Category Archive 'Judaism'

29 Nov 2017

Faith vs. Reality

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0:52 video

16 Mar 2014

A Purim Sermon

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Michelangelo, The Punishment of Haman, 1508-1512, Sistine Chapel.

Dan Greenfield yesterday published a special Purim essay which repays reading even by gentiles.

Purim began when a narrow-minded fanatic refused to bow to the Grand Vizier of a multicultural empire. Jewish leaders hurriedly reassured him that this fanatic was in no way representative of their values of tolerance and appeasement. Hadn’t they attended the feast where the sacred vessels of their own people were used to serve spirits to the mob? Rather than anticipating the return to their land at the end of the prophesied seventy year period of exile, they had cheered the brutish tyrant and made Sushan, his capital, into their new holy city.

The illusion of history is that every age brings with it the end of history, a new age whose awesome achievements break with the past and usher in a boundless future. And then the walls come crashing down and the new era of history ends up buried under the rubble of time.

History never ends. That is the lesson of the Holocaust, of Purim and of countless other horrifying intrusions of the old into the new. The shining new era that begins with grand public spectacles and displays of the power and might of an empire, ends with corpses and men and women fighting and running for their lives.

02 Mar 2010

The Alarming Jewish Fantasy Gap

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Karen has forwarded to me a link to an article by Michael Weingrad undertaking a nerdworthy analysis of the lack of significant Jewish contribution to the Tolkienian fantasy genre.

[I]f Christianity is a fantasy religion, then Judaism is a science fiction religion. If the former is individualistic, magical, and salvationist, the latter is collective, technical, and this-worldly. Judaism’s divine drama is connected with a specific people in a specific place within a specific history. Its halakhic core is not, I think, convincingly represented in fantasy allegory. In its rabbinic elaboration, even the messianic idea is shorn of its mythic and apocalyptic potential. Whereas fantasy grows naturally out of Christian soil, Judaism’s more adamant separation from myth and magic render classic elements of the fantasy genre undeveloped or suspect in the Jewish imaginative tradition. Let us take two central examples: the magical world and the idea of evil.

Christianity has a much more vivid memory and even appreciation of the pagan worlds which preceded it than does Judaism. Neither Canaanite nor Egyptian civilizations exercise much fascination for the Jewish imagination, and certainly not as a place of enchantment or escape.

I’m not sure that his thesis is actually all that correct. If so, he would have to have to have a very specific kind of fantasy fiction in mind. Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is a fantasy. Roger Zelazny’s Amber series ought to serve as a very successful example of Jewish-written fantasy. Neil Gaiman is Jewish. And so on.

10 Feb 2007

Forthcoming Book by Jewish Historian Reported to Accept Blood Libel as True

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Repeating the blood libel, the accusation that Jews used human blood in religious rituals and performed human sacrifice, was a crime in Poland and Lithuania in the Middle Ages; while, in most of Europe, it was merely an opportunistic means of debt restructuring. After the rioting was over, Jewish moneylenders were dead or had vanished from the land, and no one, particularly the king, owed anybody anything.

Enlightened Christians, including Popes as early as Innocent IV (1195-1254) and Pope Gregory X (1271-1276) have consistently rejected the accusation as inconsistent with well known teachings of Judaism.

This week, however, several reports appeared indicating that a forthcoming book by Arial Toaff, professor of Jewish History at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of a number of previous well-received and respected titles on Jewish Life in Medieval Italy, gives credence to the legend.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Toaff’s latest book, soon to be published in Italy, is titled: Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders.

According to a review by Sergio Luzzatto, appearing in Corriere della Serra:

from 1100 to about 1500…several crucifixions of Christian children really happened, bringing about retaliations against entire Jewish communities – punitive massacres of men, women, children. Neither in Trent in 1475 nor in other areas of Europe in the late Middle Ages were Jews always innocent victims…

A minority of fundamentalist Ashkenazis…carried out human sacrifices.”

The Telegraph has a less informative report.

Washington Post.

The journalistic accounts reaching English readers make Toaff’s thesis sound extremely implausible and his reasoning unpersuasive. One is curious as to what the book actually says.

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