Posts Tagged ‘ Being Jewishly ’

Pithyism #210

2011.08.08
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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.

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Another Definition Of Judaism

2011.08.05
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ETHNOTHEOLEGALITY. (IF YOU WANT TO get more specific, then Levantine ethnotheolegality. Or pedantically: a Levantine people’s god’s code.)

Eh?

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Re: 2012

2011.08.04
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Fig. 1.

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.

Dear Sir,

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

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“Judaism is more than ‘tikkun olam’”

2011.08.01
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THAT’S THE TITLE OF A provocative but understated op-ed today on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website, and it’s a point of view with which I find myself agreeing: that if one sees Judaism as only an excuse for right action, and ignores its religious and intellectual aspects, one is shortchanging both oneself and any interesting sort of Jewish future. (“Tikkun olam” = “rectifying/repairing the world,” a qabalistic doctrine which has been a big focus for Jewish leadership and study since the 1970s.)

This shortchagement is not new; people (including me) are always trying to “define” Judaism: is it a Faith? A Folk Tradition? A People? An Intellectual Puzzle? A Way Of Life? The answer, of course, is that it is all of these and more. And one of its most important qualities is that it fosters, in the diligent, a different way of thinking than the Aristotelian two-value logic on which most of Western Culture is based — a way of thinking that seems to me better suited to the complexities, complications and contradictions of modern life.

Mr. Alperson is more worried than I am about assimilation (after all, he’s a Jewish Professional), but his piece is definitely worth a read: http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/07/27/3088736/op-ed-judaism-is-more-than-tikkun-olam. (Also referred by the always-interesting Jewish Ideas Daily website: a rousing cry to study the Mishna independently of the Babylonian or Jerusalem Talmuds which are derived from it (http://thetalmudblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/protestant-mishnah/). It’s still a good world, where websites and debates like this can exist.)

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Huh.

2011.07.28
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THIS IS ONE OF THOSE blog posts where the writer tries to predict, dreads to inspire, hopes to distance himself, and wonders if.
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Slake The Bitterness

2011.07.20
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FOR MY NEXT TRICK, I will attempt to adapt 1st-century Judaism for 21st-century Americans.

Fig. 1.

Yesterday, the 17th of Tammuz, marked the 1,941st anniversary of the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans (and the 2,597th anniversary of the same action by the Babylonians). For traditional Jews, 17 Tammuz begins the annual semi-mourning period of the Three Weeks, which culiminate in a commemoration of the Temple’s destruction on the 9th of Av, colloquially known as Tisha B’Av (this year, August 9).

For untraditional Jews, it’s a time of wondering why traditional Jews are so upset over something that happened so many years ago — and deprived us of nothing more than the old-time religion of animal sacrifice. But let’s look past the sheen of nationalist memory and peer into the realm of psychological function.
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“Judaism As Art”

2011.07.14
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or, There and Back Again Without Leaving

(BECAUSE OF WORDPRESS, I’M REPUBLISHING this 2002 piece — it works better as a “post” than as a “page” — and although my kippa-wearing has become a bit less pronounced of late it still reflects my approach to finding a place in Judaism. If you’re not hot for apologetics or manifesti, you have my permission to read something else.)

Despite that I’ve worn a yarmulke most of the time since 2000, I don’t define myself as Orthodox. Or Reform. Or, for that matter, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or otherwise adjectivally Jewish.

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Torah Study: Chukat and the Passing of the Cohort

2011.07.01
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WHEN JERRY GARCIA AND GENE Roddenberry died, I shed actual tears. Although I didn’t know either of them personally, they had both played important roles in my life — Jerry taught me to dance, Gene taught me to dream — and because of their role in the culture at large, their deaths were like the shutting of a communal door.

There’s a similar circumstance in this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, which notes — among other incidents — the deaths of Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron, themselves beloved by their community. Think what it must have been like for the Israelites: smacked out of Egypt by the back of God’s miracle-hand, given a new constitution beneath a thundering mountain, then doomed by ingratitude to wander the desert for 40 years. Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all the leadership they knew: Moses the mysterious, whose face glows when he talks to God; Aaron, who loved peace so much he’d even tell fibs to achieve it; Miriam, the wise woman whose portable well enabled life in the desert.
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I Am a Religious Man Unthreatened By Science, Secularity And Reason

2011.06.09
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(IN FACT, THE WHOLE “REASON” I “am” “religious” in the first place is only due to a direct perception that the Universe is, in some essential and indescribable sense, alive and conscious. I can’t help seeing that, feeling a part of it, and celebrating.)

(Also, as much as I love science, I’m more fascinated by rituals and customs, folkways, manners, stories, legends, myths, folklore. I see religion as structured spirituality, and its practice one of many attentive arts of living. And I like the perspective of participating in something bigger, older and more continuous than I am. I guess that’s one reason why some people play music or build stuff or deeply study anything.)
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Reb Nachum to SF: Keep Your Laws Off My People’s Body

2011.06.06
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THERE’S A PLACE — CHELM IS its name — where all the inhabitants are so open-minded that they tolerate any behavior whatsoever from anyone they deem open-minded as themselves. It’s a nice place to visit, but I hope never to have to live there.

From the post title, you can guess where I stand on San Francisco’s proposed anti-circumcision measure, which would criminalize the act if performed on anyone under 18 and disallow religious exemptions. But considering that Matthew Hess, the fellow behind it, is the same fellow behind the eye-washingly anti-Semitic “Monster Mohel” comic book, I feel I know as much about his motivations — and defenders — as I need to.
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Torah Study: Judaeo Habilis

2011.05.20
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Neal& Ann’s Torah Study
Saturday, May 21, 2011 10 am-noonish (RSVP)
Torah Portion: Bechukotai (Deuteronomy 26:3-27:34[end])
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

LET’S BE HONEST: THIS WEEK’S Torah portion is not a favorite of many, containing as it does a long string of violent curses brought down on the hearts and homes of those who reject Torah.

It’s grim stuff, even for the rabbis who ordained that this part be read quickly and quietly. And it makes us uncomfortable on several levels: the specificity, the cruelty, the seemingly primitive tit-for-tat which embodies, for many of us, the worst aspects of religion. It’s tempting to ignore, delete, or gloss over this bit of text and read only the “good parts” (whatever that may be to each of us). Read more »

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My Favorite Osama Bin Laden Rumor

2011.05.03
By

…IS THAT HIS COMPOUND WAS built in the shape of what some would call “Greater Palestine,” with his house corresponding to the location of Jerusalem. (This comes to me from to the French website JSSNews, by way of YNet, by way of The Tablet, which latter is recommended daily fare.)

Fig. 1.

I stress that this is a rumor only (like the time in high school that I convinced someone that Ronald McDonald was portrayed by an African-American actor — which was repeated to me later in the day), and doesn’t really seem to fit with what we seem to know thus far about Mr. Bin Laden’s motivations. But as rumors go, it’s worth passing along. (AS A RUMOR.)

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