Saturday, January 20, 2018

NOTE: Throughout this blog, depending on the context, I will either use the word 'God' (Elohim) or 'Hashem' (YHWH/'the Lord') because -- according to Jewish tradition -- the name YHWH is associated with mercy/leniency (and very often -- though not always -- ceremony and ritual- i.e. 'religion', which is often -- though not always -- a manifestation of mercy and leniency) whereas the name Elohim is associated with severity, might, creative power, justice and judgement (i.e. the primal moral world).  This is why in Genesis, chapter 4 (right after they are kicked out of the Garden), the name 'YHWH' first appears alone... which is another way of saying that 'God' (Elohim) needed to 'cease and desist' ('shabat'- ch.2:2-3) in order for the 'world' to continue.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Garden of Eden represents the Kingdom of God, which is a state of being exquisitely tuned to the moral key.
The Tanakh (and this blog) is the story of [us] moral weaklings ('THE REST OF US') who've had a taste of this primal moral state and retreated* from it to 'religion', which is a state where 'Hashem' (YHWH) -- in His mercy -- lowers the moral pitch.*
This new ['religious'] world (or 'state') is "very close to you... in your heart to do it." (Deut.30:14)

* Adam was created in the "image and likeness of God/Elohim".  Then comes chapter 3 where he says, "I was afraid because I was naked."(v.10)  Why is he afraid of his 'nakedness'?  Wouldn't one be embarrassed, not afraid?  One would be if we were only talking about physical nakedness.  What is happening is that he has taken on more life and energy than he can morally handle, so he hides in fear.  Next -- mercifully -- comes a 'cover' (the cover of 'religion') from Hashem (see the June 25, "Part 2" post on the purpose of blood sacrifice).
Interestingly, in chapter 5, Seth is said to be "created in [Adam's] likeness and image"(v.3), NOT God's/Elohim's [anymore]!(contrast v.3 with v.1)  This implies that the world is being keyed to a more suitable pitch. It is no coincidence that the last verse of chapter 4 says that men "began to call on the name of Hashem", which is a 'religious' act, and thus associated with mercy/leniency.  The culmination of this process occurred in the 'Covenant of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy' (Ex.34:6-7).  It promised -- in the wake of the Golden Calf incident -- that the relationship between Hashem and Israel would continue, but at a less intense and therefore more forgiving level.  This mercy/leniency is implied by the fact that whereas the first set of tablets (the Ten Commandments) were made and engraved by Elohim/'God' (Ex.32:16), Hashem/'the Lord'/YHWH ordered Moses to make (but not engrave) the second set of tablets (Ex.34:28).  Also, it is important to add that this covenant [of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy] made in chapter 34 only modified the terms (v.28) and conditions (from severity to leniency) of the Ten Commandments.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In suzerain-vassal covenants from the ancient near east, love meant loyalty to the ruler.  Therefore, to "love Hashem with all ones heart, soul, and might" means to be loyal to Him.
Hashem is a 'jealous God', which means He demands exclusivity.
Jewish tradition holds that if you forsake idolatry you fulfill the whole of the Tora (Talmud Hor.8a), and vice versa (Sifra Deut. 54).
But what is idolatry?
It is known that most ancient cultures had a concept of a 'Most High God'.  The only problem was that He was seen as too distant and imposing to be of any use.  Hence, the creation of intermediaries (see Maimonides M.T. Laws of Idolatry ch. 1).
When man looks to heaven and 'sees' anything between him and God, that is idolatrous ("You shall have no other gods before Me").
The archetype of the intermediary in Tanakh is the Golden Calf (see also Jeroboam's Calves- 1Kings 12:25-33).  But why construct a calf (a baby bull)?  Why not a grown bull?
Rabbi David Fohrman taught that because of the awesomeness of the Sinai revelation ("Let not God speak with us lest we die"Ex.20:19- note that the word used for 'God' is 'Elohim'/God, not 'YHWH'/Hashem), and the fact that Moses hadn't come down the mountain after 40 days, the people feared he was destroyed by the encounter.  So they created something that could stand between them and God.
Making a molten (lit. masking*- Ex.32:4) calf is really quite logical.  A calf sucks from its mother (read: God), and through identifying with this 'Sucker' a quite 'touching' relationship with the 'Most High God' -- so it seems -- ensues.**
We witness this in Christianity.  It is -- in essence -- Calf worship. Jesus is the "Son of the Father", and "no one can come to the Father except through the Son".
The calling of Jesus the "Lamb of God" (Jn.1:29) should remind us of the Passover lamb in Egypt.  Its slaying  signaled Israel's willingness to forsake such touching -- yet forbidden -- relationships.
This act [of slaughter] began -- on a national level -- the 'cleaning out' (think matsa and leaven) of the space between man and the 'Most High God'.

 * Like Adam and Eve making for themselves fig leaves to cover their [moral] 'nakedness' and then Hashem making for them proper [animal] 'clothing', so Hashem gave us the mitsvot instead of Calf-'screens' of our own creation.
You may ask,  "Why can't we follow God by just doing good?"  Because --  essentially -- a 'naked' ( relationship with God without the 'masking'/'screen' of the mitsvas/halakha (i.e. 'religion') is too morally challenging for most people.  Such a God-alone relationship is simply about doing-the-right-thing at all times-- no exceptions, and no place to 'hide' (again, ch.3 Genesis)

** you can worship (or concentrate on) anything and receive answers, messages, and manifestations ('signs and wonders')  The universe or nature is set up synchronistically (meaningful coincidences) to reinforce and engage playfully and seriously with those who so desire (Quantum Theory calls this the Observer Effect).  Take Mary (Jesus' mother) veneration in Catholicism.  It works.  I know personally a Catholic who has a simple, working relationship with her.  "She always comes through for me".  So what's the difference between the help one receives from Hashem (or God/Elohim, if you are able to handle heat of the primal moral world) and other objects of worship (or veneration)?  On a natural level there is no difference.  If you worship (or venerate) and beseech the Universe, Jesus, Mary, a saint, or the picture of your guru, you will get real, meaningful life changing results.  So -- like Pharaoh -- hearts and minds are hardened and 'strengthened' because idolatry works and is convenient (i.e. close at hand- touching)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Let's talk about love, opening the heart, and showing real feelings to others.
The limbic system (or mammalian brain, as it is sometimes called) -- the seat of emotions -- is structured very differently from the neo-cortex, the seat of the intellect. This difference is reflected in the Kabbalistic tree of life where between the 'upper' three sefirot of intellect and the next ('lower') three of feeling there is a sefira called Da'at (knowledge).
When moving 'down' into the feeling realm where one really knows and in turn is really known by another, there must be a scary* movement into 'unknowing' because one is handing control from the neo-cortex to the limbic system.  
All I can ask of another human (e.g. friend, lover, psychedelic guide) is that they be with me as I move past the threshold of Da'at to the other side; and all I can ask of myself is that I avoid passivity by [conciously] choosing to either open up and let someone in or not.

* In Kabbalah, Da'at, if it is represented at all (in most schemes there is only an empty space where this sefira should be), has a dashed (not solid) circle, implying that before [true, heartfelt] knowing there must be [a scary] unknowing.  In other words, the dashed/broken circle represents the breaking of the [stranglehold of the] intellect

Sunday, June 25, 2017

 Part 1
An Approach to a 'Hard' Jewish Law: Sabbath Observance

What if I find dignity and freedom in working and resting whenever I want?
Shabbat is the only ritual commandment among the 10 commandments and-- as far as I know-- the only ritual commandment (commandments between Hashem and man) the prophets railed against its non-observance.
So perhaps it's THE ritual link to the non-ritual / ethical / moral commandments.
Let's say that I fail at a moral test-- which is really a test given by God; therefore I have not only failed myself and the person or society, but I have failed God as well.
I am now naked and ashamed. What do I do?  Perhaps I can redeem myself through this ritual.
What does my moral / ethical failure represent? A lack of faith in God. How? Because if I really trusted God, I would have allowed myself to move courageously into the do-the-right-thing zone and let the chips fall where they may by performing the famous 'leap of faith'. But I didn't, and so I now mourn in my nakedness and shame ('dust and ashes').
At this vulnerable point, the Sabbath stands as a beacon of mercy in the night of our moral failure, guiding us to a precious scrap of dignity by REDEEMING OUR FAITHLESSNESS IN GOD BY HAVING FAITH IN HASHEM THROUGH OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH, WHICH IS REALLY ONE DAY IN WHICH WE CEASE 'TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS' IN ORDER TO RITUALLY SHOW OUR FAITH THAT HASHEM WILL PROVIDE.
It's as if the coward has a second chance in a simulated area in which he can redeem his failure to 'leap' by sitting down! (the root meaning of Sabbath/Shabbat is 'sit')
It is from this simulated moral victory that gives us the rest in order to come back to the real moral world (or at least be able to show our face in it, instead of hiding in shame).
I have still failed morally (the real moral test in the real world), but I have at least stayed within Judaism / the Tora, which has offered me a little rest and dignity through a simulated moral test.


Part 2
An Approach to Another 'Hard' Jewish Law: Kashrut

After 'Adam's' sin, "YHWH Elohim" (these names appear together as one name in chapters 2 and 3, indicating the transition from severity/Elohim [ch.1] to mercy/YHWH [ch.4 and on]) kills an animal to properly clothe them.  Abel then picks up on this 'illustration' by sacrificing a [kosher] animal on an altar.  Finally, there comes the bloody altar of the Tabernacle/Temple.
As written in Leviticus 17:11, the purpose of the blood is JUST to ILLUSTRATE atonement (KPR) for us.  The root of KPR is KP-- to cover.  Cover what?  OUR FAILURE TO ABIDE IN THE PRIMAL MORAL WORLD / GOD'S KINGDOM / EDEN.
Destroying a [kosher] animal -- who represents our 'destruction' before God/Elohim and His uncompromisingly moral Kingdom* -- effectively illustrates this.
The purpose of the kosher system (kashrut) -- formally initiated after after the destruction of this primal [vegan] world (Gen.9:2-4) -- is similar to the purpose of the blood sacrifices at the Temple: redemption** through an illustration-- only on a plate instead of an altar.

* the only 'justification' I can see for the extermination decrees (see esp. Joshua) is that Canaan/Israel -- the only area that straddles three continents -- is Hashems 'portion', of which He is zealous/jealous of; therefore tenancy -- whether in a covenant with Him or not -- comes with conditions.  In other words, when the Amorites, Canaanites, and later the Israelites accumulated transgressions they were -- in a sense -- 'ritually slaughtered'. 

 ** like the one-tenth 'redemption' value for a bottle, 'religion' (see the 'December 12' post above) is better than [getting] nothing

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Little Mental Masturbation

Jung theorizes that men (or the male archetype) represent* God to women; so as soon as a man doubts that he is attractive to a woman he doesn't represent God anymore.
In other words, I can be a chronic masturbator who lives with his mother and is unemployed, but as soon as I feel that this makes me unattractive to a woman, I cease representing God [in the woman's eyes].
To make this clearer, God is invisible.  The male can easily feel invisible to women because he is not usually wanted by them in the obvious way of -- let's say -- pornographic magazines.  Women's sexuality is mysterious because she is not responding essentially to the male form but to an archetype: the visible representation of the invisible God.  Unless a man knows this, he can easily get 'lost in space' and exclaim like the character in 'Revolutionary Road' who asks his wife, "What am I"; to which his wife replied, "You are the most wonderful thing in the world.  You are a man"; or like the Seinfeld episode where the woman told Elaine how she loses interest in a man:  "They whine... and tell me that they are not good enough for me, and they don't deserve me, and eventually I say, 'Your right.'"
Physically attractive women usually don't have to do much to attract men; and likewise, a man (any man, even a physically unattractive one) usually doesn't have to do much either to attract a woman other than trust that he is "the most wonderful thing in the world": the visible representation of the invisible God.

* R. Hirsch comments that the root of the Hebrew word for likeness (damah)  in the verse  "In His likeness" (Gen.1:26) explains why Adam is called 'Adam'.  'Adam' is NOT referring to earth (adamah) or blood (dam) or the combination 'red earth', but to man's likeness to God.   He thus translates 'Adam' as "a representative" [of God], not simply a creature of earth and blood.  


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mythical man's (i.e. Orthodoxy's) need for Tanakh to be historically true and the secular position that opposes him both miss the point.*
History alone (and here Orthodoxy and its secular opponents both err in their dedication to 'history') is not enough.  Man does not  have to live by history (rational or mythical) alone, but can live with a drop of the mythical over a solid foundation of reason and rationality.

* for me, "the point" is to either follow or reject Tanakh knowing of its mythicization and knowing it must be this way (for the reasons stated by Rozensweig in the previous post below)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On Dealing With the 'Hard' Jewish Laws:

"Observing [the rituals] has to be rooted in each individual Jews' ABILITY rather than in her WILL.  Only that Jew who is capable of hearing the divine voice of revelation speaking and commanding through a particular law or practice could relate to such a law or practice as an integral meaningful part of his Jewish life rather than as an obsolete ritual demanding rigid, rote obedience."  (Franz Rosenzweig)

On the Hard Questions We Ask About God and tora:

"God purposely conceals His true purpose.  In fact, He must occasionally mislead man.  If everything were clear, men would be automatons, and those least free, most timid and fearful, would be the most "pious".  But evidently God wants only the free to be His.  He must make it difficult, nay impossible to understand His actions, so as to give man the opportunity truly to believe.... So there remains nothing for God but to tempt man, even to deceive him." (Franz Rosenzweig)

Monday, October 19, 2015

God cannot create create something other than Himself.

God cannot hide from Himself the fact that He is God.

The former destroys Western Dualism; the latter destroys Eastern Non-Dualism.

Since the two 'axioms' cancel each other out, I am free from both both 'East' and 'West'.

What this does is to clear a space [between 'East' and 'West' with Israel located at the center-- the mean point where meaning is] in order for the flash of inspiration (the Ruach haKodesh-- the spirit located at the 'Center' / the mean / Israel / the Temple) to occur.