[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Wed May 14 19:13:18 PDT 2008

On Wed, May 14, 2008 at 01:50:26PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> 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?  

Yes they do.  In fact, a great part of learning involves the laws pertaining
to Kahanim, and there are a bunch of issues having to do with Contract Law,
Property Law (can you evict a Kohain?), tutition payments, the laws of
Tinths is still VALID, the Halacha of Brisim, and more.  There is no
fabric of authentic Jewish Law which doesn't involve specific rules
for Kahanim and Levium.

> 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.  

Actually in that case it would be Both Levim, If I recall, although frankly
I forget because there is never a shortage of Kohanim but there is often
a shortage of Levim.

In Israel, there are special issues with property owned by Kohanim, and then
there is community property.  You can not remove the place of the Kohanim
from the faith any more than you can Shabbos Candles.  It's CORE CORE CORE.

And without Kohanim, the most secred parts of the Holiday services can't be
done, which is the Birchas Kohanim, and without Penion HaBen, you have an
enormous gulf in the Judiasm.

The idea that Kohanim and the Temple services are remnents is Theologically
absurd.  The entire faith is wrapped up in "If I forget you Jerusalem,
my tongue should be cut."  This entire faith is built on rememberance, 
especially remembering the Temple.  Each act which can be still performed by a
Kohain, or a Levi, is a core Mitzah.  Jews spend their entire life remembering
the Temple, Remember the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur, Remembering the Peasach
Sacrifice and and performing the Mitzos that are still available.  

The trauma of not having the actually Temple is to be felt every day.  It can't
be more theologically wrong to assume that either the Temple or the Kohanim is
"rement", peripherial, or a footnote to the religious practice or the 
faith.  They are absolutely one of the cornerstones of the faiths.  It is
as essential to Judiasm as the Sacrifice of Christ by the Romans, and 
"there is no god but Alah and Muhamad is his prophit" in Islam.  In fact,
the Kohanim is more core to Judiasm than say, "Latin" is to the Roman Church.

It's not a footnote, an aside, an historical perspective.  It is the living
embodiment of the Revelation of God at Mount Sinai, living Jewish Law.

And here is the big mistake.  The one thing about Islam that is in fact
similar to Judiasm, in fact it was lifted from Judaism, is that Judaism
covers all aspects of soceity, govornence, and living.  Contracts, Building,
farming, marraige, criminal law, contract law, tort law, food purity (aside
from Kashruit), medical law, setting the Calender, appointment of Judges,
electorial law, Urban development, economic policy and law, banking law,
military law, and every kind of support institution including academic
accademies and every single aspect of governence and law is covered in 
Judiasm.  The big secret is that the Jews never conceded defeat to the 
Romans, even with the Temple burning and in ruins, even after the genocidial 
and facist oppression.  Jewish Government just continues, Kohanim, Temple 
Service and all, straight through history.  In fact, steps were taken to 
asure the survival the the Jewish Government as the Romans surrounded 
Jerusalam and prepared to burn it.  It was preserved, intact, language,
history, rulings, governing hierachy.  Both the Kings of Judiah and the
Preists had their positions preserved in academies accross the known world.
The office of Nasi (King) and Kohain Godol continued and still does
continue, although I have no idea who would be in line for the Monarchy
at this time.  I was partly hidden and abscured to avoid the repressive
hatred of Islamic rulers.

> I may be just a dumb Norwegian-American agnostic
> gentile for suggesting this, 

Surely you jest.  

> 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.  

Life went on when the Gemora's were burned, when the Jews were tossed into 
Ovens, when Shabbos was outlawed, then the Inquesetioners forced baptism
on us, when Jewish leaders and Scholars had their skin fileted from their
face while still living, when our land was burned, when we were exiled,
when other peoples were forcably settled in the land in an attempt to dilute
and destroy the nation, and so I ask again.  What is your point?  If all the 
Kohanim were taken the next Galaxy, they'd have to be taken by force and
and a tremendous genocidal attach on all of Israel because they would
never leave the nation willingly.  They are an intregral part of the nation.

> 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.

Absolutely not.  Titus thought that destroying the Temple would end the Jewish
nation.  It didn't happen.  The Temple service continued to be the central
religious and spiritual centerpoint of the Jewish Faith, and it still is to
this day.

> 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])

Did that happen to you once?  Were not seeing off-white and grey.  You
missing the basics here.  When I became more religious this was a weird thing
to grapple with originally because it seems so bizzare to a Western ear, 
but at no time does Judaism seperate from the Temple centered whorship of
the Monarchy period.  At no time did the Jewish Nation give up it's claim
on it's land.  At no time did it give up its Government, or its
system of Government. It never stopped trying to resurrect it's Government,
and physical existence.  It has been in a gorrila war with time for nearly
2000 years.  It doesn't give up, it will NEVER give up.

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

Tell that to the Breslov Chassidim, or the Bobov.  It's not just scholarship,
but Scholarship and Shmeetah, and a real and guinuine Preistly cast.  One
of the most common Jewish idea's is Yichus (or family lineage).  It's just that
Judaism is generally a religion of practical moderation (its built into the 
Theology from its root).  There never was an "absulote" Monach.  An infallible
prophet, or a all powerful Preisthood.  In Judaism, God comes to the Jewish
people and they work out their problems together.  

It's a partnership from the choice of Monarchs to the handing out of Justice.  
God says to Abrahan, I'm going to destroy Sodom.  Abraham say, hey wait a 
minute, I don't think that is a good idea.  What if there is 10 rightuos 
people in Sodom....

In Egypt God makes the Jews partners in their emancipation, and they slaughter
sacred Sheep, a God figure in Egyptian Methology, and openly spray the blood
on the door.

In Persia, Esther has to come out of hiding and asset herself at her own

The Monarchs are chosen with the consent of the poeple (when you chose yourself
a King ...)

The wars of Joshua were divine acts, yet required real soldiers.

Jacob wrestled with Easau's angle...

Yitzchak was nearly sacrificed...

The land is divided, and the tribes complain about widowers, and futher
property rules as created...

And then there is the lists of wrongful and yet Scholarly acts.  Korach based
on his position and scholarship challenged Aaron.  Moses hit a rock rather than
talking to it, Miriam wanted Quails and was upset at Moses for ignoring his 
wife, and the theme continues through the entire Tanach.  David loses his chance
to build the Temple, Saul loses his kingship for not destroying Amalak...etc.

In almost every case, the divine punishment comes from an act where scholars
act against an instruction without bringing the case to either God or the 
Judges of Israel, and at the Temple period, to God himself through the Urim and

All of this contructs a rich theological and practical bases for Jewish
living and the essential core till today includes Temple worship and
the Priesthood.

Remove either and you are simply no longer talking about the Jewish religion.

> > 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:

Actually, it is one continuous line and a great deal of recent scholarship 
from the Mir Yeshive makes the linear decent (like a geneology table)
directly to Moshe of every current great school of learning.  And in every case
the line is not broken.

Of course, everyone and their mother takes a shot at this since its a core
point of the authenticity of the Jews claim on their own cultural heritiage.

As sure as Jesus of Nazarath had to be from the House of David, and the Morman's
consider themselves the "True Hebrews" and the Islamic faith rewrote the 
lineage of the Jews and changed to people burried in Hebron, the continity of
Shmichah is targeted by every theology on earth from Stephine Wise to Jews for 

There is no break.  The end of the Sanhedrein, however, was yet another problem
as it was the actual Sanhedren which sat in Judea.  when it was destroyed,
it was a collasal blow to Jewish self rule and sovernity and the terminology
used to describe what the Sanhedren is empowered to do, and what other
courts can do is rife for world play and translational mispresentations for
those who wish diminish the linear authenticity of the Jewish faith.

So tell me something else that's new.

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanhedrin#Dissolution
> 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.

My son goes to a Chofetz Chaim school and to my knowledge he received 
Shmicha from the Great Rav Barit and then TURNED DOWN Rabbinical positions
in order to run a grocery store and write.  Similary was the Vilna Goen
who also refused a Rabbinical position (ie: Paid Rabbi) to learn with only
a select few students who transmitted his works.

Aside from that, and I'll check further on this tonight when I talk to my
son, there is a specific honor given to people who have learned and never 
recieved Shmicha, purposely forgoing the honor, and some great scholars came 
from this group.  But this has nothing to do with the unbroken chain.
The Chofetz Chaims individual status would have no impact on the fact that
the Yeshiva he went to had a cadre of Rabbi's (which requires Shmicha)
and the schools he created have a Cadre of Rabbi's and the Chofetz Chaim's
work has been peer reviewed adnueum by the Rabinical College.

> > 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 Jewish Law on this is every explicit.  The governing leadership of the
two towns closest to the incident are to not only give help, but also
to make a comunal sacrifice of repentence that such an event was allowed
to happen in their area of control.  In fact, the entire town in this
case would be considered spiritually as guilty as the assailent.

Thats a little something left purposesly and with malice out of the parabel,

> 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
> enemy.
> 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?  

Actually, its a question if he could have been allowed to intervien
at all if the event was obviosly deadly.  As the man was described
as being either half dead or dead, the Halach is clear that they could
not intevene.  And the same question is fielded every day today because
there are a lot of Kohanin who are MD's and some of them filter into the
relgious community over time, and are faced with these question.  
The towns themselves are directly resonsible for policing the areas in between
and have first case responsibility and tort.

> I'm
> not trying to be confrontational (and have zero loyalty to Christian
> thought), but I know of none.  Thus my question.

If I thought this was a flame war, I wouldn't be discussing it.  It would
be endless and without any pleasure ;)
> 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.  

A dead body itself is the source of Tzav.

> 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.

Not in this case, and there are two Mitzot involved here.  One is the Mitzah
to avoid impurities of several types (for everyone for that matter) and then
a rememdy for the "crime", which is becoming impure.  The ritual is a form
of redemption.  In fact, all the "punishments" for crimes from Murder on is 
considered a repentance.  Jewish Jurisprudence does not philosophically punish 
the guilty.  They attempt redeem the guilty through acts of Tchuva, which very
roughly translates to repentence.  You run into this repeadely through out
the Talmud and the Mishnah. (Rhehtorical Question in the Gemora - How can
this safrice bring repentence for this act when we know from this verse that
the repentence is defined as this other punishment etc).

> 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?
What is missing is that it would be a violation to touch the dead, in this case,
yet as you describe it, as a knifing taking place or with an alert living man 
they may have obligations.  But the law is that a Kohan can only become
tuhmah  intentionally for an immediate relative.  I think the term Tzav is only
sexual impurity.


The author of the Good Samatian knew Jewish Law very well and exploited its
details, both the details of the laws regarding Samartians and the Laws of
Purity to make it very difficult to refute without denying core Jewish law.
It is not accidental in any way and was obviously constructed to foster
anti-semitism.  And it was cannonized by the church....not by accident.

> > > 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".  

Eugene Webber gives a great lecture on this:


Anyway, your being to kind to Paul.  The Christians had from the start
an anti-Jewish agenda, and not just Christians, but all the other
Jewish Cults that became uncapped after Military power to keep them
in line was destroyed thanks to the Romans.

> 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."

That's not what he said.  Prior to the destruction of the Temple, Jewish
theology and law became the primary popular political philosphy in a
Facist Empire that destroyed culture and freedom where ever the Roman Legion
marched.  Jerusalem was the flash point of empire wide unrest and rebellion.
The problem was that Judaism wasn't at its core a rebellion theology and it
was hard as hell to become Jewish, or to even live as a Jew.  All kinds of
Jewish groups cropped up with Rebillion Theology, and even Acroptycal theology.
The Jews, even with the temple burning, refrained from an anti-Roman 
theology, and the Jewish revolts never tried to draw in the millions of willing
rebels to their cause.  The result was that the Jewish Revolts, despite victory,
were never willing to actually chase down the Roman Legion and to destroy the
actual empire.  Like today, they were interested in freeing their land,
not to lead a Military or theological revolution to overturn the Roman Empire,
a fact the Romans were very thankful of.

In a sense, when they destroyed Judea, they shot themselves in the foot and
one of the rebelion achropytical groups turned around and bit Rome, although 
they had little impact on the Jews.

Paul both hated the Jewish theology and was in a rush to forment a revolution.
The hatred of the early Christians no doubt stemmed directly from the rough
treatment they recieved from the Jews.  He took every shot he could at
Jewish Theology and Governance.

> 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?

He was saying that he had a New Testement that superceded traditional Judaism.
Non-Jews had a place in Judiasm and even attended Jewish Temple service, but
could never get into the inside without converting, something that often 
happened, but not in mass and it was a difficult life.  There are a lot of 
Mitzvots and they're not easy to follow.

He said, forget that entire pretense.  We are superceding Judaism, and the
cost to get in a simple statement of faith and some charity from time to 

> > > 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?  

This is a lousy source but the quotes are real.


> (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".

It was a direct swipe at the Jews.  Also, the Roman Catholic Church has the
largest collection on Ancient Jewish texts and they've refused anyone from
copying them or even looking at them except, there is a rumour that one
Jewish Scholar with a photgraphic memory was allowed access in the 1970's
and he was able to reproduce a good deal of material dating date to the
Temple period and off course a ton of the stuff that was lost in the
middle ages.  It's a facinating story.


> [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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