Thursday, October 28, 2010

Men diminished by their motives. Being Good, or just Looking Good? (Chaye Sarah)

This week I enjoyed a 7 minute report on National TV about my work and friendship with a Sheik. It seems inappropriate to admit this, I am supposed to pretend that I dislike publicity, but I think being aware of our less noble motives is the first step to keeping them in check.

This leads me to wonder about the ways that people act “nice”, satirized in this joke.
Mother in Law shows up at the door of her son in law.
Son in law: Hi, what a nice surprise, how long are you staying?
Mother in Law: Oh, I don't want to trouble you, as long as you are happy for me to stay.
Son in law: What?! You won't even come inside for a cup of tea?!

There are dances of repeatedly insisting on giving and refusing to take that are common to many cultures. I have a vague idea of an Arabic custom of a prospective host offering three times, initially the guest insists on not wanting to trouble him/her and on the third bounce the offer is accepted. Is this inspired social glue, or dishonest game playing?

We see this playing out in a negotiation over a burial plot between Efron, the Hitites & Abraham1. In response to Abraham's request for a “a possession (of land for a) grave”, the Hitities say; listen my master, you are a prince of God among us, in the choices of our graves you can bury your dead. None of us will withhold their grave from you.

Subtext: As a prince you can take whatever you want, the flip side is that in the future your right to it can be contested, they can say that you used your position to take it and not one could refuse you, but it is not yours by right2. 2) You can just have one of our graves, but not a burial plot3.

Abraham then argues with Efron, who insists that he would be happy to give the land away for free, while Abraham insists on paying the full price. In the end Efron nonchalantly4 says; “a land of 400 silver Shekels, between you and me, what is it?!” Abraham then pays him the equivalent of up to a million silver shekels5 and Efron is condemned in our tradition for talking a big generous game in front of all the people of his city, but then naming a high price in the end. In fact his name is spelled with a letter missing from his name (the letter Vav is missing) which makes his name sound like Afrn, related to earth as if he was talking with dust in his mouth6.

The missing letter theme plays out in the Servant Eliezer's negotiation with Abraham about finding a wife for his son. Abraham wants his servant to bring a foreign wife from the home country and tribe, not a local “from the people among who I live7”.

But, “Oolai” what if she will not want to come? He asks. The spelling here again, is missing a Vav, so the word can be read a Alai, - to me- and is interpreted as his hoping that his mission will be a failure, and instead the match will come to him and his daughter. Interestingly, although the story is told twice in the Torah8 the variation of the spelling only appears in the text when he retells the story after finding Rebeccah and his conflict of interest is not longer a practical issue. This demonstrates that ulterior motives are very difficult to spot in the moment, although, they could be easier to spot once the situation is no longer practical.
The final grand dance, is when Eliezer devises a test of generosity to see which girl should be a wife for his master's son. He notices a beautiful girl, and asks her for “a little bit of water from his jug” when what really wants is to see if she will offer water not just for him but also for his camels. She modestly, says drink my master and says nothing more but goes on to bring water for all his camels.

It is proper for the asker to ask for less than s/he needs so as not to trouble (the other person), but it is proper for the giver to give more and do for the asker, enough (to supply that which s/he) lacks or more9.

There is a logic to the game, it helps if it is played sincerely by all the players.
1Genesis 23:3-16.
2Oh Hachayim.
3Malbim
4As explained by R. Arye Kaplan in Living Torah.
5Rashi.
6Bartinura quoted in ArtScroll Bereshis book 3, page 882.
7Genesin 24:3.
8Genesis 24:5 & 24:39.
9Seforno, on Genesis 24:14

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The SCREAM! Sodom, Australia & Gib'ah – degrees of similarity re: treatment of “Strangers”. Vayera 2 5771

A wind of national assertiveness is blowing, Angela Merkel declares that Multiculturalism has failed in Germany, Marco  Rubio, a rising star in the US “Tea Party” asserts “American Exceptionalism” and in Australia there is resistance to ending the imprisonment of 738 children who are imprisoned for arriving here as part of “Irregular people movement”.

Australia has positives too regarding diversity. I declare an interest, the diversity education organization that I lead as National Director has recently received a grant of over one Million dollars from the Commonwealth Government to foster respect for diversity. But, regardless of my interests, the evidence is in for both sides of the argument, with a WA farmer named Mr. Cox speaking plainly and beautifully about his having no problem with refugees moving in next to his farm[1] and wandering on to his property, at the same time as the arguments for throwing our visitors in the slammer continue.    

How do 3 societies compare, ours, Sodom's and the macabre story of an ancient Israelite town called Givea.  The most striking parallel has been averted, at least for now,  with the fortunate failure to implement the proposed policy of the alternative government of Australia of Automatic jail terms for Australians harbouring Illegal immigrants [2].  In all three cases, there are failures of hospitality, what are parallels and the significant differences.

Case 1- Sodom.
Exhibit A. The SCREAM!
The people of Sodom were cruel to visitors as a deterrence policy to protect their wealth from the rabble of other nations. Instead of detention centres, they had other ways to scream em away.   Locals approached by a poor traveller for money would write their name on their coin before giving it to the visitor, a strict policy declared that no one was to sell or give food to the visitor. Eventually, the visitor would starve to death, the Sodomites would then collect their money. One girl felt compassion for a particular visitor and broke the law, she smuggled food to him in a water jug on the way to the well. When she was caught, she was covered in honey and tied up on a roof, bees stung her and she screamed in agony[3].
Her scream is offered as one meaning of God's statement. “I will go down and see if, like her scream, they have done”[4].

Exhibit B. The Mob and the bystanders.
One newcomer to Sodom, a very wealthy migrant named Lot dared to defy the inhospitable custom and invited 3 guest to his home. It was soon surrounded by a mob who demanded that the men be handed over to be “so that we will know them” in a biblical sense of the word “know”. Lot offers his two daughters to the mob but they reject the offer. While not all of Sodom could possibly fit around the house of Lot, the fact that no one protested against this behaviour is considered as if  they all personally surrounded the house[5]

Case 2 Gib'ah
Inhospitable city, a migrant, an accomplice, a mob and bystanders again.
A Levite, a beautiful woman who is sort of the wife of the Levite man (his Pilegesh- Concubine[6]”) and a servant arrive  in the ancient Israelite town of Gib'ah in the tribal land of Benjamin. He is not invited by any of the locals, and seems set to spend the night in the street. Again, a migrant  an old man from Mt. Efrayim (a different tribe to the local Banjaminites) returning from work invites the travellers into his home. They are enjoying themselves, when a mob surrounded the house, knocking on the door, seeking “knowledge” of the man visiting.

Gang Rape, the macabre reaction and catastrophic aftermath 
The old man offered his daughter and the visiting lady, instead of the male guest. The mob is not keen, but the Levite grabs his “concubine” and takes her out the door to the mob. They gang raped her and did other “humiliating” things to her all night and sent her off at day break. She dies soon after. The story ends with the Master/husband cutting the dead woman's body up into 12 parts, sends it to the 12 tribes of Israel, makes a stirring speech telling a selective account of the outrage of Gib'ah, the criminals and the silent majority of Benajminites and sparks a civil war where tens of   thousands die.

Comparing Sodom and Gib'ah.
One factor that is worse about Sodom in comparison to Gib'ah is that in Sodom it was a premeditated policy to “remove the feet (of travellers) from amongst them”, however in Gib'ah it was simply lust[7]. Another difference was that in Sodom the Government established anti-traveller policies as law, in Gib'ah it was lawless men[8].

Case 3 - Australia
I will not canvass all the arguments, the statistics and facts and I acknowledge that these are important and worthy of serious consideration.  My purpose here is to raise questions about how these traditions can inform our moral thinking on a terrible situation. In spite of our welcoming many refugees here, in the case of boat people it seems that the two redeeming factors of Gib'ah are not at play. On the other hand, some of the gruesome torture described in relation to Sodom and the savagery  of Gib'ah are not part of the Australian situation and there is all the other complicated stuff to think about.  

Close
It is indeed a sad day when Government whose primary function is to protect the innocent as well as its citizens, fails in that responsibility. To what extent are all Australians complicit in this?


[1]    730 Report 19-10-2010
[2]   http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/labor-and-libs-key-election-policies/story-e6frg12c-12259083510

[3]    Talmud, Sanhedrin.
[4]    Genesis 18:21.
[5]    Sifsei Chachamim 3 on Genesis 19:4.
[6]    The text refers to the Levite as both her husband and Master. It was an irregular form of marriage.
[7]    Ramban, on Genesis 19:8
[8]    Implied by Ramban, more explicit in another source, that is not handy at the moment. 

Prioritising People Over Engaging God – Hospitality and Pleading for Sodom Vayera 1 5771

Putting God on hold for a person?!
“If only they would leave me and keep my Torah”[1] , says God. While this could be explained as being almost a trick in that keeping the Torah would lead people right back to God, it can surely be understood to be about God being more interested in the way we treat each other and our living by the Torah's teachings than our show of devotion to Him. An uncontested variation of this can be seen in Abraham's running out to greet guests in middle of an appearance to him by God. According to one reading of it he says to God, “God, if I find favour in your eyes, do not leave your servant[2]” while he attends to his guests. This is because “Hospitality to guests is greater than receiving the Shechina/divine presence[3].  Of course this is God's will, so it is not really putting people ahead of God but it does suggest that in compassion vs. religiosity, the divine will would put a high priority on the compassion side of the argument.

Hassling God
Abraham's bargaining with God about Sodom is another example of the appropriateness of putting people first. After God has told Abraham of his intention to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Amorah (I never understood, why the Hebrew Amora become Gemorah in English), Abraham pleads, argues and bargains with God about saving the city. “Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked[4]? Abraham, makes his request five times and speaks 93 words to try to save the city. In contrast the shortest prayer in the Torah is by Moses on behalf of his sister where he speak 4 words “Please, heal her please”. Abraham's reaction is contrasted favourably in the commentaries with Noah's who simply did as God instructed and did not argue or plead for his generation. It is Noah's failure to pray is seen so critically, that the flood is referred to as the waters of Noah[5].

Looking past the person you are talking to
One of the awkward things about networking events or even stand around social occasions is when you are talking to someone and they are looking past you to see who else is around that might  be more interesting. I wonder how similar that is to Abraham looking up at the visitors (“and he lifted his eyes and saw behold three men are standing upon him[6]”) and then runs off toward them, leaving God standing there.

Standing over him?
We might suggest that this is entirely different, because it says “they were standing upon him”, its a bit like being fully present in a conversation but then there is someone on a lower rung of the the social ladder who is hovering almost desperate for your ear or attention. This might be a reasonable parallel, although the meaning of “standing upon him” seems not to mean standing close to him because he runs toward them! Standing upon him could mean that Abraham realised that they were standing there for Abraham's needs, as visitors turned out to be Angels, Raphael to heal Abraham, another to bring the news that he and Sarah will have a son, and a 3rd on his way to destroy the wicked city of Sodom, but paying his respect to Abraham by delaying his mission until God discusses it with Abraham first[7]. 
Been and Gone
An alternative explanation by Rashi of the standing upon him and running, is that they first were standing close, but then saw him busy with bandages so the walked away as not to trouble him, at that point he got up and ran after his prospective guests in his eagerness to offer them hospitality. 

A good tactic by the visitors. I used a similar tactic with one of my quite prickly Lecturers at Yeshivah[8]. If I needed to ask him something, I could usually wait for ages while he happily continued with whoever was there before me. So I would stand around for two minutes and then pretend to lose interest or patience and walk away, as soon as I did, he would call me.

More, importantly, Rashi makes a beautiful point about Abraham's compassion, by noting the repetition of the words Vayar and he saw. The first time he merely saw them, but the second time he really looked and understood their hesitation which motivated him to persist in his efforts to offer them hospitality.   




[1]    Yerushalmi, Hagiga 1:7, quoted in Insights: A Talmudic Treasury.
[2]    Genesis 18:3, following Rashi's 2nd interpretation.
[3]    Talmud, Shabbat 127a.
[4]    Genesis 18:23
[5]    In defence of Noah, there is a midrash that says that many of the righteous people prayed for the generation and died, leaving Noah as the only righteous one. Also, in Noah's case there was no suggestion by God of openness (“an opening of a door) to discussion, the flood was going to happen, but in the case of Abraham God decision is more tentative. 
[6]    Genesis 18:2.
[7]    Ohr Hachayim.

[8]    An institution of Torah study for young men. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Separation & Strife, early seeds of Arab-Jewish conflict? & caution for inter-faithers in Lech Lcha

Pain of Separation
The presentation of Koran's by settler Peace-Rabbi Menachem Fromer this week to a mosque demonstrates that the attachment of Jews to the ancient land of Judea is not incompatible with deep compassion and respect for their Palestinian neighbours. Yet, Fromer's religious/historical links to Judea, along with the attachment of my Palestinian friends including Khaldoun, Ahmad and their families to homes and villages on the other side of the green line will need to be sacrificed if there is to be two-states for two people. I do not presume to have a better option, many experts are convinced it is most likely way to prevent further bloodshed and most likely to deliver dignity to Palestinians.The key proposition here is the need for separation, as a Jew I am curious about what the Torah has to say about separation when things get difficult. 

Command to Separate
The “separation as solution” theme is introduced with the first words when Abraham is encouraged to leave his idolatrous fathers family and community to another place. He promptly complies, but not completely according to one view. 

Partial Failure
this time was to be different from his earlier migration from Ur Kasdim when he took his family with him, but this time he would leave his land and also be separated from his birthplace and even his family (fathers house). …but Lot was attached to Abraham. This is hinted at in the words “and Abraham went as God had spoken to him, and Lot went with him[1]” He did not push him away, instead he waited for an idea about how to (separate from him but) but not embarrass him.

Pretext for Separation
This is why you find that when he finds a small reason (pretext) in the fights of the shepherds he immediately says “separate from me if you will go left I will go right...[2] This matter is strange except that (Abraham) was thinking thoughts of how to separate him (Lot) according to the word of God, so therefore immediately when he found a reason he pushed him away with both hands.

It all fits
And I saw (a proof for) this interpretation in what the verse says “and God spoke to Abraham after Lot separated from him, “lift up your eyes an d see this place...all the land that you see, to you I will give it”. This proves that (God) was sitting and waiting, when will Lot separate from him to show him the land that he said to him at the beginning (go to the land) “that I will show you”  but he did not show it to him till now when Lot was separated from him. This is first statement “go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, then I will show you [3].

Round 1 of Arab-Jewish strife?
The separations continue in what might be suggested to be the “original sin” of the Jewish-Arab relationship, if Arabs are actually descended from Ishmael which is a contested idea. After, Sara's offered her maid Hagar to Abraham as a second wife and Hagar became pregnant she lost respect from her barren mistress. Sara's is very upset. She says to Abraham. I gave you my maid...now I have become cheapened in her eyes, may God judge between me and you. Abraham replies “here is your maid in your hand, do to her what is good in your eyes”. Sara's  behaviour at this point is a subject of many opinions, the text says “ותענה”, translated as and Sarai abused her[4] and interpreted as either she enslaved her harshly[5], or hit her with a shoe[6]. Hagar flees Sarah.

Abuse was a sin
Te prominent commentator Ramban states: “our mother sinned in this affliction and also Abraham in his allowing her to do this, and God heard her affliction and gave her a son that would be a “Pereh Adam” [7]פרא אדם  a wild man to afflict the (Jewish) seed of Abraham and Sara with all types of affliction. What I really like about this perspective is that it is a Jewish view that see some fault, at least thousands of years ago with the Jewish side of the conflict. The struggle in many arguments to "be the good one" and blaming everything on the other side is unhelpful, a better approach is to look for what each side might have contributed, acknowledge the impact on the other side and seek to improve things. 

Essentialising Ishmael/casting the conflict as inevitable
The Ramban's commentary is not the only interpretation of this and is also problematic in its portrayal of the children of Ishmael as essentially wild men with a destiny of “afflicting Jews”. This raises the same issue discussed in relation to anti-black racism, researchers of racism are clear on the problem of essentialising defects in a particular group as a form of racism. More palatable interpretations of “Pere Adam” an open person who loves deserts[8], or an Ishamelite merchant[9]his hand is in all and the hands of all are in him” to buy and sell[10]. There is nothing inevitable about conflict between Jews and Arabs, many Jews and Arabs form excellent friendships and the history of Jewish in Arab lands might not be perfect but it is far happier than that of the Jewish in Europe. 

Caution for Inter-faithers with high expectations
Ironically, the separation from Lot is disrupted when Lot as a resident of the defeated people of Sodom is captured in war and Abraham goes into battle to save him and Sodom. After Abraham emerges victorious, God tells him do not fear Abraham your reward is very great (Genesis 15:1). What was he afraid of? One explanation is that he had expected that when he saved the people of Sodom they would change their ways[11] and become more like him. They did not and he was disappointed, perhaps it was wrong to save these sinners if they would not change. God tells Abraham not to be afraid, this is not your problem. You did the right thing. Some people go into inter-faith work very much like Abraham did to his battle, expecting the “other” to change. It rarely happens on cue, if it happens at all, it does when you least expect it.










[1]   Genesis 12:4
[2]  Genesis 13:8
[3]  Ohr Hachayim Genesis 12:1
[4]  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in the Living Torah.
[5]  Rashi, Genesis 16:6.
[6]  Beresheet Rabba, 45.
[7] Genesis 16:12
[8] Rashi, on Genesis 16:12 based on Beresheet Rabba
[9] Paaneach Raza, similar interpretation also by Chizkuni both quoted in Tora Shleima, Rabbi Menachem Kasher.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ralbag as expanded on by Meshech Chochma, - Mosad Harav Kook edition of Beresheet, page 397, note 11.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can't say that!! “black armband vs “whitewash”, & “Curse of Ham”- Racism II

Thought control is not popular. Is it racist to say that “white men can't jump”?! What about saying, that “the children of Ham are more sensual, less determined to be free” as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-88, Germany)1 does in his commentary? It brings to mind this black South African maid who was told by a visiting American Rabbi that she should eat with the family at the Passover Seder when Jews celebrate freedom. She felt so uncomfortable with the silverware and the whole thing, that the following year she asked “is that mad American priest coming again this year?

There are generally differences between cultures, but the differences within cultures and especially taking into account individual choices must be respected. Research found that even complimentary compliments are hurtful, can increase mistrust and can be experienced as being expected to conform to a stereotype rather than being seen as an individual (Czopp 2008)2. When I was a student at Yeshiva (a bochur) the secretary was annoyed with the attitudes of “the bochrim” and was hostile to me because I was a just another “bochir”. While Hirsch rejects disrespect toward blacks and acknowledges differences within “races”, he argues that certain elements “predominate”, which seems to me to “essentialize” the problem in the race, a key component of what is called the New Racism (Paradies et al, 2009)3.

Shem & Yafet Look Away – black armband vs “whitewash”
I love Hirsch, this is not convenient!It would be wrong to hold Hirsch accountable to the latest research, surely “there is nothing for the judge but what his eyes see”, he was explaining this based on available knowledge in 19th century Europe.

In Australia's “history wars”, left-wingers were accused by former Prime Minister Howard of wanting a black armband version of history because of the insistence on recognising the atrocities perpetrated against Indigenous people by early white settlers. Last night I heard a talk by MP Scott Morrison who argued that while the apology for the past was part of the great Australian story we cannot judge the people of the past by present standards, and we should embrace the virtues of the early settlers.

I think Hirsh would agree with that, he comments on two of Noah's sons looking away when he was drunk (Genesis 9:23). "Only where the younger generation stands with respect on the grave of the gone by, draws a cloak over its lapses but takes to itself all that it had of nobility as an inheritance on which to build...blossoms..but as soon as the younger generation gloats over the "nakedness" of their fathers...(Hirsch 1818-1888)

I think in cross-cultural and inter-faith relations there is also a place for looking away from the negatives and focusing on the positive. Not to deny the dangers or challenges but also not to give these more attention than is useful. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe's approach to the idea that Lashon Harah (gossip) “kills 3”, the speaker the listener and the one spoken about because it awakens or strengthens the evil within him. Seeing the good or the bad can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To return to the big question of the curse of Canaan & racism. Thanks to my FaceBook friends Rene L. & Mansheed A.) for a few more sources
  • The Nimrod Proof for a limited curse. Abraham Ibn Ezra: "And the meaning of '[the Curse of Canaan to be salve to his brothers] is to Cush, Egypt, and Put [only- the other families of Ham]. There are those who say that the Cushim [black skinned people] are slaves because Noah cursed Ham, but they forget that the first king after the flood [Nimrod] was a descendant of Cush... this proves that the Cushites, i.e. black skinned people, cannot be under Canaan's curse of slavery.
  • Blackness is not a curse. Ibn Ezra & Abarbanel:4 even though genealogically Zipporah might not have been a Cushite, the Torah still considered her as such because in appearance the Midianites resemble Cushites. They explain that since Cushites live in sunny areas, the power and heat of the sun cause their skin to darken. According to the Vilna Gaon5, skin color was not related to the curse of Noah's son, rather it was relative to one's geographical location and the power of the sun there.

A more important point (thanks FBF Mansheed-), is the idea that the words of Torah are “poor in one place but rich in another”, eg. That we seek guidance from all of the text not one section in isolation. Again in our Parsha in relation to murder, he spills a person’s blood, his blood will be spilt, because in the image of God, man was made6. Not white or black man, Not Jewish man, Gay or straight, all humans.

The Talmud states “therefore man was created alone (with a common ancestor, Adam) so that families will not fight to say my father is greater than your father”7.
The bottom line as above is we should do that which is right and proper (Haemet Vahayasha), and that it includes looking away from others shame, and appointing ourselves to be our own thought police.





1 Hirsch is regarded as the Father of Modern Orthodoxy, this is based on his commentary on parshat Noach.
2Czopp A.M. (2008) When is a compliment not a compliment? Evaluating expressions of positive stereotypes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (2008) 413-420.
3Paradies Y, Chadrakumar L, Klocker N, Frere M, Webster K, Burrel M, McLean P (2009) Building on our strengths; a framework to reduce race based discrimination and support diversity in Victoria. Victorian Health Promotion, Melbourne, p.26.
4 Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) and Rabbi Don Yitzchok Abarbanel (1437-1508) In their respective commentaries to Numbers 12:1)
5 Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (1720-1797) (Eliyahu Rabbah to Negaim 2:1)
6 Genesis 9:6
7 Talmud Sanhedrin

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anti-Black Racism & the Curse of Canaan by Noah

The Biblical story of Noah’s curse of his grandson Canaan to be a slave after Noah’s drunken disgrace (Gensis 9:25) “has been the single greatest justification for Black slavery for more than a thousand years….as one pro-slavery author wrote in 1838 “the blacks were originally designed to vassalage by the patriarch Noah” writes Goldenberg (2003)[1] who wrote a book on the topic.

Four key points, two for each side of the argument;
1. The Torah text does not say anything about Canaan being black. “He said cursed is Canaan, a slave of slaves he will be to his brothers- ויאמר ארור כנען עבר עברים יהי לאחיו.
2. The Talmud somewhat cryptically mentions that Ham was afflicted in his skin (for a separate offence)[2], which is interpreted as relating to “that Kush came from him (Rashi)”, or “this is the Kushiim as kush was the oldest of his sons” (Maharsha). In modern Hebrew Kushi refers to some with black skin, Rashi also connected Kushi with Black[3].
3. The curse is said by Noah, not God so this could be seen as one mans angry curse rather than God’s command to mankind (Yuter)[4]. Judaism sees Noah as a righteous man but his curse does not amount to license (in contrast to Islam that sees Noah/Nookh as a prophet).
4. The curse is seen as being legitimate in the argument of Gviha Ben Pesusa against the Canaanites about the ownership of the land of Israel “it states in the Torah, and he said cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves he will be to his brothers (and) A slave who acquires property, the slave belongs to who?, the property to who? (the Master of course).[5]

This goes on with arguments and counter arguments,
Canaan, one of Ham 4 sons, is cursed not Ham!
But, there is a source that states “how do we know that all the families of Ham are called slaves? As it says “from the land of Egypt, the house of slaves (Exodus 2:2)[6]

In my view this important discussion is academic. The Torah declares “Justice, Justice you shall pursue!”, the Torah and the prophets thunder against the exploitation of the weak by the strong and so much of racism is exactly that. “You know the soul of the stranger[7], surely the Jew dare not conceive of justice that does not include blacks, especially considering that those who hate one usually hate the other as expressed in the 1930’s American graffiti that “A nigger is a Jew turned inside out” as Voltaire put it succinctly: “One regards the Jews the same way as one regards
the Negroes, as a species of inferior humanity[8]  Yet, there is a lot more here in Parshat Noach, worth investigating. Let us continue.


[1] Goldenberg D,M, (2003), The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Princeton University Press.
[2] Sanhedrin (108b)
[3] Rashi on Exodus 12:1, The Kushite Woman, “this teaches us that all admit to her beauty, just all would agree about the blackness of the Kushi.
[4] http://text.rcarabbis.org/misreading-the-torah-the-curse-of-ham-and-racism/
[5] Megilat Taanis chapter 3, brought in Kasher M (1992), Torat Shelaima, Noach 9, #146, page 489.
[6] Peikta Rabati Chapter 21, Torat Shelaima ibid page 490.
[7] See interpretation of Ibn Ezra on this verse.
[8] Goldenberg DM (1997) http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dmg2/comsalz3%20as%20publ.%20with%20additions.pdf

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Responses to domination & problems. Look away? get high? Noah's experience

Noah is accused of not doing much for his generation, he is prepared to build an ark to save himself while his generation degenerates and faces annihilation, he makes a basic effort to persuade others of the need to change their ways but not really knocking himself out. The flood is even called Noah's waters.

Noah gets drunk, after the flood.

We have two of Noah's sons looking away when their father disgraces himself. Lying naked and drunk.

Noah's curse of his grandson Canaan introduces slavery to the world. We have not yet rid ourselves of this.

A post trauma society goes into survival mode, to build a tower to make themselves strong with no other agenda. The Lubavitcher Rebbe warned in the post-holocaust era of the dangers of having survival as the only focus, the means can justify almost any means.

Some ideas to contemplate over the coming week.