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Talmud meets the Gridiron

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — they meet in the American war movie exploring the use of drones, Good Kill ]
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A quick example of Talmud-to-movie translation:

Lest we forget:

Ha-Ba le-Horgekha Hashkem le-Horgo is a teaching of increasing popularity among Israelis. Taken from the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1, its most precise translation is: ‘If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.’ It seems that every online newspaper Comment section will include this sentence when discussing Israeli aggression: the Gaza offensive? ‘Kill him first’. The Second Lebanon War? ‘Kill him fi rst’ again. A Google search for the expression ‘kill him first’ and ‘flotilla’ yields more than 4,200 Hebrew results, confi rming the centrality of this narrative. This convenient license to kill extends beyond the online community to Israeli decision makers and politicians. Following the Second Lebanon War, Ehud Yatom, a Likud MK, explained the asymmetrical death toll of 44 Israeli civilians and 1,191 Lebanese civilians with the same trump card:

‘and if someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him fi rst.’ It has been used by Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon when addressing university students about their military reserve service and by Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter when lecturing about IDF strategy. It was also the explanation provided by Minister of Minorities Avishai Braverman for the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai. Even Ayoub Kara, a Druze MK from Likud, has used it. When asked about the Iranian nuclear plan Kara showed little originality: ‘I think an attack on Iran will be justifi ed’, he said, ‘since if someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.’

Jewish Quarterly, Kill Him First

Similarly:

Several days before the horror of September 11, 2001, Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke to Conservative rabbis in an international conference call. Responding to a concern expressed about Israel’s policy of preemptive targeted killings of suspected terrorist leaders and the inevitable collateral damage, Mr. Peres defended the practice, citing an oft-quoted rabbinic legal dictum, “Im ba l’hargekha, hashkem l’hargo,” “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him (first).”

American Jewish Committee, If Someone Comes to Kill You, Rise Up and Kill Him First

And further:

Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is “if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,” and the second is “if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.”

PM Netanyahu, Opening of Knesset winter session, 2011

And by way of contrast with New Testament teaching:

There is nothing righteous in turning the other cheek. We are not supposed to passively accept death, but rather to fight and survive.

Times of Israel, Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about… self-defence

From Brooklyn to Birmingham, a contemplative stroll

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — unity in the face of difference, radiance in the face of rage ]
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This little pilgrimage began when I saw this tweet, reteeted by The Bridge initiative:

A Taoist, and from Brooklyn — okay!

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I went off to track down Jackie Summers from Brooklyn, and behold, checking his FB feed I run across this, from a few days back:

which sends me to this deliciously quiet and unassuming TV news report from, yes, New Zealand if I’m not mistaken:

[ would that all the world’s newscasters showed such restraint ]

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That newscast in turn let me to this tweet from a British MP:

And this even more glorious photo of Saffyah Khan‘s face, taken from the Guardian’s report, Protest photos: the power of one woman against the world:

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From that Guardian article:

Shows of strength and defiance aren’t in short supply at your average protest – demonstrating, by its nature, requires a level of commitment that weeds out the bystanders, the unimpressively apathetic. But what is it that makes the money shot? The protest photo that goes viral? Well, for one, women. Or, more accurately, one woman. Often a striking, beautiful-looking woman. But mostly, a woman who looks like a badass without seeming to do anything much that is dramatic at all.

For anyone trying to work out the Venn diagram of iconic protest imagery, three tropes will immediately jump to the fore: the quiet dignity of said woman; the battle-hungry paraphernalia of male authority (your shields and batons and chunky uniforms); and the dramatic flip of power that clash presents.

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Pretty much all of the above — the Taoist, the Hassidim, the Muslim lady with child, the radiant protester Saffiyah Khan, Jess Phillips MP — have gone viral, in a world that thirsts for such things.

Deep bows to them all!

Jerusalem — the joy, the limitation, the fire

Monday, April 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — winding up with the Easter fire at Holy Sepulchre ]
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I don’t know which order to post these first two tweets in, but if there’s truth to Dr Cole‘s tweet, it does set a limit to the good news in Avi Mayer‘s. I’ll just spin them a few times like a coin, then move on to the heart of the matter.

The world, as Gerard Manley Hopkins suggests, is intrinsically dappled. And:

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Monday, April 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — to all our Jewish readers, and thinking especially of Richard Landes in this season ]
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BL MS Oriental 2884 (early 14th-c Catalonia)

Wishing all a blessed Passover — with a hat-tip & illuminated greetings to Emily Steiner.

Footnoted readings 02 – Acts of corporal mercy

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a note at the intersection of material with spiritual ]
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left to right: Emmanuel Levinas, Gershom Gorenberg, Elliott Horowitz

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Gershom Gorenberg in March 28th’s Washington Post tells three stories from his own life of what I believe Catholicism would call “acts of corporal mercy” — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, visiting the sick, harboring strangers, and burying the dead (Matthew 25. 34-40). He concludes, honoring his mentor, Israeli historian Elliott Horowitz:

He said, without pride or embarrassment, that he acted out of religious conviction. In Israel, the political stereotype of Orthodox Jews is of people concerned exclusively with settling the occupied territories. In the world, commitment to the most traditional forms of faith — Jewish, Christian, Muslim or other — is often confused with building walls between people.

Elliott believed that faith demanded breaking down barriers between human beings created in God’s image. I believed that, too, but he pushed me to act.

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It’s a story by and about a friend, and about human goodness. Apart from those two sterling but not uncommon facts, why should I care?

I care because the story illustrates the Jewish proverb of which Emmanuel Levinas reminds us:

the other’s material needs are my spiritual needs

It’s not easy to bridge the gap between subjective experience and objective, physical reality, which is why the hard problem in consciousness is called the hard problem in consciousness — but this quote bridges the gap effortlessly, and in a manner that instructs us.


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