[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Wed May 14 11:10:58 PDT 2008

> I assume you mean
> http://www.amazon.com/Living-Torah-English-Translation-Traditional/dp/0940118351
> You know, I just might.  Having a careful translation and bilingual
> interlinear volume might be really useful, next time I want to jerk the
> chain of some fundies.  ;->  647 pages and 1.1 kg of mass means it's a
> bit heavy for reading on the subway.  (It was the unsavoury experience
> of trying to read the JPS translation on the NYC subway that made me
> concoct some book covers saying only "Boring Novel" on the outside.)
> ["fundamentalism"]
> > I think you would be making a long stretch to conjecture that anyone
> > would use the word fundementalist outside of its plain working
> > meaning, similar to Bontanist, florist, and procologist.
> No, I think you're misreading my point.  My point is that words don't
> have only "plain working meanings".  They also carry baggage --
> connotations and associations.  The term "fundamentalist" in English
> conjures up a chain of associations related to its history in the USA.
> Even if that chain never literally reaches the Niagara Conferences in
> the speaker's or the listeners' minds -- and it of course seldom would
> -- that's the direction in which that chain of association will tend to
> head.  Association with Protestantism tends to make one conjure up an
> association with centrally-directed congregations with hierarchies
> mediating members' experience.  Which in turn makes it a poor fit for
> metaphorically describing Wahhabism (what _they_ would call "Salafism":
> return to the practices of the predecessors, or salaf).
> > > Yeah, I know, but the Levi'yim and and Kohanim are pretty much
> > > priests without portfolio, at the moment.  
> > 
> > That is also not right and one of the major major major misconceptions
> > of Judaism.  They are absolutely core to the religion and perform
> > religious ceremoney and functions, including but not limited to the
> > highlight of every holiday service.  Judaism has no no way
> > disenfranchised itself from Temple Services or the Preisthood.  The
> > entire Jewish lituragy is centered on the Temple Service, as is the
> > Passover Seder.
> I think this is a case of your seeing off-white, and my seeing grey.
> One way to clarify this is with a hypothetical:  If all of the Levites
> and Kohanim suddenly decided that the rest of you sucked, and mass-migrated
> to Alpha Centauri, taking them out of the picture as far as terrestrial
> religious practice was concerned, what _would_ the effect on Earth-based 
> Jewish religious practice be?

I'm not sure what your fishing for here, but without the Levian, Kahanim, and 
and Temple services core aspects of the religious ritual collapses.

> To answer that question, one has to invetory the effects.  Prior to 70
> AD:
> o  Levites (i.e., non-kohan Levites) provided music and song for Temple
>    ceremonies, and functioned as guards for the Temple and Mt. Moriah.
> o  They did maintenance and construction around the Temple, and washing
>    of feet/hands before services.
> o  They looked after and transported the Tabernacle, prior to the First
>    Temple's construction.
> o  They received no tribal lands (religious duties instead).
> o  They received the Levite tithe (masser rishon, first tithe) from 
>    members of the other tribes.
> o  They maintained cities of refuge, and served as judges.
> o  They performed translations and public explanations of holy text.
> o  They attended to the Kohanim -- including the spreading of the hands
>    made popular in geek/SF culture by Leonard Nimoy.  ("Live long and
>    prosper.")
> o  Kohanim performed the sacrifices (korbanot) and Priestly Blessing
>    (birkat korbanot) of the crowd.  
> o  They could eat from the offerings, both the terumah ("thing lifted apart", 
>    metaphorically meaning donation) and various other religious
>    offerings including the silver coins left to redeem the firstborn males.
> o  They had to abstain from wine and all strong drink.
> o  To maintain ritual purity, they had to avoid contact with dead
>    animals (or enter buildings containing dead people or body parts),
>    and male kohanim might not marry a divorcee, convert, prostitute, 
>    or dishonoured woman.
> o  The High Priest (kohen gadol) was, in particular, obliged to marry a
>    virgin.
> o  Female kohanim (bat kohen) were prohibited from officiating at Temple
>    service, but otherwise the same applied.
> Since 70 AD:
> o  Kohanim are called first to Torah readings (first reading), then Levites
>    (second reading).  
> o  Kohaim still perform the Priestly Blessing (birkat kohanim), with Levites
>    assisting and washing their hands.  Neither have to be redeemed if
>    firstborn male (pidyon ha-ben).  
> o  They receive the redemption of the firstborn male (pinyon ha-ben) money,
>    though traditionaly give it right back or ensure that it goes to a 
>    worthwhile cause.
> o  They still obey the rules of ritual purity.  (Hey, just in case the
>    Third Temple gets built.)
> I might have missed some aspects, but I think that's gathered most of
> it.

Actually, you missed all of it.  The Kohanim and Levim has specific religious
responsibilities and benifits throughout every religious ritual of Judaism.

Every prayer service, and communual ritual is still centers on the Temple service
the Preisthood.

The lose of the ability to do sacrifices at the Temple is the sole remision, which
has been replaced with detailed and cerimonial recanting and leadership of Kohanim.

Without the Preisthood, there is no Judaism and it can not be practiced.

> All told, if the Kohanim and Levi'im go gallivanting around Alpha
> Centauri, _my_ interpretation is that the rest of you would be a little
> put out, but your religious practice would be very little affected.

It would be undoable and the whole faith would need to be changed no less than it
was when the Temple itself was lost.

> > > Nor did I so state.  I merely pointed out that both make members of
> > > the faith answerable directly to God, and that religious figures
> > > have no authority beyond respect and scholarship.
> > 
> > In Judiasm, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Jacob, David, Solomon and Abraham
> > all made vital errors and acts in defiance of the "Will of God"
> Again, you have missed my point:  (Most) Christian denominations
> interpose a religious hierarchy between congregants and God, 

Yes that is a major different between Christianity, Islam and Judiasm.

In addition, In Judaism exclussively of these three faiths, God talks
directly to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.

> to tell the
> former what to think and do.  By contrast, in both Judaism and Islam, a
> congregant's religious link is to God directly, not to a church
> organisation.  

Of course we link through the institutions of the faith.  We don't link through
Jesus or Mohammed.  God spoke to the nation, and the nations implemmentation
teach and lead.

> Therefore, religious figures have status only through
> congregants respect and recognition of their scholarship, not on account
> of their inherent office.  

Through both.  The scolarship is an unbroken link from Sinai and one needs
Smitah, the lay of hands, to obtain Rabbinical Concecration.  Most Jewish
people I know have such Smitah.

And then there is the Kohanim.  Kohani failies have a responsiblity to
teach their children both Rabinical education, but specific aspects
related to their responsibilities.

The essential core of the Nation's insitutions remain intact from
Sinai:  Preisthood, Courts, and Houses of Learning

>Exceptions are vestigial or minor (or not --
> per one's perspective):  the Levite/Kohen duties & privileges above on
> the one hand, and the defunct office of Caliph on the other.

except that the Levimum and Kahanim aren't a dead office and a major factor
to the Jewish Faith, and the national administration.

> > It's a recurring theme, FWIW.  I don't know if Rabinical authority
> > goes beyond scholarship. 
> All of my best (but goyish) understanding says "no".  
> [Christian principles supposedly being "constructed in direct opposition
> to Jewish thought, and purposely so, while adapting Jewish lexicon":]
> > There is the story of the Good Samatiun for starters.  The disposal of
> > Halachah and movement of the Sabbath to Sunday... it goes on and on.
> The parable of the Good Samaritan (Gospel of Luke only) was almost
> certainly monkeyed around with -- the text tampered with -- by later
> Church fathers, because Jesus and his followers would have known from
> their own local knowledge that presupposing a Samaritan travelling the
> road from Jerusalem down to Jericho would make no sense.  

Regardless, a Kohain could not have acted as the parable tells the story
and is an assult of core Jewish theology.

> They would
> have said "Huh?  What would a Samaritan be doing _there_?  They're all
> up near Shechem [modern-day Nablus]."  A Samaritan moseying down the
> road to Jericho would be about as likely, and about as welcome, as my
> marching to Fallujah while whistling "Yankee Doodle". 
> Best speculation I've heard was that the original parable involved a
> regular Israelite showing mercy (rachmones) to a traveller in distress
> (after a passing Levite hadn't bothered).  

Levites would not have been permited to "bother" and thats the crux of the

> That's a moral hectoring that
> wouldn't have been out of place in, say, Isaiah.
> By "the disposal of Halachah", I assume you mean Paul of Tarsus's 
> ("St. Paul's") relaxing, in Acts of the Apostles ch. 15 of the 613
> Jewish mitzvot ("laws") where the large flock of new, non-Jewish Christian
> converts were concerned.  I see this as having nothing to do with
> "direct opposition to Jewish thought", but rather a pragmatic
> power-politics move to increase the numbers of adherents.  

That sae carrot has always been present, and is still present.  Its directly
contrary to the Faith.

> since the Orthodox Jewish view was always that non-Jews are responsible
> only for obeying the seven laws of Noah (no idols, no murder, no theft,
> no adultery, no blasphemy, no eating flesh of still-living animals, and
> set up a just system of laws to ensure the other six laws), I not only 
> don't see what's "direct opposition to Jewish thought" about it, but
> think it sounds quite congruent.
> Movement of the sabbath to Sunday was not "in opposition to" Jewish
> though, but rather was sort of a casual mishap where churches distant
> from the Holy Land started stressing the first day of the week as the
> weekly anniversary of Jesus's resurrection ("the Lord's Day").  This was
> then cemented by Emperor Constantine I's 321 AD edict that made the day
> an official day of rest in celebration of the Roman official sun god Sol
> Invictus.  (This is before Constantine adopted his version of
> Christianity, merging in much of the Mithraism popular among his
> troops.) 

This was done intentonally to seperate the church and was so stated in Chruch records.

>  Christians were laying low, and so having their gatherings on
> the first day of the week, official day of rest and devotion, allowed
> them to escape official notice more easily and look less like Jews, who
> were pretty unpopular in the Empire.
> So, not opposition, more like apathy and having other priorities entirely.
> > > [1] Harry Turtledove wrote a very engaging alternate-history fantasy
> > > in which the Byzantine Empire survived the Middle Ages
> > 
> > I think by 1453 the middle ages was over, but I get your point ;)
> The Fall of Constantinople is usually deemed, by historians, the
> (arbitrary) end of the Middle Ages.  Thus, a Byzantine Empire that
> didn't fall to Mehmet II's Hungarian-designed cannon would be, by
> definition, one that survived the Middle Ages.

I'll get to the rest later.  Lunch is over.


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