Sunday, April 11, 2021

Can Covid Cautious People Now Rejoin a Covid Reckless Shul?

What is the "right" way for people who were Covid cautious to relate to people who were Covid reckless?  For example, let's say you belong to a shul that went back to normal as early as last summer. The shul made no special provisions for the Covid cautious, and many of the members were mask shamers - or worse.  For the last several months, you and like-minded members have been praying outdoors or observing precautions indoors, but eventually, you will have to make a choice. Rejoin, or stand on principle.

The problem for many Covid cautious people in this situation is that they feel betrayed by their synagogues.  As a result, going back is hard. Re-establishing friendly terms with the people who committed this betrayal is hard. From childhood, Covid cautious Orthodox Jews were taught to honor the following ideals:

Rules apply to everyone
Science is reliable
In matters of halacha we follow the scientific experts 
We need to show respect and concern for our neighbors
We should always strive to be mekadesh shem shamayim in our behavior
We should go out of our way not to harm others in any fashion
We should minimize eiva
In religious matters, we should always error on the side of caution (be machmer) 

The Covid reckless, and the institutions that supported them, rejected all of these ideals. 

To get inside the head of a Covid cautious person who belongs to a Covid reckless community, consider the following example: Imagine your Orthodox shul installed an organ. To make it worse, imagine that your shul did this not on the basis of a sound halachic position, but in deference to a trend, and also as a way of showing political support for an immoral, hedonistic, vulgarian who strongly encouraged the trend. 

Would you understand why Jews who were brought up with different Jewish values might now feel betrayed, why they might balk at rejoining such a place, even after the organ was removed? Aren't the Covid cautious who belong to Covid reckless communities now in the exact same situation?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Mushite priests vs Aaronid priests in the Bible.

In Vayikra, the point is often made that the only valid priests are the descendants of Aaron. This is made clear with the formula בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים or הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן.
The theory of the critics is that Leviticus is the work of Aaronid priests who were protecting their prerogatives. They wanted it made perfectly clear that they, and no one else, were the true priests.

As noted by the critics, outside of the material attributed to the Aaronid priests (specifically Deuteronomy) the priests are often called הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, which say the critics, suggests some sort of rivalry between the Levites, or a family of Levites, who thought they were entitled to serve in the Temple and the Aronids who wanted it made clear that right belonged to them alone.

But is there any other evidence of such a rivalry?
Yes, some.

When David first establishes himself in Jerusalem, he has no Temple, but he does have two high priests. This is stated explicitly in 1 Chronicle 15:11, and 1 Kings 4:4 where Abiathar and Zadok are named as co-high priests.

Who were these men?

About Zadok, very little is known. He appears out of nowhere in Samuel, but Chronicles identifies him as a descendant of Eleazer. We know far more about Abiathar.
Unlike Zadok, who is given no clear background story, Abiathar, a survivor of the massacre at Nob, is depicted as David's loyal friend during the dispute with Saul. Abiathar possesses the Ephod and uses it to answer David's questions.
Abiathar is also linked to Eli explicitly in Kings 2:27, and the connection is hinted at in other places.

Why did David need two High Priests?
Several answers are offered, but we will confine ourselves to the one that relates to this discussion.
Frank Moore Cross suggests that there were two religious cults at the time, one controlled by Aaronid priests who traced themselves to Aaron, and one controlled by Mushite priests who traced themselves to Moses.

About Zadok nothing is known, but Abiathar is a descendant of Eli.
In 1 Samuel 2:27, Eli receives a very strange prophecy.
"Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to בֵּית אָבִיך when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?"
As Chazal knew, God never reveals himself to Aaron in Egypt: the only revelation is to Moses. Moore takes this as evidence that Eli is a descendant of Moses, and a Mushite priest, while Chazal say this verse is evidence that Aaron did, indeed, prophesize in Egypt, though no such prophecy is recorded.
If we accept the suggestion that Eli, and his descendant Abiathar, were Mushite priests the answer to the question snaps into place. David, the shrewd politician, wanted to be seen as legitimate by people who worshipped with the Mushites and by people who worshipped with the Aaronids. Choosing one denomination over the other might be asking for trouble, so took a high priest from each group, and this arrangement continued until Abiathar backed the wrong heir, and was fired by Solomon
Is there any other concrete evidence of a Mushite priesthood?
  • Judges 18:30 describes a priesthood in Dan, established by Mushites. The verse reads "Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity." which may suggest that these Mushite priests of Dan continued to serve at Jeroboam's temple in Dan.

Is there any other less concrete evidence of a Mushite priesthood?
  • In Exodus, Moshe and Joshua act as priests.
  • The old poem attached to the end of Deuteronomy seems to identify Moshe as the founder of a priesthood:

    "About Levi he said: "Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah."

    Moshe is the faithful man, of Levi, who was tried at Massah and Meribah. The verse says the icons of priesthood belong to him as well.
  • There are several stories of conflict in the Torah, that may be interpreted as polemics against one of the two priesthoods, for example:

    a) In the Golden Calf story Aaron is the one who makes the young bull, and a bull is what was used in place of cherubim in the Bethel Temple. This may be coded criticism of the Bethel rites, which would have been administered by Aaronids. At the end of the story, Moses and the Levites go to battle against everyone corrupted by Aaron's act and as a reward, they are "consecrated to the Lord" and given a "blessing".

    This story also tells us the Levites were congratulated for "slaying their own brothers, companions, and relatives" and, in Deuteronomy, the old poem mentioned above suggests the Levites were rewarded with the priesthood because they "didn't recognize their brothers or children"

    b) In Numbers, the Bal Peor Heresy occurs "before the eyes of Moses" who seems powerless to address it. He fails to act. Instead, Pinchas, the Aaronid, saves the day, and for his actions, he is rewarded with "eternal priesthood" The text can be read as suggesting the priesthood passed to the Aaronites because they cleansed Israel from a Midianite taint, and Moses, of course, is married to a Midianite, and the father of half-Midianites. Eli, it must be remembered, also loses the priesthood because his two sons, like those who were guilty of the Baal Peor heresy,  "lay with women at the door of the Tent of Meeting"

    c) In Numbers 12 Moses is attacked by Miriam and Aaron for marrying the wrong woman (she is identified as a Cushite in this story, but Moses married a Midianite) but the issue becomes "Has God ONLY spoken to Moshe? Hasn't he spoken to us, too?" God answers by telling Aaron and Miriam that Moses outranks them both. The theme seems to be that Moses is superior to Aaron, despite the "mixed" ancestry.
Does this "prove' anything?
Of course, not. There are no proofs in interpretation.

Friday, March 19, 2021

New Intelligence Report on the 2020 Election Reveals All Your Republican Friends Were Wrong About Almost Everything


Highlights from a recently declassified Intelligence Report:

1) No foreign actor messed with voting machines. (All of your dumb Republican friends who said otherwise were wrong.)

2) Russia interfered massively on behalf of Trump again. China did nothing to help Biden (All your dumb Republican friends who said  it was the other way around were wrong)

3) Trump happily repeated (or let's say "laundered") lies about Biden and his son that were invented and planted by Russian agents. 

This report was completed when Trump was still president and declassified this week.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Why don't we have a Mishkan today?

Before Jews had access to the Temple Mount they used a temporary structure in Shilo based on an earlier temporary structure constructed in the desert. 

Why aren't Jews interested in temporary structures anymore?

 We don't have access to the Temple Mount today. A rebuilt Temple is, for the moment, impossible. So why don't we set up a temporary Mishkan like structure to temporarily hold us over? 

The answer, obviously, is that animal sacrifice is ridiculous and no one really wants to see it return.

Also, Judaism today is controlled by Rabbis. If we built a new Shilo some control would have to be shared with Kohanim. And no one likes to share control.

Also, the people profiting from major Jewish pilgrimage sites (which operate like a temporary mishkan, with financial sacrifices rather than animal sacrifices required) have zero interest in sharing revenue with a new Shilo.

(The actual Messiah will run into the same problems when he tries to replace Uman with Moriah and installs a young, fit, Kohen as spiritual leader in place of our doddering nonagenarians)

To all those saying there are rules in Nach against bamot I say:

I refuse to believe our religious leaders couldnt find a work around if motivated 

Yochanan ben Zackai certainly managed to work around several rules.

The very fact that people are shrugging their shoulders shows me there is no appetite for animal sacrifice. 

People don't shrug their shoulders and give up immediately when it's something they really want. 

When it's something people really want (like Covid Minyanim and Weddings or sneaking into Uman for Covid Rosh Hashana) there are always people who can make it happen. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Are we the new Saduccess?

A black preacher opened the new congressional term with a prayer that included a pun, and because the pun suggested some support for "woke" values like  tolerance, inclusion and equality, a horde of GOP Jews, led by Ben Shapiro, are now acting like they don't understand how language works.

Here is how the preacher concluded his prayer:
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, [unintelligible], and God known by many names and by many different faiths, amen, and awoman,”
And here is how Ben Shapiro, noted Talmudic scholar, demonstrated his inability to recognize or appreciate puns.
"Amen" is a Biblical Hebrew word: אמן. It is a word simply meaning "may it be so." It has nothing to do with the word "man" or "woman" because it is FROM HEBREW. This is some of the dumbest s*** I have ever seen in my life.
And here is why I think all of this suggests the Ben Shapiros of the world are a bunch of Nuevo Sadducees.

The Talmud, you see, is full of puns. Many of these puns are used to support what men of the ancient world would have considered woke, or progressive values. The most famous example of them all might be the passage on Shabbat 104:
The Sages said to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: Young students came today to the study hall and said things the likes of which were not said even in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun. T

Alef bet means learn [elaf] the wisdom [bina] of the Torah. Gimmel dalet means give to the poor [gemol dalim].
If there was a sneering Ben Shapiro in the wings, shouting "Those are letters. They have nothing to do with poverty or wisdom. This is some of the dumbest s*** I have ever seen in my life," the Talmud doesn't mention him. This is because much of what the Talmud records is radical, not reactionary. Using a play on language to support and advance messages of love, peace and understanding is radical. Its the 
sort of thing you do when you're the underdog, shut out of the national institutions and rejected by the establishment. Its the sort of thing you need to do when you're a black preacher, and its the sort of thing you mock when you're a comfortable member of the establishment, secure in your privilege, seeing no need for any changes. 

Of course, there were no Sadducees in 250 CE when Yehoshua ben Levi was active , but objecting to novel or "woke" ways of reading scripture is something Sadducees were known to do.  Today, we say they were "denying the Oral law" but what they were actually doing was denying new (or new seeming) interpretations of the written law that threatened their status. Its easy to frame Shapiro's dispute with the preacher in the same terms. The preacher wants people to think about inclusiveness, so he offers a pun on the word "Amen." Sadducee Shapiro feels threatened by ideas of inclusiveness so he acts oblivious to the pun, and instead pretends that the preacher is ignorant of the truths of biblical vocabulary.