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I’m Confused About: Jews

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The world is driving me nuts, so I thought I’d start a series about things and groups and incidents that confuse me. There’s enough grist for this mill to supply the world in wheat for 20 lifetimes. I mean, be honest, can you make sense out of the world? Really? Then you’re taking some really good dope and not sharing, which is a bad thing. Everywhere I turn, things get more and more strange, inexplicable, illogical, and downright bizarre. Forget parody. I can barely write about reality without thinking my brain’s been infected by nanotechnological gizmos that are distorting reality.

So, I’m beginning a series on things that confuse me. I’m starting with Judaism and Jews for two reasons. First, I’m Jewish (although an agnostic) and no matter how pissed off the Jews get, they’re not going to take out a million dollar bounty for my head on a silver platter. Second, I’ve been confused about the religion since I was forced to study it in my young years–many years ago in a galaxy far way.

Forget the notion of a literal interpretation of the Bible. That way leads down two paths–one leads to utter confusion and despair, the other to total insanity. But let’s rather just look at the stories.

Here’s old Abraham–I mean really old, like over 90 and God finally gives him and his wife a son. That’s a pretty big deal in those days–both being over 90 and getting pregnant. And that’s after all the visits to fertility clinics, sacrifices of lambs, sheep, chickens, and ducks, not to mention potions whipped up by the greasy-haired old hags, standing around a cauldron singing, Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Oh wait…that isn’t the old Testament. Oh well, close enough.

Anyway, God wakes up Abe one night, who isn’t sleeping all that well anyway because he’s got a young kid, and tells him to take his son up to a mountain and lop off his head. Are you kidding me? Now God knows that it’s just a test of Abe’s faith, but Abe doesn’t know that. What a shitty thing to do. Why not just give him a psych test to see if he’s really faithful. Do a Rorschach thing showing him pictures of lions sleeping with lambs or something.

And Abe does it!!! He drags the kid up to the top of a mountain & is about to whack his head off when God says, “Nah, I’ve changed My mind. There’s a lamb. Go kill that.”

What kind of God treats the father of his new religion that way? What kind of person would treat someone that way? And then there’s Noah & the flood. You mean to tell me that of all the people in the world, only Noah, his wife, sons and wives were the only decent people? What about the little babies who drowned? How evil could they have been. (Well, I’ve met some really annoying kids, but there must have been one or two good ones.)

And Sodom and Gomorrah. Evil cities. God tells Lot to get his family and run to the hills…but don’t look back, he warns. Lot’s wife looks back. What’s a fair punishment? Whack her on the ass with a birch branch, give her webbed feet, turn her hair gray? No, he turns her into a pillar of salt, which is great for the cattle who always need salt licks, but is pretty damn harsh when you think about it.

And Egypt. Hey, I’m glad the Jews escaped, but God, himself, God and not a ministering angel, killed all the first-born sons in Egypt. I’m sorry, but my freedom isn’t worth the death of thousands of innocent children.

It goes on and on, but it’s not just the Bible. The Jewish religion is very weird. Not satisfied with the Ten Commandments, a bunch of know-it-alls in the middle ages came up with a few hundred more. And someone got the bright idea that the religion only passed through the mother…obviously not Lot’s wife…so if a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, wham, the kids are goyim.

And just try to convert. It’s easier to grow hair on a bald head than convert to Judaism. And why? Maybe there was a time when that made sense, but it’s stupid now. We’re running out of Jews. Change the stupid rule. And while you’re at it, get rid of most of those idiotic Kosher laws originally passed for health purposes. I’m sorry, but any religion that tells me I can eat bacon ain’t going to get a lot of respect from me.

Now, here’s a tough one. Growing up in an Italian neighborhood, I heard more about hell and purgatory and venial, cardinal, and mortal sins than just about anything else. Kids used to keep track of how they were doing in amassing them. But Jews? There’s barely a concept of heaven, and as far as I can tell, none about hell. In the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, the source from which springs everything else, no one talks about an afterlife. What good’s a religion without an afterlife?

Finally, Jews and their relationship to God. If that isn’t bizarre, I’m a Lithuanian. Jewish men–I don’t think Jewish women do this & don’t know why not–but older Jewish men have the strangest relationship with God since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Christians talk about a personal relationship with God, but do they argue, whine, complain, berate, question God’s wisdom and fairness, and His overall lack of good sense? It’s like talking to an old friend where the nature of the relationship is kvetching. There’s a certain lack of respect there that’s just got to piss God off.

Yeah, we’re the chosen people…but chosen for what? I’m confused.

In Jamesons Veritas

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • lumpy

    nice hebraic angst. try taking the goofiness of the torah and adding the revelation of st. john the permanently on a bad acid trip and see how you like it. cani have my whore of babylon with a side of beast of the apocalypse fritters?

  • Catholics! They may not be next, but they’re on my radar screen. As for Revelations, I only wish I had access to what old john had…man, I’d make James Joyce look like a realist!

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • I’m surprised. A full day and not one comment from Ruvy telling you that the way to clear up your confusion about Jews is to “come home” to Israel.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I’m sittin’ this dance out, Mike. I”ll let Mark enjoy his Hebraic angst.

  • Thanks for taking the jab with good humor, Ruvy. 🙂

  • Michael, Ruvy knows it’s not a jab. He may or may not agree, but just like Blacks and Italians and Irish can say things to one another without offense that others can’t, Jews have the same privilege. You can love something and still think it’s weird. Wait till i take off on Congress, the presidency, Catholics, Lithuanians…anyway, it’s humor/satire.

    Ruvy, I’m…distressed…hurt…bewildered. I was expecting us to engage in a nice long debate. What, that would kill you? Without Hebraic angst, what do we have? You think it’s easy being green?

    Comeon, Ruvy, you think God was nice with Abraham. Comeon, I double dare you! LOL.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • I’m Jewish (thanks to my Jewish mom, despite my goyishe dad) and a few of the things I love about Judaism are spelled out in your post:

    Not much dwelling on the afterlife (it’s important to do good in the here and now).
    The Talmud and Torah are open for debate and discussion (hence the Jewish love of books and learning and law–secular and otherwise).
    The refusal to prosteletize to non-Jews.

    There’s a Yiddish saying (another thing I love about Judaism–the jokes and the sayings): “It’s hard to be a Jew.” My aunt is Orthodox so I know all those rules and regs get to be pretty heavy. But I guess it’s hard to be a Jew sometimes even for an agnostic–lol.

  • No idea why my comment came out in ital–is it a sign of something?

  • It was a sign that Mark forgot to close the italic tag after his little signoff…

  • Typical Jewish prankster!

  • I meant the jab from me, Mark. 🙂

  • Michael, my apologies, then. I was wondering the same thing–where’s Ruvy? I guess…sob…he just doesn’t care.

    Elvira, glad you enjoyed it. A lot of the insanity here was borrowed from a novel I just finished called “God Never Answers.” It’s with my agent–if doesn’t call me back within the next five minutes, I’m calling the wrath of God down on him & God does answer me.

    And I don’t see no stinkin’ italics on Elvira’s comment–although it would be a great gag. More Irish than Jewish, I think…but in my heart I’m Irish.

    Let’s see if I can do this right.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mark, when I see your novel I’ll know whether you have the heart of an Irishman – or if you’re just a an old Jewish kvetch.

  • Ruvy, by the time my novel’s out, God forbid we’ll both be too old to read it. Oddly, there’s an Irish family in there & if you think hard it is writing with an American Jewish accent, you should try writing in Irish dialect. This mishegas would make Shakespeare take up a respectable trade.

    And, excuse me, I’m not a kvetch…I’m a curmudgeon. Same behavior, fancier word.

    In Jamesons Veritas

    P.S. you’ll note, I don’t end with In Mogen David Truth!

  • gonzo marx

    Mark = (kvetch + blarney) x Jamesons

    nuff said?


  • Gonzo, me scotch-drinkin’ turncoat, how be yer?

    Although I gotta say t’ere’s a lot more o’ me t’an jus’ kvetching (I thought I’d made it clear is was curmudgeoning), blarney, and fine Irish whiskey.

    Why, there’s chocolate, cognac & armagnac, fine wine, fois gros, did I mention chocolate, a warm fire, and thou!

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    No, Mark, a kvetch and curmudgeon are very different.

    A kvetch will not care if he/she descends from whatever level of culture he/she pretends to to whine, complain and generally impose his/her particular brand of misery upon those surrounding him or her.

    A curmudgeon maintains whatever dignity he/she pretends to has in doing the same thing.

  • Ah, but Ruvy, here’s where I have the advantage. As a theologian, by temperment if not also by training, you have an obligation to be honest with the language.

    As a fiction writer and would-be pundit and satirist, I have an obligation to obfuscate and confuse.

    (Alas, I lie, but it sounded good, didn’t it? And there’s another distinction. The kvetch enjoys his misery while wallowing in it and inflicting it on others; a curmudgeon enjoys the misery he inflicts upon others, thus relieving himself of said misery.)

    Ergo, I’m a curmudgeon, not a kvetch. Q.E.D.
    (Gonzo, please take note.)

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Final note before Shabbat.

    1. I’m not a theologian either by temperment or by training. I’m a fiction writer, an essay writer and restaurant manager and business consultant (not the order that my wallet will list them). I have the same obligations with respect to the language as you do. It’s tzedaka and hessed (look it up, boychik) that I don’t indulge in them on Blog Critics.

    2. I never actually called you a kvetch. Read the fine print in those comments.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  • Ruvy, you know I was just kidding with my comment, right? Although I have to disagree with your modesty about being a theologian by temperment. Your depth of knowledge, thoughtfullness, and deep convinctions make you a theologian in my book.

    And I know you didn’t call me a kvetch–it was that dastardly knave, Gonzo.

    Most important, fellow fiction writer, how’z it going? What kind of fiction & have you published?

    Shabbat Shalom (Oy, I hope that’s the right phrase…)

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • gonzo marx

    now now , Mark me boyo…time fer ye ta be improvin’ yer reading comprehension skills

    i never called ye any sech thing…what i said was…

    *Mark = (kvetch + blarney) x Jamesons*

    nuff said?


  • Ah, Gonzo, lad, with all due respect befitting one of thy majesty and eruidite command of the language, but if one parses the formula, “kvetch” is part of it. Ergo, I am accused, how unjustly and with such deep pain, of being one of those unloving and unlovely creatures.

    Or I am totally misreading this? (Like in “Men in Black,” “Or do I owe little Susie an apology?”)
    After all, it’s too early even for me to begin my daily dose of the nectar of the gods.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • gonzo marx

    well me boyo..yer missing the parts mathematical…

    sure’n now, tryin’ ta be parsin’ this like words ruins the majesty of the mixxed metaphor…

    note the subset…(kvetch+blarney)…this is a’makin’ somethin greater then either alone…then multiply by Jamesons…

    well , there yer a’havin it…

    nuff said?


  • I kneel at the feet of the slippery master. Well done, sir. How foolish of me to even think I could best you at your own game.

    In Gonzo Veritas

  • godoggo

    I went to Hebrew school at the Pasadena Jewish Temple, who’s greatest claim to fame is that it’s the house of worship of David Lee Roth’s family. My recollection is that they barely taught us talked about the bible at all. Aside from teaching me to turn some meaningless squiggles into meaningless sounds (OK, we did learn some actual Hebrew; for example, the Hebrew word for “smote” is represented by the teacher pounding his fist on the desk), and, in preparation for turning me into a fountain pen, which required me sing my half Torah, on the assumumption, apparently, that it’s better than none, teaching me to turn some other squiggles into bits of melody, most of the time was spent on filling my head with paranoid, nationalistic bullshit, which I totally bought into when I was like, 11 years old.

  • The Jews are “chosen,” but they’re only part of the “Chosen People” – the TWELVE Tribes of Israel. We have been drafted by our Great Creator God to ultimately become His Servant Nation (not Master Race) to assist in the salvation of all mankind, His light to the nations.

    Brit-Am Israel, founded by Torah-observant Yair Davidiy and Rabbi Avraham Feld, shares the Israelite origins of the West.

  • goddogo, yeah, your experience is much like mine. I only began to appreciate the religion (although God and I don’t talk) when I was considerably older…but it still confuses the hell out of me…as do most religions.

    David, that’s the idea, but you didn’t respond to any of my confusion in my post about how weird God behaves in the Old Testament–not to mention the weirdness that’s crept into the religion over time. I’m more than happy to lead anyone into salvation if someone could only explain to me what it is & if there’s good chocolate and espresso and Irish whiskey there.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • godoggo

    Well, I think the reason it’s confusing is that unlike Christianity or Islam or Buddhism is that it wasn’t the product of one primary founder (along, perhaps, with his various meddling followers), but rather evolved over a very long time, with writings from various periods in this evolution bound together, contradictions and all.

    I thought Asimov’s Guide to the Bible was really cool, although I’ve heard that it’s unscholarly.
    Another book that I liked a lot was James Parkes’s “The Jew in the Medieval Community”(1938), although that kept referring to his first book, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism (1934), which seems to be the one to read, and I will get to it one of these days. Parkes was an excellent historian, and a sympathetic Christian, writing, as you can see by the dates, before the holocaust and the founding of Israel, which I think allowed him to avoid much of the politicization that affects so much writing about Judaism nowadays.

  • Baronius

    The Torah makes perfect sense if you approach it with the belief that G-d is sane. If you start with the opposite idea, I imagine it’s difficult. Like the example of Lot’s wife. If she were punished for rotating her head, then yes, that’d be crazy. But if she were punished for disobedience, for preferring the safety of a sinful town over the risk of following G-d, then the salt thing seems reasonable.

    Actually, much of the Old Testament is this tug-of-war between G-d and man. When Job gets frustrated with G-d, he’s expressing the same emotion as the old Jewish man (or for that matter, as you). Judaism carries on the tradition of struggling to understand the Divine
    Will. The name “Israel” means “he who wrestles with G-d”. It’s literal wrestling in the Torah, but I think there’s more to it than that.

  • CC

    Really loved the article & the analysis, as well as the comments. Try growing up in the fundamentalist Christian church of the
    Southern Baptists- no drinking, no dancing, among other fun things. Oi Vey! talk about angst!

    (did I spell Oi Vey right?)

  • CC

    Maybe its Oy Vay!

    Speaking of bald heads- the story in Judges or Kings in which God sends down a giant bear to kill a large group of children for teasing a bald man. strange…and harsh.

  • Thank you for your insight. You are an excellent writer.

    I am grateful to the Jewish religion for my Savior and Lord arose from their midst.

    The fact that the Jews still exist after the greatest persecution the world has ever known is proof enough for me that God is real. The Jews have some of the greatest most long lasted deep seated enemies and persecutions the world has ever known. Jews continue to be discriminated against and continue to prosper against all odds. I will always honor them as I believe God has told me to.

    Thank you for your insight into your beliefs.

  • Baronius: Fascinating, I never knew that Israel means he who wrestles with God. I’ve got to add that to my book–it explains so much. Why hasn’t anyone told me that before?

    Since you seem to be well versed in this subject, let me ask you another question, then: Why are we the people who wrestle with God? The ancient Greeks and Romans sometimes fought with their gods, but it seems different. Where did the concept originate and why?

    There’s an anthropomorphic(sp?) quality to the concept that fits perfectly, and I wonder if other older religions (Egyptian, Hittites, etc.) have similar concepts. It fits what I said in my post, It’s like talking to an old friend where the nature of the relationship is kvetching, although now I’m sorry I used the word “kvetch” since Ruvy’s actually explained what it means. It’s more negative than I intended.

    As to approaching the Torah with the idea that God is sane or not, the question never entered my mind until I thought about what God told people to do and what He did–then I began to question His reasoning and compassion, not his sanity. I may be wrong, but I thought Lot’s wife’s only sin was to look back. She was willing to leave, but curious. In that case, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

    Anyway, a lot of deep ideas in a short comment–I’d love to hear more, even if it’s just e-mailing back and forth. Thanks.

    Godoggo: Thanks for the reference books. I’ll check them out. Now that I’ve stumbled onto this theme, I suppose I should learn something about it, LOL.

    CC, thanks for the comments. Don’t worry, I’m going after the fundamentalists at some point too. They’re as weird as everyone else. But that’s the point–everyone and everything fails to make sense these days. It’s a veritable cornucopia for my blog (subtle plug) Parodies Lost. I hadn’t heard the bear story, but it fits right in–what was God thinking? And it is “oy vey.”

    Vicki, I appreciate your comments. Keep supporting us–we’re a paranoid minority. Paranoid because they’re really are people out there trying to get us, a minority because we’re so stiff-necked about conversion and the religion passing only through the mother.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • Baronius

    Mark, thanks for the compliment, but I’m no expert. I’d trust Ruvy – or anyone – to give you a better translation of “Israel”. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with a “man”, who then gives Jacob the new name of Israel. The man is probaby an angel, but the passage is unclear.

    As for my comment about insanity, it would work just as well in reference to injustice. Let me put it this way: if I read a book about Arafat, I’d walk away hating the guy, even if the author was trying to put a good spin on him. I’d focus on the things I don’t like about him. We bring preconceptions to any biography we read, so I’m sure it’s only moreso with the Bible.

  • Baronius, thou art too modest, but, then so am I (LOL).

    You make an excellent point about the biases (I call them “filters”) we bring to anything we experience. Worse, these filters are mostly unconscious and we’re not aware of them, so we think we’re interpreting things fairly, but they’ve been distorted by our values, beliefs, emotions–all of which serve to filter what we take in.

    That being said, my intention is not to come across as anti-God. Agnostics can’t take that risk. What if He really exists? Whew, then I’m screwed. The title is an accurate description of how I feel: Confused.

    And it’s not just about Judaism, although I thought, personally, that was the safest place for me to start. If I ever get the chance to keep this series going, you’ll see my confusion extends universally. I no longer understand the world. It upsets me, particularly where I see injustice, but, more than that, it’s grist for my mill.

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • Baronius, thank you for the kind words.

    The text in the Torah does say “ish” – man but the word appears only once. At the end of the wrestling match, the man blesses him, calling him Yisra’el saying that he has (or perhaps will?)wrestled with G-d. Ya’acov perceives that he has had an encounter with the Divine. That is the text.

    Rashi, a scholar living in France 800 years ago, stated that the “man” was the guardian angel of Esau. Other rabbis have stated that he was the angel representing the evil inclination.

  • Ruvy,

    But why??? I don’t understand the purpose of the wrestling concept. Man is supposed to wrestle with God? Or just Jacob to show he was strong enough to be first “Israelite?” Hell of a way to pick a religious father, eh?

    In Jamesons Veritas

  • I can’t talk about the rest of mankind, Mark. But I had to wrestle with the concept of faith. And so have you.

    It strikes me that a lot of us sons of Israel do wrestle with G-d over issues…

    That might be part of being chosen – wrestling with the issues that the Divine confronts us with. Moshe argued with G-d. Abraham bargained with G-d. Jonah got mad at G-d for being as forgiving as he suspected He would.

  • Oy, I’m such a schmuck. Allegory! Thank you, Ruvy. I may be stupid, but I’m trainable. You’re right, I am wrestling with my lack of faith and see it as a good thing–a function perhaps of being older and more thoughtful…well, at least older.

    Makes perfect sense now. Thank you & Baronius for both bringing this up and explaining it.

    In Baronius & Ruvy Veritas

  • You know, Mark, I could answer your questions if you’d like. I know this post hasn’t been looked at in a while and you’re probably on to other things, but I found it on a Google search recently. I’m a religious Jew, and if you’re really interested in talking about this (I mean real, honest debate. No going around in circles on how you’re going to burn forever if you don’t listen 🙂 ) I’d love to address your questions.

  • Ruvy from Jerusalem

    Chaim S.

    You wouldn’t be the fellow who passed on a piece about a deadly virus striking Israel – one that wound up in the hands of Rav Rachamim Pauli? If you are, that would be just fantastic.

    If Mark is up to this, than so am I. I’m not interesting in arguing with you, just hearing a different point of view (did I wreck it already?)

  • Chaimss: I’d love to keep the discussion going. As Ruvy will attest (often to his great annoyance), I use humor way too often when I should be serious, but for all his yelling at me for getting “it” wrong, I count him a good friend and teacher.

    Here’s one I haven’t brought up before. I was thinking about it last night (actually as part of a comedy sketch, may I burn in hell.) God knows all, right? That means he knows what was, what is, and what will be.

    So, he goes to Abraham to test his devotion and obedience and tells him to do the most horrible thing imaginable. This 8,435 year old man finally gets a son and God says, go kill him.

    BUT…God already knew in advance that Abraham would obey so why put him through the agony?

    Possible response: God knew, but Abraham didn’t know, so God did it so Abraham would know he’d obey God. But if I were Abraham, I’d be so pissed off I’d never talk to God again. What kind of diety needs to cause that much pain, needs that degree of blind obedience?

    Oh well, there’s a start, I hope.

  • Sorry, but no, that’s not me. I’m not interested in arguing either. I’ll answer his questions, and if he has a response, I’ll answer that. As far as hearing another point of view, that’s fine, but just remember, I’ll only answer, not volunteer.

  • And what kind of god could cause everything that’s happened since time began, already knowing in advance what was going to happen for all those many, many years?

    And why? It seems like the ultimate exercise in insane pointlessness to me but then again, if there is a god, whatever that means, who am I to second guess it?

    Just in case anybody ever wonders, despite my many remarks doubting the existence of god, and I seriously do doubt it, I actually wish it/they did exist and were very much in our lives. Now that would be interesting…

  • Ok, here goes. I’ll start with the top and go down.

    Two notes first.

    1. Very little of this is my own invention. The questions you’re asking aren’t new, they were answered hundreds of years ago. I’m merely replicating them here in more modern terms.
    2. When I have discussions with missionaries, I have to tell them where every single verse, etc. comes from. It’s very tedious, but I know if I don’t, they won’t believe a word I say. Since we’re all (or mostly) Jews, here, I’m hoping the trust level will be higher. If you don want to know where a verse or source is, however, just ask, and I’ll tell you.

    Ok, now let’s go…

    First of all, literal interpratation will get you nowhere. That’s why it can’t be all there is. It’s like cutting the headlines out of a newspaper and pasting them together. That’s why there has to be an oral law explaining everything. (This topic can go on forever, but I’ll move on for now…)

    Now, you seem to be pretty disturbed about the whole Akeidas Yitzchok (binding of Issac) story. Perfectly understandable. Here’s my response:

    In Judaism we firmly believe that the whole point of this temporary world is to lead us into the next one. (Yes, we Jews do believe in an afterlife- more on that later.) Meaning that you have to climb in levels of spirituality to get close to G-d. Now imagine a guy who’s trying to become a professional weight-lifter. He starts off with say 20 pounds, then moves up to 30, then 40, etc. Imagine if every time his trainer added more weights onto the barbell the guy would complain, “What are you doing? You’re making it harder on me. I can lift 345, and now you want me to lift 360?! Give me a break!” (I mean break literally, by the way, not as an expression.) Of course, that’s a really stupid thing to say. The way you become stronger is by lifting heavier weights. You won’t gain anything if you stick to 50-pounders.

    It’s the same here. Abraham (or Avrohom, which is his real hebrew name, and what I’ll be calling him from now on) had risen to the greatest spiritual heights. But he required more weights, i.e. more tests, to raise him higher. The same applies to Issac (or Yitzchak, ditto above). The test wasn’t for G-d (Hashem) to make fun of them or to see if they could do it. Of course he knew. It was like a child playing with an educational toy. You know, the one where you put the shapes in the holes. The parents know what the kid will do, but the child has to play with the toy in order to gain the skills required. Once Avrohom and Yitzchak passed the test and reached the spiritual level, however, the test had accomplished its purpose, and Hashem revealed the location of the ram.

    (I don’t know if this site has a maximum character limit, so I’ll post this now then move on. You can reply to this, just know that if you do, I’ll have to stop moving on.)

  • Hey, Christopher- “Permission to Believe” by Lawrence Keleman. $13.95 on Amazon.com

  • Chaimss, curious response to Ruvy. Why will you only answer, not volunteer?

    Christopher, I understand and feel your confusion (LOL). The other interesting issue with an all knowing God is the free will/determinism argument.

    The Enlightment philosophers to a large extent thought that Newtonian physics drove a stake through the heart of free will. But quantum physics drove a stake through the heart of determinism and we’re left with a probablistic world–and who knows if free will is real or simply of function of some probability curve?

    I suppose one could argue that God knows in advance where the curve will collapse, so, in that sense, He’s still all knowing.

    But the bigger issue is the anthropomorphism of a diety. Any being that could create all “this” has to be so far beyond our abilities to understand that “God” becomes a totally non-rational discussion. (Not irrational…just incapable of being discussed rationally.)

    Nor is simply emotional. I keep coming back to the “leap of faith,” which, assuming for a moment that God exists, may create some…something…link…connection…unknowable touching between God and the person who jumped.

    Too often I’m left with Hamlet’s last line, “The rest is silence.”

  • I’ll only answer because if I was to volunteer we’d be here all summer. This way, we can discuss what you want to know instead of getting off into completely different discussions.

  • Oh yeah, I forgot something. It was a test for Yitzchok too…after all, he was 37 years old (contrary to popular opinion). 😮

  • Chaimss, so God wouldn’t ask someone of a lower spiritual level than Avrohom to sacrifice his son? Your explanation is very profound and is consistent with many Eastern religions/martial arts where one takes greater risks only when ready…i.e. has reached a certain spiritual/physical state.

    And what makes you think we won’t be here all summer, fall, and long into the winter. I’ve got nothing but questions…but I’ll try to be good.

    Keep going.

  • Well, no. If someone isn’t on that level he wouldn’t be told to do something like that. And besides, how do you know those Eastern martial arts groups didn’t learn it from us? 🙂

    Also, after the summer I have school and that will slow me down, but especially if you’ve “got nothing but questions” 🙂 we can’t go off onto other topics. We’ll be held back by yours 🙂

  • No, I’ll follow your lead. You said at the end of your post that “i’ll post this now and move on.” So move away. I’m fascinated.

  • Glad to be of assistance. I’ve got to do some domestic chores right now, but here’s a little piece I just wrote. I’ll be back as soon as I can.

    The next item you bring up is Noah and the flood, which, by the way, took place ten generations earlier. Anyway, yes, even the babies. The entire generation had become immoral and corrupt. Even the animals were, err, interbreeding. It wasn’t a few people anymore. It was everyone. And those who weren’t yet old enough to do anything wrong would reach that point. It was time to start over. It’s kind of like the question about bombing insurgent cities.Yes, you’re killing babies, but you’re stopping them from growing up into terrorists. Is that wrong? It’s a huge debate all over, but not for the only all-knowing deity Hashem. He Knew (no, the capital K is not a mistake) that, at least in this case, it was and unfourtunate necessity to save the one remaining pious family (BTW, it was him, his wife, his children, and their wives).

  • sr

    Mark Schannon. So you are Jewish. Im not. However after reading your blog my search for a dumb Jew has ended. Thanks Mark. I shall search no more forever. This is not pleasant for me. I know for a fact Im a little short in the loafers. Mark please wake up. You sir are G-d’s chosen. Never take it for granted.

  • sr–i’m pleased your search is ended, but you can’t just call me a dumb Jew and leave it at that. How do I strike back with the ferocity of a cobra? How do I cut your arguments to shreds with razor-like wit? What the fuck are you talking about?

    God didn’t choose me. I’m sure I’d remember that.
    “Hey, Mark.”
    “This is God.”
    “Uh…o.k. I don’t imagine you’ve got an i.d. or something to prove that.”
    “How about I turn you into a snail?”
    “No, just long enough to convince you.”
    “Hmmm…o.k., but I’m trusting You now. So don’t screw this up.”
    I become a snail. Then a person.
    “Wow. God, great to meet you. What’s up?”
    “Youre chosen.”
    “Chosen for what?
    “I’ll tell you later.”

    Give me a break. I still don’t understand what all this chosen shit is.

    Now we return you to your calm, serene searcher of truth.

    Chaimss: Sorry, can’t buy the Noah explanation. In all the world, there’s only about a dozen decent people? Worse, He’s all knowing, so the minute he creates Adam and Eve, he knows that things are going to go seriously downhill.

    Who’s fault is that? Why didn’t he just say, “Rats, this isn’t going to work out. I’m going to start over with people who have a ghost of a chance of understanding what I’m trying to say.”

    Now, of course, there was no Adam and Eve. We’re talking about very primitive folk just barely out of the caves with no scientific or even religious foundation to explain the bizarre world around them. The world was a terrifying place and people sought solace wherever they could. Look at primate behavior–it’s about as bad as human behavior, so what a surprise that people act in ways that piss God off. He’s the one who created the world.

    Plus, God hadn’t created Isreal (Jacob) yet, or handed down the 10 commandments, or any of that stuff, so what’s to become immoral and corrupt? Against what religious dictates. And, while we’re at it, we’re not talking about a “generation,” we’re talking mass extinction of almost the entire human race.

    If God’s so powerful, couldn’t he have found a better way. It’s like he was holding people responsible for laws He hadn’t even handed down yet.

    Imagine you’re God–I know, that’s impossible–but you set up the world and you see that, at some point in the future, relatively early in the history of humanity (descended from apes with genetic coding only a few percent different, with all the primitive urges and emotions that stem from what in evolutionary time is but seconds.)

    I got lost. Anyway, you’re God. You fix it. You don’t kill everyone, including innocent children who haven’t sinned yet but you know will in the future. You’re only option is mass murder?

    Today, we still haven’t escaped the barbarism of our evolutionary history. I don’t care how bad they were pre-Noah, could they have been worse than the 20th century and now the 21st century?

    With all due respect–and I’m still very impressed by your explanation of Avrohom–the Noah explanation is too simplistic. God had other alternatives–like not creating an evolutionary process and creating human beings with greater intellectual, moral, and emotinal depth.

    People other than Noah et al. were getting punished for their evolutionary past…which God established. I don’t buy it…or I don’t understand it. I’ll settle for either one.


  • sr




  • I understand. I was in a rush (CHAIM!! GET DOWN HERE AND SWEEP!!) so I had to just throw that down. You’re right. There is a lot more to it as I’ll explain in my next post.

  • First of all, you seem to be confused about something, and I’d like to, if I can, set it streight. You seem to be switching between “Hashem does exist and the Torah’s true” and “Hashem doesn’t exist and the Torah isn’t true.” Now, I guess I recommend “Permission to Believe” by Lawrence Keleman to you too, but I’d also reccomend his second (I think) book “Permission to Recieve” which is his proofs that Hashem gave the Torah on Mt. Sinai (Har Sinai). Now, to fix up Noah (Noach)…

  • sr…i thought you were trying to be funny…you just weren’t clever about it. no hard feelings.

    Chaim, you missed one. Hashem (I’ve never heard that word for God–where’d it come from?) exists and the Torah is a little true, a little exaggerated, a little confused, and a little false. Who says you can’t hold three conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time.

    Upthread, I’ve argued that it is logically impossible to use rational arguments to prove or disprove the existence of God. That’s why I’m not an atheist. It’s also why i’m confused.

    A very quick argument that needs more refinement than I can do at this hour: Assume you can use reason to prove God exists. Therefore, by definition, you’ve limited Him because there are elements of existence that lie outside of reason. Since God is without limits, your assumption must be false.

    That’s why I look longingly at the cliff–how does one make the leap of faith?

    Until tomorrow–this is great fun by the way. I know I’ve got simplistic ideas about the religion, but I hope you’re getting a little out of it as well.

  • ..:::munches some fig newtons, and just …watches:::..


  • Gonzo, my little meshugeneh, you’re hockin me a chinick. What with the fig newtons? What’s the matter with a bit of gefilte fish? How’s about a nice coconut macaroon? You want that I should make you some nice blintzes?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Chaim, Mark,

    I’ve enjoyed watching the back and forth between the two of you immensely. My son and another child in the school were invited to a summer yeshiva course (one or two meetings weekly). The rabbi who teaches is a community rabbi who comes on Friday mornings to teach in the school in Gilo. He said that anyone who does not ask questions or challenges what he hears and learns in yeshiva – well I’ll use the Hebrew, the rabbi’s words, “móaH sheló lo b’tafkéd” – his brain isn’t working right. There will not be lectures. Everyone will sit around a table and discuss a topic. There are rules of logical disputation to determine decisions, and for all this, in many cases, you are left with the option of following the rabbi whose opinion is most convincing to you.

    So the route out of confusion, Mark, is asking quetions and challenging what you hear and read. It is not blind faith by any means. Proving Hashem (G-d) exists is as easy as proving you yourself exist. Put bluntly, at some point, you need to make a leap of faith to prove your own existence. But whether you actually make that leap of faith or not, you still are left with the fact that many issues of law raised cannot be resolved. Judaism is not about “final answers.” But I digress.

    Finally, a word about the term “Hashem.” It literally means, “the name” and by referring to it, you are referring to “the Holy Name.” Does that sound familiar from somewhere? Gonzo? Silas? You two have heard from such a thing, no? Generally, Orthodox Jews refer to G-d as Hashém. For us, it is more comfortable. It moves us away from possibly taking Hashem’s name in vain.

  • All I can say at this point is I’m glad I’m a Taoist.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Silas writes,

    “What’s with the fig newtons? What’s the matter with a bit of gefilte fish? How’s about a nice coconut macaroon? You want that I should make you some nice blintzes?”

    Truth be told, I’d rather have figs and fig newtons than blitzes, macaroons or gefilte fish. With figs, the worse that could happen is that I’ll have to exercise my legs getting to the bathroom quickly. With fig newtons, the same exercise will walk (or run) off the calories. With blintzes and macaroons, I’ll have to deal with indigestion and clogging of the arteries. Gefilte fish is nice – once a year at the Passover seder. If it isn’t made fresh, it’s eppes – not the same. Fish balls out of a jar? Made from the cheapest fish, yet, and you’re charged a fortune of money, too? Feh!

  • I have a good friend who’s folks live in Az…The first time I went to his house was around Christmas time…and his family had a tree up in their living room! Now my buddy is Jewish…so I had to ask…what’s with the xmas tree? He told me it wasn’t a Christmas Tree…it was a Hanauka Bush!

    I also questioned the ham I found in his refridgerator…his answer…what was my mother supposed to do? It was on sale! His mother’s answer was a bit different…”we’re reformed”…not sure what that meant…and I didn’t wanna ask…

    Fun read…can’t wait for the catholic version!

  • newtons are good, mmmm’kay? figs and calculus, with cake! what could be bad?

    but i digress…

    Hashem…the “Name” of who shall not be Named, similar to “I-Am”…and supposedly a synonym for Yahweh ( Genesis; “god of the air” one of four “gods” mentioned in Genesis…Moloch was such a hoot too!)

    now, the one that interests me here is the whole “in vain” aspect…i would be interested in hearing a scholars interpertation fo the original….”vain” sounds ot me like the prohibition is supposed to be a ward against false prophets taking the name of “god” for themselves..as in “you’re so vain”

    but it would be interesting to get a native Hebrew speaker’s translation here…

    just a Thought..i’ll go back to the goyim corner and be quiet now…


  • troll

    I await an answer to Mark’s basic question:

    * What kind of diety needs to cause that much pain*


  • could that be,what is the “sadistic DemiUrge” for $1000 pleae Alex?


  • troll

    gonzo – if that doesn’t get the mental dance halls rockin’ I don’t know what more you can do


  • heh…thanks troll, high Praise indeed..

    you know i live to Serve…


  • troll

    now…where are those rabbinical reviewers…


  • Hey, wise guys, don’t scare Chaim away with our normal indiocy until he’s gotten to know us better. And Ruvy, thanks for ruining Gefilte fish for me forever.

    Gonzo, I know the answer to “in vain.” The old Jews spoke with a Yiddish accent, and one of the original 20 Commandments (remember in an old article of mine, there were originally 20, but Moses dropped one tablet because he was so old & God figured, what the hell, they’ll have enough trouble with 10…anyway, I digress…) one of them was “thou shalt keep God dry at all times.” Moses didn’t understand it but he told the assembled Jews at the foot of the mountain, “and, oh, by the vay, don’t take God’s name in the vain (rain…get it….FOFL…wha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha).

    We now return you to your serious, scholarly-type seeker of knowledge.

    Silas, I can now, I hope, answer your question. Remember the old “Kung Fu” TV show. The last test of a Jedi Knight…oops, wrong show…of a Shaolin priest was to clasp a red hot pot with his inner arms, creating those tatoos.

    At the time, we all though it was very cool. A novice couldn’t have done it. It required someone who had reached the highest spiritual level and could tolerate this final test.

    In the same way, Avroha…Avroa…Abraham and Isaac, as Chaim explained, had reached one of the highest spiritual levels and were prepared for the test. Your or me, feh, He wouldn’t have even thought about it because our spiritual levels don’t even register on the God-o-Meter.

    How’s that, Chaim, Ruvy? I get it right?

    Now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy going. We haven’t even gotten to Lot’s wife, whose cause I’ve taken up and made personal.

    We’re going to have to start a side conversation here, Ruvy. I know all about the Cartesian proof, Cogito Ergo Sum, which he fudged at the end because he couldn’t finish his proof without saying, God wouldn’t trick me. Ruined the whole thing.

    But what leap of faith is required for me to believe I exist. Quickly summarized, a modern school of philosophy evolved in the mid-20th century called “Ordinary Language Philosophy,” which argued that most of the centuries old problems were caused by the misuse of words. The problem of how do I “know” something disappears when analyzed using ordinary language. (that’s when I dropped out of grad school–I was in a Ph.D. program in philosphy.)

    My awareness of my existence is “proof” (and watch out how you define “proof”) enough for me. There’s no leap of faith. I have no awarenes of God’s existence. If I did, we’d all be singing songs by the campfire instead of having this discussion.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • troll

    (*”Ordinary Language Philosophy,” which argued that most of the centuries old problems were caused by the misuse of words.*

    I prefer ‘indeterminacy’ or ‘changing intention’ of words in everyday use – which are full of color and contradiction…ordinary language requires its own leap of faith or ‘als op’ relationship with one’s perceptions

    “I swear to god that I’m going to act as if this really is an inter-subjective experience.”

    IMO OLP punts

    …then again perhaps we really are sharing thorazine around the lounge in The Institution waiting for a Great One to show us the garden path


  • troll

    to Chaim with apologies for my tastelessness:

    “Clap your hands or the Word will die.”

    “Oh I do I do I do believe in scripture!”

    sorry…and I really am looking forward to your reasoned explanations

    bye now


  • ah…as usual troll nails It right betwixt the metaphorical eyes…

    which Scriptures….why?….according to whom and again why?…

    finally Literal, Allegorical or Metaphorical?


    perhaps, all of the Above?

    i’ve always Wondered why it is that the “sky god” Wins…(Yahweh,Odin,Zeus et al) the “fire god” is usually Bad (Moloch,Surtur, etc)…and the One who bring Fire/Knowledge gets royally fucked over…(Prometheus,Morningstar)

    but i digress


  • Ahhhh!!!! I go to sleep and wake up to this! 🙂 Guess that’s what happens when wer’e all in different time zones. Well, I better get started. I did get the Noach thing started, but then I lost my internet connection. I’ll post it (or at least part I) now. Also, don’t worry about scaring me away. I’m having a great time.

    For all those who’ve popped questions in the meantime: First I’ll answer Mark’s question, then move onto yours. So, part one of Noach…

  • Ok, let’s set up the situation you brought up. Hashem created the world knowing full well that ten generations later, there will be sinners who will act all corrupt, etc. Now, as to you’re first issue (what’s there to corrupt?) the answer’s simple: The seven Noahide Laws.

    There are thousands of sites (36,800 on my Yahoo! search) on this topic, but this is kind of the “official” Noachite sight. To spare you the time, the seven laws that all of humanity must obey are:

    Prohibition of idolatry
    Prohibition of blasphemy
    Prohibition of murder
    Prohibition of theft
    Prohibition of illicit relations
    Prohibition of eating live meat
    Prohibition of failing to establish courts of justice

    Now, the sight calls those who keep these “Hasidic gentiles.” The word Hasid, or Chasid, comes from the word Chesed, or kindness, and refers to those who go above and beyond what most do. In this case, it refers to those gentiles that embrace the one Hashem and obey his laws.

    You don’t talk about this until later, but once we’re on the subject:

    You mentioned conversion. Now, you’re right. It’s very hard to convert to Judaism. But in reality, it isn’t. What do I mean by that? Very simple: (TBC)

  • Troll, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. The meaning of words do change as does usage and grammar, which can lead to all sorts of violent agreements.

    The idea behind “ordinary language” is that we take meaning from what the words give us as is ordinarily understood.

    A quick anecdote: When I first went to grad school, all these brilliant people kept coming up to me and running ideas by and asking, “does that makes sense?” I, of course, thought my brilliance had preceded me. By the second semester, no one asked me anything because I’d already been contaminated by the “private” language of philosophy.

    All disciplines develop “private languages.” The value is that you communicate more quickly and easily on most points. The danger is the some of the terms or words may be so ill-defined that you wind up chasing your tail.

    Troll, trust me, you’re going to heaven. God loves trolls. Now, Gonzo, on the other hand. He’s either going to rule Heaven or be cast into the firey pits of…hey, wait a minute.

    Chaim: Do Jews believe in hell? You said earlier that there’s a heaven, but if memory serves, Ruvy once wrote and I think I’ve read elsewhere that the afterlife isn’t even mentioned in the Torah (Five Books of Moses for you goys.)

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Lordy, I found the comments section more entertaining than the blog, and the blog is immensely entertaining. I look forward to what you will have to say about Catholics.

  • don’t get me started on Catholics!

    see Iraneus, Saul of Tarsus and Constantine…ponder that an Argument could be made for them each to have been greed driven, power hungry, confidence tricksters…

    and then…aaAAAarrRRRRRgGGGGGHHHHhhhHHHH!!!!

    [the Management wishes to apologize, our gonzo is temporarily unavailable due to the voluminous quantities of smoke billowing from his ear holes..thak you for your patience while we rectify the matter]


  • Just one quick comment. I’ll come back to this later. Yes, we do believe in a heaven/hell(NOW DON’T MAKE ME TYPE THAT AGAIN!!! IT’S NOT IN MY VOCABULARY!! It’s gehennom, by the way). However, the concept that you’re thinking of is purely Christian. Ours is completely different. You’re right, by the way, that it’s not mentioned in the Torah, because the Torah is our “guidebook”, so to speak, for life. However there are references. (NO, [controlling myself], I will not get off topic.) More on this later.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mark writes,

    “My awareness of my existence is “proof” (and watch out how you define “proof”) enough for me. There’s no leap of faith. I have no awarenes of God’s existence.”


    I guess, Mark, you would have to define awareness for me. I’m not much of a philosopher – I got a “D” in philosophy and decided that it was not a subject to pursue further. But something tells me that the definition of awareness has a few holes in it – that it is not as easy as putting together a whopper sandwich, or writing a report explaining why the Sanitation Department overspent its budget by 170% in FY 2006 and needs twice as much money the next year…

    Then there is the other side of this argument, once a definition of awareness has been agreed upon (if that ever happens).

    You’re not aware of Hashem, but someone who is is a candidate for the loony bin? Your lack of awareness of the Divine sets the standard? I realize that this is not your argument, but it is the argument of some around here.

    Moving on…

    You did fine in explaining the concept that Chaim fed you about only the heavy lifters getting the tough tests. You get 100% on that.

    Let’s get some of the Hebrew straight here, since you are part of the Tribe… Chaim uses the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Hebrew you and I learned as children – Avrohom. I know, it looks funny. I use the Sephardi pronounciation common in Israel – Avraham. It spells the same in the Hebrew though. Also, you’ve seen me use a capital H where it didn’t seem appropriate. For this capital H, Chaim uses a “ch” and the letter usually being represented is the letter “Het,” a deep gutteral sound similar to the Spanish “jota” which is the ancestor of the letter H. So as not to confuse you guys, I tend to use the English name.

    But the point; names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Ezekiel, Michael, Moses, Zephaniah, Hezekiah, Boaz, Ruth, Elizabeth, James, John, Matthew, Nathan, Isabel ALL are adaptions from the Hebrew – NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. It took me a while to get that through my kids’ heads but now they speak better Hebrew than the old man.


    The only native Hebrew speaker I am aware of on the list ‘doesn’t care if he’s Jewish or not’. But my boys and I will take a shot at your question

    Ex.20:7 Lo tisá et shem Hashem elo-ékha lasháv ki lo yinaké Hashem et ashér yisá et shmo lasháv.

    Our translation:

    Do not carry (or use) the name of Hashem, your G-d in vain because Hashem will not purify (clean or absolve) one that will use His name in vain.

    Note. The word “lashav” is spelled lamed (l) shin (sh) vav (v) alef (silent). The other word that is spelled this way is the name of a vowel symbol that has no value at all, the word shva (spelled shin vav alef) which is from the Hebrew, oddly enough. The lamed (l) is a prefix meaning “to”. Lasháv can be read to mean “to no value” – in vain.

  • Unlike Christianity, Islam, etc. where if you don’t join them you’re going to burn forever, we don’t hold that view. I’d like to transcribe a little discussion that Rabbi Orlofsky (Ruvi probably knows who he is) had with a gentile teacher. It had started pouring, and the teacher said:

    “Wow, look at that rain. You guys better start building an ark”
    “What do you mean, ‘you guys’?”
    “You know, like Noah (her words, that’s why I’m not changing them)?”
    “Well, Noah was a Jew”
    “Well, wait a minute, let’s go slow here. Abraham (again, his words since he was talking to a gentile) was the first ‘hebrew’. That means, before him, there were no ‘hebrews’ (remember I said Noach lived ten generations before Avrohom?).
    “But he’s in the Bible”
    “I know”
    “But G-d spoke to him”
    “I know”
    “But everyone thinks Noah was a Jew”
    (Here comes a classic Rabbi Orlofsky line:)”Well, you better tell them.”

    Or this hypothetical discussion (from the same tape, btw):

    “I want to convert.”
    “Well, I want to go to heaven.”
    “Ok, that’s no problem. Do the seven (see above), go to heaven.”
    “But then I won’t be a Jew.”
    “That’s right. You won’t be a Jew.”
    “What type of religion are you that says I don’t have to join it to go to heaven?”
    “We’re not a religion, we’re the truth.”

    And that’s really what the point is. A religion has to have a selling point, otherwise it never would’ve been able to get off the ground. (I’m about to get off topic into a logical, yes, logical explanation of the proof of Hashem’s existance. Do you want me to proceed? Or should I continue with what I’m saying about Noach?)

  • Thanks Reuvi. Yeah, I do use the “ch”, I think it looks more natural. Also, it’s “ch” as in Ba”ch”, or L'”ch”aim. I’m not so sure about Luke, though. He wasn’t Jewish.

  • oh..by all means, let’s have the “logical proof”

    then you can explain to me how the tiny gene pool of Noah, his wife, their kids and their wives worked out without recessive re-enforcements popping up

    or where the duck billed platypus was on the Ark…

    as a bit of a Fan about Logic, i, in all honesty, eagerly anticipate the Read and thanks you for the Time discussing such matters from your Perspective


  • Now just one moment. I have no problem giving it, but only if you’re willing to listen. If you’re just going to listen with a closed mind, i.e. with a preheld notion that it’s impossible, and now let’s hear this crazy guy, I’m not here for that. Of course, it really all falls on Mark. It’s his questions I’m answering.

  • chaimss…please don’t misUnderstand..and mistake my natural snarkiness for less than honestly wanting to hear you Point

    if it makes sense to me, i am swift to Acknowledge it…if it doesn’t..i’m just as quick to say why

    skeptic,cynic,heretic and apostate…that’s me

    but i think you may also find i make a decent audience (among the many more who are being Quiet and just reading)

    and all Traditions know that “iron sharpens iron”

    so please, do continue…you get the Socratic end of the “log”…i’ll just creep out from under it once in a while and mewl a Thought or two

    if you really want to Laugh, click my URL…or ask Ruvy or Mark…

    but i truly am Interested

    ..:::shuts up now so as not to offend any further:::..


  • Ok, great. Just being cautious, you understand. In all reality, though, I do need to wait for Mark’s answer, as they are his questions.

  • MAOZ

    [Hit and run comment:] #85 gonzo, “…or where the duck billed platypus was on the Ark…”

    2nd floor. Top floor was for the humans, bottom floor was for the, um, waste products.

    Incidentally, if I’m not mistaken, Noach was instructed to bring behemot onto the ark, and as I understand it, the term behemot in Hebrew specifically indicates domesticated animals, not wildlife. So Noach really didn’t have to worry about rounding up platypi, grizzlies, unicorns etc.

  • chaimss…go on as you like..

    if yer a’waiting around fer me boyo, Mark..ya could be older than Metheuselah before getting anywhere

    just a Thought


  • By all means, Noah can wait. Let’s hear how you logicially prove Hashem’s existence, but you no doubt know that philosphers and scholars have tried and failed for years, so you’ve a challenge here, my friend.

    Oh, and Iloz, I agree, this comment section is amazing. (BTW, I’ve started my article on “I’m Confused About…Catholics”) but I’ve having trouble finding time to write it.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Yo, gonzo, I just read that. Sure, I don’t spend my life here…except recently…but I thought you were going to be a good boy, sitting with your Lorna Doones and listen quietly?

    (Not to worry–none of us believed that, and we’d be heartbroken if you did…or could…sit quietly. Charm will out.)

    In Decaf Veritas

  • MAOZ…thanks much for the explanation there…

    but it does lead us to where all those wild animals came from after a world wide flood wiped everything out…

    speciation takes quite the while…much less the specialization for niche that some species show, as well as tiny differentials in species across contiguous geographies

    hence my curiosity..i wasn’t just being snarky..well a little..

    but i do honestly hold a vast Curiosity regarding many of these matters, and do seek to resolve some of the Issues using the mental tools and facts available

    to wit: if we had a listing of all the species present on the Ark, since we have the measurements, one can easily calculate the available space and subtract the minimum needed for each pair to check the validity of holding so many creatures inside a limited area

    and stuff like that


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo, you raise an interesting point, but let’s leave the scene for a bit. Chaim is at work.

    I do have some ideas, but they do not belong here…

  • ok…when both Ruvy and Mark rebuke me fer yakking too much..time fer me ta shaddup…fer a while

    my Apologies…please continue, Socrates/chaimss


  • MAOZ

    Okay, a tad more for gonzo and whoever else is interested, and then I really gotta move away from the computer and take care of assorted necessities….

    I’m not at all certain that the Torah is describing a worldwide, globe-girdling flood. HaShem decides to bring a flood on ha’aretz. Now, a lot of times, you’ll see that Hebrew word translated as “the earth”. And in some contexts, that is a perfectly proper translation. But the term ha’aretz can also be used in reference to a more circumscribed area. It’s commonplace for us to refer to the Land of Israel simply as Ha’aretz. Or another example [I have to sort of wing it; I don’t have my Chumash at hand, so I can’t cite chapter and verse, but]: During the showdown between Moshe [aka Moses] and Pharaoh, at a certain point Pharaoh starts to cave in. He tells Moshe, “Okay, you guys go ahead and go worship your G^d; but don’t go out into the boondocks to do it, do it here in ha’aretz.” In that particular context, the term clearly refers to the land of Egypt specifically. [Moshe hadn’t been demanding to leave the planet.]
    It may be that the aretz referred to in the Flood account was a specific, limited geographical area (e.g., the Mesopotamian floodplain). Outside of that specific area, there would still be plenty of lifeforms, including creatures that physiologically resembled the Children of Adam, though lacking the specific spiritual input from G^d which was what made Adam unique from all the other created beings.

  • Gonzo, first of all (he said with a new-found air of authority,) Chaim’s first warning was not to get trapped in the literal. I’m hoping he’ll admit that the flood is allegorical…but we can’t talk about that until he proves You know who really exists.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Gonzo, don’t you dare sit quietly. We’ll think something bad has happened to you. And you know full well that Socrates expected his pupils to participate, hence the expression Socratic dialogue.

    MOAZ–I just realized you weren’t Chaim–o.k., I’m slow. Interesting post on the flood, but, just out of curiousity, where are you from?

    This could be great, Ruvy, Chaim, and now MOAZ helping us through the dense thickets of confusion and obfuscation…and all I tried to do was write a funny piece on being Jewish.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Rememeber the concept Mark (or is it precept?); two Jews, Yankel and Moishe – three synagogues. One for Yankel that Moishe boycotts, one for Moishe that Yankel boycotts and one empty one that they both boycott.

    We may find a multiplicity of opinions. But, I’ll not argue, and the deal is that Chaim answers YOUR questions.

    OH yeah – it’s MAOZ, not MOAZ.

  • Ruvy, hadn’t heard that joke before. I’ll use it, thanks.

    And while no one wants an argument, I think even Chaim would welcome different opinions. We’re dealing not only with difficult concepts, but with events that happened quite a while ago…like even before I was born.

    Sorry, MAOZ.

    MAOZ: Quick question–do you believe in evolution? Your comment about Adam being unique from all other beings–unique how?

  • ——– forcing self to keep Quiet







  • sr

    mschannon#59. Being clever is not my fortae. No hard feelings here.


  • just a goyim here, but I’m certain A flood DID happen, and it did engulf Mesopotamia, i.e, the world, in that context. But I’m also certain that all history is fiction, embellished by who’s recounting it. I won’t bore you with specific examples, but you guys all know I’m right in that regard.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t hell what we deal with in this plane of existence, and heaven is more a state of mind?
    I’m really not being facetious here…

  • sr–np.

    Ray, we’re going to off point here, but our leader(s) seem to have disappeared. How could you possibly be “certain” that a flood happened?

    And history is not fiction. There are some things we know with certainty, there are other things for which there’s competing evidence but it allows us to eliminate a lot of other possibilities, and there are some claims that are clearly false.

    History is difficult–it’s a social science–but to call it fiction is fall prey to the worst fate imaginable: Those who refuse to learn history are condemned to repeat it.

    As to heaven and hell, I’m awaiting word from on high–Chaim, Ruvy, & MAOZ–but as Chaim said, the Jewish concept is very different from the Christian concept. The Christian concept is pretty clear. This ain’t hell–hell’s really bad with fire and brimstone (although it’s dry heat).

    What we’re searching for in this increasingly fascinating thread is not so much the truth (at least I’m not) but an understanding of Jewish theology…which, from what I’ve read, was actually written down relatively late in the religion by somebody in Alexandria–ironically just about the time Jesus was born.

    In jameson veritas…not soon enough…have to run an errand. rats.

  • I didn’t dissapear (I’m assuming I’m who you were referring to), I merely had to do other things. So, do you want the quick way that requires you’re input or the long one that doesn’t? I’ll probably end up giving you both, but which do you want first?

  • Harumph. Chaim, I’m sorry, but BC is a jealous mistress. We expect total commitment, unless, of course, your wife tells you to go to the grocery store, which just happened to me.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the quick one requiring my input–if you mean in a Socratic way, that’d be cool, but I’m not sure how much time I have.

    Let’s start with the long version which will give us (including Gonzo who thinks we don’t love him anymore but we do, we need him…desperately) a foundation for the more interactive version.

    In Jameson (finally) Veritas

  • Ok, here goes (see you in an hour or so 🙂 )…

  • Chaim, I don’t get it, but I got an e-mail from you re: RSS feeds for this thread, but it isn’t showing up here.

    Anyway, I’m not too good at Rss feeds, but if you go to the end of the article, there’s a some ads, and then a dark box which contains a button for RSS feeds. I use the e-mail which seems to work pretty quickly. I clicked on the RSS feed and got a mass of HTML code which is Greek to me.

    Anyone know how that works?

  • Actually, on second thought, while I’m sitting here in front of the computer, It’ll probably be better if I ask you the questions. I hope that’s ok. I know, I gave you the choice and now I’m rescinding. I’m sorry, but I think it’ll be better this way.

  • ..:::still here, sitting Quietly and waiting, truly Curious about “logical proof”:::..


  • I know. I don’t see it either. I haven’t got the e-mail for an hour after it was posted, though,so I’d prefer the RSS. I know what you’re talking about, but it’s a general RSS, not for this blog specifically. Basically you’d paste this blog into your RSS program (i.e. my.yahoo.com, gmail.com, or whatever) and you’d get updates instead of having to browse to a million different sites.

  • What I’ve done before the e-mail thing was added was save the post to my favorites. At least then I could find it quickly. I’ll ask the other editors about RSS and other stuff…but it could take a while to get a response.

    As for asking questions…it’s getting towards dinner time here, and my bride will get testy if I tell her I’m going to spend the entire evening downstairs. Give me a couple of hours & I can sneak back down.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Sure. Until you get back, here’s a little intro.

    If I were to come to your house and tell you, “I want to show you something.” I’d then proceed to take a solid 24 karat gold pen out of my pocket. I’d then tell you that it was actually a plastic pen that I converted using a secret formula that I then give you. You find thirty scientists and give them the equation and thirty years to convert some more pens. All of them come back to you and say, “it didn’t work.” You would obviously conclude that I must’ve been lying (or that I made a mistake, but let’s assume I assured you there wasn’t one). Why? Because in science there’s a rule that if it happened once, it’ll happen again. It’s the first of the scientific method. Experimentation only works because of this rule.

    In history there’s a similar rule, that of “history repeats itself.” Will there be another Napoleon Bonaparte’ who will lead the French in a revolution? Of course not. But if you ask me to show you revolutions where one man prevailed, I’ll give you a hundred. Meaning, a normal event will happen again. Revolutions, Industrial growth, monarchs gaining and losing power, wars and treaties, all happen again and again through history. With that, I have a(n unrelated) question for you.

    What happened? What do you think happened that caused people like me to believe that around 2,200 Hashem gave the Torah to Jews on Har Sinai? When did it happen? I’m not asking sarcastically. I mean it. What happened? And when? Awaiting your reply…


  • sr

    So Mschannon, whats for dinner?

  • chaimss, I never saw your email, but if you look at the end of the article, there’s a big brown box that has a list that looks like this:

    Subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds for:
    » Comments on this article
    » Culture
    » Culture: Humor and Satire
    » Blogcritics.org articles by Mark Schannon
    » All Opinion articles
    » All Blogcritics.org articles

    As I hope is obvious, you should be able to subscribe to either the entire site (“All Blogcritics.org articles”), just to comments on this article (“Comments on this article”), or a variety of other options in between.

    I hope that helps.

  • oh boy…a Question….

    Truth sez…”i don’t Know”

    now, as for an Hypothesis based on resources available…i am gathering that you are speaking of Moshe[Moses] receiving the Commandments?

    if i remember correctly, the Books you are talking about (besides the stone Tablets) are acknowledged to have been written by Aaron, (Moses’ brother) from dictation given by Moshe himself…

    now, Moshe was indeed an educated man, and a Master Builder of Pharoah…he’s just gotten his folks out of Egypt and has to get them to “the Promised Land”…and away from Pharoah or even the temptation for people to go back to the Life they knew…so up the Mountain he goes, and is up there for quite some time…according to the Story, more than enough Time to carve some Tablets…

    now here is where i would like some Clarity from someone that reads Hebrew…my Understanding has two slightly different takes on actual phrasing, and my pitiful knowledge of the Old Testament in english translation is spotty at best…i recall both “finger of God” and “pillar of Fire” used within these sections and was wondering at the actual Wording from someone who speaks the Language… part of it is the bit abuot Fire, when in Genesis, Moloch is credited as “the god of Fire”…among other curiosities…

    one could theorize that an educated leader, knowing the daunting Task of bringing these newly freed People to somewhere they could call Home, would try and give them their own Laws, and the Rules they would need to survive what came ahead of them…

    if we continue with the Story, we are told that they had to live as bedouins (the people of Moshe’s wife) for quite a few years… long enough to marvel how both brothers lived through it, but only Aaron lives to enter the Land…with the Torah

    exactly what happened on that Mountain, as well as much of the details, are matters of Faith… and as i said earlier…

    Truth says , “i don’t know”


  • Gonzo posits an interesting solution that doesn’t require a diety. But, in true Socratic fashion, I’ll answer your question by asking you another. What could have caused so many people to believe that Jesus was the son of God. The son of a shoemaker, a Jew, a self-professed prophet at a time when the land was full of them.

    Yet Jesus prevailed while the others are footnotes in history. Why?

    The question you’re asking has no definitive answer that I can imagine. One possible psychological answer is offered by Gonzo. And the story gets passed down through the ages to bind the Jews together.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “when did it happen?” The problem’s with the word “it.” Does it reference your belief or God handing Moses the tablets.

    Throughout all cultures, there are very similar religious and socioligical similarities. Historically, I look back on a people who see a world that’s inexplicable, capricious, dangerous, and uncontrollable. God or a god becomes both a solace and an explanation for the good and bad.

    That need for something beyond ourselves that gives meaning or purpose to our lives is still as strong today.

    I can’t know what happened on Mt. Sinai, but I can understand how a tradition gets passed down through generations so people such as you & Ruvy believe that it’s evidence of God’s intervention–of God giving his chosen people the rules by which to make sense out of a crazy world.

    How is what you’ve asked me different from what a priest might ask a doubting Thomas…or a protestant minister or a Shaolin priest trying to explain to a non believer?

    I have a feeling I’m missing your point as well…

    Oh, and SR, we had chicken breasts sauteed in a white wine, mushroom and cream sauce, harricort verts, and a wonderful 93 Burgundy. Thanks for asking.

  • Chaim, I keep going back to your question which confuses me. I know you’re probably asleep–which is good because it gives me more time to ponder this.

    I think what happened is that a tradition got handed down–one of many–that bound a group of people together into a common culture/religion. As to the when, I assume the timing of the Bible is reasonably accurate.

    And Gonzo’s suggestion that Moses was looking for a way to keep his people together as they wandered through the desert is reasonable. In fact, using Occham’s razor, it’s more reasonable than positing a diety–which is why I maintain that one cannot use reason to prove the existence of God.

    If God exists, He transcends reason. Any attempt to use reason, by definition limits Him, which therefore invalidates the logic.

    I don’t know why some people believe and some don’t. That’s plagued me for years. I often envy those who do believe. It’s not a function of intelligence–belief too transcends intelligence.

    “When” people like you believed is an odd question, but I’d suggest that when one is exposed to religion and accepts the precepts, then the historical events become part of foundation to support that belief.

    I’m going round in circles…so I’m off to bed to. Hope we can continue tomorrow.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo at Comment #116.

    I won’t go into attempting to answering your questions in entirety. I’d be typing for the whole Sabbath and more, G-d forbid. I’m just going to briefly correct a couple of errors you have in the tale. In fact, I’m going to copy a lot of this from a different comment.

    Chapter 14 of the Book of Numbers (chanted in synagogues world wide last week along with Chapter 15) deals with “the sin of the spies,” a pretty big religious concept in Judaism.

    To make a short story shorter, G-d suggests to Moses that he send out twelve spies to scout out the land of Canaan. Two come back saying “there are fortified cities but we can conquer them!” So far, so good. The other ten say “the cities are fortified and the land is inhabited by giants and we can’t handle it at all.”

    The Children of Israel, a rebellious lot and pack of ingrates if there ever was one, want to turn around and head back to Egypt rather than die as carcasses in the desert or fall to the swords of the inhabitants of Canaan. They believe the majority of the spies.

    It is about at this point that Hashem appears on the scene. And He is ready to go ballistic. For the second time He suggests to Moses that He wipe out the children of Israel and start over again with Moses and his descendents. He is thoroughly disgusted with a people who refuse to have faith in Him, the essential sin, and with a people who reject His gift of a land, the second sin.

    Moses talks Hashem out of the idea – that’s why I’m even able to write this – but Hashem decides that all those who feared becoming carcasses in Canaan will die in the wilderness and never see the land. In order to accomplish this, the camp wanders about, seemingly aimlessly for about 38 years. The children under twenty, judged by Hashem as innocent, will inherit the land. The name of this book in Hebrew is “BaMidbár” – “In the Wilderness.”

    As for the ten spies, who have no faith in HASHEM, they die on the spot from a plague.

    The other two spies, the two who had faith, Yehoshúa (Joshua) and Kalév (Caleb), get to continue on to Canaan. Aharón (Aaron) dies, Miriam dies and Moshé (Moses) dies.

    Breakfast – no mixing milk and meat here! – is ready, so I gotta run.


  • MAOZ

    Hi all, hitting and running again. [This aspect of life would be so much simpler if I didn’t have to head out to the internet cafe to do it. Nu, ma la’asot? The budget won’t allow for buying a computer et al of my own.]

    In answer to 1 question, I’m Israeli by choice and (still) American by birth and choice.

    In answer to another, I have no problem with the concept of development of lifeforms from simpler to more complex. I don’t buy the idea of it all being a result of purely random mutation.

    In answer to another, How was Adam unique from the beings created up to that point? While both Adam and the earlier creatures were formed of the dust of the earth, Adam alone had a neshama [a certain type of soul] breathed into him by G^d. That’s stated explicitly; the matter is also hinted at by a “quirk” in the spelling of the Hebrew word when referring to Adam being formed, as opposed to the normal spelling being used in reference to the other animals being formed. That’s the hit-and-run. There’s way more that can be said about this topic, but Nu, ma la’asot? [“What can ya do?”] It’s Friday afternoon already, and the preparations for Shabbat await….

    And a couple off-the-cuffs re gonzo at #116. (1)The Books being acknowledged as written by Aaron at Moshe’s dictation? Doesn’t ring any bells with me — where’d that notion come from? [Or did I fall asleep during that class?!]
    (2)Aaron didn’t make it into the Land; in fact, he died before Moshe did (so did their sister Miriam); Moshe “handed over the reins” of the role of High Priest from Aaron to Aaron’s son.
    Other questions/observations about gonzo’s rendition of the going-out of Egypt come to mind, but I really gotta get home or I’ll be spending Shabbat sitting in the dark and eating cold food!

    Shabbat shalom, y’all!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Shabbat Shalom, May you have good hot meals for Shabbat. Perhaps one day you can spend Shabbat with us – just not too soon – our lives are in a bit of a mess right now.


  • This is interesting. Gonzo and I have the same memories of Moses being denied entrance into the promised land by God — and I can’t remember why — and that he dictated the Torah to Aaron who took over leadership of the tribe and led them into Caanan, Israael, whatever it was called. If I had a Bible, I’d look it up. (oops…probably shouldn’t have said that.)

    I also don’t remember reading in the Bible (from many many years ago) that God wanted to wipe out everyone but Moses and his family (man, He does have a temper, that God, doesn’t he. Break a rule, turn to salt, show some fear about giants, get whacked.) And I’d never heard or read that God had them wandering around in the desert so the old farts would die and those under 20 would make it.

    Is all this from the Torah or some other source?

    At some point, MAOZ, we can discuss evolution further. It’s not based on random mutation but a phrase that’s been distorted beyond recognition, “survival of the fittest.”

    Shabbat Shalom

  • troll

    *Gonzo and I have the same memories of Moses being denied entrance into the promised land by God — and I can’t remember why — and that he dictated the Torah to Aaron who took over leadership of the tribe and led them into Caanan*

    guys – that’s the movie…


  • lol troll…you may be correct…it’s been about the same lenghth of time between my reading an english translation of the Book, and seeing the flick…

    but i digress

    that’s why i Asked for correction form those more familiar with the writings in their original Language…i truly want to get the Story correct for assessment, and i don’t read Hebrew…so what better than to Ask

    and my Appreciation to those who have helped Answer, truly….

    now we will have to wait the day until after sabbath in Israel is over…

    facinating stuff here, imo


  • troll

    (* a phrase that’s been distorted beyond recognition, “survival of the fittest.”*

    distorted because of indeterminate meaning – both full and empty depending…a good example of the clarity that comes from shining the light ordinary language analysis on an issue

    not to worry though – “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”…


  • troll-it’s not the movie, gawd. i can’t believe you’d say that….

    at least i hope it’s not the movie, talk about is my face red.

  • troll

    Mark – your use of ‘Gawd’ is a brilliant solution to the problem of respectful reference…


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Some of us have a computer at home, guys. Sabbath begins in about an hour and a half here according to the clock I’m looking at on the screen – about a quarter past noon, Maine, Virginia, and Ohio time… and it leaves at 20:31 IST or 13:31 EDT.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  • well then Ruvy,

    what are we missing here so far?

    your Thoughts?


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Too much for me to type in 5 minutes. See you all in 25½ hours, G-d willing.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  • troll

    rambling on…consider the 7th law – *Prohibition of failing to establish courts of justice*

    does submitting to the secular courts of justice in one’s country of residence count – ?


  • troll

    and on…what does scripture and tradition say would come about were there no one left to light the candle and announce the Sabbath


  • troll

    and on – (my most important point) actually I think even in the movie it’s the nephew Aaron who gets to harvest the milk and honey


  • I’ll bet our three experts are sorry they ever started this. Between Gonzo, Troll, & me, we could keep them answering our questions until the Messiah comes…which would be a waste of time since I assume the Messiah would have all the answers and would just touch you on the forehead and say, “Schazam, now you know.”

    And we’d all hit ourselves on the forehead and say, “Oy, were we schmucks. It’s so logical.”

    Shabbat Shalom and may your candles never dim, your bread always be fresh, and your wine glass never be empty. (That’s actually a Lithuanian toast, but I thought it appropriate for here.)

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Actually, believe it or not, I’m not sorry 🙂 . You’ll just have to bear with me. It’s around 4:30 PM EDT, so I have a little time left. Basically, Aharon died in Numbers (don’t have my Chumash on me) and Moshe died in Deutoronomy. Yehoshua (Joshua) led the Jews into Eretz Yisroel (not Israel, by the way. The modern state has different borders than the land the Jews came to 2,200 years ago. Not physical borders, I mean, but “legal” ones.) Can’t go too much in depth, I have to pack. I’m going away for Shabbos. What I meant though, Mark, is:

    What happened (whatever it was. Not what the Torah says, but what you think happened) that caused people like me and Ruvi (and the other frum person on here, sorry, I forget your name)to believe what we do? If the Torah was written by some guy somewhere, sometime, who wrote it, and who did he give it too? Also, what did he tell this group when he (or they) gave it to them? That’s basically my question(s). What(‘s) are your answer(s)? Good Shabbos everyone. See you soon Im Yirtzeh Hashem (G-d willing).

  • Oh, just one last thing. The Messiah (or Moshiach) isn’t going to “bop you on the head” as you say. It’s like the story of Yosef and his brothers. (I’m assuming you guys know it already, otherwise it’s towards the end of Genises.) They come, they get arrested, accused of spying, their brother gets thrown in jail, they find themselves framed, etc. Although they believed that Hashem knew what he was doing, they were probably thinking, “wow. One day Hashem is really going to have to sit down with us and explain all this.” But what happenned? It was five words, “Ani Yosef. Ha’od avi chai?” (I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?) and then everything falls into place. That’s what it will be like. Good Shabbos, all.

  • Bliffle

    Religion is bunkum.

  • Bliffle, at least be creative. Religion as practiced is often bunkum, as you say, but the underlying theology and philosophy is both intellectually and anthropologically one of the most fascinating subjects one could study.

    Neener, neener, neener.

    Now, Chaim, oy, you want my history of the world. Mel Brooks, I’m not. This isn’t going to be a post but an essay.

    We start with why people believe in God, and if this isn’t the height of hubris, I’d appreciate another example. Talk about chutzpah.

    It begins with the most primitive (i.e. earliest developed) part of our brain that, even today, has been shown to not only respond to threats before the conscious mind is aware of them, but also literally take control of the body in terms of the initial response. (I can never remember the name of that part of the brain…)

    Anyway, it developed when the first homo sapiens were evolving at a time when the world was dangerous, unknowable, and filled with seemingly magical things (like eclipses.)

    As the more cognitive parts of the brain developed, people sought answers and the most logical answer to the mysteries at that time was that there must be higher powers at work. Imagine a primitive watching a thunderstorm and thinking that something awfully powerful must be doing that.

    That’s why so many pre-monotheistic religions have such similar gods. (The Hindus got carried away–they’ve got more gods than people, but I digress. And Bliffle, talk about a fascinating theology…study Hinduism.) Gods of fire, of the ocean, of weather, etc.

    I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But the point is that the part of the brain that controls the fear response and that leads the rest of the brain to concoct theology still exists and still is powerful.

    We all ask the basic questions, “Why are we here? What purpose does my life serve? What will happen to me when I die?” For many, the answers, “We’re here as an accident of evolution. Your live serves no purpose other than the one you give it. And when you die, you turn to dust and eventually no one will ever know you were alive,” are so terrifying that people are unable to consider them.

    So…as people get a little more sophisticated, so do our concepts of religion until monotheism arrives. I’m sure I’m butchering this, but the commandment, “thou shalt have no other gods before me…” could suggest the God imagined by people at that time had to beat up all the other gods to rein supreme. (An bit of speculation on my part.)

    God is all knowing, all seeing, all powerful. He loves me. If I obey His commandments, I will enjoy eternal bliss by His side. As bad as things get, I know I can always count on God to be there at the end. He may even intervene to help me if I pray hard enough and in the right way.

    How powerful is that even today? Especially today when it looks like human beings are really bald lemmings.

    So, with no disrespect intended at all, that’s why I think people believe. It gives them hope, it provides them a direction and purpose in their lives, and, for many, it makes them better, happier people. Not too bad…but I believe it all stems from that primitive part of us that doesn’t realize it’s the 21st century.

    Enough for now. I’ll tackle the rest later when I’ve taken a nap.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • a nap?????

    geeeeez Mark, take some geritol with yer Jamesons!

    but i digress…

    just some Thoughts here for when those observing Sabbath come back to us to further the Conversation…

    Mark touches a bit on it above, and i’ve Asked the same question before…
    thou shalt have no other gods before me” , implies that there ARE indeed “other gods”, this is confirmed in Genesis when 4 gods are spoken about…Sky(Yahweh), Fire (Moloch)..and if memory serves Earth and Water (my apologies for not remembering their Names right off the bat…senility i guess)…

    now, as i understand it , and as was written above…Adam is acknowledged as not being the “first Man”, but a fancy golem created by YHWH from the “earth”( the Realm of another god), and Eve created from Adam, thus naking them the only people NOT born of woman ( and thus no belly buttons as well as near identical DNA, one chromosome change for difference in sex)…

    this bestowment of ‘soul’ ( nesham? i am never certain i spell that right) upon Adam and Eve is what serves to make them “different” from the people around whom their children will intermarry with …supposedly their decendants will carry this ‘soul’, while those not of the direct bloodline (via their mother)…remain without this “soul”

    now…since Cain and Abel were both males, and their wives would have been ‘soulless’ folks… the anthropological proclivity of “jewishness” being passed down via the maternal line does not make sense at first…the only explanation i have been able to figure out involves a societal survival need…based on war and conflict…it woudl be a survival mechanism of a People to consider it’s “inheritance” so in order to accomodate the ravages of war upon it’s population since many males woudl be killed off, and many children sired by the conquerors to the women of the People under discussion…

    but it is the Idea of being descended from this proto-couple…that ONLY those of such descent having “souls” and thus being “Chosen” that defines much of the work in the Old Testament texts…

    so…we have the “sky god” usurping the realm of the “earth god” in creating his People…then usurping Water with a Flood…and again usurping Fire with the “pillar of Fire” manifestation for Moshe in carving the Tablets on Sinai…

    upon which is the admonition to “have no other gods before me”

    if we apply the concept of Occam’s razor to the philosophical pursuit of Theology, it does appear that these Stories describe a vindictive DemiUrge pushing aside his “brothers” in pursuit of blind worship from a people that are continuously persecuted by both those who surround them as well as the “god” and “prophets” they follow…

    even so..there are very few Works in man’s history which delineate such a cohesive set of Ethics and rules for Living as the Jewish texts…

    i look forward to learning more form those who have more Knowledge on the subject…



  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Shavua Tov everybody! Have a Good Week!

    Our friend from the States, Chaim S. will not be back for 4 hours at least – it is about 4:15 in the afternoon (as I write this now). In New York, it is still the Sabbath.

    Gonzo, you wrote,

    “thou shalt have no other gods before me” , implies that there ARE indeed “other gods”, this is confirmed in Genesis when 4 gods are…

    We’ve been over this ground before, you and I. Work from that English translation and you’re sure to have all sorts of unnecessary problems – like this one. The ancient Hebrew text means “aside from Me” or “other than Me” – not in front of me, or next to me or near my left fender as I speed down the highway at 140km/hr, or any other such nonsense. Hashem is telling Moshé (Moses) and the rest of us rebellious Children of Israel that, like the Highlander, “there can only be ONE” – and he is adding, “and pay attention dimwit – I’M THAT ONE!” That is the plain meaning of the Hebrew text and there is just know way around it.

    Mark, you wrote,

    God is all knowing, all seeing, all powerful. He loves me. If I obey His commandments, I will enjoy eternal bliss by His side. As bad as things get, I know I can always count on God to be there at the end. He may even intervene to help me if I pray hard enough and in the right way.

    This is what you finally come to in attempting to answer Chaim’s question.

    Sorry, no cigar. Reasoning or thought like this is not going to get someone like me to believe in an Almighty G-d. Nosirree bob. Former agnostics like me do not make leaps of faith so easily. I need a lot more than this.

    Now I’m not disgreeing with anything that Chaim is going to say, and the deal is that he answers your questions. I’m only speaking for me and me alone.

    The idea that Hashem might help me out – or more to the point, might have guided my path – did not occur to me at all until we were preparing to move to Israel.

    Bear in mind that we did not make the move to Orthodox pracice until we were here for about a year – and it had to do more with my kids and wife feeling comfortable with it and realizing that there was no middle path here.

    If you follow the commandments, you find yourself in one segment of society, and if you don’t, you find yourself in a different segment. You can’t follow the commandmnents and still participate in fully the secular culture here – you are too cut off. But this issue is not germane to belief. This issue is more about how you integrate into Israeli society, an entirely different kettle of fish.

    You COULD come to believe from the practice of certain rituals – that is what many Orthodox Jews will tell you. I will not debate that issue. But I came to belief BEFORE adopting the Orthodox rituals.

    This is from an article I wrote to explore looking at history through a Jewish lens, something I’ve occasionally touched on here.
    “The big discovery that I made in the middle 1990’s while reading through the Humash and re-connecting with Torah, was that I was not reading fairy tales, or fables meant to convey a moral, but history. You don’t believe me? You shouldn’t. Look at Parshat “Ki Tavo,” the one we read the week of 24 September, 2005. Think about the curses upon our people that Moses prophesied would come, especially towards the end. This is not a description of Jewish life for the last thousand years or so?

    Parshat Ki Tavo is read every year, once a year. In the year 5699, it was studied and read on the days leading up to 2 Sept 1939, which was the Sabbath.

    Let’s look at the text. This translation comes from my Artscroll edition of the Humash, pages 1081 and 1085. First, Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:49-50.

    ‘Hashem will carry against you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, as an eagle will swoop, a nation whose language you will not understand, a brazen nation that will not be respectful to the old nor gracious to the young.’

    Rambam comments on Deut. 28:49 that Vespasian and his son Titus came from Rome to conquer the Land and destroy Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The awful conditions described though verse 57 took place during the siege of Jerusalem.

    A yeshiva student studying these lines in Warsaw on the night of Wednesday, 30 Aug. 1939, would have read Rambam in the Hebrew, saying exactly what I quoted to you. However, if he had time to follow the reading of the Torah in shul on 2 Sept. and could concentrate upon it, instead of the screaming of the Luftwaffe overhead, he might have had a very different comprehension of these same lines.

    ‘Hashem will carry against you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, as an eagle will swoop,………’

    The eagle was the symbol of Rome, but it was also the symbol of Germany, that attacked Poland that day.

    Let us never forget that Moses was a prophet, the one prophet with the clearest view of the future. G-d spoke to Moses as though to a friend, face to face.

    So Rambam was certainly right in his analysis of this portion of the Torah in that it referred to Rome and the events that led up to the destruction of the Temple. But could it not have also been a prophecy for the recent past, as well as our own day? Prophecy layered upon prophecy?

    Let’s continue at Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:62-66.

    ‘You will be left few in number, instead of having been like the stars of heaven in abundance, for you will not have hearkened to the voice of Hashem, your G-d. And it will that just as Hashem rejoiced over you to benefit you and multiply you, so Hashem will cause them to rejoice over you to make you perish and to destroy you; and you will be torn from upon the ground to which you come to possess it. Hashem will scatter you among all the peoples, from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, and there you will work for gods of others, whom you did not know – you or your forefathers – of wood and of stone. And among those nations, you will not be tranquil, there will no rest for the soul of your foot; there Hashem will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes, and suffering of soul. Your life will hang in the balance, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be sure of your livelihood.’

    Do I need to stress the point that even in America, Jews are not tranquil, and have a trembling heart, longing of the eyes and suffer in their souls? Do I need to mention that from September 1939, onwards for at least 6 years, the idea of Jews’ lives ‘hanging in the balance’ is an understatement? What about our lives here?”
    Mark, it was realizing, bit by bit, that what I was reading in the Torah was history that got my attention. It didn’t just get my attention, it hit me like a ton of bricks. So in the 1990’s I started to seriously explore Judaism becasue I saw the truth in front of my face.

  • Reuven,

    Let me first respond to your response of my response. Of course it’s weak from a rational perspective, but the entire thread of my argument is that people (most people) don’t find religion through rational thought but either through some mystical experience or emotional need. I tried to describe what I thought what drives the emotional need.

    According to many psychologists and neurologists, the unconscious forms and controls as much as 90 to 95% of our beliefs, atttitudes, values, judgments, and even behavior. Therefore, the entire emotional process could go on unconsciously with the conscious mind only “coming to God” in what feels like a mystical moment but, in reality, is nothing more than the end result of complex unconscious process.

    People hate it when I cite these theories, but the proponents aren’t nutcases–they’re Nobel Prize winners, highly acclaimed scientists at major universities, etc.

    So the part of my post that you cited was simply one possible end product of fulfulling fundamental metaphysical needs.

    Now, what you seem to be arguing is that you were reading more than history, you were reading prophesies that came true, and that experience was so powerful, it caused the leap of faith.

    There’s something interesting missing from the prophesies you cite, although perhaps it’s elsewhere. We do have a land, although there are many who would destoy it. The Jews have a home. One would think that an important part of any prophecy about the future.

    But the larger problem with prophesies is their vagueness which allows one to read into them whatever is driving one emotionally or intellectually. The same prophecy applies to Rome & Nazi Germany? Two horrible events but also very, very different in many aspects.

    even in America, Jews are not tranquil, and have a trembling heart, longing of the eyes and suffer in their souls?

    This, I fear, is an exaggeration. I don’t get a sense that we are any more or less tranquil than the rest of the country…all of us could use massive doses of drugs to easy the fear. Born-again, fundamentalist Christians could say the same thing about non-born again Christians.

    And that’s the problem with prophecy. Too many different people can come away with completely different interpretations.

    (I know that part of the problem here is that we’re posting. It’d be a hell of a lot easier if we could all meet somewhere for a week and discuss this in more detail. We’re all almost writing in shorthand.)

    Let me turn to Chaim’s second question to me:

    If the Torah was written by some guy somewhere, sometime, who wrote it, and who did he give it too? Also, what did he tell this group when he (or they) gave it to them?

    I have it on good authority that it was written by Bernie Goldberg, a shoe salesman in Alexandria Virginia, no, Egypt. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

    Chaim, it’s a strange question but I’ll see what my post-nap mind can do. (I really did take a nap…fell asleep during the boring golf tournament.)

    For centuries, as I understand it, very little is known about when the oral history was put on paper. One source says 3rd century BCE, although the Dead Sea Scrolls purport to move that back considerably.

    I don’t imagine that there was “one guy” who wrote the Torah, but rather, over time, various writings and oral histories were combined until some “finished” version was created.

    That’s why makes your question so difficult for me, because it was a group of believers creating the Bible out of a set of beliefs they already accepted. (Because they were Jews, they probably argued for years over every word, but that’s part of our charm, LOL).

    So it’s not a matter of some guy appearing out of the desert with a book, yelling, “Yo, you guys, look, the word of God. Follow this and you’re lives will be fulfilled.” It’s not a time-specific event.

    I assume that, as the Bible was written down, various parts were circulated throughout the community, so it didn’t come as a surprise when a “final” version was proffered.

    So the short answer to your question is, “No one person wrote ‘it.’ No one person gave it to anyone else. And, as it was passed from hand to hand and generation to generation, what was said was different.

    But I must confess. Your question remains an enigma. Your turn.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Hello, everyone. Shavua Tov. Just checking in to say that it’s 12:49 AM and I have to get to sleep :). See you tomorrow (if I’m not busy, I’m at someone’s house).

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mark, at least you’re off the Jamesons for this thread. That’s good and you recognize that we are all writing here in a shorthand of a sort. That recognition is good for understanding.

    That way we don’t have to rip each other apart over a word and instead can look at concepts without rancor. This surpasses a major problem in arguments, particularly amongst us in the ‘Tribe’.

    I’ve got to make THIS post very short – some unpleasant errands await me shortly.

    Fist of all what I saw in reading the Torah – and here I refer to the specific part of it known as the “Admonitions,” warnings of what will happen if we do not follow the commandments, was history that had occurred. I have to emphasise that before I thought about the age of the documents before me, I thought about the history. Unfortunately, I know a lot of Jewish history.

    Now bear in mind that America was a far more “tranquil” country in 1996-7 that it is now. The not so tranquil Jews I mention had the goal of raising children and the bewildering choices in front of them in terms of trying to keep them as Jews in a society that is decidedly hostile to the concepts we Jews put forth as humane behavior, not to mention the “misgéret” – the paradigm within which they are put forth…

    See our fiends on BC who condemn faith and the Bible outright for examples of this hostility.

    See also the folks who write here and elsewhere that “all you need is a little bit of Jesus” to get you by. That is aimed often at us as well as other non-believers in Christianity.

    If you do not have kids or the worry of preserving or guiding your “shot into the future” once they have left the “gunbarrel” of the womb, you have more tranquility.

    I said this was going to be short, didn’t I?

    Yes, lots of people can draw different conclusions from the same set of words – anyone who has studied law knows this of a certainty.

    But looking at Jewish history – and the warning that “we would be consumed in the land of our enemies” (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:26) and what I could see happening around me in America in terms of assimilation and what had happened some six decades ago in terms of extermination, I couldn’t deny the truth of the words in front of me, try as I might. A Baptist is worried? A Catholic is worried? NU, they were worried. But these words spoke truth in my Jewish ears.

    I’ll lt Chaim deal with issues of authorship…

    I gotta run.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I’ve gotten back from my nasty little errand – and have only one more part of it to complete…

    But I want to add a point to what I was writing above. When reading the Torah in the mid to late nineties, I was not looking for G-d or for faith. I was making sure that if my kids in Hebrew school had questions about the text (“Daddy, why did Moses need G-d to split the sea for him? Why didn’t he just call in the Israeli air force on his pager and let them pound them all back to the Stone Age?”), the old man would not make a total idiot of himself.

    As it turned out, the Hebrew School didn’t really teach any Torah, just siddur (prayerbook) Hebrew so the kids could pray. So each week, I red the portion of the week at the Friday night Sabbath meal in English from the Artscroll Humash I quoted in comment #140. Poor kids! It wasn’t bad enough that they coudn’t watch TV or write or draw or kick rocks – they had to listen to their father drone on and bore them to tears while they were waiting for dinner…

  • Reuven, Baaaaad father, making your children listen to the Bible. Actually I’d have preferred that to my father’s endless pontificating when I was young and helpless, LOL.

    But these words spoke truth in my Jewish ears. This phrase is very telling. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it verifies my argument above about why people turn to religion.

    The words struck some powerful unconscious part of you–they gave you an answer to something that had been troubling you. That’s not rational argument, though. The problem is that they don’t speak truth in my Jewish ears.

    Now it’s true I’m getting a little deaf as I get older, but even when I had young ears in working order, the didn’t resonate. So, we’re left waltzing around the Maypole.

    I’ll be interested to read what Chaim has to say.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • First of all, Ruvy, I’m glad to hear that you’ve achieved the high status of ba’al teshuva. Welcome home. (A little late, I know, but…) The gemora says that, “In the place that a ba’al teshuva (one who returns to Judaism) stands, the highest of reightous men can’t stand. What this means can be explained like this: If you look at a great Rav (Rabbi), chances are he’s never been to bars, he’s never gone to movies, has never hung out with girls, etc. Therefore, although he will, of course, recieve great reward for what he does, but a ba’al teshuva will recieve great reward for what he doesn’t do. (Do HTML tags work here?) Since he’s been there, done that, and still choses to stop, the reward he recieves is much greater.

    Mark, we seem to be talking on two different wavelengths. Being that I’m an amateur radio operator, it’s my job to fix that 🙂 Therefore, I’ll start with a different set of questions.

    1. Do you believe there was such a man as Abraham? (Whether or not Hashem spoke to him is a different story. Just did he exist.)

    2. Did he have a son Yitzchok? When he was 99 years old? Did he hear/think he had heard Hashem talking to him telling him to slaughter his son? Did he almost do it? What stopped him?

    3. Did Yitzchok have a son Yaakov? What about Esov (Esau)? Did Esov really sell the birthright to Yaakov, thus causing Yaakov to flee for his life?

    4. Did he really have four wives and 12 sons? Did they really sell their brother Yosef to Mitzrayim (Egypt)? Were they really forced to come down becuase of a famine? Did Yosef become vice-king (or whatever) and save their lives? Did they really go through that whole story I just illustrated above?

    5. Were their descendents (I’ll call them Hebrews) slaved by Paroh (Pharoh) and his men? Did they somehow escape? Did the ten plagues happen? If not, how did the Jews escape the one country where no other slaves had escaped before?

    6. Did something happen on Har Sinai that made the Jews think they had recieved a Torah? What did they recieve?

    7. How about the entire Numbers and Deutoronomy? They’re both full of stories about the Hebrews/Jews. Did they happen?

    8. Did the Jews actually make it into the promised land, Eretz Yisroel? Did they fight all those battles?

    9. What about the rest of the Tanach (Bible)? Did all those stories happen?

    That’s basically what I mean. What happened. If you answer “no” to any of those questions, then simply, what happened to bring us where we are today? And most importantly, if you don’t think it was Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher), who brought the first book to the the first group of people saying, “This is what Hashem wants you to do?” Hope I’ve made it clear 🙂

  • interesting Questions…

    but as i hope my feeble attempts above show, there can be a myriad of Explanations involving a weaving of history with just Story to explain each of the points Chaimss raises…

    so i’ll go back to being Quiet and reading, “waiting Is”… and will when “logical proof” arrives…


  • Chaim,

    I’m with Gonzo. I don’t have a clue if any of that happened. As a sometimes student of history, I know how difficult it is to separate myth from fact. We’re still arguing over the nature of Lincoln, and he lived 150 years ago; what possible hope would we have of knowing if there was an Abraham or any of the others.

    What I believe? It’s still my answer in #141. Probably some of the Bible is pretty accurate history, some has been distorted after being handed down from generation to generation, and some is pure fiction.

    You can ask the same questions about whether Jesus existed or was the creation of a bunch of people who started Christianity. How could I know the answers–how could anyone know the answers to those questions?

    I think it’s time for you to stop asking me questions I can’t answer & explain where you’re going. I feel like an idiot–like I’m missing something important.

    In Decaf Veritas–but not for long

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    OK Chaim, enough kvelling already. Mark wants his answers. And while I do have answers myself, you offered first, and I’m awful curious myself to see what you have to say…

    As Gonzo said, “waiting is.” AnáHnu m’Haqím l’tshuvá, Habíbi…

  • I started a nice, long response, but I’m being asked to get off the computer. I’ll e-mail it back to my house, and continue it their. I haven’t forgotten, though.

  • side bit to Ruvy…
    yes i know you and i have discussed “thou shalt have no other gods before me” …and i DO thanks you for helping with the direct translation…

    but i still disagree…

    as i told you when first we spoke of it, the rabbi i was talkign with laughed…then i pointed out the 4 gods listed in Genesis and asked what happened to the other 3….along with some of what i asked above concernign this matter

    i still haven’t gotten an Answer from any source…which is why i Asked here…hoping for further info to chew on

    be that as it may…”waiting Is”..and Chaimss has the “floor”

    not meaning to Distract, but the seemingly scattershot process of my ramblings are part of how i “operate”…which if you clik th elink under my name up there, you can see the few articles i’ve written for BC…which may help explain…some…(especially EndsvsMeans and analogies,allegories and algorythyms)


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Let’s pursue that side conversation a bit while we wait for Chaim to return…

    You wrote,

    “now…since Cain and Abel were both males, and their wives would have been ‘soulless’ folks… the anthropological proclivity of “jewishness” being passed down via the maternal line does not make sense at first…the only explanation i have been able to figure out involves a societal survival need…based on war and conflict…it woudl be a survival mechanism of a People to consider it’s “inheritance” so in order to accomodate the ravages of war upon it’s population since many males woudl be killed off, and many children sired by the conquerors to the women of the People under discussion…

    but it is the Idea of being descended from this proto-couple…that ONLY those of such descent having “souls” and thus being “Chosen” that defines much of the work in the Old Testament texts…”

    Let’s straighten out some loose ends here. Abraham is the first Hebrew, not Adam. Adam gets a neshamá, a spirit that communicates with Hashem. According to Nahmanides, a twelfth century Jewish scholar, there were human like creatures who could not be distinguished from Adam and Eve, but who had no neshamá. Cain kills Abel, and is afraid of being killed – by who? He is afraid of being killed by these non-neshamá bearing creatures.

    Cain marries one such female, and has kids.

    The “chosen” people are the Children of Jacob (the grandson of Abraham, the first Hebrew) – the Children of Israel. We Jews are not the whole bunch of them, though. It is not until we get to Abraham’s great grandson, Yehudá (Judah) that we get to the first Jew. There are the other tribes also who are the Chldren of Israel. Generally, those known as “Jews” come from the tribes of Yehudá, Lévi, Benyamín and Shim’ón (Simeon or Simon). Interestingly, many Pushtun claim descent from various Hebrew tribes – while being perfectly content to be Moslems.

  • ok Ruvy..you Asked for It…

    Adam and thus Eve have a neshamá, what you call a “spirit”…their only surving son is Cain who mates with a women who has no “spirit”

    correct so far?

    now, as i Understand Jewish tradition, inheritance of being a Jew falls from the maternal line…thus disqualifying Cain’s children…but as you say…Cain is not a jew..just a man with a “spirit” among whatever population of Men who do NOT possess this neshama’…

    earlier the Noah bit was explained as the Flood nto being world wide, therefore we can conclude that not all these Men with no neshama’ were drowned

    so we get to Abraham and the Covenant…i am guessing we are to assuem that Abraham is descended from Adam via Cain and this nameless woman…
    (side bit here, interesting that many times you Quote rabbi Nahmanides, a 12th century[ad?] scholar as a Source for the info about these non-spirit having Men, among other things…he would have been about what…4000 years into the Hebrew calendar and yet he “knows” details about the time of Adam and more…do we know his Source?)

    now, with all that said, we get to the Flood…even if we take it as a “given” and get past it by saying it only involves the “Land” in the area and is not world wide…we get back to those Men with no “spirit”

    if i am correct so far…then no matter how you cut it…it woudl appear that according to this Theology, the vast Majority of human beings walking the face of the earth woudl qualify to Jewish Literalists as having no neshama’…thus making them less than Men by most definitions…golems as it were, at worst…and beasts at best…

    why i stick on this comes a bit later, when the Bloodlines of Jews and some Arabs differ…the two sons of the same father, but different mothers who begin this entire inheritance squabble…

    but even there, the true Rift appears to come after Mohammed…and is a whole other Topic…

    so, chew on the above, and to get back to a Point you skipped…i am still Curious how the 4 gods of Genesis…air,earth,fire and water…morhp into the “there can be only one” bit later…as how one who Manifests as a pillar of Fire (Moloch’s trick, one would think) is the “air god”

    now please, to any who Read this..i mean and intend NO disRespect by my Questions or observations…this is how i Learn best, and my PoV tends towards cultural anthropology and comparitive mythology as an approach towards many fo these Question of Theology…

    (hence my concern that Nahmanides is the Jewish verison of Iraneus…i’ll have to read a lot more before going there…)

    objects in mirror are closer than they appear


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    You appear to have forgotten someone. Adam again mates with Eve and has Seth for a son. He, like Cain, has a neshamá Noah is the descendent of Seth, not Cain, so Abraham is the descendant of Seth, not Cain. Let’s keep the lines straight.

    Unfortunately, here we get to the point of me being an ignorant Jew. This is not false modesty. I cannot tell you Nahmanides sources – a tuly learned scholar could. I honestly do not know. Then there is another issue that I am not sure about. This is when the rule of matrilineal descent for Jews came into effect. It is my understanding that this came about to determine a squabble over who would be king during the time just before the Romans stuck Hordós (Herod) on the throne here. But I am not sure. A truly learned scholar could speak with some confidence to this issue. I can’t.

    MAOZ raised the issue of the Flood not being world wide – I tend to agree with him. This means that there would be descendants of Cain walking around. Which leads to a question. Could the “mark of Cain” be the lack of a beard?

    Now since Cain carried the neshamá and passed it to all of his descendants, and since Seth had a neshamá and passed to to all of his descndants, we all have neshamót. Maybe some of us have stronger or less strong ones, but we all have one.

    Where is your problem, Gonzo?

  • He still wants to know about them 4 gods…were they real and God assimilated them into himself, did God destroy them so he’d be the only one? Are they manifestations of God? (Hell, if the Catholics can have the Holy Ghost, whatever that is, we could have some manifestions too.)

    So, Gonz, am I right or am I right or am I right.

    Pick one at random for all I care.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • I know this is a little short, but I started with a longer one and then realized I wasn’t doing a very good job with it. Therefore, I’ll be taking a lot from a speech by R’ Lawrence Kelemen, so you can just listen to it yourself at simpletoremember.com and click on the first link in the top left) There’s a 46 second intro, so you can skip that if you want.

    Ill revert to your original suggestion that I just give the lecture, so, here goes:
    Remember, every single other religion claims that their guys the guy. That one person had the revelation and came back to the people and told them whatever the message was. We are the only nation who has ever claimed a mass revelation, i.e. that three million people saw Hashem speak to them. The question is, how do you claim that if it isnt true?

    Imagine, if you will, that were going out to start out own religion. We have two options. We can either say that “Hashem reveled himself to us and this is his message to you.” If we’re charasmatic enough, it’s possible some people may believe us. But what if we say, “Hashem came to all of your great, great grandparents.” Would they believe us? Of course not! Their first question would be, “why didn’t they tell us?” See what I mean. It would be an impossible claim unless it happened.

    I really suggest that you listen to this speech. He’s a lot better and more complete than I am, and I think will help us progress better.

  • troll

    but what about Selma…Cain’s wife’s sister – ?

    she married one of gonzo’s golems – Yarbles – and moved with him to Portland where they opened a chandlery and had bunches of babies

    how can a good Jew tell if he is dealing with a spirit free being or not nowadays


  • Ruvy sez…
    *Now since Cain carried the neshamá and passed it to all of his descendants, and since Seth had a neshamá and passed to to all of his descndants, we all have neshamót. Maybe some of us have stronger or less strong ones, but we all have one.*

    not proven, or even mathematically likely Ruvy

    we don’t know the ration of non-“spirit” having folks but we do know that there were only TWO “spirit” carrying Men…

    so, since we do not have any Idea how thish “spirit” is passed down…but we can take it with near certitude that the vast majority of humans did NOT have it…the probability, especially much later, after the Flood, the genetic sets of those involved are quite clear and not related to many different folks

    and yes Mark..i am still waiting on the 4 gods of Genesis bit…

    i’ll listen to your link again..but so far, i am still Waiting for Logical proof rather than sophistry and solipsism that starts with the unproven Assumption of “first cause” being supernatural…

    however, i am keeping my Mind as open as possible as these discussions progress…if nothign else to try and understand the kind of Mind that can accept such Things blindly


  • hi mark. I am a convert to Judaism. Many of your questions are addressed in “The Jewish Book of Why” and many other great books about Judaism.

    It is difficult to convert to Judaism. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that Jews were often murdered for proselytizing about their faith and so a sort of secrecy developed. Also, because Jews were often killed just for being Jewish, they were often forced to hide their religion from others. It took me several years to convert and I had to have a rabbi sponsor my conversion. I had many Jewish freinds and even a Jewish roomate and none of them ever shared any of their customs or religious beliefs with me until I converted. I dont know if they were being secretive or maybe they just didnt know enough about their religion to share things with me.

    As for the stories in the Bible of Abraham and Noah, I was taught that the stories are metaphors. They are symbolic stories meant to teach a lesson or impart wisdom. Especially when the Bible refers to the age of biblical figures, it is mysterious. The amount of days in the year was different in Biblical times.

    Anyway, I know that many learned Jews have responded to your blog already and so I wont pretend to have any kind of new knowledge about these issues. I will say that many born Jews grapple with their heritage and are confused about dietary laws and what they mean, along with other traditional customs. There were many born Jews in my classes at the University of Judaism. Maybe you should consider taking a class in Jewish History and Custom.

    Though you may want to eat bacon and think the dietary laws are stupid, I often think that there are six million Jews who are dead now that would love to light a menorah or decline a bacon cheeseburger. When I am blessed enough to participate in these activities, I light the candles and decline the cheeseburger in honor of them.

  • BTW, my rabbi said “chosen” means “chosen to suffer.” This is why the rabbis ask you why you want to be part of the most persecuted and hated group on earth and you have to give the right answer before they give you the membership card. (Just kidding about the card; but you have to answer the question right before youre allowed in.) and to some orthodox and chasidim, I am not even Jewish even though I have been to Israel three times, keep kosher and go to the mikvah.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I may have this wrong, but rattling around in my head is a comment (not mine) way back in the last several months about the Russians having done an experiment some time ago weighing (presumably comatose) people just before and just after death – and coming up with a consistent loss of a few grams of weight AFTER death.

    The fellow who posted this said that this could be used as proof, slide evidentiary proof, if one wished to call it that, that there was a soul.

    That wouldn’t happened to have been your comment, would it, Gonzo?

    The neshamá would be that few grams. We all have one now.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Hi Candye,

    Maybe Chaim S. is a learned Jew. Maybe MAOZ is a learned Jew. I’m just an ignorant scribbler. But you raise an interesting point.

    my rabbi said “chosen” means “chosen to suffer.”

    Twenty years ago, that would have been my outlook also.

    Jewish history is like this nightmare of a game show where Satan is the host asking you to choose between “curtain #1” (getting raped in the crusades), curtain #2 (getting tortured in the inquisition), and “curtain #3” (getting gassed in a concentration camp). While you’re trying to choose, you “win” all sorts of small “prizes” along the way – sur-prizes, as it were, of rapes, beatings, robbery, riots, pogroms. Finally, unable to choose and exhausted from the “sur-prizes”, Satan, the game show host announces that you’ve won eveything behind all three “curtains”. The game show ends with Satan laughing in the night, to the tune of “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie”…

    It’s easy to see your rabbi’s point.

    But that was not why we were chosen. We were chosen for two purposes. One is to guard the Torah (both Oral and Written). Most learned Jews understand this rather well. The Talmud elucidates Seven Laws of Noah for the rest of mankind (Children of Noah). We Jews are to guide the world in following these Seven Laws when they choose to follow them. We do not believe that the whole world has to, or even will be want to be Jews.

    Twenty years ago, this was a moot question. But in the last two decades a group of people calling themselves Noahides have tossed away all the other religions of the earth and decided to embrace the Seven Laws of Noah. These are real people requiring real guidance.

    I yield the floor to Chaim S. and Mark.

  • Gonzo Marx, try listening again (thank you for listening for the first time 😉 )but remember: he’s addressing the point that the only possible scenerio is that Hashem gave the Torah on Har Sinai. Therefore he is, by definition, proving that Hashem exists. Also, I highly, highly recommend “Permission To Believe” by the same man. I’ve read it myself, and found it excellent.

    As for the metaphoric stories, there’s a Jewish expression that goes, “ein yotzi dovar m’pshuto” that a statement in the Torah can always be interpreted according to its simple interpretation, as well as all the other layers of interpratation possible. So although it can be taken metaphorically as well, the events themselves did happen. Now, as far as time goes, Dr. Gerald Schroeder is great at this. and his book(s) can be found on Amazon.

    Hope this helps, and I can’t wait to here what Mark, Ruvy, and the rest of the gang have to say.

    [Chaim, please ONLY post active urls to material and omit Amazon links as they can mess with the site sometimes. Thanks. Comments Editor]

  • Oh, and this lecture is great as well. (I’m going to try HTML tags again. We’ll see if it works.) how to make a link active. Thanks. Comments Editor]

  • Articles says: “And someone got the bright idea that the religion only passed through the mother…”

    I’ve heard a reason for this, provided by a talk radio caller. Apparently, rape was common in the ancient and medieval world. Foreign tribes and bandits and armies would commonly invade and rape and pillage each other.

    So often, you couldn’t be sure who a kid’s father was. But you could know the mother. Hence, the rule about matriarchal lineage.

    This also reaffrirms the idiocy of racism (and of racial or ethinic pride). Really, many modern Jews (like modern Greeks, Italians, etc.) bare only faint genetic traces to their “ancestors” (if even that much), so it’s ridiculous to brag about being decended from the ancient Hebrews Romans or whatever.

    But so that’s the reason for that rule (assuming it’s true). It’s to make sure the child has at least some “Jewish blood.”

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Hi Tom,

    It’s the DNA that does the talking. And most of us Jews have a DNA more similar to Arabs and Persians than anyone else on the planet. I may look like a Russian or a Pole (I’ve been consistently addressed in Russian here by people looking for street addresses or bus lines…), but my DNA is closer to the Arab surgeon who operated on me two years ago than to the Poles my father threw rocks at across the Bug River when he was a child in Poland.

    Someone, whose name I forget, did a DNA screening of Jewish men claiming to be kohaním, priests descended from Aaron. About 65% percent of them have the same y-marker that goes back about 106 generations. After 100 generations, that so many people have this identical y-marker says something, no?

  • troll

    the amazing thing about the good Rabbi’s tale of rationality is that it requires one to believe that three and a half million proto-Jews agreed on anything let alone that G-d spoke to them all that evening (though all that dying and rejuvenation must have been pretty convincing)…

    that really would have required divine intervention…

    or perhaps the ‘proof’ actually is of the existence of those manipulative spacemen from the Pleiads


  • Ruvy…yes, it was me..but there is a definate difference..i cited the study as evidence that could lead to many conclusions….but never did i say it was proof…and there IS a big difference…

    now, enough dodging boychick…what abuot those 4 “gods” in Genesis..where did the other three go?

    Chaimss sez…
    *he’s addressing the point that the only possible scenerio is that Hashem gave the Torah on Har Sinai. Therefore he is, by definition, proving that Hashem exists.*

    and here i had Thought we were going to be utilizing Logic..

    and interesting hypothesis indeed, but one commits a logical fallacy whenever one starts with the Conclusion and reverse engineer the Argument…

    so there is an interesting bunch of theological points in what you mention, but NO logical evidence, much less proven axioms, other than that the speaker Believes…

    i do thank you for sharing the Info, it is appreciated, but it is NOT “logical proof”…sophistry and solipsism, which is what every philosophical discussion devolves into eventually…

    Chaimss sez…
    *. So although it can be taken metaphorically as well, the events themselves did happen.*

    in this statement you are blatantly saying that the Old Testament is a Literal history…i understand this is your Belief, and have no desire to denigrate anyone’s Faith…

    but see my many points in this Thread, each of them are rational Questions with their logical consequences mentioned…

    but since we have entered the Realm of belief in a Literal take on the works in Question…i must bid my adieu to the Concersation…and leave it to those of you with such Faith

    but may i state clearly, that Literalist acceptance of “scripture” and dogmatic adherance to the Will of spiritual leaders , has done nothing but lead Man to war and death throughout History…

    like now…

    enjoy folks…i’ll leave yas as always…

    skeptic,cynic,apotate and heretic….cuz

    gnosis > dogma


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo, you may be reading or not.

    About those “four gods.” In all truth, I have no idea where you got his concept from. Moloch is mentioned in connection with banning the Children of Israel to pass their children through the fire – which was the ceremony of the day. Hashem does not admit to any other “gods” at all. He specifically forbids this behavior.

    Now there is a rather imteresting symmetry between the various “gods” of the Middle East and the original Sumerian “gods.” I submit that there were not gods at all but extra-terrestrials. This is a controversial theory, and I have little in Torah or the Bible to back me on this, but the point that seems to be made, in my opinion, is that these extraterrestrials had the earthlings terrified, and the earthlings made up all sorts of ceremonies to honor these creatures, either at the bidding of the creatures, or out of thir own misunderstanding of them. These creatures do not impress Hashem at all, but given the technological level of the Hebrews, he warns against worshipping them (which is what everybody else did) IN THE TERMS THEY WOULD UNDERSTAND. Hence they are called “gods.”

    There are some interesting parts of the Torah that indicate that these creatures may themselves have worshipped Hashem and done His bidding. The Gesisis talks about three men approaching Avraham as he sits in the opening of his tent (after he has circumsized himself – man that must have hurt). When you read the text very carefully, particularly the Hebrew, you realize that these men are not necessarily walking on the ground. Why?

    One possibility is that they are angels – this is the standard explanation found in every Humash. Rabbi after rabbi has written on this. But maybe there is another one…?

    When I read about the Red Heiffer, the animal that is supposed to be used as a sacrifice to purify and inauguate the Temple, one of the things I notice is what happens to the Red Heiffer after she is sacrificed. She is burned to carbon and stuffed into a container – to be used for water for sprinkling (for purification). That Gonzo, is a water filter.

    Just a thought or two for a heretic who likes picking at the odd ends that do not fit neatly into the package.

  • Ruvy..of course i am Reading… i am just stating that my participation in the dialogue woudl not be conducive to civil discourse after a certain point, and i have no desire to Offend…

    to clarify about the 4 “gods” mentioned with Abraham in Genesis…the names are..

    Yahweh, the god of air
    El Shaddai the god of the land or earth
    El Roi the god of the well or water and
    Moloch, the god of fire.

    now later, Moloch and Ba’al are conflated, and the name is used for a large brass bull-man who is filled with 7 sacrifices which are burnt as offerings…but that is a whole ‘nother thing (one of the sacrifices was a child according to the Story)

    just wanted to share that bit for clarity…

    now..i’m really gonna try and keep Quiet and stay out of it


    am trying to stifle my inner smartass

    i am!


  • Whew. I did listen to the tape and it was fascinating. Some Jew I am. I never knew that God spoke to 3 million Jews hanging around the foot of the mountain, that they all died and God raised them up from the dead.

    (That means there were 3 million Jesus’s before Jesus…hah…we got the Christians beat 3 million to 1)

    But I digress.

    One problem with the rabbi’s talk is his explanation of probabilities. He says that if something happening has the probability of 1 in a million, then 999,999 times it’s wrong.

    That’s incorrect. One in a million means that for every million events, on average, you will have this one special event.

    Quantum physics talks of probability waves, i.e. a series of possible places an electron, for example, might be. The probability that that particle exists at a certain place correlates to the height of the wave. Let’s say that the probability that the electron is at the end of my nose is 1 in a trillion. While it is correct to hypothesize that it’s very unlikely to be there, it’s not reasonable to say that, if it were there, that would be unnatural. It’s just as natural as if it wound up where the probability factor was 99%.

    The whole natural vs. divine arguement doesn’t work because he’s trying to apply science to social sciences–something I have familiarity with. It was a pathetic attempt by historians and others decades ago to try to elevate their disciplines to a real science, and it failed miserably.

    So, we’re left those 3 million delusional people.

    I have to admit to being a bit stumped and not only because I’d never heard it before. The fact that Judaism is the only religion not dependent on “Fred” to come forth with the revealed truth is fascinating…but it’s not a proof of anything.

    There are other possible explanations. Moshe stands before the people and says, “hear the word of the Lord…can you hear what he’s saying. He’s saying….etc.” And a desperate, scared, lost people little by little begin saying, “yes, I hear, can you hear.” And, as in fundamentalist Christian churches, they start fainting. Moses continues his preaching, telling them what God is saying, and more and more hear it until you have mass hysteria and fainting.

    People recover from fainting.

    Now…it’s asking a lot for that to happen to 3 million people, but a rational (non-divine) explanation doesn’nt require 3 million. If it were only a couple of hundred, through the passage of time, the story could grow until all 3 million either believed they heard it or subsequent generations were told that all 3 million heard it and died…and then were revived.

    Maybe God spoke to them. But the above explanation also could have happened. Applying Occham’s razor, one has to opt for the simplest explanation, and that doesn’t include God.

    (Aside: At least now I understand all your questions.)

    Another aside, while joking, Troll makes a good point. When have 2 Jews ever agreed on anything, let alone 3 million?

    I’m a little strapped for time today, but I will listen to the other material you recommended. But, alas, I fear that I can’t concede–yet–that you’ve provided me with a rational explanation for the existence of God.

    But I remain open–and, believe it or not, hopeful.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Just to clear up a misunderstanding. The Almighty goes by a number of names. One is the tetragrammaton. Another, El Shaddai, means G-d of Sufficiency. A third is this El Ro’i. These all refer to the same entity! There is one more that you’ve heard of El Tzva’ót, the L-rd of Hosts, and there are several more.

    Moloch is the local Cananite idol with the fire ceremony. Moloch is warned against by the Almighty.

  • Wow, things sure happen when you’re a counselor in a local day camp!

    First of all, I’d like to thank those who listened to it (especially Mark). Sorry about the links, I’ll try to remember that. Also, I’m hardly a “learned Jew,” simply a Yeshiva student who has an immense interest in the subject.


    You bring up some good points. I’m going to ignore Ruvy and Gonzo’s interesting discussion for now, at least until this one’s finished (if it ever is). I simply don’t have time.

    You’re missing his point. Of course if the atom’s on the tip of your nose it’s not supernatural. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that no one would believe you if you said it, thereby stopping you from claiming it in the first place. Precisely because it couldn’t be claimed unless it was true. That’s his whole point. If the atom wasn’t on your nose, you wouldn’t claim it was, because you’d know no one would believe you. If it was on my nose, however, I’d say it was, and then prove it.

    Also, Troll’s question actually is an answer. You’re right about the famous “two Jews, three opinions” line. It actually happens because of our deep desire to know the truth. (That’s my line. Debate with it at will. I won’t defend it. You either agree with me or not.) But then, why do we all agree on these basic premesis? Going back a couple of generations, how is it that you’ll have everybody arguing about one chicken, and whether it was kosher or not, but none of them are arguing about whether you have to keep kosher? See, it’s the fact that we agree that makes this so strong.

    It seems like the link to the second lecture (which for reason says, “how to make a link active”) (Post #164) actually only brings you to the homepage. To get the lecture, click on “Media”, then “Rabbi Jonothan Rietti” under “Famous Speakers” on the right, and click on the speaker icon to the right of the first lecture.

    I’d also like to point out that “circular reasoning” is an evangelical technique to prove Christianity (I’ll explain if you’d like, but I’d rather not get sidetracked), and that I’d never use it. I’m not assuming anything. With an open mind, please tell me how it can be true that Hashem gave us a Torah on Har Sinai but that Hashem doesn’t exist. Not exactly possible, is it? So therefore, if I can prove that Hashem gave the Torah at Har Sinai, I’m also proving that Hashem has to exist. Otherwise I’d have to do it as his books do, one proving Hashem’s existence, and one proving the Torah’s divinity.

  • Chaimss sez…
    *He’s saying that no one would believe you if you said it, thereby stopping you from claiming it in the first place. Precisely because it couldn’t be claimed unless it was true. *

    two cases, delusional or lying…either cover what you are speaking about here and require neither Truth or the supernatural

    Chaimss sez…
    *With an open mind, please tell me how it can be true that Hashem gave us a Torah on Har Sinai but that Hashem doesn’t exist.*

    fallacious premise..you are making the assumption without evidence much less proof that one or the other even occured, therefore (goes your argument) both must have occured…

    in my scenario above, Moshe could have easily scribed the Tablets…and anything else, and then told the people whatever he wanted…

    there is NO proof or logical evidence that allows EITHER scenario (for Hashem doing it , or Moshe making it up) to be “proven” in either way

    there is exactly the same amount of factual evidence to say none of the people described existed as there is evidence to show that they did

    so yes, if you can show reliable and verifiable evidence that Hashem delivered the Torah into Moshe’s hands…it would go a long way to establishing proof of the supernatural

    so far, i have seen no evidence, much less proof, of ANY kind of supernatural event

    i would truly Treasure receiving such Enlightenment and anxiously await the next installment


  • Chaim,

    I don’t think I’m missing his point, I think his point is wrong. He’s misusing the concept of probability.

    Of course if the atom’s on the tip of your nose it’s not supernatural. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that no one would believe you if you said it, thereby stopping you from claiming it in the first place. Precisely because it couldn’t be claimed unless it was true.

    I think you’re contradicting yourself here. We assume the atom’s on the tip of my nose. Then you say it couldn’t be claimed unless it was true, but you’ve already granted it’s there. Whether anyone believes me or not is irrelevant and doesn’t stop me from making the claim. If measurement collapses the probability curve and we find that electron sitting on the edge of my snout, it doesn’t matter what anyone believes. The atom is there.

    That’s his whole point. If the atom wasn’t on your nose, you wouldn’t claim it was, because you’d know no one would believe you. If it was on my nose, however, I’d say it was, and then prove it. There are two reasons I might not claim it if it werent’ true. One, I might be honest. (Hush Gonzo & Troll) Two, I can’t prove it.

    His misuse of probability theory allows him to make the claim that a natural event cannot happen only once. But something with a probability that exceeds the lifespan of the universe could happen once and never again–and still be natural.

    More importantly, however, you haven’t addressed my psycho-babble explanation for why 3 million Jews believed they heard the word of God.

    I still don’t see the “proof” in the hard sense of proof that Hashem gave the Torah to Moses. Plus, we haven’t even addressed the errors that inevitably slip into historical accounts over generations.

    Oh well, more work ahead, I can tell. It’ll be sometime late tomorrow before I can get to the other tapes, but I’ll try.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Ok, try the second link (it’s alluded to in the last few minutes of the first) or this third one:


    This is another way of talking about it. He actually shows both sides before launching.

    BTW, the reason why I use these links is because they tell it much better than I can. We can discuss them, though.

  • troll

    we have conflicting ‘statements of fact’…

    on the one hand the Rabbi’s argument is based on his claim to an unbroken chain of real Rabbis back to The Event

    on the other hand gonzo claims that there is no primary historical evidence that the players ever existed

    what are we to do – ?


  • Well, we could ask Gonzo where he got his info from, since Rabbi Kelemen actually went out and did the research himself. So, Gonzo, where did you get your info from?

    BTW, if I ever sound like I’m attacking anyone, I apologize in advance. I don’t mean it, but sometimes it comes out stronger than I mean.

  • no Chaimss..i know you are not “attacking”..there’s no problem there

    and i did not state my little hypothesis as fact…merely that it was as valid an hypothesis as any other based on the evidence and facts so far…

    i am more than happy to take in any available Facts, i truly meant it when i stated i was trying to Learn things here…i do not even pretend to know a single Answer….much less all of them

    what peaked my Interest was the mention of logical Proof, not just tradition based hearsay evidence….i fully accept that such evidence IS relevant, even if only for the aspect of cultural anthropology in understanding a bit about the People involved…

    my Wosh is to understand as much as is possible from EACH of the approaches, laweryly like rules of ecidence, scientific methodology, Reason and Logic, as well as studying what is given in historical texts and various scriptures

    as a systemic diagnostician by profession, this type of polymath approach is the best way for me to wrap my feeble little Mind around an “equation”

    in this case…how much fits evidence or proof before one has to take that leap of Faith

    by the statements offered by Chaimss previously, i had thought we were going to be offered logical proofs…and there is much in the discussion that is winding down that Road…but at each “turn” we run into that Leap

    so, i Await the continuance…curious and interested


  • I must say that I don’t understand how what I’ve been giving you isn’t logical. Is it not a logical proof (I’m not saying irrefutable right now, only logical) that it’s impossible to claim a national revalation if it didn’t take place because no one would believe it? How is that not a logical argument? Or the ones that the other Rabbis are asking. How are they not logical? I don’t see a pre-concieved notion, or even a “let’s say” in the argument. Any help here would be great.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    A little evidence of some kind – like the movement of a large number of people – might be of some help.

    A book I read, “The Gold of Exodus,” a true story is about two treasure hunters who decided to take the Book of Exodus literally and chase after all the golden earrings and jewelry the Children of Israel were told to rid themselves of after the Sin of the Golden Calf.

    Their problem was to locate the actual Mt. Sinai (which is never really been found).

    These treasure hunters went on the assumption that this mountain was located not in the Sinai peninsula, but in Arabia (in Midian), south of Jordan. One of these men was a millionaire, and he had friends with access to satellite photos who were able to read and decipher them.

    According to the satellite photos that he had access to – there was a huge ancient track several miles wide – wide enough for a huge number of people – going down the western side of the Sinai peninsula to Sharm-es-Sheikh; the track picks up on the other side of Sharm-es-Sheikh and leads in virtually a straight line to this mountain.

    The other interesting point is that apparently you can cross Sharm-es-Sheikh on foot at certain points. A strong Hamsín blowing all night long to the east could leave a path of dry land from Egypt to Arabia (Midian).

    But check out the book. The reason it fascinates me at all is the motivation of the authors – they were not out hunting G-d, but a fortune of money.

  • troll

    gonzo – *and i did not state my little hypothesis as fact…merely that it was as valid an hypothesis as any other based on the evidence and facts so far…*

    sorry gonzo – didn’t mean to put words in your fingers…I must have misunderstood your:

    *there is exactly the same amount of factual evidence to say none of the people described existed as there is evidence to show that they did*

    I thought you meant none


  • troll

    consider the following statement: “The earth is a celestial body circling the sun.”

    this statement was ‘unbelievable’ but made none the less

    further – consider the Hopi…not only does he claim an unbroken line back to the entrance of The People into this World but he regularly sees and interacts with his gods in ceremony

    does that make the Hopi story and prophecy true – ?


  • Chaimss sez..
    *Is it not a logical proof (I’m not saying irrefutable right now, only logical) that it’s impossible to claim a national revalation if it didn’t take place because no one would believe it?*

    what you are talking about is circumstantial hearsay evidence, a far cry from logical proof…

    do you have affadavits from all those people, signed and witnessed for authenticity?

    or do you have an account, written by an unknown hand, stating such?

    troll..you didn’t misunderstand me…but i am going with the Quantum axiom that anything is possible, even if the probability is infinitesmal

    this leads to giving these scriptural account the benefit of the doubt when it comes to certain portions and their historical accuracy…add to that the fact that there has been, in the last generation or two, quite a bit of archeological evidence for some of the places and incidents described in the scriptures…which leads towards the conclusion that at least some of the data could be factual history…the Question is which

    Literalists want to say all of it is, and others might say it is mix and match…but there IS reasonable evidence that some of the places and incidents described did occur (Masada comes to mind, the difference between “the Nazarene” and “of Nazareth”…the first being an accurate translation from the greek, especially in light of archeological studies that state there was no Nazareth in the first century AD…it was built later)

    so Chaimss, you are couching your statements in a logical manner, but not following the either the rules of evidence acceptable in a Court, not the scientific model of empirical, verifiable and repeatable data

    in each of your “logical” points…you make an assumption with no foundation of Proof, and then attempt to use that assumption as the axiom in your lofical formulae…any mathematician, or even those versed in the Logic of Philosophy or Metaphysics..will demonstrate the error as i have when it comes to tangible Proof

    in the field of Metaphysics and Philosophy, you have an entirely different thing happening…the internal consistencies bode well, but some of the blatant contradictions need explaining for a cohesive thesis

    basicly, just because some people believe it (thousands have *seen* UFOs for example…and there is some evidence to back up their claims, more evidence than there is for almost all biblical claims, but there is still no definitive Proof until we have a UFO to tinker with)

    as far as i can determine..it is a matter of Faith, and Faith is a profound Force in human existance…but it is no basis for factual proof and cannot be taken as a Postulate by circular logic alone

    i am NOT trying to denigrate or insult anyone’s Beliefs…merely attempting to hold an Objective View in this discussion of Logical Proof

    i sincerely hope that helps


  • troll

    as we have become somewhat intimate as concerns our intentions here can we agree to dispense with the apologetics – ?

    and gonzo – I am happy to go with the axiom that all possibilities are actual at once right now (which is my take on the wily quantum)

    but where does that leave this (and most all) informal conversation – ?


  • where troll?

    good Question…

    Metaphysical speculation and philosophical discussion centering around scriptural references?

    exploration of the “root cause” of a civilizations cultural anthropology?

    those sound about right…


  • troll

    but will that satisfy the Rabbi and his student – ?

    I believe that they seek God


  • well troll, that is another matter entirely..

    one could simply say namaste’

    or “thou art god”

    or “ the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”

    or the logical Truth…”i don’t know, and all we can do is speculate based on what we have, and for those who seek more, look to your Faith for aid”

    of course, there is also the Deistic approach, whch acknowledges that there is something above us in the Spiritual plane…but no direct revelations to we puny humans directly…we are meant to figure it our with Reason based on the clues that are left us..
    1) an infinite pi
    2) the golden mean
    3) the DNA molecule, hurricane and galaxy are all the same shape, a double spiral helix

    each of these are viable approaches, and logically they are all about the same…meaning a decent hypothesis can be formed, but no solid Theory via the scientific method can stand the scrutiny of objective Logic

    at least, none that i am Aware of so far

    but i am truly interested in the conversation between Mark, Ruvy and Chaimss…if nothing else, i learn much and it is always staisfying to examine other people’s Views when they are presented openly and in good Faith (which all here appear to be doing in an outstanding fashion)

    to me, such Learning and Understanding does nothing but good for all those involved…

    just a Thought


  • It has been a very interesting conversation so far…I’m sitting back enjoying the read!

    I do get a kick out of folks trying to get us to believe that the “book” is divine…

  • glad ta see yer not flooded out down there in VA beach, Andy

    and you nail the crux of much difficulty on the head when you talk about “divinity”

    that is the basic line of demarcation…the Doubts as well as the end of the ability to Prove things all seem to devolve to the Question of Divinity and proving it’s intervention (much less existance)

    each and every time “proof” is offered, it tends to be somethign like “because so-and-so said so”

    thus my comment on evidentiary hearsay rather than objective and verifiable evidence leading to Proof

    but enough from silly olde me…i’m eagerly anticipating the next installments from the Knowledgable folks on the topic…


  • Not flooded out…although, I do have a leaky roof now…thank you very much oh divine One! Whoever you are!

    My search for the Sophia has been interesting so far…this adds to it…

    Are there really 4 Gods listed in the OT???

    Damn…the more I seek…the more confused I become!

  • I’ve been a swamped so I haven’t been able to participate. Chaim, I still don’t think you addressed my concerns in #175, but I’ll move on to what Gonzo also addressed:

    Is it not a logical proof (I’m not saying irrefutable right now, only logical) that it’s impossible to claim a national revalation if it didn’t take place because no one would believe it?

    Let’s take this apart and examine it.

    It’s impossible to claim a natural revelation…
    Note the word “claim.” Do you mean prove. One can claim anything. I could claim to be 6’3″ with a full head of hair and a body that makes women swoon. That claim may be false (its not really), but I can claim it.

    …if it didn’t take place.

    One cannot prove it if it’s a false statement, but that’s not your point.

    …because no one would believe it.

    Statements of fact exist outside the realm of whether anyone believes or not. It could be true and no one believes it; it could be false and everyone believes it. They’re unrelated.

    Taken apart this way, I can’t see a logical proof at all.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Let me offer a thought, if I might. You are a yeshiva student. If my understanding is right, what you study in yeshiva is law.

    And there are logical rules for arguing points of law and getting from here to there. You study logic as part of studying law.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to the tapes you recommended (my kids nabbed the speakers and stuck them on a different computer to watch movies), but it appears from reading the comments that the rabbi takes a point in Jewish history and argues logically from it. The complaint I think I hear is that the starting point is not universally accepted as fact, so that logical argument cannot really proceed therefrom.

    That is what I think I understand from Mark and the fellows in the peanut gallery following the discussion. I’m sure they’ll correct me if I have it wrong…

  • Reuven, you’re exactly right. Why can’t Gonzo, Troll, & I be so succinct? Must have something to do with cross-wired neurological systems.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • you’ve nailed it Ruvy…

    if you want to form a working Theory, one needs to begin with an accepted axiom from which to take the prime Postulate to be used as your Premise…

    then Logic (tautological) can be applied to extrapolate and further bolster the Hypothesis, testing and peer Review hone the discussion until a workable, testable, repeatable, Theory is formulated

    then that gets mercilessly worked over for holes in it

    when you are speaking about “logical proof” you have to go down that road, and it must be Objective facts utilized, not subjective experiences… hearsay evidence is of course taken into account…especially since cultural anthropology is dependant on piecing together available data from scraps…lucking the culture in Question (jews) has quite a bit of established factual history and excellent preservation of traditions for a solid foundation for the exploration

    long winded…ain’t i?


  • This is exactly why I needed an exact scenerio. I was hoping to get on without it, but obviously it won’t work. If we had an actual scenerio that you thought had happened back then, we could talk further. Keep in mind, bible critics have plenty, based on archeological digs, and so could be discussed on full logical turf. Since we’re dealing with generics, it’s hard to talk, unless you read “Permission to Believe” which goes into things completely unrealated to the Torah completely. Also, the other lectures deal with certain things that may interest you. I really suggest you listen to them before we continue. Without an exact scenerio, we run into problems like the one in post #174-5, and I can’t really answer because we’re talking about completely different scenerios. So, until you find an exact scenerio (however long the historical gap) which would explain why I believe what I and millions more believe, we’ll have to drop the first lecture and go with the other two, when you’ve had a chance to listen to them. BTW, slap a pair of headphones into the jack and you’re set. See you on the other side 🙂 Now, I have to figure out a signature since everyone else has one. Now, I don’t know Latin, so…

    Just take the pill (It’s an in-joke for anyone who’s listened to the lecture at classicsinai.com)

    It has nothing to do with proving anything, but it’s interesting, and the site itself has many interesting speeches as does the original simpletorememer.com which it’s all linked to. Anyway, for those who’ve heard it…

    Just take the pill.

  • Mark and the other non-religious guys here: This is interesting as well.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    An “exact scenario” will not work. Any scenario is a supposition – a reasonable supposition, but a supposition all the same. This is where you need to be very careful with the words.

    Look at my comment #181. It lays the groundwork for a scenario with things that could be submitted as evidence of a possible occurence. But without the earrings you have no treasure on Sinai. As it turns out, the two guys in the book (a true story) did climb Jebel el Lawz, and it could be that this mountain was Mt. Sinai. But they found no earrings – only a pit that appeared recently dug up, and a very black rock that occures when stone heats quickly and then cools.

    IMHO, you’ll need an event – or solid proof of it, or an occurence on nature.

  • You’re right. An exact scenerio won’t work. That’s why I think we should move onto the arguments depicted in the other two lectures.

    Oh, and could someone please explain to me how to post a link? The standard HTML method doesn’t seem to work, and I don’t like the fact that I’m inconviencing people to fix it. Ruvy, did you listen to the shiur (class) I linked to?

    [CHAIM: Please follow this link to learn how to post a live url. Thanks. Comments Editor]

  • might i suggest foregoing any linkage and just saying what it is you are trying to say…

    it might just be a less exasperating experience for you(due to being able to make the points you desire, rather than hoping others find the point amidst other’s lectures) and much better for those reading here since the context will be properly framed by what has come before?

    with all due Respect, what has been tried so far is less than satisfactory as a methodology of communication


  • Ok, I can hear that. The thing is that I’m working in a camp now, and don’t have too much time, but I guess I can try to take notes on them and take them from there. But I still highly, highly reccomend Permission to Believe by Lawrence Kelemen. He hardly touches the Torah at all. It’s just what someone like Mark would like. I’ll see what I can do in a few days, though.

  • i appreciate the difficulty of your circumstance, and am glad to have the discourse no matter what…

    but when you tease olde trolls with things like promises of “logical proof” and then send us to links for questionable lectures to the converted it’s like an evangelical telling you “i’m going to introduce you to god” and then having them lock you in a church for sunday services

    but i credit you with honestly trying under difficult circumstances…and so, will continue to read and give it all an open minded read


  • troll

    Chaim – I am more interested in your thoughts than in 1000 links to authority

    I understand that this is in conflict with tradition but it’s your voice I want to hear not a synopsis of some other learned man’s ideas

    and don’t worry too much about attribution…no one here is going to accuse you of plagiarism


  • so it appears this very interesting and informative conversation has suffered a quiet death?

    too bad…i was hoping to explore this concept of “logical proof”

    ah well…waiting for the next Installment in the series Mark

    and still haven’t given up that this may not progress further


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo, don’t give up yet. Chaim does have his hands full. I have my hands full with looking for money to get out of where I live, pay my bills, etc.

    I have my own ideas, but lack the scanner to get them into the computer. In the meantime, I recommend you to the book, “The Gold of Exodus”.

    It is not a logical proof of G-d’s existence. It does not pretend to be. But it is well researched and true story of a treasure hunt of a most interesting kind. Additionally, it presents what no sophistry can provide. Evidence! It is one of the books that convinced me of the truth of the Torah – not because it set out to, either. In fact, it was mainly because it did not set out to.

    The treasure hunters can porobably be contacted by e-mail or have web-sites. I’m sure that Bob Cornuke does.

    Enjoy reading. When you are done, get back here.

  • thanks for anothr book to put on the list Ruvy…

    but do note i accurately distinguish between “evidence” and “proof” in both the legal and mathematical sense

    what was spoken of here was “logical proof”, and that is what Interests me as far as this conversation goes

    no worries, and i fully understand that folks have busy lives…

    i hope for the best for you anr yours in the difficult times you are making your way through Ruvy…my best Wishes for things to work out for you

    me..i’ll wait until the Ark of the Covenant is found…then we can examine the tablets forensically…it would be easy to prove whether or not the writing was chiseled out of the stone with metal tools as opposed to some “force” creating the marks

    that would convert me in an instant

    short of that, there’s a tough row to hoe to get to “logical proof”


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    There are two gentlemen searching for the Ark of the Covenant. Vendyl Jones is searching for it using the Copper Scroll, an ancient document about Judea, and another fellow, a fellow in the US Coast Guard whose name slips my mind, is convinced that it is in Egypt in the northern Sinai. He is using the “equal letter skip” system of the Bible Code as his guide. Neither have come up with anything, but frankly, I think the fellow looking in Egypt has a better chance.

    Vendyl Jones has spoken about his researches on Israel National Radio, and the other fellow came to Root & Branch to give a presentation.

  • Don’t worry, I’m not gone. Ruvy’s right. I’m working in a local camp and get back in the afternoon. I’m going to try to right up an answer based on one of the sections of that book I keep on recommending (name would be superfluous). I’ll post it up on my website when I’m done and give you guys the link. Chances are it’ll be too long to post here by itself. Until then, see you guys later.

    Just take the Pill.

  • well Ruvy…

    there are lots of folks searching for all kinds of things…

    the Holy Grail

    the Spear of Longinus

    Billy the Kidd’s treasure

    cold fusion

    on and on

    you’ll pardon me if i ain’t holding my breath while waiting

    but i do still say it would be interesting to find those Tablets and perform said tests on them to determine how the lettering was carved…

    just a Thought


  • I can’t believe it. I wrote “right” above instead of “write.” I’m going to hide in shame, then come out and continue my assignment. 🙂

    Just take the Pill.

  • Ok, done! I’ve written the synopsis. I’ll post it onto my website as both text and a file, and I’ll post the link when it’s up. Looking forward to the response.

  • Ok, guys, get it here:

    Can’t wait for your comments.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    This essay, very well written, was most informative. But it does not prove G-d. It proves that the universe began. It is a supposition to state that therefore there was a “beginner” to cause the universe to begin. You’ve gotten the “and there was light” part of the equation, but you haven’t yet gotten the “Let there be light” part. Even if you could prove the kabbalistic idea that a lesser light kept rejecting a greater light for fiteen billion years to build up the energy to build up a big bang, you still haven’t proven the identity of the Creator of the light.

    I’m not doubting that there is a G-d. You and I are on the same team here. But this is not logical proof of G-d. But one still needs to give oneself “permission to believe” – that is a leap of faith.

    I, like you, have made that leap.

  • ok…just read the bit from your linkage…


    where to start, shall we begin with the fact that the astrophysics you are citing is woefully outdated? meaning that none of the axioms from quantum Theory are taken into account at all

    example: dark matter and string Theory…the first changes the Equation when it comes to total “weight” and the probability of a “crunch” scenario specifically

    now, as to the “oscillating” and “open” Universe models you reference…

    your Postulate that the ONLY way for the “open” Universe hypothesis to be accurate is to accept the *outside* influence of “g-d” or a deity like entity from outside our physical Universe to be the Prime Cause neglects the possibility of non-supernatural interaction between Universes/Dimensions

    much has been done in the realm of theoretical mathematics on the topic of multiple dimensions

    the correct Answer is still…”i don’t know”

    since current science has once again added the possibility of the “oscillating” model and other Theories can account for the “open” model without the need for a supernatural entity, your Arguments are interesting in the form of a discussion of posibilities surrounding First Cause

    but hardly “logical proof” in any sense due to not taking into account current Variables and limiting the basic axioms used to for the hypothesis rather than taking all known Variables and data into account

    if Duane sees this Thread, he can expand much further into contemporary knowledge of astrophysics than a dabbler such as myself

    just a Thought


  • troll

    Chaim – Kelemen’s claim concerning the open model rests on the assumption that the laws of physics must apply outside of the universe (to be contradicted by G-d in the act of creation)

    what argument/evidence does he present that this is the case – ?

    is it not more reasonable to say that we don’t know how to talk about specific characteristics of the ‘extra universal’ – ?


  • Ruvy, the Law of Inertia is key in this equation. If there was no creator, what caused the little “dot” to explode? That’s what points towards a creator, One who acted as the external force.

    Gonzo, you’re remarks are more to the point. The book is fairly old, so what you’re saying is probably true. I plan on seeing if I can forward your comments to someone who’s more in the field then I am.

    Troll, same to you. I’ll see if I can speak to someone who can answer you.

    Just take the Pill (inside line)

  • Sorry I’ve been silent. I’m out of town and just got a connection to the internet. I’ve got a couple of hundred e-mails to go through but I hope to get to Chaim’s website today. We’re heading back tomorrow, but I won’t be back on line until Friday.

  • Thanks, Mark. BTW, is it okay if I post a comment Gonzo sent to me with reference to this site?

    Just take the Pill (inside line)

  • eh?

    Chaimss…feel free ta re-post any of my drivel as ya like…

    all i ever Ask is that you give me all credit/blame fer my spewings….

    any further Thoughts from yer end?


  • Well, like I said, I’m not really qualified to talk about it. I am in the middle of typing up another item from his book while I try to get in touch with someone who is qualified to discuss this to get his opinion. Anyway, is this considered logical proof?

  • is what considered logical “proof”???

    certainly nothing posted or talked about so far…for various reasons..only some of which i have outlined previously

    no worries..what you are attempting to assert can NOT be “proven” logically or otherwise…without direct Divine Intervention with no other explanation to account for the happenstance

    unfortunately, such can never be “proven” from hearsay record

    but i am Interested in your Thoughts on it…

    however, best i should just leave this whole thing alone before i Offend


  • well, I’m back…sort of. Re: Chaimss question in 180 about logical proof, I thought I answered that in 175. Go back and read that and tell me where I’ve I got that wrong.

    Your essay is fascinating, as Gonzo noted, but so out of date that it doesn’t help.

    Physics right now is in a crisis state. String, superstring, and brane theory are mathematically elegant and consistent but, given our current state of technology, unprovable, which leaves massive questions such as:

    –Was there one “big bang” or thousands of somewhat “smaller bangs” all taking place at about the same time?
    –If the probablistic model of quantum theory is resolved by the multi-dimensional notion that every moment, every possible thing that could happen does happen, creating a new a parallel universe, then where is God in that equation? How can we talk of God’s justice or mercy if there are an infinite number of universes, including one where Abraham told God to shove it–or Moses was never saved or…you get the idea.
    –We have no way of knowing what the laws of physics were prior to the big bang or even nanoseconds after the big bang, so the law of conservation of matter and energy might not even apply.
    –Asking what caused the big bang isn’t considered within the realm of science because there’s no way at the present time to answer the question. Therefore, it lies within the realm of metaphysics or religion. You can posit a God or supreme being, but there could be an infinite number of answers–none of which we’ll probably ever know.

    I fear we’re back at the beginning…as Ruvy noted in terms of the leap of faith. And I maintain that if you could prove the existence of God through logical means, you’d create a logical contradication because God transcends logic. Therefore, by proving his existence logically, you limit Him, which you cannot do. Therefore, you can’t prove He exists. QED?

    Sigh…where to go from here?

    In Club Soda Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Hope spring eternal, but IMHO, you need hard evidence to get proofs of anything, and that means proving the text of the Hebrew Bible.

    For that you need Hebrew, first of all. Il tradutore è un traditore, as the Italians like to say. You need, for example, an Egyptian record of the Exodus and the terrible events leading up to it (written from their point of view, of course) that corresponds with ours somewhat. This exists, though it is hard to get access to.

    But for all that, I do not think there is any way around that leap of faith. You need to give yourself permission to believe before you will see all that is so obvious to me.

    Only when you start seeing all that is so obvious will you be able to say, like I do,

    “Ani ma’amín b’emuná shlemá,”

    “I believe with full faith.”

  • can’t…resist…one…more….bit…

    a Young one once Asked a Wise one…

    “old Man, what is the difference between Crow and Raven?”
    “young Man, do you mean the difference between being Wise and being Clever?”
    “no..no, old Man, I mean the real difference, what makes them two different Things?”
    the Wise old Man thought for a second…
    “there are 12 feathers on the edge of Crow’s wing, and Raven has 13….

    so in the End, the difference all comes down to just…

    a matter of a pinion”

    nuff said…


  • Ok, I see where we’re headed now. First I guess we better discuss how such a proof is possible.

    You brought up qunatum physics. First of all, I must concede that this book is old, so it’s quite possible that science has changed since then.

    On the other hand, I think we can talk about your line of “if you could prove the existence of God through logical means, you’d create a logical contradication because God transcends logic.”

    I’m not so sure that’s true. Even though Hashem transends logic, that doesn’t mean he can’t be proven by it, anymore than an advanced calculus forumla (which supercedes basic arithmatic) can be proven by it. For the exact reason that it’s built on it.

    If Hashem created the world, there must be some footprint of Him in it. (I know that’s an assumption on my part, you can take it or leave it). I have more to say, but I have to go, so see you guys tommorow (hopefully).

  • Dean

    “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so”

    — Will Rogers

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mark, Chaim,

    Chaim writes,

    “If Hashem created the world, there must be some footprint of Him in it.”

    That assumption has been made by many many scholars, Sir Isaac Newton among them. Most of his work (he was primarily a theologian) dealt with searching through the Book of Daniel for codes alluded to in the Torah.

    Chaim, you are talking about a Hotémet, a watermark on the paper, so to speak. That is what Rav Michael Weissmandl found in taking the Book of Genesis and reducng it to ten by ten index cards, each card having ten letters by ten letters.

    This concept was later pursued by Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum, who took the entire Torah and reduced it to a single 305,000 letter string of data.

    Their efforts were sensationalized and wrongly exploited by Michael Drosnin, who wrote the book, “The Bible Code” a decade ago. A far better work explaining the mathematics involved in the Torah codes found by Rips nd Witztum is explained in the book, “The Truth of the Bible Code”, also sold under the name “Cracking the Bible Code”, by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover.

    The Torah Code cannot be used as a predictive instrument. Hashem can contemplate all the possible actions that may take place in the universe (this is how I try to define G-d, BTW), but in one that is run on free will, where time is a continuum, He cannot predict which of all the possible actions that are possible will come out.

    Thus, the Mossad turned to scholars working with the Torah Code in 1991 to try to predict when the first of Saddam Hussein’s Scuds would fall on Israel. This was so that they would have an idea of when to distribute gas masks to the population. They gave all the information they had – and the array of letters (the rectangular set of letters in the Torah containing the word “Scud” in Hebrew) still came up with three dates. The date that literally appeared closest to the other data turned out to be the date. But it need not have been. Which date was actually in the hands of Saddam Hussein until he gave the order to launch the Scud and impossible to predict.

    Why is this a Hotémet? You cannot take another book (i.e. string of hundreds of thousands of letters) and come up with the results you get from the Torah Code time after time. It’s been tried by scientists who absolutely refuse to accept the possibility that an ancient text might be more than that. Faced with this, they still refuse to accept the data in front of their faces, screaming fraud or impossibility.

    Scientists are people, too.

    Mark, “The Truth of the Bible Code” is serious reading. I have not had to work so hard to understand anything since I went to law school a quarter century ago. I failed physics, nearly failed philosophy and should have failed statistics, and this book is heavy with all three. I had to read it several times to begin to understand the concepts being explained.

    It’s a lot easier making a whopper sandwich…

  • yes Ruvy…you should have failed statistics…

    correct me if i am Wrong here, but is nto the written Hebrew language as used in the
    Torah bereft of all Vowels?

    so “scud” could theoretically be…

    now, if you want to beging to gather Mthematical proof byond conceptual (such as Nostradamus)…then take a work as long as the Torah….say, Shakespeare…

    remove all the Vowels

    run the same database by the same Rules

    as far as i am Aware, the much more accurate Experiment i have just outlined has NOT been done

    and if i…a silly gonzo, can spot ONE big glaring error in Methodology…i say give it to real mathematicians and let them whack on it a bit

    now, i am not denying some weird shit concerning the so-called “bible code”….but still a far cry from evidentiary yet, much less Proof

    oh yes, and an Argument can be made that Newton was as much, if nto more, the Alchemist as any kind of theologian…he WAS well studied in many Topics, from optics to being co-creator of calculus (which cannot prove anything, merely describe it)

    but i digress…


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Written Hebrew is not bereft of ALL vowels. But that is not the issue. The words are recognizable from the three letter roots that the language is built upon, and certain consonants are used as vowels. The ancient Hebrew “w,” the letter “vav,” was also used to represent the sounds “o” and “u”. Similarly, the Hebrew “y,” the letter “yod,” is often used to represent the sound “i” or “ee”. One reads and understands from context. Modern Hebrew makes more consistent use of these “vowel-consonants” to give clarity to what is being written, but you still have to know the roots to figure out the context. The Torah is written in ancient Hebrew.

    In this instance, I would type in the letters (in Hebrew) S-K-W-D (Skud) and see what comes up in equal letter skips for S-K-W-D and then look at what else comes up in equal letter skips in proximity to what I have found (if I have found anything at all). There is a lot more involved, but don’t presume to have found a flaw in the methodology before you understand it. I can say with a certain level of confidence that you don’t. One of the big issues faced initially was the nature of the Hebrew language and how it is written.

    Having said that, once you look at the methodology, you should have less trouble understanding it than I do, given that your field is mathematics.

  • Ruvy, thanks for explaining more about implied vowels

    curiosity asks how much variance there has been….i knwo there has always been zero tolerance for error in the written Logos, but those Vowels bother me still…

    for the Record: i work in electronics, there is math involved, but i do not even have an engineer’s level of Study in the field, much less a physicists

    systemic diagnostics, one can say…

    oh yes, i do know a bit about the methodology..the Possibility inherent if any valid extra-textual data is found woud be perhaps the most Profound discovery in History…so i am a bit conversant, but certainly no “expert”by far

    that’s why i Ask so many things in my rantings, to find out more…which leads to Questions… and we all know where that goes…

    to fig newtons


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    My best suggestion is to buy this book that I mentioned (lending over 8,000 miles is a hassle), sit down with a box or two of Fig Newtons and read. The soft cover copy I have is 263 pages of text and another 90 pages of technical appendices and index. I learned an immense amount about Judaism from this book, along with some astronomy and history. Much that you see me write here is inspired by this book.

    You asked about variances. On pages 122 and 123 are an array showing how data tends to cluster (that’s what makes for the value of the array) and a chart with a word appearing at equal letter skips (referred to as a “hidden” Hebrew word), its meaning in English, its expected number of appearances in the text (based on the probablility of these letters appearing together in the Hebrew), the actual appearances and finally, the odds.

    I’ll try to reproduce a simplified version here.

    Word in————-Exp. App.–Act. App.—-Odds

    the river (1 word)—–6.12——–13——1/1,000
    body of water (1 word)-3.34——12——1/10,000
    the appointed times–0.00122—-1—1/70,000,000

    I don’t know if this is of any help to you in answering your question. Remember my great grade in statistics…

  • duane

    I was surprised to see the reliance on cosmology as a proof of the existence of God. Gonzo (#214) did a fine job in addressing that. I’ll just add a couple of data points.

    The Universe as we now conceive of it is open. It will continue to expand forever. All matter as we know it will be converted into more stable forms, and eventually coalesce into black hole singularities. All light will redshift out of existence. The microwave radiation will approach a temperature of absolute zero. Farewell and adieu. But we are talking about a time scale vastly unimaginable. The half-life of a proton is 10E32 years, which, if it helps put this into perspective, is 10E22 times the age of the Universe.

    The recent spaceborne experiment known as the the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), coupled with observations of an acceleration of the Hubble expansion, puts this notion on firm observational (experimental) ground.

    Astronomers have discovered, rather convincingly, dark matter, some kind of “stuff” of unknown composition, that nonetheless provides a new source of gravitating mass to the Universe, but not enough to close it. Even more mysterious is dark energy, which bears on Chaim’s interesting article, linked in #212, since it provides a motivation to reinstate Einstein’s cosmological constant into the field equations of General Relativity. The conflict alluded to in the article concerns this constant. If you have ever performed an indefinite integration, you know that the antiderivative can always contain a constant. Einstein obtained a constant of integration in his derivation of the field equations. If set to zero, the Universe expands. He didn’t like that, so he retained the constant, and gave it a value that resulted in a static Universe. This is the decision that motivated his (perhaps apocryphal) “biggest blunder” comment, since he could have claimed credit for predicting the expanding Universe nearly two decades before Hubble came along. Anyway …

    The effect of dark energy might be represented by this constant, thus leaving Einstein’s equations valid. Note that general relativity is believed to work just fine on solar system, stellar, and galactic scales. If dark energy is not representable by a mathematical constant, but depends on, say, time, then the equations will need to be modified to account for physics on the gigaparsec scale.

    In any case, just to second Gonzo’s comments, I fail to see how lack of understanding of the Big Bang proves anything except our need to continue learning physics. By the way, cosmologists claim that they have a viable model of the Big Bang down to a trillionth of a second following t=0. Good enough? No. Time is treated logarithmically at those time scales. The Universe undergoes transformations still unknown going back to 10E-15, 10E-18, 10E-21, and so on down to the singularity. Problems for future generations. Very difficult without terrestrial experiments.

    I think people trying to make claims about omnipotent beings usually get into trouble when they make appeals to science to bolster what is, in fact, a matter of faith. Science cannot prove that they’re wrong, unless someone invents a time machine and sends someone back to Biblical times, only to find that a bunch of guys made the whole thing up. Well… no … even that is not proof of the non-existence of a supreme being [me … scratching my head … trying to use Logic]. Science probably can’t prove that they’re right, either. It can’t now, at least. If it is no more and no less than a matter of faith, then, as Gonzo would tell you, academic discussions of the existence of a supreme being are better left to metaphysicians.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Duane, for once I’m almost forced to agree with you. There are two instances in history that you could go back to prove or disprove the existence of a Divine Being. One is the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, and the other is the Big Bang itself. Going back to the Big Bang involves the problem of being shrunken into nigh nothingness as you get closer and closer to The Beginning.

    The problem with getting to the Giving of the Law is that you need to know for a certainty where Mt. Sinai is (geographical coordinates), and you need to know exactly when (time coordinates). We have neither with sufficient exactness even if we could build a time machine.

    That leaves us with evidence to argue over. One form of evidence is the Hotémet (watermark) I mentioned in comments #227 and #231. Another form of evidence is corroborating testimony. This would be, for example, a stone describing the Ten Plagues from an Egyptian point of view. Another would be a stone mentioning people in the Bible, like Abraham and his father TeraH. this, like the stone describing the Egyptian version of the Ten Plagues, also exists.

    So, in the end, we wind up arguing over the significance of very old rocks and statistics…

  • troll

    *You cannot take another book (i.e. string of hundreds of thousands of letters) and come up with the results you get from the Torah Code time after time.*

    link of doubt


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Troll, we can go back and forth on this if you want. As I pointed out earlier, “It’s been tried by scientists who absolutely refuse to accept the possibility that an ancient text might be more than that. Faced with this, they still refuse to accept the data in front of their faces, screaming fraud or impossibility.

    Scientists are people, too.”

    The Torah Codes Website addresses the issues raised by your “link of doubt”.

    In the end, unfortunately, one believes the scientist of one’s choice, much as one follows the rabbi of one’s choice…

    As I said, it’s a lot easier to make a whopper sandwich

  • what you are talking about revolves around showing that certain Individuals existed as according to the Record held in Torah and the Talmud , etc…

    there’s no real problem with that, much of it has been given some verification by archeology

    the real nut of the matter, the sticking point…

    who carved the Tablets?

    for those fo you with Faith, the answer is an axiom and taken as a basis for much in your theology

    for some of us, according to the record you cite(scriptures) Moshe was up on that hill for quite some time…far longer than the “finger” woudl have needed to write the Laws…..but about the right amount of time for a Patriarch, who was a Master Builder for Egypt, to carve the Tablets and bring Law and Faith to a People with a tough road ahead fo them

    enough of shaving with Occam’s Razor…

    i think we are Understood here, and thanks


  • troll

    a good whopper is fun around the campfire

    please provide a reference for your corroborating stones


    ps peace to you and yours – keep your head down

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Something for you to think about. The structure of the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – is that is has three parts. The first part, the first book, sets the stage. The second part, the next three books, gives the law. The final stage is Moshe’s review and redaction and his warnings for the future – which unfortunately seem to have come true.

    I would suggest to you that the “Finger of G-d” took a few seconds to carve the Ten Commandments, but teaching Moshe the rest of the law that he had to relate over the next three books took the remaining time.

    Bear in mind that I am no Bible scholar, just an ignorant Jew, but this makes a certain amount of sense. The three central books of the Torah are jam packed with this phrase: “Hashem told Moshe to say to the Children of Israel….”

    When you’re done messing with Occam’s Razor, remember to clean it off for him, and wipe the shaving cream from behind your ears.

  • point taken, Ruvy…

    but may i suggest that all that comes besides the actual Tablets, seems to have been written AFTER the time on the mountain?

    they did have quite a while on their walkabout for him to get stuff written down

    and you phrasing..”Hashem told Moshe to say to the Children of Israel….”

    implies that the words were not written by Moshe himself, but scribed by another hand…

    was it direct dictation? oral tradition copied later? again, i know..it owuld help if i read Hebrew…

    unfortunately, i barely read english…

    and big Thanks to Duane for stopping by and laying the astrophysics down!


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    To my knowledge, Gonzo, the entire Torah was written at the Hand of G-d. That is the tradition that I was taught. Given what I’ve seen in the Torah Code, ELS messages that stretch from the first to the last book, tells me that there was but One Author rather than the nonsense that had been taught in the “Higher Criticism” that I learned in my Western Civ course in university.

  • /sigh

    again..i am not one to take the leap of Faith and trust blindly in Authority

    but i digress


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    The Egyptian record of the Exodus is found in the book Riddle of the Exodus, by James Long at Lightcatcher Productions. I have to do a bit more thorough searching for the Abraham rock.

    Thank you for the good wishes. Missiles haven’t come our way – yet.

  • Ruvy, I’m going to get the Code of the Bible & I bookmarked The Torah Code Websites for later reading.

    But, alas, I still think we’re going around in circles. If I understand you, Ruvy, the leap of faith was a function of an ever increasing set of information from readings that began to make it impossible to doubt any longer. But, as you acknowledge, at some point, “jump!”

    Fortunately, you landed on firm ground. My problem is like playing golf at my club where there this little creek that wanders along about 5 holes. Normally, it’s about two feet wide, but the minute you hit the ball, it becomes a mile wide and shifts to exactly where you ball is going.

    The point is, I jump. God, who I believe has a weird sense of humor–which I appreciate–decides to move the other side of the cliff back about ten feet, and I miss by one, falling into…what?

    And Duane’s last paragraph, which echos what Gonzo, Troll, & I have been saying is that theology is a metaphysical discourse. Science can’t help.

    Oh, and Chaimss…I am not a math wizard…more like a math moron, but I’m pretty sure you can’t prove a calculus formula from basic arithmatic. If you could, you wouldn’t need calculus. But even if you could, we’re talking about two rational disciplines with re: math & calculus.

    With God, we’re talking about a limitless being–logical analysis is all about limiting options until one has found a link from a thesis to a proof…which, by necessity limits options.

    So at best, it’s the old blind men and the elephant thing. If you’re right, and I’m not convinced, then the best you can do with logic is determine some aspect of God that tells you nothing about God in His entirety. That then leads to the question about what you’ve discovered.


    In Club Soda Veritas

  • Due to my limited knowledge on the various subjects I’m trying to use, I think it’s safe for me to say that I don’t think I can continue this discussion. I simply don’t know enough about quantum physics, etc. to carry on a discussion. Therefore, I think I’ll go back to answering the original questions. Unless you’d like me to try another proof-that of the human body and it’s chemical makeup. Again, it’s from the same book, so it’s old, and I don’t know enough to continue the conversation if someone has an answer to the proof. So it’s up to you guys. Do I(, Reuvy and all the other religious ones out there) continue this? Or do we just go back to answering the questions? Remember, I’m not “admitting defeat,” I simply don’t have enough knowledge in these fields to continue the discussion.

  • I think it’s a good time to back up and figure out what we’re trying to accomplish. Your agnostic/atheists don’t believe you can use logic to prove (or disprove) the existence of God.

    I’ve gotten a lot out of our discussions in terms of understanding the theology–which I really do appreciate–but I’m not sure where to go in terms of proving God. I still don’t think you’ve adequately answered my “proof” that you can’t prove it.

    I.e., proving God exists limits something that is without limits, which is contradictory. Your example of arithmetic & calculus is, I think, wrong, although I’m terrible at higher math.

    Anyone else have any suggestions?

  • well, Mark… i might suggest tossing aside any attempt at “logical proof” of that which cannot be proven, and take this one where it needs to go

    Metaphysics and Philosophy

    in that part of the deep end of the rhetorical pool, folks have a much better chance to express themselves and communicate in a more accessable manner

    case in point, earlier Ruvy sez…
    *I would suggest to you that the “Finger of G-d” took a few seconds to carve the Ten Commandments, but teaching Moshe the rest of the law that he had to relate over the next three books took the remaining time.*

    in the case of Logic…i would Ask why couln’t an omnipotent Deity just place the Knowledge desired into Moshe’s Mind….even directly into the Minds of all the Jews gathered at Mr Sinai? it makes no sense that such Time was needed, or that any purpose was served by such an inefficient Commmunication… especially in a Universe which appears to have been “designed” FOR perfect efficiency in so many ways…

    now, in a Metaphysical or Philosophical discussion, the same Story can be taken as some kind of inscrutable Test…or to serve another purpose that has yet to be made clear, thus removing the restraints of feeble human Logic from the motivations of said Deity

    just an example

    and since we are well away from any semblance of “logical proof” i will try and shut up and just *listen* at this point (really, i’m gonna try)

    again, all my Hope tat those in the mid-east stay safe, and that this current Conflict is peacefully resolved soon with minimum harm to Innocents on all sides


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem



    Since you offered to answer Mark’s questions, if he has questions that you can answer, by all means answer them – dummies like me can always trail along to see if we can get some extra knowledge. But consider carefully the questions he tosses at you – if you can’t answer them, say so up front and don’t be ashamed. The wise man admits he doesn’t know.


    I suggest very seriously that you read the BOOK “The Truth of the Bible Code,” by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover. I cannot tell you how many doors of knowledge his work opened for me, particularly the technical appendices. The point here is not to try to convince you of something. The point is to give you knowledge and a new way of looking at the vast store of knowledge you already have.

    Keep asking Chaim questions. He offered to try to answer and that is as good as free feed at shul.


    You’re a whole different kettle of fish. Before I even try to answer you, I need to go watch the adventures of the children of a tailor who refused to take measurments, and who had a son who was a gambler who played honkie tonk piano in a whorehouse…

    And now to check my computer to see if I should be watching out for “incoming”…

  • Rats, Gonzo gets all the compliments and I have to read a book. I intend to Ruvy, but I’m badly backed up. I have two political books I should read for my “On the Road to Election 2008” series, and…oh well, life is so confusing, I can’t even tell when I’m confused anymore.

    I want to take some time and go back over this thread because I’m sure I’ve got tons of questions that don’t relate to “Is there a God” but understanding the theology better.

    So..be patient Chaimss…I really do appreciate your time and wisdom.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • guns don’t kill people

    oranized religion does.

    i wish they would just shoot each other and leave the children out of it. the children might grow up and decide they want no part of any religion.

    if adults want to kill in the name of religion, like andrea yates, or those other religious chicks that kill their husbands and children, they should pull the gun on themselves and leave the innocent alone.

    jack jett

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    “I want to take some time and… understand the theology better.”

    That is what you almost said, Mark. Not quite, but close.

    If you want to splice G-d into three, have to get yourself out of hell because you’ve been condemned there from birth and if you’re trying to adopt the essential concepts of a people (Jews) but are cutting yourself off from that people – in other words if you are a Christian – you need a theology. What you really need is a psychiatrist and a good solid dosage of Xanax, but don’t tell Christians that. You’ll hurt their feelings.

    Mark, you’re a Jew. That’s what happened when the moyel took his tip – or yours, I should say.

    It’s very simple. There’s G-d and there’s His Law. Either you follow His Law or you don’t. He’ll settle up with you later. For this you don’need a theology – you need a bookkeeper and an accountant. Your memory and your conscience are your bookkeeper and your accountant.

    You also need a file cabinet. That is the neshamá. When your memory goes, and you forget what a conscience is because you’re concentrating on not peeing in your pants, the neshamá has the records in the file cabinet.

    Eventually, you get to settle the Bill with the Big Guy Upstairs. The rest is just petty details. There is one other thing you need to know.

    You have a “mesimá,” an assignment to follow as a Jew, and a “mesimá,” an assignment to follow as Mark Schannon. With the first mesimá, how to be a Jew, the books of the Law, rabbis and other Jews can help you. With the second mesimá, your personal assignment in life – for this you need to search and think and cogitate… That’s where the real work comes in. But in any event, you do not need to worry about theology.

  • Whoof, Ruvy, talk about putting the moyel’s knife to my throat, LOL. When I say theology, I guess it’s really more all the questions I peppered you with that made God out to look like such a nasty old grouch…Lot’s wife, Abraham, etc. We’ve resolved the Abraham thing to my satisfaction…but I don’t recall if we’ve dealt with Lot’s wife.

    Now my knowledge of the Bible is more than limited, but, if I remember correctly, God said, “Don’t look back.” All Lot’s wife did was look back (am I wrong here?) and whammo, salt lick for the Lot’s cattle. I’d call that extreme.

    So, it’s not really theology in the strict sense, it’s understanding God’s weird behavior. (Am I going to have to answer for that last crack when I meet Him?)

    In Kosher Wine Veritas

  • sr

    Mark Im confused as always. Did you say I’m confused about Jews or did you mean to say I’m confused about booze.

  • SR,

    Is there a difference? I’m confused about everything. I started this series and have done only a couple of articles…but my political stuff has gotten in the way. Gotta get back to it. Let’s face it, look in any direction and if you’re not confused, your eyes are closed.

    (Hey, that’s a pretty good line. Gotta remember that.)

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I settled the booze problem nineteen years ago when my mother passed away. She lived in Brooklyn and I lived in St. Paul. I had to clear out the apartment and we had a who cabinet full of booze. What can I say? My dad, z”l, liked his vodka and his schnapps. And his doctor told him to drink cognac. Nu, if you like vodka and schnapps you’re going to say no when the doctor tells you to drink cognac?

    I gave it all away to the Albanians who were the caretakers of the buildings for the landlord. They were as happy as pigs rolling in the mud. I only kept one unopened bottle of Hennessey’s Cognac that my dad had bought before he passed away in 1976. I’m keeping that for the appropriate occasion. If I’m really stuck, I’ll sell the damned thing. They don’t even make the bottle like this anymore!

    That left taking care of the Jew part. At least at my mother’s funeral I knew how to say Kaddish.

  • Ruvy,

    I can think of an appropriate occasion: When my bridge and I come to visit you.

    Or, if you really need to sell it, let me know how much you want for it, and if I’m financially back on my feet, I’d love it. Of course you’ll have to keep it for me until we get there and can share it.


  • Mark me boyo..

    ya will be bringing yer “bridge” with ya?

    sure’n now, won’t yer lovely Missus be a bit miffed?

    and won’t there be some drivers who’ll be missing their way over the river?

    my final Question, is how the hell are ya gonna get a bridge into yer carry on, much less past screening?

    i mean…the US is getting tougher on such things, but the Israelis are fucking good at it…

    i think ya will get busted, bring the wife instead

    just a Thought


  • Gonzo, I was talking about my teeth, LOL.

    No, sir, actually, it’s a very small, flexible, non-metal bridge that’ll easily fit into an overhead compartment of an airplane. I figure it’ll come in handy. I never go anywhere without it.

    And I plan to bring my bride as well.

    You have no idea how many times I mispell that fucking word. Sigh.

    In Alcohol of Any Kind Veritas

  • Whoa, whoa, hold on there. There’s somehthing wrong with the e-mail system here, because I didn’t get half the e-mails of the stuff I’m reading now. Also, guys, can you please watch the language on the board? Please? I get enough of it in the real world. I’m trying to avoid it online. Thanks.

    Anyway… I was referring to the original questions up in the original blog (remember that?). If you have more, I’ll do my best. Now, it’s out of place, but what happened to Lot’s wife (it’s really pronounced Lote, but that looks funny in English) is as follows:

    Sedom was being destroyed due to their evil, sadistic ways. Lot and his wife lived in the city, but weren’t as wicked as the rest. Hashem therefore sent angels to get them out. (The whole story is in Genesis somewhere, I’m in a huge rush, so I can’t look it up.) What happened is as follows (I said that already, but whatever):

    They were commanded not to look back. Not because Hashem didn’t want them siteseeing, but for a more important reason. If they were to look back, they would be sympathising with the city and their plight. If they were to do that (since they were really only being saved on Avrohom’s credit) they would lose the status, and would share the fate of the Sedom people (or Sedomin). It’s a little more complicated than this, but I really have to run. So Lot’s wife looks back, sympathises with them, and shares their fate. Remember, Hashem punishes and rewards “mida k’neged mida” measure for measure. It has to make sense somehow. Does this help for this question? Have a great day guys.


    Just take the pill

  • so , we are to take it that sympathizing with a city being destroyed… men, women and children..

    even if it is just for the sake of the dying humanity, or the screams of a child, was so offensive to the Entity that was destroying them, that to do so would offend as much as anything the “sinners” did.. and thus demand the pillar of salt treatment?

    ok, there is also a straight, “do what i say, or else” way of looking at it

    either way, it appears less like a reaction of Sanity than it does to be spiteful vengance

    now as Allegory and Metaphor… i can easily understand it, but as supposed historical Reality?

    well… just makes me glad that it ain’t my Book


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    Try to watch it with the html tags. I’m trying to close the italics, but I may not succeed.

    Gonzo, Mark,

    There is another, far more difficult interpretation of the story of Lot’s wife that indicates that in fact, instead of turning to salt, she turned into smoke – that the nature of the destruction of Tzdom and ‘Amora had elements to it barely hinted at in the Torah.

    Actually if you read the story of the visit of Abraham by the three messengers very carefully, the visit that precedes the destruction of Tzdom and ‘Amora, you see some very odd things going on that indicate that something is occurring that is not normal for the average shepherd or cattleman.

    There are some indications that there are some pretty high tech instruments, beyond what we have today, being used by these messengers and others…

    But leaving this difficult interpretation aside, it is not that the human kindness of the sympathy is being punished, but that she, by turning and facing this destruction, is being somehow involved in the evil – which is not just a bunch of people acting like a mob on Saturday night, but vicious evil that is not clearly alluded to. Homosexual orgies in public (the origin of the word “sodomite” and “sodomize”) is probably the very least of all the difficulties. There are probably a lot of other really bad news characteristics of these people that has Hashem so upset.

    Religious Jews tend to minimize things. particularly things that have to do with sex. You have to do some serious digging to find out that after Noah got drunk, for example, his grandson Canaan castrated him. Now go read Chapter 18 of Leviticus and let your imagination expand some to the evil and sadistic side…

  • Well, that’s true enough (about us minimizing certain concepts). I didn’t want to get into that, but Ruvy’s right. Shall I move onto the next issue? Or is this one not resolved yet?

    Oh, P.S., I did close the italics tag. I double-checked it, actually. If it’s causing problems, though, I’ll stop. I guess people will just have to figure out where I’m italicizing, bolding, etc.

    Just take the pill (inside line)

  • Chaim, actually, I checked and you didn’t close the italics tag, you put the same opening tag in twice. Oh, the joys of being Comment Editor!

  • Really? Hmm… I did double check… maybe the fact that it was 9:00 in the morning was what did it. Oh, well, I’ll try harder next time (and won’t do it in the morning 🙂 )

  • Since I have dial-up, this loading this page takes a lot of time. Therefore, I’m going to have to wait for the e-mail telling me that the comment has arrived, so please excuse me if my reply’s a little late. So here I am, waiting…

    Just take the Pill (inside line)

  • Hmm… Where did everybody go? I seem to remember something about a Catholicthread, but where would I find it? Some help, please? 🙂

  • Chaim,

    I guess we all lost the direction we were going and moved on to other articles. I don’t know about a Catholic thread…but if the other guys have signed up for this thread, they’ll see these e-mails and probably come limping back.

    But I’m not sure where we were, although it’s been fascinating journey.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • troll

    Hi Chaim – even if we’ve agreed to stop discussing ‘logical proof of g-d’ for the present you still owe a description of Judaism’s concept of an afterlife


  • Very well Troll. I’m in school now, so I don’t have much time, but I’ll try to post it up soon. Then I’ll continue with Mark’s blog.

  • glad to *see* you made it through all the nastiness Chaimss… i hope all of you and yours made it ok

    as for the rest….

    “further more, respondent sayeth not”


  • Is there a way I can e-mail comments? It takes 10 minutes to upload this page onto my Pocket PC. Anyway, I can’t post to my site from here, so here you go, in all it’s glory…

    (Most of this article was adapted from the tape “Heaven and H**l” the second tape by Rabbi Doniel Freitag in his tape series “The Magical Mystical Tour.”)

    Well, I was trying to go in order of Mark’s blog, but if Troll wants to know about the afterlife, well, how can I resist?

    First of all, Mark, you mentioned that we don’t have any sort of concept of heaven. I can understand your skepticism since the Torah itself says very little on the topic. This is because the Torah is “a tree of life to all those that cling to it,” (This and all other sources are available on request.) Nevertheless, there are hints. Like I believe we mentioned before, it says in Beraishis (Genesis) that “Avrohom died, was gathered to his people, and was buried by his sons.” Something like that, but whatever. The key line, of course, is “was gathered to his people.” It can’t mean he died, because it already says that. It can’t mean he was buried, because it says that next. There must be some other thing happening here. This is the entrance into the next world. Again, this is hardly irrevocable proof. It’s just a hint. Another, stronger one is given below.

    Basically, and I really mean basically, Judaism believes that the body is only a cover for something much more important: the soul.

    That’s right. We are all souls. Our body is only a suit, allowing our spiritual self to interact with this physical world.

    Speaking of this physical world, just a few (relevant) words on that. If we’re going to start with the Axiom that Hashem exists (whose corresponding discussion, I believe, isn’t over, I’m just afraid we’ll have to return to that later,) and that he’s perfect, then you have a real problem. If I was a perfect being (yeah, right), and I wanted to create a perfect world, this wouldn’t have been it. So how can Hashem have created this non-perfect world?

    The answer is that this isn’t the final product. This is merely a gym for the next, eternal, perfect world. Meaning, as the Mishna (the basis of the oral law) says, “This world is but a corridor into the next world. Prepare yourself in the hallway so that you’ll be ready to enter the palace.” For this purpose, it’s perfect.

    Remember the answer I gave you about Avrohom and his raising in spiritual level? Well that’s exactly the point. Like I said there, if a person starts lifting weights, soon he’s going to have to raise the number of weights, or else he’ll stop growing. Same here. This world is a gym. We must constantly grow to gain our award “upstairs” in heaven.

    Back to the soul, being that it’s a spiritual being, it requires a special converter to be able to run in this gym. Think about walking in space. You’d need a special space suit to pull it off. The drawback, though, is that it constricts your movement. For example, you can only walk/move your arms so much, etc. Similarly, when the soul comes down here, against his will, by the way, but that’s a completely different discussion, it’s put into this necessary, but constricting suit called the body. Therefore, most of the soul’s spiritual abilities, like feeling the true feeling of doing a mitzvah, are lost unless strained. That’s the whole point, however, because without these restrictions we wouldn’t be having these discussions because it would be plain and simple that Hashem existed, and there would be no point in reward and punishment.

    Speaking of reward and punishment, (which, of course, are the whole issues here,) I think an explanation is necessary. We see r&p as “He wrote on the wall, so he couldn’t go to the circus.” A person is punishing you. That’s not the way it works up there. Up there it’s a concept called “mida k’neged mida” or measure for measure. You do ‘A’ and ‘B’ follows. Let me explain:

    2 guys go to the doctor. Both smoke, are 200 lbs. (or Kg, your choice) overweight, etc. The doctor examines both of them and says, “You’re completely out of shape. If you want to live another year, you’re really gonna have to get back on track.” So the next day they both join the gym and start cracking. The first guy goes strong, does his exercises, etc. The second guy starts strong, but then weakens and takes one-just one-cigarette. Next day, just one… By the end of the month, he’s dropped out completely.

    Six months later they head back to the doctor for a check up. So the first guy is in shape, great blood pressure, the works. The second guy… Oy. He’s hopelessly overweight, cholesterol level is as high as his credit score, he’s in trouble. The doctor looks at him and says, “You’re in terrible shape. I doubt you’ll live the year.” The man turns to him and says, “You know what? You’re a mean doctor. What’s this punishment you’re giving me? I tried. I’m going to find another doctor; one who’s going to tell me that I’m in perfect health.” Of course, this is ridiculous. He made himself this way, and this is the consequence. Same here. You are what you made yourself in this world.

    Basically, Shomayim (Heaven) and Gehennom (H**l) are the same place. It all matters on perception. Meaning: Two guys are watching the tickers on Wall St. One’s jumping up and down, the other’s almost in tears. When queried, both say they’re watching IBM, which is on a huge rally. So why is one crying and one laughing? Well, one just sold, and he’s losing all of this money. The other bought short, and he’s racking it up. What’s the difference? Perception. Same there. If you spent your life with exclusively physical activities, then the regret that you’ll feel for not accomplishing what you could’ve will be your punishment. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That doesn’t sound too bad. I can live, er, die, through that.” Believe me. It’s no fun. Let me explain.

    Imagine a man (just one this time) who has a dream. In his dream he eats a grape flavored lollipop-his favorite flavor. When he wakes up, he realizes he had eaten rat poison. Do you think the enjoyment he had in eating that lollipop will even occur to him after those undescribable feelings of “Oh my gosh. What did I do?” The guilt will be eating him up just as much as the poison.

    Scenerio #2: A woman serves her husband and sons breakfast and sees them off to work/school. An hour later she realizes that instead of sugar, she had put (once again) poison on their cereal. Can you imagine the guilt of that wife and mother? The feelings she’ll have when she calls the doctor? It’s just indescribable.

    Finally, scenerio #3 (and in my opinion, the most powerful): Imagine the one thing you don’t want to be caught doing by anyone. The single most item. Now think of the one person you just don’t want to catch you. Now imagine that person catching you doing that thing in the most embarrassing way possible. Gehennom is worse. Much worse. That’s Gehennom.

    I could go on, but this has taken long enough as it is. If you’d like to no more, just ask.

    – Chaim

    Just take the Pill

  • troll

    thanks Chaim…I asked about the afterlife because when I was a little troll I asked the same question of my Jewish half

    I was told that there is no reference to it in the Torah because it is none of our business…that the pious Jew studies the Law carries it forward and lives by it for its own sake and for his love of G-d and his community not for some pie in the sky by and by

  • Ok. Hope you understand now that that’s not the case, although you should do the mitzvos only because Hashem told you to, there is an issue of reward like Maimonides says in his 13 Principles of Faith. Now, does anyone want to continue discussing this? Or shall I move on to Mark’s next question? Also, is there a way to e-mail comments? Because I can’t keep doing this on my Pocket PC.

  • Nancy

    I’ve read passages in the bible where it refers to Sheol and says that the dead know nothing, that going down into Sheol is going into nothingness. Can’t reference the exact places, as you said, they’re few & far between, but I did note those 2 or 3, and they’re pretty depressing & ominous. And then there’s the business with Saul & the shade of Samuel that gets called up by the Witch of Endor. From where? Sheol? Why is Samuel responding if the dead know nothing, and Sheol is nothingness? Everywhere else in the O.T., people seem to have the attitude that once you’re dead, you’re dead, and that’s that. Out. Poof. Like a light. No afterlife, no second chances, nada.

  • Dina Marks

    I stumbled onto this post while googling similarities between Jews and Hopi Indians. Very interesting discussion- though I didn’t make it through the whole thread (wow!)… Here’s a site I go to often when looking for answers to tough questions: http://www.askmoses.com. They have a live rabbi chat that is completely anonymous and you can take out all your frustrations without the guilt! Another great site with an incredible data base of insight and stories (really good stuff) is http://www.chabad.org. Check ’em out- I hope they give you as much food for thought as they’ve given me…
    All the best on your quest!

  • This is the third or fouth time I’ve tried posting, but they’ve all failed. Hopefully this won’t.

    Like you, I can’t remember the actual verse numbers, but I am familiar with the verses themselves, at least enough to tell you that those verses are referring to a dead person’s inability to do commandments and earn reward (again, if we knew the exact verses it would be better), but they still have knowledge. The story with Shmuel Hanavi is interesting because supposedly she wasn’t really a seer. The whole thing was a scam, which is why she screamed when he actually appeared.

    Also, the reason why there’s no mention of it in the Torah is because the Torah is an eitz chaim (a tree of life) not death. The concept is there, however.

  • This one’s coming through. It’s very late & I dn’t have time to respond, but I will tomorrow.


  • If you get a chance, I think you’ll enjoy my blog

  • Chaimss

    I’m working on an “all-out”, i.e. answering all of the remaining questions, so watch for it.

  • Chaim,

    I have an article in pending “Ruminations About the Destiny of the People of Israel” that I would like you to read carefully. You can also read it at this link at Desicritics.org

    In it are very basic definitions that deal with the reality of our people – and the fact that we Jews are not the entire “remnant of Israel.”

    You can always communicate with me by e-mail by going to my URL – the link is above – and looking up my e-mail address.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    BTW Gonzo Marx, who has often tried your patience with hard questions at this comment site, is no longer writing with us – apparently. But there is another fellow, “D’oh” who writes an awful lot like him, indeed sounding verily like his twin many times…

  • Ok, here we go. Everything and anything. Have fun 🙂

    “And Egypt. Hey, I’m glad the Jews escaped, but God, himself, God and not a ministering angel, killed all the first-born sons in Egypt. I’m sorry, but my freedom isn’t worth the death of thousands of innocent children.”
    Innocent, my foot. First of all, you have to remember, when we think of “first-born son” as a baby in a cradle, it’s kind of a misconception. I am 17 (going on 18, doo doo, doo doo, doo, doo; you know, Sound of Music? 🙂 anyway…) but I’m still a first born. As far as I know, you, Mark, may be a first-born as well at whatever age you are. Just because the movies show a bunch of babies dying doesn’t mean that’s what happened. So these “first born” were just as guilty of killing Jews as anyone else. The question becomes, instead, “why the first born?” That question’s a little harder. Basically it fills Hashem’s rule of “measure for measure.” The Egyptians used to kill the Jewish first borns, so measure for measure, Hashem killed their first borns. Also, even if you’re going to say that sometimes the first borns were babies, it’s really Judaism’s question to the ethical question, “if you could go into a time machine and kill Adolf Hitler ys”v (yimach sh’mo v’zichro, i.e. may his name and memory be erased) when he’s a baby, would you?” You know? Do you say, “Well, he’s a baby, he hasn’t done anything wrong yet?” or do you say, “I know what he’s going to do, so *bang*?” And Judaism’s response is (in this case, at least, don’t try applying it to others, it goes by a case by case basis) is that, yes, since you know what’s coming up you can take pre-emptive action. Now, like I said, this isn’t the case all the time. Sometimes (like by Ishmael, or Yishmael) the concept is called “ba’asher hu shum.” This means that sometimes people are judged by the way they are right now, i.e. innocent. Where’s the line drawn? Well, that’s why Hashem’s Hashem.

    “The Jewish religion is very weird. Not satisfied with the Ten Commandments, a bunch of know-it-alls in the middle ages came up with a few hundred more.”

    Middle Ages??? Where did that date come from? Now, the best answer to this question is said by a certain R’ Tovia Singer in his lecture entitled “The Oral Law“. Although it’s more geared towards Missionaries, it does the job.

    Short of that; let’s see what I can do. There’s a posuk (verse) that says “If you want to eat an animal for your benefit…you should slaughter it in the way I’ve commanded you.” (Source for this and all other pasukim are available on request. I don’t know them offhand, and I’d rather not have to spend time looking for them. I will if you want them, though.) Now, if you were to look through the whole Torah you won’t find anywhere how you’re supposed to slaughter an animal. Obviously this means that it was given over orally, presumably to Moshe (Moses). In addition, we see that the posuk says, “don’t do any work on the Shabbos day,” and it says later (in my Bar Mitzva portion, actually), “Don’t light a fire in any of your dwelling places on Shabbos.” So, you’d think that not doing work means lighting a fire. But we see later on that a man is killed for carrying sticks on Shabbos! Why was he killed? What does that have to do with lighting a fire? Yes, you use sticks to light a fire, but he wasn’t actually lighting it. And so on. We’re told that Rosh Hashona is supposed to be “a Day of Blowing for you.” What does that mean? Should we blow our noses? Our car horns? We all know, however, that this means a Shofar. These are just a few examples. We also see that Daniel (the prophet) risked his life to pray three times a day, which is a commandment you claim wasn’t “invented” for thousands of years afterwards! Again, R’ Singer does a more complete job, but basically you have to know that there was an oral law given with the written one, and that this counts for a number of the “additional” laws.

    The rest come from a concept called “gedarim,” or fences. These were developed, not exactly during the middle ages, but around the year 100 BCE to 100 CE, give or take. Basically, let’s say you found a lottery ticket or a rare coin that you happen to know is a one-of-a-kind coin that collector’s would pay any amount of money for. The problem is you’re on vacation and can’t cash it in for another month. Would you just stick it in your pocket or wallet? Or would you wrap it up in some sort of protective layer to protect it from the elements, put it somewhere safe, and take extreme care of it? It’s the same here. Since the whole point of this world is as a pre-cursor for the next, the cash points have to be protected. For example, it’s forbidden to light a fire on Shabbos (remember? ). Therefore the Rabbis, in their almost infinite wisdom, said that any sort of match, etc. is forbidden to be moved. This would ensure that people wouldn’t be carrying around matches and accidentally/inadvertently light a fire, thereby costing them dearly. All of the others are like this as well. Even though fowl aren’t officially counted as meat, since people got them mixed up and started eating actual milk with meat, the Rabbis gave chicken the status of meat. The thing is, the Torah says that “whatever the Rabbis tell you do, you must do.” This gives the Rabbis the power to make these laws and decrees. So, although you may say, “hey, these are worthless now,” too bad.

    “And someone got the bright idea that the religion only passed through the mother…obviously not Lot’s wife…so if a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, wham, the kids are goyim.”

    Well, think about it this way. (I’m looking into a stronger answer, but until then…) Avrohom was the first Jew. Right? And Sarah was the first Jewess. Right? So, if it goes by the father, why aren’t all the Arabs Jews? Their father was Avrohom’s son. And if you’re going to say that they are, the Torah says straight out that they’re not, but their own nation. So obviously it goes through the mother. If you don’t like that one, I’m working on a better one. .

    “It’s easier to grow hair on a bald head than convert to Judaism”

    That’s true. Although now, with Avacore®, you can grow…umm…never mind. The point is that it’s very hard to convert to Judaism, but there’s a reason for that. Not only that, but it runs right into your basic question of what “chosen” means. So here we go:

    When Hashem created the world, he created it for a purpose, i.e. so that we humans could have the greatest pleasure possible. It goes a lot deeper than that, obviously, but that’s beyond the scope of our discussion. Suffice it to say that in order to receive this “greatest pleasure,” one has to earn it. Now, it’s earnable on different levels. Take, for example, an exclusive sports club where they only accept the best. They may have different memberships for different contributions. It’s basically the same idea here. Non-Jews are here to become close to Hashem on a certain level, and our responsibility is to connect on a higher level. Now, some may complain that it’s not fair. Why should a gentile, just because he was born like that, lose his rights to a higher relationship with Hashem? So we say to them, “ok, we hear that. If you want to take on more responsibilities and gain more privileges, the option’s there. However, since our job is to “be a light unto the nations,” i.e. setting the standards in morality and values, we have to make sure that a prospective “member” really has what it takes to carry on this vital mission. This is why it’s so hard to convert. We have to make sure they’re really up to it. So we can’t “Change the stupid rule” even if “We’re running out of Jews.” It doesn’t work like that. As a matter of fact, I’m not surprised, being that the moral and values system in the world is deteriorating so much, that we’re running out of Jews. More and more, people are opting out of the club, and now have lost their identity as Jews. The last thing we need are more lenient conversion rules. If anything, we need them to be strengthened.

    “Get rid of most of those idiotic Kosher laws originally passed for health purposes”

    What!?!?!?!?!?!? Have you ever been in a Kosher restaurant? You’re telling me that that’s called health???

    Sorry about the outburst, but I’ve heard that question before. The truth is that if you really look at the verses discussing what we can eat and what we can’t (as always, sources available on request) you’ll notice that plenty of animals that were/are perfectly harmless are nonetheless forbidden. What defines its status is spiritual matters, not physical ones.

    “I’m sorry, but any religion that tells me I can eat bacon ain’t going to get a lot of respect from me”

    Well, can’t help you there 🙂 . Although, if you think about it, are you really going to destroy your eternity just because you can’t eat something that Morning Star (R) makes great imitations of anyway? 🙂

    “Now, here’s a tough one. Growing up in an Italian neighborhood, I heard more about hell and purgatory and venial, cardinal, and mortal sins than just about anything else. Kids used to keep track of how they were doing in amassing them. But Jews? There’s barely a concept of heaven, and as far as I can tell, none about hell. In the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, the source from which springs everything else, no one talks about an afterlife. What good’s a religion without an afterlife?”

    Well, we discussed that before, and I refer you to comment #270.

    ” Finally, Jews and their relationship to G-d.” (I cut out the rest, it’s essentially the same thing):

    Ah, yes. Our relationship with Hashem. The entire purpose of our existence, yet people think it’s a Christian concept. Isn’t that sad? Basically, we believe that this entire world is a jungle gym (remember Avraham?) and the purpose of the gym is to grow spiritually. How do we do that? By building up a relationship with Hashem? What does that mean? Well, that’s the question. Essentially, it means learning His Torah and keeping His commandments. When we do this, we get “stronger and stronger” and have to keep increasing the weight. It does not mean to talk the talk without walking the walk.

    And finally,

    “Yeah, we’re the chosen people…but chosen for what? I’m confused”

    Well, it’s 1:35 AM, so I’m going to answer this quickly. You can ask for elaboration if you’d like.

    Basically, we’re chosen to “be a light unto the nations, carrying out the purpose of creation.” ( (C) Yerachmiel Begun and the Miami Boys Choir) We’re supposed to show the world, through our commitment to Hashem and his Torah, how to live a moral and just life. This is so that the Gentile can also attain a relationship with Hashem on a lower level and get his own version of Heaven. If you’d really like the answer to the “it’s not fair” question, please ask and I’ll tell you later, it’s just too late now.

    Well, there you have it. All 1,958 words of it. (1,993 if you count this paragraph.) Take your time, and can’t wait for the responses.

  • Ruvy, I read your blog and replied. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll look out 🙂 Although I’d rather be asked then have people going around thinking there’s no answer.

  • nanotechnological platypi

    You are a googlewhack

  • Chaimss

    Who, me?

  • Rob Hirschhorn

    Judaism isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a belief system. You should be addressing your questions to believers who are expert in the system.

  • That’s the misconception. It is a lifestyle- just read the code of Jewish law, it’ll take you from when you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, from Rosh Hashona to Rosh Hashona, and in civil legal matters as well.

  • Rob,

    Judaism isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a belief system. You should be addressing your questions to believers who are expert in the system.

    Your have it wrong, Rob. Judaism is a lifestyle built out of a belief in the promise of a homeland, Divine Guidance and Divine Redemption, coupled with the experience of losing that homeland to a bunch of Roman savages.

    You’re a fool to think America will afford Jews anything other than “temporary” refuge. Temporary can mean a few hundred years – but the permanent refuge is here, in Israel. And from the looks of things ths temporry refuge in America is just about over.

    The key to survival as a Jewish people is to come home, whether you believe or not. All the rest can follow later. But unfortunately, only believers understand that. THEY learn from history, Rob.

    Are you getting the point, Chaim?

  • Yowza, I can’t believe this forum as reopened.

    Chaim, I never read your post from Jan 07, which is why I never responded. I’m a wee fogged in right now, but I will respond.

    And Ruvy, you have to play nice…like you used to. Stop calling people fools & ignoramoses (get it?) & other bad names. As for whether we’ll be tolerated in America…what the hell, you’re not tolerated in Israel. Anywhere we’ve lived has been questionable.

    eh, more later.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • 🙂 I know, the internet’s great, isn’t it? For some reason the e-mailed responses don’t work… but I’ll be checking back soon 😉