sacrifices at particlular place(s) at particular times. This God could be wherever a Jew prayed. A very radical idea. This one was different from the gods of the surrounding people.

              Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

              by ramara on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:58:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I thought the first two paragraphs... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, mettle fatigue, Navy Vet Terp

    ...of this essay by Haroon Moghul might be of interest:

    On this-worldly standards, Abraham is an indisputably tragic figure. For example, for youthfully refusing idolatry, his people kindled an awesome fire and tossed him in. When forty days later the flames died and Abraham stood unharmed—awkward really for all involved—his people expelled him. He lived nearly all of his long life as a nomad, many decades, without progeny or fixed abode.

    Worse still, when at last he had a son, someone finally to call his own (having, of course, no family), God asked him to take that son's life. Twice! First God said leave Ishmael in the desert with Hagar, then, when Abraham returned years later, overjoyed to find his son and wife alive against all odds, God commanded: “Offer your son as a sacrifice to me.” Your father was willing to burn you alive, God seems to be saying, but in opposition to me. Can you show the same loyalty?

    The rest can be found here:  Eid Mubarak from an Abrahamic Planet.

    Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

    by JDsg on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 08:43:59 AM PDT

    •  some VERY valuable thoughts in that essay (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, JDsg

      although at many points it was not coherent to me, either through perhaps translational problems or implicit reference to concepts so well known to the expected readership that to them those concepts would be redundant to explain, or other causes of unclarity i can't guess.

      But some lines, admittedly entirely out of context, greatly engaged my thinking (given that i'm a secularist Jew intensively broadly educated in my heritage rather than religious with narrower focused great depth) in terms of the demonstrated fact that so many humans show such a powerful insistence on having a g-d to worship:

      "Abraham is called the friend of God in Islam."
      is intriguing.  The syntax makes the idea a little unclear - if the author means to say, for example, "In Islam, Abraham is called ' the friend of god'", that surprises me by echoing a thought I mention from time to time (more briefly, usually): that, if g-d is real and gave us everything we need in order to continue well the creation of the universe, than perhaps humans owe g-d more friendship, compassion, sympathy and cooperation in the work, and less demands/pleas/petitions for g-d to keep doing the heavy lifting; and more carefulness in re-stating what g-d says to us, in order that we DO continue working with g-d on the creative/constructive process without too often humanly lapsing into taking/using g-d's name/communications in vain/vanity through interpretations that exploit g-d by claiming meanings that satisfy our egos and support otherwise-questionable choices and actions.

      Similarly (and again completely out of context), if we are g-d's children, then we and g-d are family, so the essay's line that says,

      "Family as community. As loyalty. As decency and dignity."
      also supports the idea of less worship and more affectionate respect for our most elder/experienced, our most caring parental figure, our most instructive teacher, who --having grown old and wise , and also a little weary and sad because of struggle, missteps, losses and regrets as well as joys over the thousands of years of our simply growing UP-- needs the human family decrease the adolescent squabbling, feuding, rivalries and advantage-taking of and complaining about and criticizing each other, and instead be adults with more courage than youngsters who are merely bold because of naivete and ignorance, be mature, and treat each other with more loyalty, decency, dignity and community.

      The concluding paragraphs of the essay really reached me, if I may be permitted the modifications in brackets that may allow the ideas to come through to secular as well as religious viewpoints:

      This week, the world’s Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Adha. Honoring Abraham. Yet [this] is not about anniversaries or histories, but being. Not past. Present. And promise—a better future. In that spirit, I would say, invite someone to celebrate this Eid with you. Someone new to town, without family, in pain, ... someone who needs someone. We’ve all been there, and what’s the value of our [faith] if we forget the very people whose hearts are broken... ?

      And if you are that person ... If you feel plunged in darkness, in the world around or your heart within, hold on: ...  Though [the ongoing creation] unfolds [in it's own timing], can anyone say it [is not happening]? For an Abraham once rejected is forgotten; the Abraham who remains is the one whose name is celebrated in places he couldn’t have known existed.That is the promise of God, as is this: “There shall be on them neither fear, nor grief.”

      Hold fast, then, just a little bit longer.

      Eid Mubarak. May only good come to you.

      thankyou,  JDsg, for providing the link to this beautiful, heartening, encouraging material.
      •  I love this, mettle fatigue! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mettle fatigue, Navy Vet Terp

        Particularly the "working with God as a friend rather than asking God to do the heavy lifting" bit. Reminds me of this beautiful poem that a friend of mine wrote: http://iamtallulah.wordpress.com/...

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

        by Eowyn9 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 05:13:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it's so encouraging to find someone else sharing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp

          some of the same viewpoints i have when i look at
          things.

          click the little green "recommend" under my previous comment so i'll be able to remember you sent me a positive reply?  when there's a reply without that click, it's nearly always means someone yelling at me.  oy.

          btw, i hope you felt good about the overall conversation resulting from your 'dvar'. lots of folks participating, lively thinking, further ideas added to the discussion - you really stimulated quite an exchange there!  that doesn't happen all the time.

      •  You're welcome. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mettle fatigue

        I thought I'd make a few remarks to your comment.

        ...although at many points it was not coherent to me, either through perhaps translational problems or implicit reference to concepts so well known to the expected readership that to them those concepts would be redundant to explain, or other causes of unclarity i can't guess.
        Almost certainly the latter.  The author is an American writing in his mother tongue.  He's also a practicing Muslim, and writing for a predominantly Muslim audience.
        ...if g-d is real and gave us everything we need in order to continue well the creation of the universe, than perhaps humans owe g-d more friendship, compassion, sympathy and cooperation in the work, and less demands/pleas/petitions for g-d to keep doing the heavy lifting; and more carefulness in re-stating what g-d says to us, in order that we DO continue working with g-d on the creative/constructive process without too often humanly lapsing into taking/using g-d's name/communications in vain/vanity through interpretations that exploit g-d by claiming meanings that satisfy our egos and support otherwise-questionable choices and actions.
        I would say yes to all of this.  This is very much the Muslim position.
        ...also supports the idea of less worship...
        Muslims would disagree with this.  The need for us to worship Him continues through good times and bad.  If we think poorly of fair-weather friends to those who desert us in our need, why would He think well of those who are "fair-weather" to Him?  There's a passage in the Qur'an that deals with this issue, the sailor whose ship hits rough seas and prays to God for a safe return.  Yet, when he reaches land, does he continue to pray to God in thanks for his life returned to him?  Of course not; much of mankind is ungrateful for what He has given them.
        ...needs the human family decrease the adolescent squabbling, feuding, rivalries and advantage-taking of and complaining about and criticizing each other, and instead be adults with more courage than youngsters who are merely bold because of naivete and ignorance, be mature, and treat each other with more loyalty, decency, dignity and community.
        This was the topic of a blog post I wrote a short while ago:  Banu Islam.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 10:13:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The passage I was paraphrasing above: 10:22-23 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mettle fatigue
          He it is Who enableth you to traverse through land and sea; so that ye even board ships;- they sail with them with a favourable wind, and they rejoice thereat; then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think they are being overwhelmed: they cry unto Allah, sincerely offering (their) duty unto Him saying, "If thou dost deliver us from this, we shall truly show our gratitude!"  

          But when he delivereth them, behold! they transgress insolently through the earth in defiance of right! O mankind! your insolence is against your own souls,- an enjoyment of the life of the present: in the end, to Us is your return, and We shall show you the truth of all that ye did.  

          Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

          by JDsg on Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 10:20:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  oh, i shoulda said i was musing on ideas that (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eowyn9, JDsg

          in the article that resonated with me generally.  I am too many years away from my limited studies in Islam to imagine i understand any Islamic ideas as they are meant.  and was amazed to read you saying

          I would say yes to all of this.  This is very much the Muslim position.
          after the "heavy lifting" section of my musings.

          i'm atheist (not An Atheist, just atheist), so of course my entire paragraph

          less worship and more affectionate respect for our most elder/experienced, our most caring parental figure, our most instructive teacher, who --having grown old and wise , and also a little weary and sad because of struggle, missteps, losses and regrets as well as joys over the thousands of years of our simply growing UP--
          probably makes doesn't work for any religion.  i can imagine my religiously-observant relatives staring at me as if i'd spoken/written in an unknown language if they read/heard me say that paragraph.

          i can assure you, 'tho, that gratitude is something i feel very profoundly, and often.  i may have a bit of a split personality where that's concerned, because on the nights when pain makes sleep impossible and i go outside to see if any constellations are showing or interesting cloud formations, i usually find myself saying, "beautiful work, that helps."  the times i'm able to take care of things in the garden, i'm usually constantly mumbling, "see how beautiful you are," to the trees & bushes i'm working on.  everytime i catch myself from a stumble that might have turned into a fall, or find that i actually remembered to put food on the shopping list that is fresh & crunchy (i have a thing about vegetables) so i actually bought it and it's in the fridge for me to eat, i automatically say, "oh good, oh thanks".  also every time i get out of bed, because being able to do that is no foregone conclusion, every time i get in a hot shower (ditto), every time the red "no connectiion" light on the modem stops flashing and turns to green, every time i take the few meds that actually help me, every time i find my hands and eyes figuring out how to fix something that broke - well, the list is endless.

          and my general perception is that many people who are struggling do have a sense of gratitude because they're more aware of how easily they might not have anything at all that they need.  while many in comfortable lives talk about what they do and what the have in ways that convey that they genuinely believe their own efforts and resources alone are how they come to be safe and secure.  the idea that their low-paid employees on the front lines contribute to their high-paid luxuries doesn't register on them.  the idea that people overseas are exploited in sweatshops so they can have new electronic toys and home furnishings and clothes as often as they choose doesn't register on them.  it see it just as much in people of various religions whom i've know who go to religious services, and we've all seen the ingratitude enacted by certain public persons who may claim to attend services regularly yet consistently abuse all creation for their own profit.  so for that and so many other examples and reasons, i tend to think that gratitude is not reliant on or guaranteed by whether one believes in deity or not.  it may help that liturgies try to prompt humans to remember to feel grateful, but i'm not sure it's workin'.

          i'll look at your to Banu Islam in a more calm moment, thanks for including it. as i said earlier in this thread (i think to Eowyn9), the discovery that others also are thinking what oneself is thinking - that's such a wonderful thread of connectedness, the more for being so unexpected when one's never before heard anyone mention quite the same idea.  which come to think of it kind of expresses gratitude for that experience even if it doesn't use the exact word.  the feeling is there.

        •  i took a quick look at the banu islam link: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eowyn9, JDsg

          :

          On the whole, humanity is rather immature. We are born this way and it normally takes us at least two decades, if not more, to reach a level of cognitive and behavioral maturity that is acceptable to ourselves and society.
          i wish i could remember where in my disorganized bookshevles is the material that also discusses how this is also observed in entire societies/cultures/civilizations and how a lot of them haven't reached much maturity and become self-destructive instead, often due to having too much too soon.  it may be in the archaeology books...

          thanks again, i hope to read more later.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site