Friday, October 26, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Vayera ("Damnit Abraham, I'm a doctor... and God!")

So my last year's post was nominated for a Jewish blogging award so I need to clear the high bar with this one. For comparison see last year's entry:
Rabbinic Rambling: DVAR TORAH: Vayera (Abraham's Dysfunctional Family)

I'll be very brief as candlelighting is approaching (it is 5ish now). I think Isaac died. You might misconstrue what I said and think "duh, Isaac died after Jacob's sojourn in Haran". What I mean is that I think Isaac died during the Akeidah, during his binding to the altar. I have thought this a possibility for a while. I am now also inclined to think that certain influential ancient rabbis agree with my view. I realized that the Haftarah this week is about death of a child and his resurrection. It is my belief that there is a strong possibility Abraham did in fact sacrifice Isaac on the altar and that God resurrected him. The Torah says "you have not withheld your son from me". If Abraham didn't go through with it, then why would God say this to him? (Post-Shabbos Edit: I realized as I was leyning the Torah reading for the Akeidah that it mentions that Abraham left the mountain and rejoined his traveling companions. It mentions him in the singular and doesn't allude to Isaac... maybe he was still dead at this point...)

I think my view would lend a very different perspective on God, Abraham, Isaac (Post-Shabbos Edit: the flip side is who was Isaac who, whatever his young age, was probably much stronger than his elderly father to easily overpower him. He was carrying a significant amount of firewood... did filial dedication override the need to survive? Did he willfully allow his father to bind him to an altar, to actually kill him?) as well as the underpinnings of this being the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah: Even if the righteous die, as does happen with everyone (thank you Kohelet for constantly reminding us of that) still there is resurrection both here and in the world to come.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dumbledore is gay, says JK Rowling

Holy crap!

The rumours are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay, Harry Potter author JK Rowling admitted.

Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall, New York.

After reading briefly from the final book, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, she took questions from audience members. She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love". "Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards.

"Falling in love can blind us to an extent," Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding that Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down". Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his "great tragedy".

"Oh, my God," Rowling concluded with a laugh, "the fan fiction."

Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the internet have speculated on the sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past. And explicit scenes with Dumbledore have already appeared in fan fiction.

Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, she spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.

Rowling, finishing a brief Open Book Tour of the US, her first tour there since 2000, also said that she regarded her Potter books as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority".

Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, probably referring to Christian groups that have alleged the books promoted witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she said, would give them one more reason.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Lech Lecha (A Yoda like Yoda)

(translation: one who knows like Yoda)

This week's Torah portion should be very familiar... too familiar... to members of my Biblical Grammar class. We are taking apart chapters 12, 13, 15, 16, and on of Genesis and parsing each word for its grammatical construct, resulting in sever Yoda-like speech. Yoda was wise beyond his 900 some-odd years but spoke in sentences that didn't make sense in English. But Hebrew is not english.

"And afflicted He God Pharaoh affliction great and his house over the matter of Sarai wife of Abram. And he called, Pharaoh, to Abram and he said 'What is that you have done to me, why not did you tell me that your wife she is?'" (Genesis 12:17-18)

Fun stuff. "Lech lecha". "Go for yourself" Never thought you would translate it that way, did you?

Nothing much to say now in the limited time I have at this moment, but I will possibly update this later. Just a note that the facebook edition of this note will probably not reflect the potential updates so if you want to read it please click the link to the original post.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Noach ("Enkidu said to Utnapishtin there's gonna be a floody floody!")

So I was thinking about poor Noach this past week as it is his Torah portion and thinking what it was like to spend an entire solar year on a massive enclosed (and incredibly humid considering the precipitation outside) structure with two or seven of any animal (depending on which version of the story you believe) that has ever existed. Well, I had a better thought during Shabbat, but it has since left my mind. Imagine being cooped up on an ark with smelly animals for an entire year. Noah was a patient zookeeper at sea.

Many religions, cultures and mythologies have in common flood stories. If you want to see a sampling check out this article on Wikipedia. Possibly the most famous, besides the Biblical story of Noah's flood is the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. I don't want to get too into it as you can read it on your own, but I just want to point out the major difference in which these two societies, the Hebrew and the Mesopotamian, valued most. The Epic of Gilgamesh reads like a precursor to the Odyssey, the Lord of the Rings or something in between. Gilgamesh was chosen because he was the most powerful king of his age. Power seems to be the ultimate thing, and as for his goodness? Well, one of the things he tried to do was sleep with the bride at her wedding... to another person.
Noah, however, is described as finding favor in the eyes of God due to the fact that he was righteous in his generation. He may not have been the strongest, but he was in a generation of ultimate corruption and he himself was unable to be corrupted by them (I assume, but he also got completely hammered after he got off the boat and madness ensued so I'm not so sure). The point is, I would actually compare Gilgamesh to another character mentioned in this Torah portion and developed massively in Midrash: Nimrod, founding king of Babylon. He is known as the mightiest warrior of all time and the builder of the Tower of Babel. He also constantly oppresses a little boy named Abram, but perhaps we will get to that one next week... Just note that in modern slang, nimrod means a moron so take out of that what you will...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah/Bereishit

My eyes have been opened! During the end of the Torah service today I realized something.

In today's Torah portion, the Torah of which we restarted yesterday, we read the account of Creation. God created humanity, in the form of Adam and Eve which he put in the Garden of Eden to till and to guard. He also placed within the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (read: not so good) and the Tree of Life, these being known as the Etz HaDaat Tov V'Ra and the Etz Chayim in the biblical Hebrew. After Adam and Eve sampled of the first tree, God expelled them from Eden lest they eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. Now why would God allow such dangerous items into His Garden? God Forbid that God was not able to foresee this happening! However what are these trees? I mentioned that I realized something at the end of the Torah service. We have something else we call the Etz Chayim, the Tree of Life, and that is Torah, that which we so recently celebrated by dancing, food, and Oh Lord, so many drinks. Prior to this we spent seven days feasting in huts, little gardens of earthly and heavenly delights before we replaced our sticks and lemons with Torah Scrolls for the next holiday.

Why would God place fiery chruvim there with fiery ever-turning swords to guard the path to the Tree of Life? I think that indeed the Torah is the Tree of Life there, something that indeed grants immortality, to both those sealed within its tomes and those that have held fast to it for over 3300 years. Adam and Eve gained knowledge, or the ability to learn, the easy way but were not ready to receive Torah. No, it took the experience of our forefathers and the centuries in Egyptian slavery for our ancestors to take claim of it. Back to the fiery angels, the angels tried to kill Moses, says a Midrash, when he ascended to heaven to retrieve the Torah, but God commanded Moses to cling to His Throne while Moses rebuffed the murderous angels and secured the Holy Torah to deliver to Israel.

My Rabbi said when he announced an Adult Bar Mitzvah class a few weeks back that the Torah means nothing and possesses no gifts if you are unable to read it and appreciate reading it. Israel, which treasures knowledge above most else was able to take possession of the Torah and forever expound upon it. Holding fast to it and never giving it up, that is our immortality.