[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed May 14 13:50:26 PDT 2008

Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben at mrbrklyn.com):

> 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.

Do they?  In services where a Kohen happens not to be present, it's
already traditional for a Levite to take the first aliyah "bimkom Kohen"
(in the place of a Kohen), and for a non-Levite Jew to do the second and
succeeding ones.  I may be just a dumb Norwegian-American agnostic
gentile for suggesting this, but, if all of the Levites of both types
(Kohanim and not) were to hare off to Alpha Centauri, I suspect there'd
be a modest accomodation of some sort, back here on Earth:  Someone else
would end up doing the Torah readings, and life would go on.  Which is,
of course, rather similar -- or at least analogous -- to the
accomodations required after Titus and sundry Roman thugs destroyed the
Temple and killed everyone within reach.

So I still think you're seeing off-white, and I'm seeing grey.  (I hope
you'll pardon my perspective, which is ultimately founded in secular
history, politics, and language, but not religion.  I have no personal
background in any religion, but am sympathetic to any that doesn't
threaten to burn crosses on my lawn or barbecue my cat.[1])

> > 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.

Well, yes, the "semicha lerabbanut", ("rabbinical ordination": literally
"rabbinical laying [of hands]").  You might be surprised to note that
the practice actually ceased during the Talmudic era, so the line of
succession from Moses's 70 elders (Numbers 11:16-25) did not continue
past about 425 AD, when Emperor Theodosius II ordered the execution of
Gamaliel VI and destroyed the last Sanhedrin.  See:

And I stand by what I said about status being based on respect for
scholarship primarily, and their personal history and the
recommendations of other respected people.  As an example, Rabbi Yisrael
Meir Kagan aka "The Chofetz Chaim"
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yisrael_Meir_Kagan), one of the most
respected rabbis of the 20th century, was never ordained.

> And then there is the Kohanim.

Quite true.  _That_ is an inherited status.  But that wasn't what I was
talking about.

> > 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.

The present, tampered-with text _does_ bad-mouth a (hypothetical[2]
example of a) Kohen, (and then also takes a swipe at a Levite):
The parable hypothesised a man (a regular working-day Israelite) being
robbed on the Jericho road.  The robbers stripped his clothes, "beat him
and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going
down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other
side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed
by on the other side."

The tampered text then invidiously compares these two gents' conduct of
bypassing the scene with an (equally hypothetical, and geographically
highly implausible) Samaritan stopping and helping his wounded tribal

The original text would probably have lacked the somewhat ludicrous
embellishment of throwing in a displaced Samaritan, and had an ordinary
Israelite stopping to help the wounded guy after either just a Levite,
or a Kohen and then a Levite, walked on by.

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

You tell me, is there any obligation that could have completely
prevented a Levite from stopping and helping a wounded traveller?  I'm
not trying to be confrontational (and have zero loyalty to Christian
thought), but I know of none.  Thus my question.

For that matter, why would even a (theoretical) Kohen not be able to
save the (theoretical) traveller's life?  I'm guessing that the problem
is that the latter's wounds are "zav" (ritually impure: Leviticus
15:1-15 and 15:25-33) on account of entailing abnormal bodily
discharges.  If so, the Kohen or Levite would later be obliged to regain
ritual purity by washing his clothes, bathing in running water, offering
two not-inexpensive sacrifices of doves, and waiting a week.

I'm sure it would be extremely annoying to feel obliged to go to all
that extra trouble and expense, after _also_ going out of one's way to
save the life of an utter stranger.  The (hypothetical) Kohen or Levite
might justifiably wish someone _else_ would stop and help the foolhardy
traveller who had recklessly skipped down a bandit-infested road and
gotten knifed.  But is it correct to say either bystander would not be
_permitted_ to help?  What am I missing?

> > 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 same carrot has always been present, and is still present.  It's
> directly contrary to the Faith.

I'm fully aware that Judaism doesn't proslytise, let alone even consider 
relaxing its laws where _Jews_ are concerned (well, Orthodox Judaism
doesn't consider doing so, anyway), but Paul of Tarsus was not making
that pronouncement concerning the _Jewish_ adherents:  It concerned the
(newer) gentile ones.  Paul wasn't saying "doing this will make you
Jewish".  To the contrary, he was saying "Because you're _not_ Jewish,
these 613 laws of conduct don't apply to you, and you basically don't
have to worry about them."

I'm no fan of Paul of Tarsus:  IMO, his influence on history was
regrettable and malign (making it doubly regrettable that he had more
influence on the direction of Christianity than anyone else, ever): 
He was misogynistic and sexually uptight, even by the standards of his
day, which is really saying something.  He also greatly accelerated the
tendency of his faith to de-emphasise dealing with the problems of the
world in favour of everything working out after death, which attitude is,
IMO, part of what gave us the Dark Ages.  (He was also notably
inconsistent in what precisely he advocated, over time, but I digress.)

But the point is that, correct me if I'm wrong, but even the strictest
Jewish opinion holds that gentiles are accountable only for complying
with the seven moral laws of Noah.  (E.g., my being a non-theist is OK,
as long as I don't perversely take up idol-worship.)  So, given that
Paul of Tarsus was basically just saying "You non-Jews among us aren't
subject to our 613 laws", how is that in any way contrary to your Faith,
let alone directly?

> > 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
> Church records.

I'm sure there was exactly that kind of dumbass factional politics
inside the Roman Empire, but can you please be specific about what
you're referring to?  (I would have no clue where to find that in
"Church records", in part because I know a whole lot less about any form
of Christianity than I do about Judaism.)  Moreover, you would seem to
have shifted your position, as "separating the church" would seem rather
different from adopting "principles constructed in direct opposition to
Jewish thought".

[1] Old joke:  Q: How do you really frighten a Unitarian?  A: Burn a
question mark on his front lawn.

[2] I stress "hypothetical" because some people can't seem to comprehend
that a parable is an instructive made-up story -- not "this happened",
but rather "_suppose_ this happened".

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