Monday, February 25, 2008
I can just see them, in all of their wisdom as children of immigrants during the Great Depression, saying "Nu, vy should ve vaste perfec'ly gud glass? Is still useful, no?"
The funny thing is, yahrzeit candles are small, only slightly bigger than tea candles. The only way they could really use those glasses would be for taking shots.
I'm sure it goes something like this: "May my mother, of blessed memory, rest in peace and may her soul rise up to heaven, if we believed in that sort of thing, L'CHAIM!" *takes a shot of vodka*
There's more to it than humor though, drinking from the empty shells of memorial candles. It just goes to show, once again, that memorial rituals are for the living, not for the dead.* And why should the living waste the glasses once the ritual is over?
See, the ritual, not the memories are made of candles and jars. Saving the glass and drinking out of does not blaspheme the memory; it's another way to move on. We remember not only on the yahrzeit and on Yom Kippur. So, how does it sanctify the memory by throwing the glass in the garbage?
There's more than this, but it's not coming just yet. Maybe later...
*I went into more detail on that in this column: http://www.gtweekly.com/columns/real-estate
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I didn't have time to go, but I'm glad I went anyway.
He argued that an intellectual revolution occurred in the 8th/7thc BC in the Near East and in Greece, in which elites defended local identity by rejecting markers of foreign culture.
Halpern pointed out a historical pattern we're already familiar with: Renaissance --> Reformation --> Enlightenment and then applied it to the writing of the Pentateuch.
We tried to figure out the astronomy of Genesis 1. It was basically crazy, but in the end, he showed us that despite how crazy it sounds to us, there is a logic to it. It's logical, and it becomes more and more complicated with each "there was evening, there was morning." He drew diagrams on the board and explained the logic with Greek philosophers and steam and fire and light and evaporation and domes. I can't replicate it, but oh it was nuts...
In the end, he'd made quite a case...the rational, logical, methodical creation story involving a highly rational God was created to support the beliefs of an intellectual elite, who were trying to prove that their creation story was correct. "Science" and "religion" and the birth of "western thought" against pre-existing, traditional polytheistic religions.
The Bible, in other words, played the same role we now grant to science in debunking other myths.
I wish I could explain it better, but all I can say is that when he finishes his book, I've got to read it.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
History of Languages
Before the Age of Misunderstanding,
The early people built a tower
They started with nouns:
Person--place--thing, held together with
Thick layers of verbs, question marks,
Colored bricks effusive
With figures of speech
“YOU” stuck to “HERE” with “ARE”
Words begat sentences begat paragraphs, higher and higher
In the evening, lovers
Climbed to the top, dangled
Their feet in the clouds, breathless
Before the dizzying view
“I hope we never stop building,” he said,
“Who knows what we’ll create?”
The woman smeared his body with verbs
They sanctified each other
Worshipped the tower
And in the morning, everyone wondered
Who had laid more foundation
But God had witnessed the lovers
As they witnessed Creation
Praying to the paragraphs
On which they stood
Before God’s eyes, it became
Epidemic, people blessing the tower,
Its adjectives and songs,
Hallowing skyward metaphors
Until at last, God regretted,
It was time to teach people
So when the man said “Please pass the adjective; will you marry me?”
His lover laughed at the string of useless sounds
“What do you mean?” she babbled
It was a brick no one could answer
People clamped their hands over their mouths
As brave new words grew inside, struggling to escape
The man and woman touched each other’s faces
Searching for words that were no longer there
At last, they decided it was better
Not to speak
And learned to communicate
The early people went on to misinterpret
God’s words, they told each other
“We climbed too high, God
Has punished our pride
Some finally stopped talking to God
Certain that God, too,
But people have always struggled
With foundations, mortar, and God
Didn’t mind the human desire
To build higher towers
It was their belief in language
That God punished
Some words felt
Like marbles on her tongue
But they stuck to her lover’s teeth
Refusing to tumble to the floor
And some verbs tasted nostalgic
While certain questions set his mouth on fire
Still they were convinced that sounds
Meant the same thing in different mouths
That one language meant
One way of hearing
On its faulty foundations
And some people learned
To search for meaning in the din of sounds
While others still shout brick after brick
Trying, in vain, to be understood
(adva ahava, copyright 2008)
(adva ahava, copyright 2008)