Do Jews and Christians share a common religion?

I keep being told that Jews and Christians share a common heritage. I am very unsure that is true.

I think there are some ethnic commonalities among a very few number of Jews who became Christians, but the number of them is so small to be insignificant among the numbers of Christians.

Culturally, there are very few similarities too. Most cultures derive from geographical locations rather than religous beliefs. Christians in the UK have a different culture to Christians in Nigeria or Peru, for example. Some of their religious practices also differ. Has nobody noticed this? Among Jews who have been expelled from their homeland and lived all over the planet, there is still a lot of commonality and we have been praying to return to our homeland for 2000 years. If you think of us as Native Americans or Aborigines, you would understand us better.

In terms of belief, the difference between Christians and Jews are immense.  Jews are not Christians who don’t believe in Jesus.  Christianity comes out of Imperialism and the Roman Empire.  However, among most people, and I include highly academic ones, there is little understanding of this fact. Most people seem to think Judaism is a precursor religion to Christianity, just without Jesus, and, on top of that, the Jewish God is the same as the Christian one and that the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, has hints of Jesus in it, a bit like a crystal ball or predictions.

So let us summarise:

  1. Judaism does not believe in Original Sin. Adam and Eve had to eat from the Tree of Knowledge or they would not have free will and be able to be grown ups, leave Eden and attempt to finish creation. The creation story shows a God who allows humans to interact in creation.
  2. Judaism does not believe that you can die for another’s sins. You die for your own sins. Occasionally, the children have to die too as they are so amoral/immoral, but usually, you die for your own sins. Nobody can die or sacrifice themselves for another’s sins.
  3. Judaism does not believe in a human God. End of.
  4. Judaism defines what a messiach may be and as the term messiach /messiah is a Hebrew term from Judaism, it seems best to let Judaism and Jews decide rather than appropriate the term.
  5. The term ‘virgin’ that is thought to be hinted at in later books of the Tanakh is, in fact, ‘young woman’ (almah). A different word is used for virgin. So there is no foreshadowing of a virgin birth in the Tanakh. In Judaism, sexual intercourse is not frowned upon and the physical body is also important. There is a prayer for everything, even going to the toilet. The idea is to raise everything into holiness/praise, not avoid eating, drinking, fornicating etc. Just to do it appropriately, healthily.
  6. The God that the Jews believe in is one of Compassion. There are 13 attributes that God uses to describe God in a way humans could understand and Compassion ranks high amongst them. These 13 attributes are called the Attributes of Mercy. Mercy trumps Justice.  The God of the Old Testament is not the God of the Tanakh.
  7. Adam and Eve are not Christian. They are not Jewish or Muslim either. They are the first humans. No rules, morals or beliefs have been given at this stage apart from not to eat from a certain tree. But you need to eat from the Tree to move onto the choice stage, to be able to choose, to be adult. God learns that too. God learns about humans in the Torah!
  8. Chosen because they chose God. It is a two way street.
  9. There is no foreshadowing of Jesus or Mohammad in the Torah or in the entire Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). They are not there because the Tanakh was written BEFORE they were born, by about 1000 years. The prophets are not predictors of the future. They are speaking to their now, what is happening. They are there to remind us of the Torah, not to invent some saviour. We are meant to save ourselves (be adult) by following the Torah, a blueprint for how to live in societies, a guidebook and self-help book.
  10. The word for ‘Sacrifice’ in Hebrew is Korbanot. It means ‘to draw closer’ and does not mean ‘to give up’. The sacrifice is shared with God. We share the table. It is about hospitality. God creates a place for humans and in return we make the place we were given by God as beautiful and hospitable (holy) as possible in return in the hope that God will visit.  We have not, so far, done a great job at our side of the agreement given the amount of our filth and trash and pollution on the planet. Shame on all of us.
  11. Judaism forbids human sacrifice. So sacrificing your child for others is unthinkable and forbidden. ‘Do not give your child over to the Molech’. No human sacrifice and certainly not to atone for somebody else’s sins (see point 2 above).
  12. The God of the Jews forbids eating blood, any blood of any animal. So the flesh and blood of a human are repulsive ideas. The blood libel is ludicrous. Matzos are made of flour and water. Christians and Muslims did not exist for 1000 years after the exile so what were we making Matzos from all that time? We don’t eat human flesh or any blood.  Get over it.
  13. Christians eat the flesh and drink the blood of their God each week. This is a Roman practice. The Romans used Christianity to push back against Israel, which they renamed Palestine in an act of Colonialism and enslavement. To be a Palestinian you had to be a Jew. That you have colonised the ancient homeland, Israel and renamed it is the same act as the Romans.
  14. Shabbat is not a punishment. It is a holiday and celebrates creation every week by stopping creating. We are commemorating creation every week in appreciation and gratitude for being her.
  15. Things get separated into kosher (useful/appropriate) and not kosher (inappropriate for humans). That’s it. It is to do with sparks (energy) that can be used by humans and sparks that can’t.
  16. Judaism has practice as central (living a kosher/appropriate life) but it has a huge spiritual exploration to explain the practices. It is not a fundamental religion and has used a system of exegesis and hermeneutics for 2000 years at least, before others existed, which is called by an acronym: PARDES. Judaism has spent the last 3000 years interpreting these words, making them relevant and useful to human life. You have not understood it and have read it through a distorted, colonialist lens.
  17. Victimhood as a culture is not part of Judaism even if Jews have been victims and are preferred when they are victims and lose (are dead)! How very cruel. The idea of the victim as being deserving is very useful from a Roman Imperial perspective. How to tame a rebellious population? Delay reward until death. Judaism thinks the reward is being alive, here, now on the planet and that this is such a wonderful gift that we should make our homes and lives as good as possible so as to welcome God as a visitor into them as thanks for being here, now.  Judaism works to avoid poverty and oppression and to celebrate this planet as a home for all.
  18. Jesus seems to have been a Jew living in Israel under Roman occupation. The Romans killed him.

The Roman Empire, Christianity, Colonialism and Ecology

I have just given a paper at a conference on Ecotheology.

Not a term many people have heard of, perhaps. The premise was: what does religion, by which they actually, it turned out, meant Christianity, say about caring for the planet. Well, folks, Christianity itself says absolutely nothing.

I put in an abstract and then presented a paper on what the Bible says about ecology and our role on the planet. They had a keynote speaker doing the same thing. All of her quotes were from the Bible. I went to other sessions where the Christian speakers explained John the Baptists idea of immersing in water (I asked where he got that idea from) and appreciation of nature. And I heard some young women talk eloquently about Black Lives Matter (BLM) and being activists for change. But none of them addressed the elephant in the room: Christianity. So I did. I think that maybe is our role; to talk truth to power. Against the colonialization by the Romans on one side and the Ottomans and their predecessors on another side, my tiny place has not given in. We did not convert. We could not stand up against the medias of the days and their lies, fake news, conspiracy theories and insults because the Christian and Muslim colonialists owned everything, but still we persisted. We were dispersed from our homeland and still we persisted. How annoying.

And then our texts are taken, plagiarised (and this was a supposedly academic conference) and used to give legitimacy and to de-legitimise us. They are renamed, something you do to slaves. Supercessionists and supremacists call them theirs. They take them and misread them and misappropriate their contents and call them by new names: The Christian Bible (I kid not) and The Old Testament (akin to Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe) some quaint writings which have been superseded by Romans and Arabs. Thanks boys.

There is nothing in the Christian texts about ecology or care for the planet. All of it is in the Hebrew texts, the TaNaKh (Torah, the Five Books of Moses; Nevim, the Prophets and Khetuvim, the writings such as Psalms and Proverbs). Do take a look!

Used and abused

So my talk swung it round, but of course I am not sure they were ready to hear it; really hear it rather than merely listen in that polite White Western Supremacist way. How they loved the People of Colour (about 5 of them in the 225 attendees) at the conference. Look how inclusive we are, seemed to be on their lips. But the angry Jew, insulted and abused for 2000 years and still here was a definite no no. The angry Jew who stood up and said get off my culture, get off my texts, get off my land and get off my neck was a real no no.

And in their talks about how Christianity is aligned with nature they quote Psalms, written by that shepherd David. They take my culture and texts and exclude me by their supremacy. It is not White Western Supremacy that is the problem folks. It is Roman-Christianity.

So here is the problem and the solution to our ecotheological crisis because you cannot make the planet better without a belief that the planet deserves better.

The Problem

Colonialisation. It has been an ecological disaster. You have grown your needs (foods, energy) on other peoples lands. Some of those crops should not have been there anyway. You are looking all the time for Growth rather than Enough. You are seeking Surplus. Treating all land as if it is there just for your needs with a total disregard for the environment.

Imperialism: Forcing your ideas onto others. Proselytising and forcing conversions to your beliefs and having no regard for others opinions and beliefs. Mission and ministry.

All of this results in pollution, deforestation, destruction through this culture of colonial claims. Much of this is Christian culture, but unfortunately it is seeping into Islamic culture too, perhaps merely as a reaction to Christian Imperialism, but still, not good.

The claim that this is Judeo-Christianity is total bunk. It is Roman-Christianity.

Over 50 years ago (!) in 1967 Lynn White Jnr wrote a paper in the eminent journal Science (155; 1203-7) on ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’. The ecological crisis is based on “the orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature”. The Christian doctrine of creation sets the human apart from nature, advocates human control of nature and implies that the natural world was created solely for our use (Gen 1:28). In the Christian Middle Ages, according to White, we already encounter evidence of attempts at the technological mastery of nature and incipient exploitative tendencies that come to full flower in scientific and technological revolutions of later eras. Christianity, White concludes, “bears a huge burden of guilt for environmental deterioration”

It starts with the Greeks, continues with the Romans, with a pushback by the Ottomans.

The Empires of Old

And it continues to this day :

The predominant cultures on the lands

Now I have seen the Monty Python Film ‘The Life of Brian’ so I know what the Romans did for us, underfloor heating, roads and transport etc. I am a scientist so I appreciate the Academy to a limited extent. The Sciences have improved the lives of many. I am grateful for clean water and aseptic techniques. My Desert Island luxury would be a flush lavatory. But this has come at a price. We are alienated from each other and from nature. We think everything can be man made (even the weather) and everything has to be subject to man-made evidence. The Humanities have gone down that route too, measuring the unmeasurable. Due to this, Arrogance prevails. Christianity has arisen in the midst of the Roman Empire. Indeed it is a Roman Religion. It has Romans gods and Roman sacrifices of a human and has that human elevated to a god (just like the Emperors) and then his flesh is eaten and his blood drank each week in a re-enaction of human sacrifice. This is all totally abhorrent to Judaism.

Death and the Afterlife have become more important than life. Meekness, which is easier to rule over than a stiff-necked Israelite, is promoted. A disregard of the material world which is reduced to one of Sin and Shame results in this ecological disaster. How can you care for the planet if you have these attitudes?

There seems to be a love of suffering, especially other peoples in Christianity. A victim culture. This is not the view from the Bible. Poverty does not make you virtuous, it makes you poor. There is nothing noble is poverty or suffering. We are not trying to hold you there, so why should anybody think it fine to hold other people in this bad place? Suffering and poverty are not where we are meant to be. The Divine does not want that even if humans force it on others. We vote for Joy, please.

The Romans were a clever bunch. They were very worried about Judaism and the possibility of it infiltrating the West. So they took some bits of it (Jesus) and changed it, making the Jews the butt of the joke. And that is how it has remained.

Our books have been claimed, misread, misappropriated and merely used to give authenticity to a supremacist reading (no longer the Israelites, now Jesus and now Mohammed). The people whose book is it have been oppressed, insulted, lied about, fake news items told, conspiracy theories invented, racially stereotyped and their land claimed by all and sundry. The people we share this with are other indigenous peoples, not the West or the East. And yet we persist. Unlike many invaded peoples we kept telling our story, the real story of creation, why the world is , why we humans are here and how to heal the planet. Listen and hear this small voice in the desert.

So I am at a conference where none of them have actually read the Torah but keep quoting from it. A bit like reading Romeo and Juliet and thinking the story is about Verona.

In Judaism, before the world/universe was created Wisdom and Repentance were created. Now if you are completely righteous you are already wise and do not need repentance. But we are not completely righteous (although there seems to be a lot of smug self-righteousness around) so we need wisdom and repentance to exist otherwise we cannot stand. The Divine then looks into the Torah (Chumash; Five Books of Moses) and creates the world. We are meant to be in a relation with the Divine; a partnership, not a domination. Ecology is Holy. We are meant to be completing creation. Of course, we never succeed in this work, but we are still meant to do it.

The Solution

So let’s start at the very beginning (apparently, it is a very good place to start). Beresheit bara – In a beginning created— Yes, A beginning not The beginning. Perhaps the Divine had a few attempts at this experiment. In some sources it is about 974 attempts (or some other very specific number which is rather wonderful). In some, I imagine, Adam and Eve did not eat from the forbidden tree and so there was a perfect Shabbat, Shalom, completion. But completion goes nowhere, or as the poet says, a completed garden is a dead garden. If you have Shalom, which means completion, you have perfection and that is that. In some versions perhaps Adam and Eve ate from the tree and in that day they did die. Do you want a Midrash that may help here (and you can look up Midrash, there is Prof Google on the planet now- do the work).

An example: Circumcision. Males are born spermless. They are not fully developed and have to complete this during maturity. Females are born with eggs. Males also have foreskins, a bit like webbed feet I suppose. Some people do not lose the webbing between their toes in utero and have to have it cut at birth. Well, we see the foreskin in that way. Get it? Removing it is part of the act of being in partnership with the Divine; pledging your child to that covenant. Covenants are partnerships. Each gets something from it otherwise it is merely domination or forced conversions. Think about it.

Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi and the Dalai Lama

Asks Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi ‘Why did the Divine make such a botch of things that he had to destroy most of creation and start again with Noah?’ Sideways Midrash reply:

In a phrase of Abrahams: ‘The Divine of my youth’ Can also be read : ‘The Divine in His youth’ . The Divine used to be younger and made mistakes. ‘When the Divine was younger’. The Divine learns from us, the Divine evolves, is evolving, creating. The Divine is the creator, the creating.

We are always beginning. All the time the Creator is Creating. We are meant to try to complete it (and fail) but at least try.

‘We are not obliged to finish the work, nor are we allowed to shirk from doing it’ (Pirkei Avot -Ethics of the Ancestors)

Having a Creator gives authenticity and authority to creation. Having a Righteous Creator where Justice and Mercy play equal parts gives morality compared to the Roman and Greek gods who are whimsical and cruel. But you have pretended that we have a different Divine to the one we have and that our Divine is cruel because bad things happen. We do not know the mind of the Divine (My ways are not your ways….) so we make up stupid things to fill the gaps. But most of us could not find our way round the Periodic Table of the Elements, yet we use the internal combustion engine and watch television and read from computers. Make the connection, please.

Our place in creation: we were created last. Why? Well says Tosefta Shanedrin 8:4 written around 189 CE (Before Darwin) so that you don’t get haughty (great word). A gnat preceded you in the act of creation and no, I do not really know the role of the gnat in the scheme of things. Also, of course, so that humans could eat. No trees and plants, no food. No Sunshine, no trees and plants.

All flesh is grass

(Isaiah 40. 8th Century BCE)

The Divine has created a place for us with everything we need as a gracious host. We need to be better behaved guests.

What is our role in the creative process? This is where colonial Roman-Christianity gets it all wrong.

Beresheit/Genesis 1: 26-28

Firstly, in Genesis 1, they are created together, male and female. Sort of back to back like a Janus figure, unaware of each other. The word Adam comes from Adamah, which means Earth. We are Earthlings. Our bodies come from the earth and our bodies shall return to it.

But it is the word Dominion that is a real problem for us on the receiving end of colonialism. It has been used to make the fittest into the meanest, cruelest, bullyish, scared nasty little boys.

This is what has been done with the word Dominion

There has been great progress in moving some social, political and economic areas forward recently with Black Lives Matter (BLM) and #metoo as leading examples. Unfortunately, most of them have been given impetus by appalling events such as the murder of George Floyd. Bullies, scared nasty boys, part of the Dominant culture.

Dominion

What have we done with the word, dominion? Well In Genesis Rabah 8:12, a commentary on Genesis written 2000 years ago, Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Ya’akov of K’far Chanin discuss having dominion over the fish in the sea etc. Rashi, the brilliant explainer of text, writing in the Middle Ages makes this clear (Pashat) for the rest of us. The Hebrew ְיִרְדּוּ

This can be read (from right to left as in carving) as RDOO meaning to have dominion over, or it can be read YRD, to go down. If we merit we rule, if we do not merit we are ruled over by the beasts and cattle.

Our role becomes a Moral Code from a Moral Divine. The Divine looked into the Torah and creates from Wisdom.

Partnership

There is a second version of creation (no we did not miss it when we included it). It sums up the first days and then does a little explanation:

The second version that the Name (Ha Shem) speaks

Although everything has been created here in this version it is not growing or being. Rashi again: Creation is in a state of Terem (Not Yet). There is Not Yet life, because there has not yet been rain and there is no humanity to work the ground, to CARE for the plants etc. The plants and animals want humans to intercede between the vertical and the horizontal. The first prayer is for Rain. Only Humans Pray. Our prayers take creation from potential (terem) to actual.

Rab Judah said : To enjoy anything of this world without a blessing is like making personal use of things consecrated to heaven, since it says: ‘The earth belongs to HaShem and the fullness there of.’ Psalm 24

Rab Levi contrasted two texts. It is written: ‘The earth belongs to HaShem and the fullness thereof’, and it is also written, ‘The heavens are the heavens of HaShem, but the earth hath He given to the children of men!’

There is no contradiction: in the one case it is before a blessing has been said. •Berakhot 35a:21 Talmud (90BCE Mishnah redacted c 189CE, Gemera c 500 CE)

Our prays move the use of the material world from the Divines to us. Thank you.

This is a very different reading. We are needed to allow creation to proceed down here, in this universe. Not domination. Partnership with the living earth and with the Creator. Not sin, but creativity.

And while I am here I might as well go into the other contentious issue, Israel, on which everyone has an opinion.

The Land

Firstly, it is the other name of Jacob (Ya’akov) the grandson of Abraham (Avraham), the child of Isaac (Yitzak). After Jacob wrestles with the Divine he is given an additional name. This happens a lot in Genesis. The name is Israel- man who struggles with the Divine. Not meek and mild and full of fundamentalism, a mere distortion, but a human that is in partnership on that ladder. A name, a person, a place, a space.

Secondly, we have our prayers sited in Israel for 3000 years, before the exile. Everyday

The Shema is said twice a day including this part

The land of Israel, promised by the Divine to the children of Jacob is not like the surrounding lands. No big rivers like the Nile, Euphrates or Tigris. Just the tiny Jordan, more a stream than a river. The entire land of Israel is the size of Wales, which is why you can’t find it easily among those Red and Green blocks of colour on the map above. The land of Israel relies on rain and dew. So for 3000 years we pray for it. For the last 2000 years we have a prayer the Amidah, said three times a day which in summer says : Causes the dew to descend and in winter says: Causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. Our spiritual practice is, like most indigenous peoples, connected to a land, a place and our place in creation. Of course the colonialists don’t know that, which is why the Chinese can throw the Buddhist Tibetans from their sacred land and the Western Christians can throw the Aborigines from their sacred lands and the Native Peoples of the Americas from their sacred lands. The Muslims tend not to throw people from their lands, but force conversion on them instead, removing the sacredness of a specific place to make it a universal adherence.

How can you care for the planet and for life if you do not appreciate your very small role in it and have disdain for the material world? You need to see the sacred in it.

 ‘Know that when a person prays in a field, every blade of grass enters into their prayer and helps them, giving strength to their prayer’   Rabbi Nachman of Breslov  (1772-1810)  Likutei MohaRan 2:11

All festivals are tied to the land, to agriculture and to place. The section of Deuteronomy above ends with a very important Mitzvah (commandment) you shall eat and be satisfied and praise the Divine.

We make a prayer for everything, for waking up, for washing, for going to the lavatory, for food, for water, for bathing, for clothing, for praying!

Our festivals celebrate moments in our history, such as the Exodus from Egypt, our acceptance of the Torah, the first fruits from the land each year, the act of creation each week (Shabbat) the fragility of our lives, our gratitude for them and our attempt to improve ourselves each year. The Torah is a guidebook/self-improvement manual when read correctly. There are more than 10 commandments. There are 613 and about 26 of them apply only to the land of Israel. We have adapted to diaspora, but we cannot fully be ourselves on a foreign land. It is not about colonialism. Our colonialism is a field, two trees and a donkey, rather than Kashmir (huge), Tibet, chunks of India (Pakistan and Bangladesh) etc. And the West Bank is the size of the county of Dorset.

Palestine is the Roman (and later Christian) name for Israel. The Romans have acted as slave masters renaming places (and later the British Empire, Ceylon, for example) just as colonialists rename slaves. All Palestinians were Jews. There were no Christians at the time and no Muslims either. Nor does Jesus or Mohammed appear in the Bible- really, I have been asked that! Colonialism knows no bounds.

While many People of Colour (POC) have taken on the religions of their oppressor/invaders/ colonisers, we haven’t. How very annoying. But on this tiny land is the place where our seasons run with our prayers. It is not random.

Partnerships– what is all of our role here on Earth, all of our roles? You may not have realised this: Adam and Eve are not Jewish. They are not Christian or Muslim even if our creation story has been taken and distorted. Adam and Eve and ‘merely’ Human. They are created this way so that every one of us can say the universe was created for us, us human beings, each one of us human beings. It is why we think life, especially human life, is so precious. We can break most of the rules of Torah to save life, any life. Which is why you see Israelis going in to disaster areas. That, of course, gets distorted in a wicked evil way by colonial bullies who pretend we are going to harvest organs (three day old rotted organs, really? How stupid and cruel ) or that we are doing it for show. The media pretend that we are murderers, the people that brought you all these holy commandments. I see the IG and Tweets. But it is the trolls and conspiratorial greedy people out there, the bullies and cowards that are the problem. The colonialists, not us. All humans are from Adam and Eve and therefore have the same role.

The Role

Our role is to bring Holiness down here onto Earth. The heavens, by default, are holy. We, all of us, are meant to be in the Image and Likeness, to make holiness here. The Divine is Hosting us here and not only should we be good guests, caring for the place that has been created for us to enjoy, to live in, to eat in, to sleep in, but we should reciprocate. We should invite the Divine to our place. Host a dinner at the least. Stop being a Schnorer – a terrible thing to be. The Shnorer is the person who, if you are each paying for what you ate in the restaurant, eats meagerly, but if you are splitting the bill eats and drinks the most expensive and the most amount and then complains about the bill. You spend you life subsiding the schnorer. Don’t be one; be generous, there is enough for all of us. It is a good thing to be generous; it is righteous. I should add that there is a huge difference between being righteous and being self-righteous (holier than thou). Don’t fall into the latter smugness!

Ha Makom– this means the place, but it is also another word for the Divine. In fact, the whole Torah is the name of the Divine. We are meant to create a place for the Divine to visit. The Israelites did this in the desert of Sinai. They built the Mishkan (Tabernacles). The Mishkan is from the word Shekhinah, the in-dwelling presence of the Divine that is in all people, a presence that Jewish mystical tradition also imagine as the feminine aspect of the Divine. She came into exile with us when we left the Garden. Clean your homes. Clean your streets. Wash yourselves. Prepare for the visit. Put your own food on your own table, but please, stop putting my food on your table, or even on my table and then claiming the place as yours and throwing me out of my home.

The Mishkan

Ecology and Holiness

You cannot have this unless you appreciate the planet as holy, not sinful, just to be endured. Did you really think the Divine created it for suffering? You have a very cruel G-d if that is the case. That is not the one we have. Treat this place with respect. Gratitude and appreciation. If you do not know your way around the Periodic Table of the Elements and have a grasp of atomic theory, then try prayer. We have written many you can use if you need. We have a prayer for everything. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. I do not like hearing about John the Baptist and his amazing idea of Baptism- wow where did he get that idea from? We have mikvehs. We still do. We still use them. We still celebrate the festivals. We still have a Sabbatical Year (yes, that is where that idea comes from) when we rest the land (Exodus 23). Do look.

Our particular role seems to be to tell you this and hope you will hear. We are all, every one of us, to do holy.

We are all meant to be stewards on the planet in partnership with creation, not in domination over each other. As we say in Mussar, which is a guide to developing good character (and yes, psychotherapy comes from it) “No less than my place; No more than my space.” Acknowledge mine and keep to yours.

Addendum- further help if interested

1 Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary- this is split into the weekly portions that are read along with their companion Haftorah (from Nivim or Khetuvim) published by JPS originally but now by the Rabbinical Assembly. It is in Hebrew and English with essays in English. Really worth a read

2 Before you say that the God of the Old Testament in fierce or whatever and tell me about original sin, which we don’t believe in, perhaps you should read Exodus 32:10 (just after the sin of the Golden Calf!).

We recite this quite a few times a year and we call this:

The 13 Attributes of Mercy:

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful before a person sins! Even though aware that future evil lies dormant within him.

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful after the sinner has gone astray.

– God (El)–a name that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.

– Compassionate (rahum)–God is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.

– Gracious (v’hanun)–God shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.

– Slow to anger (ereh apayim)–God gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.

– Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)–God is kind toward those who lack personal merits, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, God tips the scales of justice toward the good.

– Truth (v’emet)–God never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.

– Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)–God remembers the deeds of the righteous for thebenefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).

– Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)–God forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.

– Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)–God allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.

– Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)–God forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy.

– Who cleanses (v’nakeh)–God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent; however, if one does not repent, God does not cleanse.

3 Our God is the same one Jesus prayed to, but I don’t think it is the one Christians pray to (God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost). We are monotheists and do not do idolatry or images of God. We also do not pray to our prophets and they cannot be blasphemed as they are not God.

4 Blood Libel. If you read the Torah (our foundational text) you will see that we do not make human sacrifices. It is absolutely abhorrent. We also do not drink blood, any blood, and have a way of sacrificing animals for food that drains all the blood. Jesus would have known that.

Matzos, unleavened bread, were made first in the Exodus story, about 2000 years before Christians existed and 2500 years before Muslims existed, so I doubt Moses was making Matzos with the blood of Christian or Muslim children (just for the deeply stupid out there).

None of us make Matzos using blood as we don’t eat blood, any blood (black pudding is the most non-kosher of foods).

Christians, on the other hand, eat the flesh and drink the blood of their God each week, an idea most of us think is really yucky on many counts. Perhaps a Roman way of being and certainly not a Jewish one.

5 There are other commentators on the Tanakh (Bible) such as Heschel, Buber, Sacks, Steinslatz, Soloveitchik, R Nahmun, Rav Kook, Arthur Green, . Do try reading some of these before saying what is in the Tanakh and what it means.

6 There are many good websites such as My Jewish Learning. Don’t go to Christian ones or others before reading the people that practice it otherwise you are doing colonialism and bad Western anthropology.

Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich- Sounds of Heaven

A series of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on the theme of:

Belief and Beyond Belief

The belief in something greater than ourselves has preoccupied humanity for centuries. In this festival of music inspired by spiritual belief, we attempt to lay open the grandeur, enigma and conflict in our search for, and understanding of, the divine.
VLADIMIR JUROWSKI, PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR AND ARTISTIC ADVISOR, LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

I didn’t know the theme of the concert when I went to it. I like Steve Reich and was just up for the moment. Of course, midweek, you start to think about late nights and getting up for work the next day.

Well, if this is sacrifice, it was worth it!

This concert was as if I had been dropped into holiness. Sounds of heaven.

It started with Gavin Bryars- The Sinking of the Titanic- with voices of survivors. Old voices never to be heard again, immortalised. Beautifully performed by members of the Philharmonic Orchestra.

They went on to play Gavin Bryars- Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet sung by a tramp in the Elephant and Castle. The respect given to this made it a holy act, recognising the human in the other.

Even at the end of each piece the audience remained in silence to give space to the work. And then applause. And then Gavin Bryars got out of his seat just in front of us and took a bow. Oh! What a place to be. Composer, Gavin Bryars

Now I am never sure about going to concerts. With things like Spotify, I can enjoy music in the peace and privacy of my home without people coughing or nodding off to sleep next to me. I can understand why the man next to me fell asleep. Commuting to work, working, coming to an evening concert in the middle of the week and then getting home and to bed and back to work- yes, sleep comes easy.

But last night I really got it. Being there.

The Steve Reich work ‘For 18 musicians’ was just that. Eighteen musicians of incredible ability, concentration and fitness to have the stamina to play such a deceptive piece, sounding so simple, but so complex. It was choreographed with singers, pianists and percussionists moving from one instrument to the next with the woodwind giving the breath of life to the whole.

Image result for steve reich royal festival hall

We came out buzzing. The people we had sat opposite in the cafe in polite British silence before the concert, rocked up also full of enthusiasm, as if close friends, so moved by the event. I said, as she did at the same moment, how lucky I was to have been alive for this, to have been there to hear and see it.

And now I am listening at work on Spotify. I prefer the live version, but I am still moved. And I can see them all, performing with such care, such concentration, such ability and perfection. A holy act.

That in the middle of so much stupidity by so many humans there are some humans doing this. At moments like this I understand the claim that we humans really are in the image and likeness of God and that, if we all try, we are all capable of imitating holiness.

Such respect for sound, for art and for the ‘other’.

Sheer beauty.

 

Mortality OR Cancer- the Boolean Algorithm of Life!

Not the easiest title to  very contentious issues- preventing ageing, becoming immortal, regenerating ourselves and looking like 28 forever.

Image result for ageing

Cells in the human body come in a variety of types, there are about 206, such as skin cells, kidney cells, liver cells, bone cells and within these categories (skin, kidney, liver, bone) there are subgroups of cells.

For instance, in skin there are epithelial such as keratinocytes, melanocytes and connective cells such as fibroblasts. About 206 types of cells. Any of which can become aberrant and tumorous. That is part of the reason we do not have a one fix for cancer, which cell is cancerous has to be found, nor one check for cancer as each type of cancer appears in a different part of the body.

We cannot detect a cancer until there are about 1 gram of cells, which constitutes about 109 cells, which is a 1 with 9 zeros after it- a billion cells. There are 206 types of cells, but there are many cells of each of these types. We humans are composed of about 1013 cells, a one with 13 zeros, 10 trillion cells. So finding the correct cancer and detecting it early is not easy. If it was, we would have cured it ages ago.

However, what most people do not know is that cancers are probably changes in stem cells. There are about 206 types of cells in the body. These tend to be functional cells, the cells that do something, move oxygen, filter, waste, pump blood, digest food. While they do the stuff of life, the activities that keep us in what is called homeostasis, they get worn out by their work (as do we!) and can go through one of two possibilities, regeneration or death. On the whole they die. They are replaced by their other cells. These cells develop into the type of cell they are replacing, do their job, get worn out and die. All over the body this is happening. While you are reading this about 40 million cells in your body have died (about 60 billion cells die per day).  About 2,800,000 red blood cells die per second! They have to be replaced.

Stem cells are the cells that replace the worn out functional end cells, or terminal cells. Stem cells are the feeder cells. They don’t do the functions, the activities of the body. What they do is produce under-developed cells into the areas that need replacing. Blood stem cells (found in bone marrow) feed the appropriate number of cells into the various blood cell types. The cells develop through a number of cell divisions to become all the cell types of blood, red blood cells (erythrocytes), granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils), monocytes (macrophages), leukocytes (T cells and B cells) and platelets (thrombocytes). And that is just the cells of the blood. There are stem cells whose daughter cells make all the types of cells of the liver. There are stem cells whose daughters make most of the skin cells.

Stem cells live their lives as producers of cells that go on to produce more cells that actually do things. Stem cells are the producers of potential activities, but do nothing apart from produce cells that go on to realise their potential. Stem cells tend to have names such as Somatic Multipotent Cells or Embryonic Pluripotent Cells. These names describe the potential of the cells they give birth to.

Multipotent are stem cells such as the blood stem cells described above. They can give birth to daughter cells that can become different types of blood cells, but they don’t become muscle or skin or liver cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have more potential. The daughter cells can become all the types of cells of the body, all 206 types. But pluripotent cells are more primitive. They exist only in the first few days of life (days 5-14 post conception, post fertilisation). Very soon, the embryo pluripotent stem cells become more restricted. They become multipotent. They make daughters in one compartment of the body, the skin, the bone, the muscle, the liver.

This is the basis of life. Lots of potential and lots of realisation. Some cells have the potential, but do nothing much apart from give birth to cell that will do lots. Some cells do lots, but die.

Cancer is when the terminal cells, the functional cells, refuse to die and start to have the characteristics of earlier, less developed cells; lots of potential but no actualisation. In fact, we grade cancers by how ‘underdeveloped’ the cells are, how backwards they have gone in what they do. We call the development of mature features, the development of being functional ‘differentiation’. Stem cells and cancer cells are less differentiated, have become less different, undifferentiated.

We can live with potential, what we could have been, or we can live with realising our potential!

But being alive is being mortal.

‘And the clock waits so patiently on your song’.Image result for david bowie rock and roll suicide

 

 

At the moment there are some duff anti-ageing ‘research’. Some of it is being done by people who do not have much if any biology background (they are hiding that). They are the equivalent of an evangelical preacher who acts live The Prophet. There are a lot of them around talking nonsense, but saying what people want to hear. They have some rich backers. Because you have made a fortune in oil or tyre manufacture does not make you a genius.

We have a programme, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where people that have made money take a bet on other people’s money making ideas. It is a bet. They talk as if the people asking for cash input are stupid, but given that many of the panellists (the Dragons) have backed losers in their time, the crystal ball of predictions is as accurate for them as for the rest of us. Given that we have finally realised that economists are on the same level as crystal ball gazers, we might realise that rich people are not necessarily the font of all knowledge.  As they have made money they wish to be immortal. Immortality, in humans, is a sign of primitiveness;  lots of potential, but no differentiation, no actualisation.

Realise your potential and die. Please. Future generations do not want these people to live forever. They don’t want any of us around forever. They want vital alive people. People born with potential and realising it. Not people scared to move just in case they are run over by a truck or smile just in case they get a wrinkle.

Our job on this planet is to realise our own potential, the amazing things we can do. We can all do crap primitive stuff like killing people and destroying things. That is what children do. Destruction. Realising your potential is becoming adult, creative, growing up, caring. So please realise your potentials and help all people to realise theirs.

And then leave.

 

 

 

Maps : Finding ourselves and others

Recently I watched a wonderful programme on Channel 4 TV in the UK called ‘Keeping up with the Khans’ about immigration to the UK, specifically to a town called Sheffield. It had wit and charm and made every person into a human being.

There was one man on the programme from Lebanon. He had a problem finding his country on the map and was surprised to see how small it was.

He then could not find the UK. At first he thought that the USA was the UK. He then pointed to Turkey. He thought the UK was a lot bigger than it is. That thought was shared by another immigrant from the Sudan. He said it must be large because the UK is also called Great Britain, which logically should refer to size.  It seemed a good point. In fact, the UK fits into the state of Texas in the USA, not the USA, but just the state of Texas, about three times!

The  blue is the USA, the black is Texas and then it is enlarged to show the yellow, which is the UK, super-imposed on it to show the size of the UK in proportion to Texas and the USA.

The man from the Lebanon did not seem to realise that the UK is an island, a very small one at that. The man from Sudan had come over from Calais and knew the UK was an island.

Having a sense of the size of countries and the size of continents is very difficult if you haven’t seen comparative maps, if you only see your place in isolation, as it appears on a Sat Nav.

This is a map of the continent of Africa with many other very large countries super-imposed on it.

But on the news earlier the Swedish foreign minister when asked about migrant numbers said that the UK should do more as it is much bigger than Sweden. So I went on Professor Google!

The UK is about 94,000 sq miles (241,000 sq km) with a population of about 100 million and Sweden is about 175,000 sq miles (449,000 sq km) with a population of about 8 million. In my humble arithmetic, Sweden is about 2 times the size of the UK. And that is a foreign minister.

What is going on in our schools worldwide? Are none of us looking at maps? Are none of us seeing maps?

The problem with using Satellite Navigators (Sat Navs) in our cars or on our phones is that there is no context. You do not know where you are!

The algorithms of computers are not knowledge. They tell you what to do next so you don’t have to look or know anything much.

But maps reveal place and context. They also show size.

 

Image result for comparative size of europe and saudi arabia

 

 

This is for anybody that knows the above shapes are  a map of Europe with the Gulf states superimposed on it for size comparison. 

We need to look at maps to see where we are in relation to where other people are. It is a disgrace that our leaders cannot find the countries they are talking about or bombing on a map. They have no idea about where it is and what countries are next to them. Those being talked about or bombed also have little idea of where the place is that is doing that to them. Many political decisions rest on maps and we need to see them and understand ourselves in the context of others.

For instance, there is a mantra that many people repeat about a two state solution in the Middle East. But the areas they tend to talk about doing this to are not contiguous; they are not next to each other. They have no idea where anywhere is or the relation of one place to another or the size of the places and whether they are feasible because they have not looked at maps. Maps of the world. Maps of a region. Maps.

 

size-israel-uk

Comparison of the UK (in white) and Israel and the West Bank (in blue). The West Bank is the size of Dorset, a county (region) in the UK.

Two State Solutions

For instance: When the Muslim people living  in India fought for their own (Muslim) state the British Government  decided that a two state solution would prevent a civil war. There was to be a Muslim state and a Hindu state. in other words two countries based on religious belief. This process, which happened in 1947, was called Partition.

The British ceded the area now known as Pakistan, a huge, vast area, and another large, but smaller area that  was meant to be East Pakistan, as one Muslim state and India as the Hindu state.

However, Pakistan and East Pakistan are not contiguous. They are separated by a vast country, India, of which both the areas of Pakistan and East Pakistan originally formed a part. So of course the two state solution was geographically ungovernable as two countries (India and Pakistan West / East).

This tragic time ended up, instead, becoming a three state solution:

  • India
  • Pakistan,
  • Bangladesh.

Look at the map of the region.

Eight million people died during this partition. Nobody really talks about it.  Fourteen and a half million people were uprooted.

Not thousands, not tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. 14.5 million moved from one state to the other and 8 million died trying to move in 1947.

The disputed territory of Kashmir between the border of India and Pakistan is huge, 222,000 sq km, the size of the UK

Of course if anybody bothered to look they would also find that Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous.

  • Maps can be made showing geographical features such as valleys and mountains, oceans and lands.
  • Maps can be made showing political features, the borders and countries of the world.
  • Maps can be made showing population features, density of humans or other species of interest.
  • Maps can be made showing epidemiological features, the spread of diseases or traits.
  • Maps can be made of economic features showing the distribution of wealth or trade or tourism.
  • Maps can be made showing linguist features, the distribution of languages.
  • Maps can be made showing religious distributions or political-religious distributions as some countries are theocracies.

All countries have some theocratic history to them, when they were mainly one religion or another. Some have remained theocratic. My map, below, shows a religious distribution to the best of my colouring in abilities.

Unlike the man from Lebanon trying to find his mother’s house on a world map, you cannot see yourself on a map of the world. You are not the centre of all worlds. You are only the centre of your own selfie.

Maps give us perspective.

I think, in a world of platitudes and political decisions by people who have no idea where we are talking about, or what we are talking about, we need to look at maps.

Here is a map of the world (minus the Artic and Antarctic):

Countries by main religion

The countries in Red are predominantly Christian.

The countries in Green are predominantly Muslim.

The countries in Purple are predominantly Buddhist.

The countries in Yellow are predominantly  Hindu.

The countries in Blue are predominantly Jewish.

A little perspective goes a long way.

Trans – Converting – Changing versus Appropriation

I am a Londoner. I am not boasting; merely stating a fact.

I was born and raised in London. That makes me a Londoner. I have lived in other places. But being born and raised in London means that I am a Londoner.

If I go to live in Paris or Venice for instance, I will not be Parisian or Venetian and I would bet that you would not think I was and the people who are Parisian or Venetian would not think I was. I would be a British person (specifically a Londoner) living in another place. We cannot change where we were born. We can change nationality, become, for example,  French or Italian, but we always remain an incomer of the place we live in. I say this in a town where 80% of the inhabitants are incomers, from all over the UK and abroad. I find it amusing and sometimes irritating when incomers call themselves Londoners. I am sure that I would not be counted as a Liverpudlian (from Liverpool) or a Brummie (from Birmingham) or a Mancunian (from Manchester) or an Amsterdam-er or whatever if I went to live in their town.

I point out Amsterdam as an example, having met a person from Holland who had lived in various places and then moved to London and thought that she too was now a Londoner, in the same way that I was. Her ally, from Toronto thought the same. I found this very strange knowing it would not work the other way round.

We are quite selective about what we think we can appropriate from others and whether they can appropriate stuff from us.

When is it sharing cultures, being multicultural (ie being nothing!) or is it an act of committing plagiarism and cultural appropriation?

I just saw an Instagram from a friend about  white men having their hair in plaits or cornrows.

We all know those white European men that grow dreadlocks and talk with a Caribbean accent (I love Caribbean accents) and play reggae music. Who thinks they are Caribbean? Who thinks they are black? Who thinks that they have had to put up with the experiences of being black in a white culture?

Empathy does not change your skin colour or your history, your memories or your childhood.

My friend did not like this latest hair fashion/appropriation. He complained that they were taking his traditional African heritage. I know there are also all those blond German women in plaits in photos from the 1930s, but I can appreciate his point.

He is not alone in thinking it:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/tessah-schoenrock/2011/04/an-open-letter-to-white-people-with-dreadlocks/

White women in saris; what do we think?

And that trend for putting a Bindi on your forehead with no understanding of what it is, reducing a cultural mark to a fashion statement. Is that a good thing, making it a universal mark, or appropriation of somebody else’s culture in a clumsy colonialism?

https://www.indiacurrents.com/articles/2015/09/07/why-white-girl-wearing-bindi

 

 

baptism

Recently, I have met quite a few people that have wanted to or have converted to Judaism. I am not always sure what they think they are converting to or why. I think they are converting to a religion. Their problem is that their parents and families are not also converting so they can’t have those same moments of going home to a traditional Shabbat dinner with parents etc.

You cannot change your history quite as easily as you may re-write it.

The Rabbis of old had a longer view. They willingly accepted genuine converts, but argued about whether they were the same as the children of converts or their children. It takes a few generations to become. There is a saying: ‘Question: Who is a Jew? Answer: A person who has Jewish grandchildren’. It might rule a lot of us out, and in an age of instant gratification, it might not be a popular view, but it may be true. Think about it.

If I emigrate to Jamaica and am granted Jamaican citizenship, how Jamaican am I?  I don’t share those memories. How Jamaican would my child be given that I might still do very British things at home? But my child’s child, my grandchild, brought up by a person born in Jamaica and probably another parent of Jamaican origin, would be Jamaican in a way I could never manage. I accept that.

Growing up is a big part of becoming who you are. When do we stop being who we were? What are we allowed to do when we change, to become who we are or who we want to be? And what is change and what is appropriation?

There are many people that I have encountered that have converted to Judaism and then started to  become an ‘Uber-Jew’, more Jewish than any other Jew. They start using Yiddish expressions, like the white man growing his dreadlocks and talking patois. Yiddish is not Judaism. That would invalidate all the Mizrahi and Sepahardic Jews who don’t know a bagel from a kreplach.

You can convert to Judaism (the religion) and be called a Jew or a Jewish person, but you cannot convert to be Ashkenazi or Sephardi, or Mizrachi. You still have the culture and ethnicity of your birth.

I know of one friend of mine who did this; became Uber Jew. Eventually, I complained. Even if they became ultra-orthodox or found out they had a Rabbi for a grandfather they would never be as Jewish in the way as a born Jew, nor be from a particular group such as Ashkenazi or Sephardic. They did not grow up Jewish in a non-Jewish world. They grew up in a religion that was quite dominant in their world. So they did not feel like an outsider. It was not the culture of their parents  They did not suffer anti-Semitism. Their parents did not have to protect them from this. They did not hold their parent’s hopes that they would ‘marry in’. They did not feel obliged to keep the faith or chose to lose the faith. They chose to become something as an adult. They moved from one place to another. This friend is fully entitled to do that and I treat them as a Jew, but they can also move back, of course, while a born Jew can never stop being Jewish, even if they do not believe in Judaism.

A convert to Judaism, can be more religious, but cannot be more Jewish than a born Jew, even one eating a prawn sandwich on Yom Kippur, who doesn’t do Judaism, the religion. No amount of throwing around Yiddish expressions in a pastiche of being Jewish will change that. You know what everyone is thinking when they find out your parents were Episcopalian or Catholic or whatever. I can’t help that, but I know that.

So how much can you change yourself?

I ask this with the trans- gender debate going on. I think if you want to change your gender and you are over 18, that is your choice. If you feel like that who am I, or anyone else, to argue otherwise? But, and there is a very large but, you need to accept that you will never be as like the other gender as the people born of that gender. Even the lapsed ones!

If you are born female you will always be more female than a trans female. Even if you dress in very butch clothes, have cropped hair and look like a man, you have all the body of a female. A trans woman has not gone through the same adolescence, sexual maturation and fertility maturation as a born woman. You just have to accept that. A trans woman will never know what a period pain is, the worries and anxieties about having a period (or not) or the pain (or joys) of childbirth. A trans woman will never have the fears of ovarian or cervical cancer nor the undignified medical checks. A trans woman has not had the same expectations from her parents as a born woman.

What you want and what is do not always concur.

So born women may feel differently about their bodies as they were born with them rather than chose them.  They may have hated being given dolls and dressed in pink, but even in black jeans and train sets they are female. Their childhoods, while individual, will have had things in common that are different to trans women and to try to diminish that is insulting to women, just as the dreadlocked white man will never really know what it is like to be of African or Caribbean origin.

Trans women often feel more comfortable with other trans women. Why is that? Are all born women uncomfortable with them or are born women not sure about this ‘Uber female’ one that out-females them and is often more ‘feminine’ than any born female, but has not had the bodily experience, the fears and anxieties of born women. To deny the born women’s experience is an insult to born women.

If you are a female transitioning to male you too will not become able to be a fertile male, You cannot pretend otherwise. You cannot have gone through some of the passages that most born males have gone through. You have not gone through the expectations of parents for that gender, right or wrong.

So while I completely accept that people may want to change their gender, they need to respect the people who were born that gender as being of that gender in a way that they can never be.

I am a Londoner. I cannot change that even if I live somewhere else. I can become for example French by changing my nationality, but not Parisian or Marseille, and I can never even be French in the same way that a person born in France and going through a French school and family is. My memories of childhood are different. I have to accept that too. There are times I would love to be something else and perhaps I can become that. But I cannot change my past nor invalidate the past of others who I wish to emulate. I cannot be more like them then them.

Killing God

What happened in Paris on Friday night?

What do the gun men think they were doing?

KILLING GOD

Each and every one of us is in the image and likeness of God.

That is every human since the beginning.

Not just one group of humans.

Every human.

Every time you kill one of us you kill the God in us.

That is blasphemy.

How do you think God feels about that?

How do you think God is going to reward the destruction of creation?

In the name of God?   Really?

Let us bow our heads in shame.

Killing People is Easy

At this moment in time I am avoiding turning on the news. To hear of more murders and destruction takes the joy out of life.

Image result for news on tv

This morning I sat and looked out at the part of the planet I am on.

I could see the works of humans. Magnificent buildings and structures.

I am awe-struck that we humans produce such things and I do not use the word ‘awe’ in my conversation lightly (as in: that coffee is awesome, maybe because it is often awful). Awe is something I reserve for God-like actions.

I am also struck by the magnificence of the planet. I am not sure if you can have an objective measure of its magnificence or if humans are so adapted to it that we find home magnificent, but its beauty never ceases to amaze me.

That there are humans that make magnificent structures and have made them for millennium on this wonderful planet, that there are humans that celebrate its beauty, that add to it, these creations make those humans God-.like.

If you believe in God surely God would be very pleased with them.

So I find it hard to listen to the news with so much destruction and murder. Especially when it is done in the name of a God.

Especially when there is a claim that this is the right thing to do, as if some great intellectual feat had been accomplished by it.

As if this was a clever idea done by clever or sensible people with just cause. Especially when they say it was a hard decision!

You see killing people is easy.

I know there are all those stupid films where they talk about a ‘hard kill’, but it is ridiculously easy to kill people.

We have been killing people for millennia in the same manner that we can kill any living thing.

It does not take brains or brawn to kill.

In fact, the more stupid and weedy you are the easier as there are so many weapons out there for the incompetent.

A child can kill by picking up a gun and shooting it.

How hard it that?

How intelligent is that?

How magnificent is that?

Image result for guns

You can even kill people by accident, in a car crash for example. Without planning. Without intent.

You can kill people perversely or by torture, with much pain and suffering. We all know that this is not justice; it is not on the side of right. It is psychotic. You are not a judge or a righteous person. You are a psychopath.

You can kill people by neglect and abandonment, by lack of care.

Oh it is so easy to kill people, any fool can do it.

Why would I want to watch such childish stupid on the news or on a film? Why would you want to do that? What sort of a pervert are you that you play killing games? Grow up. Leave the base animal behind.

Killing people is easy, it is for the stupid, the dull, the base.

What is really, really hard to do is to help people to live,

It is especially hard to help them to live well.

That takes effort, care, love, intelligence, righteousness.

That is God-like.

That is human.

That is magnificent.

Image result for care

Killing 52 (+4) Universes- The 7/7 bombings

Image result for big bang

The Torah is a remarkable book. It outlines a creation story, how the universe came to be, and that it all starts with nothing. There is no universe, it is null and void. And then God says ‘Let there be light’. Sounds a bit like the Big Bang; this sudden creation of something.

It took Copernicus another 2500 years to find out that the Earth goes round the Sun, not the other way round. In other words, the whole planet Earth on which we live is not in the centre of this solar system, let alone the universe. This means that humans are not the centre of the universe. They are not the founders of it and they are not the centre of it.

Image result for planet earth from space

As we humans are not the centre of the universe,  we might get to thinking that we are so insignificant that each one of us does not matter, we are disposable.

 

 

The Torah says all the living things on this planet are created from this planet Earth and that humans are created also from Earth. The name Adam means red, the red earth.  All things, including living things, are therefore material (matter) which means we are all chemical beings.

But all things also have what the Kabbalists (the mystics) would say, a spark of the divine. So all material things are chemical, but also have the sparks of creation (the Big Bang) in them.

When humans are created, we emanate from God, according to the Torah, so we too have those sparks in, the sparks of the Divine or the energy of the Big Bang, if you prefer.

However it says in the Torah, we humans are also created after ‘the likeness and in the shadow of God’.

Humans, have a lot of sparks of the divine, but not only the sparks, they are in a similar spirit to God, in the shadow and likeness. This makes humans very special, very dear to God.

The Rabbis say that to kill a human is to kill a universe. You are killing what they are, their life; and you are killing what they could become; their potential. You are cutting off the sparks and the spirit.

I say this as we have just commemorated the 7/7 bombings in London, which occurred on the 7th of July 2005, ten years ago.

Fifty two (+4) human lives were obliterated.

Fifty two (+4) universes wiped off the planet.

All things are precious.

All living things are very precious.

Humans are in the shadow and likeness of God.

Killing humans is killing the likeness of God.

That is blasphemy.

Adam and Eve did not belong to a religion or tribe or cult. That is the beauty of these passages in the Torah. They were not Jewish, Christian or Muslim or anything. They were ‘every-human’.

adam and eveAdam and Eve are the first humans. However they arose, by Creation or by Evolution, they are the parents of us all. That is what the Torah is saying. All human life descends from them, either because God created them or Evolution evolved them.

If you believe in Evolution, then each one of us is descended from our same ancestors. We are all related, one species. Killing any one of us is obscene. You are murdering your family members. Each and every one of us is related, regardless of tribe or belief. The Torah is saying the same thing.

If you believe that God created humans then killing their descendants, any one of us, is blasphemy. How dare you? How dare you say you believe in God and then try to kill God; to kill God’s spirit; to kill us humans? We are all in the shadow and likeness of God.

To kill a human is to kill a universe; a created or evolved universe, an emanation of the Divine or of Evolution, a descendant of God or of our common ancestors.  A spark of the Divine or of the Big Bang, whichever you prefer.

Each and every one of us came from the same place.

Each and every one of us is precious.

It is not for you, or for any one of us to think or to act otherwise.

 

Blame and blaming- owning your mistakes

I love fashion even though I do not look like a person that loves fashion. I have always looked at fashion magazines such as Vogue and love going through high end fashion shops. I do not want most of the clothes I see. I would look ridiculous in them. It would be a travesty of what the designer had in mind! I just love that humans come up with this stuff. I suppose it is to do with loving beauty.  I think the Taj Mahal is beautiful. I do not want to live there or own it or have my own place look like it. That would look terrible. So on Tuesday night two things conflated that brought me out to a talk. One was fashion and the other was Torah.

John Galliano, as you probably know, is a brilliant fashion designer. Now, unlike the TV programme ‘Dragon’s Den’, I do not think that because you are successful in one field you will be able to comment on other fields. In the TV programme people who are successful in their business advise others. However, most of the panel have also been very unsuccessful too. They have had ideas and businesses collapse. As my father used to say, ‘not every day is yom tov’ (Not every day is a great day/not everyday goes your way).

John Galliano is a brilliant fashion designer. He is not a brilliant person. I shan’t be asking him about philosophy or theology or science. He fell from grace quite publicly by having a drunken anti-Semitic rant in Paris a few years ago. It got recorded on a mobile phone. It was not his only anti-Semitic drunken rant. He was the head designer at Dior. Quite rightly, they sacked him. He is not above the law or separate from it.

Last night, three synagogues in central London had a talk about clothes and he was one of the speakers. Rabbi Marcus had been instrumental in his, shall we say, rehabilitation. The Rabbi and Galliano had been meeting and talking about Judaism and being a Jew, a complex set of issues that most Jews do not have a handle on, let alone a person who has anti-Semitic rants. So I went along to hear. Fashion and Torah. Some of my favourite things together. Fab.

It had been set up as some talks first and then a panel discussion with him, Galliano. I went to a talk by Maureen Kendler which was entitled ‘A Biblical what not to wear’. It was a great talk. She talked about how we use clothes either to show how we are feeling, to show our roles in society or to deceive. She used incidents in the Bible to illustrate this and how deceptive they can be. Clothes as signifiers. It was very funny and insightful. She said even when you say you are not interested in clothes, you just throw something on, that too is saying something about how you see clothing. Also, when people disguise themselves in stories, for instance the king dressing as a pauper and going out among his people, it always works! Nobody ever says in those stories ‘you remind me of the king’! Clothes as deception. Great stuff from a great speaker.

The panel discussions was less great. Rabbi Marcus gave a very good opening talk on forgiveness. It set a wonderful tone. Unfortunately, it was not kept up and a great opportunity for an insight into a creative mind was also not realised. I wanted to know what fuels his ideas, how much he reacts to what is around him, how he can change styles/houses from Dior to Maison Margiela, what clothes mean for him, how he decides what to wear,  and things of that nature. However, what has prompted me to write this post was to do with blame, rather than the fashion for which he is known and an expert.

Galliano spoke after the Rabbi. He said that he was an alcoholic and an addict. I think that he thought being an addict would excuse his behaviour. He said that after his on camera outburst he had been forced to withdraw (he was sacked from his job at Dior) and had time to reflect on his crazy work load and life. He had returned to God. I was intrigued by his move to a spiritual life and that he now realised he was not in charge, God was. But I found it a bit disingenuous. I don’t know if he had now decided it was all to do with God, that God was responsible for his choices. I think that may have been at the root of what he was saying. I thought that was very disingenuous, first addiction, now God.

You see, I didn’t hear an apology for being a racist. I heard an acceptance, by him and by the Rabbi, of his having said racist comments . But what really annoyed me was that he blamed the alcohol. Naughty wine. But the wine didn’t have those thoughts. The words didn’t come from the wine into his mouth. They can from his thoughts, his brain, into his mouth. The bottle did not make him believe in faries, or demons or that Jews are to blame. The wine merely reduced the filter, the barrier between what we thinks and what we says. The wine made him less inhibited. He said what he thought. Those thoughts were in him, not in the bottle. He blamed the wine. He needed to blame himself. Until you take responsibility for your own feelings and actions you cannot resolve them, you cannot grow up, you are stuck blaming others.

Many years ago I heard a scientist from Ghana talking about environmental issues. He said in Africa they are still blaming the West and slavery and that until Africa owned its own problems it would never grow up and deal with its issues and problems. I thought this a very brave statement. Of course what the West did was terrible. There is still slavery in Africa and the Africans need to own that. Britain has said sorry (Belgian and Spain haven’t). Terrible things were done. But you cannot live like that. A mere 60 years ago the Holocaust happened and the Germans (and others) were responsible. However, Jews and Israel are living now. They talk with Germany and Germans. They do not assume all Germans are Hitler. They have built new homes and wear new clothes and start new lives and new jobs. They do not say when a business fails or they fail an exam or a relationship breaks up  ‘it is the fault of the Nazis’. That would give Hitler more power than he should ever have. When you fail your exams it is you that failed or caused you to fail. Not the whites, Not the blacks, Not the Jews.

Galliano needs to look a lot deeper into himself to find out where his racist stupid comes from and stop blaming the wine. In vino veritas. He said what he thought. Why does he think so much stupid racist stuff in the first place? Where did he learn that? Surely that is where he should look? He tried to absolve himself of his addiction, it too was also not his fault. I wondered whether he was going to blame the Jews for that too. He tried to blame the press as if reporting something caused it ( a sort of cause-effect reversal in time; interesting physics, but I think not). He tried to blame his work load as if that was your fault. He tried to blame everything, like a child. But he had publicly blamed the Jews, while it was him that was being racist.

No Mr Galliano, you are a great designer, but you need to take the blame for your stupid racist remarks. You need to say sorry. The wine didn’t do it.