Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fighting Slander

Anonymous wrote in his/her comments: "I accept that you are hopeless, but do not wish your twisting of a faith you obviously lied to join (there is no way a rabbi would convert you with your beliefs had you been truthful) to go unchallenged."

I find the attitude of this person condescending and somewhat offensive but this comment of theirs really got my hackles up and needs and deserves a response of it's own lest there be any misunderstanding. I bound myself to Judaism and the Jewish people with informed intent and honesty of spirit and will not allow this slander to go unchallenged. Does he/she not realize that people evolve in their beliefs over time or did they and everybody they know stop evolving at some point and have exactly the same beliefs they did 10 years ago? I didn't and don't.

I converted back in 1996 after 5 years of studying on my own and with various rabbis; not because I went from rabbi to rabbi getting turned down for conversion (before Anonymous accuses me of that) but because I wanted to see what denomination would be the most comfortable and realistic for me. Realistic I got, comfortable I didn't, not really. I would have gone Orthodox had I been living on my own since that is where I felt most comfortable at the time and for several years but reality bites. I am not in contact with any of those rabbis anymore since their lives moved on as did mine including physical relocation.

The person who is the rabbi of the congregation my husband and I attend, when we can, is my rabbi by virtue of the fact that she is the spiritual leader of the synagogue closest to us that we are comfortable with - which is Conservative btw. It has very little to do with what she thinks of my beliefs - we've never had the opportunity nor has she ever apparently felt the need to discuss them (or she would have dropped me an email or called me) and there wasn't an entrance interview when we started attending. We've tried to get together at some time other than Shabbat or yom tovim since there are things I would like to talk to her about on all sorts of Jewish topics but between not being able to leave Dad alone that long and the toll travel takes, it hasn't happened. As it is, when we do get to go down for Shabbat services, we go down and come back in the same day - 9 hours of driving for an hour long service. A few slices is better than no loaf at all. If I were to claim any rabbi as my spiritual leader it would be Rabbi Jill Hammer of Tel Shemesh although we have never met, there's little chance we will any time soon, and although we've corresponded I don't think she'd remember me.

I converted Reform for practical reasons and the rabbi I studied with for my conversion was very much aware that my adoption of Judaism wasn't because I was so much enamoured of Judaism per se as it was the organized religion that best fit my beliefs and fulfilled my needs and that I felt I needed the cradle of an organized religion. He, the senior rabbi and the third gentleman who sat on my bet din were apparently cool with that. Judaism still is the organized religion that most closely reflects my beliefs although that reflection is somewhat more indistinct now than it was then.

Anonymous can accept this explanation or not at their pleasure but that is what happened. I entered Judaism in good faith and I will not allow slander to go unanswered.

Response to Anonymous

I was going to put this in a comment in response to Anonymous's comments but realized as I constructed my answer that it would make a decent post and deserved to be more in the open than buried in comments to a post where it might get missed.

To Anonymous:

Finally, some comments that address at least some of the points I made. First of all though, my smug comment (as you put it) is directed at evangelical Christians who I have more experience with than Jews who might hold this opinion. I was referring to Christianity's and Islam's belief that they are the only right way to relate to the One. There is no way I would have given Judaism a second look if it did have that attitude.

With that out of the way, I had to chuckle at your intention to 1) dismiss and 2) expose me. I wasn't aware that I was trying to be concealed - if I was, I wouldn't be writing this blog. As far as dismissing me or others like me goes - good luck. You'll meet with some success especially in conventional circles but those of us who have wandered on to this track tend to be strong willed and willing to be different and one only has to search the web to see how more people are finding their way over here. Maybe conventional Judaism needs to be asking why some people are going in this direction rather than trying to dismiss us or complain about it. Ignoring things doesn't tend to work real well.

You have a problem with Jewitchery being seen as Jewish in any way but you still have not addressed the issue I presented in one of my early entries - What are the parameters of Judaism? With all of it's variations, when does Judaism stop being Judaism? As I've said before, that line is different with different Jews or 'denominations'. There was a time when Jewish Renewal or Reform Judaism was so unconventional that it was treated in much the same way you are treating Jewitchery. Now they are more or less mainstream.

By the way, although you are essentially correct that Judaism frowns upon paganism, I get the impression that you are not that well educated on the various forms of paganism including probably the difference between panentheism and pantheism - a situation I suggest you correct if you intend to debate with those who do consider these things and how they may or may not mesh with Judaism. It is not an uncommon belief in the pagan community (including and most notably in Wicca) that all the gods are merely the masculine aspect of the One, all the goddesses are the feminine aspect and that there is One Source. That isn't that far from Judaism - they just break down the attributes of the Almighty into different pieces for the human mind to wrap itself around. After all, the first of the Ten Commandments is not infrequently translated as "You shall not have other gods *before* Me" and Torah is rife with references to other gods and Hashem's supremacy over them. Is Hashem just a more powerful diety among many or, as I prefer to see it - the Source that other cultures divided into separate entities in order to get a grip on the Divine influence in their lives? Abraham's spiritual genuis was in recognizing that there is only One but I also believe that the human mind has to break down the One in order to have a relationship due to our inherent limitations. Even Judaism has done this via the Etz Chayim and Sephirot. Is there anything that is not Hashem? The answer I've been given by rabbis is "No".

You seem to be incensed that I feel that I have the freedom to define my own spiritual life and encourage others to do the same. That I state that the bedrock of that spiritual life is Judaism and have the audacity to make the claim that I am Jewish even as I step outside the conventional boundaries of it. You state that I have no standing to come into Judaism and change it in regards to paganism; I do have the right and duty of every Jew though to wrestle with Judaism and perhaps find different aspects than the usually highlighted ones and come to different conclusions than other Jews. Who are you to say otherwise?

Not all rabbis (who obviously were ordained by somebody in one of the 'denominations' - did they lie in order to obtain their smicha?) translate Shemot 22:17 the way you do although more do accept your conventional translation of not suffering a witch to live. See Rabbi Gershon Winkler's book _Magic of the Ordinary_. Convention and predominance of an opinion isn't everything although I am aware that that attitude is also not common in the evolution of Judaism.

As far as the Talmud quote goes on the blog, I adopted it from another Jewitch who seems to know her stuff and I verified that it is from JT Kiddushin 4 (66c). Although we are not using it in the context it's presented in Talmud, the words are there. Talmud may not generally be referenced in chaper and verse form but looking at the Soncino software it seems the easiest to me and probably anyone else not traditionally trained in reading Talmud. Not everybody, especially women, are so lucky as to recieve a traditional Jewish education.

BTW, FWIW, I did look up San. 56, 60 and 67. Most of the discussions don't apply as idolatry and appropriate methods of killing a witch are not at issue, 67b addressed the idea that the practice of magic diminishes the Almighty by not giving due credit for the source of the ability to do magic which is not an issue in my case and there was one other page that listed the various magics one is not to perform which I found interesting especially since some of those things have been long standing aspects of Jewish folk magic. Maybe those who did so were technically bad Jews but it is part of Jewish culture like it or not.

You may consider me a coward for not talking to the rabbi of the synagogue I attend about this stuff but frankly since you don't have the courage to sign a name I don't know why I should care about what you think of my courage. Personally, I think it takes more courage to do what I've done than to merely take the word of a rabbi especially one who really doesn't know me or the situation. I don't claim that Jewitchery is conventional Judaism and if someone is going to consider conventional Jews as the only legitimate Jews then I and others like me don't fit your view. Fortunately you don't speak for all of Judaism.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Value of an Oppositional Viewpoint

In the comments on Purim you will find a back and forth between me and Anonymous over Judaism and his/her claim that the incorporation of pagan elements is antithetical to Judaism. As much as I did not appreciate the apparent single mindedness of this individual and their condescension, I did enjoy the fencing. Ironically, I think the exchange had absolutely the opposite effect that this person desired and rather than making me feel guilty for my point of view it helped me clarify where I stood on some issues which is not to say that if they had actually addressed the issues I raised that they would not have been able to change my mind. I have to thank Myfanwy again for her support - it is interesting how 2 people, 1 in favor of my explorations and 1 against, can both help me find my way.

The exchange also made me a little sad at how this person, someone apparently strong in their convictions, could only advise me to go talk to my rabbi. Maybe I'm just more willing than some people to give someone the benefit of my thoughts and rightly or wrongly believe that they have some merit but I at least feel a responsibility to assist others on their spiritual journeys and am unwilling to pass the buck to a clergy type personage. Whether somebody has been ordained or not doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their effectiveness or suitability as a spiritual guide.

Frankly, with few exceptions, as long as it is a belief system that does not seek to harm others, I will support anybody's spirituality. It means more to me that someone actually takes stock of themselves and develops a relationship with the Divine and hopefully takes positive action stemming from that relationship than what creed or rituals they subscribe to. This is why I feel equally comfortable creating Pagan altar cloths and Book of Shadows, Jewish tallitot and kippot and lace Christmas ornaments and crosses. If I saw a place where I could be of service creating things of beauty that would aid in a Muslim's relationship with Allah and the true expression thereof I wouldn't have a problem doing so.

Being a spiritual person is difficult enough in this day and age and I feel that we all have a responsibility to help each other out even if that means serving as a foil for someone else's beliefs. I guess it also goes along with the fact that I believe in an essentially understanding and merciful Diety who would rather that we use the brains and spirit S/He gave us than do/believe something just because some other human being told us to. I cannot put it better than was put in Kingdom of Heaven ". . . But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say "but I was told by others to do thus" or that "virtue was not convinient at the time." This will not suffice. Remember that."

As you have figured out by now, I'm pretty ecumenical; one of the few things I cannot stand is evangelism and the attitude that "there is only one true way and I have it" with the corrollary that they will 'help' you to salvation; respectful presentation of a differing point of view is something else entirely. One of the jokes in my family is that when my mother said "let me *help* you" you ran the other way. I love Mom dearly but she was and is a strong willed person and sometimes, as with just about anybody, she felt she knew what was needed and by God, it was going to happen. :) Thankfully she's mellowed a bit. Perhaps I am more able to puzzle my way through spiritual matters and have more confidence in my relationship with the Almighty than most people and therefore am willing to take risks with my soul by making up my own mind that most people wouldn't but I don't want to believe that this is the case. It disturbs me though how many people don't want to be exposed to ideas outside their comfort zone. How can one make a decision without being presented with various facets of the issue? Then again, perhaps me being a Gemini has something to do with my comfortability with various viewpoints.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rosh Chodesh Ritual

May it be Your will, our Source and Source for our foremothers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May everyone have a blessed month of Nisan. Here's my ritual for Rosh Chodesh. Much of it is my own work but pieces have been gleaned from various sources. I have tried to give credit when I have incorporated somebody else's words or ideas except when it's traditional text. If I have missed giving someone their due I apologize. Feel free to use it but if you repost it or pieces of it to the web please let me know and give me due credit. Thanks.

red, white, green & black candles
scented silver or white roundish floating candle or unscented one anointed with properties of renewal or specific intent for the month

pottery bowl filled with water

chalice filled with wine

place candles at the cardinal directions - N red, E white, S green, W black

around the bowl holding the water & floating candle

cleanse and consecrate space*

I (insert name) set aside this time and place for . . .
acknowledging the turning of the wheel,
and for the welcoming of the moon,
as she returns from her darkness to bring us light.

May I be protected in this place
from all who would interfere or wish me ill
and may all the elements of this place,
in all it's dimensions,
lend the strength of their song to my praise and petition.

*At each evocation light the candle at the appropriate direction*

I call to the North, where Fire dwells, where things are without form, where it takes the qualities of Gabriel, angel of strength and courage, to walk, and I call upon Mother Rivkah, she who gave divine intuition form, to come and bear witness to this rite and give me her aid - so that I may hear the still, small Voice and make the ways of Ruach ha-Kodesh manifest in this time and place.

I call to the East, the realm of Air, where things begin to coalesce, where Uriel's light and clear vision are gifts of great value, and I call upon Mother Leah, whose weak eyes caused her turn inward and find the wisdom that lies there; I beg her presence at this rite and the gift of her aid so that I too may see the wisdom that lies within.

I call to the South, the dominion of Water, where things crystallize and all things are renewed, where Michael, mal'ch Ha-Rachaman, holds court, to seek Mother Sarah, who was renewed as her womb swelled with new life, and ask her to bless this rite with her presence and grant me the gift of her aid, that what is inspired and visualized may take on form and that I may find the Wellspring of renewal in my times of thirst.

I call to the West, Earth’s own ground, where things find purpose and take root, where Rafael tends and heals those who pass that way, and call to Mother Rachel, who waits like the roots of an ancient tree for the sign of spring, the sound of her children’s return, so that her spirit may rise yet again; I bid her to come to this rite and to grant me the gift of her aid, that what has been created may take on life and that tikkun olam may be manifested through these prayers and acts.

I call to the heavens and the earth, to the universe and the void and evoke Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence of the Holy One, that She may come and look with favor upon this ritual, blessing me, a daughter of the house of Israel, as She has blessed Her people Israel.

So be it
correspondences - Rabbi Jill Hammer

We are keepers of the flame, Eshet lapidot,
Like Devorah, we make the wicks for
the Mishkan's eternal light
And kindle the fires of holy time.
Fire transmutes substance,
Grain into bread,
Clay into pot,
Cold into the warmth of the hearth.
With this flame we honor Shekinah,
Mother and Creator,
And we initiate this holy day, Rosh Chodesh.
- Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Barucha at Shechinah, Ruach Ha-olam, goleil or mipnei choshech, v’choshech mipnei or
Source of blessings are You, Shechinah, Spirit of the World, who removes light before darkness and darkness before light

Barucha at Shechinah, Ruach Ha-olam, borei mi-orei ha-eish
Source of blessings are You, Shechinah, Spirit of the World, who creates fire.

Barucha at Shekinah ha-m'kadeshet o-tanu u'm'hadeshet o-tanu al yadei hadlakat ner shel Rosh Chodesh
Blessed are You, Shekinah, who consecrates us and renews us through the lighting of the fires of Rosh Chodesh.

*Light floating candle*

With this light I inaugurate the month of . . .
Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul

Barucha at Yah, Ruach Ha-olam, matzmichat p’ri hagafen.
Source of blessings are You, Holy One, Spirit of the World, Who ripens fruit on the vine.
adapted from Marcia Falk

Barucha At Yah, Mekor Ha-chayim, she-hech-e-yat-nu, v’ki-ye-mat-nu, v’hi-gi-atnu lazman hazeh.
Source of blessings are You, Holy One, Wellspring of life, Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time

Y’hi ratzon shet’chadeish aleinu hachodesh (insert month),
May the Holy One inaugurate for us this month of (insert month);

l’tova v’livrachah, l’sason ul’simchah,
for good and for blessing, for joy and for happiness,

l’shalom v’achavah, rei’ut v’ahavah,
for peace and fellowship, companions and love,

la’avodah v’tzirah, parnasah v’khalkalah,
for work and creation, livelihood and sustenance,

l’halvat hanefesh uvri’ut haguf, l’chayim shel derekh eretz v’ahavat torah,
for serenity of spirit and soundness of body, for a life of earthways and love of Torah,

v’l’chayim sheyimal’u bam mish’alot libeinu l’tovah.
and for a life in which heart desires will be fulfilled for the good.
Hebrew by Marcia Falk

*insert other workings and/or meditations here*

*At each farewell extinguish the appropriate candle - W, S, E, N*

Mother Rachel, you have witnessed the exile of your children and rejoiced at each one’s return, at the tender sprouts of goodness emergent in this world. I thank you for your presence and the gifts you have given. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Sarah Imanu, first of the Matriarchs, you have known renewal in the deserts of life and seen your dreams take form, I thank you for your presence here and your gifts shared. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Mother Leah, you see what is hidden from most - the design of wisdom within the cloud of the obvious, You have my gratitude for your presence and your gifts. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Mother Rivkah, woman of fire and spirit, you took what could not be seen or felt but only intuited and turned it into action. You have graced my ritual with your presence and granted me the gift of your aid; for this I thank you. Stay if you will, go if you must, but until I call upon you again, shalom.

Shechinah, exiled Spirit of the Holy One, you have ever walked with the people Israel. dwelling in the tents of our mothers Sarah and Rivkah, in the Mishkan, in the Beit Hamikdash, in our places of learning, in our homes and in our lives. You teach us Torah, our way of holiness, in times of peace and tragedy, by our hearths and on the road, and You have answered our prayers for Your presence as we walk the paths of dreams. The rite I called You for is ended but I trust that You will not abandon me; rather be as my cloak and my staff, my Protection and my Support.

Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi v’heg’yon libi l’fanecha
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favor before You

So be it

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


To all my fellow Jews out there - Chag Sameach! I hope you have a rioteously good time and don't have a hangover from getting so wasted as to not be able to tell between Haman (boo! hiss!) and Mordecai (yeah!). Somehow it seems totally unfair to suffer for doing a mitzvah. Seems to be our lot though (pun intended) so we might as well make the best of it. It strikes me as Purim is the par excelance of the 'they tried to kill us, they failed - let's eat' holidays. Too bad the world didn't learn from Haman and his sons' fate and leave us well enough alone. You'd think that the modern reminder of the Six Day War would have been a good rap alongside the head too that we have a way of turning the tables on our oppressors. And the world calls us stubborn?! If we're stubborn, are those who would oppress us just stupid? It would be nice if we could get away from being oppressed and unfortunately we have learned from our oppressors ways of being real jackasses at times. I don't think this is the lesson Hashem wants us to learn from adversity so could S/He please choose someone else? Unfortunately it looks like we're in for another round of it with the way intolerance is rising all over the place.

Maybe with all the fear and uncertainty in the world today it is our job to stand again as an example to the world that even the hardest of times can be weathered especially if we stick together. That sense of loyalty is one of the things I love about Judaism although I have gotten a bit jaded about the acceptance of some Jews by other Jews since joining the tribe. Somehow that internal unacceptance didn't mean a damn to Haman or Hitler or any of the other oppressors throughout the centuries though. To quote Ben Franklin, "We must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately" and it's a whole lot easier to hang us if we're fighting among ourselves. Then again being unified doesn't necessarily mean success - Haman and family certainly hung together, hung very high indeed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Roots and Thorns

I believe in reincarnation. Of a sort. I believe that this is not my first time around the block and may be my last. I know something about who I may have been before both from what I *know* and what Sensitive people I trust have told me including that I am an old soul. People who knew me well enough and didn't feel silly saying it, have told me throughout my life that I seem to have wisdom beyond my years. I really wish I could apply that wisdom more often to my own life - maybe I'd manage to stay out of mitzrayim more often. :)

My personal view of reincarnation, something I came up with long before I started researching Jewish mysticism, is that there is a Great Reservoir of Spirit which for arguments sake I call Ein Sof, the All etc. I don't have this totally sorted out yet so bear with me but basically imagine the All as a big ball of Spirit of which S/He grabs a piece of Him/Herself to create a soul to stick in a corporeal creation (ie. baby). The experiences etc. that the creation goes through in it's life 'flavors' the piece of Spirit that is within it. When it dies, the soul returns to the All providing that it has not been corrupted too badly to re-enmesh itself. It's like having a big ball of white clay that you break off a piece of and you take the smaller piece and roll it into a ball on the counter; it may pick up things while you're rolling it around so that when you try to mush it back into the big ball it may be so off color that you can't do it and maintain the white of the large ball. Incarnations of a soul in various corporeal forms might be a cleansing process. One possibility is that when a new soul is needed, pieces of previous souls get grabbed which is where memories of past lives could come from and explains why such memories are so fragmented in most people and there are people who have conflicting memories but sometimes beliefs, mannerisms etc. bleed through from incarnation to incarnation.

So why am I going into all this? To provide context for more roots. I mentioned I was raised fairly strict Catholic which has been the lifelong faith of my father. He was the person in my life who gave me my love of tradition, liturgy and all that appeals to me about organized religion. He is a religious, humble man who would have made a great monk in a different situation. He was the one though that cultivated my interest in different cultures and religions.

My mother had been raised Lutheran and converted to Catholicism on her own in her 20's (see a trend here?) but nature and the earth have been in her blood since day 1. She didn't express it more than being a great gardener as an adult and seeking out the wild places as much as she could as a kid. She was the first witch in my life and passed on a love of and feeling of responsibility for growing things and a belief in things that fit more with paganism than with organized religion. She also taught me to celebrate the seasons with our own rituals for which I am exceedingly glad. Nothing fancy or structured but stuff like welcoming the first warm rain of spring or thanking the plants for their efforts as we were pulling out the dead stalks for the compost pile in the fall. She grew up in the city and had no one to encourage such a tie to nature and pagan mindset; as she gets older it's getting stronger. With the idea that some older people are more able to access parts of their essential spirit I wouldn't be surprised to find out that part of her was a pagan at some point.

She also was the first Jew in my life - no, not literally although she had flirted with the idea on her way over to Catholicism. Even though she hadn't had any exposure to Jewish culture etc. until I started getting into it, a lot of her phrases are very Yiddish, many of her personal beliefs are Jewish - something not discovered until I was doing my learning, and many of the things she feels comfortable with would be familiar to somebody who is Jewish but unfamiliar to one who is not or not exposed to it which she wasn't. The number of things that fell into place the more I learned about Judaism and Jewish culture was eerie. She also had a great desire to understand the Holocaust as if it was intensely personal to her and a part of her was crying - what happened?! Was she Jewish in a previous life? It would make sense.

So that's my roots. Just as my mother has an innate knowledge of things Jewish, I was drawn at a young age to things Celtic, with about as much reason. A Sensitive friend of mind has Seen me as a fair skinned redhead among other little things that add up. I've also had impressions of myself from a young age as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman who covered her hair and until I hit a certain age I knew that I was going to die young and it had something to with who I am which didn't make any sense in this day and age. It was a great relief and something of a bewilderment when I hit that point a number of years ago and nothing happened and the feeling disappeared. Of course I've been interested and delved into other cultures but none have struck a cord with me like those 2 have so I'm inclined to think there's something there.

If I accept that 1) some form of reincarnation (which is a concept in Jewish mysticism) is possible and 2) that I have been various people before then is there anything wrong with amalgamating the various spiritual lessons and inclinations of those incarnations into my spiritual path today? After all, I became a Jew because Judaism most closely matched my beliefs and the areas of deviation were acceptable to me - not because I had any great desire to be Jewish per se although I have always felt a need for a people/tribe and a very faint/faded connection to the ancient Israelites; I always explained that from my Christian upbringing and the fact that I'm an ethnic mutt but maybe . . . Going through the rituals of conversion (mikvah & bet din) though was for me an expression of 'as above, so below' since if I was going to make this my home I wasn't going to only playact it. Somehow, like any well done ritual, (although the actual ceremony was devoid of spiritual feeling and sucked) it cemented things on a spiritual level.

This does not mean that I gave up the rest of who I am though and the past decade or so I have fought so hard to be accepted by the Jewish community that I was willing to place the other spiritual urges on the back burner. Now that I don't live in a Jewish community and am having to rely on myself more for spiritual guidance these things are creeping out again. I guess this is why there are so many cautions and #4 in the 'oath'. If I incorporate Celtic elements via Wicca, or Germanic ones in my current spiritual path, am I abandoning or adulterating Judaism beyond any recognition? Or is it rather the amalgamation of paths and truths that, if humanity can ever get it together, will allow us to perceive and comprehend the Truth? If we can, do we not have the duty to evolve as much as possible as individuals? There is this thing in the back of my mind though that once you have begun the furrow you must stay and finish it. Stability vs chaotic enlightenment? (Any Vorlons or Shadows around? (B5 joke)) Do I not have the right to explore all avenues my soul seeks to wander down? It's not like I'd ever deny being Jewish for that is what at least a great part of my soul is although there are undeniably other ways influencing it. Are they important or have the lessons of those paths been learned or does the fact that I am aware of them mean that there is unfinished business there?

Questions, questions, questions. While I'm at it why don't I discover the meaning of life and the nature of the cosmos - wait, didn't Monty Python already do that? :) Thanks for listening to my ramblings and your insights are welcome - other than the opinion that I'm absolutely nuts :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Novelty

From the serious to the inconsequential. It's neat to be able to sit on my bed and blog or surf but tonight marks the first time I've been able to go out and post from out of the house. I know that doesn't sound remarkable to anybody who has a Starbucks or other hot spot every 100 yds or so but up here it is a real novelty. There are only 3 hotspots I know of in the 3 counties - Cyberia (coffee shop), an artist's market and Perkins. I'm hoping that more show up but as far as I know I can't even post or surf from the library on my computer. Very annoying as far as doing research goes. Excepting the college students, most people up here don't know what a hotspot is, a good many don't have computers and not a few are emphatically not in favor of those new fangled devices (incl. cell phones, ipods, computers, GPS units etc.). In some cases the bears and deer may be more tech savy than some of the 2 legged residents. One of the things that amused the husband and I when we were cruising the Keweenaw looking for land were the telephone junction boxes in the middle of nowhere. We made the joke that they were there for the wildlife to tap into. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Judaism, Pagans and Satan

There is a phrase that drives me up the wall - Judeo-Christian. There is no such thing. Judaism is a religion unto itself, as is Christianity. True, they share certain concepts as would be expected from a situation where one culture and beliefs gave rise to the other but after they separated around 100 C.E. each evolved greatly in both their theology and their culture. Most religions have basic concepts in common with other other religions albeit expressed in different ways. Rabbi Hillel said "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it." Much of what separates various belief systems is the commentary which makes it such a tragedy when members of various belief systems can't get along or feel that theirs is better than all the others; a feature inherent in only 2 religions I know of - Christianity and Islam.

I have just read another article by a Pagan expressing their frustration at being asked whether they worship the Devil. I do not fault her in the least for her frustration at such questions but what really grated on me is her constant references to Judeo-Christian attitudes. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon mistake. One of my pet peeves with those who don't know Judaism, but think they do, is that they lump Judaism in with Christianity and assume that just because a concept or attitude is prevalent in Christianity it must appear in Judaism as well. Judaism is NOT an older form of Christianity. It is NOT Christianity sans Christ and it DOES NOT include a supreme personification of evil that Christianity calls Satan or the Devil.

We have our fair share of malevolent beings that can and do cause havoc with humanity but our sages had the wisdom to see that one does not need to have the stimulus to do evil forced on us from outside ie. a corruption of the soul as one sees in the concept of Original Sin or the idea "the Devil (or one of his minions) made me do it". We know that we can get ourselves into enough trouble thank you very much. In Jewish belief a person is created with both the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination) and yetzer tov (good inclination) and it is up to us to decide on a case by case basis which one we are going to listen to. There is a character mentioned in the Tanach that is referred to as satan or ha-satan but rather than being seen as an equal and opposite entity to G-d both in power and intention this character is more along the lines of a prosecuting attorney continuously trying to prove that humanity is not worthy of a just decision in it's favor or G-d's mercy. Literally ha-satan means 'the accuser' but other than being recognized as being a pain in the butt, does not play a large role in Judaism. There are other demons that Jewish tradition has felt much more need to guard against.

To the best of my knowledge, the concept of an evil diety that is just as powerful as the diety of light first appears in the ancient world ca. 1000 BCE in the religion of Zoroastrianism. Considering that Torah was not written down until the Babylonian Exile ca. 586 BCE it is likely that the inferences to such a being got incorporated into Judaism and therefore Christianity by being part of the culture surrounding the scribes as did many things in Torah such as many of the legends found in Bereshit (Genesis).

I only wish Pagans would quit lumping Jews in with Christians when addressing the injustices that have been perpetrated by some Christians and the prevailing Christian culture against them. Jews have suffered from much the same sort of ignorance and intolerance and being a nature based religion it has much more in common with Pagan belief structures than Christian ones. I read another article that addressed this very well; it's uncanny how much her and my background, at least in general, and ideas are similar.

Now that I have ranted enough about Judaism and Christianity being lumped together, in the interest of fairness I must point out that European Judaism was greatly affected by Christianity during the Middle Ages, just as Jews have been affected by the ideas and practices of any culture they have lived in, and a lot of Christian ideas found their way into Jewish philosophy and practice. It is one of the things that I find regrettable about Judaism and one of the reasons I break from conventional Judaism looking more for the core beliefs and practices - the pagan Judaism so to say. Whichever form of Judaism one practices though, it is not Christianity and does not include the Devil.