Monday, December 18, 2006

Another Interesting Christianity Tidbit

I would say there were a few main influences to non-Jewish Christianity (over and above Jewish Christianity, which was mainly believing that the Messiah had already came, but still adhering to the Law of Moses etc.).

I wrote it in a nice graph, but I can't do that here...

1. General interest in monotheism in the Middle East/Mediterranean area at that time, and their abandonment of Paganism (though they still refused all the "hard laws" of Judaism- Islam did not yet exist and Judaism was much more numerous and influential back then).

2. General Pagan traditions and already established religious institutions, practices and modes of worship (not to mention European Christianity, and it's traditions and stigmas, which are all Pagan European ( which is the only way they know how to represent any religion).

3. "עשרה הרוגי מלכות" and "כפרת עוונות"; i.e. the idea that the suffering of one person can atone for many (at it's core a Jewish idea, but taken to it's far extreme by Christians).

4. Hillel and peace loving. He lived in the time of Jesus, and was the known founder of the concept of emphasising those ideas (Christians use those kinds of ideas to downplay the law (as do many Jews; Tikun Olam).

5. Philo of Alexandria created a written philosophy for the מצוות not being meant to actually do in all generations.

6. The Essenes group (איסיים) tried to be 'super holy', and for example, many of them didn't marry (they lived at the time).

To me these are the main (mostly Jewish) ideas that went into Paul's founding of "non-Jewish Christianity" in the Mediterranean basin.

ממני העבד-

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Interesting Site

The Site.

"Mixes" Bible critisizm with New Testament critisizm. Bible- Da' ma shetashiv.
New- The historical truth about the subject (a lot of misconceptions out there!)

"What is interesting about the Jesus Movements as the source of Christianity and the Jesus myth, is that they were the source of Gnosticism, which for many decades, was considered by scholars to be a Christian heresy which arose in the second century. Scholars had presumed this mostly as a result of the comments made in the screeds of Iraeneus, who railed against this widespread and threatening "heresy" endlessly. But it is now widely accepted that Gnosticism was widespread by the time Jesus is supposed to have lived, and now, having the Nag Hammadi library as a treasure trove of new information, we now know that its mythology was Jewish, not Christian, its metaphysics was Neo-Platonic and Neo-Stoic, and it shared ideas from Egyptian, Greek, Jewish and "Hermetic" mystery religions, and was an outgrowth of the Jesus Movements.

Yet, when one reads the Nag Hammadi gospels we have today, we also read constant references to Jesus, including such stories as the Last Supper and the Crucifixion - evidence that the Gnostic gospels themselves borrowed from later Christian sources. But the Jesus myth's widespread popularity among the Gnostics by the first third of the first century leads to the suggestion that, unless a wholesale and dramatic conversion took place (for which there is no evidence whatever), the Jesus myth was already widespread among the Gnostics by the time Jesus was supposed to have lived and died, and he died a long time ago. He wasn't a contemporary divine Messiah-figure. At least not yet."

Interesting Site About Christianity

The Site.

"The POCM web site introduces you to the mainstream modern scholarship about Christianity's origins in ancient Pagan religion.

You already know Christmas trees and Easter eggs were originally Pagan, and you probably know the traditional mid-winter and spring timing of the two holidays was Pagan too. Mildly interesting. Not what you'll find here.

What you'll discover here is that Christianity inherited everything from the Pagans. The core of Christianity -- the worship of a dying Godman who is resurrected, ascends into heaven and brings salvation to mankind -- was also the core of a number of ancient Pagan religions that began in the Near East two thousand years before Jesus. Christian theology borrowed more than the archaic myth of the dying-resurrected Godman. Initiation by baptism, communion with the God through a holy meal that represented the flesh of the dead God, the Holy Spirit, monotheism, and immortality of the soul were all core beliefs of many ancient faiths. They were simply part of ancient Mediterranean culture.

Christianity also borrowed elements of Jesus' mythology: the virgin birth, the miracles (including turning water into wine, walking on water, and especially healing the sick) were all common elements of pre-Christian Pagan religions. Mithras had 'em. So did Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, and Orpheus. And more. And they had them centuries before Christianity was a twinkle in Saint Paul's eye."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jason Weiner on Black Hats

I was recently reading through the first volume of "מילין חביבין", Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's new Torah journal, and found one of the articles to be more than a bit misguided in my opinion. Jason Weiner's article (on page 127) was nice and written well, but honestly a little absurd.

First of all, in half the Jewish world, in Arabic, Islamic, and Balkan countries, Sefaradic Jews did not wear Western clothing at all, and certainly not those types of hats! They would only view the "black hat phenomenon" as Europeanism, or perhaps even a form of embracing liberal Westernism (exactly the opposite of how the Haredim view it. i.e. for the very reason Haredim wear it, Sefaradim shouldn't; to be "protected" from "over Westernisation").

Halakhicly: there are always two main aspects of halakhah, the actual halakhah and "מעשה רב" (minhag and the historical development and practice of Jewish law). From the "legal" perspective one cannot say that being without a hat or other head covering is ever “inappropriate” (long story halakhicly, but see שו"ת קציני אר"ץ and שו"ת יביע אומר on the subject).

From a historical perspective it is known that our ancestors in ancient Israel (for example) did not cover their heads. The only reason people started wearing skullcaps in the first place is because that’s what the general population in Europe wore, only in order to keep their heads warm! There never has been any "Jewish" mode of dress, and we are not permitted to create one now, not halachically and not ideologically. Historically Jews dressed exactly as the non-Jews, based totally on the standards of that time and place, unless forced to wear particularly “Jewish” clothing by the non-Jews (which were only decidedly “Jewish” by the non-Jews) and when they moved from those countries they usually changed their garb again to fit the new standards. ..The very fact that so many religious Jews do not wear black hats and suits for religious reasons would nesitate the idea that wearing it would be an attempt at separating oneself from "כלל ישראל" (everyone agrees that to suggest that it would be more proper if all religious Jews around the world wear black hats is both completely bogus and impossible).

Judaism is obviously not about the clothing people wear, if one were to make it out to be that, they are only minimising the realm of halakhah. Judaism is a religion, which we are not to add to.
Suits are also an aspect of modern standards of dress just as T-shirts are, only one is more casual and the other is more formal. Yet not everyone has a mitzvah to dress formal 24/7! Suits are obviously not meant to be worn consistently according to contemporary standards. Maybe Rabbinic scholars and their students should dress like that, but not every guy who attended a yeshiva is an aspiring Rabbinic scholar. Yeshiva today in the Orthodox world is just a parallel to college just as the "Cheider" (or "Talmud Torah") were parallel to non-Jewish grade school at any given era or locale. It's just that the standards have gotten higher. There is still a separation, though, between young men who attend yeshivas and actual or aspiring Rabbis. I still wouldn't say that particularly European dress is necessary for Rabbis, I don’t even know that a suit is necessary.

Another point he failed to consider in his article is that black hats and such may be the way Hasidim in south-eastern Europe dressed, but it is not how the yeshivas in north-eastern Europe or western Europe dressed. In a way it seems they were both just mimicking local fashions; Lithuanian and German Jews were copying western European styles, and Polish and south-eastern European Jews were copying an older style of the local dress itself. The opinion of most Chasidic Rabbis was to remain with (what was considered to be) traditional Jewish dress, especially during a time when the world was quickly modernizing.

Therefore even though the yeshivas today call themselves "Lithuanian-style", most of the actual student body are usually the descendants of Chasidic south-eastern European holocaust survivors, and follow in their (Chasidic) ways. In a way, their wearing of suits and hats is a moderate diversion from the modern modes of dress, whereas the Chasidic styles in Europe were also a moderate diversion from the dress of their place and time. We see then that, in essence it’s not about "black hats" or "Chasidic dress", it’s about the age-old question of preservation of the "old ways" in the face of modernity and change. So to reiterate, it might at times be beneficial to preserve some old cultures and traditions, but generally it was not the "Jewish way" to preserve the standards of dress from country to country! ומעשה רב עיקר!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Re: רמב"ם- תלמיד חכם

Just wanted to mention that the רמב"ם uses the term 'תלמיד החכמים'- i.e. 'was' (and is) the student of wise. Now he himself is a 'חכם' (who also officiates as a 'master' (רב) to students).

To reiterate; when the רמב"ם (for example) speaks about how 'תלמידי חכמים' should or shouldn't present themselves, he's talking about both 'צורבא מרבנן' (rabbinic students) and 'חכמים עצמם' (and their teachers).

זאת אומרת למד אצל רבו, שהוא חכם- ונהיה תלמיד של חכם (או תלמיד "חכמים"- מסורת התורה). ועכשיו גם הוא חכם, ורב לתלמידים

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Philosophers by race

Now, I'm not going to go on about this, because I can't, I don't know (nor can I remember) enough about the subject, but: I saw a new (good) Jewish book on the חגים in stores, in which the back cover quoted a Greek philosopher as saying that the Jews were "philosophers by race". I liked that line so much I was thinking about making it the title of this blog! Because while it's true that, for example, in בית שני times there was a lot of קריאה, שינון, and לימוד going on, but without a doubt the Jews were also very much preoccupied with philosophical thought, analysis and criticism.

In general I personally feel that philosophy and logic shouldn't just be the basis of religious thought, but of all thought. It doesn't matter where you're coming from in the spectrum of intellectual thought; of first and foremost importance is always using the tools of logic, and of philosophical thought, analysis and criticism, and applying them to every idea new and old to you.

(As an aside I think it's very worth while looking into the writings of the European enlightenment writers (1600's to 1900's) on the ideas of logic and philosophy, because there cannot be a proper exchange of human ideas without them!)

ממני העבד-

Hebrew defenitions: חכם, ותלמיד חכם

I saw a gentleman on the bus (who didn't look Jewish) find a book next to him on the bus, and take it with him (with what looked like the intention to read it). I suspected him of being both non-Jewish, and not a תלמיד חכם obviously. I don't think that was right of me. It could be he was Jewish, and just didn't see any (halachic) point in wearing a head covering. It could also be he was somewhat of a תלמיד חכם because he knew the law that he was allowed to take it, etc.)

I think the definition of "תלמיד חכם" means someone who learned well from their "רב" (Master). It does denote being a "good student", but more than that, a disciple of a "חכם". In Hebrew חכמה denotes knowing a certain amount of information, so it would mean; "someone who keeps the information that they were taught and that they reviewed (ששינן) by the חכם". The חכם himself was and is also still a "תלמיד חכם", but now he's less of a student and more of a conduit of knowledge.

(Latter addition: The Rambam says a talmid chacham should cover his head; could be that's where the idea that everyone should (halachicly) cover their heads came from).

ממני ס"ט

Sunday, December 3, 2006


I watched the film "Ushpizin" last night (my mother wanted me to!) and learned a few things from it:

1. An idea which I recently made concise; "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" in regards to our actions and their consequences (punishment). Non-Jews have a harder time with this concept. (The guy attached everything that happened to him to things he did wrong).

2. כח התפילה. Thoughtful prayer could change reality.

3. גיבור על היצר. The guy in the movie was a good example of forcing ones self not to take the easy road, and to force ones self to do something they don't want to do.

4. It also connecting with the 'סוגיא' I was looking into that evening about parnasa v.s. Talmud-Torah. The 'Yalkut Yosef' says it's "better to learn, and suffice with the kollel stipend". We see from the movie, that he was in kollel, but because of his poverty his mind wasn't "open to to concentrate on perfecting his G-dly service".בית נאה...מרחיבין דעתו של אדם וכו

5. From one of the previews I learned about how much we should appreciate and take advantage of life in the way we're living it.

6. And I suppose I (to a very small extent) also thought about slightly rethinking my position about films and theater (could be 'מותר לשיעורין'- in order to think about topics you otherwise wouldn't, to help in G-dly service.

ממני הצעיר-