La cancelación de la película ‘La entrevista’

La cancelación de la película 'La entrevista'

La cancelación de la película ‘La entrevista’

¿Hasta qué punto dejamos que los terroristas dominen nuestras vidas?

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La saga comenzó el verano pasado, cuando la agencia nacional de noticias de Corea del Norte prometió una “severa” y “despiadada” respuesta si la película era estrenada. En respuesta, los ejecutivos de Hollywood ordenaron que miles de imágenes fueran alteradas digitalmente para evitar ofender a Corea del Norte.

Pero el apaciguamiento no funcionó. El mes pasado, el sistema computacional de Sony Pictures fue hackeado, presumiblemente por aquellos que actúan en nombre de Corea del Norte. Cuando los hackers —quienes citaron los atentados del 11 de septiembre del 2001— amenazaron con atacar cualquier cine en el que se proyecte la película, las estrellas del film cancelaron una serie de apariciones promocionales y Sony Pictures descontinuó su publicidad televisiva. Al día siguiente, los cines cancelaron sus acuerdos de distribución.

Sony Pictures culpó a los cines, pero eso no responde por qué no contrataron de inmediato medios de distribución alternativos, como vender los DVD por Internet o ofrecer el contenido en formato streaming.

Esto no se trata de defender a la película, la cual es desde todo punto de vista una película de mal gusto, tonta y no cabe dudas que fue un error haberla hecho desde un inicio. La pegunta es: ¿hasta qué punto dejamos que los terroristas dominen nuestras vidas?

¿Qué está en juego?

Aclaremos algunas cosas:

  • El mundo está rebosante de terroristas cuya meta es atacar los valores occidentales, incluyendo la libre expresión y el capitalismo.
  • Los terroristas no se rigen por las mismas reglas que el resto de nosotros, y los intentos de apaciguamiento siempre tienen el efecto contrario y terminan envalentonándolos (¿Les suenan conocidos los Acuerdos de Munich?).
  • Para vencer a los terroristas —al igual que para vencer al abusador del colegio— se necesita determinación y el deseo de enfrentarlos.

Cuando el actor de Hollywood George Clooney intentó hacer que sus colegas firmaran una petición en contra de las demandas de los hackers, no fue capaz de obtener ni una sola firma. “Nadie quiso enfrentarlos. Nadie quiso adoptar esa posición”, lamentó él.

Y esta no es la primera vez que Hollywood se rinde ante terroristas.

Los escritores no querían una “fatwa sobre su cabeza” por la película.

La película de Roland Emmerich titulada 2012, mostraba imágenes de la destrucción de la Casa Blanca de Estados Unidos junto con otros monumentos religiosos como la Capilla Sixtina y la Basílica de San Pedro. Una notable omisión fue la Kaaba en La Meca, el lugar más sagrado del islam. “Debo admitir que quería hacerlo”, dijo Emmerich, “pero mi coguionista Harald dijo: ‘Yo no voy a tener una Fatwa sobre mi cabeza por causa de una película’… por lo que la dejé afuera”.

La novela de Tom Clancy, La suma de todos los miedos, se centra en torno a una conspiración palestina para detonar una bomba nuclear en el Super Bowl. El libro está lleno de imaginería del islam radical y termina con un decapitación en Arabia Saudita. Pero cuando Hollywood lo transformo en película, los villanos musulmanes de la novela fueron reemplazados por neonazis.

Luz versus oscuridad

¿Existe otra manera de responder?

En Israel —un país con altos índices de terrorismo— hay guardias armados y detectores de metal en todas las entradas a los bancos y al correo; las cuentas de los restaurantes vienen con un agregado de “cargo extra por seguridad”. Pero a pesar de estos “pequeños ajustes”, Israel ha logrado con éxito mantener el desarrollo normal de la vida.

No podemos permitir que un grupo de bárbaros determinen las reglas en base al uso de la fuerza.

Sí, tenemos miedo de que por ofender a los terroristas ellos bombardeen una sala de cine (a pesar de que en este caso, las fuerzas de seguridad dijeron que no había una amenaza real). Pero una sociedad que quiere tener sus libertades debe estar dispuesta a luchar por ellas.

El Ayatola de Irán está observando cuidadosamente esta muestra de debilidad y cobardía.

El caso de Sony Pictures sienta un mal precedente. Puedes estar seguro de que el Ayatola de Irán —además de una docena de grupos terroristas— están observando atentamente esta desafortunada muestra de debilidad y cobardía.

El caso de Sony Pictures no es el primero, y temo que tampoco será el último. Como dijo George Clooney, esto abre la puerta para que comience a haber una gran cantidad de chantajes. “Esto le podría pasar a una compañía eléctrica, a una marca de automóviles, a una cadena noticiosa. Le podría pasar a cualquiera… Debes tomar conciencia de lo que está pasando ahora, porque el mundo acaba de cambiar frente a tus ojos, y tú ni siquiera estabas prestando atención”.

Januca es la época del año en que ponemos una menorá en nuestras puertas y ventanas y difundimos la luz. Desde que los greco-sirios trataron de arrebatarnos nuestros valores, esta ha sido nuestra forma de combatir las fuerzas de la oscuridad. Ahora, 2.200 años después, si pretendemos vencer a la intimidación y al terror, entonces debemos incrementar nuestro firme compromiso con nuestros valores más queridos.

Segun tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/a/s/La-cancelacion-de-la-pelicula-La-entrevista.html?s=show el lunes, 22 de dic. de 2014.

“Europa no puede correr el riesgo de otra catástrofe judía”

“Europa no puede correr el riesgo de otra catástrofe judía”

Mi tierra prometida (Debate) es un libro de amor y de dolor. De amor a Israel y de dolor por la tragedia que encarna. Ari Shavit, su autor, de 57 años, trata de conocer a un pueblo, el suyo, que para sobrevivir ha aplastado a otro; gente que vino de la muerte y, rodeada de muerte, fue capaz de montar “un fenomenal espectáculo de vida”; una nación con miedo sin un futuro seguro.
“Me siento orgulloso de Israel. Nací israelí, vivo como israelí y moriré como israelí”, afirma Shavit en Nueva York, donde se encuentra de paso. Ha recorrido EE UU explicando su libro, una obra importante que pretende llegar a la esencia del drama israelí sin hipocresía. Es un texto sionista que molestará a muchos sionistas, a los maniqueos y a los simples. Es el testimonio de un soñador muy realista.                                  Ari Shavit, en Nueva York, el pasado 9 de                                                                                                                      noviembre. /FERNANDO SANCHO

Israel, dice Shavit, es una nación asustada en la que las víctimas se convirtieron en verdugos, y los desplazados, en conquistadores. Es la única nación occidental que ocupa a otra. Pero al mismo tiempo, no hay ningún pueblo tan intimidado como el israelí. Muchas son sus amenazas: 1.500 millones de musulmanes, los países árabes, los palestinos, la ceguera de los israelíes, el racismo y la xenofobia crecientes. “Ninguna nación puede vivir sosteniendo una lanza durante 100 años. ¿Cuánto tiempo resistiremos? ¿Una generación, dos?”, se pregunta este columnista del periódico Haaretz.

Pregunta. Su libro es “la odisea personal de un israelí desconcertado por el drama que vive su tierra”…

Respuesta. Es un viaje personal. Me planteé tres preguntas: por qué Israel, qué es Israel y qué será Israel. Mucha gente piensa que los israelíes somos ángeles o demonios. No somos ángeles, y describo por qué, pero tampoco demonios. Somos humanos con una extraordinaria historia humana.

P. ¿Por qué Israel?

R. Los judíos son la gente sin hogar, los huérfanos. Fueron los otros de Europa durante más de 1.000 años, algo muy claro en España. Los judíos se convirtieron en las últimas víctimas de Europa. Tuvieron que construir un Estado fuera de Europa para huir de Europa. Esta es la necesidad, el porqué de Israel.

P. ¿Qué es Israel?

R. Un increíble fenómeno de vitalidad. Es una nación que surgió de la muerte y está amenazada por la muerte. Ninguna democracia tiene una amenaza tan definida. Pese a ello, Israel es una celebración de la vida ante la inminencia de la muerte.

P. ¿Qué será Israel?

Estamos en manos del extremismo. El Estado Islámico penetra en las mentes palestinas. En el bando israelí, hay más provocaciones”

R. No sé. Los primeros israelíes estaban ciegos. No vieron a los palestinos, no vieron el conflicto que vendría. Empiezo mi libro con la llegada de mi bisabuelo [Herbert Bentwich, uno de los fundadores del sionismo] a Jaffa desde Londres en 1897. Si mi bisabuelo hubiese sabido que sus bisnietos se sentarían en refugios antiaéreos por los cohetes que caerían sobre Tel Aviv, habría dado media vuelta. La gente tenía que construir su hogar y no veía que la muerte iba a formar parte de nuestra vida.

P. El sionismo era un proyecto de liberación, pero también un movimiento colonial.

R. Estoy en contra de la ocupación y de los asentamientos. Pero le pido a mis amigos liberales y amantes de la paz en Europa, EE UU e Israel que recuerden que hay dos elementos: la ocupación, que es inaceptable, y la intimidación. Los israelíes viven al límite. No somos China, no somos EE UU, somos un pueblo pequeño.

P. ¿Teme un Israel en manos de la derecha y de los ultras religiosos?

R. En primer lugar, celebremos que Israel sea una democracia. Es extraordinario. Los judíos que llegaron a Israel no tenían una tradición democrática y llegaron a una región en la que no existe la democracia. El movimiento sionista antes de la creación del Estado fue muy democrático e Israel ahora es una democracia muy vibrante y activa, con sus problemas, casi anarquista, difícil de gobernar.

P. Pero ¿está en riesgo esa democracia?

R. La democracia en Israel está cambiando porque las presiones que existen no son las de España ni las de Holanda o Dinamarca. Vivimos en un entorno intimidatorio. La guerra en Gaza de este verano creó extremismo tanto en Palestina como en Israel. Cuando acabó, no intentamos construir de nuevo un proceso de paz. No se hizo nada. No hay nada más peligroso en Oriente Próximo que el vacío. En cuanto hay un vacío, surgen las fuerzas oscuras, palestinas o israelíes. Todo ha empeorado.

P. Sin democracia no hay esperanza…

R. Estamos en manos del extremismo. El Estado Islámico está empezando a penetrar en las mentes de los palestinos. Y en el bando israelí, los extremistas se están haciendo más fuertes y provocadores. Hay más asentamientos y más provocaciones en Jerusalén.

P. Israel se construyó sin miramientos, con urgencia. “Israel era una flecha disparada desde un pasado sin esperanza a un futuro esperanzador”, dice en su libro. ¿Echa de menos ese voluntarismo?

R. Soy un sionista orgulloso, pero crítico. Mucha gente tiene una dicotomía sobre Israel: el bien o el mal. Yo planteo un enfoque complejo. Soy israelí, judío y sionista. No pretendo ser objetivo. Creo que Israel es un milagro. Tenemos defectos y hemos hecho cosas desagradables. Es un drama. Sí, echo de menos ese espíritu y esa grandeza.

P. ¿Y ahora?

P. ¿Es este el Israel que soñaron los primeros sionistas?

R. Hoy en día somos más fuertes económica y políticamente, pero se ha perdido algo de ese espíritu. Para sobrevivir tenemos que recuperar algo. Hay una batalla constante por el alma de Israel. Ustedes tuvieron una guerra civil en España. Gracias a Dios, la gente no se mata como entonces. En Israel se está librando una guerra civil espiritual y no sé quién ganará.

R. En lo que se refiere a garantizar un futuro seguro, ha sido un fracaso. Miro a mis hijos de 10 y 5 años y viven como gente privilegiada, igual que otros como ellos en Europa o en EE UU, pero se enfrentan a amenazas a las que la gente en Europa no se enfrenta desde hace 70 años y a las que la gente en EE UU nunca se ha enfrentado. No hay forma de que el Israel democrático gane la batalla por el alma del país si no coopera con Europa y EE UU. Europa tiene un deber moral. No puede correr el riesgo de otra catástrofe judía.

P. ¿Sobrevivirá Israel?

R. No hay una respuesta clara. Ahora estoy en EE UU. Este país tiene muchos problemas, pero nadie duda sobre la existencia de EE UU dentro de 50 años. En Israel no es así. No se sabe qué pasará. La mayoría de los israelíes no habla de ello. Pero, al mismo tiempo, la belleza de este drama es que ha generado vitalidad, no pesimismo.

P. ¿La mayor amenaza es externa o interna?

R. Ambas. Algunas personas piensan que Israel es un Goliat, pero somos muy pequeños. Esa imagen de superpotencia es grotesca. Las amenazas existen. En el pasado eran diferentes. Ahora están Hezbolá e Irán… Echo de menos nuestro pasado socialdemócrata, porque combinaba el crecimiento con la solidaridad. Pero lo perdimos.

P. ¿Es optimista?

R. Somos gente como los demás, pero nadie trató de resucitar una nación 2.000 años después. Y la construimos sobre un volcán. Es único. Con todas esas dificultades, seguimos haciendo milagros. Muchas personas piensan que es un fenómeno religioso, pero es un fenómeno humano. Es un compromiso para los israelíes y los europeos hacer que ese drama acabe bien y no sea otra catástrofe judía.

Segun tomado de , http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/12/19/actualidad/1418992613_635917.html el domingo, 21 de dic. de 2014.

The rabbis and the great Hanukkah cover-up

The rabbis and the great Hanukkah cover-up
What self-censorship in Jewish tradition teaches us about national survival.
By Yael Shahar | Dec. 17, 2014 | 3:44 PM

'The Maccabees,' by Wojciech Korneli Stattler
A reproduction of ‘The Maccabees,’ a 1842 painting by Wojciech Korneli Stattler. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

When the early Zionists looked for historical precedents of Jewish political independence, they found a natural point of reference in the Hanukkah story. The Hasmonean uprising was a turning point in Jewish history: for the first time since the Babylonian exile the Jews fought a regional power and won. That victory led to the re-establishment of a politically independent Jewish commonwealth under a Jewish monarch for the first time since the destruction of the First Temple.

And yet, the Talmud doesn’t even mention it! The question “What is Hanukkah?” gets an answer, all right, but it isn’t the answer that we expect. Instead of a history lesson, we get a colorful story of how the sole remaining can of ritual olive oil for the menorah sufficed for eight days, until more could be brought—a nice story, but not particularly satisfying. What about the military victory over vastly superior forces? What about the resurrection of an independent Jewish state? Tell us about the real miracles—the ones that changed the course of history!

But it wasn’t only the Talmud that was mysteriously reticent about the Hasmonean victory. The earlier Sages went to great lengths to obscure the underlying political and military basis of the holiday, along with the ensuing civil war.

While the philosophy of quietism so evident in the Mishah and Talmud has often been attributed to fear of the non-Jewish authorities, this attitude in fact appears to be part of a conscious pedagogical program which started with the Tanakh itself. Bible scholar Jacob Wright maintains that the Tanakh was written with the aim of providing a blueprint for a stateless nation.

The biblical text consistently downplays—or omits altogether—tributes to military victories and other nationalistic achievements. The classic biblical hero isn’t the warrior who valiantly dies in battle, but rather the man who goes out to fight and then returns home to care for his family. The biblical exemptions to going to war set out in Deuteronomy 20:5-7 are not for conscientious objectors; they exempt those who have something more important to do than going to war. Raising families and harvesting crops win out over fighting the king’s battles.

The culture against which the Hasmoneans fought was one with very different values; it was an empire built solely on conquest, on picking up the pieces left by the ruin of earlier empires. The Hellenism of the day was dying; the center of gravity of Greek political power had shifted to western Asia, leaving its original homeland increasingly depopulated and economically bankrupt. While the outer trappings of Hellenism were enthusiastically adopted by the Seleucid elites, its cultural institutions were missing or enfeebled.

And here we find the real focus of Hanukkah: a clash of two cultures, each struggling for survival. While the Seleucid Empire shone in the reflected light of a brilliant but dying Hellenistic culture, Jewish society was struggling to relight the fires of its own cultural identity after the Babylonian exile. It’s quite possible that had Jewish society of the time been stronger in its identity, its clash with Hellenism would have been neither traumatic nor violent; Jewish cultural elites would have taken from the foreign culture what could easily be woven into the fabric of Jewish tradition, and calmly rejected the rest.

But that’s not how the story went—and this history lesson is subtly woven into the observance of Hanukkah. The hanukkiah is not lit in the private space of the home, nor is it traditionally lit in purely public spaces; rather, it is set out on the threshold of the home, marking the dividing line between private and public space, between the light streaming outward from the home and the light coming in from outside. And really, this is what the holiday is all about: defining distinctions between what is inside and what is outside—what values we assimilate from other cultures and what is best left outside, what customs and world-views uniquely define us, and what traditions and practices we can let go of in light of new circumstances. In the end, our light meets the lights of other cultures, and yet remains itself.

And so we come to the secret of the answer given by the Sages. Pressed to explain what Hanukkah was all about, the Sages said nothing about the military and political victories, but instead brought forward a beautiful midrash that sums up the true miracle of that time: For all that we were dragged into a brutal war of brother against brother, of the settling of scores and the collapse of government; for all that we had so forgotten our own Oral Law that much of it had to be recreated later by Sages whose very names were no longer Jewish—still, our light did not go out. We came through one of the darkest periods of Jewish history with our inner fires still burning, ready to rebuild.

After a career in security and intelligence, Yael Shahar now divides her time between researching trends in asymmetric conflict and learning Talmud. She is the author of “A Damaged Mirror: A story of memory and redemption,” recently published by Kasva Press, and a sought-after public speaker. Her writing on Jewish education and philosophy can be found at http://www.damaged-mirror.com.

As taken from, http://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.632223.1418756149!/image/3219226984.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/3219226984.jpg on 20-december-2014.

Midnight in Tennessee – The untold story of the first Jewish lynching in America

Midnight in Tennessee – The untold story of the first Jewish lynching in America
Samuel Bierfield screamed and begged for his life. He swore he would leave town straight away and never return, if they would only let him go. But the men had not come to bargain. They had come for a lynching.
By The Forward and Paul Berger | Dec. 20, 2014 | 4:05 AM

Crime Scene: The city corner where Bierfield’s body was found.
Crime Scene: The city corner where Bierfield’s body was found. Photo by Courtesy of Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE — Late one summer’s night in Tennessee, in 1868, Samuel Bierfield sat in the back of a dry goods store with his black clerk Lawrence Bowman and another black man, Henry Morton. Fists pounded on the back door. A voice demanded that Bierfield open up. Bierfield shouted for the visitors to go around the front, unless they wanted to be shot. Moments later, the back door crashed open and a handful of masked men burst into the store.

Bierfield tried to make a run for it. He dashed out of his front door onto Main Street, where about a dozen men were waiting for him. He ran past the mob and into a stable. But the men quickly found him and dragged him into the street. Bierfield screamed and begged for his life. He offered the men money. He swore he would leave town straight away and never return, if they would only let him go. But the men had not come to bargain. They had come for a lynching.

Bureau Chief: William Carlin ordered a lynching investigation.

The big tent at Robinson’s Circus had not long since closed down for the evening that Saturday night. Although it was almost midnight, many of Franklin’s residents were still awake. The commotion drew people to their windows and into the street. John L. Burch, a magistrate, tried to intervene. But the mob fired pistols into the air. They ordered everyone back indoors and warned them to keep away from their windows.

Bureau Chief: William Carlin ordered a lynching investigation

Moments later, five shots rang out. One bullet pierced Bierfield’s hip. The other four entered through the front of his head. The pistols were fired from such close range that gunpowder burned Bierfield’s clothes and skin. After the mob rode off, the people of Franklin came out of their homes. They found Bierfield’s body lying on the corner of Indigo and Main streets. Bowman, who had been shot once, was found nearby, mortally wounded.

On August 16, 1868, an inquest jury of eight men recorded that the gunshots that killed Bierfield were fired by “a person or persons to the jury unknown.” Incredibly, the jury added that “from the evidence the jury are unable to say whether the deed was done maliciously or feloniously.” Someone must have thought better of that last statement because those lines were later crossed through.

Paul Berger

                                  The gravestones of Jeremiah and Nathaniel Ezell.Photo by Paul Berger

No one took evidence from Bowman before he died. Some newspapers claimed that he was shot by accident. Dr. Daniel Cliffe later recalled that Bowman said he was shot on purpose. Morton, who escaped through a neighboring house, was the only one of the three who lived to tell the tale.

The Forward

           This letter, of October 1867, is one of several Samuel Bierfield wrote to his family about his life in                 Franklin.Photo by The Forward

Several newspapers blamed the murders on a new, rapidly growing organization of disaffected, white Southerners that called itself the Ku Klux Klan. “Lynch Law in Williamson County,” thundered the Nashville Press and Times. “Murderous outrage at Franklin,” reported the New York Times. The Jewish Messenger noted that “living in Tennessee can hardly be recommended.” Even Democratic newspapers admitted grudgingly that though Bierfield was “an earnest Union man, he was quite an inoffensive Gentleman.”

Although we think of lynching today as a person being hung from a tree, a lynching is any extrajudicial murder by a mob. Thousands of blacks were lynched across the South following the Civil War. The lynching of whites was rare and the lynching of Jews rarer still. Partly because of its rarity, the lynching of Leo Frank, in 1915 in Georgia, is famed as an example of the American Jewish dream turned sour. Which is why it is so strange that the lynching of Samuel Bierfield almost 50 years earlier is barely a footnote in American Jewish history. The American Jewish Archives at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center contains no references to Bierfield in its catalog or in its collection. The Institute of Southern Jewish Life refers to Bierfield only briefly in its encyclopedia entry on Nashville. The lengthiest treatment Bierfield has received to date is the three pages historian Morris Schappes devoted to him 60 years ago in his “Documentary History of the Jews in the United States” under the heading “Double-Lynching of a Jew and a Negro.”

The Forward

The inquest into Bierfield’s death originally stated that there was no sign of malicious intent.Photo by The Forward

If Schappes had wanted to piece together Bierfield’s life when he researched his book in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he would have struggled. In those days, Williamson County’s clerk held some of the county records while other documents were kept separately at the county courthouse. Williamson County’s first archivist, a volunteer, didn’t begin publishing and transcribing county records until the 1970s. The Williamson County Archives, which contains many of the clues to understanding Bierfield’s life and death, wasn’t founded until about 20 years ago.

Up to now, the few who have researched Bierfield’s murder have relied mainly upon newspaper accounts, which portrayed Bierfield as a two-dimensional character, a carpetbagger and a Radical Republican. Absent from these portraits of Bierfield are key details, such as where Bierfield was from and what he was doing in Franklin during the mid to late 1860s. They are the kind of details that are passed down through family histories and hidden away among family papers. The kind you might stumble upon if, say, you were to track down Bierfield’s distant relatives.

Here then, for the first time, is a much fuller picture of Bierfield’s story than has ever been told. It is based upon archival research, interviews with scholars, historians, and family members, on-the-ground reporting, and never before seen documents, including letters written by Bierfield in the last years of his life.

Today, the few Jews who know Bierfield’s name remember him as the first Jew to be lynched by the KKK — a categorization that implies that it was specifically Bierfield’s Jewishness that marked him out for death. But the historical record suggests something much more complex.

Bierfield was murdered during the opening phase of Reconstruction, when the social, political and economic lines of the South were being radically redrawn. The Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination were still fresh in people’s minds. So too was the fact that while blacks could vote for the first time, many former Confederates were banned from voting. Bierfield was lynched one year after Republicans swept to victory in statewide elections in Tennessee on a tide of black votes and as the Republican Ulysses S. Grant looked poised to win the presidential election of 1868.

Yes, Bierfield was a carpetbagger and a Jew. Yes, he treated blacks with more empathy and respect than most whites in Williamson County. But that was not sufficient for the Klan to want Bierfield dead. It would take something more for the people of Franklin to turn on their Jewish neighbor. In the summer of 1868, the South was a racial and a political tinderbox. All that was needed was a spark.

Captain George Judd and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Gelray must have made quite a sight when they arrived in Franklin on August 18, 1868. The two Union Army veterans each lost an arm during the Civil War. Judd, 30, lost his left arm in 1862 at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia. Gelray, 31, lost his right arm the following year at Gettysburg.

The two men were dispatched to Franklin by Major General William Carlin, head of the Nashville headquarters of the Freedmen’s Bureau, to investigate the murder of Bierfield. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established in 1865 to negotiate labor contracts between freedmen and farmers, as well as to ensure former slaves had access to education and healthcare. The Bureau was almost universally reviled by former Confederates who saw its agents as meddlers who usurped the authority planters once enjoyed over slaves. In Tennessee, the Bureau had the added difficulty of maintaining order across the land that gave birth to the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klan was established in Pulaski, Tennessee, about 60 miles south of Franklin, in 1866. The Klan’s reputation today as a virulently anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic organization is a holdover from the second iteration of the Klan, which began in Georgia in 1915. The first Klan, which died out in the 1870s, focused almost exclusively on intimidating and killing blacks as well as whites who supported and helped former slaves.

Klan violence did not begin until the end of 1867. But when it did, it spread rapidly across the South. In June 1868, a Freedmen’s bureau agent in Columbia, 30 miles south of Franklin, warned about the “reign of terror” sweeping Middle and West Tennessee. In an official report, the agent, A. H. Eastman, recounted tales of black residents roused from their homes, being beaten, whipped and lynched. He told of schoolhouses burned to the ground and of white teachers beaten and driven from town. Black and white Union sympathizers lived in perpetual fear. “I have been sleeping for months with a revolver under my pillow, and a double-barreled shot-gun, heavily charged with buck shot at one hand, and a hatchet at the other,” Eastman wrote.

In Franklin, Judd and Gelray focused their investigation on one piece of evidence — a widely publicized letter between two black men that appeared to show that Bierfield was complicit in the earlier fatal shooting of a white Williamson County farmer, Jeremiah Ezell. In the letter, Israel Brown wrote to John Nolan that Bierfield had promised to pay Brown and others for the killing of Ezell. Somehow, the letter found its way into the hands of the Nashville Union and Dispatch, a Democratic newspaper, where it was published on August 17.

As Judd and Gelray began their investigation, the Dispatch published an article declaring that the Brown letter provided ample evidence of Bierfield’s guilt. The newspaper declared that Bierfield’s murder was retaliation for Ezell’s murder and not, as some began to fear, the result of anti-Semitism. “The Radicals in our midst are trying in every manner to prejudice the Israelites in the State to believe it is a war waged against them,” the Dispatch reported. “When they come to consider the facts and the circumstances surrounding the deceased, we think they will readily number him among the very few criminals of their nation.”

But Judd and Gelray concluded that the letter was a forgery. Nolan denied knowing anyone by the name of Israel Brown. And O.J. Kennedy, a white Franklin resident and the last person to see the letter, told Judd that he had lost it. “I told him that it was curious he should lose it, and still it should come out in the [newspaper] on the next day,” Judd wrote in his official report of the investigation.

“[Kennedy] said he could not help it, that he lost valuable private papers at the same time.”

On the second day of their investigation, at 10 a.m., Judd and Gelray strode past the 30-foot-tall columns at the entrance to Franklin’s courthouse. Inside, Williamson County’s sheriff had gathered Franklin’s most prominent citizens at Judd and Gelray’s request. In Judd’s official report of his investigation, published in the Nashville Republican on August 21, he wrote of the townspeople: “Most of them were former rebels to my certain knowledge, and I think more than one concerned in the killing of Bierfield and Bowman, were there.”

Gelray addressed the courtroom, his piercing eyes framed by a sweeping mane of dark hair and a bushy goatee: “Does anyone know of Bierfield’s advising the negroes to organize and fight the whites, Ku Klux Klan, or anything of that description?”

No one answered.

“Does anyone know of Bierfield’s offering to furnish powder and balls to such an organization?”

No one answered.

“Does any man know of Bierfield’s saying that the negroes done right when they killed Ezell?”

No one answered.

“Is there any man here who can say anything against the character of Mr. Bierfield in any way, shape, manner of form?”

No one answered.

Carlin repeated the questions. Still no one answered.

Judd wrote in his report: “All looked like a set of whipped curs, as they are.”
He concluded by noting that Bierfield ran a very successful dry goods store and that business was improving. The motive for the murder, as far as Judd could see, was jealousy on the part of a business rival, or rivals, who were “vexed at his success.”

Toronto, May 1865

Dear Parents, … There is little day to day news from Canada, but in the United States is much confusion. The war is just about over. The Northern President was shot two weeks ago in a theater. The Southern President was captured, and with this, comes the end of the greatest revolution in the world. Canada is not involved in this struggle. Til now, there has not been a way to enter the Southern States since they tried to attack the Northern States via Canada. This was prevented by the cautious Canadian Government. This, also, stopped deportations from Canada. As far as our health is concerned, thank God, we are well. In the papers, we read about illness in the surrounding areas of Riga (pest and typhoid). Sam is well and sends his greetings.

Benjamin Bierfield

During the second half of the 19th century, tens of thousands of Jews sailed from Central and Eastern Europe to North America, lured by the promise of economic opportunity and religious freedom. After spending time in crowded northern cities, many of these immigrants soon headed south. They started out as itinerant peddlers with the hope of eventually establishing themselves as merchants. In Nashville, in 1860, one-quarter of the city’s 100 Jewish families listed their profession as “peddler.” After the Civil War, even more Jews headed south searching for opportunity. Between 1860 and 1880, the Jewish population of Tennessee roughly doubled from about 2,000 people to about 3,800.

Peddlers were soft targets for robbers. They often traveled alone and carried money and valuables with them. Jewish merchants, ensconced in their stores and homes, were only marginally safer. The 50 years after the end of the Civil War were littered with cases of Jewish peddlers and merchants who were attacked, robbed and in some cases killed. Jacob Simon was robbed and murdered in his store in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, in 1887. Peddler Gustav Loeb and his wife Julia were robbed and murdered in 1895 in Kentucky. Abram Surasky, another peddler, was robbed and killed in 1903 in South Carolina.

Many peddlers and merchants operated on credit and some of the violence, borne of jealousy, debt and frustration, took on a distinctly anti-Semitic tone. In Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, on a Sunday night in March 1887, a masked mob opened fire on the storehouses of two successful Jewish businesses, H. & A. Kahn and Felix Bauer. The mob put up signs telling Jews to leave the county by April 1 or face death. Horrified by the mob’s actions, parishioners denounced the act and Louisiana’s governor offered a reward for the attackers’ arrest.

But money was not the only motive for harassment and murder of Jews. As newcomers to towns and cities, Jews were often seen as outsiders. Because many Jews in the South were willing to trade with blacks, they were also seen as social and political rebels. That was what probably led to the murders in Florida of Samuel Fleishman, in 1869, and of M. H. Lucy, in 1871.

Samuel Bierfield appears to have arrived in Toronto, Canada, in the late 1850s. From his letters, it seems likely that he grew up in or around Riga, which is today the capital of Latvia, but was then a major port city in the Russian empire. In a short letter written to his parents in March 1859, when Bierfield was about 18 years old, he says that he has moved out of his uncle’s home in Toronto and that he goes to school regularly. “I can wright [sic], read and speak English,” he tells them. By 1865, Samuel is listed in Toronto’s city directory as a “salesman” living at 422 Queen West St., a five-minute walk from his brother Benjamin, a grocer, who lives at 254 Queen West St.

The following year, Benjamin Bierfield is still listed at the same address, but Samuel has disappeared. Some time in 1866, Samuel Bierfield moved 750 miles south to Franklin, Tennessee. In a June 12, 1867 letter to his parents, Bierfield says that he is working for a local merchant and earning about $1,000 per year, more than twice what his uncle Morell paid him in Toronto. Still, life is hard. He has lost almost all of his money on two speculative ventures — a billiard room and a cotton deal — that went sour. “My dear kind mother do not I pray scold me so much for I have only made a start in the world since I left my Uncle,” Bierfield writes. He is particularly apologetic because his sister is due to get married soon in the Old Country and he is expected to supply the dowry:

I am very sorry that in your uncivilized and godforsaken land the Young men marry for money. I am sure no man can love his wife if she has to buy him with a few dollars. I am mad to think of it. Pray tell him I will guarantee to pay him in three months from date if God spares me providing that my dear Sister loves him. My dear Kind Mother though I am sitting with my back to you now yet I love you none the less; and what is quite as strange I can see you just as plainly as if I stood peeping in upon you. I did not expect to hear from you so soon or else I would have been prepared but as I was sitting in the counting house my employer brought in your welcome letter and I was happily surprised — You ask me if I want a pretty girl! I can tell you I am overrun with that question weekly. But I will have none but one that I can love and she must have plenty of money to coax me with for I like money better than Matrimony. If there is such a Young Lady in your town tell her I am coming some day.

Samuel Bierfield

What drew Samuel Bierfield to this part of Tennessee? The Jewish community in Nashville was established during the 1840s. The community almost tripled during the 1860s as the city swelled with Union veterans and speculators from the North.

Like other Jews across the South, Nashville’s Jews supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. They raised money for wounded Confederate soldiers and, after Nashville’s capture by Union troops, Jacob Bloomstein, a merchant, was arrested and imprisoned for smuggling goods to the Confederacy. After the war, there was a high turnover of Jewish residents as business prospects rose and fell. There were also frequent arguments within and between the city’s congregations. Writing in the Jewish Messenger, in 1870, Mosche Schnurrer noted that “Nashville has four congregations with scarce sufficient numbers to sustain one.” Schnurrer guessed that the discord was caused by “business jealousy and diverse other reasons.” Even so, he said life in Nashville, “delightfully situated on the Cumberland River,” was good. Compared to places like New York City, there was little poverty and rent was cheap.

But Nashville did not appeal to Bierfield. He decided to try his luck 20 miles south in Franklin, a bustling farming town tucked into a bend in the Harpeth River. Williamson County has always been the richest county, per capita, in Tennessee. The rich loam of the countryside surrounding the county seat of Franklin was perfect for growing cotton, corn, wheat and tobacco. During the 1860s, Williamson County produced more wheat than any other county in the state. The railroad, which arrived in Franklin in 1858, allowed goods to be transported quickly and easily to Nashville and beyond. Williamson County was also known for its hog farmers and for its horse breeders who raised trotters for two-wheeled sulkies. The county was mostly dotted with good-sized farms, averaging a couple of hundred acres each. But sprinkled in among them were white subsistence farmers who grew small crops and raised a mule or two.

The Civil War had little physical effect on Franklin. Nashville and Williamson County were controlled by the Union from 1862. The worst fighting during the Battle of Franklin in 1864, which claimed more than 2,000 lives and injured more than 7,000 men, most of them Confederate soldiers, took place on the outskirts of the city. Even today, the antebellum homes and churches are untouched.

But the war did have a great impact on society. In 1860, Williamson County was home to 11,300 whites and 12,200 slaves. After Tennessee seceded from the Union, in 1861, many blacks fled to Nashville or were pressed into service by the Union Army. Almost all of the county’s whites joined the Confederate Army.

As peace settled over the South, Williamson County’s blacks and whites found themselves living in a new reality. Tennessee’s slaves were emancipated in February 1865. Now, in theory at least, blacks were able to negotiate their own labor contracts and work toward a bright, independent future. Meanwhile, many former Confederate soldiers chafed under the leadership of the Radical Republican Governor William Brownlow, who denied them the vote. Tensions between blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, boiled over in the summer of 1867, a few months before that year’s statewide elections.

On Saturday, July 6, a speech by Joe Williams a black member of the Conservative faction aligned with the Democratic Party, angered many of Franklin’s black Republicans. A group of blacks marched over to Williams and tried to stop him from speaking. John House, a white former colonel in the Confederate Army, strode into the street and accused a leading white Republican and former Union soldier, Jesse Bliss, of inciting the blacks. Bliss called House a liar, so House slapped Bliss across the face.

Black members of the Union League, an organization of former Union soldiers who were standing nearby, fired their guns into the air in protest. The League marched out of town to a grove where they were addressed by white Republicans who urged them to calm down, return to Franklin and go home peacefully. That evening, at dusk, the League marched into Franklin. When they entered the town square to disband, a pistol shot rang out from the corner, just in front of Colonel House’s dry goods store. A group of former Confederate soldiers and Conservative sympathizers, including some blacks, had hidden in the store waiting to ambush the League. Several volleys of gunfire followed. When the skirmish was over, 30 Union League veterans were wounded, most of them shot in the side and back. Eight Conservatives, including three blacks, were wounded and one white Conservative, Michael Cody, Jr., was killed.

Five days later, Bierfield wrote to his sister Sarah that America was a tough country to start a business in. “I am willing God knows to help you and my parents any way possible but you must pray for me to have better luck as I have lost about $500 in six months all that I was worth, in a riot that occurred here the other week between the Black men and the White men.”

The Franklin Riot occurred just a few weeks after Bierfield applied for U.S. citizenship at the Williamson County Courthouse, renouncing his fealty to Tsar Alexander of Russia. Although Bierfield seems to have accepted North America as his new home, he was not tied to Franklin. In October 1867, Bierfield wrote to his parents that he intended to return to Toronto by January the following year. His uncle Morell had offered him a job at more than double the pay he used to earn. Plus, Morell said Bierfield could take over his business when his uncle “goes home.” Bierfield was optimistic:

I am at present keeping a brand store for the same man I used to manage for last year for you must know that I am considered quite a good merchant and invested with all the authority of the House. I am buyer for them and consequently must travel a great deal which I like. I would like to see Russia again and hope I will some day. Then we can talk over old times and all about America the land of Gold as you call it.

Bierfield wrote that he heard his parents had opened a restaurant or a saloon:

Be sure to put plenty of water in the liquor as it will pay and do not give credit ha, ha. I would like to call and see your Garden and see what kind of a host you make. Please remember me to all inquiring friends and acquaintances and tell them I will be home on a visit maybe in a year or two. Then look out you don’t lose some pretty girl in your town. Dear Parents I was quite shocked to find myself twenty-four years old. I thought I was only nineteen. I feel young as ever though and don’t care. I will try to make money now seeing that I am getting old. No news here.

Your affectionate Son,
Samuel Bierfield.
But instead of moving to Toronto, Bierfield was still in Franklin a few months later and still struggling financially. In a letter of January 12, 1868, to his now married sister, Bierfield says that he has been nominated for a Circuit Court Clerk’s position. If elected, the position paid a salary of $2,000 per year, the equivalent of about $35,000 today. Bierfield adds that he is planning a trip to the South that should pay off handsomely for his employer and for himself.

Soon after, Bierfield raised enough capital to open his own store. Judging by the inventory of goods taken after his death, he focused on clothing and accessories. The inventory included 38 men’s and boys’ hats, 35 pairs of assorted suspenders, 17 business coats, thousands of buttons, hundreds of pairs of boots and shoes, hundreds of yards of denim and muslin, and dozens of hickory and calico shirts. Bierfield also sold gents’ collars, cotton and gingham handkerchiefs, combs, needles, pocket knives, scissors, hair pins, pocket books, bottles of men’s cologne and Galaway’s Magic Oil, cakes of soap, spectacles, and two small mirrors.

His single copy of the Hebrew Bible was probably not for sale.

Despite his run of bad luck, Bierfield struck an upbeat note in his January letter to his sister. He apologized for still not having cobbled together a dowry. Soon though, he hoped his fortune would turn:

Last year I was very unfortunate having lost all I made. But that is the way they do here and I not discouraged. Having a stout heart and a willing hand that never yet forsook me I intend to battle with this life’s discomforts in plain open battle and if victory crowned my efforts which I hope it will, all of you will not then repent of my delay. Let this be your maxim — there is a good time coming wait a little longer.

Mary Ezell was no stranger to tragedy. Her father died before the age of 30, when she was still a little girl. Her brother Nathaniel Ezell was ambushed and killed at the age of 21 by guerilla fighters, known as bushwhackers, during the waning months of the Civil War. Mary later recalled that Nathaniel was buried in a “very common walnut coffin, unlined and roughly made” and that his “shroud was of second hand clothes badly worn.”

On the morning of July 16, 1868, Mary Ezell walked home from her brother-in-law’s house along the Carter’s Creek Turnpike, about five miles south of Franklin. Mary was about 18 at the time. When she was about 600 yards from home, she was attacked and raped by a black man. A group of local white farmers set out to find her attacker. In a nearby field, they found William Guthrie, a farm laborer, who fit the description.

Guthrie was arrested and indicted on July 17 on charges of rape. The indictment said that Guthrie did “ravish and carnally know” the young woman against her will. The Nashville Union and Dispatch reported the same day that this “negro devil” had committed “an infernal outrage on a beautiful young lady in Williamson County.” The newspaper’s editors celebrated Guthrie’s capture: “Let his blackened soul be launched into eternity!”

Mob justice was not uncommon in Williamson County during the late 1800s. In 1888, Amos Miller, a black man accused of raping a white woman, was dragged from court in Franklin and hung from the courthouse railings. Three years later, Jim Taylor, a black man accused of shooting a policeman, was seized by a mob from Williamson County’s sheriff and hung from the Murfreesboro Pike bridge.

Perhaps fearing for Guthrie’s safety, Judge William H. S. Hill ordered that Guthrie be transferred north from the Williamson County Jail to Davidson County “where he will be safely kept till the further order of this Court.” But before the order could be carried out, a group of men showed up at Williamson County’s jailhouse the night of July 17 and took Guthrie from his cell. His body was found the next morning on the Spring Hill Pike. He had been shot.

Before the Civil War, the violence might have ended there. But Williamson County’s blacks were now free men. On Saturday, July 18, Mary Ezell’s brother Jeremiah Ezell rode into Franklin with a handful of men to pick up supplies. As he rode home along the Carter’s Creek Turnpike, he was ambushed by what newspapers later described as a party of more than 50 men. The light was fading, but the Nashville Tri-Weekly Union and Dispatch reported that “a sprinkle of incendiary whites, who are known as the ringleaders of the worst negroes,” were spotted among the ambush party. Two of Ezell’s companions were wounded in the firefight. Ezell was also wounded; he died the following day.

The Nashville Tri-Weekly Union and Dispatch railed against the white instigators of the ambush:

There is an element in the State who are determined, if possible, to first incite the negro to lawlessness and crime of the most hideous character, and then to uphold and sustain them in it; that the innocence and virtue of the white woman may be violently assailed and outraged by the most evil disposed of negroes, and when justice overtakes the fiends, their blood is to be avenged by armed mobs ambushing the high roads and murdering the white men of the neighborhood.

Then, the newspaper’s editors appealed for whites in Williamson County to take action.

We say to the fathers and sons, and brothers of Williamson, protect and defend your wives and mothers and daughters at all hazards, and to the last extremity. The white people of Tennessee will sustain you.

To reach Jeremiah Ezell’s grave you drive south out of Franklin about five miles along the Carter’s Creek Pike, past gently rolling woodland and the occasional, modest two-story home. You make a left onto Mile End Road and then turn right onto a dirt track and ford a creek. From here, you must continue on foot into the woods, heading up a hillside and climbing carefully through a barbed wire fence until you reach a vantage point that looks out over the lowland. There, scattered among the trees, are several dozen gravestones. Some look as though they are about to topple over, others have snapped into pieces. Many of the stones are so worn down by the elements that it is impossible to make out who is buried there. But you can still make out some of the names: the Cottons, the Sweeneys, and Nathaniel and Jeremiah Ezell.

Samuel Bierfield may not have known the Ezells. But he certainly knew their relatives. In March 1867, Bierfield signed a $1,250 marriage bond for the wedding of Henry P. Sweeney to Elizabeth Cotton. A marriage bond was a guarantee that there was no legal impediment to a marriage. Often, though not always, marriage bonds were signed by relatives of the bride and groom. Elizabeth Sweeney, née Cotton, is buried about 20 feet from the Ezell brothers.

Elizabeth Cotton and Henry Sweeney were first cousins. They were also first cousins with Mary and Jeremiah Ezell. Their mothers were sisters, members of the Huggins family. The families were also tied to the Ku Klux Klan. Family lore passed down through the Sweeney side of the family has it that Henry Sweeney’s mother, Sarah Ann Huggins, used to leave bedsheets on the front porch in the evening for the Klan’s nighttime raids. The sheets were returned before dawn and left on the porch to be laundered and made ready for the next night’s activities.

Henry Sweeney’s father, Charles Sweeney, was particularly close with the Ezell family. He became Mary Ezell’s ward after her father died and he remained her guardian even after her mother remarried. Mary Ezell’s brother Nathaniel Ezell lived with his uncle Charles Sweeney from 1860 until his death, apart from stints serving in the Confederate Army and a season growing a crop for his mother.

After Nathaniel Ezell was killed by bushwhackers, his body was carried to Sweeney’s house and Nathaniel was buried in an old suit that belonged one of Sweeney’s sons.

No one picked up on this link between the Ezell family and Samuel Bierfield at the time of the murders or since. If Bierfield was in any way seen as complicit in the murder of Jeremiah Ezell, it is conceivable that the Cottons, the Sweeneys and the Ezells might have decided they had a right and a duty to take matters into their own hands.

The evidence for Bierfield’s complicity in Ezell’s murder seems thin. Historian Stanley F. Horn, in his book on the Ku Klux Klan, published in 1939, said that the white leader of the group that attacked Ezell was spotted riding a white horse and that Bierfield owned the only white horse in Franklin. But no documents from the period or eyewitness testimony support that assertion. Horn goes on to show his bias by describing Bierfield as a carpetbagger who “encouraged the negroes to loaf around his store.” The only other piece of evidence against Bierfield, the letter tying him to Ezell’s murder, was discounted by the Freedmen’s Bureau investigators as a forgery in 1868, and there is no reason to doubt that decision today.

But what if there was a grain of truth in the allegation that Bierfield was a Radical Republican? Nashville’s Jews, whose sympathies lay with the Conservatives, appear to have taken little interest in coming to Bierfield’s posthumous defense.

Franklin’s only other Jewish resident, Louis Kaufman, sprang to the defense of the people of Franklin. Kaufman wrote a letter to the Republican Banner, on August 22, 1868, in which he protested “efforts made in certain quarters to prejudice the Jewishkind against our town by asserting that S.A. Bierfield… was killed because he was a Jew.” Kaufman stated that since he moved to Franklin in 1865, he had suffered no “prejudice or malice” because he was a Jew. “Our town is as quiet and law-abiding as any in the Union and I am certain that every person, whether he is Jew or Gentile, black or white, who behaves himself will be treated kindly by the people,” Kaufman wrote. Was he insinuating that Bierfield did not behave himself and that is why he was killed?

Bierfield’s letters show no trace of Radical Republican activity and no interest in politics in general. The two subjects foremost in his mind seem to have been finding a wife and making money. His murder doesn’t make sense.

It’s possible that Bierfield was framed for Ezell’s murder by a business rival. Colonel House, for example, who owned the dry goods store from which the Union League was ambushed in the riot of 1867, may have felt threatened by Bierfield. Newspaper accounts of Bierfield’s murder all speak of Bierfield owning his own store by the summer of 1868. An account written 60 years later by a local Klan sympathizer, John F. Campbell, places Bierfield’s dry goods store on the same block on Main Street as House’s store. House was among six charter members sworn into the Ku Klux Klan of Williamson County in 1868. The ceremony took place in his store. If Bierfield was doing well, what better way to get rid of him than to fabricate evidence that Bierfield incited blacks to kill Ezell, and then use the Klan to put Bierfield out of business.

John Pogue Jr. was arrested for Bierfield’s murder in September 1868. An eyewitness, Ed Lyle, claimed that he saw Pogue shoot Bierfield. During the few days Pogue spent in the Davidson County Jail, seven people came forward to give Pogue an alibi. On September 28, Judge John Hugh Smith had no option but to release Pogue. The Republican Banner said that Lyle had perjured himself in order to collect a $500 reward offered by Governor Brownlow for information leading to Bierfield’s killers.

After September 1868, Bierfield’s murder became lost among the hundreds of lynchings that plagued the South through the decades that followed. At its peak, between 1880 and 1930, there was an average of one lynching per week. More than 200 people were lynched in Tennessee, most of them black. If anything, Bierfield’s lynching was remarkable because he was white and because he was a Jew. But the most remarkable aspect of all may be that it has been forgotten and ignored for so long.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com

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Appearance and reality

Appearance and reality (Mikketz, Covenant & Conversation 5775 on Ethics)

JONATHAN SACKS December 17, 2014, 3:30 pm
Jonathan Sacks

Finally after twenty-two years and many twists and turns, Joseph and his brothers meet. We sense the drama of the moment. The last time they had been together, the brothers planned to kill Joseph and eventually sold him as a slave. One of the reasons they did so is that they were angry at his reports about his dreams. He twice dreamed that his brothers would bow down to him. To them that sounded like hubris, excessive confidence and conceit.

Hubris is usually punished by nemesis and so it was in Joseph’s case. Far from being a ruler, his brothers turned him into a slave. That, however, turned out not to be the end of the story but only the beginning. Unexpectedly, now in this week’s parsha, the dream has just come true. The brothers do bow down to him, “their faces to the ground” (Gen. 42: 6). Now, we feel, the story has reached its end. Instead it turns out only to be the beginning of another story altogether, about sin, repentance and forgiveness. Biblical stories tend to defy narrative conventions.

The reason, though, that the story does not end with the brothers’ meeting is that only one person present at the scene, Joseph himself, knew that it was a meeting. “As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognised them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them …Joseph recognised his brothers, but they did not recognise him.

There were many reasons they did not recognise him. They did not know he was in Egypt. They believed he was still a slave while the man before whom they bowed was a viceroy. Besides which, he looked like an Egyptian, spoke Egyptian and had an Egyptian name, Tsofenat Paneakh. Most importantly, though, he was wearing the uniform of an Egyptian of high rank. That had been the sign of Joseph’s elevation at the hand of Pharaoh when he interpreted his dreams:

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain round his neck.  He made him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, ‘Make way.’ Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. (Gen. 41: 41-43)

We know from Egyptian wall paintings and from archeological discoveries like Tutankhamen’s tomb, how stylised and elaborate were Egyptian robes of office. Different ranks wore different clothes. Early pharaohs had two headdresses, a white one to mark the fact that they were kings of upper Egypt, and a red one to signal that they were kings of lower Egypt. Like all uniforms, clothes told a story, or as we say nowadays, “made a statement.” They proclaimed a person’s status. Someone dressed like the Egyptian before whom the brothers had just bowed could not possibly be their long lost brother Joseph. Except that it was.

This seems like a minor matter. I want in this essay to argue the opposite. It turns out to be a very major matter indeed. The first thing we need to note is that the Torah as a whole, and Genesis in particular, has a way of focusing our attention on a major theme: it presents us with recurring episodes. Robert Alter calls them “type scenes.”[1] There is, for example, the theme of sibling rivalry that appears four times in Genesis: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers. There is the theme that occurs three times of the patriarch forced to leave home because of famine, and then realising that he will have to ask his wife to pretend she is his sister for fear that he will be murdered so that she can be taken into the royal harem. And there is the theme of finding-future-wife-at-well, which also occurs three times: Rebecca, Rachel and Jethro’s daughter Zipporah.

The encounter between Joseph and his brothers is the fifth in a series of stories in which clothes play a key role. The first is Jacob who dresses in Esau’s clothes while bringing his father a meal so that he can take his brother’s blessing. Second is Joseph’s finely embroidered robe or “coat of many colours,” which the brothers bring back to their father stained in blood, saying that a wild animal must have seized him.

Third is the story of Tamar taking off her widow’s dress, covering herself with a veil, and making herself look as if she were a prostitute. Fourth is the robe Joseph leaves in the hands of Potiphar’s wife while escaping her attempt to seduce him. The fifth is the one in today’s parsha in which Pharaoh dresses Joseph as a high-ranking Egyptian, with clothes of linen, a gold chain and the royal signet ring.

What all five cases have in common is that they facilitate deception. In each case, they bring about a situation in which things are not as they seem. Jacob wears Esau’s clothes because he is worried that his blind father will feel him and realise that the smooth skin does not belong to Esau but to his younger brother. In the end it is not only the texture but also the smell of the clothes that deceives Isaac: “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field the Lord has blessed” (Gen. 27: 27).

Joseph’s stained robe was produced by the brothers to disguise the fact that they were responsible for Joseph’s disappearance. Jacob “recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.” (Gen. 37: 33).

Tamar’s appearance dressed as a veiled prostitute was intended to deceive Judah into sleeping with her since she wanted to have a child to “raise up the name” of her dead husband Er. It seems that in the pre-mosaic law of levirate marriage, other close relatives like a father-in-law, not just a brother-in-law, could fulfil the duty. Judah was duly deceived, and only realised what had happened when, three months later, Tamar produced the cord and staff she had taken from him as a pledge.

Potiphar’s wife used the evidence of Joseph’s robe to substantiate her claim that he had tried to rape her, a crime of which he was wholly innocent.

Lastly, Joseph used the fact that his brothers did not recognise him to set in motion a series of staged events to test whether they were still capable of selling a brother as a slave or whether they had changed.

So the five stories about garments tell a single story: things are not necessarily as they seem. Appearances deceive. It is therefore with a frisson of discovery that we realise that the Hebrew word for garment,b-g-d, is also the Hebrew word for “betrayal,” as in the confession formula, Ashamnu, bagadnu, “We have been guilty, we have betrayed.”

Is this a mere literary conceit, a way of linking a series of otherwise unconnected stories? Or is there something more fundamental at stake?

It was the nineteenth century Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz who pointed out a fundamental difference between other ancient cultures and Judaism: “The pagan perceives the Divine in nature through the medium of the eye, and he becomes conscious of it as something to be looked at. On the other hand, to the Jew who conceives God as being outside of nature and prior to it, the Divine manifests itself through the will and through the medium of the ear . . . The pagan beholds his god, the Jew hears Him; that is, apprehends His will.”[2]

In the twentieth century, literary theorist Erich Auerbach contrasted the literary style of Homer with that of the Hebrew Bible.[3] In Homer’s prose we see the play of light on surfaces. The Odyssey and Iliad are full of visual descriptions. By contrast, biblical narrative has very few such descriptions. We do not know how tall Abraham was, the colour of Isaac’s hair, or what Moses looked like. Visual details are minimal, and are present only when necessary to understand what follows. We are told for example that Joseph was good-looking (Gen. 39: 6) only to explain why Potiphar’s wife conceived a desire for him.

The key to the five stories occurs later on in Tanakh, in the biblical account of Israel’s first two kings. Saul looked like royalty. He was “head and shoulders above” everyone else (1 Sam. 9: 2). He was tall. He had presence. He had the bearing of a king. But he lacked self confidence. He followed the people rather than leading them. Samuel had to rebuke him with the words, “You may be small in your own eyesbut you are head of the tribes of Israel.” Appearance and reality were opposites. Saul had physical but not moral stature.

The contrast with David was total. When God told Samuel to go to the family of Yishai to find Israel’s next king, no one even thought of David, the youngest of the family. Samuel’s first instinct was to choose Eliav who, like Saul, looked the part. But God told him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16: 7).

Only when we have read all these stories are we able to return to the first story of all in which clothes play a part: the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, after eating which they see they are naked. They are ashamed and they make clothes for themselves. That is a story for another occasion but its theme should now be clear. It is about eyes and ears, seeing and listening. Adam and Eve’s sin had little to do with fruit, or sex, and everything to do with the fact that they let what they saw override what they had heard.

“Joseph recognised his brothers, but they did not recognise him.” The reason they did not recognise him is that, from the start, they allowed their feelings to be guided by what they saw, the “coat of many colours” that inflamed their envy of their younger brother. Judge by appearances and you will miss the deeper truth about situations and people. You will even miss God Himself, for God cannot be seen, only heard. That is why the primary imperative in Judaism is Shema Yisrael, “Listen, O Israel,” and why, when we say the first line of theShema, we place our hand over our eyes so that we cannot see.

Appearances deceive. Clothes betray. Deep understanding, whether of God or of human beings, needs the ability to listen.

[1] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York, Basic Books, 1981, 55-78.

[2] Heinrich Graetz, The structure of Jewish history, and other essays, New York, Ktav Publishing House, 1975, 68.

[3] Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957, 3-23.

Read more: Appearance and reality (Mikketz, Covenant & Conversation 5775 on Ethics) | Jonathan Sacks | The Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/appearance-and-reality-mikketz-covenant-conversation-5775-on-ethics/#ixzz3MGteChnn

The Heroism of Tamar

The Heroism of Tamar

This is a true story that took place in the 1970s. Rabbi Dr Nahum Rabinovitch, then Principal of Jews College, the rabbinic training seminary in London where I was a student and teacher, was approached by an organization that had been given an unusual opportunity to engage in interfaith dialogue. A group of African bishops wanted to understand more about Judaism. Would the Principal be willing to send his senior students to engage in such a dialogue, in a chateau in Switzerland?

To my surprise, he agreed. He told me that he was sceptical about Jewish-Christian dialogue in general because he believed that over the centuries the Church had been infected by an anti-Semitism that was very difficult to overcome. At that time, though, he felt that African Christians were different. They loved Tanakh and its stories. They were at least in principle open to understanding Judaism on its own terms. He did not add, though I knew it was in his mind since he was one of the world’s greatest experts on Maimonides, that the great twelfth century sage held an unusual attitude to dialogue.

Maimonides believed that Islam was a genuinely monotheistic faith while Christianity in those days was not. Nonetheless, he held it was permitted to study Tanakh with Christians but not Muslims, since Christians believed that Tanakh (what they called the Old Testament), was the word of God while Muslims believed that Jews had falsified the text.

So we went. It was an unusual group: the semikhah class of Jews College, together with the top class of the yeshiva in Montreux where the late Rabbi Yechiel Weinberg, author of Seridei Esh and one of the world’s foremost halakhists, had taught. For three days the Jewish group davenned and bentsched with special intensity. We learned Gemarra each day. For the rest of the time we had an unusual, even transformative, encounter with the African bishops, ending with a Hassidic-style tisch during which we shared with the Africans our songs and stories and they taught us theirs. At three in the morning we finished by dancing together. We knew we were different, we knew that there were deep divides between our respective faiths, but we had become friends. Perhaps that is all we should seek. Friends don’t have to agree in order to stay friends. And friendships can sometimes help heal the world.

On the morning after our arrival, however, an event occurred that left a deep impression on me. The sponsoring body, a global Jewish organization, was a secular one, and to keep within their frame of reference the group had to include at least one non-orthodox Jew, a woman studying for the rabbinate. We, the semikhah and yeshiva students, were davenning the morning service in one of the lounges in the chateau when the Reform woman entered, wearing tallit and tefillin, and sat herself down in the middle of the group.

This is something the students had not encountered before. What were they to do? There was no mechitzah. There was no way of separating themselves. How should they react to a woman wearing tallit and tefillin and praying in the midst of a group of men? They ran up to the Rav in a state of great agitation and asked what they should do. Without a moment’s hesitation he quoted to them the saying of the sages: A person should be willing to throw himself into a furnace of fire rather than shame another person in public. With that he ordered them back to their seats, and the prayers continued.

The moral of that moment never left me. The Rav, for the past 32 years head of the yeshiva in Maaleh Adumim, was and is one of the great halakhists of our time. He knew immediately how serious were the issues at stake: men and women praying together without a mechitzah between them, and the complex question about whether women may or may not wear a tallit and tefillin. The issue was anything but simple.

But he knew also that halakhah is a systematic way of turning the great ethical and spiritual truths into a tapestry of deeds, and that one must never lose the larger vision in an exclusive focus on the details. Had the students insisted that the woman pray elsewhere they would have put her to shame, the way Eli did when he saw Hannah praying and thought she was drunk. Never, ever shame someone in public. That was the transcending imperative of the hour. That is the mark of a great-souled man. To have been his student for more than a decade I count as one of the great privileges of my life.

The reason I tell this story here is that it is one of the powerful and unexpected lessons of our parsha. Judah, the brother who proposed selling Joseph into slavery (Gen. 37: 26), had “gone down” to Canaan where he married a local Canaanite woman. The phrase “gone down” was rightly taken by the sages as full of meaning. Just as Joseph had been brought down to Egypt (Gen. 39: 1) so Judah had been morally and spiritually brought down. Here was one of Jacob’s sons, doing what the patriarchs insisted on not doing: marrying into the local population. It is a tale of sad decline.

He marries his firstborn son, Er, to a local woman, Tamar. An obscure verse tells us that he sinned, and died. Judah then married his second son, Onan, to her, under a pre-Mosaic form of levirate marriage whereby a brother is bound to marry his sister-in-law if she has been widowed without children. Onan, reluctant to father a child that would be regarded as not his but his deceased brother’s, practised a form of coitus interruptusthat to this day carries his name. For this, he too died. Having lost two of his sons Judah was reluctant to give his third, Shelah, to Tamar in marriage. The result was that she was left as a “living widow,” bound to marry her brother-in-law whom Judah was withholding, but unable to marry anyone else.

After many years, seeing that her father-in-law (by this time a widower himself) was reluctant to marry her to Shelah, she decided on an audacious course of action. She removed her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil, and positioned herself at a point where Judah was likely to see her on his way to the sheep-shearing. Judah saw her, took her to be a prostitute, and engaged her services. As surety for the payment he had promised her, she insisted that he leave his seal, cord and staff. Judah duly returned the next day with the payment, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. He asked the locals the whereabouts of the temple prostitute (the text at this point uses the wordkedeshah, “cult prostitute,” rather than zonah, thus deepening Judah’s offence), but no one had seen such a person in the locality. Puzzled, Judah returned home.

Three months later he heard that Tamar was pregnant. He leapt to the only conclusion he could draw, namely that she had had a physical relationship with another man while bound in law to his son Shelah. She had committed adultery, for which the punishment was death. Tamar was brought out to face her sentence. She came, holding the staff and seal that Judah instantly recognised as his own. She said, “I am pregnant by the person to whom these objects belong.” Judah realised what had happened and said, “She is more righteous than I” (Gen. 38: 26).

This moment is a turning-point in history. Judah is the first person in the Torah explicitly to admit he was wrong. We do not realise it yet, but this seems to be the moment at which he acquired the depth of character necessary for him to become the first real baal teshuvah. We see this years later, when he – the man who proposed selling Joseph as a slave – becomes the man who is willing to spend the rest of his life in slavery so that his brother Benjamin can go free (Gen. 44: 33). I have argued elsewhere that it is from here that we learn the principle that a penitent stands higher than even a perfectly righteous individual. Judah the penitent becomes the ancestor of Israel’s kings while Joseph, the righteous, is only a viceroy, mishneh le-melekh, second to the king.

Thus far Judah. But the real hero of the story was Tamar. She had taken an immense risk by becoming pregnant. Indeed she was almost killed for it. She had done so for a noble reason: to ensure that the name of her late husband was perpetuated. But she took no less care to avoid Judah being put to shame. Only he and she knew what had happened. Judah could acknowledge his error without loss of face. It was from this episode that the sages derived the rule articulated by Rabbi Rabinovitch that morning in Switzerland: Rather risk being thrown into a fiery furnace than shame someone else in public.

It is thus no coincidence that Tamar, a heroic non-Jewish woman, became the ancestor of David, Israel’s greatest king. There are striking similarities between Tamar and the other heroic woman in David’s ancestry, the Moabite woman we know as Ruth.

There is an ancient Jewish custom on Shabbat and festivals to cover the challot ormatzah while holding the glass of wine over which Kiddush is being made. The reason is so as not to put the challah to shame while it is being, as it were, passed over in favour of the wine. There are some very religious Jews, sadly, who will go to great lengths to avoid shaming an inanimate loaf of bread but have no compunction in putting their fellow Jews to shame if they regard them as less religious than they are. That is what happens when we remember the halakhah but forget the underlying moral principle behind it.

Never put anyone to shame. That is what Tamar taught Judah and what a great rabbi of our time taught those who were privileged to be his students.

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/10/the-heroism-of-tamar/ el miércoles, 17 de dic. de 2014.

The little-known meaning of the word Hanukkah

The little-known meaning of the word Hanukkah
It’s not just Americans who have trouble pronouncing the name of this winter holiday. Israelis get it wrong too.
By Shoshana Kordova | Dec. 16, 2014 | 2:06 PM
Hanukkah: What does the word mean?

Hanukkah: What does the word mean?
A menorah depicting Judean warriors bearing torches, made in around 1950. In exhibit at the Eretz Israel Museum.

Hanukkah is the holiday probably best known in the English-speaking world as the hard-to-pronounce, impossible-to-spell Jewish alternative to a certain winter festival that involves a fat bearded man, the Middle Eastern birth of a deity and, sometimes, snow.

Sure, the English spelling differs from greeting card to greeting card. But that’s just because Chanukah/Channuka/Hanukkah is a transliteration of the Hebrew, and the world hasn’t quite reached unanimous agreement on how or when to add an “h” at the end of a Hebrew word, double up on certain consonants or, most importantly, express the guttural “kh” sound often described as the kind you might make if you had a fish bone stuck in the back of your throat.

Here’s Hanukkah’s dirty little secret: As long as everyone knows what you’re talking about, it doesn’t actually matter how you spell the name of the Festival of Lights in English (though many publications, including this one, go with the Associated Press spelling for consistency’s sake). So let’s set aside the English spelling conundrum and take a look at the Hebrew word.

Desecration of the temple

Americans can take comfort in the fact that they’re not the only ones who have trouble pronouncing the name of this holiday. Israelis get it wrong too, typically pronouncing it KHA-noo-ka, though the formal (albeit widely ignored) pronunciation is supposed to be kha-noo-KA. Either way, that fish-bone sound at the beginning is all-important, followed by a “noo” that rhymes with “moo” (rather than one that, as in the common Anglicized pronunciation, resembles the vowel sound in “nook” or “book”).

The name of the holiday, Hanukkah, comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication,” “consecration” or “inauguration.” It refers to the Jews’ rededication of the Second Temple in the second century B.C.E., after the Hellenistic Greeks of Syria had desecrated it by using it for the worship of Greek gods and the sacrifice of (famously non-kosher) pigs.

A popular children’s song for the holiday begins with the words: “The days of Hanukkah, hanukkat mikdasheinu [the dedication of our Temple], fill our hearts with joy and gladness.”

Some sources are specific when describing what exactly was rededicated. The non-canonized book I Maccabees, which tells the story of Hanukkah, relates: “And they celebrated hanukkat hamizbe’ah [the dedication of the altar] for eight days, and they brought sacrifices with joy in their hearts.”

The term hanukkat hamizbe’ach is also used in the Bible, to refer to King Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple (2 Chronicles 7:9) and in the traditional Hebrew song “Maoz Tzur,” often sung right after lighting Hanukkah candles.

A spiritual victory

The story of Hanukkah is one of a Maccabean military victory and – at least as significantly – a spiritual victory over Hellenistic attempts to prohibit Jewish practices.

This spiritual victory is symbolized by the Jews’ discovery of a single sealed, pure vial of olive oil to light the seven-branched menorah (pronounced in Hebrew as me-no-RA), one of the primary ritual objects in the Temple. According to the Hanukkah story, though the oil was enough for just one day, it miraculously lasted for eight, and we commemorate this by lighting Hanukkah candles or oil lamps for (as Adam Sandler would have it) eight crazy nights.

The Hebrew spelling of Hanukkah also serves as a mnemonic device, reminding us that the date of the holiday is the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, as represented by the last two Hebrew letters of the holiday, which are equivalent to 25 in the Hebrew alphanumeric system.

A rabbinical dispute

If the Hebrew word is broken down a different way, it can remind us of one of the key religious rulings regarding the method of candle lighting – and an argument between two schools of rabbinical thought about the order in which the candles should be lit.

In this breakdown, the first two letters stand for “eight candles,” since het is eight in the alphanumeric system and nun is the first letter of nerot, the Hebrew for “candles.” The rest of the word (the letters vav, kaf, heh) is an acronym for vehalakha k’veit Hillel, “and the religious ruling follows Beit Hillel.”

This refers to a dispute between two groups of scholars over whether one should light eight candles on the first night and dwindle down to one or, as members of Hillel’s school of thought argued, light one candle first and an additional one every night of the holiday, since we should strive to increase sanctity rather than diminish it. The Hillel school won out

As for what exactly to call the eight-branched Hanukkah candelabra (plus a separate branch for the extra shamash candle): it is popularly known by many English speakers as a menorah, and before the revivification of the Hebrew language it was known as a Hanukkah menorah in Hebrew as well. But in modern-day Israel, if you’re looking for the holiday candelabra, you should call it a hanukkiah (derived, naturally, from the name of the festival).

The State of Israel may have chosen the menorah of Temple times to represent the country on the state emblem, but ask an Israeli shopkeeper for one and you may find yourself wondering why he’s offering you a night light (menorat layla), a desk lamp (menorat shulhan) or perhaps a wall fixture (menorat kir). Hanukkah may last only eight days, but get thee to a light fixtures store like a house on fire, and you’ll find that in Israel we use menorahs all year long.

Segun tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/life/culture/poem-of-the-week/.premium-1.631658?utm_campaign=3226920&utm_content=10700717565&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Emailvision el martes, 16 de dic. de 2014.

The Revolt of the Maccabees: The true story behind Hanukkah

The Revolt of the Maccabees: The true story behind Hanukkah

The ancient Israelites, led by Judas Maccabeus, did vanquish the oppressor Antiochus – but Greek rule would only be shaken off 20 years later under Judas’ younger brother. A must-read before the holiday begins Tuesday night.

By Elon Gilad | Dec. 10, 2014 | 4:21 PM

 

Judas Maccabeus (Wikimedia)
Judas Maccabeus (Wikimedia)
The warrior Judas Maccabeus, or Judah of Maccabee, drawn by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872). Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, celebrates the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BCE), and the narrative that Jewish rebel Judas Maccabeus vanquished the evil Greek emperor Antiochus and rededicated the Temple, at which the miracle of the oil occurred.

All true, with the possible exception of the miracle of a day’s supply of lamp oil lasting eight days: but that narrative skips over the schisms within the ancient Hebrews’ society, mainly – who exactly was rebelling against who.

In the late 6th century BCE, the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great let the Jews go home after decades of exile in Babylon, and turned Judea into a semi-autonomous theocracy run by the High Priest and the powerful priestly families in Jerusalem.


“I am Cyrus, Achaemenid King”, written in ancient Akkadian, Persian and Elamite, carved onto a column in Pasargadae. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Judea’s semi-autonomy would continue for centuries – after Alexander the Great conquered the region in the 4th century BCE; and it would persist under the Ptolemaic Kingdom, based in Egypt, and the Seleucid Empire in the north, which dominated Israel at different times.

During this time, the Hellenic domination of the Near East spurred economic development; and the dominant urban class in Judea, the priests, became increasingly wealthy and Hellenized.

But the majority of Judeans were rural farmers. They were not becoming rich, nor were they adopting the ways of the sophisticated, cosmopolitan Jerusalemites. This socio-economic divide would play a decisive role in the following events.

The rise of Antiochus IV

In 175 BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes ascended to the throne of the Seleucid Empire, which at that point controlled Judea.

Wanting to outdo his father and capture Egypt, and unite the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms into one superpower, Antiochus needed money. When a faction of Judean priests offered to pay him to replace the High Priest Onias III with his younger brother Jason, he took the money. Why not?

But this created a dangerous precedent. Three years later, another rich priest, Menelaus, offered even more money and was appointed high priest by Antiochus. Jason went into exile.

Menelaus however was not from the line of high priests and his appointment upset the conservative Judeans. Worse, he took treasures from the Temple to pay Antiochus, which was sacrilege – and on top of all that, he was a radical Hellenizer. His appointment was not popular, and had to be enforced by force.

Meanwhile in Antioch, Antiochus decided it was time to make history. He led his army to Egypt to achieve what his father had not. Upon rumors of his death in battle there, civil war erupted among the Jews in Jerusalem as Jason reappeared from exile, and led a popular revolt against Menelaus.

Reign of terror

But Antiochus was not dead. He had been humiliated by the Romans and forced out of Egypt. Yet while retreating, he heard of the struggle in Jerusalem – and reinstated Menelaus.

Once back in power, Menelaus led a reign of terror and set out to Hellenize the Jews. A statue of Zeus was placed in the Holy of Holies, among other violations of Jewish law.

Many pious Jews resisted Menelaus’ measures, some by martyrdom, others by escaping into the wilderness, and still others by active revolt.

Most prominent of these rebels was the group led by Mattathias of Modiin and his five sons – of whom Judas Maccabeus proved to be the most able and drew the rest of the Jewish rebels into his camp.

Judas and his band of rebels staged guerrilla warfare against Hellenized Jews; Menelaus in response summoned the Greek armies from neighboring Seleucid provinces.

Judas crushes the Greeks

The first army to arrive, from Samaria in the north, was led by Apollonius. Judas was tipped off, and crushed the small army on the road to Jerusalem. He was to take Apollonius’ sword and use it until his death.

Next came a larger force, led by Seron, from Palestine in the west. Once again Judas ambushed them, and 800 enemy soldiers were killed.

Alarmed, the Seleucids dispatched a real army, from Antioch, led by two generals, Nicanor and Gorgias. But once again, Judas proved his military prowess: he routed the army and seized its weapons.

Even after this defeat, the Seleucid army remained bigger and badder than the small rebel force. There was real danger that it would press on and crush the rebellion.

But at this point, the rebels caught a lucky break. In 167 BCE, King Mithridates I of Parthia attacked the Seleucid Empire and captured the city of Herat, in modern-day Afghanistan. Antiochus had to concentrate his forces on the Parthians.

With the Seleucid army thus preoccupied, the rebels captured Jerusalem in 164 BCE, though the Akra Fortress overlooking the Temple Mount remained loyal to Antioch (within it, Assyrian soldiers and Hellenized Jews would remain steadfast).

The Temple was rededicated and the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah was created, modeled on the eight-day holiday of Sukkot. The story of the miraculous oil lasting eight days is apocryphal: It would only appear centuries later in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b).

Jerusalem under siege

With his power base in Jerusalem firmly established, Judas began attacking gentile cities around Judea, though the purpose seems to have been not subjugation, but spoils. Then he returned to Jerusalem and laid siege to the Akra.

By this time, following Antiochus’ death in Parthia in 164 BC, the Seleucid Empire was ruled by Lysias, regent for the child King Antiochus V Eupator. Lysias set out to destroy Jerusalem and crush the Maccabean revolt once and for all.

After beating Judas in battle south of Bethlehem, Lysias laid siege to Jerusalem.

The rebel Jews’ situation was desperate. They lacked the supplies to withstand a lengthy siege, not least because that year was a shmita year.

Once again, luck intervened. Philip, one of Antiochus’ generals, revolted and set out to storm the capital, Antioch. Anxious to return to the capital, Lysias reached terms with the Jerusalemites. Judea was restored to its former semi-autonomous state and Menelaus was replaced as High Priest by Alcimus, a moderate.

But as soon as Lysias left, fighting broke out again between Judas’ rebels and the moderates who supported Alcimus. An army led by the Seleucid general Nicanor was dispatched to aid the moderates. In 161 BCE, Judas beat Nicanor’s army in the Battle of Adasa and Nicanor was killed.

That same year, after defeating Philip, Lysias and Antiochus were killed by Antiochus’ cousin Demetrius I Soter, who ascended to the Seleucid throne. He dispatched another army, led by the general Bacchides.

They faced off in the Battle of Elasa in 160 BCE. Judas’ band was no match for that 20,000-strong army. The Jews were crushed and Judas was killed.

Thus the revolt ended in tragedy. But some years later, changes in the geopolitical landscape would lead to Judas’ youngest brother Jonathan Apphus ascending to the high priesthood, and to the establishment of the Hasmonean Dynasty that would rule an independent Judea from 140 to 37 BCE.

Segun tomado de, http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.630770?utm_campaign=3226920&utm_content=10700717565&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Emailvision el martes, 16 de dic. de 2014.

Las Siete Vacas Gordas

Las Siete Vacas Gordas, por Yanki Tauber

Y he aquí que del río emergieron siete vacas de hermosa apariencia y robustas; y pacían en los pantanos (Génesis 41:2).

Vaca Gorda #1: la economía.

Vaca Gorda #2: la libertad y la democracia.

Vaca Gorda #3: la tecnología moderna (el automóvil, los abrelatas eléctricos, el Internet).

Vaca Gorda #4: la medicina moderna (la neurocirugía, el Prozac, las lentes de contacto de color).

Vaca Gorda #5: los judíos estadounidenses (Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Joe Lieberman).

Vaca Gorda #6: el estado político de la nación (judíos viviendo en la Patria Judía bajo un gobierno judío).

Vaca Gorda #7: el estado espiritual de la nación (una abundancia de Yeshivás, sinagogas, centros comunitarios, clases de la Parashá, clases de Talmud, clases de Kabalá, rabinos, rebes y gurús como nunca antes ha habido).

He aquí que emergieron otras siete vacas del río, de mala apariencia y carne magra, y se pararon junto a las vacas en la orilla del Río (Génesis 41:3).

Vaca Magra #1: la economía.

Vaca Magra #2: la libertad y la democracia.

Vaca Magra #3: la tecnología moderna.

Vaca Magra #4: la asistencia sanitaria en este siglo 21.

Vaca Magra #5: los judíos estadounidenses.

Vaca Magra #6: el estado político de la nación.

Vaca Magra #7: el estado espiritual de la nación.

Uno de los detalles más importantes pero que muchas veces se pasan por alto en el famoso sueño del Faraón es el hecho de que las siete vacas magras se pararon junto a las siete vacas gordas a la orilla del río. En otras palabras: las catorce vacas existieron en forma simultánea en el sueño del Faraón, a diferencia de lo que ocurrió en la realidad, en que los siete años de hambre vinieron una vez que terminaron los siete años de abundancia.

Es por eso que los sabios del Faraón, que conjuraron toda clase de exóticas interpretaciones al sueño que había tenido él (como por ejemplo, “te nacerán siete hijas y morirán siete hijas”), no aceptaron la solución que era tan obvia. ¿Cuándo son las vacas gordas? ¡Cuando la cosecha es abundante! ¿Cuándo son magras? Cuando hay hambre. Lo mismo con las mazorcas de maíz gordas y magras. ¿Acaso hay algo más obvio?

Pero el Faraón vio las vacas gordas y las magras paciendo juntas. “No es posible que los años de abundancia y los años de hambre ocurran al mismo tiempo”, dijeron los sabios. “Es obvio que los sueños quieren decir algo diferente; algo menos obvio, más metafórico”.

La genialidad de José fue que él comprendió que los sueños del Faraón no solamente predecían acontecimientos que iban a suceder en un futuro sino que ellos mismos también servían para explicar de qué forma enfrentarlos: los sueños le estaban diciendo al Faraón que tenía que hacer que los siete años de abundancia coexistieran con los siete años de hambre. Al indicarle al Faraón de qué manera debía prepararse para la inminente hambruna, José no le estaba ofreciendo un consejo que no se le había pedido, sino que ese consejo formaba parte de la interpretación de los sueños. Si el Faraón almacenaba el grano excedente durante los años de abundancia, entonces las siete vacas gordas seguirían estando presentes cuando las siete vacas magras emergieran del río, y entonces las vacas magras tendrían qué comer.

Los maestros jasídicos señalan que el primer galut (“exilio”) del pueblo judío surgió en una nube de sueños. Los sueños de José, los sueños del panadero y del copero y los sueños del Faraón fueron los que condujeron a José, y luego a toda su familia, a Egipto, donde habrían de sufrir el exilio, la esclavitud y la persecución, hasta que por fin Moisés los liberara más de dos siglos más tarde. El exilio anterior de Jacob a Jarán también comenzó y culminó con sueños.

Porque el galut es un sueño: un estado de existencia plagado de confusas metáforas, horrendas exageraciones y lógicas imposibilidades. Un estado en el cual las vacas gordas y las vacas magras coexisten en forma simultánea, y en el cual una misma vaca puede ser a la vez gorda y magra.

El galut es un lugar en el que la economía próspera es tanto una bendición como una maldición, en el que la creciente ola de libertad da rienda suelta a lo mejor y lo peor del ser humano, en el que la misma Web que circunda todo el planeta transmite tanto sabiduría como suciedad, en el que estamos saturados de espiritualidad y al mismo tiempo, somos espiritualmente pobres.

Sin embargo, hay una forma de encarar este embrollo cósmico. Escuchemos hablar a José (hasta el Faraón sabe lo que es un buen consejo…). No te escapes del sueño, dice José; no le busques otro significado. Úsalo. Si el galut te muestra la paradoja de la vaca gorda y la vaca magra paciendo juntas a la orilla del río, usa la vaca gorda para nutrir a la vaca magra. Haz que el sueño sea la solución.

Segun tomado de, http://www.es.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2067754/jewish/Las-Siete-Vacas-Gordas.htm el lunes, 15 de dic. de 2014.

Los 5 Niveles de Placer

Los 5 Niveles de Placer

Los 5 Niveles de Placer

La vida está llena de placeres. Sin embargo, algunos son más elevados que otros.

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Sin embargo, ¿qué pasa cuando ya cumplieron 25 años y siguen jugando tenis en lugar de trabajar? Uno comenzaría a pensar: “¡Madura! ¡Sigue con tu vida!”. Es muy divertido jugar un partido de tenis de vez en cuando, pero la vida es mucho más que “pasarla bien”. Uno quisiera que sus hijos tuvieran una carrera significativa, un matrimonio exitoso, hijos que criar.

Si cumplieran 35 años y siguieran diviertiéndose en vez de trabajar, seguramente usted ya estaría gritando: “¡Ayuda por favor!”.

El judaísmo dice que Dios es nuestro Padre Celestial y que nosotros somos Sus hijos, y así como cualquier padre, Dios quiere que Sus hijos disfruten de los placeres de la vida.

Existen cinco niveles de placer diferentes, y cada uno es un tipo independiente de placer.

El Avión del Placer

Las diferentes clases de placer se pueden comparar con los asientos de un avión. La mejor manera de viajar es en primera clase. Luego viene la segunda clase, pero como a nadie le gusta viajar en “segunda” clase, entonces la llaman Clase de Negocios (Business) o Clase Ejecutiva.

¿Tercera clase?, a esa la llamamos Clase Turista o Clase Económica.

¿Cuál es la cuarta clase? Te ponen en los compartimentos inferiores con los animales y el equipaje.

¿La quinta clase? Simplemente te dan una cuerda y te dicen: ¡Agárrate!

Todos quieren viajar en primera clase, pero a veces la gente no encuentra la manera de hacerlo. Viajan toda su vida en quinta clase, simplemente agarrados de la cuerda, y lo triste es que a veces se vuelve tan difícil seguir agarrados que simplemente se sueltan.

La Medida del Placer

Cada uno de estos cinco tipos de placer es tan único que ni siquiera puedes cambiar 10 pasajes de quinta clase por un solo pasaje en cuarta clase. Si estuvieras hambriento, ¿cambiarías una buena comida por una vista panorámica de la ciudad de Nueva York? ¿Cambiarías el amor de tu vida por una casa de playa en la ribera francesa?

Imagina el placer como si fueran caballos de fuerza. El placer te da energía.

Un placer no puede ser comparado con otro. Entonces, ¿cómo le asignamos valor a cada placer que experimentamos?

Imagina el placer como si fueran caballos de fuerza. El placer te da energía. Si tienes placer tendrás mucha más confianza para sobreponerte a pruebas difíciles, podrás soportar muchas más circunstancias adversas, porque la energía que te da el placer te dará fuerzas.

Tratando de evaluar el valor de un placer que experimentas, pregúntate: “Cuando tomo un helado, ¿cuánto placer; cuánta energía obtengo de él? Si escucho música, ¿cuánta energía obtengo? Amar a alguien, ¿qué tan revitalizado me hace sentir? ¿Cuándo siento más energía, al amar a alguien o al tomar un helado?

Esa es una manera racional de medir el placer.

Falsificando los Placeres

A veces, las personas creen que están obteniendo verdadero placer, pero son engañadas. Por ejemplo, el sexo es un verdadero placer, pero la pornografía es un placer falso. Sólo estimula el deseo sexual, y uno acaba deprimido en lugar de energizado. Puede parecer emocionante al principio, pero la emoción y la energía no es lo mismo y no debe confundirse.

El falso placer más vendido en la sociedad occidental es la decadencia. He aquí porqué es falso:

Cuando se pregunta: ¿Qué es lo contrario de dolor?, la mayoría de la gente responde: Placer. Sin embargo, la ausencia de dolor no conlleva automáticamente al placer.

Lo contrario al dolor no es el placer. Mucha gente piensa que el mayor placer son unas vacaciones en Hawai acostados en una cama de agua, con una brisa fría entrando por la ventana, bebiendo alguna bebida exótica, completamente relajados. Pero no te vayas a dormir, ¡porque entonces te perderás todo!

El dormir y la comodidad no representan dolor, pero no son la meta de la vida.

En realidad, el dolor es el precio que se paga por el placer. Si te quieres graduar en la universidad y conseguir un buen trabajo, tienes que estudiar duro. Si te quieres ganar la medalla de oro en las olimpiadas, tienes que experimentar dolor en algunos músculos. No vas a llegar al podio acostado en una playa de Hawai.

Confundir comodidad con placer es una farsa. El verdadero placer viene sólo como resultado del esfuerzo.

El Precio del Placer

Para tener éxito en tu búsqueda de placer, tienes que enfocarte en el placer y no en el esfuerzo.

Imagínate a un equipo de jugadores de básquetbol corriendo de un lado a otro en un partido. ¿Ellos se percatan del dolor que están sintiendo? Apenas lo sienten. El placer de jugar sobrepasa cualquier otro sentimiento.

Qué pasaría si les pidieras que hicieran el siguiente experimento: “Jueguen básquetbol como lo hacen normalmente – corran, salten, tiren y defiendan. Pero esta vez sin la pelota!”.

¿Cuánto tiempo crees que podrían aguantar jugando? Tal vez cinco minutos. Sin la pelota, no hay nada que los distraiga del esfuerzo. Cada paso es ahora bastante doloroso.

Dales de regreso la pelota y verás que seguirán jugando por lo menos dos horas más!

En la vida, visualiza bien el objetivo y convierte cada esfuerzo en un placer.

Aprendiendo a Disfrutar el Placer

Generalmente pensamos que el placer debería venir automáticamente, pero no es tan simple. No se pueden disfrutar los placeres sin aprender lo que son.

Es como catar un vino. El vino es mucho más que un líquido que humedece tu boca y te hace sentir mareado. Si quieres convertirte en un conocedor de vinos, lo primero que tienes que examinar es el corcho. Después tienes que examinar el color del vino, sentir su aroma y sólo después puedes probarlo, saboreándolo lentamente y dejando que el sabor y la textura impregnen todas las diferentes zonas de tu lengua.

Si no tomamos un vino añejo sin saborearlo, ¿ no deberíamos darle el mismo respeto al disfrute de los placeres de la vida?

Nuestro mundo está lleno de libertad y riqueza, olores y vistas, relaciones y energías, potencial y logros. Si no tomamos un vino añejo sin saborearlo, ¿no deberíamos darle el mismo respeto al disfrute de los placeres de la vida?

En resumen, recuerda los tres criterios que se aplican a las diferentes clases de placer:

  • No hay ningún intercambio entre los distintos niveles de placer (no hay manera de adquirir un nivel con mucho de otro nivel, cada nivel es una categoría distinta).
  • Ten cuidado de los falsos placeres.
  • Todo placer requiere esfuerzo.

La Quinta Clase de Placer

El placer de la quinta clase es el más fácil y accesible. Es el placer físico y material. Buena comida, ropa bonita, una casa agradable, música placentera, un bonito paisaje. Este placer incluye los “cinco sentidos”.

Dios hizo el mundo físico para que lo disfrutemos. El Talmud dice que si una persona tiene la oportunidad de probar una fruta nueva y se rehúsa a hacerlo, tendrá que rendir cuentas por eso en el mundo venidero.

¿Qué tienen de especial las frutas? Dios pudo haber creado un puré insípido que contuviera todas las vitaminas necesarias para nuestra supervivencia. Pero las frutas son el postre que Dios nos dio para disfrutar. Es una acción de amor. ¿Te puedes imaginar prepararle una cena especial a una persona que amas y que se niegue a probarla!? Pero existe una diferencia entre probar frutas y empacharte de ellas. Este es precisamente el problema del quinto nivel de placer: tomar demasiado de algo bueno. Cuando utilizas los placeres de este nivel sin valorar que son un regalo, acabas siendo incapaz de disfrutarlos. El vino es excelente en moderación, pero ingerir una botella rápidamente te hará vomitar. Si eres un glotón te sentirás mal contigo mismo, en lugar de llenarte de energía.

La clave es la conciencia. Cuando estás consciente, no pierdes el control ni dejas que tus deseos te dominen.

Esto no significa que te sugerimos ascetismo o el celibato. Los placeres físicos fueron creados por Dios para ser disfrutados. Las relaciones matrimoniales son consideradas como uno de los actos más sagrados que podemos realizar. En efecto, la palabra en hebreo para matrimonio es “kidushin”, que proviene de la palabra kadosh, que significa sagrado. Es por eso que en Shabat, el día más sagrado de la semana, el Talmud recomienda especialmente que marido y mujer tengan relaciones íntimas.

Disfruta todos los placeres físicos de este mundo. Son la quinta clase de placer que Dios, nuestro Padre, creó para que sus hijos disfruten.

La Cuarta Clase de Placer

Como dijimos anteriormente, no existe intercambio entre los niveles de placer. Ninguna cantidad de placer de la quinta clase puede comprar un poco de placer de la cuarta clase.

¿Qué es más valioso que todo el dinero del mundo?

El amor.

Aquí está la prueba:

Imaginen al Sr. Schwartz, un inversionista de una de las mejores firmas de Wall Street. Pasa la mayoría del día tratando de alcanzar la meta de su vida: llegar a tener diez millones de dólares. Él y su esposa tienen tres hijos.

Un día, un rico filántropo llamado Cohen, decide hacerle a Schwartz una oferta muy generosa. Cohen le dice: “Estás gastando toda tu vida tratando de obtener diez millones de dólares, así que voy a ayudarte a cumplir tu objetivo dándote los diez millones si tú me das a cambio el derecho de adoptar a uno de tus hijos. Tu hijo va a tenerlo todo, lo mejor de lo mejor. La única condición es que vas a tener que romper contacto con él, de aquí en adelante nunca más podrás verlo u oír algo de él”.

¿Qué dice el Sr. Schwartz? ¿Concretizar su sueño económico en un instante a cambio de uno de sus hijos? ¡Imposible! “No hay trato, fuera de mi oficina!”.

Diez millones de dólares. Una increíble cantidad de placer de quinta clase no va a inducirlo a vender a uno de sus hijos. El amor no puede cambiarse por ninguna cantidad de dinero.

Pero, ¿cuánto tiempo pasa realmente el Sr. Schwartz con sus hijos? Si son tan valiosos, ¿por qué se olvidó de disfrutar del placer de amar a sus hijos?

Después de su encuentro con Cohen, Schwartz tiene un momento de inspiración: “Tengo que pasar más tiempo con mis tesoros”. Llama a su secretaria y le anuncia que va a tomarse dos semanas de vacaciones para pasarlas con sus hijos.

Schwartz se apresura a llegar a casa. Después de luchar una hora para abrir el carrito del bebé, finalmente llega al parque. Él y sus hijos están pasando un rato muy divertido. Pero en eso viene la cena, hora de bañarlos y contar un cuento. Después de soportar guerras de comida, inundaciones en el baño e innumerables lecturas de “Babar va al circo”, Schwartz se acuesta en el sofá, se dirige a su esposa y le dice: “Tal vez exageré un poco en tomar dos semanas de vacaciones…”.

Aprendiendo a Amar

Schwartz sabe que sus hijos valen más que diez millones de dólares, pero no sabe cómo disfrutar de este placer.

El primer paso es tener una definición de lo que es el “amor”.

El Talmud define al amor como el placer emocional que obtenemos al enfocarnos en las virtudes del otro. Si haces eso, puedes amar incondicionalmente a los niños aunque estén lanzando albóndigas por todo el cuarto (y disciplinarlos al mismo tiempo).

Sin un claro entendimiento de lo que es el amor, en lo único que podrás pensar será en el esfuerzo y el dolor que implica criar hijos, y sacarás la conclusión de que es demasiado costoso.

¿Cuál es la fuente de mayor placer para los padres? Sus hijos.

¿Cuál es la fuente de mayor “dolor” para los padres? Sus hijos.

No es casualidad que la fuente de mayor placer para los padres sea también la fuente de mayor dolor. Porque mientras más placer, más es el esfuerzo requerido.

Es por eso que la clave para tener éxito en la vida es no tratar de eliminar el dolor, ya que es imposible, sino que lo importante es enfocar los pensamientos en el placer que se recibe por el esfuerzo realizado.

Amor Vs. Enamoramiento

La falsedad del amor es pensar que: “El amor está libre de esfuerzo, es algo que simplemente sucede”. “El amor es un golpe de fe sin razón alguna”. No trabajas para amar a la gente, simplemente “sucede” o “no sucede”. Es por eso que es tan fácil enamorarse como “desenamorarse”.

Bob y Susy están solos en el parque, caminando bajo la luna llena. Llega cupido volando y les arroja una flecha. ¡He aquí! ¡Bob y Susy están locamente enamorados!

Se casan, tienen hijos, una casa grande y una costosa hipoteca. Bob trabaja duro para pagar las cuentas e inclusive trabaja horas extra. Una noche, mientras Bob trabajaba con su secretaria Carol, cupido apareció y arrojó otra flecha. ¡Boing! ¡Ahora Bob está enamorado de Carol!

Bob regresa a su casa y le dice a Susy: “Me enamoré de la secretaria. ¿Qué puedo hacer querida? ¡Me flechó!”.

Sale Susy y entra Carol.

¿Cuál es el problema? Bob no analizó quienes eran estas mujeres realmente y luego se enamoró a partir de un entendimiento profundo. El amor de Bob no está basado en un compromiso y en un esfuerzo por revelar las virtudes de su compañera.

La Biblia dice: “Adam conoció a su esposa Java”. El amor se construye en base al conocimiento. Cuanto más profundo sea el conocimiento, más profundo será el amor.

Pero el mundo occidental piensa que el amor no es algo que se escoge, el amor es algo de lo que eres “víctima”. Entonces, si quieres seguir casado, lo único que puedes hacer es esperar no ser flechado por cupido otra vez!

¿Acaso es sorprendente que exista un índice de divorcios del 50 por ciento?

El enamoramiento no es amor, es sólo atracción física, es una falsedad. El verdadero amor es para siempre.

Esto lo vemos en las relaciones entre padres e hijos. Nunca se levanta un padre en la mañana y dice: “ya lo he decidido, me gustan más los hijos del vecino. Ellos no tosen en las noches y tienen mejores notas en matemáticas. Niños váyanse. Los hijos del vecino se mudarán acá!”.

Una locura ¿no? No nos desenamoramos de nuestros hijos, porque estamos comprometidos a amarlos.

¿Cómo puedes saber si estás enamorado o en verdad estás amando? Si escuchas en tu interior una voz diciendo “es perfecto” o “es perfecta”, esa no es la realidad, nadie es perfecto. Esa es una señal segura de enamoramiento.

El verdadero amor requiere trabajo. Tienes que estar dispuesto a hacer el esfuerzo.

La Tercera Clase de Placer

¿Qué cosa en el mundo es capaz de impulsar a alguien a dejar el amor por algo?

Una causa. La motivación de cambiar el mundo. El deseo de tener un mejor objetivo de vida. El hacer lo que es correcto.

Imagina que unos terroristas secuestran un avión y dicen: “Mata a todos los pasajeros o te matamos a ti y a tus hijos”.

No podrías. No puedes matar a personas inocentes aunque eso signifique salvar la vida de tu propia familia. Es mejor morir.

En el judaísmo decimos: si no sabes por lo que estás dispuesto a morir, entonces no has empezado a vivir. Por el contrario sólo estas jugando un juego. Si no tienes un objetivo en tu vida, todos los placeres físicos, las vacaciones, e inclusive tu esposa y tus hijos, te pueden hacer sentir que algo está faltando.

Aprendiendo a Valorar la Bondad

Toma mucho esfuerzo llegar a ser genuinamente una buena persona. Pero mucha gente nunca llega a esta meta. Acaban siendo “no muy malos” – es decir, no matan, no roban y no cometen adulterio. Pero “ser bueno” es mucho más que simplemente “no ser tan malo”.

Entonces, ¿por qué no tratamos? Porque la responsabilidad parece una carga en lugar de un placer.

Estás de vacaciones en Nueva York, mirando la costa en uno de esos barcos para excursiones que muestran la vista de Manhattan. Mientras estás admirando la Estatua de la Libertad, uno de los pasajeros se cae del barco. No sabe nadar, se está ahogando. Entonces saltas al río – lleno de basura y pescados muertos, pero no te importa, estás tratando de salvar una vida. Lo agarras, él intenta salvarse – te hundes en el agua mugrosa – y finalmente él deja de luchar contra el agua pero está pesado como el plomo – lo sacas del agua con todas tus fuerzas – tú estás sofocado, el agua huele terrible.

Finalmente, después de sentir que duró una eternidad, lo llevas a la costa. La gente está ahí para darte una mano, y una ambulancia lo lleva al hospital. Gracias a Dios vive, esta tosiendo y escupiendo un poco de agua turbia, pero estará bien. Tú regresas al hotel y tomas 12 duchas para limpiarte de la suciedad y el olor a pescado podrido. Dices: “Nunca más regresaré aquí en mi vida”.

Ahora, 30 años y 100 vacaciones después de aquel incidente, ¿cuáles fueron tus vacaciones más memorables? ¡Fueron las vacaciones en las que el individuo se cayó del bote y tú le salvaste la vida!

Es increíble el placer que te da disfrutar de un acto de bondad que has hecho. Entonces, ¿por qué no buscar constantemente la oportunidad de hacer el bien? Y aún más, ¿por qué no pensar en lo “bueno” que eres mientras lo haces? ¿No sería ese un placer muy grande?

Pareciendo Buenos Vs. Siendo Buenos

A veces la gente realiza actos de valentía que son realmente tontos. Algunas personas juegan “Ruleta Rusa” y terminan muertos. Se confunden y piensan que están haciendo un acto noble. Esta es la falsedad de la tercera clase de placer.

La sociedad occidental tiene otra versión de la falsedad de la tercera clase de placer: el éxito económico. Puedes ser un buen esposo, un buen amigo, o ser un ser humano leal, un pensador, un intelectual – pero si no has ganado mucho dinero eres un fracaso.

Hace unos cuantos años, un camión repartidor de Brink’s perdió varias bolsas de dinero. La puerta posterior se abrió, millones de dólares cayeron a la calle, y los billetes se esparcieron con el viento. Todos tomaron lo que pudieron. Pero hubo un individuo que fue al banco y les regresó 50,000 dólares.

La prensa interrogó a su padre, quien dijo: “Mi hijo es un tonto”, y entrevistaron a uno de sus compañeros de trabajo quien dijo: “Dios le dio un regalo y el tonto lo regresó”.

“Soy un corredor de bolsa, vicepresidente de mercadotecnia, graduado de Harvard”.

La falsedad de “ser bueno” es “parecer bueno”. Demasiada gente invierte demasiados esfuerzos tratando de ganarse la admiración de la gente. Es por eso que la gente se identifica a sí misma con la profesión que ejerce. “Soy un corredor de bolsa, vicepresidente de mercadotecnia, graduado de Harvard”. Si los otros se impresionan, eso nos reafirma que somos importantes.

No te engañes “pareciendo bueno”. La verdadera bondad viene de hacer lo que es correcto.

¿Qué hizo que Alfred Nobel, el gran magnate sueco, estableciera el Premio Nobel?

Nobel fue el inventor de la dinamita y uno de los productores más grandes de explosivos. Cuando murió su hermano, el periódico local cometió un error e imprimió la biografía de Alfred en lugar de la de su hermano. Cuando Alfred Nobel leyó que su vida había promovido mucha destrucción y muerte, quedó devastado.

“¿Esta es mi vida?! Tengo que hacer algo bueno”. Y fue así que decidió establecer el premio Nobel para aquellos que hacen el bien en el mundo.

La Segunda Clase de Placer

El placer de segunda clase se puede identificar mejor por su parte falsa. ¿Por qué clase de metas la gente sacrificaría vidas inocentes? Por el poder.

Stalin, Idi Amin, Hitler – una lista larga de tiranos estuvieron dispuestos a matar a millones de personas para obtener poder. Para crear un estado comunista. Para crear un mundo dominado por la raza aria pura. Pero este tipo de placer es falso. Este poder sólo destruye.

El verdadero placer de segunda clase es el poder de crear. Por ejemplo: el artista tiene control sobre sus ojos, su brazo, y la pintura, a tal medida que puede transformar sus ideas en realidad. Tiene materia inherente y la convierte en algo productivo, útil y bello.

Pero la gente muchas veces comete el error de ir por un control forzado. El dictador manipula las piezas, pero en el proceso está destruyendo vidas y sociedades. Es sólo una ilusión de creatividad.

La manera de saber si estás creando o controlando es mediante el resultado. La creatividad le da a otra gente placer. El control lleva a la destrucción.

¿Qué preferirías ser: un trabajador o el jefe? Inclusive que una compañía no puede funcionar sin trabajadores, existe una mayor satisfacción siendo el jefe. En lugar de recibir órdenes, tienes el poder de crear, de dirigir y de planear. Entras en la fuente del poder creativo, sabiduría y entendimiento.

Similarmente, uno de los aspectos más importantes de la segunda clase de placer es crear una familia: crear hijos, inculcarles valores y moldearlos haciéndolos individuos sanos, productivos, y humanitarios.

¿Por qué la creatividad es tan excitante? Porque está relacionada con la esencia de Dios. La máxima expresión de creatividad fue la creación del mundo. Dios lo hizo de la nada absoluta. Sólo un ente infinito puede hacer eso. Expresar nuestra propia creatividad es como probar ese poder.

La Primera Clase de Placer

Imagina a alguien que ha dominado las cuatro clases de placer; disfruta de enormes placeres, riqueza material, una familia hermosa, significado en la vida, etc. Sin embargo, hay algo que falta.

Un encuentro con Dios.

Ningún ser humano puede estar totalmente satisfecho a menos que esté en contacto con la dimensión trascendental. Cuando todo está dicho y hecho, lo único que buscamos es salir de este mundo finito y conectarnos con el infinito. Ser uno con Dios.

¿Qué harías si te dijera: “Tengo un cuarto donde te puedes sentar y hablar con Dios por una hora”? ¿No te apresurarías a tomar esta oportunidad? ¿No sería ésta la máxima experiencia? ¡Sería impresionante!

Todos hemos tenido momentos donde nos hemos impactado con la grandeza de la vida – el nacimiento de un bebé, el observar las estrellas, el observar una tormenta eléctrica. Nos quita el aliento.

Admirar es la experiencia de sentirnos pequeños, sentirnos seres insignificantes frente a algo mucho más grande. Rompemos nuestras propias limitaciones y nos conectamos con la unidad de Dios.

El placer de primera clase es incomparable a cualquier otra experiencia. Nada finito, nada de este mundo se puede comparar con lo infinito.

Actitud de Agradecimiento

Por el máximo placer debemos pagar el máximo precio: agradecimiento.

Todo en este mundo tiene la firma de Dios.

Para poder conectarte con Dios, necesitas aprender todo lo bueno que Dios ha hecho por ti. Esto significa dejar de lado la ilusión de que sólo tú eres el responsable de todos tus logros. Es todo un regalo de Dios. Así como cada pincelada de Picasso tiene su firma, todo en este mundo tiene la firma de Dios. Tenemos que aprender a apreciarlo.

Si haces el esfuerzo de apreciar los regalos que Dios te ha otorgado, entonces tomarás conciencia de la presencia de Dios en todo lo que haces y verás que Él está acompañándote y guiándote con amor. Estarás más feliz que con cualquier otro placer.

De hecho, esta es la meta suprema por la cual el hombre fue creado. Fuimos puestos en la tierra para poder sobreponernos a las ilusiones y para utilizar nuestro libre albedrío para construir una relación con Dios. Dios nos pudo haber hecho robots, pero Él no quiso eso. Él quiere una relación verdadera – es decir, que nosotros debemos elegirla.

¿Por qué la gratitud es una cualidad tan difícil de mantener? Porque el ego del ser humano siempre busca reconocimiento e independencia. Bloqueamos todo concepto de sentirnos en deuda. ¡Preferimos pensar que lo hicimos nosotros!

Otra cuestión falsa de los placeres de primera clase es pensar que otra persona u otra cosa nos está proveyendo nuestras necesidades. Si piensas que tu carrera o tu pareja cubrirá tus necesidades, entonces estás equivocado. Porque todas esas cosas pueden desaparecer. Sólo Dios tiene poder absoluto y es Eterno.

Alcanzando las Estrellas

Imagina el lanzamiento de un cohete. En la primera fase se enciende el cohete y se produce el lanzamiento. En la segunda fase, el cohete perfora la atmósfera a 50 kilómetros por segundo. En la tercera fase, los propulsores del cohete lo sitúan en órbita. En la cuarta fase, el cohete se dirige a una dirección específica. Y finalmente, en la quinta fase aterriza en la luna.

De igual manera sucede con los cinco niveles de placer. El quinto placer es el placer físico, que te da la energía para levantarte. Pero si no llegas al cuarto placer – matrimonio, hijos, amor – entonces plop. Lo que realmente te pone en órbita es el respeto propio, el darle significado a la vida y el hacer un bien al mundo. Pero estando ya en órbita, todavía necesitas la propulsión del segundo placer -el poder- para lanzarte en una dirección específica. Finalmente el último placer es vivir con Dios.

En el judaísmo, el Shabat representa nuestra oportunidad de disfrutar todas las clases de placer en un solo día. Primero, tienes una mesa puesta con manteles blancos, la mejor vajilla de porcelana y cubiertos de plata, flores, unos candelabros brillosos, comida deliciosa y vino. Ese es el placer de quinta clase, el lanzamiento. Después, les das a tus hijos bendiciones, besos y abrazos, mientras se sientan todos alrededor de la mesa sintiendo el calor familiar. Tienes amor – cuarta clase de placer. Si cantas algunas canciones que inspiran y hablas palabras de Torá, entiendes el significado y la profundidad del día, y ya estás en órbita. Si sabes cuáles son tus objetivos de vida, entonces, estás en la segunda clase de placer. Y luego llegas al propósito del día – conexión con Dios.

Conoce por qué vives. Dios nos creó para tener placer. Es muy difícil ser un corredor olímpico, y es todavía más difícil ser un excelente ser humano. Pero no has sido creado para la comodidad. Has sido creado para tener placer. Toma la decisión. ¡Viaja en primera!

Segun tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/e/bj/48421472.html?mobile=yes#at_pco=tst-1.0&at_si=548f70ac26188f67&at_ab=per-2&at_pos=1&at_tot=2 el lunes, 15 de dic. de 2014.