When two men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined … But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25)
The text describes a scene in which a pregnant woman is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she is accidentally injured. But what sort of injury is it? The Torah portion considers two cases: first, that the trauma is to the fetus, and the injury causes the woman to miscarry; second, that the trauma results in some other kind of injury to the woman herself.
In the history of Jewish interpretation, these verses have been understood to indicate a clear distinction between the potential life of an embryo or fetus, and the life of a living human being like the pregnant woman. The distinction is seen in the difference between the punishments: in the first scenario the penalty for the loss of the fetus is only monetary, while in the second scenario the death of the pregnant woman would be a capital crime. That essential distinction — that a fetus, while precious, is not equivalent to a fully formed human life — lays the foundation in later Jewish law for a relatively permissive view of abortion. Because pikuach nefesh, the “saving of a human life,” always takes precedence in Jewish law over other concerns, the morality of abortion in Judaism is always tied to the welfare of the pregnant woman.
It’s unlikely Sanders will win the nomination. But sooner or later, if trends inside the Democratic Party continue, a secular candidate will. Whether or not that candidate is Jewish, his or her secularism will constitute America’s cultural frontier. Today, only 58 percent of Americans say they would vote for an atheist for president. (A lower percentage than say they would vote for a Muslim). Given the greater secularism of America’s young, that number should rise but it will remain a massive hurdle for years, if not decades to come.
Bernie Sanders’ success in Iowa thus poses a fascinating cultural question. The question is not whether Americans would elect a Jew. They would. It’s whether Americans would elect a Jew who eschews Judaism. The answer divides the two parties today, and may well for a very long time.
My mother lost her niece on Wednesday, and her body was flown up to Seattle yesterday. I am completely unfamiliar with Sephardic Orthodox funeral services, shiva etc. If anyone on Jumblr can help me out by letting me know what I can expect, that would be lovely.
In this haggadah, “God” is understood as energy–an energy that is both transcendent (beyond us) and immanent (within us). In its transcendent form, this energy lives in comets sparkling through the sky… And fish, swimming in the sea. It is visible in a plum rounding on the bough… And the tendrils of a seed, unfurling in the ground. It is heard in the babble of babies… And the wise words if elders. We feel it in the coolness of the night… And the heat of the day. It keeps billions of galaxies from colliding… And builds a single grain of sand from a trillion molecules.
Voicing doubts is not only legitimate in the Talmud, it is essential to study. To a certain degree, the rule is that any type of query is permissible and even desirable; the more the merrier. No inquiry is regarded as unfair or incorrect as long as it pertains to the issue and can cast light on some aspect of it.
In Jerusalem on Temple Mount where the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock stands today the Great Temple of Jerusalemonce stood. The first Temple was built by Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
A newer smaller temple was built under the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia in 538 BCE. In 20 BCE during the Roman period it was completely rebuilt in grand style by Herod the Great. It was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. In 386 CE the Roman emperor Julius ordered it to be rebuilt but a great earthquake destroyed it and it was believed that God has spoken against building a new temple while the land of Palestine was under foreign rule.
In the temple there were many rooms but deep within the sanctuary was a room with no windows. It was said that the Ark of the Covenant was there. There was also the secret name of God made of 72 letters known only to the priests. Nobody was permitted to enter it aside from one priest once a year on Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. If anyone else were to enter they would be struck dead by the power of God.
In 70 CE the emperor Vespasian and his son General Titus tore the veil to the holy of holies and full of trepidation entered the sacred precinct only to find … nothing. They laughed and set about sacking the rest of the temple wealth. Nothing happened to them. They were not struck dead. God’s supposed home on Earth was just a dusty windowless room. An empty room.
There is a lesson here though I am not sure what it is.
If we move beyond the concept of God, and instead take a Kabbalistic approach which discusses the Ein Sof, i.e. the Infinite, we realize that everything is permeated or constituted by Ein Sof because of its limitless nature.
The Jewish religious responsibility is to recognize this divine reality by performing mitzvot and reciting blessings. By doing this, one repairs the world both in the literal sense that the Kabbalah teaches, but also for oneself by recognizing the fundamental unity of reality, i.e. coming to recognize “God,” the Ein Sof, in everything and everyone.
The recognition, both intellectual and intuitive/emotive, of the underlying unity of existence is what constitutes salvation in Judaism; it’s not otherworldly in the sense of going to heaven, but this worldly in the sense of creating a just society and being in harmony with God/Ein Sof. The person who engages in this process understands the interdependent nature of reality and the importance of their own actions in restoring/preserving the unity of that reality in a way that doesn’t harm others and allows them to achieve an understanding of that unity as well.
Of course, as liberal Jews we don’t perform the mitzvot in the way that Orthodox Judaism has understood them. The task of liberal Judaism is to engage the tradition and determine those things that help us recognize Ein Sof in our lives, which can be discovered through personal experience, Jewish liturgical traditions, the moral values of Judaism, and the godly traits demonstrated through the sefirot and other theological traditions as far as possible. The task is to determine which parts of the tradition can lead to an understanding and experience of the Ein Sof and which are no longer helpful in that pursuit, and this will inevitably be different for different people.
Shabbat is a weekly reminder to reaffirm the sanctity of life by resting, drinking wine, eating delicious food, lighting candles, and joining others in reflection on our values in the prayer service. I hope you all have a wonderful Shabbat as we take time to affirm those things which make our lives meaningful and holy.
Do something about antisemitic hate mail, general antisemitism, and staff response on Tumblr!
For too long, Jews on Tumblr have had to deal with antisemitic hate mail, general antisemitism, and a mediocre staff response to our complaints. We have many anecdotes of antisemitism that we experience on tumblr, but we do not have data. Data can be more powerful than anecdotes when trying to convince companies such as Yahoo and Tumblr to change their ways. This is why I have created a survey about antisemitism on Tumblr (most specifically hate mail). Whether you are converting to Judaism, openly Jewish on Tumblr, or a not openly Jewish Jew your responses to this survey are powerful.
Here’s your Sunday #goodread to wrap up the weekend:
Meet Rafi Daugherty, a Jewish trans man who recently gave birth to a new baby, Ettie Rose. This profile is the lovely story of Rafi navigating coming out to a religious community, giving birth, (single) parenthood, and keeping his Jewish faith as a trans man. Here’s how the article starts:
When Rafi Daugherty went to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he posted a sign on the delivery room door.
“I am a single transgender man having my first baby,” it read. “I use he/him/his pronouns and will be called ‘Abba’ (Hebrew for father) by the baby. Papa, Dad, Daddy, Father … are also ok.”
“I didn’t want them to assume that I identified as female because I was having a baby,” he said.
After eight hours of labor, Rafi was holding his 7-pound, 10-ounce daughter: Ettie Rose, named, in the Jewish tradition, for Rafi’s maternal grandmother and great-grandmother.
Rafi, 33, wanted hospital staff to be prepared for what they were about to see: a man laboring in bed.
The story is gorgeous and gives a small snippet of Rafi’s incredible journey. Amazing, truly. Congratulations to this beautiful family.
How are there people who don’t think American tail is about Jews? The first fucking scene is Chanukah! You hear them playing with dreydls and then they give gifts. It’s not even a metaphor, it’s just Jewish mice. Explicitly so. Oy.
This shit pisses me off so much. This is a Christian bible being passed off as a Jewish Bible in the Jewish section of Books-A-Million. Less than three feet away was a section filled with at least 30 different kinds of Christian bibles. Meanwhile half of the meager shelf of Jewish books have something to do with Christianity, or were just Christian books about how to incorporate Jewish practices into Christianity. Why do Christians always feel the need to convert Jews using these dishonest tactics, or to appropriate Judaism for themselves? Seriously, this is nothing more than a lie. Christians just need to step off.