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All Your Deeds Are Recorded In The Book

Eighteen hundred years ago Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi taught:

What is the proper path a person should choose for himself…  Know what is above you: an eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in the Book.
(Ethics of the Fathers 2:1)

While this is stating the obvious for believing Jews and Christians, for non-believers it’s an absurdity.  At least it was an absurdity till one or two decades ago.  Now it’s no longer a declaration of piety, but rather a statement of fact.  With the proliferation of security cameras, there are eyes all over the streets, inside buildings, elevators, buses…  All watched, all recorded in the book.

We think our private electronic communications are hidden from prying eyes, but anybody who has anything to do with Sony Pictures has discovered otherwise.  Supposedly hidden personal emails, cel phone numbers, hackedsalaries, social insurance numbers have been placed out in the open, where an irresponsible press has gone on a feeding frenzy, publishing any private embarrassing material they come across.

Anybody who uses Facebook should know the perils.  Many companies demand that potential employees hand over their Facebook passwords, so they can scrutinize their personal behavior and beliefs.  Many have lost their jobs over Facebook comments.

Search engines record everything you look for, so they can target you better with ads.  Google reads all emails on its servers, including every single Gmail document.  The company considers that users have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Reading your private book

Reading your private book

Although such snooping was part of the mandate of the American National Security Administration, people were still stunned as to how much personal information the NSA gathered.  But with simple, off-the-shelf technology and a six thousand dollar drone, any interested eavesdropper can listen to your phone calls, break into your Wi-Fi network, and peruse anything there.  Everything is recorded in the book, and the book is open.

In his nineteen forty-eight dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell described a world where the government watched everything a

Big Brother Is Watching- Everything Is Recorded in The Book

Everything Is Recorded in The Book

person said or did.  “Big Brother is Watching You” was written as a warning, but has ended up as a model.  What is perhaps most disturbing is that people have become complacent about it.  We traded our privacy, our personal space, for the ability to instantly disseminate videos of cats.

We’re not likely to get rid of Big brother in the near future; cute videos are a big part of our lives.  Instant business and personal correspondence have become too important.  Our friendships with people we’ll never meet take up a big part of our lives.

Digitial technology has the ability to instantly record and store everything its eyes and ears pick up.  And they’re picking up more and more every day.  Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s concept of everything being recorded in the book is no longer scientifically absurd; humans have the technology to do it.  If there’s an omniscient God, It dwarfs humanity’s abilities in this field.

Another Rabbinic teaching offers a potential solution:

A fence for wisdom is silence.
(Ethics of the Fathers 3:17)

When you choose to speak, when you choose your path of action, do so in a way that you won’t be embarrassed if it turns out you are being recorded in the book— whether by the NSA, Google, or God.

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Aboriginal Americans & the Jewish State

Hijacking Planes

In 1968, Palestinian terrorists hijacked an El-Al plane, and got away with it.  They used the tactic repeatedly after that,entebbe12 with varying degrees of success.  The most infamous incident was the forcing of Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda, and Israel’s successful rescue of the hostages.

Hijacking Feminism

More such rescue operations are required these days, but not of aircraft.  The Palestinians and their Islamist allies have taken to hijacking peoples and

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan

causes.  For example, in nineteen seventy five Betty Friedan, a feminist trailblazer, led the American delegation to an International Woman’s Year World Conference.  She was stunned by the conference’s anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  A 1980 Women’s Conference in Copenhagen had a huge portrait of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, a man at the forefront of the oppression of women, decorating the conference chamber.

Hijacking Gays

Queers Against Israeli ApartheidAlthough Israel is the only place in the Middle East where homosexuals are legally protected from persecution, Toronto’s annual gay pride parade has frequently featured the participation of “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.”  That homosexuals would promote a movement that brutally oppresses them points to the effectiveness of Palestinian hijacking techniques.

Hijacking Aboriginal Americans- a special publication from the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research

Zionism, An Indigenous Struggle: Aboriginal Americans and the Jewish State

The collection of articles in this publication examines the relation between Aboriginal American and Jewish issues, focusing on the perceived attempt to hijack the Native American struggle for rights and recognition into the framework of Palestinian suffering.  Native Americans are viewed as the quintessential victims, having suffered genocide, theft of lands and consequent marginalization.  This fits into the casting of the Palestinians as victims of colonialism and oppression.

The hijacking doesn’t just take place through protest marches and conferences.  A Wisconsin Ojibwa Indian told me of her fear of the inroads Muslims have made in the local native communities, marrying Indian women and then using their new status to gain influence in native affairs and policies.  An expert in Southwest Indian art claims that Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian Arabs have been buying Aboriginal American art businesses in Arizona and New Mexico, then selling “Navajo” art made in the Philippines.   When I asked him to write about this for our publication he refused, not even wanting his name mentioned.  “People have been killed,” he explained.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren photo by Tim Pierce

The left has long revered the oppression of native peoples, and tried to make the most of it.  Pretend aboriginal Americans such as Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren used ostensible native identity to advance their careers.  Steven Salaita, a minor academic who has written peans glorifying Palestinian suffering was supposed to join the American Indian studies program at the University of Illinois; his overt anti-Semitism got in the way.

Also getting in the way is that many Aboriginal Americans aren’t interested in perpetually playing the victim.   It doesn’t fit their traditions or values.  And while they may have been downtrodden in the past, they don’t want that to define their future.  They want to make their own lives.

The Navajo, for example want to improve the efficiency of their agriculture.  We provide a link below on how the Navajo nation is working with Israel to improve its expertise on efficient irrigation in an arid climate.

Ola Mildred Rexroat — an Oglala Lakota Warrior

Ola Mildred Rexroat — an Oglala Lakota Warrior

Other aboriginal Americans are businessmen, professionals.  Many, both men and women, have served in the military, and cannot accept the reflexive anti-Americanism of the Palestinian agenda.  Many are devout Christians, and cannot accept the Muslim agenda. But more than that, they are themselves.  Native Americans are not anybody else’s stooge or weapon.  The attention from the left may be enjoyable for a time, but ultimately it is another form of cooption, another form of exploitation.  The Palestinians may claim that they are “indigenous,” but as our contributors deftly show, there is no moral or historical equivalency with aboriginal Americans.

***

Most popular opinion agrees that mankind has a common place of origin, whether in the Garden of Eden in some unknown location between the Tigris and Euphrates, or somewhere in Africa.  If you go back far enough, everybody on earth has common indigenous roots.

It’s when we start going only part way back that things get more complicated.  Populations have never been stable.  The Bible (cf. eg. 2 Kings 17) tells us how the Assyrians displaced whole nations, replacing them with populations from elsewhere.  If we prefer non-Biblical sources, speakers of the Turkic language group (Ottoman Empire) can be found far from their Turkish homeland, in China and Siberia, where they are now indigenous peoples.

Examples can be found in North America as well, such as the disappearance of the Tunnit (Dorset)peoples of the north, displaced by Inuit and Indians.  The Cheyenne were pushed out of the Great Lakes area, in turn coming into conflict with other Native Americans and of course the U.S. Army.  The Inuit battled the Ojibwa, Cree and Athabaskan Indians for territory.  Warfare   and population transfer happened both before and after the onset European colonization.  Are Native Americans indigenous to the specific places they now inhabit?  A bigger question is “does this matter?”

If we adopt a synchronic criterion of indigenous status, that is, a definition at a specific point of time, then everyone and no one is indigenous.  Whether we shout “1967,” “1948,” “1867” (Canada’s independence from Britain), “1763” or “1492,” we run into problems when indigenous status reflects a particular slice of time.  This simplistic approach may be useful for sloganeering, but our contributors take a more sophisticated approach.

Ryan Bellerose and David Yeagley, each coming from opposing sides of the political spectrum, observe how Native American rights are an attractive issue used to legitimate other causes.  Many movements have tried to appropriate or incorporate oppression of Native Americans into their own causes.   As Margaret Atwood pointed out in Survival, her guide to Canadian literature, the Indians have become the quintessential victims, doomed to forever remain so.

Jay Corwin uses a literary approach to negate the victim/ perpetrator narrative as it constrains both Native Americans and Jews, relegating them to a mythological realm.   As characters in such a realm, both Jews and Native Americans are condemned, unable to act to bring about their freedom.  Perhaps the real sin of Israel in the eyes of the world’s media is its refusal to abide by the rules of fantasy.  According to this paradigm, Israel has no right to return fire when it’s attacked.  Fantasy characters don’t carry real guns.  Bellerose, Yeagley and Corwin argue that refusing to be a victim doesn’t make one into an oppressor.  The attempted appropriation of Aboriginal American issues is form of exploitation.

In his “conversation with an Indian friend,” Bellerose lays out the misconceptions that facilitate lumping Israel and the Jews with the oppressors of Native Americans.  Once that grouping is made, it’s easier to build Native solidarity with other people who claim to be victims of the same oppressors.

Robinson discusses the ultimate expression of those misconceptions in his account of the Ahenakew affair.  David Ahenakew was an important Native American leader, earning the Order of Canada for his achievements on their behalf.  He was also a rabid anti-Semite, schooled in hatred in both Germany and Gaza.  He was ultimately stripped of the Order of Canada, and his racism denounced by other native leaders.

Ambassador Baker, in his article The Indigenous Rights of the Jewish People, explains the significance of a people being indigenous, in terms of history, politics and law.  He uses this to examine concepts of legality and illegality of the presence of Jews in various parts of Israel, rejecting nomenclature that delegitimizes that presence.

Mara Cohen has indigenous status in two worlds: as Lakota Indian and a Jew.  Describing the potential of dual status as a source of conflict, she explains how it rather provides the ability to see reality through a number of perspectives, and to move with ease between cultures.

Uqittuk Mark’s connection to Israel is Biblical, rather than political.  A devout Christian, he went on an organized Israel pilgrimage to see the land of the Bible.  His attachment to the land transcends the politics, while his experience as an Inuk (Eskimo) gives him a clearer perspective to understand the struggles over it.

Finally, while Palestinians and their supporters work hard to appropriate Aboriginal American identity and victimhood, Howard I. Schwartz explains why the early European colonists were convinced that the native people they found in North America actually were Jews: descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes.  Schwartz explains the ideology which led the colonists to interpret native culture as primitive Judaism, and then ultimately reject that interpretation when its implications became clear.

 What Cause Do Aboriginal Americans Belong To?

The injustices imposed on Aboriginal Americans are dramatic.  Their past suffering, their current travails stir many hearts.  Their impeccable credentials as victims make them a useful prop for many issues.

But to appropriate Native American issues to support other causes is another form of imperialism: taking from them what is exclusively theirs.  Although it’s tempting to equate so-called Palestinian indigenous rights with Native American indigenous rights, the essays in this publication demonstrate that this is a false analogy.  It is more: another attempt to hijack, to steal what belongs to the Indigenous peoples of North America.

See the entire special publication of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

Your comments are welcome
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God or the Devil?

Who would you rather be: God or the devil?  We have job descriptions for each, in case you’re having trouble deciding.

Glen Beck says that America has already made its choice between God or the Devil.  Is it too late for the country to change its mind?  We’ll know more on November 4th.

(please click images to follow links)

If_You_Were_God

Job description

devil

Job description

 

A hundred years ago, Robert Johnson sang about the consequences of making the wrong choice.

If you’re still unsure and want some background information, this essay describes the  contrasting views of the devil in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

You don’t actually have to be God or the devil.  But you do have to choose.

re-ay

Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil…

bachem hayom

This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live…

Burning Original art by Esti Mayer

Burning
Original art by Esti Mayer

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Oy: The Music of a Sigh

Tonight is the 11th anniversary of the death of my father, Yehuda Elberg.  He was a renowned author and essayist in the Yiddish-speaking world.  This is one of his English essays, a discussion of the importance of the word “oy” to the Jewish soul.

 

Oy: The Music of a Sigh- by Yehuda Elberg, © 1993

All the instruments in a brass band are made of the same material, but each of the various horns gives forth a different sound, because it is moulded in a different shape. Music written for a trumpet will not sound right on a tuba, and certainly not on a trombone.

The music of the Yiddish soul can be played best on the instrument that is called “Yiddish language.” Jewish parents who Yehuda Elberg bookwant their child to grow up in spiritual equanimity and with the maximum potential for creativity must give that child the proper instrument — the language that grew out of a thousand years of Jewish culture, the language that is soaked through with Jewish tears and which vibrates with Jewish song, the language of Jewish hope and faith, the language in which Jewish mothers rocked their children to sleep and in which our heroes roused us to bravery and kiddush ha-shem.

Yiddish is a musical language, and the meaning of a word depends on the tune in which it is expressed.

Jewish Humour

Jewish humour tells us of a Jew in Tsarist Russia who got an entry permit to the U.S. He needed a birth certificate, passport, an exit permit, he ran from office to office and every clerk held out his hand for bribe. “Funie gannef“, “Russian thief,” the Jew cried out with disgust. He finally got all his documents and left for N.Y. A relative picked him up on Ellis Island and on the way home he took him to a cafeteria where he put in a nickel and out came a hot cup of coffee. “Americhka gannef!” the newcomer exclaimed in admiration, and the word gannef here had an entirely different meaning.

Jewish folklore tells of a Jewish beggar who lived in the poorhouse. He sustained himself from begging door to door. One day it was discovered that he has a bundle of money and they brought him to the rabbi. The rabbi told him that he has no right to go around begging when he is not poor.

“But this is my livelihood,” the beggar protested.

“Unless you give your money for charity you will not be permitted to beg,” the rabbi insisted.

The beggar asked for three days to think it over. When he came back, he gave away his money and explained: Money is a feeble thing, it can be lost or stolen, it can lose its value, but with a livelihood one feels secure.

Prayers for womenyoung Yehuda Elberg

I have a little old book of Tehinot, Yiddish prayers for women, written by women (it is about one hundred and fifty years old).  I found there a prayer before lighting the Shabbat candles, which moved me to tears.  The woman asks for affluence, she asks the Creator to bless her with gold and riches so that she would be able to feed the students of the holy Torah, and support widows and orphans.  But she asks for this with the condition that the Creator, blessed be He, should together with the hard golden coins, give her a soft golden heart, the virtue of humility, and bless her with the talent to distribute charity with loving kindness, so that the beneficiary should feel that the benefactor is only a messenger who delivers the livelihood due to him.

But if the Creator does not agree to protect her from vanity and arrogance, which might cause the recipients humiliation, then please God protect me from becoming rich and sinning against you and against people.  May the poor and the Torah students find support with someone who is more worthy of it.

The woman who composed this prayer surely knew the deeper meaning of the word Tzedaka.  Jews are known to be charitable, AND Jews and their language influenced one another.  Yiddish words are soaked with Jewish tears, and vibrate with Jewish song.  By preserving Yiddish we preserve an important part of our culture, and we fortify Jewish virtues.

Heimish- homely

The English word for one’s residence is “home,” from which come the word “homely,” which can mean plain, common, ugly. The good times were spent in the street, in the pub, in the club. The home was humble, banal. But you can feel the warmth, the festiveness, of the love-guarded Jewish home in the expressions that grew out of the Yiddish word “heym.” Heymlich (cheerful, jolly), and heymish (intimate, snug, cosy). A heymisher mentch is a warm, affable person who doesn’t brag and whom you can count on in time of trouble.

And what of the ethical and aesthetic values of a Jewish home, the Shabbos and the holiday tables? The table in a Jewish home is like an altar of God, say our holy books. When God is in the home it is a holy place. Afflictions would have smothered the Jewish home under a heavy mountain of sorrow if that home had not hatched a mood in which such lovely Yiddish words as heymish and heymlich were born, bringing warmth and cosiness, heymishkeit and heymlichkeit into Jewish life.

A deathly fear of “sin”

The Talmud moderated many apparent harsh concepts in the Torah. Yiddish achieved the same in the way-of-life of our people. Heschel wrote: “Just as Rashi democratised Jewish education, Rabbi Judah the-Hasid and his circle, in the 12th and 13th centuries, democratised the ideals of mystical piety… The main thing is faith, heart, and inwardness. Righteousness is more important than wisdom; innocence is higher than analytical study; he who fears heaven is more distinguished than the scholar. Through their apotheosis of simplicity, of heartfelt faith, of humanity and all sorts of good habits they prepared the way for a simple mortal to reach God.”

We also know, however, that Rabbi Judah the-Hasid and the Hasidim of Ashkenaz of his time could not remove themselves from the times in which they lived. The medieval Christian ascetics influenced the Jews who lived among them. The Jewish mussar (ethics)-books of that time did disseminate ethics and they educated Jews to practice good habits, but they also filled them with a deathly fear of “sin” and its punishment, a fear that robbed people of their rest by day and ruined their sleep at night. A great deal that was earthy and human was regarded as “sin.” Even if one managed to keep oneself from doing sinful things he could not always drive out sinful thoughts — which lead straight to hell. The graphic horror stories of the pain and punishment meted out in gehennim induced nightmares and threw people into despondency.

This is alien to Jewish thought; it is against the Jewish spirit of enjoying life. It is written that when God created the world he saw that “it was good.” Our sages asked: “What is so good about it?” And they replied that God was pleased that the human being was born with a yetser hora — a capacity to sin. Without desire and passion the human being would lack initiative; he would not plow, he would not sow, he would not even bring children into the world.

So, in the Ukraine and Poland, a new Hasidism was born. Yiddish language and Yiddish fervor influenced the way of the Hasidim. To the specific laws that say that tormenting one’s own body is a sin, the Hasidim added that despondency and sadness is also a sin. Gloom is a trap set by Satan.

In Ethics of the Fathers there is an adage: “Know whence you come, where you are going, and before whom you will have to give an accounting.” Man comes from a malodorous drop, he returns to the dust of the earth, where the worms eat him — and that’s not the end of it. He will also have to account to the King of Kings for his deeds.

The Maggidim, itinerant preachers who used to travel from town to town in Eastern Europe, used to scare the life out of their listeners with that verse from the Mishna: “How can such a nothing, such a vile drop as the human being is, dare to disobey God’s commandments? Nothing is forgiven or forgotten, the gates of hell are always open, the fearsome angels of gehennim are waiting for their victims with red-hot pitchforks!” These threats of the Maggidim cast a pall of terror over the Jews who heard them.

Well, along came the Hasidic Rebbe of Ger and interpreted that Mishna in precisely the opposite way: The yetser hora, the evil inclination wants to lead you off the straight and narrow path, so he comes and says to you, with a sanctimonious look on his face, “Do you know where you come from and where you’re destined to go?” He wants to make you sad. You should answer him: “But do you know to whom I will have to account? To the King of Kings himself! Have a little respect for someone in whom the King of Kings takes such an interest!”

It is said that on Purim, Simchas Torah and other festive occasions when whiskey is imbibed in the shtible, the Hasidic prayer house, and the Jews dance there, Reb Lazer the Nose used to sing the verse, odom yesoydoy m’ofer, man comes from the dust. Someone asked him why he was singing and what’s so great about man coming from the dust and returning to the dust. Reb Lazer smiled and replied: “If Man came from gold and ended up as dust, then the loss would be great indeed. But he comes from the earth, returns to the earth, and in between he can have a couple of drinks besides — what’s so bad about that?”

Oy, Jews have survived even worse

In English, nebech has nebish, and means almost the same as shlemazl. The word nebech comes from the Polish nieboga or Czech nieboha — “God’s mercy has been removed from him.” In English it has become a word of ridicule. According to the psychoanalysts the nebish is a masochist who prepares his own downfall. And really, why should people feel sorry for him when he himself is to blame for his own failures? When a Jew, however, says “Oy, iz er nebech af tsores,” he says it with an undertone of pain. The listener feels that the other person’s trouble is also his trouble — he is unhappy over someone else’s unhappiness.

Oy and nebech grew out of the feeling that all Jews share a common destiny and that Jews are mutually responsible for each other’s fate. If that is so, then the words are cultural values and have a therapeutic effect on our spirit.  According to Abraham Sutzkever, “Oy” is a primeval sound.

A 2000-year-old OY has become an integral part of our being. Is it a “golus krechtz, the mournful sigh of a homeless people?” Yes, but our troubles purified us. After the words “Oy, things are very bad!” came the “Oy, Jews have survived even worse times.” The OY of that particular moment called to all the other OY’s in Jewish history and it became something else altogether. The expression of pain sublimated in a magical incantation to help us endure.

Our OY helped us to preserve the Tselem Elokim, the image of God, in times of humiliation, our restraint in time of trial, our courage in time of need. OY is perhaps the only word in our rich mamme-loshn that characterizes the entire language. The cry of pain has become the watchword of endurance. The Yiddish language has the warmth and the strength of spiritual therapy, perhaps because it contains the music of the Jewish sigh, the simplicity of Jewish faith and the psalm-like melody that sings straight from the heart.

To sum up: Yiddish drew from tradition and Yiddish enriched tradition. A people can produce great artists only when those artists know to recognize and stand at the spring from which the thirst of their souls was slaked.  Poets build on folksongs, epics are based on folk legends, great musical works are inspired by and include folk motifs. An artist is in tune with the soul of his people when the people’s language sings out of him. The ecstasy of the Eastern European Jews found its expression in Yiddish. Yiddish words are the keys to our soul, the keyboard on which one can best play the melody of the last thousand years of Jewish life and creativity. The language of innocence and of wisdom, of the synagogue bench and the cobbler’s bench, of the Yiddish bible and of the revolutionary who fought for a better world.

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A Conversation About War

An annotated conversation about war, adapted from Facebook:

(click on links for annotations)
Man of peace

Man of peace

Alice: We are bombing over Syria!  Right now.  We are bombing.  Oh, my heart hurts.

Russ: Hate

Alice: The thing is this … there are children.  Women.  Men who want only to provide for their little families.  There are doggies and kitties, goats maybe.  Lives.  Their lives are gone forever.  People terrorized, people grieving, people forever lost.  There is no good that comes from war.  No noble thing at all.

Russ: War, what is it good for…absolutely nothing

Deborah:  And Russia is next.

Alice: Deb, sadly, you may be right.

Nathan: Yes, let’s let ISIS sell pre-pubescent girls into sexual slavery (after giving them clitorectomies), slaughter entire villages, chase them

Man of peace

Man of peace

up a mountain to starve, have sex with the goats (captured on video), whip kitties to death with a stick, starve dogs and then light them on fire when they’re too weak to move.  Yes, war is good for nothing.  Let’s just let ISIS do whatever they want.  They’re promising to behead random Americans, and there’s evidence they’ve come across the border from Mexico.  Why fight against them in Syria, when we can do it here?

Russ: Nathan, I will be right behind you following your advance

What Would God have Americans Do?

Alice: Nathan, what you describe is certain horror.  It’s hard to read your words.  Still, I wonder … What does the Torah say about war and the responsibility to kill people in a far off land who do horrific things to their people?  What would God have Americans do, according to the Torah?  Remember, you’re teaching a neophyte about the nature of God.

Phyllis: I hate it too but ISIS has to be stopped.

Karen: But violence brings forth more violence.  We live in a scary world.

Nathan: Not responding to violence gives it license to grow.

Man of peace

Man of peace

Leslie: Can’t believe it!  Worked 2 years ago with a little girl whose family escaped Syria.  Can you imagine?  I can’t.  She had the sweetest smile…

 

Please note: videos of ISIS torture of cats, dogs, and humans of all ages are ubiquitous, and have not been included to illustrate; rather, we have included a video of Hamas terrorists pleasuring goats.  Although disgusting, it’s more tolerable to watch.  The torture videos, if you are inclined to see them, can easily be accessed through web searches.
 

You are welcome to continue the conversation in the comments

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Happy Quantum New Year

Our four-billion year old world came into being 5,775 years ago, with the creation of man.  So… Happy New Year.

happy_new_year

A Scientific Explanation

God, as a kid, tries to make a chicken in his room

God, as a kid, tries to make a chicken in his room

This Wednesday evening, September 24, 2014, marks the five thousand, seven hundred and seventy fifth year since the creation of the earth.  This celebration may be a little problematic for many people, because there’s a great deal of solid evidence that our planet is an awful lot older than that.  On the other hand, who wants to miss a good New Year’s party?

Don’t fret: there are two ways to deal with this scientifically.

The first is that time ain’t what it used to be.  The physicist Gerald Schroeder points out that the “days” mentioned in the Biblical story of Creation were not the same twenty four days we know now.  Those are a function of having a sun, and that was only created on the fourth day.  Using relativity theory to explain cosmic time, Schroeder explains that the modern science is in sync with the Creation account of Genesis, provided one doesn’t view the latter from an extreme literal perspective

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, on the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4)

Keep in mind that the original text was in Hebrew.  Holding literally to a translation opens you up to problems.

Amit Goswami, a physicist from another religious tradition, uses quantum mechanics and the Uncertainty Principal:

Suppose we ask, Is the moon there when we are not looking at it?  To the extent that the moon is ultimately a moonquantum object (being composed entirely of quantum objects), we must say no—so says physicist David Mermin.  Between observations, the moon also exists as a possibility form in transcendent potentia.  (p. 59)

Goswami explains that ultimately the components of the material world exist as a probability function.  It takes a conscious observer to collapse the probability, so those components seem to us as a real, material universe.

What’s consciousness?

Does a cat have consciousness?  It is only in material realism that consciousness is something merely to be possessed.  Such a consciousness would be determined, not free, and would not be worth having. (p. 59)

We turn to the cat physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who addresses this difficult question.

catTherefore consciousness is associated with those of its (nervous system) functions that adapted themselves by what we call experience to a changing environment…. I would summarize my general hypothesis this: consciousness is associated with the learning of the living substance; its knowing how is unconscious.

It’s not merely looking for a warm cave when the weather gets cold.  Schrödinger sees the conscious mind as one that transforms itself.  “For we ourselves are chisel and statue, conquerors and conquered at the same time.”  Not only did we chisel and conquer our minds: when we became human we began to conquer, or at least subdue the world.  Primitive agriculture  chiseled the earth to our needs.  But some insects, even amoebas are also primitive farmers.  Surely the Bible wasn’t addressing them.

egypt_animalsPeople have farmed for at least ten thousand years; little plots of land barely fed the people who worked them.  It was only with the use of  metal in the Bronze Age that we began to effectively chisel our world, with irrigation and better tools.  Farming became communal, whether through cooperation or brutal authority.  Humanity became the agent changing the environment which our consciousness adapted to.  Humanity took control, and that control is what defines humanity.  Man was created when he began to create himself in the Bronze Age.  At that point, existence moved forward from being transcendent potentia, to the world we know and subdue.

This happened 5775 years ago, according to the Jewish count.  It happened for Jews and non-Jews alike—for all human beings.

A personal New Year message:

Our consciousness, our lives are our own responsibility.   Our behavior is our own choosing.  On the anniversary of humanity’s taking responsibility for itself, it is appropriate for every single person to examine his actions of the past year, and resolve to make better ones in the coming year.   I wish you a year filled with right decisions.  Although we can never know where our choices will lead, I wish you results that bring health, contentment, and understanding.

Happy New Year.

 Your comments are welcome