WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?
Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.
Read more »
THIS PHOTO FEATURES PEOPLE SPELLING out in Hebrew the words “Shanah Tovah,” or “good year.” I like it because it shows us that the year is ultimately made up of the people who live it — of every moment and every second that lives in human consciousness and memory — that everything within eyeshot is to some extent a human creation, even if only through the act of its being perceived. Live it well, live it fully, live it with joy — but live it.
Happy New Year from The Metaphorager!
PROLONGING THE GOD EXPERIENCE INTO every waking moment. (All else — songs, prayers, chants, acts, texts, charity, incense, beads, building fund — is just stage direction. Which is not to dismiss the stage direction, since that’s one of the keys to the Experience. But the key isn’t the lock, and what you really want anyway is to open.)
TODAY IS THE SECOND OF Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashana, and that fact lends the period an air of expectancy and overhaul.
The Jewish New Year is less a time for partying all night and more a time for reflection and making right, especially of our relationships. Have we wronged anyone? Hurt anyone? Been less than true or right or kind? Now’s the time to fix that.
So if I have in the past year treated you less than you deserve, or been blunt or flip where tender seriousness would have been better, please let me know. Life is too short not to live it fully, and it’s hard to live it fully if there’s an interpersonal problem sticking things up. As Elwood P. Dowd would say, “I’d rather be kind than right.” (I’d actually rather be both, but sometimes you can’t have everything.)
May your own annual journey to renewal and rebirth go as smoothly as it needs to be, and, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, may you become no wiser than necessary.
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO attend tonight’s Erev Shabbat service at Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom, 252 W. Spain St., which service I am both grateful and privileged to lead. Services begin at 7:30 p.m. PDT and will be followed by an oneg Shabbat. (If you’d like to attend an informal Saturday morning Torah study, please RSVP.) Shabbat shalom!
HOW MUCH CAN YOU CHANGE something before it no longer resembles the original — yet still call it by the same name?
YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE A Jewish Teacher when a former student says “This needed to be here” and gives you a rock he picked up at Masada
(Thanks, Nick. May you also be blessed to know the difference you make.) (Photo by Ann.)
(Feel free to skip if you’re not hot for ethnoapologetics.)
THERE’S AN UGLY MEME IN the Jewish community that may or may not have analogs among other minority groups: the so-called “self-hating Jew.”
This term, most often used in online Jewish fora (the Forward, Tablet, Jewschool, et al) when someone Jewish posts a critically outre comment about Israel, is more generally used to describe one who turns his or her back on “the tribe” and spends some significant time publicly railing thereupon. (Peter Beinart and Adrienne Rich come most prominently to this writer’s mind, but someone once used it to describe me when I naively asked in one forum, “Is there such a thing as ‘too Jewish?’” I don’t think so, but some apparently do.) Read more »
RELIGION, OR AT LEAST JEWISH religion, and certainly a root cause of religion’s comfort, appeal and danger, is simply and little more than people doing what they like to do in the way they like and feel compelled to do it.
ETHNOTHEOLEGALITY. (IF YOU WANT TO get more specific, then Levantine ethnotheolegality. Or pedantically: a Levantine people’s god’s code.)
I DO NOT TALK POLITICS as a rule, and for a variety of reasons, but I am currently ashamed of my government falling prey to fear and extortion. We’re better than this. So I acted. I logged the following at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
and will call the White House Comment Line at 202.456.1111 between 0900-1700 EDT Monday through Thursday
. (I’ll wait.)
If you too are disgusted, act. It’s better than stewing.
I have never written to you before, but the recent action regarding the debt ceiling has me more upset with “the American experiment” than I have ever been. Speaking as a disabled American currently negotiating the hell of red tape separating me from my Social Security payments, and with all due respect, sir: I had faith in you, I voted for you, and I respect and like you a lot on a personal level, but if you don’t raise taxes on the wealthiest 400 American families I will be staying home Election Day. (Words partly copied from my friend David Feldman, a noted stand-up comic and fellow former idealist.) If you do redeem this horrible mistake, however, you may happily count on my vote.
(And on a personal note, speaking as a formerly unpopular student who nonetheless survived third grade, one does not appease the bullies by giving them your lunch money. You must bloody their nose. I wish to God we didn’t live in such a world, and pray and work every day toward that goal, but it’s the only thing that made Joey Mulvaney quit picking on me.)
Thank you for your time, and with great respect,
Neal Ross Attinson