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Monthly Archives: October 2014

La Noche del Viernes – Guía paso a paso

La Noche del Viernes – Guía paso a paso

La Noche del Viernes – Guía paso a paso

¿No estás seguro de cómo empezar? ¡No tienes que buscar más!

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La clave para un Shabat significativo es que no se debe sentir como “cualquier otro día”. Más bien, queremos crear un ambiente especial. Esto significa vestirse con nuestras ropas más lindas (o las favoritas), comprar o preparar nuestra comida preferida, y dejar un tiempo sin interrupciones para reflexionar y apreciar el verdadero significado de nuestras vidas.

¿Cómo nos liberamos del ajetreo de la semana y pasamos a una “mentalidad de Shabat”? La clave es deshacerse de las distracciones externas. Si estás empezando, trata de pasar toda la noche del viernes sin entretenimiento enlatado: sin televisión, sin radio, sin películas. Si eres realmente valiente, ¡también sin teléfono! Esto nos ayuda a salir del ciclo semanal normal, y nos dirige hacia “La Dimensión del Shabat”.

A continuación están los pasos básicos para convertir la noche del viernes en Shabat.

1) Encendido de Velas. La imagen de una mujer encendiendo sus velas de Shabat es un eterno símbolo del Judaísmo. Dieciocho minutos antes de la puesta de sol, prendemos las velas, invitando paz y armonía al hogar, infundiendo el ambiente con luz física y espiritual.

El encendido de velas trae paz, calidez y un resplandor especial de Shabat a la casa. Prende las velas antes de la puesta de sol – revisa el horario en el diario, o pide un calendario en tu sinagoga local. Puedes comprar una caja de velas blancas de Shabat en cualquier supermercado. Sólo tienes que prender una, aunque la costumbre es prender dos.

2) Servicio de la Noche. Las melodías de los rezos de Kabalat Shabat le dan la bienvenida al Shabat con profunda reverencia y con alegría. Con frecuencia se baila como parte del espíritu de cercanía con nuestros prójimos en un día de descanso, santidad, buena comida y canciones.

3) Shalom Aleijem. Cuando ya estamos sentados en la linda mesa de Shabat, cantamos “Shalom Aleijem”. Ésta canción le da la bienvenida a los ángeles que escoltan a la persona a su casa desde la sinagoga, mientras buscamos su “bendición” para un buen Shabat.

4) Eshet Jail. Hay muchos niveles de significado para esta canción que alaba a la mujer judía quien es íntegra y se preocupa por su familia, es amable con el pobre y el necesitado, y es temerosa de Dios. El Shabat es también comparado con una novia o una reina, así que la canción también es una alabanza al Shabat.

5) La Bendición de los Hijos. Justo antes del Kidush, muchos padres bendicen a cada uno de sus hijos para que sigan con salud y fortaleza el camino de nuestros venerables ancestros.

6) Kidush. Todos se ponen de pie mientras el conductor sostiene una copa llena de vino o jugo de uva, para santificar el Shabat, recordando que “en seis días, Dios creó el cielo y la tierra – y en Shabat Él descansó”.

Nuestra semana está llena de trabajo y creación, pero Shabat es el día de descanso y reflexión. “Kidush” literalmente significa hacer una distinción, elevar algo material y hacerlo espiritual. Al recitar el Kidush, no elevamos solamente la copa de vino, sino que al día de Shabat en sí mismo.

7) Lavado de Manos. Lavamos nuestras manos para purificarnos antes de comer pan. Primero, sácate todos los anillos para que el agua pueda cubrir tus manos completamente, y después di la bendición.

8) Ha-Motzi. Dos jalot son puestas en una tabla o un plato, cubiertas con un paño decorativo en la mesa. Los dos panes conmemoran la doble porción de maná que caía del cielo cada viernes mientras los judíos estaban en el desierto. Después de la bendición, el conductor corta jalá para todos y la sirve. Le ponemos sal al pan porque es un preservante, simbolizando que esta comida no es simplemente una experiencia transitoria, sino que un momento que durará por la eternidad.

9) Comida Festiva. Una comida tradicional de viernes en la noche usualmente incluye varios platos: pescado, sopa, plato principal y postre. Este es un momento para disfrutar de la buena compañía mientras se toma parte de la deliciosa comida de Shabat. Cada familia o grupo de amigos hacen sus propias tradiciones de viernes por la noche que incluyen canciones de Shabat, palabras de Torá, historias para niños, y tiempo para que los niños compartan lo que aprendieron en el colegio sobre la porción semanal de la Torá. En algunas casas, uno a uno comparte con el resto por qué está agradecido, o cuenta una historia sobre un pequeño milagro.

10) Devar Torá. Literalmente “una palabra de Torá”, el Devar Torá es lo que realmente separa a la mesa de Shabat de cualquier otra “cena entretenida”. Elige un tema que sea profundo y apropiado, y discútanlo juntos.

11) Canciones. Todos recordamos algunas canciones de los días en el colegio judío o en los campamentos de verano. Los sabios dicen que “el cantar es la expresión de un alma emocionada”. El canto te relajará y te acercará a la experiencia de Shabat. Además, si hay niños, les encantará. Y no te preocupes si no puedes seguir la letra – la melodía y el ritmo son los que te elevarán.

12) La Bendición Después de la Comida. Después de la exquisita comida de Shabat agradecemos a Dios recitando la Bendición Después de la Comida. Nos preparamos para la bendición lavando nuestros dedos con agua, llamada Maim Ajaronim, que usualmente se pasa alrededor la mesa.

¡Shabat Shalom!

Segun tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/sh/csh/48420587.html?s=feat el domingo, 26 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Are the Jews Humanity’s Moral Compass?

 

Dear readers,

Who has said that the Jewish people are the moral conscience of the world?

No, it’s not a great Jewish prophet, or a righteous non-Jew who admired the Jewish people. These words are ascribed to none other than Adolf Hitler, may his name be erased.

In Hitler’s words, “Conscience is a Jewish invention; it is a blemish like circumcision.”

He also said: “If one little Jewish boy survives without any Jewish education, with no synagogue and no Hebrew school, it [Judaism] is in his soul. Even if there had never been a synagogue or a Jewish school or an Old Testament, the Jewish spirit would still exist and exert its influence. It has been there from the beginning, and there is no Jew, not a single one, who does not personify it.” (Hitler’s Apocalypse)

To Hitler, having a moral conscience was repugnant and despicable; scruples could deprive an individual from realizing his self-gratifying goals. Unbelievably, Hitler understood, too, that every Jewish soul inherently has such an ethical spirit.

In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the first Jew and the forefather of our people, Abraham. Abraham is called Ivri, a Hebrew, and the name has stuck for his descendants. On a simple level, he was called Ivri because geographically he came from ever hanahar, the “other side of the river.” On a deeper level, he stood on the “other side” of the world in his principles and moral standing. In a dark decadent world, he shined the light of monotheism and divine moral clarity.

“You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). G‑d entrusted the Jewish people with the obligation of being “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6).

It’s a job description that not only is arduous, but has caused genuine envy as well as the deepest and most vile hatred. Most of humanity would rather yield to the prevailing status quo and social pressure, rather than deviate.

Abraham, too, could easily have chosen to follow the norm; instead, he followed his soul. As a result he was thrown into a burning furnace, was expelled from his home, was tested countless times, and only miraculously escaped with his life. Nevertheless, he stood tall and firm in what he knew to be the truth.

He passed on this legacy to his descendants.

Throughout our lives, we too have choices, to follow the tide or to swim upstream. To be satisfied with the status quo, or to improve our world through a higher spiritual service or a greater moral code, or by pursuing social venues to service others. Throughout the centuries, Abraham’s descendants have made disproportionate contributions in all these areas.

Our greatest haters realized that this was our fate. They also realized that this desire to make our world a home for G‑d is inherently embedded within our Jewish soul.

Within each and every one of us.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Segun tomado de, http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/2734685/jewish/Are-the-Jews-Humanitys-Moral-Compass.htm el domingo, 26 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Noah’s second coming: New novel imagines the next Great Flood

Noah’s second coming: New novel imagines the next Great Flood
In addressing climate change, ‘The Collapse of Western Civilization’ makes a fitting accompaniment to the weekly Torah reading of ‘Noah.’
By Yosef I. Abramowitz Oct. 23, 2014 | 12:58 AM | 1

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Columbia University Press, 104 pages, $9.95 (paperback), $9 (e-book)

Léon Comerre, "Le déluge”

‘Le déluge’ by Léon Comerre (1850-1916) Photo by Léon Comerre

I confided to Noah, of the Ark, that I was considering getting myself arrested.

Noah, played by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, took my hand in appreciation. We were just south of Central Park, participating in the largest climate demonstration in history, last month in New York. Signs dotted the crowd: “Invest in our future, not our demise,” “System change, not climate change,” “End oil,” “What is the ROI on a dead planet?”

But instead of getting arrested the next day at a climate sit-in on Wall Street, I decided, with a heavy heart, to board an El Al flight at JFK and return home to Jerusalem, a flight that was powered by heavy jet fuel. Thus I contributed, from seat 25G, 2.91 tons of harmful carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

My friends at Auburn, a Presbyterian seminary in New York, built a replica of Noah’s Ark for the climate march, which was tugged, ironically, by a 4×4 pickup powered on gasoline. That same week, oil had hit a two-year low of $90 a barrel, a price, of course, that does not factor in the oil subsidies, tax breaks and defense costs that the taxpayers dish out to maintain Western civilization’s addiction to this source of poison in our atmosphere.

“We Are All Noah Now” read the banner on the Ark. The bearded Waskow, a long-time peace activist, connected me to the group that was planning the next day’s civil disobedience, scheduled for right before the UN Climate Summit. I was willing to be taken into custody as part of an effort to increase pressure on world leaders to reduce emissions, but something about the proposed action didn’t sit right.

As if responding to a divine cue, Torah scrolls around the world this week will be rolled to Chapter 6 of Genesis, in which we read how “the earth was corrupt before God” (Genesis 6:11), and the destruction of the world by the rising waters is foretold. According to the midrashic text Bereisheet Rabbah, God gave Noah 125 years’ advance notice about his intention to destroy the world with a flood. Indeed, this gave Noah time to plant and tend to the very gopher trees that he would later use to craft the fabled Ark.

To his discredit, Noah didn’t think about the survival of more than himself, his family and his floating zoo; he knew the waters were coming, yet according to the Torah, he did nothing to prepare the rest of humanity or warn them to change their evil ways. The rabbis, in trying to redeem Noah a bit, say that just the act of building the ark elicited questions and thus Noah was at least able to give some people a warning, though it was ignored. The death sentence — or the collapse of Earth’s first civilization — hung in the biblical air for over a century.

How could it have happened?

The paradox of how the human race in modern times could have understood the significance of the effect of burning fossil fuels on climate change and not switch to renewables for power is the central question posed by “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future,” a book nearly as short as the first handful of chapters of Genesis and loaded with as much doom, caused by humanity’s unchecked evil inclinations.

The 52-page, science-based fictional narrative, with notes and appendices, is set in the year 2393, and consists of an imagined lecture being delivered by a historian of the “Second People’s Republic of China” to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the “Great Collapse.” While in the decades preceding 2093, we are told, millions were already affected by food and water shortages caused by climate change — as we are witnessing already today — the Great Collapse described by authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway was triggered when the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed into the sea, “And the waters became exceedingly powerful upon the earth” (Genesis 7:19). This, we are told, would raise ocean levels worldwide an additional 5 meters (10 cubits in biblical terms), to the point where Africa, North America and much of Europe and Asia endure climate-caused social and political chaos, leading to massive destruction, with billions dead, and another 1.5 billion people displaced.

Then the Greenland Ice Sheet, near the Earth’s northern pole, quickly plunges too, raising the waters worldwide an additional 2 meters. “Dislocation contributed to the Second Black Death,” our narrator says in sterile language. “Survivors’ accounts make clear that many thought the end of the human race was near.” Only China, with central command and control made possible by its autocratic government, was able to adapt. It phases out its use of fossil fuels, relocates 250 million of its people to higher ground, and loses “only” 20 percent of its population.

Biblical levels of destruction

The book lacks any characters other than the collective “children of the Enlightenment” — that’s us — whose folly is responsible for the Collapse. The “plot” of the Chinese historian’s talk rests on two pillars: the climate-related events of the 21st century, which snowball to biblical levels of destruction, and the ideologies that prevented the “children of the Enlightenment” from taking the necessary steps, particularly in the West, from anticipating or responding to those events so as to prevent the Great Collapse.

“To the historian studying this tragic period of human history, the most astounding fact is that the victims knew what was happening and why. Indeed, they chronicled it in detail precisely because they knew that fossil combustion was to blame,” says our Chinese narrator. She continues: “Historical analysis also shows that Western civilization had the technological know-how and capability to effect an orderly transition to renewable energy, yet the available technologies were not implemented in time.”

The book’s science is strong, compelling and scary; the authors are both historians of science (like their fictional narrator), Oreskes at Harvard and Conway at the California Institute of Technology. The narrative references many of the recent climate events and studies, including the recent warnings about the danger from the increased pace of emissions from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But when it comes to explaining why civilization ultimately failed to act — and what could still turn the tide toward climate stability — the authors miss the boat.

Their analysis, delivered by the faceless Chinese official, gets tangled in the gobbledygook of the ideological battle between “neoliberals” — those arguing for the preeminence of individual freedoms and of no government intervention, and environmentalists — the academics and scientists who are sounding the alarm that government must intervene in the use of fossil fuels so as to prevent the world’s destruction. The authors, by use of their clever historical premise, are obsessed with responding to climate deniers and “neoliberals” of today, making this a sequel of sorts to their last book, “Merchants of Doubt” (2011), about what they called the “climate denial industry.”

The battle is real, to be sure, but it is overplayed here to the detriment of actually telling us what needs to happen now to alleviate climate change, and the critical role that citizens action could play in making that happen.

Oreskes and Conway’s argument is that if the government doesn’t intervene on climate — ending $600 billion in global oil subsidies, taxing carbon, encouraging renewables and fast — the chaos that will follow the inevitable catastrophic weather changes will lead to autocratic regimes coming to power in the United States and worldwide to quell the food riots, the flood of climate refugees, and the fall of the economic systems that currently allow the rich (yes, the “neoliberals”) to get richer.

The argument is essentially a strategic appeal to the long-term economic interests of the political elites, mostly in the United States. If government is not permitted now to stop the burning of coal and oil, tar-sand mining and fracking, goes the book’s logic, then the ruling classes will only be accelerating the moment of their own demise, when all markets will fail and it will only be possible to appreciate beachfront real estate from the window of a submarine.

The authors’ creative attack, ahead of the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, on those who today deny climate change and advocate a hands-off approach by government, is what makes this work a must-read in the politics of climate change. Its gift — the real reason everyone should read it — is that it gives us an opportunity to imagine the world as our grandchildren will encounter it. And as Noah saw it. The scenario it posits is damning. But also preventable.

Missing from the narrative is the role of the individual and what can happen when 400,000 people come together in New York, and millions more worldwide, to launch a climate revolution.

Capitalism the core evil?

The reason I didn’t get myself arrested last month in New York is that although I agree that the issue needs to be at the top of every nation’s agenda, I have come to disagree with the basic premise of the protesters — and, in a way, also of this book. The activist event was called “Flood Wall Street,” and the assumption behind it was that capitalism is the core evil of what drives the “carbon combustion complex,” as Oreskes and Conway refer to the industries that control and distort much of our economy and politics. While that is true enough, I reject the government-versus-capitalism dichotomy.

By blaming gargantuan systems, the authors disempower the reader at the very moment when they have effectively woken us up from our climate-complicit slumber.

Enlightened capitalism can move at the speed of light, in comparison to the typical pace of government action; it is, in fact, the only vehicle capable of offering a solution to our plight. Yes, government, pressured by citizens, needs to tax carbon and incentivize the speedy ramping-up of renewables, and the best way to do this is to create a level playing field that removes the $600 billion in global fossil-fuel subsidies. But the ultimate goal should be to make available massive amounts of green capital for the research and development that is needed to quickly ramp up renewables and electric vehicles. And these must and can be profitable.

The cost of solar power, for example, has dropped so dramatically that it’s already worthwhile economically on a third of the planet — and probably could be in more than half the planet, if fossil-fuel subsidies were to be phased out, especially in the Middle East. The children of the Enlightenment can actually make good money from the greening of our grids and roads.

True, the dividends to be earned from investing in ExxonMobil are still likely to be higher than those from any solar company today, but this is where our greed needs to be checked in favor of decent returns that promote sustainability rather than short-term profits that are accompanied by the rising waters that will ultimately wipe out the consumers of ExxonMobil oil.

On the same day as “Flood Wall Street” took place, 50 major foundations, led by the Rockefeller Brothers, who — don’t forget — made their money in the oil business, announced their intention to divest from carbon-related companies, primarily oil, and invest instead in green energy. Israel, which should be the world’s solar-power leader, still has not approved new solar quotas. Shamefully, today, only 2 percent of our energy comes from green energy. The Israeli government also undermined a national electric vehicle charge network.

Citizens and investors need to demand the opening-up of the local energy market to thousands of megawatts of renewables. And Jewish-communal pension funds and endowments need to divest from oil, gas, coal and car companies and reinvest in green alternatives, in Israel and around the world.

Along with the greening of investment capital, what is required of the sensitive reader of “The Collapse of Western Civilization” is to demand a low-carbon consumer revolution and a change to our own lifestyles. Putting billions of dollars in play from consumers for electric cars, solar chargers, solar home systems and more can slow emissions and incentivize businesses to make the switch as well.

When I arrived back in Jerusalem from the climate march, I went online and bought a carbon offset for my round-trip for $29.75, so that my participation would in effect be carbon neutral. I then realized that for several thousand dollars a year, our family’s entire carbon footprint — from the electricity we use to the public buses we ride — could be zeroed out. The offset is used to plant trees or engage in other actions that reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is one step we can all take so we can live carbon-neutral lives today.

Yet individual carbon offsets are no substitute for the outrage that is needed against all our complacent governments and the oil, coal, gas and car companies profiting from our march toward the Great Collapse. Government action is needed, fueled by citizens’ votes and economic power. For this time, tending to gopher trees, like Noah did, is not a practical or ethical solution.

Yosef I. Abramowitz, CEO of Energiya Global Capital and one of the founders of Israel’s and Africa’s solar industries, recently joined the Public Council for the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. He was named by CNN as one of the world’s top six Green Pioneers and was the first private-sector candidate for Israel’s presidency, running on a green and pluralistic platform.

Segun tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/life/books/.premium-1.622142, el domingo 26 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

From Kafka to Newton, the stories behind the books

From Kafka to Newton, the stories behind the books

How does the National Library in Jerusalem decide which treasures to acquire? Why is a priceless collection that was meant to arrive in 1917 still stuck in Russia? And how did the institution come to own Japanese Buddhist art?

By | Oct. 25, 2014 | 8:03 AM
S.Y. Agnon's 'Shira' manuscript

Scraps from Israeli Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon’s masterpiece ‘Shira’ at Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem.Photo by AP

The stories behind the rare items in a library are often just as interesting as the items themselves, says Dr. Aviad Stollman, the recently appointed head of collections at the National Library of Israel, in Jerusalem. Manuscripts from the likes of Isaac Newton, Franz Kafka, Moses Maimonides and – of local vintage – the poets Lea Goldberg and Naomi Shemer, important as they are, did not arrive at the library by special delivery.

Behind each manuscript lies a tale, and above them all hovers Stollman, a 40-year-old academic and rabbi, who has to make tough decisions every day.

“Our mission, under the law, is to document the Jewish people,” he says. “But we can’t document everything. We have to ask what’s most important.”

That’s a difficult task, even after the library’s adoption, last year, of a new “collection development policy,” which set the core spheres that will get the most attention: Judaism and the Jewish world, and Israel.


Franz Kafka, notebook with Hebrew-German world list. Photo: Ido Bruno

Stollman gets occasional visits from collectors bearing manuscripts for sale. Before making a decision, he studies the items and consults with experts. “Scholars will usually tell you, ‘Buy, buy, buy – it’s an extremely important item.’ But the budget is limited, and I have to check whether the item is one that Haaretz will write about – in other words, whether its interest and importance transcend the scholarly realm,” Stollman explains.

Recently, for example, two well-known, veteran manuscript dealers – “foxes,” Stollman dubs them – came to see him. They wanted $8,500 for a manuscript, part of which documents a 19th-century pogrom in which 24 Jews were murdered.

“It’s the only written documentation of the event, so the value increases,” Stollman notes. On the other hand, he adds, “for the same amount of money I can buy hundreds of other items.”

No such qualms arise when a manuscript is of “national importance,” such as a Passover Hagaddah from 1482 from Spain, a ninth-century Syriac translation of the Bible written on parchment, or a 12th-century commentary on the Mishna by Maimonides, the medieval rabbi and physician.


Maimonides’ 12th-century commentary on the Mishna. Photo: Ido Bruno

But sacred writings are not the only items on Stollman’s shopping list. Kafka’s Hebrew notebook also became a national asset of the State of Israel. “Its research importance is not all that great,” Stollman admits, but it is priceless in museum and national terms.

Kafka, a secular Jew from Prague and one of the seminal authors of the 20th century, wrote in German. He never visited Palestine, but in his last years he took Hebrew lessons from a young teacher from Jerusalem, and became interested in Judaism and the Zionist movement. A look into his Hebrew notebook is an extraordinarily thrilling experience. Here are words such as hishtomem (“was astonished”), ragua (“calm”) and ratuv (“wet”) – all in the handwriting of the tormented author.

Though presently situated on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University, the National Library, founded in 1892, is slated to move in 2017 to a new building nearby, across the road from the Knesset. That will be the final stage in the revolution the institution has undergone in recent years: from a small research facility catering to relatively few researchers and scholars, it will become “a meeting place for scholars, intellectuals, and artists, and a site of vibrant cultural creativity based on the treasures housed in its collections,” according to the library’s vision.

Toward that end, the library recently established a “Global Forum of the National Library,” whose members are “prominent leaders and creative thinkers from among the Jewish people and the world at large,” in the library’s words. The forum met this week in Jerusalem to discuss the institution’s core concerns.

In some cases, the decision about whether to acquire a manuscript goes all the way to the board of directors. “We spend millions of shekels a year on acquisitions,” Stollman says. “There is a constant tension between the desire to own a large number of ‘products’ – like a supermarket – and the desire to be a kind of boutique, which is very selective. After all, we are not a regular library, we are a national museum of the book.”

A case in point is the library’s decision last year to purchase a 13th-century manuscript of the Seder Selihot, a penitential liturgy for the High Holy Days, from Germany for hundreds of thousands of shekels.

Stollman: “A German community used this prayer book for hundreds of years, until Kristallnacht [the pogrom of November 1938 across Germany]. Even though we had a photocopy of the manuscript, we decided to purchase it, because it is essential for an item like this to be preserved in Israel. In the end, our role goes beyond supplying information.”

There are, however, cases in which the library decides to forgo the acquisition of a physical item and make do with scanning and digitizing. “For 500,000 shekels [$135,000], I can buy one book or scan a whole collection, of hundreds of manuscripts, situated in a different country,” he explains.

“Old-fashioned people say that ‘it’s not worth it’ if you don’t have the original, but we have undergone a paradigm shift,” Stollman says, adding, “Sometimes it’s more correct to have a digital copy.”

Still, there are items whose originals he would be delighted to have in the library. One example is the Ginzburg collection, which belonged to an aristocratic Jewish-Russian family that began collecting items in the mid-19th century. The trove holds about 2,000 ancient manuscripts, many in Hebrew, including copies of letters sent by Maimonides, biblical exegeses, grammar books, medieval poetry and works of kabbalah.


At the National Library. Photo: Ido Bruno

In May 1917, the Jewish National Library (the forerunner of the present institution) signed a contract with parties in Russia to buy the collection for half a million rubles. The acquisition was funded by donations from Russian Zionists, and when the money was delivered, the books and manuscripts were packed into crates. But the shipment was delayed during World War I, and when the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, the Soviet authorities seized the books and sent them to the Lenin Library in Moscow.

Developments in World War I, however, caused a delay in the shipment to Palestine. During the Bolshevik Revolution, the books were seized, nationalized and deposited in the Lenin State Library in Moscow. Over the course of the past century, public figures ranging from Albert Einstein and Chaim Weizmann to Benjamin Netanyahu, have attempted over the last half century to persuade the Russians to turn over the collection, but in vain.

Jews are not the National Library’s only topic of interest. Japanese Buddhist creations are also on its list of holdings. This is a relic of an era that ended in 2007, when it was decided not to develop the Far Eastern collection, which was considered no longer relevant to Israel’s national library.

Here, too, there is a fascinating background story. In 2012, a researcher of Japanese art from the Hebrew University asked to borrow Japanese Buddhist paintings from the library’s collection. Initially the librarians didn’t know what she was talking about. But the researcher insisted that she had read about the paintings in the catalog of a 1938 exhibition of Far Eastern art at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. After a search, the library’s personnel tracked down the items.

It then turned out that the collection of some 140 paintings had been donated to the library by a British woman named Elizabeth Anna Gordon (1851-1925), who studied Buddhism in Japan. The National Library’s website notes that Gordon was also “a deeply believing Christian as well as a stout supporter of the Zionist movement. She had adopted a belief, quite common at the time in England, that the British were descendants of the tribe of Judah, and was also taken up with a theory prevalent among some in Japan, that the Japanese are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.”

In 1903, it was Gordon who funded the Zionist mission that went to Africa to explore the feasibility of what became known as the “Uganda Plan.” “The bequest of part of her collection to the National Library was no doubt inspired by these deep beliefs,” the website notes. The library recently set out, in cooperation with the University of Zurich and Hosei University in Tokyo, to scan the whole collection.

Lost documents

Another collection of a non-Jew that found its way to the National Library consists of the writings of the great scientist Isaac Newton. The English physicist and mathematician (1643-1727), was also interested in alchemy, ancient history and calculations of the end of the world. Newton devoted great efforts to trying to decipher sacred texts of ancient cultures, which he believed contained encrypted knowledge. These nonscientific writings by Newton were sold at auction in London in 1936. One of the purchasers was Abraham Shalom Yahuda, a scholar who, before his death, in 1951, willed the writings he owned, including those of Newton, to the State of Israel.


Isaac Newton, ‘Notes on the Jewish Temple.’ Photo: Ido Brunof

In contrast to the Judaism collection, which the library continues to enrich by means of purchases, additions to the Israel collection come mainly from donations. “We are not willing to pay for such collections. We believe that it is an honor to be represented in the National Library, and we also spend a great deal of money in handling the material we receive,” says Dr. Hezi Amiur, the curator of the Israel collection.

As an example of one collection of documents lost because of this policy, he cites the case of the celebrated Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, who died in 2000, and whose archive was sold by the family to Yale University for $200,000. “The National Library declined to pay for it,” he says, and as a result of the sale, “research on Amichai is quite limited today, because very few people [in this field] get to Yale.”

Faithful to a new policy set in the past few years, Amiur does not accept every collection that’s offered. “Contrary to many archives, which say yes to everything and then don’t find the time to deal with them, we take genuine care of every archive we receive. That’s why we accept few archives and turn down others,” he points out.

Some prominent intellectuals systematically turn over parts of their private archives to the National Library, Amiur notes, and these are available to the public and often in great demand. Others have signed an agreement bequeathing their intellectual estate to the library after their death. From time to time, for example, the writer Haim Be’er (born 1945) prepares crates of material – readers’ letters, correspondence with other writers and more – for collection from his home by staff of the National Library. The poet Haim Gouri (born 1923) is also on the archival list; S.Y. Agnon and S. Yizhar made similar bequests in their lifetime.

“Nowadays there are fewer manuscripts, because people use computers, so we archive the writers’ computers,” Amiur says. A well-known writer recently asked him to come to his home and “download the whole computer, including all the earlier versions of my writings and my correspondence.” That, Amiur observes, is “modern archival management.” An agreement was recently signed with the historian of the Holocaust Saul Friedländer, an Israel Prize laureate who lives in the United States, to transfer his material to the library.

Other Israeli writers, such as Devorah Omer and Naomi Shemer, have had their archives perpetuated in the National Library posthumously, as per the request of their families. The library invited the families to visit, and they were impressed by the handling of the items. “These people possess historical awareness and know the importance of preserving the materials,” Amiur says.

Not all the library’s officials are eager to comply when asked to rank items according to their importance. Who is to say whether a rare, 11th-century prayer book is more important or interesting than an unpublished poem or song from the estate of Lea Goldberg or Naomi Shemer? And why is it even necessary to decide whether a Koran from Iran is more rare than Kafka’s Hebrew notebook (which was a gift from the writer’s Palestinian-born teacher)?

Nevertheless, an internal document titled “National Library List of Highlights” sets forth 45 archival items that the institution’s officials want to showcase. There’s a letter Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his wife, Constanze, in 1790, dealing with their financial problems. A collection of Napoleon-related documents from 1798, including letters and personal orders, describes the conquest of Egypt. Letters written by Alfred Dreyfus in 1894 talk about his trial and his time in prison. Also on the list is a humorous letter written by the poet Hayyim Nachman Bialik in 1897, the year of the First Zionist Congress, in which he spoofs Theodor Herzl and his plans to obtain a charter from the Ottomans for the Jews to settle in Palestine; and an unfriendly letter Herzl sent in 1903 to the writer Stefan Zweig, who was an early editor of Zweig’s at the Neue Freie Presse.

Of course, some of these manuscripts, too, come with a special story. For example, in 1909, shortly before his death, Naftali Herz Imber, who wrote the text of “Hatikvah,” which became Israel’s national anthem, penned the words of the earlier, shorter version – the original of which is in the National Library’s collection – on a medical form in the New York hospital to which he was confined, at the request of a woman who recognized him.

The library has a scorched manuscript of an early work by Nobel Prize laureate S.Y. Agnon, which was rescued from the fire that destroyed most of the rest of his manuscripts and rare book collection in Germany in 1924. Also in the archive is a draft of his novel “Shira,” which Agnon threw into the wastebasket and from there into the fireplace of his Jerusalem home in 1969. It was salvaged by his son before Agnon could burn it.

The list of highlights also includes a Hebrew Bible written on thin parchment in 1350 in Spain, from where it was taken by Jews expelled in 1492, to the Ottoman Empire and thence to Damascus. About 20 years ago, it was taken out of Syria by the Canadian human rights activist Judy Feld Carr, who brought it to the Israeli ambassador to Canada – and from Ottawa it was sent on to Jerusalem.

Según tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/.premium-1.622537 el sábado, 25 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

La vida en el Arca de Noé

La vida en el Arca de Noé

Durante los doce meses que duró el mabul, los planetas celestiales no funcionaron normalmente. Por lo tanto, los habitantes del arca no podían distinguir por el sol o la luna si era de día o de noche. Solo las piedras preciosas que Noaj había traído al arca servían como indicativo del tiempo. Cuando brillaban, los habitantes del arca sabían que era de noche, cuando se opacaban, era de día.
Así pasó un año. No fue un año tranquilo para la familia de Noaj, quienes nunca tuvieron tiempo ni de acostarse ni de dormir tan siquiera una noche entera durante los doce meses. Tenían la responsabilidad de velar y alimentar a miles de pájaros, bestias y animales domésticos. Cada animal requería su alimento en un momento diferente, algunos de día, otros al amanecer, otros en distintos horarios de la noche. Noaj y sus hijos trabajaban de día y de noche.

Una vez Noaj demoró en darle la comida al león éste lo pateó y Noaj salió rengueando.
Había un animal llamado Zikita que rechazaba cualquier alimento que Noaj le ofrecía. Noaj se preguntaba como sobreviviría. Una vez cuando estaba cortando una granada un gusano salió del fruto, de inmediato Zikita abrió su boca y se lo devoró. Así Noaj supo lo que necesitaba y se aseguró de tener una buena provisión de gusanos.

Una vez Noaj se dio cuenta que había descuidado al ave Jul que estaba discretamente sentado en una jaula escondida en la parte interior del arca.
-¿No necesitas comida? preguntó Noaj, sorprendido. -No quise molestarte- contestó el pájaro Jul -Vi cuan ocupado estabas y decidí no ocasionarte mas trabajo.
-Te doy mi bendición- dijo Noaj -Mi deseo es que vivas para siempre.
Mientra Noaj estaba en el arca, rezaba continuamente (Tehilim 142:8) -Sálvame de la prisión- porque mi alma está cansada del olor a leones, osos y panteras. -”Noaj- dijo Hashem – Mi orden es que no salgas del encierro durante doce meses completos.

El arca flotaba a salvo como un barco en el océano mientras el mundo alrededor se había transformado en una tremenda tierra de nadie y llena de agua. Llovió copiosamente durante cuarenta días. Cada gota que Hashem enviaba había hervido en el Guhinam previamente. La lluvia era tan caliente que la piel se pelaba al tomar contacto con ella. Las gotas no eran de agua solamente sino también de fuego. Además del agua de arriba, se abrieron todos los pozos y fuentes de la tierra de los cuales emanaban agua hirviendo. Los gigantes de la Generación del Diluvio habían creído que podían impedir que brotara agua de los pozos simplemente pisándolos, pero el agua era tan caliente que les falló el plan. ¿Qué hizo entonces esta generación cruel? Tomaron a sus hijos más pequeños y los colocaron en las aberturas para sellarlas. Pero como el agua continuaba fluyendo ponían un niño sobre el otro en las aberturas de las fuentes para salvarse ellos. Si no hubiese sido por el fuego y el agua de arriba habrían sobrevivido.

El agua llegó hasta los 15 amot (aproximadamente 7,5 metros) por encima de los picos de las montañas más altas, porque esta generación se había burlado despectivamente -Somos gigantes, de 15 amot de altura y si alguna vez sobreviene una inundación nos pararemos sobre las cimas de las montañas y así estaremos a salvo. Ahora el nivel de agua estaba por encima de ellos y se ahogaron.
El agua del mabul contenía las substancias más tóxicas. Sólo los peces sobrevivieron porque no habían pecado como las otras criaturas. Todos los cuerpos humanos se desintegraban completamente. Ni un simple hueso se conservó intacto, ni siquiera el más pequeño, luz, en el extremo inferior de la espina dorsal.
El emperador Adriano le preguntó a R. lehoshua ben Janania – ¿De qué parte del cuerpo humano revivirá D- s a los muertos en el futuro?
-Del hueso luz de la espina dorsal- contestó R. lehoshua. -¿Cómo lo sabes?- preguntó.
-Tráeme ese hueso y te lo demostraré- respondió R. lehoshua. Cuando le trajeron el hueso luz a R. lehoshua le demostró al emperador que a pesar de que lo molió en un molino no se pulverizaba. Lo arrojó al fuego y no se quemó. Tampoco se disolvía en el agua. Finalmente R. lehoshua trajo un martillo y golpeó el hueso. El martillo se rompió y el hueso sobrevivió.
Cuando un hombre muere, su hueso luz se preserva a fin de formar la base a partir de la cual el cuerpo puede reconstruirse en los tiempos de tejíat hametim. Pero la Generación del Diluvio era tan malvada que ningún hueso de su esqueleto se salvó, ni siquiera el hueso luz. Ninguno de ellos será restituido a la vida cuando se levanten los muertos de sus tumbas. No estarán entre los que revivan para ser juzgados y sentenciados, la memoria de la Generación del Diluvio fue borrada de la faz de la tierra.

Extraído de “El midrash dice” de editorial Kehot

Segun tomado de, http://www.jabad.org.ar/biblioteca/parasha-de-la-semana-biblioteca/notas-relacionadas/la-vida-en-el-arca/ el viernes, 24 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Kadish con Oprah Winfrey

Kadish con Oprah Winfrey

Kadish con Oprah Winfrey

El teléfono sonó en la habitación de un hotel de Nueva York, donde estaba alojado. Era 1995 y todavía recitaba Kadish, rezo en honor de los difuntos, por mi padre -de bendita memoria- Joseph Jacobovici.

Vivo en Toronto, soy productor de cine, por lo tanto viajo constantemente. Durante los once meses que recité Kadish, conocí diferentes minianim, necesarios para realizar la plegaria, desde San Francisco hasta Halifax. Una vez, hice una parada en Detroit y llegué presuroso al subsuelo de una vieja sinagoga, donde fui alegremente saludado por un grupo de octogenarios que creyeron ver al Mesías en persona.

Pero el llamado de Nueva York era el comienzo de lo que más tarde sería, tal vez, uno de los Kadish más interesantes.

En ese entonces, había terminado recientemente una película llamada La venta de inocentes. La película ganó el premio Emmy y atrajo la atención de Oprah Winfrey, ícono americano y aclamada anfitriona de TV. La productora del otro lado del teléfono me preguntaba si podía viajar a Chicago y aparecer con mis compañeros de producción en el Oprah Show al día siguiente.

Me quedé pensando. Esto no era nada más ni nada menos que el Oprah Show. Un gran momento. La posibilidad de publicitar el film y de promocionarme a mí y a mi empresa. “Me encantaría hacerlo”, le dije, “pero no creo que pueda”. “¿Por qué no?”, me preguntó la productora, disimulando su sorpresa. “Nadie dice estar muy ocupado para venir al Oprah Show”. “Tengo un problema”, le respondí.

La voz de la productora, Lisa era su nombre, se puso firme. “Todo es conversable. ¿Cuál es el problema?”, me preguntó. “Es complicado”. “Probemos”, respondió.

Comencé entonces el proceso de explicarle a una productora de televisión de Chicago, no judía, el ritual judío de Kadish. Siempre que tengo que explicarlo, rara vez la gente lo comprende. Les manifiesto que necesito un minian, y me llevan hasta una sinagoga que está completamente vacía… casi nunca funciona. Pero esto era el Oprah Show… así que decidí probar.

“Soy judío. Mi padre ha fallecido. Nuestra religión nos indica que cuando una persona fallece debemos decir una plegaria tres veces al día, es una glorificación del nombre de Di-s. Se conoce como Kadish de duelo.

Para poder realizar esto, necesito un quórum de diez personas, llamado “minian”. Es por esto que no puedo perder este ritual. Si voy a Chicago, tendré que atender a mis plegarias antes de ir al show.

“No hay problema”, me dijo. “Usted necesita un minian para decir Kadish. Diez hombres judíos para la plegaria matutina. Lo arreglaré”. “No es tan sencillo”, le dije. “Tal vez encuentre una sinagoga, pero sin el minian matutino. O tal vez la comunidad judía la enviará a un templo que no sigue las tradiciones, lo cual no cumplirá con mi necesidad”. Lisa trataba de ser paciente. “Le enviaré a su hotel un fax con la información del vuelo. Se encontrará en Chicago con una limusina. El conductor tendrá la información sobre el minian. Usted dirá Kadish por su padre”.

El resto se desarrolló como una operación militar. El ticket llegó al día siguiente. Luego, apareció la limusina. El conductor me llevó hasta un hotel y me dijo: “Estaré aquí a las 6.30 de la mañana. Su minian comenzará a las 7. Lo recogeré a las 8. Estará en el Oprah Show a las 8.30”.

El cuarto del hotel era hermoso. Dormí como un bebé. A las 6.30 de la mañana, subía a la limusina. Había un diario en el asiento. “¿Podría acostumbrarme a esto?”, pensé para mis adentros.

El conductor estacionó en el centro de la ciudad frente a un edificio de oficinas y me dijo que en uno de los pisos superiores estaba el minian de Jabad Lubavitch.

Cuando llegué allí, el Rabino me miró y me dijo: “Así que tú eres quien debe decir Kadish. Desde el Oprah Show, me advirtieron que mejor que tuviera un minian”.

Lo dos nos sonreímos. Estaba realmente impresionado de Lisa y de Oprah. Y estaba seguro de que mi padre también estaba encantado. Luego del minian, el conductor me llevó hasta el Oprah Show.

Fui recibido por Lisa, una mujer de color, de 30 años aproximadamente. Ella fue directa en sus preguntas: “¿Tuviste minian?”. “Sí, gracias”, le respondí. “¿Estuvo todo bien? ¿Pudiste recitar Kadish?”. “Absolutamente. No pudo haber estado mejor”, asentí. Me miró con esa mirada característica que poseen los cirujanos famosos cuando salen de la sala de operación. O tal vez, es la mirada que poseen los comandantes militares cuando regresan de una operación militar. Es una mirada que dice: “Nada es tan complicado”. Estuve finalmente en el Oprah Show, tuve mis 5 minutos de fama. Pero aun así, todo lo que puedo recordar de ese día fue el momento en el que recité el Kadish por mi padre.

Segun tomado de, http://www.es.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1892761/jewish/Kadish-con-Oprah-Winfrey.htm el viernes, 24 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Noah’s Flood and Sexual Exploitation

Noah’s Flood and Sexual Exploitation

OCTOBER 24, 2014 2:08 PM 0 COMMENTS

Author:

avatarJeremy Rosen

According to the Bible, Noah’s flood destroyed humanity because they were violent. How much have we changed?

We seclude ourselves in our protected worlds and often have little idea of what is really going on around us. We who live in Western “civilized” societies and are reasonably well off know about the millions of refugees, or poor exploited human beings around the world. But it rarely touches us personally. More worrying is the delusion we have that our societies are safe places. They may be safer, but they are not safe. It’s not just a matter of gunfire, fires, and auto accidents. Hundreds of children men and women disappear off the streets each year and are never heard from again.

Specifically, abuse of women (and men) remains a blot on the record of the males of our species, and it is far too prevalent even in the “free world.”

But I want to focus specifically here on the violence, the rape. The Torah compares rape to murder. There is a degree of violent aggressiveness in males worldwide. But even here in a free and American society there seems to be a streak of male violence that seems to glorify this wanton abuse. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz has been protesting at the inaction of university authorities by carrying a mattress around campus until her reported rapist is removed. Fifty assault survivors spoke out recently in a campus demonstration supporting Sulkowicz. More and more female college students are coming out to fight against both the abuse and the reluctance of college authorities to act.

Governor Jerry Brown of California has now passed a bill requiring all colleges that receive state money to enforce a standard of “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” and only a positive “yes” at every stage can lead on to the next. Such a law was first instituted at Antioch College twenty years ago. Until recently no one else adopted it. Harvard still hasn’t.

President Obama has begun a campaign to highlight the problem of college rape in the U.S. Here are the statistics, according to One In Four:

  • One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.
  • Each year, 5 percent of women on college campuses experience rape or attempted rape.
  • 673,000 women currently attending U.S. colleges and universities have experienced rape at some point in their lifetime. In one year 300,000 college women, over 5 percent of women enrolled in colleges and universities, experience rape. This does not include other forms of sexual assault.
  • Every year 5 percent of women in the U.S. Military academies report surviving rape, as do 2.4 percent of the men.

Time Magazine (Sept. 22, 2014) reports that every day 13,079 women in the USA experience domestic violence in the USA each year.

The New York Times (Sept.30, 2014) reports female firefighters suffering job discrimination, harassment, and sexual abuse every day. One in three women have been physically abused.

The boxer Mike Tyson was a classic example of male, physical crime against women; his rape landed him in jail, and for a while the public took notice. But interest subsided. The issue has been brought to the public by the recent revelations of the number of American football, stars, “heroes” who have been guilty of abusing women. A video of Ray Rice’s attack on his fiancée has gone “viral,” in current terminology, and has forced the NFL to start taking action after years of pretending there was no problem. Another footballer, Adrian Peterson, was indicted for beating his child. Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for aggravated assault against a woman and a child. These massively rich Neanderthals have for years been getting away with physical abuse. So too have college sportsmen and ordinary common and garden males of the species.

The defense has always been that women invited their attention, even threw themselves at them, that they dressed provocatively or drank too much and invited it. It’s true that modern fashions tend toward the provocative, and it is true the amount of male and female drinking on college campuses and city bars is excessive. Recently examples of college girls dying from immoderate amounts of alcohol have been publicized.

But nothing justifies the crude brutality of males forcing their unwanted attentions and testosterone-inflamed bodies on women. Many parents are bound to wonder whether sending their daughters away to college is such a good idea. The traditional antipathy of ultra Orthodoxy to allowing girls to go off to college away from home might even have some justification.

The trouble is that it’s not just away from home that violence is a problem. Within homes, all kinds of physical abuse are reported at phenomenal levels. It is estimated that 46 percent are not even reported. And that is just physical abuse, not mental.

We who gather this time of the year to experience the intensity of our religious tradition are proud of the quality of our religious life. We look with a degree of condescension on the decline in the moral standards of the world around us. We are bound to wonder whether we are doing enough to protect our families from the sexual predations of society within and beyond the home.

It may be true that nowadays women have much more power and greater access to legal means to defend themselves. Nevertheless recent revelations that police forces across the USA neither took complaints of rape seriously nor processed evidence in their possession shows how primitive are the attitudes toward this in a so-called modern world. The problem exists at every level of society and, sadly, in every religious community as well.

The religious world considers itself an antidote to the corruption of the secular world. But it too has a poor record of dealing with abuse within its own communities. Often the clergy, themselves, are the guilty perpetrators. Sadly this past year we have witnessed highly regarded rabbis found guilty of theft, bribery, and sexual corruption. It is a blot on our world. If the charges against Rabbi Barry Freundel, of Washington, DC’s Modern Orthodox community, are proven, it is yet another sad example of how men of religion, all religions, use their positions and power to take advantage and abuse others, men and women. There has been too much of this within the Orthodox community of all degrees.

We recognize that if we leave our children’s morality to society’s default position, we are failing them. The whole purpose of religion is to raise the level of morality and spirituality. But this does not happen accidentally, or by itself. Religion should not be concerned only with our souls. It also requires of us that we take responsibility for our own community and its leadership where it is failing in its obligations, as well as the world beyond. What goes on around us ultimately affects us. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, so a sinking one leaves them high and dry. Noah’s flood is a reminder that violence by humans against humans can destroy a world.

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/10/24/noahs-flood-and-sexual-exploitation/ el viernes, 24 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Morals Make Us Human, and They Can Be Taught

Morals Make Us Human, and They Can Be Taught

OCTOBER 22, 2014 7:28 AM 0 COMMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are we naturally good or naturally bad? On this, great minds have argued for centuries. Hobbes believed that we have naturally “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” We are bad, but governments and police can help limit the harm we do. Rousseau to the contrary believed that naturally we are good. It is society and its institutions that make us bad.

The argument continues today among the neo-Darwinians. Some believe that natural selection and the struggle for survival make us, genetically, hawks not doves. As M. T. Ghiselin puts it, “Scratch an ‘altruist’ and watch a ‘hypocrite’ bleed.” By contrast, naturalist Frans de Waal in a series of delightful books about primates, including his favourite, the bonobos, shows that they can be empathic, caring, even altruistic. So by nature are we.

T. E. Hulme called this the fundamental divide between Romantics and Classicists throughout history. Romantics believed that “man was by nature good, that it was only bad laws and customs that had suppressed him. Remove all these and the infinite possibilities of man would have a chance.” Classicists believed the opposite, that “Man is an extraordinarily fixed and limited animal whose nature is absolutely constant. It is only by tradition and organisation that anything decent can be got out of him.”

In Judaism, according to the sages, this was the argument between the angels when God consulted them as to whether or not He should create humans. The angels were the “us” in “Let us make man …” The angels of chessed and tzedek said “Let him be created because humans do acts of kindness and righteousness.” The angels of shalom and emet said, “Let him not be created because he tells lies and fights wars.” What did God do? He created humans anyway and had faith that we would gradually become better and less destructive. That in secular terms is what Harvard neuroscientist Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature. Taken as a whole and with obvious exceptions, we have become less violent over time.

The Torah suggests we are both good and bad, and evolutionary psychology tells us why. We are born to compete and co-operate. Life is a competitive struggle for scarce resources. So we fight and kill. But we survive only within groups. Without habits of co-operation and trust, we would have no groups and we would not survive. That is part of what the Torah means when it says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So we are both aggressive and altruistic: aggressive to strangers, altruistic toward members of our group.

But the Torah is far too profound to leave it at the level of the old joke of the rabbi who, hearing both sides of a domestic argument, tells the husband, “You are right,” and the wife “You are right,” and when his disciple says, “They can’t both be right,” replies, “You are also right.” The Torah states the problem, but it also supplies a non-obvious answer. This is the clue that helps us decode a very subtle argument running through last week’s parsha and this.

The basic structure of the story that begins with creation and ends with Noah is that in the beginning, God created a universe of order. He then created human beings who created a universe of chaos: “the land was filled with violence.” So God, as it were, deleted creation by bringing a flood, returning the earth to as it was at the very beginning when “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the waters.” He then began again with Noah and his family as the new Adam and Eve and their children.

Genesis 8-9 is thus a kind of second version of Genesis 1-3, but with two differences. In both accounts a key word appears seven times, but it is a different word. In Genesis 1 the word is “good.” In Genesis 9 it is “covenant.”

The second is that in both, reference is made to the fact that humans are in the image of God, but the two sentences have different implications. In Genesis 1 we are told that “God created humanity in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.” In Genesis 9 we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen. 9: 6).

The difference is striking. Genesis 1 tells me that “I” am in the image of God. Genesis 9 tells me that “You,” my potential victim, are in the image of God. Genesis 1 tells us about human power. We are able, says the Torah, to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.” Genesis 9 tells us about the moral limits of power. We can kill but we may not. We have the power, but not the permission.

Reading the story closely, it seems that God created humans in the faith that they would naturally choose the right and the good. They would not need to eat the fruit of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” because instinct would lead them to behave as they should. Calculation, reflection, decision – all the things we associate with knowledge – would not be necessary. They would act as God wanted them to act, because they had been created in His image.

It did not turn out that way. Adam and Eve sinned, Cain committed murder, and within a few generations the world was reduced to chaos. That is when we read that “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.” Everything else in the universe was tov, “good.” But humans are not naturally good. That is the problem. The answer, according to the Torah, is covenant.

Covenant introduces the idea of a moral law. A moral law is not the same as a scientific law. Scientific laws are observed regularities in nature: drop an object and it will fall. A moral law is a rule of conduct: do not rob or steal or deceive. Scientific laws describe, whereas moral laws prescribe.

When a natural event does not accord with the current state of science, when it “breaks” the law, that is a sign that there is something wrong with the law. That is why Newton’s laws were replaced by those of Einstein. But when a human being breaks the law, when people rob or steal or deceive, the fault is not in the law but in the deed. So we must keep the law and condemn, and sometimes punish, the deed. Scientific laws allow us to predict. Moral laws help us to decide. Scientific laws apply to entities without free will. Moral laws presuppose free will. That is what makes humans qualitatively different from other forms of life.

So, according to the Torah, a new era began centred not on the idea of natural goodness but on the concept of covenant, that is, moral law. Civilization began in the move from what the Greeks called physis, nature, to nomos, law. That is what makes the concept of being “in the image of God” so different in Genesis 1 and Genesis 9. Genesis 1 is about nature and biology. We are in the image of God in the sense that we can think, speak, plan, choose, and dominate. Genesis 9 is about law. Other people are also in God’s image. Therefore we must respect them by banning murder and instituting justice. With this simple move, morality was born.

What is the Torah telling us about morality?

First, that it is universal. The Torah places God’s covenant with Noah and through him all humanity prior to his particular covenant with Abraham, then later with his descendants at Mount Sinai. Our universal humanity precedes our religious differences.This is a truth we deeply need in the twenty-first century when so much violence has been given religious justification. Genesis tells us that our enemies are human too.

All societies have had some form of morality but usually they concern only relations within the group. Hostility to strangers is almost universal in both the animal and human kingdoms. Between strangers, power rules. As the Athenians said to the Melians, “The strong do what they want, while the weak do what they must.”

The idea that even the people not like us have rights, and that we should “love the stranger,” would have been considered utterly strange by most people at most times. It took the recognition that there is one God sovereign over all humanity (“Do we not all have one father? Did not one God create us?” Malachi 2: 10) to create the momentous breakthrough to the idea that there are moral universals, among them the sanctity of life, the pursuit of justice, and the rule of law.

Second, God himself recognizes that we are not naturally good. After the Flood, He said: “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on.” The antidote to the yetzer (in rabbinic Hebrew, yetzer hara) the inclination to evil, is covenant.

This has a neuroscientific basis. We have a prefrontal cortex, evolved to allow humans to think and act reflectively, considering the consequences of their deeds. But this is slower and weaker than the amygdala (what Jewish mystics called the nefesh habehamit, the animal soul) which, even before we have had time to think, produces the fight-or-flight reactions without which humans before civilization would not have survived.

The problem is that these rapid reactions can be destructive. Often they lead to violence: not only the violence between species (predator and prey) that is part of nature, but also to the more gratuitous violence that is a feature of the life of most social animals. It is not that we only do evil. Empathy and compassion are as natural to us as are fear and aggression. The problem is that fear lies just beneath the surface of human interaction, and it can overwhelm all else.

Daniel Goleman calls this an amygdala hijack. “Emotions make us pay attention right now – this is urgent – and give us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?” Impulsive action is often destructive because it is undertaken without thought of consequences. That is why Maimonides argued that many of the laws of the Torah constitute a training in virtue by making us think before we act.

So the Torah tells us that naturally we are neither good nor bad but have the capacity for both. We have a natural inclination to empathy and sympathy, but we have an even stronger instinct for fear that leads to violence. That is why, in the move from Adam to Noah, the Torah shifts from nature to covenant, from tovto brit, from power to the moral limits of power. Genes are not enough. We also need the moral law.

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/10/22/morals-make-us-human-and-they-can-be-taught/ el jueves, 23 de oct. de 2014.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Who wrote the Torah?

Who wrote the Torah?

For thousands of years people believed that the five books of the Pentateuch were written by Moses. But it couldn’t have been, academics say.

By | Oct. 22, 2014 | 11:57 AM | 1

Writes the last words in a Torah scroll for the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem. Photo by AP

For thousands of years people believed that the five books of the Pentateuch were written by Moses. The Talmud even explicitly says so. But it couldn’t have been, academics say.

Even a cursory read of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, shows that the Torah could not have been written by a single person – because of differences in style, language and contradiction in the texts, among other things. Scholars studying the bible in Germany during the 18th and 19th centuries concluded that it was a composite work by editors tying together earlier texts written by very different authors.

This conclusion is based on four characteristics recurring in the Torah. (1) The language used in different sections differs widely. (2) Varying ideology. (3) Contradictions in the narrative. (4) The text is strangely repetitive in part, for no obvious reason, indicating that two versions of a single story were included.

Let’s start with the indications that the authors of the Torah were a multitude of people from different eras, not one person; then we can consider who these writers were. Aptly, we can begin with examples from Genesis.

In the name of God

The best example of changing language is in the name of God.

The Bible begins with the line “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Throughout the first account of creation, God is called Elohim. But starting in Genesis 2:4, a second and different account of creation begins – in which God is called Yahweh.

The two accounts also vary in ideology. Elohim in the first account of creation was transcendent – creating the world by his will alone, without interacting with mankind. Yahweh in the second account of creation is immanent, almost human: He talks with Adam and performs surgery on him too. Evidently these two sharply different visions of God were conceived by different men.

The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo Buonarroti, ~1511. Wikimedia Commons

In further proof of differential authorship, the accounts of creation contradict one another. In the first, Elohim creates the animals on Thursday and then creates man and woman on Friday – together. In the second account, Yahweh creates man, then the animals, and only after failing to find a partner for man among them does he create woman out of man’s rib. These strikingly different stories had to be written by different people.

Say what? And say it again

The repetition and contradictions thus start with Genesis. Another case is Noah’s Ark.

Unlike the case of creation, the redactor didn’t put the two accounts of Noah and the flood side by side. The two accounts are interwoven, as we see from the morphing name of God, which switches back and forth between Elohim and Yahweh from passage to passage. But the merger of the two stories is not seamless otherwise too.

For one, Noah loads the animals onto the Ark twice: “There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as Elohim had commanded Noah”״ (Genesis 7:9); and then again just a few passages later “And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life” (Genesis 7:15).

Greenpeace volunteers building an ark on Mount Ararat, Turkey, to draw attention to global warming (May 2007). Photo by: Reuters

Even more strikingly, perhaps, we are told twice that the flood covered the earth: “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters” (7:18) followed by “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” (7:19)

If it isn’t concrete evidence that there was more than one writer, it’s still an impressively smoking gun.

Meet the writers: The Yahwist, the Elohist, priests, and the Deuteronomist

Ultimately the German scholars, led by Julius Wellhausen, came up with “the Documentary Hypothesis,” postulating that the Pentateuch was compiled from of four earlier books long lost in time, which were merged by an editor dubbed the Redactor. The scholars gave each of these four books (or writers) a name: the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly writers, and the Deuteronomist.

The Yahwist was characterized by using the Tetragrammaton (“Yahweh”) as the name of God. The Elohist writers, who called God “Elohim”, were Israelite priests. The Priestly writers were evidently temple priests (Judeans) serving in Solomon’s Temple and their decedents, who dwelled on rite and sacrifice, and evidently engaged in battles over their status as well. And last but not least, “the Deuteronomist” is called so because he wrote Deuteronomy.

Incidentally, the first account of creation was evidently written by a Priestly source, the second by a Yahwist.

Scholars bitterly disagree over who wrote what and which texts are truly ancient and which were added later, as certainly much of the biblical sources surely consist of layers of additions and were not completely written by one single person. Yet there is much we can say about the writers of the Torah, even if we can’t name them.

The Elohist texts, the oldest in the bible

The background for the writing of the Bible is the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in the late 8th century BCE.

Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms whose residents practiced a sort of early Judaism, which was still a far cry from the rigid monotheistic religion we know today.

Archaeology tells us that the Kingdom of Israel was the greater regional power, while Judah was a backwater vassal kingdom. This changed when the Assyrians destroyed Israel in 722 BCE. Following Israel’s subjection, many of the Israelite elite moved to the Judean capital – Jerusalem. These Israelite refugees brought their sacred texts with them: the Elohist texts, which are probably the oldest in the Torah.

These texts were probably written by court scribes in Semairah, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, or by priests in one of the kingdom’s important cultic sites such as Shilo. The Elohist source focuses on locations in the Kingdom of Israel and on the Israelite heroes Moses and Jacob, whom the Israelites saw as their ancestors. (It is not known whether the ancient Judeans also thought Moses and Jacob were their forefathers, but after the “Israelization” of Judah, they probably “adopted” their patriarchy too.)

Locations in Israel: Some archaeologists believe the findings in Khirbet Qeiyafa are of King David’s Palace. Photo by: Tali Mayer

With this influx of culture coming in from the Kingdom of Israel, the Judean priestly cast had to come up with their own narrative about Judah with its own mythical leaders and traditions. This is where the Yahwist source comes from, though at least some may have been written by Judean scribes before the destruction of the kingdom of Israel.

Whatever the case, it was shortly after this destruction that the two texts, the Yahwist and the Elohist, were merged by scribes into a single book.

The man who wrote Deuteronomy

The next portion of the Torah to be written is Deuteronomy, and this time we have a lot more information on its author. We even know his name: Shaphan (though some think the author was the prophet Jeremiah).

This scribe may have single-handedly changed the entire course of history by leading the king to profoundly change Jewish worship.

While the Yahwist-Elohic scripts take no issue with polytheism and people worshiping God or even several gods in temples and other cultic sites throughout the land, the ideology of Deuteronomy is clearly one God, one temple. Its composition evidently coincides with the unification of the Judaic cult and exclusion of other gods, which happened during the reign of King Josiah starting in 622 BCE.

The account, possibly written by Shaphan himself, goes as follows: “And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.” (2 Kings 22:10-11)

Scholars generally agree that this “book of the law” was an early version of Deuteronomy. Shaphan claimed that the book had been found in the Temple while the priests were cleaning up the storeroom.

Josiah thereupon ordered sweeping religious reforms: “Go ye, enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.” (22:13)

Josiah’s reforms centralized the Jewish cult in Jerusalem and banned its practice anywhere else. It created a powerful oligarchy of temple priests, which took over and became the cultural elite of Judah from then on.

The Priestly source

It is these Judean temple priests (and their descendents) who are the Priestly Source.

Theirs is not only by far the largest portion of the bible but was the last added – which doesn’t mean the texts were added to the “end”. For example, the first account of creation that opens the bible was written by these priests.

Possibly the priests felt uncomfortable erasing ancient texts that came before theirs. They may have feared a force would punish them for editing of early text. On the other hand, they didn’t seem to have a problem adding to the text.

While the Israelite priests saw themselves as descendants of the great Moses, the temple priests believed they descended from Zadok, the first High Priest to serve in King Solomon’s Temple. The temple priests honored Elohist text as well as references to Moses, and would not have changed them – but they could justify their primacy over the Israelite priests by writing that Zadok’s lineage was descended from Aaron, Moses’ big brother and that God commanded that only they may give sacrifices to God.

Put otherwise, the temple priests – the “priestly writer” – are suspected of adding Aaron to the story of Moses in order to legitimize their standing in society.

Anyway, it was they who wrote all those laws in Leviticus. It was they who wrote most of the Bible.

The earliest parts of this priestly writing were carried out in the final decades of the Kingdom of Judah, but most would be written during the exile in Babylonia, after Judah’s destruction in 586 BCE. These temple priests led the Jews in their exile and continued to write in Babylon. Some even believe that Judaism as we know it today was forged in the crucible of the Babylonian exile.

The Jews leaving Jerusalem for exile, painted by James Tissot (1836 – 1902).Wikimedia Commons

In any case, when Cyrus the Great decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple in 538 BCE, he authorized a decedent of these temple priests, Ezra, to function as the returnees’ leader.

Segun tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.622131 el miercoles, 22 de oct. de 2014.
 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Clear Lines of Good and Evil

The Clear Lines of Good and Evil

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamas is a ruthless terror organization whose brutality is matched only by its hypocrisy. Its leaders encourage Palestinian mothers to send their kids on suicide missions, while their own children are neatly tucked away in bed or studying in universities abroad. They invite war and destruction on Gaza, extolling the virtues of war against Israel while hiding in their bunkers, as the rest of their fellow Gazans remain vulnerable to Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes.

Hamas receives billions of dollars in foreign aid. But instead of using it to build schools, hospitals, shopping malls, and residential buildings, they use it to fund their terrorist activities. And with the leftover change, Hamas’ leaders pocket millions, living in the kind of luxury their people will never know.

And when they need the best doctor to treat a family member or a loved one, where do they turn? Israel, of course!

This week, Tel-Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital confirmed that it had treated the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who was hospitalized in Israel “for a number of days,” before being sent back to Gaza after her condition stabilized. It turns out that Haniyeh’s daughter was not the only family member to be treated in Israel this year; the former Hamas premier sent his aging mother-in-law and one-year-old granddaughter to Israel for medical treatment as well.

The contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society is as stark during wartime as it is in times of relative quiet. Israel does everything to protect its citizens from attack, while Hamas places Palestinian civilians in harm’s way; Israel does everything it can to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, while Hamas tries to kill and maim as many Israeli civilians as possible. And in the intermediate periods of quiet, Israel treats Palestinians – even terrorists – in its hospitals, while an Israeli cannot set foot in Palestinian territory for fear of being killed.

The lines of good and evil are so clearly drawn in the Arab-Israeli conflict, yet so many, even in the west, fail to support the just side. There is no moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians, and both sides have always been clear about their positions – Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors, while the Palestinians want to destroy the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it very clearly: If Israel would lay down its weapons, there would be no Israel; if the Arabs lay down their weapons there would be peace. When will the world wake up and recognize the truth of these words?

– Ami Farkas

Read more: http://www.blog.standforisrael.org/articles/the-clear-lines-of-good-and-evil#ixzz3GnexMn3l
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized