A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Jerry Falwell on American law (via WND):
While leftists will not acknowledge it, present American law fundamentally reflects biblical tenets, including the Ten Commandments. In order to alter these time-honored laws that sanction the Judeo-Christian vision of marriage, constitutional revisionists are on a quest to secularize America and subsequently destroy the values that characterized the nation for most of its glorious history.Falwell was obviously talking about the Texas sodomy case in particular, but I wonder if he thinks that outlawing slavery was an act of secularization that severed America from its Biblical roots? posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:35 PM |
Friday, July 11, 2003 7:11 PM |
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Reader Duvie responds to the karaite baseball leagues with an eloquent email that ended thusly:
I know the past is irretrievable, and we must make our accomodation with the present (where fortunately baseball remains in many ways what is was), etc., but I say good on them for upholding tradition and celebrating baseball's halcyon days! Even if I cannot escape Longfellow's lament,If anybody doubts the literacy of our readership, so there! posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:22 PM |
Parsha Senryu, Parshas Chukas:
Quest for Truth in the White House Redux
The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.I guess it really all depends on what your definition of ‘truth’ is
“There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people,” said Powell… But eight days after the State of the Union, when Powell addressed the U.N., he deliberately left out any reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa… “I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world,” Powell said.I see, presenting less than strong evidence to the US Congress and the American People is okay, you just can’t do it to the world. It is a crying shame to see a man (Colin Powell) who was once held in such high esteem by so many Americans completely embarrass himself for something he may not ever have really believed in. On to the AP’s account:
If CIA Director George Tenet had any misgivings about that sentence in the president's speech, "he did not make them known" to Bush or his staff, said Condoleezza Rice.I don’t understand how a man who never saw the final draft of the speech is being used as clearance. “Shtikah K’hodaah” (loosely: the Talmudic precept whereby we are permitted to assume that a person agrees with what was said if he remains silent after it was said) can only work if the person being silent actually heard what was said but CBS reports:
The top CIA official, Director George Tenet, was not involved in those discussions and apparently never warned the President he was on thin ice… intelligence officials say the director of the CIA never saw the final draft.Back to the AP:
Bush, asked during a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni here how erroneous material had ended up in the address, said, "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services." He did not answer when pressed again on how it wound up in his speech.With all do respect Mr. President, your supporters credit you with being a man who only does what he wants and believes is correct and now I we are saying “the CIA made me do it.” Please sir, your predecessor and our dear friend Mr. Harry S. Truman once said of the Oval Office, “The buck stops here.”
Rice said "the CIA cleared the speech in its entirety."So wait, now your are telling us that the CIA made a mistake about a pretty serious piece of intelligence, namely that Iraq was seeking uranium. Did they also make such mistakes about the Saddam Hussein – 9/11 link? Or what about the WMD evidence? How many precepts for going to war were cleared erroneously by the CIA? Or were they?
"If the CIA - the director of central intelligence - had said 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone," Rice said. "We have a high standard for the president's speeches."Excuse me, I thought we established that Mr. Tenet did not see the speech in its final form. And is it just me or does it sound like she is hanging up the Director of Central Intelligence?
When queried on reports that the CIA expressed concern to the White House about the allegation, she suggested that Tenet should be asked directly. "I'm not blaming anyone here," Rice said.Ah ha! So you are hanging up the Director of Central Intelligence, Ms. Rice should know better than that, so much for loyalty and strength in ranks of the Bush team.
Asked whether Bush still had confidence in the intelligence agency, Rice replied, "Absolutely."Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…
If anyone at the CIA had doubts about the veracity of the uranium-Iraq allegation, Rice said, "those doubts were not communicated to the president."Who were they communicated to and why didn’t they tell the president?
And why all of this concentration on the CIA? Colin Powell must have known something was wrong with that intel, he didn’t use it in his presentation at the UN.
Powell, however, did not discuss his misgivings with her or anyone on her staff between the time of the State of the Union address and Powell's presentation to the United Nations, she said.Do you see nuance? Between the State of the Union address and the presentation at the UN. But what about before the State of the Union address? That is the time period we are discussing aren’t we?
Wow, you have to be impressed with Ms. Rice’s maneuvering. The Wizard of Bush, Karl Rove is really outdoing himself this time around.
…she acknowledged that Secretary of State Colin Powell had reservations about the report and chose not to mention the allegations in his Iraq presentation to the U.N. Security Council a few days later…Rice did say that the State Department's intelligence division considered the uranium-purchasing allegations dubious, and this was also noted in a footnote in an intelligence assessment given to Bush.Wait, so the president did know that the uranium-purchasing allegation was dubious and he was told about it. But it didn’t come from George Tenet so it doesn’t count? Oh, now I understand. Phew! For a while there I thought something went wrong.
If the Sunday morning talk shows are even half as good as Friday has been, we are in for a great weekend!
posted by Pinchas | 12:19 PM |
Its about time that we linked to FrumTalk, who doesn't post that often, although he does have an interesting discussion about nepotism in the yeshiva system v. YU on his blog right now.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:11 AM |
The Chareidi World takes steps towards stopping one of the newest, greatest threats to its very existence -- people are bringing cellphones in the kollels and having conversations on them in the hallways. Thankfully, this dastardly situation was rectified, and the leaders of that world took pains to outlaw the cellphones in the kollels, ensuring that their students will again have no daily involvement with the outside world, which apparently now includes their wives and kids. The Chareidi media was on the case, covering all the important ramifications of this sweeping decision
Yated Ne'eman: How are women to cope with the new takonos? Are they too restrictive?Incidentally, there used to be a sign outside the YU Beis Midrash (it was taken down when they cleared the bulletin boards before the summer) telling people to turn their phones to silent, but isn't that just an issue of common courtesy? posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:00 AM |
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Finally, I get around to Rushkoff's final chapter.
Basically, he spends 70 pages suggesting and describing various approaches towards practicing Judaism in its truest, most progressive forms. He hits the nail on the head in the opening pages
Inspired by the notion of an autonomous and participatory relationship to halakha, an eldery gentleman at one of my lectures politely raised his hand. "I want to stop doing the Judaism they tell me to do. So please tell me, what should I do instead?" What could I possibly have offered him that wouldn't amount to a proposal for a new set of sacred rules and absolute truths (p.179)Exactly. Unfortunately, the next paragraph beings "Nevertheless..." I really don't understand. I thought the point was to ultimately dissolve Judaism into a set of ideals. So why maintain any particularistic elements at all? If the point is to spur individual or communal discussion based on old texts that contain progessive nuggets, then why suggest any sort of program at all? Shouldn't we all be free to arrive at the Judaism that we all find most meaningful? By choosing the narrative that we have, why have BTs and institutional Jews missed the point?
Later on, we start discussing God, which Rushkoff finally defines as, well, essentially Jimminy Cricket. But don't worry:
Even if we go so far as to adopt a form of athiesm, like the many moden, practical Jews who believe in nothing but the secular humanism of social justice, then the God of hineni still has a role in providing us with a metaphoric scheme -- a model -- for understanding such pusuits in a religious context. (p.186)But why, then, would we want to understand these pursuits in a religious context in the first place? There's no explanation forthcoming, just an unspoken assumption that the Jewish religion is important, even as we try to dissolve it into what Rushkoff defined as its core values.
Rushkoff continues to develop his post-theology theology, into saying that his social justice-based system solves the problem of evil in the world. There is no such thing as evil, only the absence of good people doing good things. Our job is to develop good everywhere. Of course, R. Kook did not get a footnote, biblio reference, or citation here (although we did bash R. Kook in the chapter about Zionism).
I agree with Rushkoff (!!) in when he applies his open-source Judaism in terms of discussion and the constant search for meaning in ritual and law. We should be always searching for meaning in Judaism, struggling when something doesn't fit the way we'd like it to be. However, when you just change whatever you want (practice or meaning) whenever it doesn't align with the ideals you brought into your discussion, then you may as not be having the discussion in the first place. If all Shabbas is is a day off from work (to celebrate Judaism's early obsession with human rights), then there's really no reason to make kiddush, is there? If we can deconstruct the Unesaneh Tokef piyut and then recite it as an assertion of the essential randomness and lack of meaning in the universe (as a shul he describes on pages 224-5 once did), then why bother saying it at all? What's the point of binding yourself to a tradition if you get the option of changing the tradition on a whim whenever you happen not to agree with it?
As leaders of our own ceremonies, particularly in the home, we have the authority to update them however we choose so they make more sense to us and our families -- as long as we base our decisions on our best efforts to understand the ritual's intended effects in its original context. (p.222)Who decides what it originally meant? What if I can think of a much more progressive meaning for something that contradicts its original intent. What about the rest of Judaism, that doesn't have a quick, glib progressive meaning?
What Rushkoff ultimately fails to undestand is that Judaism has always been adapting and progressing, and has always been in dialog with its cultural contexts. There isn't a need for some sudden renaissance for the simple reason that we're going to get wherever we're going to be getting anyway. Rushkoff is pressing for a revolution because he wants to dictate where we all go, and that dictation, in and of itself, contradicts his basic open-dialog premise. In the end, he never answers the contradiction he raises in the very beginning. If Judaism is all about progressive values, then now that we have the values, who needs the religion? What does the religion have beyond the progressive values that we need, and why do we care about keeping it alive -- as Rushkoff obviously does?posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:08 PM |
Brilliant NYT article about traditionalist baseball leagues -- that play by the 19th century rules:
A tall man in a black frock coat, a gray striped waistcoat and a top hat marched onto the field of mowed weeds and, in front of 200 fans arrayed on rough-hewn stadium benches, bellowed: "Gentlemen, have you selected hurlers?"Read the whole article -- you won't be able to help but smile. Trust me. For the Jewish tie-in: at what cost do we try to preserve tradition, or do we assume that God made sure that baseball evolved in a certain way? Are these people baseball karaites? (Jewish tie-in courtesy of an AIM discussion with Friend of The Elders Elliot) posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:34 PM |
What's my point? I don't actually have one--but opening my columns with strings of clichéd cultural juxtapositions really cuts down my workload. You see, since the Cold War ended, we've gone from superpowers to spreadsheets, Pershings to Pentiums, the Berlin Wall to suburban sprawl, olive trees to Lexuses. Are you ready? Because the whole world is changing. Unless you are one of the eight-tenths of humanity who at this moment are either hungry, illiterate, or field-stripping an AK-47, in which case I'll get back to you in some future column.So well put, it almost sounds like one of his NPR interviews. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:14 PM |
Interesting little feature at Navah's blog: quotes she finds during the week.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:18 PM |
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Letter from Gotham, "Diana Moon" is back. I owe her an e-mail; maybe I'll just blog it now. Go visit and so forth.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 7:28 PM |
For those of you interested in so-called academic approaches to the study of Talmud, you should check out http://www.talmud-revadim.co.il/, the new home on the web for Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Haymen's "Revadim" program for teaching high schoolers gemara through an awareness of the historical development of the sugya. Fascinating website, good links.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:21 PM |
U-Teshuva, U-Tefilah...aren't going to help Michael Savage get his TV show back, it seems. Then again, the quote that got him thrown overboard at MSNBC
"Oh, you're one of the sodomites! You should only get AIDS and die, you pig! How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig? You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage? You got nothing to do today? Go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis. OK, got another nice caller here who's busy because he didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse and is angry at me today?"is probably worth a few months in perdition. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 6:04 PM |
The Quest for Truth in the White House
The Quest for Truth in Reporting
Palestinian security officials gave conflicting accounts on Monday of what some said was the arrest of a would-be suicide bomber. Officials of National Security, one of several overlapping Palestinian security organizations, said they had arrested an 18-year-old woman who was planning a suicide attack after her family found a letter she had left that described her intentions.
I am not yet sure what amazes me more: the public’s willingness to be duped, or the media’s willingness to be duped. posted by Pinchas | 5:19 PM |
Buy a piece of Washington Heights for cheap. The fourth plot here is at 167 & Amsterdam, has an assessed value of $7,632, but you need to have $23,800 to be an eligible buyer -- opening bid is $1,000.
Leonard Fein writes a Forward op-ed about Israel and the Palestinians using the siamese twins metaphor. Implication being that a seperation that can kill both twins (ie, plunge boths sides into an even worse situation) is preferable to maintaining the current status quo. Also, he questions Sharon's motives, but not Abbas', which struck me as unfair.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:58 PM |
Reader SWMNBN sends in NYT on Jewish pop bands. It discusses Soulfarm and the Moshav Band; typically, they're about three years too late, and these bands really aren't popular anymore.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:54 PM |
Rushkoff writes the same op-ed to the Forward. The act's getting a bit tired...His basic point is that the Powers That Be keep things intentionally confusing and obtuse so they can remain in power
Increasingly opaque computer interfaces were developed, reversing the demystification of media enabled by the joystick and other tools. Put simply, our computers were reconfigured so that receiving became ever easier, while creating became much more complicated. An early DOS computer user tended to understand a lot about how his computer stored information and launched programs. Now, to install a new program, users must consult "the wizard," the perfect metaphor for the computer's remystification. By the late 1990s, the do-it-yourself ethic of the early Internet community was replaced by the value of commerce.But how many millions of people now use computers who couldn't in the DOS days? In his own book, he makes a big deal about Judasim operating on multiple levels. So, we have the hackers, the power users, the business users, and the home users. Remember, not everyone is into the medium qua the medium. Some people want to use computers as a tool to get where they want to go.
But Judaism doesn't offer pat answers to life's biggest questions. Our tradition favors open-ended inquiry over unilateral decree. Like any genuinely spiritual path, it just leads to more questions. Sadly, the Microsofts among our Jewish institutions that could be fueling this inquiry instead cling desperately to the most static and pre-ordained versions of religious and communal doctrine. Obsessing on numbers, intermarriage, assimilation and Israel, they teach something closer to ethnocentrism than pluralism, stressing what we should be doing for Judaism — rather than what Judaism can do for the world.Of course, if there were no institutions, then tons of Jews would have no way of connecting to Judaism in the first place, the same way that millions of people wouldn't even own computers today if it weren't for Microsoft. The secretary who uses word and outlook isn't "missing the point" of her computer as opposed to, say, an MIT engineer. She has certain needs, and uses a computer to get there. Assimilation has gotten us to the point where if someone decides that s/he doesn't need Judaism, then thats it. The fact that someone is associated with a Jewish institution in the first place demonstrates that a) they need/want something and b) this institution is helping them, in some form or fashion, get there. Obviously, some people are more or less sophisticated than others when it comes to what they need and what they want to take. Welcome to life, and leave us alone. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:32 AM |
Jewish Ombudsman: Boycott the Boycott. My latest at Jewsweekposted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:37 AM |
NYT runs a story on the funny Lutherian minister in Denmark:
Thorkild Grosboll, a popular Lutheran pastor in this village by the sea, drags on his pipe and clarifies once and for all: "I do not believe in a physical God, in the afterlife, in the resurrection, in the Virgin Mary."This guy and Rushkoff could have a great conversation. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:17 AM |
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Wednesday, July 09, 2003
I was all set to finally post my reaction to the last chapter in rushkoff's book when I realized that I didn't remember it that well from when I'd first read it. Since I'm laining this week (double parsha and all), got back late from a sheva berakhos, and keep a pretty busy schedule as it is, it'll have to wait till tomorrow or Friday. I know this comes as a blow to everyone that was anxiously awaiting the end of the rushkoff era at protocols.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:47 PM |
Interesting story about a jailed Russian businessman (contract murders and kidnappings) who remains a huge property owner and benefactor of the Russian Jewish community in the jewish-times.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:59 PM |
Snape would only shake his head and deduct 25 points:
A woman set her Madrid home on fire Wednesday as she cooked up a potion in an attempt to imitate the fictional wizard Harry Potter, emergency services said.(via Sun-Sentinal) posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:57 PM |
If anybody had any faith left in politicians' integrity, let this be a warning to you (via Jewish Press)
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier this week found himself in the unusual position of being accused by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres of making too many concessions to the Palestinians.Not bad for doublespeak. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:37 PM |
Elder Kraut, engaged:
Dumped in the middle of this article on James Woods' history television show, we learn that the Battle of Valley Forge was filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Before it disappears, want to blog this article about an appeal to Jewish ethnicity in a City Council race. One gets the sense that only a Sephardi could think this up. And only Gary Ackerman could call it racist.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:41 PM |
A bit early this week, but who cares? Time for fun with the Jewish Press Letters Section!! This week features the requisite angry response to Yaakov Stern from a wife who likes having a hotel cook her Pesach meals, thank you, a letter from the Joe Lieberman who lives in Brooklyn (who is NOT a Democrat), and a letter from a Rabbi Yakov Lazaros who thinks we should write Bush anti-road map letters because Evangelical Christians do, and if they're doing it, well golly, we should be too. Also another good pro-BT letter by Chananya. But the Stupid Letter Of The Week goes to Kenneth H. Ryesky, who writes in response to the responses to his first Gideon Busch letter, which won top honors two weeks ago. He's pro-Busch, and although his letter is about 17 pages long, I've excerpted the best bits.
Unfortunately, the victim was the same Gidone Busch whose company we had come to enjoy, except that the news media had put an extremely negative slant on his mental condition. Gidone Busch`s name rarely appeared in the press without being accompanied by adjectives such as "mentally disturbed" or "hammer-wielding" (or even, as used in Yated Ne`eman, "mentally deranged."). While such descriptive words may be true in the strict technical sense, their use in the news stories served to paint a contorted and corrupt image of Gidone Busch. And that played right into the hands of the New York Police Department, for it gave an air of justification to the brutal killing of GidoneThe first paragraph is a doozy. Sure, he was a psychotic wielding a hammer, but come on, its all about perception. The anti-BT bias definitely exists, but to blame something like Gideon Busch on is being just a bit paranoid. And to compare Busch to the Holocaust, well, I don't know what to say. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:11 PM |
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I'd been wondering whether or not to post about the pro-Iranian-democracy organizing going on today. From a Rushkoffian "Social Justice" perspective, it seems a Jewish idea, though I don't know whether he'd go or not...also, the ayatollahs have the bomb to take out Israel, and that's of relevance to Jews. Anyway, Jewish-related or not, it's important, even if I can't go because I'll be out on Long Island. Reader Duvie sends in the info:
rally for iranian democracy, 11 am to 2 pm, 47th St. and 1st AvenueGo if you can. Represent.
If you go, send in experiences/pictures, and we'll post. posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:07 AM |
Since I'm already so girlie today, and am always in the mood to dispel the nasty rumor that all we blog about is news, here's a post on chick-flicks.
ModestClothing.Com. Interestingly, they use live models, unlike the Reverend Falwell.
But who's gonna play her in the movie?
Marvel Comics says Princess Diana will be reincarnated as a mutant comic book superhero this September.(via ABC news) posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:58 AM |
Talk about warranties:
Bright red letters on the Christian convert's white truck tout his company's warranty: "Gutter that lasts until Jesus comes back."(via Houston Chronicle) posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:27 AM |
Hasidic Rebel finds out that criticizing the Rebbe is going to get people angry at him. What amazes me is how shocked he sounds to have realized this, although I think I can understand the disillusionment he seems to be feeling.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:02 AM |
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
The Death of Outrage
As Australia goes, so goes the US?
I wonder if Elder I will be seen at this National Conference and if so what capacity and on what side?
The Truth About Mahmoud Abbas is an interesting article from our friends at Insight that sheds some perspective on a man thrust into the spotlight just a short while ago as a reliable partner in peace for Israel and noted to be “a man dedicated to peace,” by President Bush.
Elder Avraham, I have to pick up this book on Queen Esther, because I wonder if the authors stumbled upon some other essential business lessons one can find if they study the true meaning of the book:
In the great debate of whether life imitates art or art life, the Matrix Kids will undoubtedly be touted as evidence for proponents of the former view and will likely serve as fuel for the critics of Hollywood.
Before Jewsweek refreshes itself, I just read their article about Queen Esther and women in the workplace.
And in each chapter, corresponding in chronological order to an episode in the Esther story, the authors spell out the parallels between Esther's wisdom and modern truth. The chapter on palace gossip, for example, notes that Esther was able to increase her credibility with King Ahasuerus by telling him of the assassination plot that Mordecai had overheard and shared with her. The chapter quickly moves on to explain how tapping into the office grapevine can enhance your career -- and gives specific tips on doing just that.I hope they discussed all the different approaches to snitching and getting your co-workers hung while making sure to point out that Esther only did so once, and when the CEO's life was in danger. I'm not sure Esther works as a cuthroat corporate climber. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 1:37 PM |
I don’t know how I missed this issue when it was first reported in the Times last month, but finally a clear defense for Elder Sam (and some would argue myself as well)!
Information factiod from the front page of HasidicNews.com recently:
Courts are organized and run within the Hasidic community to rule in social conflicts as well as on religious issues. Those courts are sometimes driven by local politics and therefore not admired. In most cases, issues end up getting resolved in a city court when parties refuse to abide by an unfavorable, sometimes biased, court ruling.Is that supposed to come across as poorly as it did to me, or am I just missing something? posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:42 AM |
Yossi Klein Halevi notes in today's JPost that the Likud, in accepting a Palestinian state, has finally broken its last ties with its founding ideology.
Just as kibbutzim will continue to exist in name if not substance [after they began the process of privatization], so the Likud will continue to mount the photograph of Revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky at its gatherings. But the soul of both movements will have been ceded to history.Well, then again, Revisionist Zionism still has a home with the ultra-right Herut and Ichud Halumi parties, and maybe its a good thing that Likud has moderated itself. I mean, nobody would argue that Labor's recent moderations (leaving the extreme left to Meretz and the communist parties) were a bad thing.
posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:37 AM |
Naomi Chana promises a post on As a Driven Leaf soon. Personally, I think everyone should read that book in high school.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:26 AM |
Monday, July 07, 2003
The Harry Potter Post
Well, after putting in eight long, hard hours over Shabbas and Saturday night, I managed to keep the new Harry Potter book away from my eight year old brother long enough to finish it. Time to start the discussion, although, in this actual post, I may be a bit vague since there are some people reading this who don't want to find out who dies by reading it here. Those people shouldn't be reading the comments, though. All bets are off there, and spoilers and in-depth conversation are fair game. Also, since I don't have the book in front of me and I wasn't taking notes (being shabbas and all), be a bit forgiving.
First of all, I was a bit off-put by how dramatically different a lot of the characters were in this book. Obviously, Harry is a lot, well, angier this time around. It might just be me, but it seems a little strange that his personality would change so much over the course of a month (the time between this book and the end of the last one), teen hormones or no. Strangely, he was the only one who seemed to suffer from the sudden spurt of angst. When it comes to Ron and Hermoine, though, I got the sense that they were a lot more developed in the previous books. In OoTP it seemed they were basically only there to get Harry annoyed with them. They didn't do anything, you know? Also, the professors seemed a lot flatter than usual. Mcgonnagal, Snape, and Dumbledore had somewhat developed personalities before this book. I was a little disappointed to see them flattened as much as they were. Of course, most of the rest of the characters were pretty flat to begin with, so that was OK. Sirius came across pretty well, as did the Weasley twins. Umbridge was just over the top. No political hack is that evil, and it never came out that she was working for Voldemort like it should have. She wasn't fun to read about.
As far as the whole Harry-Cho thing, I thought that the parts where they actually interacted were done very well, as were the parts where Harry was pondering the pre and post interactions. The parts where Harry discussed the situation with his posse seemed a bit weird, though. Ron, for one, seems not to have matured at all, while Hermoine comes across as a full-blown psychologist. Interestingly, Harry always seems to fall back into Ron-mode, even though he generally seemed to have a bit more tact/sense/awareness when he wasn't in Ron's presence.
As far as the critical kill-a-key-character scene, I was a bit let-down. I mean, a) he (and my use of the male pronoun may just be a diversion, for you late readers) wasn't such a main character anyway, even though JK Rowling obviously tried to build him up over the course of the book, b) the scene where he died was so tangential to the primary action in the Ministry that if felt like JKR killed him almost as an afterthought. I mean, ultimately this is a fantasy/fairy tale sort of thing, and every death should be amazingly significant and meaningful (like Cedric's was). This one wasn't. Just a gripe.
I appreciate greatly JKR's attempt to add some depth to the Dursleys with the howler in the beginning and by Dumbledore explaining to Harry about why he had to stay there summers. I think its just a bit too late. If the Dursleys start acting at all like real people or do anything out of character, it'll just seem too fake. I mean, can you really believe that Mrs. Dursley had any sort of conversation with Dumbledore (or any wizard) when the Potters were killed? Also, doesn't that contradict something or other?
The "Dumbledore fights!" scenes came across really poorly, in my opinion, not unlike the Yoda fighting scene in the last star wars movie. I mean, super wizards like Dumbledore should sort of be able to remain head and shoulders above the fray, not act like wizard-rambos. Dumbledore's magical prowess should have been implied consistently, but never actually displayed. It sort of ruins something to realize that he casts the same spells as the rest of us, only he can do them quicker.
Snape's back history was also disappointing. So basically the whole Snape-Harry thing dates back to a bit of 16-year old teasing? The best part of the first books, in my opinion, was the implication that there was this amazingly rich backstory just peeking behind the edges of what was going on in the present. As more and more of the backstory comes out, it seems more and more lame. Snape just sort of seems petty now, you know?
Also, what was the big deal with the prophecy? Its not like Voldemort wasn't trying to kill Harry until now, and its not like everyone didn't realize that only Harry was going to kill Voldemort if anyone would.
OK, things that I liked a lot. Black's back story and house, Dumbledore's appearance at Harry's hearing, Harry moving into a leadership role in the school, the Weasley twins, and the emergence of Neville. Discuss.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:30 PM |
Adi Neuman discusses a Rabbi Tatz shiur:
According to the Talmud, people used to have an extreme desire to practice idolatry, something we cannot relate to today. When the connection of the Jewish people to the divine presence began to wane, this desire caused all sorts of chaos (we understand the practice of idolatry did bring some sort of power) and the great sages prayed that it should go away.In other words, if I lived in ancient times, I'd be sacrificing sheep instead of, say, blogging. And you'd all be sacrificing sheep instead of, say, reading this. Makes me that much more happy to live in (post)modernity. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 7:06 PM |
I have to say that I'm somewhat amused by the intense-looking discussion on the hashkafa.com message board as to whether or not protocols consititutes a "YUish forum" or not. The things you notice by following the referring links once in awhile...posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 12:31 PM |
I'm out to unpack books. Vive le Protocols.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:46 AM |
Bangitout seems to think they have a lock on Saddam Hussein. What do you think?
I guess some shteeble's throwing a $25,000,000 Kiddush sometime soon...posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 11:02 AM |
I don't think I ever posted about this, but I was just reminded. Check out this advertisement for a new settlement town in Samaria:
What will be unique to our community, compared to Tel Stone, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Efrat, Har Nof, or other predominantly Anglo areas, is that it will be a suburban kippa shechora, or American-Chareidi type of community open to individuals who want to maintain an intense religious environment, high standards in both religious and secular education and who want to live in large American style homes. Tel Stone lacks the secular education, Ramat Beit Shemesh lacks the homes, Efrat is not Charedi while Har Nof is not suburban. By limiting the size of the community to approximately 600 families, we will be able to maintain a small town and friendly community. We hope to continually stimulate each other's spiritual growth under the direction of a godol.They aren't kidding -- check out their model house plans. Can you imagine a settlement for yeshivish people with these sorts of houses:
If you're wondering where American religious materialism ends up, now you know. By the way, if you want to read an article by Shmuel Neumann, the founder of this place, click here. I'm not sure how tounge-in-cheek it is, but I think he'd be happy if the Palestinians were halakhaically defined as Amaleq (which would mean we'd have to wage a war of genocide against them). People like that scare me a great deal.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 10:37 AM |
Unfortunately, I didn't take the time at the time to comment on the sodomy law decision, like Solly and others did, but I think Michael Kinsley speaks pretty clearly for me. It seemed that improving gay rights must logically lead to abolishing the institution of marriage, which it never really made sense for the goverment to sanction anyway. Back when I was covering Levin v. Yeshiva, the case in which a lesbian sued to get housing for her & her domestic partner at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I was interviewing the ACLU lawyer representing the plaintiff and I kept proposing that what might really happen would be that Yeshiva would allow housing for all significant partnerships, and he kept saying they wouldn't...sure enough, I was right.
9:58 AM |
In deference to Imshin and my own real-life reponsibilities, I'll have my next (final?) Rushkoff post later today along with my (now delayed) Harry Potter comments. I won't say who dies, in case you haven't read it yet, but -- come on -- at this point there's really no excuse.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 9:56 AM |
Sunday, July 06, 2003
I'm back to books (unpacking this time) so posting is intermittent and possibly off-topic/outdated by the time I get around to it. Thank goodness for Elder Avraham and the resurrected Elder Pinchas. And congratulations to Elder Kraut on his engagement. Who knows what might happen when Elder Sam returns from Europe.posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:59 PM |
The Lauder school will model itself after New York's Yeshiva University, an institute of high academic standards that also serves as a major Jewish-religious center. No studies will be held on Saturdays and holidays and the food in the cafeteria will be kosher. Students can study Hebrew and Judaism, but only if they choose. The school will have no religious features and, at this stage, there will be no synagogue.So it seems they've got the Einstein/Cardozo model down. Then it occured to me that they're probably actually modelling YC and SSSB, but only as they work in practice, not as they're drawn up on paper. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 8:30 PM |
For those of you looking forward to a new book discussion (and I know I am), here's a Commentary book review of Kugel's The God of Old. Interesting stuff. Check out this paragraph
The point is that the God of old is not some omnipresent, bodiless spirit, and not even invisible. Rather, He appears just like you and me—when He chooses to appear. Like Henry V among his soldiers, God is walking about the earth incognito. At any moment, you might meet a stranger, and he could turn out to be a messenger of God—or God Himself.Interesting contrast from book to book here. While Rushkoff seems convinced that the absence of a God-figure on top of the Ark is a pointer to an abstract, receded non-God, Kugel takes the opposite approach. We can't define God any one way, since He can -- and does -- manifest Himself however He wants to. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 4:19 PM |
Irony-Meter hits a new high: Shimon Peres stated today that the ruling Likud party has lost its ideology. (via A7)posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:24 PM |
Adi J. Neuman spends Shabbas with Ohr Samayach in the Old City of Jerusalem, including lunch with Rabbi Orlofsky (audio sample here), and is considering pushing off law school to spend a year learning and maybe getting married. Stay tuned for updates.posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 3:17 PM |
Rushkoff #5 (*blah*)
Well, here we are again, facing the same issues we've faced in the first three chapters of Nothing Sacred. Essentially, Rushkoff is using a very narrow model of Jewish history -- without citing his sources for it -- and using that model to propose redefinitions of Judaism that are incredibly more revolutionary than anything he quotes. The first 10 pages of the chapter discuss his theory of Jewish development. Essentially, whenever Jews get to live in peace and tranquility they show their true progressive colors, only slipping into tribalism and particularism when persecuted. The examples are Maimonides-Egypt and Spinoza-Holland on one side, and Shabbtai Tzvi-Christian Europe on the other. First of all, the idea dates back to Heinrich Graetz, although there is no acknowledgement in the index, biblio, or further research sections (similar to how his "Abstract Monotheism" is a takeoff of Mordechai Kaplan, who also goes uncited). Second, as detailed in the notes in the back, Rushkoff bases his Maimonides on David Hartman's book, which presents among the most universalistic perceptions of him, and the work of Leo Strauss, who takes the radical position that Maimonides had a secret position which saw religion entirely as a political tool intended to placate the masses while the elite could rule them as philosopher-kings (Elder I -- within this school, there is room to support most of Rushkoff's assertions about Maimonides, although according to their own assumption about a secret doctrine there is really no way to prove Maimonides thought what they think he does). A perusal of the modern state of scholarship on Maimonides will reveal many other readings of Maimonides, many of which are much more credible than these two in terms of determining what Maimonides' own intentions were, and much less, say, progressive. Finally, the assumption that Maimonides was a major revolutionary is a bit of a stretch. Any good book on Medieval Jewish Philosophy would detail how Maimonides, his predecessors, and his succesors all dealt with Judaism within the context of the Islamic rationalist culture that they found themselve within. It wasn't just that Maimonides came along, took a new look at Judaism, and saw all these progressive stuff everyone else missed -- Maimonides saw whatever universalism he saw precisely because he was a player among the philosophic elite of his time, and that was what they saw in Islam and Christianity as well. Maimonides' conception of God, as he says explicitly in the Guide, is a neoplatonistic conception of "thought thinking itself". Rushkoff again reads his own modern categories onto Maimonides, instead of reading him in his own cultural context.
In terms of the development of Kabbalah, Rushkoff cites only Gershon Scholem. What happened to the last hundred years of scholarship? At least quote Moshe Idel, among any number of more current players in the field.
With regards to Zionism, same deal. I'm going to defer to Elder I's comments. Just to emphasize one quote, "Had Zionism remained a secular, practical endeavor, it might never have run into the serious snags it did.” (p.145) Because nationalism is OK, as long as its not religious nationalism? He's never clear on why not -- he's too busy bashing R. Kook.
Picking up where Elder I drops off, Rushkoff drops another bombshell.
Perhaps our greatest challenge as Jews is to spread the "bad news" in the least threatening way possible. The bad news is that we may, in fact, be alone. For all practical purposes, God has receded from human affairs. He is as distant from us as if he did not even exist in the first place. At the very least, as Jews, we must behave as if this were the case. We must assume there is no God protecting us and guaranteeing our collective fate and instead learn to take of one another. For what if the worst were true? What if the scientists studying evolution and emergence are correct, and there is no single story of creation that explains our existence? What if organisms really did simply evolve from organic molecules, and great religions like Judaism evolved out of ancient pagan traditions? What if the existentialists are right, and in the grand scale of things, we are no more than the progeny of fungus hurtling aimlessly through cold and utterly meaningless empty space? Well, then, we would simply charge ourselves with responsibility for creating meaning out of this nothingness. As Jews, we have already accepted this mantle -- whether we believe in God or not. (p.172-173)Where to start? Nothing scientific poses a problem to faith -- come on, that sort of argument is so 19th century. More importantly, maybe the very point of Judaism is to make sure that God doesn't recede completely. Social justice is a part of that, but so is history, spirituality, and, basically, the totality of the human experience. If we were just trying to build social order so that our stay on a meaningless rock in a meaningless universe would be more pleasant, then we really have no need for the Jewish story, or, really, any story. All we'd have to say is, "look, there's nothing out there, so we may as well get along while we're all on this rock together," and be done with it. Rushkoff isn't looking to jettison the Jewish tradition, just redefine it so that he's the culmination of it, and I still don't understand why. posted by Voice From The Hinterlands | 2:59 PM |
10:27 AM |
SIW Rushkoff Post #5