Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Chanuka Links (Updated)

Did The Maccabess Betray The Chanuka Reveloution

The Hasmoneans Were Here-Maybe

Hatip: PaleoJudaica

And a good post here (look at the comments as well) from FailedMessiah

And some more from FailedMessiah here.

I paste some of it below:

"[At Hanukah] we commemorate the dedication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans who fought and defeated the Hellenists, and we kindle lights -- just as when [we] finished the Tabernacle in the Wilderness . . . ." (Pesikta Rabbati, ch. 6)
"Why do we kindle lights on Hanukah? Because when the sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priest, defeated the Hellenists, they entered the Temple and found there eight iron spears. They stuck candles on them and lit them." (Pesikta Rabbati ch. 2)
"Why did the rabbis make Hanukah eight days? Because . . . the Hasmoneans entered the Temple and erected the altar and whitewashed it and repaired all of the ritual utensils. They were kept busy for eight days. And why do we light candles? Because . . . when the Hasmoneans entered the Temple there were eight iron spears in their hands. They covered them with wood and lit candles on them. They did this each of the 8 days." (Megilat Ta'anit ch. 9)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Chanukah Reading

I am reading the books of Maccabees this Chanuka, from here.

If you know anything about the book and you have a moment please leave a comment.

I appreciate it.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

L' Kovoid Channuka (Updated)

In honour of Channuka that comes again at the end of the week I will interrupt my posts on biblical morality/immorality and post on a topical issue.

Even during my yeshiva years I found that the Channuka 'Miraculous Oil Story' very very suspicious. The only place one find this story was in a short passage of the Talmud (Shabbos 21b ) but in 'Al Hanissim' (which we say in davening) or 'Haneiros Hollolu' (which we say at candle lighting time) which are both far older (tannaic in origin) than The Talmud we have no mention of such a miracle at all.

Last year while mis-nagid was still posting he did a great article on the matter. Yesterday DovBear posted on this subject and mis-nagid reposted his original article in the comments section. You can get to it here. Please do.

DovBear has another post in a similar vain here. And a couple of good comments there as well.

UPDATE: B.Spinoza has copied Mis-nagids chanuka divrei torah post here. Have a look at the comments.

I am pasting one of the comments here because I think it's very pertinant:

The Mechilta (excerpted in Megilath Tanith) asks why we light candles and answeres because the Hasmonean made a Menorah out of their spears, so to remember this event we light the menorah. No mention of a miracle of lights.Joshephus writes the story of Channukah and says that this Holiday is for some reason called the Holiday of Lights, he doesn't know why 'maybe because lights symbolize freedom'. now if he knew anything about a miracle of lights then this statement of his sounds quite stupid.The Gemara gives us the Halacha of lighting the candles in a fashion of relating to us a folks tradition, "some light like this, others like that, still others light it another way". It's not something that the Rabbis started, it seems like folklore.In the Hanieros Hallolu and in Al Hanisim there is no mention about the miracle of lights.This miracle story happened in a time where there are many different historical evidence so that we have a clear picture on what really happend.We should assume that the same is true about all other miracle stories even if it purportedly happend in a time where there is no extrabiblical documents etc. to disprove it

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two Types of Moral Lesson

I would like to differentiate between two types of moral lesson. I would like to call the first an 'objective moral lesson' while the second type will be a 'subjective moral lesson'.

Objective Moral Lesson

This is were one finds an unambiguous moral lesson within the text of the bible. So for example if someone was to tell me that the Torah finds child sacrifice immoral, I would be happy to agree with him. Indeed the Torah explicitly forbids child sacrifice.

Subjective Moral Lesson

This is where one reads a passage in the Torah and then begins to wax lyrical about the great moral lesson one finds there. But wait a minute; is the Torah really trying to express this idea, or is it you who is projecting your own moral idea onto the Torah's narrative. Agreed your own moral idea might evolve in your mind through this process, but this does not mean that the Torah actually came to tell us this idea. You happen to respect The Bible as a Godly book and therefore you use the Bible as a tool to develop your own moral ideas. But you probably could do the same by using any volume of Harry Potter or even Curious George.

My contention is that the vast majority of moral lessons we glean from the Torah are subjective and not objective.

Friday, December 16, 2005

hayim & tjf

Thanks for leaving comments.

I will think about them over shabbos and post next week.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New Moral Lesson Discovered On 12/14/05

In response to my last post, The Jewish Freak speaks thus:

We are a product of our times, and it is not easy to distance ourselves enough from our 21st century culture to accurately and objectively investigate biblical morality.

Agreed. It is difficult for us to 'objectively investigate biblical morality'. But I am not at present investigating whether Torah had a moral message once-upon-a-time. I am attempting to explore whether The Bible has a relevant moral message for 21st century people living in western democracies today. Can I learn a moral lesson when studying Torah that I was unaware of before that learning session? Does studying The Bible make me a more moral person.

I think the answer to these questions has got to be a resounding no. I do not believe I become even the slightest bit more moral by studying The Bible. I already know that I shouldn't kill, steal or rape. I do not need The Bible to tell me to pay workmen for jobs they have done, or to dissuade me digging a hole in the middle of the highway.

I will tell you what. This is a new blog and I don't suppose I have many readers, but for those of you who do, could you please leave a list of the moral lessons that you have personally learnt from The Torah. These must be ideas that you wouldn't have known had you not had access to The Bible. And remember, this is not about The Bible 2500 years ago. This is a question about how relevant The Bible is today. How relevant is The Bible on the 14th day of December 2005?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Biblical Morality

B.Spinoza asks whether we can we still gain moral instruction and inspiration from the Torah?

Well inspiration probably yes. Moral instruction probably not. I am not saying that the Torah has not been an important catalyst in the evolution of morality. I am sure it has, but the question is whether a person living in the 21 century should look to The Bible for moral guidance?

I do not really see much in The Bible that can teach a modern person how to live their lives. Morality in modern societies is far more developed than the Torah's morality. The Torah's morality in many places is rather crude, and typical of ancient societies. Chazal themselves had many a problem with the unsophisticated nature of biblical morality. Chazal quite rightly decided that 'an eye for an eye' is uncivilized and tried to convince us that the Torah had never meant to say that.

I think that we must divorce ourselves from our attitude towards Biblical morality. The Bible must not be our moral yardstick. Many things in The Bible are absolutely immoral (slavery, genocide of Ammoliek), and the morality that exists in The Bible is rather crude and unsophisticated.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'the jewish' what?

In reponse to my last post a reader who goes by the name the jewish freak comments thus:

You make a good point. One of the Christian criticisms of Judaism is that the Rabbis have "interpreted" The Bible. That is nonsense! Any reader of The Bible must of necessity interpret it. Is the Rabbis interpretation a valid one? Well that's a completely different question.

A pretty sensible comment and not very freakish.

Judaism is all about the Rabbis interpretation of The Bible. That is what Judaism is, a religion whose creed, rituals and laws are built upon a given interpretation of a holy book. To understand Judaism one must understand that interpretation, and attempt as far as possible, to understand how and why they reached that interpretation. That has got to be the primary objective, and hopefully that will be this blogs primary objective. A 'serious' understanding of The Bible is secondary, if that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An Initial Post

B.Spinoza has a new blog. From his intial posts it seems that it will be a blog worth reading. I hope he continues posting.

In his last couple of posts he talks about 'Taking Tenach Seriously'. Please read the relevant posts. I do not disagree with him regarding the need to 'Take Tenach Seriously', I would like though to say the following:

Although one is right in saying that Tenach is the original inspiration of the Jewish people, Jews are by no means the only people that can lay claim to a religion that finds its genesis in the words of the biblical prophets. So do the worlds hundreds of millions of Christains and so do the worlds many millions of Muslims. 'Taking Tenach Seriously' should be no more a requirement in understanding Judaism then in understanding Christianity.

In fact modern Judaism cannot be understood by a 'serious' look at Tenach. A 'serious' look at Tenach will more than likely throw up more questions than answers.

My claim is that Judaism can only be properly understood by studying the works of the post biblical sages. It is their interpretation of The Bible that is all important. It is their interpretation that matters. To understand Judaism we have to try and understand how they understood Tenach.

I think the point I am making is something that is missed too often. I shall try to explore this subject on this blog.