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About Meir-Simchah

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  1. Here in Israel, we just observed our Memorial Day and celebrated our Independence Day, which occur every year back-to-back. Talking with my chevruta (close friend and study partner -- like Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin in Yentl), we started to unpack the relationship between the two days and what it means for them to be conjoined. Memorializing our fallen soldiers and civilians, in short, gives context to our independence. It's not just that they died so that we could live here, but that they, and we, are willing to take that risk to be here, that we share the knowledge that some things are more important than personal safety or one's own little life. That led us into comparing two heavy questions: What Would You Die For? & What Would You Live For? My chevruta believes that they are very different questions with, likely, very different answers. I suspect he's right on a practical level, but on the level of principles, it seems to me that they both press us to define What Does This World Mean To You? As God asks Adam: "Where are you?" I'm curious what you all think. (We recorded our conversation knowing that it might become an episode of our podcast, and it did. If you're interested, here's a link: http://www.holymadness.org/ - it's episode 16.)
  2. We read the Bible and believe what it says. So when you read the translation of the word ברא, which is probably, 'created'. How do you know what that means? Or maybe this is better... When you read (Exodus 22:35) וְכִֽי־יִגֹּ֧ף שֽׁוֹר־אִ֛ישׁ אֶת־שׁ֥וֹר רֵעֵ֖הוּ וָמֵ֑ת וּמָ֨כְר֜וּ אֶת־הַשּׁ֤וֹר הַחַי֙ וְחָצ֣וּ אֶת־כַּסְפּ֔וֹ וְגַ֥ם אֶת־הַמֵּ֖ת יֶֽחֱצֽוּן׃ When a man’s ox injures his neighbor’s ox and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide its price; they shall also divide the dead animal. ... how do you make sense of that? Suppose the injuring animal is worth a tenth of the price of the dead animal, then the owner of the injuring animal makes money off the incident, and the person whose ox was killed is hardly compensated. What do you do with that? Or take those oft-cited verses about a man not lying with a man as with a woman (Lev 18:22, 20:13). What's that mean exactly -- exactly what is proscribed? Do those verses just repeat the same idea, or do they have distinct meanings? And since we're on that topic, the word תועבה, commonly translated 'abomination' (whatever that means), what does that mean? And what's it add to the basic prohibition?
  3. Yes - that is exactly the point. And we're capable of error -- in fact, terribly liable to error -- in how we understand what we read. I agree. And... how do you know exactly what God told you? I'm suggesting that one element which must figure into our always tentative conclusions must be reason, and that once you say that we admit this one contradiction into our system, then any contradiction can be proven and everything breaks down.
  4. The book doesn't mention God's name but it clearly shows he is at work. But she was planning to approach the king and ask for the salvation of her people, so it is the same thing. Okay, but... What is the language of the holy book telling us?
  5. I hear. If the Bible seemed to tell you that the earth was flat or in the middle of the solar system or that dinosaur bones were planted in the earth by aliens as a deception, would you believe it? Perhaps. Or perhaps when our interpretations are incredible, i.e., not credible, incompatible with reason, then we need to reconsider how we're reading. We're bumping up the supposed antimony between faith and reason. That's a Tertullian dichotomy. (For a critique of it, check out Yoram Hazony in Philosophy of Hebrew Scriptures. I'd imagine Dru Johnson also has very good insights.) I don't buy into the dichotomy. To flip the Tertullian saying on its head, I live in Jerusalem, and I claim that Jerusalem without Athens isn't Jerusalem.
  6. Incidentally, I recently talk with my friend Tzvi about this on our podcast "Holy Madness - The Show". Actually I asked him why he doesn't believe in Jesus. And this, ultimately, was his answer, though he frames it in terms of "this world," "the next world," and salvation. The conversation is here https://holymadness.podbean.com/e/episode-9-betting-against-pascal/
  7. Above I wrote that God taking on human form "violates everything", and @Faber asked how that's the case. First, I don't think my sense of this violating everything is a product of my non-Christian perspective. This is the bedrock of Tertullian's theology: it is impossible, therefore it is certain. ... Say what? ... What kind of assumptions do you have to make about the character of existence in order to get to that idea? But hold on, back up. Why is God taking on human form so impossible? Well, this was discussed pretty thoroughly by medieval philosophers. It's a violation of oneness. Physical bodies change (and admit "accidents"), and are limited in ways that Being itself is not. So while a physical being might be singular, it cannot be one in the deep sense. So then there are different options for how you can deal with this. You can become a non-trinitarian. You can claim like Tertullian, that it doesn't make any sense, and that's the point. You can throw out oneness, or at least that concept of oneness. Etc. I'm sure Christian theologians have tried dozens of different ideas, and I'm just thinking off the cuff here. I believe that the oneness principle is crucial. And it's ultimately about more than how we describe God. It's about the unity of being. What does it mean for Primal Being to exist in a limited, perishable form? Doesn't make any sense. And with that everything breaks down, including our capacity to reason (again, as Tertullian points out).
  8. So, very interestingly, today it's called the Fast of Esther. And when Esther asks Mordechai to ask all the Jews to fast, she asks that they fast specifically for her, i.e., not for the salvation of the people. I have my own theory of what's going on, but I'd be very curious to hear y'all's thoughts first.
  9. And it's up! Episode 12a of the Holy Madness "Purim and the Book of Esther" -- a very accessible and rapid overview of Purim and the Book of Esther -- holymadness.podbean.com :-) We're also on iTunes. If you like it, you might consider joining the Facebook page "Holy Madness - The Show" and/or the discussion group "Holy Madness - The Discussion Group". Happy Purim!
  10. So I thought it was really interesting how @theophilus wrote: "It [the Book of Esther] demonstrates God's sovereignty and shows how he often places individuals in positions where they can take some action to carry out his work" and how @Innerfire89 wrote: "a reminder to Christians of how God is in control of all" because the Book of Esther doesn't have a single mention of any of God's names! Interesting, right?! So, while I agree that God is the ultimate sovereign, I feel that the Book of Esther puts to us some question about, or suggests some different way of relating to, God's sovereignty. What do you think?
  11. Thanks @theophilus and @Eric T. ! I just did an overview of Esther and Purim on my podcast, Holy Madness - The Show (holymadness.podbean.com) :-) But we won't post it till Thursday evening! I'll update here! In short, we celebrate Purim with four mitzvot: singing the Book of Esther at night and then again in the morning, making a big festive meal, giving a gift of at least two different kinds of food to at least one friend (for their meal), giving monetary gifts to at least two people who are impoverished (for their meals) :-)
  12. Shalom! This is Meir-Simchah, the Israeli Jew again. I'm wondering, how do you and your community relate to the Book of Esther? And do you or your church mark Purim (these days of the month of Adar) in any way? Thanks!
  13. Wow! That's a fascinating position. Is this your unique idea, or is this official dogma or a whole group? What does it mean to not be accountable to the 10 commandments? Is it permissible then to murder, adulter, worship idols, deny the unity of God? Or is all that stuff still bad but for some other reason? (Btw, why focus on the so-called "10 Commandments" when there are hundreds of other commandments in the Hebrew Bible?)
  14. I raised this question because I recently did a podcast episode on happiness (holymadness.podbean.com, episode 8, "The Pursuit of Happiness"). Our interviewee (a Jewish American Israeli in his thirties, like me) tried to put forth an idea of happiness that was divorced from his theology, even though in his personal life the two are intertwined. He had a very specific reason for doing this. He wanted to show that the self-interested pursuit of happiness -- a kind of epicurean happiness -- ultimately leads a person to God. Actually, he was even more specific. He spoke specifically about coming to bitachon in God, which I'd tentatively translate 'trust' in God. What do you think about that? (If you check out the podcast, you might find episode 9 especially interesting. I kick off the episode by asking my co-host, why don't you accept Jesus as your lord and savior? (Neither of us does.) He recovered quickly from his surprise and came back with a very interesting answer.)
  15. Hello Meir-Simchah, I like to think of happiness as something we pick up as we walk through life. You know the saying: "Happiness is a warm puppy." The same could be said of playing or talking with a toddler. We could be in dire straits, in our lives, and still grab a little happiness on our journey. I guess what I'm trying to say is: Happiness is not a state we dwell in. If we always exuded happiness, they would probably put us in the funny farm. Yours, Deade It sounds like you and @just_me are answering along similar line, in terms of the concrete and experiential.
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