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 remote 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 Hashem, 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"), 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 (Hashem).


* you may ask, "Why do we need religion?  Why cant we just follow God?"  I touched on this obliquely in the June 25 post ("Part 1... Sabbath").  Essentially, a 'naked' relationship with God without the 'masking'/'screen' of religion (i.e. the Tora, the Koran, Jesus) 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

**  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 the Most High God (Hashem) 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 (the "ever turning sword") of Da'at to the other side (i.e. 'Paradise').  Borges wrote: "Can you believe that the divinity could have created a place that is not Paradise?  Can you believe that the Fall is another thing but ignoring that we are in Paradise?"

* 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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 31, and Ezekiel 11 and 36 prophesy that the Tablets (representing 'the Law' and the Covenant) that were kept in the Holy of Holies -- which was destroyed -- will be put into the Jews' hearts.
In other words, Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are prophesying that the Tablets / Law / Covenant [that were in the Tabernacle/Temple, and by implication 'remote'] will no longer be hidden and distant (Deut.30:11,14), but will be written on the heart.
This writing on the heart (instead of stone) is what Jeremiah may mean by a "new covenant-not-like- [old]-covenant".  Again, this new covenant will be written/inscribed/cut into the heart, which is not like the way of the 'old' covenant that was lying 'remotely' in the Holy of Holies inscribed on stone.
All this implies that the Tanakh sees the [stone] Temple (and the Land [of Israel], the Priesthood, and kingship) as a crutch, at best, that would eventually have to be destroyed so this 'new' way could take hold.  The Pharisees/Sages/Rabbis were conscious of this task and started the transcription (from stone to heart- i.e. from the 'Written Tora' to the 'Oral Tora') just in time. ("Give me Yavneh and its sages, [not Jerusalem and its stone]" - Gittin 56b)*
And yes, I know that the chapters mentioned above are about full restoration and blessing in the land of Israel after the people turn wholly back to God and His commandments.  In other words, they are spiritually uncompromising.  Ezekiel however prophesies (ch.11:16) about a 'little' restoration and blessing along the lines of a "small sanctuary" ("mikdash me'at") that will remain with us even in exile.
That this ['"small sanctuary"] can include the Oral Tora (the Talmud, etc.) seems about right -- especially in light of the words ("My children have defeated Me") imputed to God at the end of an incident/story found in the Talmud (Baba Metsia 59b) that is essentially about the inauguration and FULL activation of the Oral Law by 'the Rabbis' [over the dissent of God and Rabbi Eliezer -- who was excommunicated because of this (was God -- so to speak -- 'excommunicated' too?- "Lo baShamayim hee" / "It -- {the [Written] Tora} -- is not in Heaven")].
Does this mean that the Oral Law 'compromises' the 'spiritually uncompromising' Written Tora (i.e. the ideal)?  I would say that the Heavenly ideal had to be "defeated" by God's "children" in order to be ACTUALIZED on earth.  Perhaps this -- if I may be so bold (as bold as the Rabbis in that Talmud incident/story?) -- is what being Israel (lit. 'he who wrestles/struggles/strives with God') really means? 

* Judaism survived because it became 'portable'.  That is, the 'Oral Law' transferred to the individual all the 'mana' (the supernatural power, effectiveness and prestige attached to an object or person) that had been attached to Priest, Land,Temple, and king.
Another -- more prosaic -- way of saying this is that the Oral Law (or Oral Tora / Jewish Law / Halakha) is how a Jew applies the mitsvas of the Tora in daily life

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The role of  the prophet is only to bring Israel back to the Tora (i.e. mitsva observance); which is the same as saying back to holiness and communion with God.
Let me succinctly illustrate this 'trinity' of God, holiness, and mitsva observance.
The only way sinful man can commune with a holy God is through [moral] standards and [ritual] practices that were given to us by the Creator Himself; like when He says "Be holy, as I am holy" (Lev.20:26).
And -- of course -- the way to this 'holiness' is through observance of the mitsvahs.

 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 God and man) the prophets railed against its non-observance.

So perhaps it's THE ritual link to the non-ritual / ethical / moral commandments.

How?

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? Slough off God and the commandments?

Not so fast.

Perhaps I can redeem myself through a ritual, which is the only ritual-- remember-- that is in the 10 Commandments, and the only ritual that the prophets railed against its non-observance.

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').

It is at this vulnerable point -- a point that many defect to Christianity because it holds out a get out of jail (the Commandments) free card -- that the Sabbath stands as a sentinel to remind (zakhor!) us that we can return to some semblance of dignity by REDEEMING OUR FAITHLESSNESS IN GOD BY HAVING FAITH IN GOD THROUGH OBSERVANCE (shamor!) OF THE SABBATH, WHICH IS REALLY ONE DAY IN WHICH WE CEASE 'TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS' IN ORDER TO RITUALLY SHOW OUR FAITH THAT GOD 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 a 'Hard' Jewish Law: Fasting on Yom Kippur


The Temple was a bloody place. Why?   Let's start at the beginning.  In Genesis, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He gave them animal skins to clothe themselves instead of the plant 'skins' (fig leaves) they made to clothe themselves. Later, Abel's animal offering was preferred to Cain's plant offering.

Jumping to Sinai, the people were told that they and their animals would be killed if they got too close to the mountain.   Later, in the desert, the Tabernacle (a portable Sinai) centered around animal sacrifices; and on its first official day of operation two of the high priest's sons (Nadav and Abihu) were killed by God in the middle of their duties.

We can conclude from this that the coming close (interestingly, KRBN means both 'drawing close' and [animal] 'offering'-- see Leviticus 1:2 ) of the creature to its Creator 'spatially' (represented by the Tabernacle/Temple/Sinai) can easily result in the death of a human* and always -- in the Temple/Tabernacle -- results in the death of a sacrificial animal WHO REPRESENTS US.**

Thus, con-Temple-ating  the much smaller sacrifice of a little water and fat during our fast can make Yom Kippur -- the day we [ritually] come closest to God -- less 'hard' to observe.  But if we 'try' and fail to observe Yom Kippur (or any ritual) properly -- as I am prone to do -- the Oral Law (the Talmud Mishna Yoma 8:9) states that this very day atones for ritual transgressions [between a person and God]. (but see "sefaria.org/Mishnah_Yoma.8?lang=bi" for an important exception).


* 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 God's 'portion', of which He is zealous/jealous of; therefore, proximity to it spatially (whether in a covenant with Him or not) comes with conditions.  In other words, when the Canaanites and later the Israelites accumulated transgressions they were -- in a sense -- 'ritually slaughtered'.  "Through those who come close (KRV) to Me I will be sanctified" (Lev.10:3) means those who come near Me spatially are liable to be killed (cf. Ex.19:22)

** the word KPR ('atonement') comes out of the root KP, which is directly related to the English 'cap' and the Hebrew 'kippa' (also, hear how KPR sounds like 'cover').  In other words, since the animal 'represents' us (the creature before the Creator at the Temple), it takes the 'hit' for us / 'covers' us.
I wrote something in my Sept.16 2017 that corroborates my theory here and explains why they made a Golden [lit. 'masking'- Ex.32:4] Calf at Sinai: "...because of the awesomeness of the Sinai revelation ("Let not God speak with us lest we die"-Ex.20:16), 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."  There is a direct link between the people being commanded to not make gods of gold and silver (Ex.20:23) and making an altar to offer animal sacrifices (Ex.20:24-26) to God [who speaks from 'heaven'- Ex.20:22].  The juxtaposition implies: God is 'far away' in 'heaven' (i.e. holy) so I've given (commanded) you to put on a 'play' (ritual area) in which this distance can simultaneously be strengthened (i.e. made holy) and bridged (the root TsVH in mitsva literally means to squeeze / join close).
Now that we see how important the Temple is to idolatry-prone Israel, the main project of the Talmud can be seen as extending the Temple (as the Tabernacle/Temple extended Sinai) to other areas, such as the home and the synagogue (see the very beginning of the Talmud: "From what time do we say the Shma? [evening prayer].  From the hour when the priests enter to eat their truma [priest's share] until the end of the first [Temple] watch." - Talmud Brakhot).  In other words, the Talmud's approach to the question of "What is to be done now that we (i.e. the surviving remnant after the destruction of 70 and 135 CE; although Pharisees like Hillel and Shammai were answering this question long before-- see, for example, the 'fantastic' 'play' of ch.8 Talmud Brakhot) have no Temple, priesthood, Land, and kingship?" makes studying it fun and exciting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

 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' (subconsciously perhaps) that they are not good enough for me and -- you know what-- I believe them".  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.  

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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 [holy] drop of the mythical over a solid foundation of reason and rationality.

* for me, "the point" is not to follow by faith or reject in spite the [pious fraud called] Tanakh, but to follow or reject it KNOWING it's fradulent and knowing it must be this way (for the reasons stated by Rozensweig in the previous post)

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 something other than Himself.

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

The former destroys Western Dualism (Monotheism / radical transcendence); the latter destroys Eastern Non-Dualism (Monism / radical immanence).

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

What this does is to clear a space [between 'East' and 'West' with Israel 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 /Jerusalem/ the Temple) to occur.


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There are only three philosophical positions that I can conceive of holding: Monotheism, Monism, or agnosticism.
Monotheism is [logically] impossible* since there cannot be anything other than God.  It does however respond to man's need for an Other.
Monism is [logically] 'true', but there is no [real] Other in it.
Agnosticism (radical skepticism) finds both of these positions objectionable.  It refuses to assume oneness with the All (Monism) and get tagged as 'It' (i.e. God) or worship an Other (Monotheism / dualism) who cannot [logically]* exist.

* Man by nature (logic) is Monistic.  He can only conceive of an unbroken, unitive extention of the 'part' into the All/Whole ('God').