Monthly Archives: April 2020

The Ethic of Holiness

by Rabbi Lord Jonathn Sacks

Kedoshim contains the two great love commands of the Torah. The first is, “Love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). Rabbi Akiva called this “the great principle of the Torah.” The second is no less challenging: “The stranger living among you must be treated as your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34).

These are extraordinary commands. Many civilisations contain variants of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” or in the negative form attributed to Hillel (sometimes called the Silver Rule), “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn.”[1] But these are rules of reciprocity, not love. We observe them because bad things will happen to us if we don’t. They are the basic ground-rules of life in a group.

Love is something altogether different and more demanding. That makes these two commandments a revolution in the moral life. Judaism was the first civilisation to put love at the heart of morality. As Harry Redner puts it in Ethical Life, “Morality is the ethic of love. The initial and most basic principle of morality is clearly stated in the Torah: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” He adds: “The biblical “love of one’s neighbour” is a very special form of love, a unique development of the Judaic religion and unlike any to be encountered outside it.”[2]

Much has been written about these commands. Who exactly is meant by “your neighbour”? Who by “the stranger”? And what is it to love someone else as oneself? I want to ask a different question. Why is it specifically here, in Kedoshim, in a chapter dedicated to the concept of holiness, that the command appears?

Nowhere else in all Tanach are we commanded to love our neighbour. And only in one other place (Deut. 10:19) are we commanded to love the stranger. (The Sages famously said that the Torah commands us thirty-six times to love the stranger, but that is not quite accurate. Thirty-four of those commands have to do with not oppressing or afflicting the stranger and making sure that he or she has the same legal rights as the native born. These are commands of justice rather than love).

And why does the command to love your neighbour as yourself appear in a chapter containing such laws as, “Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”? These are chukim, decrees, usually thought of as commands that have no reason, at any rate none that we can understand. What have they to do with the self-evidently moral commands of the love of neighbour and stranger? Is the chapter simply an assemblage of disconnected commands, or is there a single unifying strand to it?

The answer goes deep. Almost every ethical system ever devised has sought to reduce the moral life to a single principle or perspective. Some connect it to reason, others to emotion, yet others to consequences: do whatever creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Judaism is different. It is more complex and subtle. It contains not one perspective but three. There is the prophetic understanding of morality, the priestly perspective and the wisdom point of view.

Prophetic morality looks at the quality of relationships within a society, between us and God and between us and our fellow humans. Here are some of the key texts that define this morality. God says about Abraham, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right [tzedakah] and just [mishpat].”[3] God tells Hosea, “I will betroth you to Me in righteousness [tzedek] and justice [mishpat], in kindness [chessed] and compassion [rachamim].”[4] He tells Jeremiah, “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness [chessed], justice [mishpat] and righteousness [tzedakah] on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”[5] Those are the key prophetic words: righteousness, justice, kindness and compassion – not love.

When the Prophets talk about love it is about God’s love for Israel and the love we should show for God. With only three exceptions, they do not speak about love in a moral context, that is, vis-à-vis our relationships with one another. The exceptions are Amos’ remark, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15); Micah’s famous statement, “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8) and Zechariah’s “Therefore love truth and peace” (Zech. 8:19). Note that all three are about loving abstractions – good, mercy and truth. They are not about people.

The prophetic voice is about how people conduct themselves in society. Are they faithful to God and to one another? Are they acting honestly, justly, and with due concern for the vulnerable in society? Do the political and religious leaders have integrity? Does society have the high morale that comes from people feeling that it treats its citizens well and calls forth the best in them? A moral society will succeed; an immoral or amoral one will fail. That is the key prophetic insight. The Prophets did not make the demand that people love one another. That was beyond their remit. Society requires justice, not love.

The wisdom voice in Torah and Tanach looks at character and consequence. If you live virtuously, then by and large things will go well for you. A good example is Psalm 1. The person occupied with Torah will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” That is the wisdom voice. Those who do well, fare well. They find happiness (ashrei). Good people love God, family, friends and virtue. But the wisdom literature does not speak of loving your neighbour or the stranger.

The moral vision of the Priest that makes him different from the Prophet and Sage lies in the key word kadosh, “holy.” Someone or something that is holy is set apart, distinctive, different. The Priests were set apart from the rest of the nation. They had no share in the land. They did not work as labourers in the field. Their sphere was the Tabernacle or Temple. They lived at the epicentre of the Divine Presence. As God’s ministers they had to keep themselves pure and avoid any form of defilement. They were holy.

Until now, holiness has been seen as a special attribute of the Priest. But there was a hint at the Giving of the Torah that it concerned not just the children of Aaron but the people as a whole: “You shall be to Me a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Our chapter now spells this out for the first time. “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:1-2). This tells us that the ethic of holiness applies not just to Priests but to the entire nation. We, too, must to be distinctive, set apart, held to a higher standard.

What in practice does this mean? A decisive clue is provided by another key word used throughout Tanach in relation to the Kohen, namely the verb b-d-l: to divide, set apart, separate, distinguish. That is what a Priest does. His task is “to distinguish between the sacred and the secular” (Lev. 10:10), and “to distinguish between the unclean and the clean” (Lev. 11:47). This is what God does for His people: “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have distinguished you [va-avdil] from other peoples to be Mine.” (Lev. 20:26).

There is one other place in which b-d-l is a key word, namely the story of creation in Genesis 1, where it occurs five times. God separates light and dark, day and night, upper and lower waters. For three days God demarcates different domains, then for the next three days He places in each its appropriate objects or life-forms. God fashions order out of the tohu va-vohu of chaos. As His last act of creation, He makes man after His “image and likeness.” This was clearly an act of love. “Beloved is man,” said Rabbi Akiva, “because he was created in [God’s] image.”[6]

Genesis 1 defines the priestly moral imagination. Unlike the Prophet, the Priest is not looking at society. He is not, like the wisdom figure, looking for happiness. He is looking at creation as the work of God. He knows that everything has its place: sacred and profane, permitted and forbidden. It is his task to make these distinctions and teach them to others. He knows that different life forms have their own niche in the environment. That is why the ethic of holiness includes rules like: Don’t mate with different kinds of animals, don’t plant a field with different kinds of seed, and don’t wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

Above all the ethic of holiness tells us that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. God made each of us in love. Therefore, if we seek to imitate God – “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” – we too must love humanity, and not in the abstract but in the concrete form of the neighbour and the stranger. The ethic of holiness is based on the vision of creation-as-God’s-work-of-love. This vision sees all human beings – ourselves, our neighbour and the stranger – as in the image of God, and that is why we are to love our neighbour and the stranger as ourself.

I believe that there is something unique and contemporary about the ethic of holiness. It tells us that morality and ecology are closely related. They are both about creation: about the world as God’s work and humanity as God’s image. The integrity of humanity and the natural environment go together. The natural universe and humanity were both created by God, and we are charged to protect the first and love the second.

Shabbat Shalom

[1] Shabbat 31a.

[2] Harry Redner, Ethical Life: The Past and Present of Ethical Cultures, Roman and Littlefield, 2001, 49-68.

[3] Genesis 18:19.

[4] Hosea 2:19.

[5] Jeremiah 9:23.

[6] Mishnah Avot 3:14.

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Posted by on April 30, 2020 in Uncategorized


Don’t Waste an Economic Meltdown

People Wearing Masks
by Rabbi Michael Lerner

People Wearing Masks

A Strategy to Replace Capitalism

In the height of the largest pandemic the world has known since the plague in 1918, people are struggling to make ends meet, losing their jobs, struggling to pay mortgages and rents, in danger of becoming sick, and experiencing increased hunger. Food banks report being depleted of supply[i], while farmers in Wisconsin and Ohio are dumping and burying eggs, milk, and other produce[ii]. The largest U.S. dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 eggs every week.

Why, when people are in need of food, is food being thrown away? The NYT “neutrally” reports that “many of the nation’s largest farmers are struggling another ghastly effect of the pandemic. They are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell.”[iii]

But who is forcing them? Most farmers would prefer to have their food used to help people who are hungry. The “capitalist system and its profit making imperative, itself enforced by government, media, and economists, are “forcing” farmers to (choose to) destroy the food so many people desperately need rather than give it to food banks and people in need.

Of course, there are many people who go hungry even in “ordinary times,” but the government does not interfere with this element of the capitalist economy. Big agricultural firms fear that government involvement, beyond the huge subsidies it gives them, would undermine their profits. As in so many aspects of daily life in a capitalist society, the hidden element shaping which human needs are met and which are not is this: the assumption that profits must be the foundation for all our economic interactions. The result: something as obvious as having a significant part of “the bailout of 2020” fund delivery systems from farm to food banks for the hungry was woefully not included. While giving $500,000,000,000 (five hundred billion dollars) to the large corporations, and many billions to smaller ones, the government did not require that the money go solely to pay worker wages and only to corporations that at least paid a minimum wage of $15/hr. But unfortunately our government is divided between those whose highest priority is further enriching the rich and those who would wish it could be different but do not have the backbone to stand up and say “no money to anyone unless it is disproportionately distributed to those most in need, including the poor and the homeless” and accompanied by instituting a living wage for all workers and a guaranteed income for every adult living in the U.S.

But the super-rich and powerful resist addressing these needs because funding them would require significant reductions in their wealth. And the rest of us lack the political power to successfully challenge corporate bailouts and demand the support necessary to meet our needs. In addition, the millions already unemployed and many more to come have found no effective way to organize themselves to pressure their governments to act on their behalf. In fact, the corporate insistence on huge profits for their stockholders led to many corporations to close badly needed hospitals around the country because they were not making enough profit. This made it very difficult for many Americans to even get to places where they could be tested or treated for a variety of ailments, most dramatically revealed in the way that those hospitals that remain have been overwhelmed, often without adequate beds or equipment. And without any obvious way to get their government to work on their behalf, many face isolation at home. Many think that all they can do is be cheerful about a grim situation (or pray that they and their friends and family don’t die) while frantically washing their hands, wearing masks, and avoiding anyone who stands too close in the supermarket or pharmacy.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that people only care for themselves, that we are all basically selfish, and that hence we have to just look out for number one. If that is the reality, then the hope of creating a society based on caring instead of on profit would be pointless.

But what we actually see is that there are literally millions of people who are risking their lives as doctors, nurses, hospital workers, bus drivers, supermarket and pharmaceutical workers, farmers and farmworkers, truck drivers, police, firefighters, caregivers, and many others who risk their lives to care for the rest of us who are correctly obeying the call to stay at home. It’s true that some may be driven by the need to make a living to feed their families, a reasonable goal! Yet many have chosen to continue to take the risks because they genuinely care about others. So if we had a society that was based on caring rather than profit, tens of millions of others would feel much better about their lives if they didn’t have to choose between making a living and serving the well-being of everyone else. People actually yearn to have work that serves higher needs than putting more money into the pockets of the super-rich.

For that reason, it is important to acknowledge that there is still a chance in the remaining weeks of social isolation for a mass movement to emerge and last beyond this sad moment. That movement would have staying power if it used Zoom-based conferencing to replace the hope to “get back to business as usual” with a vision of a different kind of society that we could create together.

This vision needs to satisfy both material and psycho/spiritual needs. It is the narrow articulation of human needs limited to material needs that has limited the appeal of the Left. Even when social democratic forces have won power and implemented generous programs to provide money, entitlements and services, the vast majority of people have accepted these goodies but not given much loyalty to those who delivered “objective caring.”

What the socialisms of the past offered was based on a theory of human beings that ignored our hunger for respect, love, generosity, and a sense of higher meaning to our lives. In my research at the Institute for Labor and Mental Health with thousands of middle income working people, exploring stress at work and stress in family life, I learned that many people think of the objective caring delivered by the Left (e.g., social security or even health care benefits) as a kind of insurance program. Just as they are happy to have home and car insurance, they are happy  to have social security and health care insurance, but they don’t feel particularly close to their insurance agents! And when they have to interact with their government that delivers these services, they rarely feel respected or appreciated. Rather, in many instances, the message our government and media sends folks who receive government aid is that they are somehow less than those who have bigger incomes and don’t rely on government subsidies. Yet the truth is that many of the most economically successful have had plenty of help from government (building the infrastructure, creating ways for a significant section of the wealthy to pay a smaller percentage of their income or wealth in taxes than the rest of us, declaring that corporations are really “persons” with the same or greater protections on their wealth than any of the rest of us have and protected their “right” to spend millions to influence the outcome of elections, and actually not working as hard as many in the bottom half of income earners who often have to take frustrating jobs or work more than one job just to barely support their families.

Some recognize that in a society where the top 1% own more wealth in the U.S. than the bottom 80% of wealth holders, that their government insurance programs are really little more than a way of giving as little as possible to most Americans and giving as much as possible to the ultra-wealthy. Others just suspect that there is something missing in what liberal governments offer, so they don’t feel appreciative, particularly when they find that government benefits rarely are enough to deal with their material needs. As a result, just as the New Deal of the 1930s was followed by conservative or neo-liberal regimes in the U.S., the socialists who delivered even more generous objective caring benefits in Europe were eventually voted out of power.

What is needed then is a politics that gives equal attention to fostering a society based on generosity and kindness—the opposite of the capitalist marketplace. To get there, forget about the word “socialism” and instead let’s talk about what I describe in my book Revolutionary Love as ”the Caring Society—Caring  for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.” To achieve that we will need a new bottom line.

In a capitalist society, we judge our institutions to be productive and efficient and rational to the extent that they maximize money and power. In “the Caring Society” a new bottom line would judge our economy, our corporations, our government policies, our legal system, our education system, our cultural systems, and even some of our personal behavior to be rational, productive, and efficient to the extent that they maximize our capacities to be loving and caring, kind and generous, attuned to social, economic and environmental justice for everyone on the planet, committed to overcoming every form of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, responding to each other as intrinsically valuable (or in religious terms, sacred beings) rather than simply valuing them to the extent that they can deliver something to satisfy our personal needs, and responding to the universe and our mother Earth with awe, wonder, and radical amazement, rather than valuing them only to the extent that we can turn them into commodities to sell in the capitalist marketplace.

Of course the caring society would also have material benefits, so I want to affirm the positive contributions made by those who helped create the social support system that does exist and who are righteously fighting to expand it, e.g. in the New Green Deal or the programs promoted by  Bernie Sanders. Yet these campaigns would be far more successful if framed in terms of achieving the Caring Society and the New Bottom Line—speaking to the values that underlie their more narrowly framed specific legislative initiatives. Yes, the need to expand those objective caring programs is particularly urgent now, but that can only happen when we start reframing those efforts in terms of achieving the caring society, treating people with respect even when they do not yet agree with our vision, affirming rather than dissing their religious commitments (even when we disagree with some of what those religions teach), and including in our discourse the need for a life connected to higher meaning than profits.

And, the caring society must be visionary in what we ask for even in regard to “objective caring”. This should include, among other things, a living wage for everyone, 28-hour workweek over 4 days (leaving more time to be with friends and family and to be in nature), guaranteed paid sick leave, canceling student and medical debts and debts of the poorest countries of the world, universal health/child/elder care, free education through graduate or professional schools, 6 week guaranteed vacation, universal replacement of fossil fuels with environmentally friendly sources of energy, among other things.

This approach will be received more successfully if liberals, progressives, and caring people of every sort prioritize what I call “subjective caring.” We need to teach that people would easily be won to caring for others if society stopped rewarding selfishness. Eventually, caring behavior would become the norm at work and at play. Caring at work might well slow down the pace of what we consider traditional ‘production’, which would be good for the future of the planet and a contribution to making work more pleasurable. If the goal of production was no longer profits for the top 10% of income earners, we could still produce enough of life’s basic necessities to have enough for everyone, though we wouldn’t have new versions of our cell phone or computers every year, or new flashy cars. The pace of life will slow down. For those who love the intensity of challenges, there will still be plenty of challenges for them to tackle. The big challenge will be creating enough global solidarity that people can work together to save the earth from the environmental catastrophe predicted by environmental scientists that will make the current pandemic look like a minor problem.

We are at a crossroads. Right now, while ordered to remain in our homes till the pandemic crisis is over, you and I could begin the process to build a movement for a caring society. Otherwise we will soon find ourselves returning to “life as usual” and ignoring all the warnings we are being given that a far greater environmental danger to life on earth is developing less dramatically but even more destructive unless we change how and what we are doing to our planet. While champions of the capitalist marketplace in our major political parties lead them to accept the notion that “success” equals endless growth,  producing more and more things, the Caring Society will see success in creating work and leisure that are serving the best interests of all humanity, the animals, and the survival of the life-support of Earth.

But how would it be possible to build a movement for a fundamentally different kind of world? There is something that each of us can do right now while so many of us are bound to our homes.

A first step is to invite everyone you know to engage in imagining a world they would really want if profit was no longer the bottom line. Ask them to share their vision and this new bottom line with everyone they know, and then to create large group discussions on social media and “face-to-face” on Zoom-like video platforms. Invite them to read with you my book Revolutionary Love: a Political Strategy to Heal and Transform the World. Go to to read why this book has been endorsed by Cornel West (professor of African American Studies at Harvard), Gloria Steinem (founding editor of Ms. Magazine), Keith Ellison (Attorney General of the State of Minnesota and the first African American to have been the vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus), Medea Benjamin (co-founder of Code Pink), Riane Eisler, Dean Ornish, Walter Brueggemann, Henry Giroux, Ariel Dorfman, and many others! (You can purchase the book there as well.) This is not some new agey “lets change ourselves first and then we’ll change the society” (a position I  show to be deeply flawed) but rather a tough minded strategy to actually build a different world. But it starts by changing the liberals and the Left so that they stop alienating the very people who they need to win over (for example by dissing all whites or all men or acting as though anyone into religion must be on a lower level of psychological or intellectual development than those who reject all forms of religion and dismiss all spirituality as nonsense). And what you can also do is invite people to an online book group discussion of Revolutionary Love, working thru your own and others’ resistances, and allowing yourself to really become advocates for a different world.

Every day we can read on social media or even sometimes on the corporate-dominated media stories of people showing caring during this pandemic. There are tens of millions of people in our society who would love to live in a world that valued generosity and caring. They just don’t believe it is possible—until you tell them that you are part of a movement that intends to build such a society. This is the kind of organizing that could lead to the birth of a non-violent revolutionary movement far more radical than we have seen, in part because it validates not only the legitimate material desires of socialist programs, but also the psychological, spiritual, and higher-meaning-to-life desires of many who have turned away from the one dimensional Left. And it can all happen right now. You can start the process with your own friends and contacts. And you can also take a training with Cat Zavis that will help you develop some of the skills you may need to talk to people who will at first dismiss your ideas because they themselves are fearful of allowing themselves to feel how unhappy they are with the world of money and power-over others.

This is one way to not, once again, miss the opportunity presented by the economic meltdown we are all facing.

Unrealistic? Yes, in the same way that the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the movement for GLBTQ rights were seen as unrealistic in the first few decades that they were being articulated. What I have learned is that you never really know what is or is not possible until you spend decades of your life fighting for what is desirable. So my advice: “don’t be realistic.” Instead make use of this very time of plague to create a new hopefulness that could change the world that will otherwise present itself as the only possible world – a world in which people will return to patterns and pathologies of the capitalist society, such as depression, hate of others, suicide, addictions, etc.

This is both the challenge and opportunity created by the current economic meltdown, and it will persist even when the media and government try to hide the ongoing suffering of so many who will be left behind by any “bail out stage 2 or 3 or 4” that the government is likely to provide. And this is the biggest spiritual and ethical opportunity of our time, and if we don’t take it, confine our focus to immediate (and very important) forms of societal repair of the worst suffering, but without a strategy to change the institutions and class and patriarchal practices that have caused so much suffering (including by failing to address human needs and give them priority over profit for the few, we will likely look back at this moment with deep regret. You and I can change that. The first step is to share this with everyone you can possibly reach.

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Posted by on April 29, 2020 in Uncategorized


La falta de gratitud aleja más que el distanciamiento físico y la cuarentena

Recuerda Dar Gracias — ICP Orlando
por Becky Krinsky

Cuando las relaciones personales son limitadas, el ser cortés y detallista se convierte en una prioridad para mantener el buen ánimo y la paz mental.

Dar las gracias y agradecer con sinceridad hasta los detalles más insignificantes, es quizás uno de los ingredientes más importantes para mantener la paz en cualquier relación. Sobre todo en tiempos inestables donde se requiere más sensibilidad y buen trato que en tiempos normales.

Hay muchas personas que asumen que no tienen que dar las gracias, ya que cada uno hace lo que le toca y no hay razón para estar agradeciendo todo el día y por todo. Creen que agradecer por cada cosa es ser cursis, melosos y repetitivos. O bien piensan no hay razón para agradecer el esfuerzo y sus atenciones, ya que es obvio que saben cuánto los aprecian.

La realidad es que en tiempos de crisis o en momentos triviales, dar las gracias es la llave que abre el corazón y aligera la carga del alma. Todas las personas necesitan afecto y ser reconocidas.

Dar las gracias es reconocer las acciones, el esfuerzo, las atenciones y el tiempo de las personas que han hecho algo por otros. No importa si parece una acción ordinaria o una cuestión sorprendente, agradecer es importante y esencial para tener una relación saludable.

Ahora más que nunca el agradecer es una acción importantísima. Decir “gracias” no es solo una expresión. Esta palabra mantiene el ánimo en un lugar sano y ayuda a sentir que lo que uno hace tiene valor.

Cuando uno está distanciado del mundo y sólo vive con su pareja, hijos o algún colega o familiar, el agradecer, ser noble y cortés puede ser la única forma de crear un ambiente amable y positivo.

La cuarentena se puede convertir en un infierno cuando las personas se sienten ignoradas, se les toma por sentado o no se les agradece por lo que hacen. 

En tiempos normales uno tiene muchas interacciones con diversas personas, sale de un lugar para entrar a otro, así que el reconocimiento quizá no está centralizado, por las distintas oportunidades que hay para recibir el reconocimiento y la validación necesaria.

Pero cuando las interacciones son limitadas y las personas se encuentran distanciadas, decir gracias es vital para todos.

El que dice gracias, reconoce las atenciones y el esfuerzo de la otra persona, al agradecer se siente bien que lo han atendido y han hecho algo por él. Por el otro lado, la persona que recibe el elogio se siente valorada, reconocida y querida.

No es cuestión de autoestima ni de egocentrismo, es cuestión de apreciar y reconocer el esfuerzo y el trabajo de los demás.

Si no has agradecido recientemente a las personas que tienes cerca, ahora es un buen momento para hacerlo.

La receta: Saber decir GRACIAS


  • Atención – estar pendiente de las acciones positivas de los demás y agradecerlas
  • Sinceridad – expresarse con honestidad para que el agradecimiento se reciba de corazón
  • Prontitud – expresar la gratitud en el momento que se recibe la acción
  • Satisfacción – compartir el sentimiento de bienestar con gusto y felicidad
  • Valor – sobreponerse a la pena o a la incomodidad de agradecer y hacerlo

Afirmación Positiva para decir “gracias”:

Reconozco y agradezco todas las pequeñas acciones que otros tienen para conmigo. Aunque sea su obligación o responsabilidad, de igual forma son acciones buenas que valido y agradezco con gusto y sinceridad. Al agradecer hago sentir bien a la persona que me dedicó su tiempo, y su esfuerzo. Agradecer me hace sentir bien y nutre mis relaciones.

Por qué es bueno decir gracias:

  1. Decir gracias nos conecta con las personas y da sentido a lo que hacemos. Al agradecer reconocemos que las cosas no se hacen, ni llegan solas. Se reconoce el esfuerzo y el tiempo de los otros y mejora la calidad de las relaciones personales.
  2. Los pequeños detalles dan grandes razones para poder vivir agradecido. El sentimiento de satisfacción continuo se nutre diariamente cuando uno es capáz.
  3. Toda persona necesita sentirse querida y apreciada. Cuando hay un balance reciproco entre el que realiza la acción y el que la recibe, se reconoce el aprecio y las atenciones que se tienen ambos. Así, su relación se nutre y se rompe cualquier tensión que en el camino se pudiera haber creado.

“La persona que dice gracias, siempre vive feliz, agradecida y encuentra más razones para seguir agradeciendo”.

Según tomado de,

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Posted by on April 27, 2020 in Uncategorized


The Survivors’ Talmud: When the US Army Printed the Talmud

The "Survivors' Talmud" and the Obligation to Remember - Jewish Action
The title page of Masechet Bechorot from the “Survivors’ Talmud.”

by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

With the help of the US Army, Jewish Holocaust survivors printed copies of the Talmud.

As World War II drew to a close in 1945, survivors of the Nazi death camps tried to rebuild their shattered lives in Displaced Person (DP) camps, many of which were housed in the very concentration camps in which Nazis had recently tortured and murdered Jews and others.

On September 29, over three months after the end of the war in Europe, US President Harry S. Truman wrote a scathing letter to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in charge of American troops in occupied Germany, describing the horrific conditions that Jews were still living in. Pres. Truman quoted from a report on the conditions in the DP camps that he’d commissioned: “As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them. They are in concentration camps in large numbers under our military guard instead of S.S. troops. One is led to wonder whether the German people, seeing this, are not supposing that we are following or at least condoning Nazi policy.”

Truman argued that “we have a particular responsibility toward these victims of persecution and tyranny who are in our zone. We must make clear to the German people that we thoroughly abhor the Nazi policies of hatred and persecution. We have no better opportunity to demonstrate this than by the manner in which we ourselves actually treat the survivors remaining in Germany.”

With American support, Jewish life slowly began to return to the camps. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee moved into many DP camps and helped distribute food and medical supplies. They also helped set up Jewish schools in the camps, aided at times by the American army and also by some remarkable rabbis who’d survived the Holocaust and were determined now to rebuild Jewish life.

One huge problem prevented the resumption of Jewish education and religious services: while the Nazis murdered as many Jews as possible and tried to wipe out Jewish existence, they also destroyed countless Jewish books, Torah scrolls and other ritual objects. Allied officials were able to find some Jewish prayer books in Nazi warehouses, but the ragged Jewish survivors in DP camps still lacked many basic Jewish books and supplies.

One leader who stepped in to help was Rabbi Avrohom Kalmanowitz. Born in Russia, Rabbi Kalmanowitz was head of the renowned Mir Yeshiva, one of the greatest yeshivas in the world. In 1939, with war looming, Rabbi Kalmanowitz decided to relocate his famous school from Lithuania to Kobe, in Japan.He set out to bring 575 members of the school, but soon found himself leading nearly 3,000 Jews who were desperate to escape Nazi Europe. He led this group, which included many sick and elderly Jews, across Russia and Siberia and onto Japan. For much of the journey, stronger members of the group would carry those who couldn’t walk on their backs.

After Japan attacked the United States, Rabbi Kalmanowitz moved his yeshiva once more, to Shanghai. There he improvised printing presses using stones and managed to publish 38,000 Jewish books. “While Hitler was burning books and bodies,” Rabbi Kalmanowitz later recalled, “the men of Mirrer (the Mir Yeshiva) who had traveled 16,000 miles from Lithuania to Shanghai were using stones for printing presses to keep the light of learning alive.” After the end of the war, Rabbi Kalmanowitz returned to Europe, and once more championed the printing of Jewish books and preservation of Jewish life.

Mirrer Yeshiva in Shanghai

Rabbi Kalmanowitz was a leading figure in the Agudat Harabbanim and the Vaad Hatzalah. He cultivated contacts with American military officials and oversaw the printing of Jewish prayer books, Passover Haggadahs, copies of the Megillah of Esther for Purim, and even some volumes of the Talmud. “Rabbi Kalmanowitz is a patient and appreciative old patriarch,” Gen. John Hilldring, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas, wrote to a colleague. “I can think of no assistance I gave anyone in Washington…that gave me more satisfaction than the very little help I gave the old rabbi.” Rabbi Kalmanowitz requested resources to print even more Jewish books but was told that with the acute shortage of paper in Germany, more ambitious plans to print Jewish books was impossible.

Seeing Rabbi Kalmanowitz’s success in printing some Jewish books and even some volumes of the Talmud, another Jewish leader in Europe at the time began to dream of an even more ambitious project. The chief rabbi of the US Zone in Europe was Rabbi Samuel Abba Snieg. He was a commanding figure. Before he was captured by the Nazis he was a chaplain in the Lithuanian army. He was sent to the Jewish Ghetto in Slabodka, a town near Kovno in Lithuania which was renowned as a center of Jewish intellectual life. From there, Rabbi Snieg was sent to the notorious Dachau concentration camp. He survived, and after being liberated dedicated his life to rebuilding Jewish life. He was assisted by Rabbi Samuel Jakob Rose, a young man who’d studied at the famous Slabodka Yeshiva before the Holocaust. They resolved to approach the US military for help in printing copies of the Talmud – the first volumes of the Talmud to be printed in Europe since the Holocaust.

Rabbi Samuel Jakob Rose, a survivor of Dachau, examines the galleys of the first postwar edition of the Talmud to be printed in Germany. Photo taken ca. 1947. Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via the National Archives and Records Administration, College Park

A set of Talmud – called “Shas” – is made up of 63 tractates, comprising 2711 double-sided pages. For millennia, its many volumes have been studied day and night by Jews around the world. Printing a complete set of the Talmud would send a powerful message that Jewish life was possible once again.

Whom to ask for help? General Joseph McNarney was the commander of American forces in Europe. The rabbis wondered if there might be a way to reach him with their request, and decided to approach his advisor for Jewish affairs, an American Reform rabbi from New York named Philip S. Bernstein.

Rabbi Bernstein came from a very different background from the black-hatted Orthodox rabbis laboring in the DP camps. On the surface, perhaps, the men looked very different. But Rabbi Bernstein’s mother had come from Lithuania and he had a deep attachment to Jewish life and was open to requests for help in rebuilding Jewish education in the DP camps. Rabbi Snieg and Rabbi Rose explained their proposal to print whole sets of the Talmud on German soil, and Rabbi Bernstein became an enthusiastic supporter of the plan.

Title page of Masechet Nedarim

They arranged a meeting with Gen. McNarney in Frankfurt where they asked if the US army would lend “the tools for the perpetuation of religion, for the students who crave these texts…” Gen McNarney realized that printing sets of the Talmud would be a powerful symbol of the triumph of Jewish life – supported by American forces – in the lands where it had so nearly been wiped out. On September 11, 1946, he signed an agreement with the American Joint Distribution Committee and Rabbinical Council of the US Zone in Germany to print fifty copies of the Talmud, packaged into 16 volume sets. It would be the first time in history that an army agreed to print copies of this core Jewish text. The project became known as the Survivors’ Talmud.

The team immediately ran into obstacles. First, it was impossible to find a set of Shas (the entire Talmud) anywhere in the US Zone of former Nazi lands. “Every Jew in Poland was ordered, upon pain of death, to carry to the Nazi bonfires and personally consign to the flames his copy of the Talmud,” one testimony recorded. In the end, a member of the American Joint Distribution Committee brought two complete sets of the Talmud from New York.

The title page of Masechet Bechorot from the “Survivors’ Talmud.” Courtesy of Yeshiva University, Mendel Gottesman Library

Even though the US Army had agreed to print the volumes, some officials objected to the expense. The timeframe and scope of the project kept changing. Then there was the sheer labor involved in printing what eventually became nineteen-volume sets of the Talmud: each copy needed 1,800 zinc plates which had to be painstakingly set and proofread. The project began in 1947 and was finally completed in late 1950. “…we are Gott sie Dank (Thank God) packing the Talmud” an American Joint Distribution Committee employee wrote in November, when they began distributing the Talmud. The Joint paid for additional sets of the Talmud to be printed; in the end, about 3,000 volumes were made. These were then shipped all over the world wherever Holocaust survivors from the the DP camps were settling. The Survivor’s Talmud made its way to New York, Antwerp, Paris, Algeria, Italy, Hungary, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Greece, Yugoslavia, Norway, Sweden, and Israel.

From the outside, these sets of the Survivors’ Talmud looked like any other set of Shas. Their special origin is only visible on the title page, which shows a picture of the Land of Israel as well as a concentration camp surrounded by a barbed wire fence, with the words “From bondage to freedom, from darkness to a great light.” Below is this touching dedication:

“This edition of the Talmud is dedicated to the United States Army. The Army played a major role in the rescue of the Jewish people from total annihilation, and their defeat of Hitler bore the major burden of sustaining the DPs of the Jewish faith. This special edition of the Talmud, published in the very land where, but a short time ago, everything Jewish and of Jewish inspiration was anathema, will remain a symbol of the indestructibility of the Torah. The Jewish DPs will never forget the generous impulses and the unprecedented humanitarianism of the American Forces, to whom they owe so much.”

Some individual owners of this remarkable set of Talmud wrote their own dedications as well. One rabbi of a small town in Israel near Jerusalem recalled how he lost his wife and children when they were murdered in the Holocaust. Living in Israel, he spent his days studying from his Survivors’ Talmud. On the first page he hand-wrote his own dedication as well, which surely was the hope of many other survivors who studied this remarkable Survivors’ Talmud as well:

“May it be Thy will that I be privileged to dwell quietly in the land; to study the holy Torah amid contentment of mind, peace, and security for the rest of my days; that I may learn, teach, heed, do and fulfill in love all the words of Thy Love. May I yet be remembered for salvation for the sake of my parents who sanctified Thy name when living and when led to their martyr’s eath. May their blood be avenged! May I merit to witness soon the final redemption of Israel. Amen.”

This was the prayer of so many of the Jews who helped print and then studied the Survivor’s Talmud. This remarkable undertaking was a way of declaring that no matter how terrible circumstances became, Jews would always find a way to return to the Jewish texts that have always sustained us.

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Posted by on April 20, 2020 in Uncategorized


The Ancient Origin of anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories Blaming Jews for Plagues

by Ofri Ilany

Ancient Egypt may have had its own version of the Exodus story. It begins with a plague.

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Municipal workers disinfecting the area around the pyramids in Giza, last month.

About 3,350 years ago, an epidemic swept through pharaonic Egypt. From southern Syria, the outbreak spread rapidly southward into the land of Canaan, ravaging Megiddo and other towns in the land. At the same time, it pushed eastward and northward from Syria. It was probably tularemia (rabbit fever), a contagious disease that can cause skin ulcers, deformities, high fever and, ultimately, in some cases, deadly pneumonia.

For a few years, the Kingdom of Egypt, the most powerful empire in the region in the 14th century B.C.E., protected itself against the epidemic by closing its borders. Testimony to this is found in a missive sent by the governor of an Egyptian city: “The people of Sumur cannot come into my city; there is a plague in Sumur.”

Trade between Egypt and the kingdoms to the north was halted for more than two decades. Because the epidemic arrived from the north, the Egyptians called it the “Canaanite disease,” or the “Asian disease.” It decimated the Hittite Empire and claimed the lives of two of its kings, in succession. But finally it penetrated Egypt as well and wrought havoc in the kingdom.

The German Egyptologist Jan Assmann believes that the epidemic – the most devastating one, he says, to hit the ancient world – constituted an unprecedented trauma for the Egyptians. In their collective memory, the shock it caused fused with political and religious developments of the period and spawned legends that have persisted for millennia. At the center of one of those legends was a story that’s familiar to us: the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

The connection between Jews and plagues has continuously preoccupied European culture, through the Middle Ages and into modernity. Even now, as Israel’s Foreign Ministry warned recently, there is concern about a possible wave of anti-Semitism arising in the United States, in which Jews will be accused of being responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus. It emerges, however, that the roots of that association likely date to the dawn of history.

Assmann, in his 1998 book “Moses the Egyptian,” theorizes that ancient Egypt had its own version of the Exodus story. It is difficult to reconstruct, but has left an imprint on certain Egyptian traditions. Moreover, it may also be instructive regarding the emergence of the biblical narrative.

The earliest known account of the Egyptian Exodus from a nonbiblical source was recorded by the historian Hecataeus of Abdera, who lived in Egypt in the fourth century B.C.E. His version of the story contains elements that recall the biblical account, which dates to several hundred years before that, but also some that are not familiar to us. One of them is the fact – in his version – that the whole narrative begins with a plague.

According to Hecataeus, in ancient times, a lethal plague struck Egypt, and the ordinary folk blamed it on foreigners living in their midst, who had ostensibly angered the local gods. Accordingly, they decided that the foreigners must be expelled from Egypt. One group of foreigners ended up in Greece, while a larger number arrived in a land then known as Judah. That group was led by a person named Moses, who, after he and his people seized control of the land, founded a number of cities – among them Jerusalem.

Hectaeus is not alone in associating the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt with a plague. Other evidence, more hostile to the Hebrews, appears in the writings of the Egyptian priest Manetho, who lived in the third century B.C.E. It is his account of the Exodus that is cited by Jewish historian Josephus Flavius. Manetho tells of Pharaoh Amenhotep, who, under the influence of a peculiar prophet, decided to purify Egypt of lepers and individuals with deformities.

Amenhotep sent the lepers to the stone quarries in eastern Egypt, where he brutally enslaved them. The lepers decided to rise up against the pharaoh and chose as their leader a leprous Egyptian priest named Osarsiph from the city of Heliopolis. Osarsiph gave them laws that required them to desist from idol worship and ordered them to burn down the Egyptian temples and slaughter their sacred animals. Finally, Manetho notes that Osarsiph changed his name when he became the lepers’ leader – choosing for himself the moniker of Moses.

Few modern historians accept Manetho’s account at face value. However, the recurrence of the plague motif is noteworthy, and it appears that he did not totally invent it. For one, Assmann points out that the biblical account of the 10 Plagues inflicted on Egypt include a medical affliction, and also an apparent physical separation of the Israelites and the Egyptians at the time of the plague, which is the source of the name “Pesah” (“Passover”). In both narratives there is a component of separation of the pure from the sick. According to Assmann, the Hebrews’ story might be a different version of these events as remembered in the tradition of Canaan – namely a mirror image of the Egyptian tale.

Can we infer from this that a connection exists between the historical epidemic and a certain event in antiquity that morphed into the story of the Exodus from Egypt? Hecataeus and Manetho, it should be noted, lived about 1,000 years after the actual tularemia epidemic and in a completely different political reality. Nevertheless, Assmann observes, it can be surmised that they were drawing upon an ancient Egyptian tradition originating in an epidemic and related events. For the fact is that a religious revolution did take place around the same time as the epidemic raged.

Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled in the 14th century B.C.E., banned idol worship and introduced something akin to monotheistic worship. Akhenaten is credited with fomenting the first monotheistic revolution in history, but what is less well known is that this occurred against the background of an epidemic. Akhenaten is known to have moved the capital of Egypt, from Thebes to Amarna, in the western desert, but Egyptologist Hans Goedicke suggests that the reason for this was not religious ideology, but simply an attempt to create a quarantine zone that would offer protection from infection.

From the dawn of history to the present day, plagues have been perceived as divine punishment for human sins. Some Egyptologists think that the phenomenon was interpreted in ancient Egypt as punishment imposed by the gods because Akhenaten closed the temples and prohibited the worship of those gods. In Assmann’s view, the Israelites were associated after the fact in the Egyptian collective memory with the banning of the traditional religion. The repressed memory of the disorder that occurred in Akhenaten’s time was linked to the Hebrews.

Unlike Assmann, other historians are skeptical about the possibility that the events of Akhenaten’s revolution were preserved in the collective memory for such a lengthy period and then reemerged. Historian David Nirenberg maintains, in his book “Anti-Judaism,” that Manetho the priest mixed together different motifs from Egyptian history and fused them into a single narrative about the origins of the Israelites. In any event, this was the origin of a potentially dangerous connection: between Jews, monotheism and the spread of diseases.

The concept of the Jews carrying plagues gained currency across the ancient world. In the Roman world, for example, they were depicted as enemies of the gods, haters of humanity and carriers of diseases. So effective did these allegations turn out to be, according to Nirenberg, that they continue to underlie anti-Jewish ideologies until today.

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Posted by on April 18, 2020 in Uncategorized



by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

There is an order to the universe and we must respect it.

The story of Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons who died on the day the Sanctuary was dedicated, is one of the most tragic in the Torah. It is referred to on no less than four separate occasions. It turned a day that should have been a national celebration into one of deep grief. Aaron, bereaved, could not speak. A sense of mourning fell over the camp and the people. God had told Moshe that it was dangerous to have the Divine Presence within the camp (Ex. 33:3), but even Moshe could not have guessed that something as serious as this could happen. What did Nadav and Avihu do wrong?

An exceptionally broad range of interpretations have been given by the Sages. Some say that they aspired to lead the people and were impatiently waiting for Moses and Aaron to die. Others say that their sin was that they never married, considering all women to be unworthy of them. Others attribute their sin to intoxication. Others again say that they did not seek guidance as to what they should do and what they were not permitted to do on this day. Yet another explanation is that they entered the Holy of Holies, which only the High Priest was permitted to do.

The simplest explanation, though, is the one given explicitly in the text. They offered “strange fire that was not commanded.” Why should they have done such a thing? And why was it so serious an error?

The explanation that makes most sense psychologically is that they were carried away by the mood of the moment. They acted in a kind of ecstasy. They were caught up by the sheer excitement of the inauguration of the first collective house of worship in the history of Avraham’s children. Their behaviour was spontaneous. They wanted to do something extra, uncommanded, to express their religious fervour.

The difference was that Moshe was a prophet. David was a king. But Nadav and Avihu were priests. Prophets and kings sometimes act spontaneously, because they both inhabit the world of time. To fulfill their functions, they need a sense of history. They develop an intuitive grasp of time. They understand the mood of the moment, and what it calls for. For them, today is not yesterday, and tomorrow will be different again. That leads them, from time to time, to act spontaneously because that is what the moment requires.

Moshe knew that only something as dramatic as shattering the tablets would bring the people to their senses and convey to them how grave was their sin. David knew that dancing alongside the Ark would express to the people a sense of the significance of what was happening, that Jerusalem was about to become not just the political capital but also the spiritual centre of the nation. These acts of precisely judged spontaneity were essential in shaping the destiny of the people.

But priests have a different role altogether. They inhabit a world that is timeless, ahistorical, in which nothing significant changes. The daily, weekly and yearly sacrifices were always the same. Every element of the service of the Tabernacle was bounded by its own detailed rules, and nothing of significance was left to the discretion of the priest.

The priest was the guardian of order. It was his job to maintain boundaries, between sacred and secular, pure and impure, perfect and blemished, permitted and forbidden. His domain was that of the holy, the points at which the infinite and eternal enter the world of the finite and mortal. As God tells Aaron in our parsha: “You must distinguish between the sacred and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean; and you must teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to them through Moses.” The key verbs for the cohen were lehavdil, to distinguish, and lehorot, to teach. The cohen made distinctions and taught the people to do likewise.

The priestly vocation was to remind the people that there are limits. There is an order to the universe and we must respect it. Spontaneity has no place in the life of the priest or the service of the Sanctuary. That is what Nadav and Avihu failed to honour. It might have seemed like a minor transgression but it was in fact a negation of everything the Tabernacle and the priesthood stood for.

There are limits. That is what the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is about. Why would God go to the trouble of creating two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, from which human beings are forbidden to eat? Why tell the humans what the trees were and what their fruit could do? Why expose them to temptation? Who would not wish to have knowledge and eternal life if they could acquire them by merely eating a fruit? Why plant these trees in a garden where the humans could not but help see them? Why put Adam and Eve to a test they were unlikely to pass?

To teach them, and us, that even in Eden, Utopia, Paradise, there are limits. There are certain things we can do, and would like to do, that we must not do.

The classic example is the environment. As Jared Diamond has documented in his books, Guns, Germs and Steel, and Collapse, almost wherever human beings have set foot, they have left a trail of destruction in their wake. They have farmed lands to exhaustion and hunted animals to extinction. They have done so because they have not had, embedded in their minds and habits, the notion of limits. Hence the concept, key to environmental ethics, of sustainability, meaning limiting your exploitation of the Earth’s resources to the point where they can renew themselves. A failure to observe those limits causes human beings to be exiled from their own garden of Eden.

We have been aware of threats to the environment and the dangers of climate change for a long time, certainly since the 1970s. Yet the measures humanity has taken to establish limits to consumption, pollution, the destruction of habitats and the like have, for the most part, been too little, too late. A 2019 BBC survey of moral attitudes in Britain showed that despite the fact that a majority of people felt responsibility for the future of the planet, that did not translate into action. 71 percent of people thought that it is acceptable to drive when it would be just as easy to walk. 65 percent of people thought it acceptable to use disposable cutlery and plates.1

In The True and Only Heaven, Christopher Lasch argued that the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment endowed us with the belief that there are no limits, that science and technology will solve every problem they create and the earth will continue indefinitely to yield its bounty. “Progressive optimism rests, at bottom, on a denial of the natural limits on human power and freedom, and it cannot survive for very long in a world in which an awareness of those limits has become inescapable.”2 Forget limits and eventually we lose paradise. That is what the story of Adam and Eve warns.

In a remarkable passage in his 1976 book on inflation, The Reigning Error, William Rees-Mogg waxed eloquent about the role of Jewish law in securing Jewish survival. It did so by containing the energies of the people – Jews are, he said, “a people of an electric energy, both of personality and of mind.” Nuclear energy, he says, is immensely powerful but at the same time needs to be contained. He then says this:

In the same way, the energy of the Jewish people has been enclosed in a different type of container, the law. That has acted as a bottle inside which the spiritual and intellectual energy could be held; only because it could be held has it been possible to make use of it. It has not merely exploded or been dispersed; it has been harnessed as a continuous power … Contained energy can be a driving force over an indefinite period; uncontrolled energy is merely a big and usually destructive bang. In human nature only disciplined energy is effective.3

That was the role of the cohen, and it is the continuing role of halachah. Both are expressions of limits: rules, laws and distinctions. Without limits, civilisations can be as thrilling and short-lived as fireworks. To survive they need to find a way of containing energy so that it lasts, undiminished. That was the priest’s role and what Nadav and Avihu betrayed by introducing spontaneity where it does not belong. As Rees-Mogg said, “uncontrolled energy is merely a big and usually destructive bang.”

I believe that we need to recover a sense of limits because, in our uncontrolled search for ever greater affluence, we are endangering the future of the planet and betraying our responsibility to generations not yet born. There are such things as fruit we should not eat and fire we should not bring.


2. Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics, WW Norton, 1991, 530.
3. William Rees-Mogg, The Reigning Error: The Crisis of World Inflation, Hamish Hamilton, 1974, 12.

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Posted by on April 16, 2020 in Uncategorized


Azazel: What the Hell Does It Mean?

Muflon evropský (With images) | North american animals, Animals ...

By Elon Gilad

Israelis use this word all the time but have no idea that it’s a name of an ancient desert goat-demon worshiped by their ancestors.

It appears in phrases like le’azazel eem zeh which translates to “the hell with it” and lekh le’azazel which translates as to “go to hell” – but azazel doesn’t actually mean hell. There’s also sa’ir le’azazel, which means scapegoat, but azazel doesn’t mean scape either. It is a very mysterious word indeed.

It first appears in Hebrew texts in the Book of Leviticus as a part of the Temple worship on Yom Kippur. Among the many rituals the High Priest had to officiate on this holy day was a lottery among two goats. One was designated to God and the other to Azazel. The goat designated to God was immediately taken to the altar and slaughtered, and its blood splattered in the Holy of Holies.

The goat designated to “Azazel” had a different destiny.

A specially-appointed man, usually a priest, would take the hapless beast on a 12-km walk east to the Judean Desert, accompanied by the city’s dignitaries. En route they would stop at 10 specially erected booths, in which food and drink was offered and rejected.

The last leg of the journey was made by just the priest and the goat, until they reached the edge of a cliff. The priest would turn his back to the valley below, hoist the goat and toss it down. The goat would tumble down the hill, smashing on the sharp rocks as it fell, and dying by the time it reached the bottom.

The meaning of the name Azazel puzzled the ancients. The Talmud said it was the place from which the goat was hurled, while the Greek translators of the Septuagint avoided the issue, translating it as the “the goat set free.”

Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164) saw past this, but didn’t explain its meaning explicitly, only giving a hint: “And if you could understand the secret of the word Azazel you will know its secret and its secret and the secret of its name as it has friends in the Bible, and I will reveal to you a bit of the secret with a hint: When you turn 33 you will know it.”

If you are bewildered by this, you aren’t alone. Luckily, Nahmanides (1194-1270) provided the answer: If you count 33 verses from the verse in Leviticus where Azazel is first mentioned (16:8), you reach a verse that reads “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.” (17:7) Nahmanides explains: “And this is the secret of the issue, that they worshipped other gods, they the messengers sacrificed to them.”

Mount Azazel in the Judean Desert, from which the goat was pushed to its death.Wikimedia Commons

The rabbi went on to explain that this wasn’t idolatry, since “the scapegoat wasn’t a sacrifice from us to him, God forbid, but rather we did what our God commanded us to do, like when holding a banquet and the master orders that the person holding the meal serve his slave.”

So who is this demon worshiped by the ancient Israelites? Well, originally he was named Azaz’el, with the letters alef and zain swapped in order to hide the ending “el,” which means god. The original non-obfuscated name appears in the Samaritan Bible and also in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We learn more about Azazel from the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch, where it says :“And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.” (8:1-3)

The first reference to the use of the phrase Lekh le’azazel is in the book Khavat Yair by Rabbi Yair Chayim Bacharach (1701-1638). Bacharach writes of a mother who hit her son and said “Go to Azazel in the desert!” The phrase gained popularity among the users of Hebrew. It appears twice in the novel Ayit Tzavua (1858) by Abraham Mapu, the first Hebrew novelist.

The phrase reached the apex of its popularity in the early 20th century. One day in 1927, the poet Haim Nahman Bialik and his friend the publisher Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky were walking on a Tel Aviv street talking in Yiddish with one another. Aharon Nachmani, a young and zealous member of the Battalion for the Defense of the Language, a group dedicated to policing the exclusive use of Hebrew among Palestine Jews, approached Bialik and shouted “Bialik, speak Hebrew!” to which the annoyed Bialik responded, “Lekh le’azazel!”

This could have been the end of the story, but Nachmani went to court and sued Bialik for insulting him.

In his defense, Bialik wrote: “It is possible that the word is a bit harsh according to its regular use in the marketplace, but according to its accurate and real meaning, it is a name of a mountain in the desert, not far from Jerusalem a two-three hour walk in the Judean Desert. And this place, in my opinion, is pretty dignified place for that man to take a walk in.” Nachmani withdrew his lawsuit and was charged 180 prutot in court fees.

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Posted by on April 10, 2020 in Uncategorized


Antonio Piñero: «Los judíos tuvieron poco que ver con la muerte de Jesús»

Antonio Piñero: «Los judíos tuvieron poco que ver con la muerte de ...
Expulsión de los judíos del Templo, por Carl Heinrich Bloch

Antonio Piñero (Chipiona, 1941) es uno de los mayores expertos en la figura de Jesús de Nazaret y el Nuevo Testamento a nivel mundial en su aspecto estrictamente histórico. En ABC Historia recuperamos una entrevista realizada a este catedrático emérito de filología griega de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, capaz de recitar sin pestañear pasajes enteros del Nuevo Testamento, donde responde a cuestiones fundamentales para comprender quién fue Jesús de Nazaret.

¿Cómo se puede definir a Jesús de Nazaret y su vida desde un punto de vista estrictamente histórico?

Jesús es un artesano de la clase media-baja de Galilea, maestro de la ley, exorcista, sanador, proclamador de la venida del Reino de Dios, profeta y, al final de su vida, probablemente él mismo se proclamó Mesías. Fue un maestro de la ley fracasado porque no consiguió convencer de su mensaje a sus contemporáneos, ni en Galilea ni en Jerusalén.

¿En qué se desvió de las doctrinas judías de la época?

No quería romper con el Judaísmo. Se desvía como lo hicieron los antiguos profetas de la sociedad de la época, porque Jesús era un elemento supercrítico con su sociedad. Pero no se desvía ni en lo religioso ni siquiera en lo político del pueblo judío, que aspiraba a que los romanos fueran derrotados por las legiones de ángeles encabezadas por Dios. Ellos sabían que estaban en inferioridad militar, pero esperaban que, si alguien iniciaba la lucha contra los romanos, Dios les apoyaría.

¿Era un nuevo Moisés?

Hasta cierto punto sí, pero algo más pequeño. La idea de Jesús como un nuevo Moisés es algo que luego predican los evangelistas. Y, puestos a hablar del Antiguo Testamento, yo trazaría un paralelismo con la figura del juez bíblico Gedeón, el cual significa «Guerrero poderoso», que encabezó una lucha armada contra amalecitas y madianitas con la ayuda de Dios. El Reino de Dios que debe traer el Mesías es el final de la opresión romana. Jesús estaba convencido de que este Reino de Dios no iba a venir por manos humanas, sino por la intervención divina.

Cuadro que recoge el episodio de Jesús en casa de Anás, sumo sacerdote judío junto con Caifás
Cuadro que recoge el episodio de Jesús en casa de Anás, sumo sacerdote judío junto con Caifás – Museo del Prado

También hay quien ha querido ver la importancia de la influencia clásica en la doctrina de Jesucristo. ¿Conocía el griego o estuvo expuesto a la cultura helenística?

Los propios judíos llamaban Galilea de los gentiles porque estaba llena de griegos. Él no era inmune a esta influencia, aunque su formación era profundamente judía. Como artesano de la madera que era, capaz de construir casas y no solamente muebles, es muy probable que aprendiera griego para expandir su negocio. En el Evangelio de San Juan, se insinúa dos ocasiones que Jesús sabía griego. Lo cual no significa que estuviera influenciado en su concepto religioso por la mentalidad helenística. Su religión era completamente judía, sin influencias externas.

De la infancia y de la juventud de Jesús no tenemos apenas datos históricos. De su salto a predicar, el Evangelio de Marcos afirma que su familia pensaba que Jesús estaba «fuera de sí», que estaba enajenado.

Jesús se lanza a predicar de una forma autónoma después de la muerte de El Bautista. De alguna manera recibió la antorcha de su mentor (o maestro) Juan Bautista, solo hay que observar que el marco mental de sus discursos es el mismo. No obstante, la familia de Jesús pensó originalmente que estaba enajenado, el Evangelio de San Marcos en concreto lo describe como «fuera de sí» (de la misma raíz que da en castellano «éxtasis»). Los familiares no creían en Jesús, pero era algo natural porque probablemente tuvo que abandonar un negocio que era próspero. Su madre debió quedar muy sorprendida. ¿Y cómo una mujer, María, a la que el Arcángel Gabriel le ha contado un embarazo maravilloso luego va a decir que su hijo estaba fuera de sí? Es evidente que hay historias teológicas que se han pegado posteriormente, sobre todo en relación a la infancia de Jesús, y que el estudio detallado de los Evangelios desprende datos de esta biografía oculta.

A Juan Bautista usted lo ha definido en sus trabajos como el mentor de Jesucristo. ¿Cree que él reconocía a Jesús como el Mesías?

Aunque el Evangelio de Lucas lo indica claramente, no podemos demostrar que Juan Bautista fuera familiar de Jesús desde un punto de vista histórico, posiblemente es un añadido teológico. Él pudo pensar que era hijo de Dios en un sentido judío, como un profeta intensamente relacionado con Dios. Por eso hay que matizar que, si un personaje de la época de Jesús llama a alguien hijo de Dios, no lo hace cómo lo puedan pensar los griegos, de una forma física. Un hijo de Dios en Israel es alguien que tiene un especial contacto con la divinidad. Por ejemplo, un profeta, un sumo sacerdote o un rey. En el tiempo de Jesús ya no había rey, así que el Mesías era una mezcla de todos estos.«Como historiador no puede asegurar cuál era su condición civil, pero puedo exponer que en su vida pública nunca fue acompañado de una fémina»

Es un tema del que escribió largo y tendido en «Jesús y las mujeres» (Editorial Trotta, 2014): ¿Por qué no tiene ninguna base histórica que hubiera alguna relación entre Jesús y María Magdalena?

Toda la información que ha llegado a nuestros días sobre Jesús y María Magdalena antes de la Crucifixión son dos breves versículos del capítulo ocho del Evangelio de Lucas que dice: «Había muchas mujeres que desde Galilea seguía a Jesús y le ayudaban con sus dineros. Entre ellas estaba María Magdalena, de la que Jesús había expulsado siete demonios…» ¿Qué puede sacar un historiador de ahí? Era una de un montón de mujeres, que, además, estaba gravemente enferma. Una enfermedad corriente está causada por un demonio; una de muchos demonios debía ser una epilepsia por lo menos.

Quizás lo que mantenga vivo el asunto sea lo extraño a ojos actuales de que Jesús, a diferencia de alguno de sus apóstoles, no se casara ni tuviera descendientes. ¿Era algo habitual?

¿Qué les hubiera importado a los evangelistas, que hablan con toda tranquilidad de los hermanos de Jesús y las esposas de algunos apóstoles, mencionar el asunto si fuera cierto? Hubiera sido más fácil para el relato decir que, como Pedro que había dejado todo por el Reino de Dios, Jesús había dejado su familia para predicar. Como historiador no puede asegurar cuál era su condición civil, pero puedo exponer que en su vida pública nunca fue acompañado de una fémina. El profeta Jeremías, el ídolo de los reformistas, era soltero, y los esenios, tenidos por hombres muy piadosos, la mayoría eran solteros. Es algo que se dice por total desconocimiento del Israel del siglo I.Portada del libro «Aproximación al Jesús histórico»

¿Caló en la sociedad judía la reforma de Jesús?

Tuvo cierta relevancia. Pongamos que captó al 10 o 15% de la población, pero desde luego en Jerusalén no era un personaje popular. En las expulsión de los mercaderes del Templo de Jerusalén es fácil entender que no cosechara muchas simpatías en algunos sectores. Jesús alcanzó su mayor índice de violencia en ese episodio y fue una acción que le pudo costar la vida. Desplegó un tipo de violencia profética, donde anunció la purificación del templo: la destrucción y reconstrucción de la edificación a manos de Dios. Los artesanos, mercaderes y comerciantes que vivían en torno al templo no tenían ninguna disposición a un cambio de estatus como el profetizado.

Jesús de Nazaret terminó siendo condenado a la cruz por sedición contra Roma, pero previamente es juzgado por los sacerdotes hebreos. ¿Qué le hizo tan peligroso respecto a otros profetas y predicadores?

Hay una discusión histórica a propósito de eso. Es muy probable que los judíos tuvieran poco que ver con la muerte de Jesús. Un proceso judío como el narrado en los Evangelios no sigue para nada las normas legales habituales en un juicio de este tipo. Así y todo, los evangelistas nunca inventan nada porque sí. El Evangelio de Juan, poco después de la resurrección de Lázaro, narra una reunión en casa de Caifás con todo el Sanedrín. Caifás alerta en este relato de la cantidad de gente que concentra Jesús y de la posibilidad de que su movimiento derive en una revolución contra los romanos que acabaría costando miles de muertos a las filas judías. «Es bueno que uno muera por el pueblo, y no que mueran tantos de la nación», afirma en la frase más recordada del Sumo Sacerdote judío. Si hubo un juicio contra Jesús es más posible que respondiera a las características de este relato y no a un proceso legal en firme.

Para quienes no conocen ese contexto, la pregunta más habitual suele ser: ¿Por qué mataron a un personaje que predicaba el amor?

Jesús no es un personaje blandito. Es un personaje duro, que se juega la vida, que tiene que huir continuamente de la «policía», que tiene que alimentar a un pequeño grupo de seguidores, los cuales viven de la caridad pública, y que se juega el pellejo. Luego los Evangelios, sobre todo los de Mateo y Lucas, pintan a un Jesús manso de corazón, pero eso es una reinterpretación posterior.

¿Y en qué momento llama la atención de los romanos?

La gente no sabe que, aunque en Judea eran más de manga ancha, en Roma « la Lex Julia de collegiis» impedía que más de diez personas se juntaran sin permiso de las autoridades. Imagínate cuando Jesús empieza a concentrar a grandes grupos de gente. La preocupación de los romanos demuestra que el movimiento estaba teniendo cierta repercusión.

Judas es uno de los malos de esta historia y, sin embargo, su traición a Jesús parece más teatral que efectiva. Se dice que era el tesorero del grupo y que había robado anteriormente dinero, pero no se conocen muchos más datos previos a la traición.

Judas es posiblemente una figura mítica. Hubo algún traidor en el grupo, pero la figura pudo ser pintada con trazos más gruesos. La prueba está en que la muerte de Judas está representada de forma contradictoria en los Evangelios: Mateo dice que fue por ahorcamiento y San Lucas escribe que se arrojó a un acantilado. Estudiando el Antiguo Testamento, el relato de San Mateo está casi copiado de la historia del consejero real Ajitófel, que traicionó al Rey David y luego se ahorcó. Por su parte, San Lucas, que es posiblemente un griego convertido al Judaísmo, narra en Judas la muerte de Antíoco IV de Epífanes, el gran perseguidor de los hebreos que quiso eliminar la religión judía en el siglo II antes de Cristo. De todas formas, tampoco hay suficientes argumentos para negar su historicidad.«Jesús no es un personaje blandito. Es un personaje duro, que se juega la vida, que tiene que huir continuamente de la “policía”»

El suicidio de Judas Iscariote es hoy en día interpretado como un acto de cobardía, pero ha recordado usted alguna vez en sus trabajos que en la Antigüedad el suicidio era considerado como una forma de purificación. ¿Debe considerarse un personaje redimido dentro del relato bíblico?

Es lo que se llama la muerte noble en la cultura clásica, pero ahí se nota que los autores de los Evangelios son judíos. Ellos no aceptan esa doctrina helenística: se suicida y se condena, mientras que para los griegos era aceptar su error y pagarlo con la vida para liberarse. En la Antigüedad, hay 127 casos de suicidios mencionados en la literatura grecorromana, y prácticamente todos son muertes nobles.

Un personaje del Nuevo Testamento que llama poderosamente la atención por su aire enigmático, pese a su breve aparición, es el de Barrabás, al que el pueblo prefiere antes que a Jesús cuando los romanos preguntan a qué preso quieren libre. ¿Quién era este personaje que contaba con la simpatía del pueblo y que Pilatos accedió a liberar?

Su nombre significa «el hijo del padre» en arameo, puede ser desde un personaje de algún grupo precursor de los zelotes de 30 años más tarde o de los sicarios que iban liquidando romanos en secreto. Se ha especulado incluso que fuera uno de los discípulos de Jesús. Es muy difícil de probar su existencia histórica.

Menciona usted a los zelotes y a los sicarios. Ellos sí se inclinaron por una solución armada contra Roma décadas después de la muerte de Jesús.

Los zelotes fueron unos fanáticos como ahora es el Estado Islámico. Cuando alguien está seguro de su contacto con la divinidad y piensa que su opinión teológica es verdadera, el asesinato es una vía aceptada. Jesús no tenía nada que ver con los zelotes. Aunque es cierto que no hay ninguna frase en los Evangelios donde Jesús condene la violencia. Todo lo contrario. Es una persona que dice «el que no tiene espada, venda su capa y compre una». No se puede probar que fuera un pacifista estricto con una lectura sencilla, no sesgada, como tampoco se puede probar que fuera el primer feminista.

¿No le cabe duda de que murió en la cruz y no años después en Cachemira como han sostenido algunas teorías pseudohistóricas?

Totalmente, esas teorías son absurdas. Los romanos sabían matar muy bien y no iban a dejarle escapar. La cruz fue el primer problema teológico grave del grupo de seguidores de Jesús: fundamentar por qué el Mesías había muerto en la cruz. Nadie lanza una piedra contra su propio tejado. La respuesta de los apóstoles es que es un designio de Dios, que, dado que la situación de pecado de la humanidad era terrible y cómo no había más remedio, permitió la muerte de su hijo.En el mundo Antiguo, y ahí Pablo de Tarso demuestra tener una mentalidad muy griega, ningún problema se arregla si no es con sangre y sacrificio.

Fotografía del profesor Dr. Antonio Piñero
Fotografía del profesor Dr. Antonio Piñero

Junto a Jesús murieron dos ladrones crucificados, que usted ha cuestionado que fueran delincuentes comunes.

Los llamados ladrones que acompañaron a Jesús en la Cruz probablemente eran miembros de su grupo. San Lucas cambia la palabra bandoleros, la manera despectiva con la que los romanos llamaban a los secuaces de los movimientos antirromanos de la época, y la sustituye por malhechores, que tiene un significado vinculado a delincuentes comunes. Hay que pensar en la persecución inmediata que sufrió el grupo tras el apresamiento de Jesús. Los apóstoles en torno a la cruz es una visión simbólica de San Juan, un mito. Para San Marcos todos estaban a distancia salvo las mujeres. En una sociedad semítica, las mujeres no representaban una amenaza y no tenían nada que temer.

¿Se puede considerar a Jesús como uno de los fundadores del Cristianismo desde un punto de vista histórico?

Si un individuo proclama de una forma directa o indirecta por su vida y por el conjunto de información que de él se conserva que nunca quiere fundar una religión, como en el caso de Jesús, que buscaba entender profundamente y reformar el Judaísmo, o el de Pablo de Tarso, que quería vivir el Judaísmo según el Mesías, no se le puede considerar un fundador del Cristianismo, a no ser que digas que es un fundador inconsciente. El Cristianismo tarda en consolidarse como mínimo 400 años después de la muerte de Jesús y tiene muchos fundadores. De Pablo de Tarso se puede decir que fue el primero que reinterpreta a Jesús y pone los máximos fundamentos, pero los fundadores empiezan a su muerte a través de sus discípulos. Uno de ellos probablemente fue el evangelista Marcos, que es muy paulino.

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Posted by on April 9, 2020 in Uncategorized


Pesah and the Coronavirus: Where is God

Pesach: The Mystery of Karpas – Centro Estudios Judaicos del Sur de PR
Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Therefore it is important to strengthen our recognition that there is nothing to be afraid of. All images of fear are merely scattered colors of the big picture which needs to be finalized. Once the picture is complete the segregated images will emerge together and elicit a robust, forceful and tremendous trust that fills the soul with determination and courage.

—Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Middot HaRe’iyah, Fearfulness, Section Four.

The Coronavirus has once more confronted us with the absence of God in modern times. This absence is often seen as the cause for much secularism. Since the days of the Renaissance man has become more and more skeptical of the occurrences of divine intervention. No longer, it is argued, are there enough indications for God’s interference in the national and private affairs of mankind. This viewpoint ultimately leads to the collapse of much of religious authority and in many ways undermined the role of religion in man’s life.

When the Israelites left Egypt, divine intervention was most visible. The ten plagues, the splitting of the Reed Sea and the many other smaller and larger miracles gave full evidence for God’s intervention in man’s affairs. Consequently our general reading of those years makes us believe that anyone living under such miraculous conditions would not have had any other option but to be a deeply religious person.

Rashi in his commentary on the Torah gives us however a totally different version of the events:

As the result of the sin of the spies in which they spoke evil about the land of Israel, the speech of God did no longer seclude itself with Moshe for 38 years. (Vayikra 1.1)

Whatever the deeper meaning of these mysterious words may be, it can’t be denied that this is a most remarkable and a far-reaching observation. What we are told is that most of the time in which the Israelites traveled through the desert, there was no special divine providence. God did not speak to Moshe or to the Israelites in His usual way and consequently the Israelites had to deal with the question of God’s interference not much different from the way in which the modern human being does. Although the miraculous bread, manna, fell and other smaller miracles did take place, it becomes clear that these events did no longer have any real effect on the religious condition of the Israelites. Not for nothing did they say that this manna was lechem hakelokel, repulsive bread (Bamidbar 21.5). They saw these miracles as common events not much different than the way we view the laws of nature. (We are reminded of Rabbi Dessler’s famous observation that the laws of nature are nothing more but the frequency of miracles,[1] something which famous philosophers of science such as Karl Popper have fully endorsed from a secular point of view.[2]) Indeed on several occasions the Israelites asked whether God still lived among them.

It is perhaps this fact which makes Pesach so relevant for our own times: The realization that even at the time of the greatest of miracles, many years passed by without God making Himself known in any revealed form or way!

Sitting at the Seder table we often feel that we are reading a story which has little in common with our days and lives. We complain that God has become silent and that His spoken word is no longer available. How then can we believe in His existence and why should we listen to His words of many thousands of years ago? We are today confronted with a Deus Absconditus, an absent God, and no story about God’s open intervention in history is able to reach us any longer. God’s silence has made us deaf. So we complain.

And even when we admit that God did not speak with Moshe and the Israelites for 38 years, we still would make the powerful point that we have not heard from Him for more than two thousand years! So why asking us to deliberate on an event of thousands of years ago with which we have nearly nothing in common?

But with hindsight we may have to radically change our view. We need to realize that the silence of these 38 years must have been much more frightening than all the Divine silence of our last two thousand years. While we are, to a great extent, able to take care of ourselves, and much more independent, this was not the case for our forefathers in the desert. They encountered the emptiness of desert land. There were no natural resources, food, water, or any other basic items without which even the most elementary forms of life are impossible. True, we are told that they miraculously had water and food, but once God stopped speaking with them in the middle of the desert and with the realization that this thundering silence of God went on day after day, accompanied by the frightening awareness that they had nothing to fall back on in case God would possibly also decide to stop providing them with water and food, this Godly silence must have been more dreadful than anything we can imagine. Being used to open miracles and then suddenly overnight finding oneself in an icy absence of any divine voice, right in the middle of a desert, must have been too much to bear. God’s “indifference”, no doubt, created a devastating traumatic experience without precedence.[3]

On the other side, the generation of our parents or grandparents experienced the Holocaust. This was far more calamitous than the forty years in the desert of our forefathers. So why not arguing that we are, after all, much worse off than those Israelites who had to undergo God’s absence in the desert? Would this not make the Exodus story completely irrelevant and meaningless to us?

However, it was our generation which, despite the absence of God in the Holocaust, clearly saw the return of the hand of God in the establishment of the State of Israel three years after the destruction of most of European Jewry. Without falling victim to the idea that all this is for sure the beginning of the messianic age, a highly dangerous idea, it is impossible to deny that God’s miraculous interference in the establishment of the Jewish State and the successes of its inhabitants which are nothing less but sui generis and touching on the impossible, remind us that despite the Divine silence in the Holocaust, God had re-entered history which make the story of the Passover exodus very relevant. It was Ben Gurion who used to say that if one does not believe in miracles, one is not a realist.

When we realize that the story of the exodus was mainly a story of divine silence and that only occasionally a word of God entered the human condition, we also become conscious of the fact that the story which we read on the Seder night is most relevant. While the words of the Hagada relate the miracles, the “empty spaces” between the words tell us of the frightening divine silence of these very 38 years. And just as our forefathers must often have wondered what happened to God’s presence, in all these years, so do we. But just as they came through, so must we.

For reasons unknown to us, God disappears and suddenly emerges in this great drama called the history of mankind making the Jewish people the ultimate symbol of this queer spectacle.

The art is to hear God in His silence and to see His miracles in His paradoxical “hide and seek” with mankind. It is in the balance of these two facts that religious life takes place.


[1] Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. Michtav Me-Eliyahu, volume 1.

[2] Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934, Conjectures and Reflections, 1963.

[3] The absence of God’s word for all these 38 years throws a radical different light on much of the Israelites’ upheavals and complaints in the desert as mentioned in the Torah.

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Posted by on April 3, 2020 in Uncategorized


‘Blood Libel Never a Church Teaching,’ Says Prominent US Catholic Academic, as Defenders of Antisemitic Italian Painting Come Forward

Italian Artist Giovanni Gasparro Revives Antisemitic Blood Libel ...
by Ben Cohen

The Italian Catholic painter whose artistic rendering of a medieval blood libel caused a storm of protest in the Jewish community last week is winning over some supporters notwithstanding.

An editorial published on Wednesday in the Italian newspaper L’Quotidiano Italiano praised artist Giovanni Gasparro’s creation — titled “The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento By Jewish Ritual Murder” — as “objectively a masterpiece.”

The paper, which serves the Adriatic port city of Bari where Gasparro resides, described the painter as an “internationally-renowned artist,” noting as well that “ecclesiastical bodies” of the Catholic Church were among those who had purchased Gasparro’s works in the past.

Critically, the editorial defended the historical veracity of the blood libel episode depicted in Gasparro’s painting — which features stereotypically-lurid Jewish characters crowding around a terrified infant as they drain his blood.

In March 1475, the discovery of the body of a missing child named Simon in the Italian city of Trento, supposedly in the cellar of a local Jew, led to the entire Jewish community being charged with the “blood libel” — the false accusation that Jews used the blood of Christian children for religious rituals. The result was an anti-Jewish frenzy in which Jewish men, women and children alike were tortured and beaten, and the leaders of the community burned at the stake following a show trial.

But as one leading American Catholic academic pointed out in an extensive interview on Wednesday, unlike the long-ago spurned charge of “deicide” — collective Jewish responsibility for the execution of Jesus by the Roman authorities — historically the 900-year-old blood libel was never endorsed by Catholic teachings.

“This particular accusation of Jews killing Christian children was never a church teaching or doctrine, and was rejected even by Popes during the medieval period,” Prof. Philip Cunningham — director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia — told The Algemeiner.

One of the several pontiffs to have rejected any theological basis for believing the blood libel was Gregory X (1271-76), who asserted, “Most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifice from the heart and blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith: nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this.”

In the case of Simon of Trento, however, this doctrinal rejection of the blood libel did not prevent the 15th-century Pope Sixtus IV from declaring that the Trento Jewish community had deserved its punishment. Nor did it prevent Pope Gregory XIII from canonizing Simon as a “martyr” during the 16th Century. It was not until 1965 — the year that the Second Vatican Council issued its historic “Nostra Aetate” Declaration disavowing antisemitism — that Simon’s canonized status was formally revoked by Pope Paul VI.

Yet more than fifty years after the Catholic Church recognized the “Jewish covenant with God” through Nostra Aetate, Prof. Cunningham said, there were still some “outliers” who espoused antisemitic views and continued to believe that “this is a zero-sum game, and if the Catholics are right, then the Jews have to be wrong.”

And while Wednesday’s newspaper editorial in Italy defending Gasparro lauded the painter as a part of the “traditional Catholic world who celebrates Mass according to the ancient Roman rite,” Cunningham cautioned against the misuse of such labels.

“‘Traditionalism’ is absolutely not the same thing as tradition,” he explained. “The deicide charge was taught by lots of Christian theologians for centuries, so you can call it part of the Christian tradition, but not the blood libel — that was outlandish even by the standards of the time.”

Instead, the spread of the blood libel around Europe was a reflection of local superstitions derived from certain religious practices such as the eucharist, in which the bread and wine consumed by believers is held to be the body of Jesus.

During the period that the blood libel surfaced, said Cunningham, there was a “deeply physical understanding of the eucharist,” encouraging the folk belief that the Jews would continue shedding the blood of Christians just as they had allegedly done with Jesus himself.

These popular legends were frequently accompanied by baser economic motives for demonizing Jews, Cunningham said. Debts owed to Jews could be voided by persecuting the local community through such libels, while towns and cities whose inhabitants were canonized could look forward to lucrative annual pilgrimages drawing outside visitors.

Asked about his own reaction to Gasparro’s painting, Cunningham said he had been “appalled by it.”

“It clearly revives all of the old tropes and visual stereotypes and caricatures in the context of an incident that historically-speaking is very murky,” he said.

The task of countering those with Gasparro’s views was not equivalent to a battle between “left” and “right,” Cunningham emphasized.

“I don’t want to to give the impression that the historic changes in relations with Jews are what you might call ‘liberal’ or ‘left-wing’ phenomena,” he said. “It encompasses the entire mainstream community. There are bishops who might be labeled ‘right of center’ who strongly condemn antisemitic actions on the part of Catholics, and who promote positive relations with Jews.”

Cunningham stressed that those who opposed the “living” Catholic tradition established by Nostra Aetate had distanced themselves from their faith “by their own choice.”

“They are no longer simply ‘right-of-center,’ so to speak,” Cunningham remarked. “They are outside the community.”

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Posted by on April 1, 2020 in Uncategorized