Monday, February 16, 2015

Hanukkah Didn't Happen That Way -

Hanukkah Didn't Happen That Way -
In Noam Zion's "A Different Light: The Hanukkah Book of Celebration", pg. 244 there is an excerpt that discusses Hanukah and the “miracle” of the oil. In the myth the Jews re-took the temple and kept the eternal flame burning for 8 days, even though there was only enough oil for 1 day. This, as it turns out, never happened. Recent changes in Hebrew schools curriculum have made it very clear that it was improper and unprofessional to teach the story of the miracle of the oil as having any historical accuracy. According to the new standards: "The myth of the oil is bad history, bad theology, and bad doctrine."
Teaching this myth as history violates the basic principles of Reconstructionist, Conservative, Reform, and Secular-Humanist Judaism.
It is more accurate to say this is a fictional story the rabbis told to explain why we celebrate Hanukah for 8 days.
Hanukkah celebrates the fact that a small number of ill-equipped rebels won a war against a mighty force. They were standing up for the freedom to worship God as they chose. After the war was done, they cleaned the temple and celebrated the holiday they'd most recently missed: Sukkot.
As the years passed, the people did not want to forget how miraculous it was that a small band of Jews defeated the mighty Greek (-Syrian) army, and how great the joy was at restoring the Temple. Somehow, to the original story was added the miracle of the oil.
But there is a huge political overtone to Hanukkah. The descendants of the Maccabees, the Hasmoneans, had significantly corrupted the priesthood and they were the nemesis to the rabbis who were starting rabbinic Judaism. The Maccabees were attempting to combine kingship and priesthood. This is against Jewish law. It was this party who began the practice of Hanukkah as a way to celebrate what they had accomplished as Jewish leaders, taking credit for defeating the pagans. The holiday was for their political advantage. In this light it makes sense that the rabbis would tell the story in a way that emphasized God's role as opposed to the Maccabees' role.
The closest thing the Jews have for “real” Hanukkah story is the Book of Maccabees which was preserved via the Christian canon in the Apocrypha of the Bible. It describes a civil war among the Jews. Antiochus took the temple over for pagan rites and defiled it. The story of the jewish revolt against this king is a very messy and bloody event. When the Maccabees headed the revolt and gained political power, it went to their heads and they wished to be both priests and rulers. Thus, they established their own holiday. The people needed something to commemorate the battle they had won and it was convenient for the Maccabees to use it as self aggrandizement
The story, as it is told now is aggadah, a legend that tells us something about the spiritual meaning of the history without necessarily being intended as factual. You can note that traditional Judaism does not take aggadah as fact, but still treasures it.
Over time myth can be mistakenly taught as history. Families do it all the time. So do religions. True or not, these stories inspire and teach spiritual and moral lessons.

Islam, Terrorist, and Religious Blackmail

In response to the continuing attacks on innocent people by Islamic terrorists, one is forced to err on the side of vocalism. We who believe in free speech will not be silenced, or even quieted, by religious hate, no matter from which religion it may arise. Running a company and page as I do, I have seen more than my share of religious intolerance, from both Christians and Muslims. Love and hate seem to turn on a dime between the poles of the religious life on one hand and a spiritual life on the other.
In my limited experience with this type of hate, there seems to be Christians who seek truth and those who judge. Most, but not all, Muslims wishing to interact with me have approached with a type of judgement and religious arrogance that does not allow dialog. There are exception, and to these men and women we must appeal.
Since we see few Muslims attempting to control the outbreak of hate and murder within their own religion, we must assume consent of the broader Muslim body to the recent killing and destruction throughout the world. This may not be the case, but the world as a whole is quickly developing this view. The Muslim clergy may condemn attacks after the fact but, to my knowledge, they do not turn in those within their mosques entertaining radical or murderous leanings. One wonders how opposed to the inevitable actions they are. Muslims are killing Christians, Jews, and even other Muslims of differing sects. There is no loud outcry en mass of "moderate Muslims" to condemn the recent killings.
As for Islam as a religion, one must ask, how can a movement conveying this amount of death be considered a valid religion? How can muslims remain silent regarding these events? Why do they not stop the terrorists growing within their midst? If Muslims do not rein in the murders among them there will be a time when anyone claiming that belief will be rejected by free societies.
Anyone believing they must kill others who disagree with their beliefs or "disrespects" (a subjective idea) their "god" has an impotent and false god of a belief system so weak it will fall under the slightest inspection. If God is actually powerful he or she is quiet capable of protecting himself or herself. No one needs to kill for a deity if that deity is real. Yes, once Christian had their time or ignorance.
The crusades were a horrible time, but at that time we had swords and spears. Now we have dirty bombs and weapons of mass destruction. We cannot afford this amount of ignorance in these modern times. Societies have evolved and advanced, all but some Islamic societies, which seem to be stuck, both in mode and method, in the dark ages. Let us appeal to those Muslims who are loving, wise people, to influence others in their faith to show the love of God, and not the hate of religion and to drag the violent minded people of their faith into the modern times, where freedom of thought and speech is held as the cornerstone of advancement.
In closing, I encourage all reading this post to continue to have open and free religious and philosophical dialog, even more so now than before. Do not be muted by hate or threat of violence. If we are quieted, the terrorists will have won. We are entitled to our opinions and points of view - even if they offend others. If we give in to the the cries of foul by those who set themselves up as religious judges we will soon have no rights left, neither to speak or act. Even the way we choose to dress will be stifled by religious leaders, no matter what religion they may espouse. DO NOT GIVE IN TO RELIGIOUS BLACKMAIL.

Christianity and Judaism - Cannibalism, Hocus Pocus, and Blood Sucking - Rituals misunderstood

Christianity and Judaism - Cannibalism, Hocus Pocus, and Blood Sucking - Rituals misunderstood
Most religions have rituals that are misunderstood by those outside the particular faith. When the Catholic church announced the belief in transubstantiation (the belief that the bread and wine became the literal body and blood of Jesus) those outside the faith claimed Christians were practicing cannibalism. Then, when they heard the priests proclaim "Hoc est corpus meum" - Mark 14:22 - 'This is my body' those who ridiculed the Christians claimed they were performing magic, and thus the words "Hocus Pocus" were born.
Now, there is an outcry regarding an ancient rite of circumcision still used by ultra-orthodox Jews. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice of metzitzah b'peh requires a practitioner to orally suck the baby's penis to 'cleanse' the open wound following its circumcision, making them susceptible to the virus.
Two more babies stricken with herpes after ritual ultra-orthodox Jewish oral blood sucking circumcision in New York City.
Since 2000 13 known cases of herpes have been contracted from the religious practice. Two deaths and two babies suffering brain damage have resulted Department of health warns there being no safe way to perform the ritual that dates back more than 5,000 years.
The department of health says one of the latest infants to contract the virus developed a fever and a lesion on its scrotum, seven days after the procedure. The boy later tested positive for HSV-1. That virus differs from HSV-2, the genital herpes, which is contracted during sexual intercourse.
'A herpes infection in a newborn baby has the risk of leading to severe illness and death,' Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told ABC News.
'The reason is that the baby doesn't have the same fully developed immune system as an adult. Instead of staying in the genital area, it extends throughout different organs in the body,' he explained.
He said it's too soon to tell whether the boys will suffer permanent effects.
The identify of the rabbi who performed the circumcision is being withheld by the boys' parents, preventing the health department to step in, they said.
Dangers: Since 2000 13 known cases of herpes have resulted from the practice, two of which suffered brain damage and two others died.
The religious practice that dates back to more than 5,000 years defies warning by the city's department of health which says there is no safe way to perform the oral suction on an open wound.
More modern Jewish practices use a sterile aspiration device to clean the wound or a pipette opposed to the oral sucking.
But some rabbis stand grounded behind the practice, calling it a religious freedom while noting its long history.
In September the department voted to require parents to sign forms consenting to the risks of the practice after the death of two children who contracted the virus through the practice.
The parents of those newly infected boys are said to have not signed those forms.
According to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America, two-thirds of boys born in New York City's Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction matter.
The health department claims they've had complaints in past by parents who say they weren't made aware that the oral practice would be performed on their child.

Joseph and Aseneth

The story of Joseph and Aseneth was written between 100 BCE and 100 CE, in a midrash style. This translation is rendered in a modern, easy to read format with history, background, and commentary. Joseph and Aseneth is an epic story of love, desire, sanctification, and forgiveness. It is also a story of religious intolerance, racism, sexism, subterfuge, betrayal, and hate. The story begins after Joseph’s own brothers sold him into slavery. An Egyptian man purchased Joseph to be a servant to his wife. Because Joseph refused to serve her lustful desires, the woman had him thrown into prison on a false charge of rape. The Pharaoh saw greatness in Joseph after he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, giving the ruler insight that would save his nation. Thus, Pharaoh pardoned Joseph and assigned him a position of power. Joseph, the ever-devout Jew, begins his new career living in a world of polytheists where he seems to be tolerated with more grace than he gives to those “abominations” who are neither Jewish in the racial or religious sense. Aseneth is the daughter of the chief priest of the sun god in Heliopolis. She is a spoiled, arrogant child who disdains all men, and even disrespects her father. Aseneth is cursed with beauty, which draws men to her like flies to a carnivorous plant. Even the son of Pharaoh wants her for himself and plots to get her. But Aseneth loathes and despises men, until she sees Joseph, who refuses to even touch her because she does not worship the same god as he. It is within this setting we begin the wonderful and uplifting tale of Joseph and Aseneth.