Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Shavuoth Blogging

The Study Session last night was good -- I'm still tired from being up too late.

Anyway, some interesting background on the holiday was presented: evidently, before Rabbinic Judaism became the mainstream of Judaism, the idea of Shavuoth as celebrating both the weeks of the harvest and the vow of Jews to observe the covenant (a pun in Hebrew) was a big deal (c.f. the description of the holiday in Chronicles and that Pharisaic counterpart to Chronicles, Jubilees -- which, though Pharisaic was suppressed by the Rabbis no less than the Christians). Interestingly (and not presented in the Study Session), if anybody is the most traditional in their celebration of Shavuoth, it is the Reform Movement which schedules confirmation at this time.

The Rabbis do, calling Shavuoth an "Aztereth", make Shavuoth the Spring Holiday Season equivalent of Shemini Atzereth, but minimize the global covenant aspect of it in favor of the Torah covenant aspect. Interestingly (and probably a consequence of the nationalistic sentiments aroused by the Jewish revolts), Rabbinic Judaism looses the universalistic aspect of Pharisaic Judaism here. Of course, Jubilees is an interesting book from the little I know of it -- on the one hand, it adopts the stereotypical viewpoint of Pharisaic Judaism in its anti-Hellenism, its emphasis on ritual and theological purity, etc. (which is maybe why the Rabbis reject it), but on the other hand, it possesses a universalistic emphasis in a way that, in modern Judaism is only present in the Reform movement. Perhaps the problem with Jubilees (and its view of Shavuoth in particular) was not that it was too sectarian but that it was not nationalistic enough to satisfy Jews and early Christians whose messianic and even nationalistic (let us not forget that, ironically considering the later claims of Christians, Jesus seems to have been part of a very nationalistic strain in Judaism -- hence the whole messianic -- annointed kingship -- claims in the first place) sentiments were stoked by Roman maladministration of Palestine and the subsequent rebellions.

Of course the reaction present in the recasting of Shavuoth is very parallel to Zionism. The Study Session brought up Hannah Arendt, whose views on Zionism would mirror my own -- but it's hard to picture a location that could be a homeland to Jews without giving Jews special privaleges to have that land as a homeland. Being of a generation in which "the banality of evil" has become a meme, adopted thouroughly by the very Revisionist Zionists (who use that banality to argue why Jews can never be fully "safe" in the diaspora) Arendt criticized, actually delving into Arendt's work was very refreshing, even if some of her views do strike me as naive and almost straw-liberal (i.e. you can imagine a Likudnik saying "look at how naive Arendt is -- this naivity is why we can never trust you liberal moonbats with security issues") in character. Anyway, though Arendt's comments on Zionists and anti-Semites both having a common goal in removing Jews from Europe seem so fresh today where we have Zionists teaming up with anti-Semites to move Jews away from everywhere else and to Israel to bring on some wished-for apocolypse.

Another interesting question: how does the notion that evil and good can both be so banal relate to magical realism -- which can be described as the banality of the fantastic?

Also discussed -- Jews and porn. Touched upon (no pun intended) was the idea of Jewish involvement in porn being used against us Jews as a modern day version of the blood libel. I'm sure the neo-cons and Likudniks would say that since anti-Semitic tropes are used to criticize Jewish involvement in the porn business, Jews should be proudly involved in porn and those who say maybe we Jews should anathemize (sp?: spelling correctly is avodah, so I'll not spell check on the Chag ;) ) such involvement are "self-haters" and "blaming the victim" according to the neo-cons. But is this what we want? C.f. Arendt -- do we Jews really wanna be the kind of people who have a nationalistic state? C.f. Nietzsch on dragons and abysses ...

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