The Virtue of Hate and the Chief Rabbi

In a previous post, I discussed Meir Soloveichik’s shifting position with regard to interfaith dialogue. At that time, I was merely excoriating a Rabbi for feteing Mitt Romney against his better judgment. However, Soloveichik’s positions have taken on new importance. Rumor has it that he’s a leading candidate for the post of Chief Rabbi.
Chief Rabbi Soloveichik would bring with him distinguished yichus, eloquence, charisma and intellect. His public profile and ability to intervene in politics and the public sphere could make him a fitting successor to Sacks. Inevitably, his previous polemics and political positions will be vetted. His encomium to Mitt Romney is almost incidental in this context– it’s a Facebook status in an election year. Public figures can learn to soft peddle their obvious politicking. The referendum isn’t going to focus on Soloveichik’s confused utterances about Mormonism. Instead, people will be polarized by his extremely lucid position on hate.

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the anxiety of indolence

I am going to occasionally blog on the Zohar in conjunction with the Zohar Haburah I am running here in Boston. If you are interested in joining the group, feel free to reach out to me. Text available here and here.

The Zohar isn’t terribly concerned with class. Instead, hierarchies are intensive, focusing as they do on differentiation within the circle surrounding R. Shimon. The bifurcation of the Hevrayah from normal society is taken for granted. Reading Daniel Frisch’s (d.2004) commentary and translation Matok Midvash, though, you get a portrait of Haredi class anxieties. Frisch uses the Demasek Eliezer of the Komarno Rebbe to interpret an enigmatic piece of Zohar. I want to show how Frisch’s exegetical imagination goes well beyond the Demasek Eliezer and gives us a sense of his own contemporary preoccupations.

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should you send me a review copy?

Chakira solicits and reviews books. We don’t receive all the books we ask for and we don’t always review all the ones receive. This seems pretty consistent with norms for other blogs in philosophy (Leiter Reports) and the Jewish blogosphere (hirhurim). But is it worth it? Should publishers send review copies to bloggers?

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its the stupidity, stupid

How can you be “Right on Israel, left on everything else?” How can someone who heard Dylan and appreciated the Dead perpetuate the Occupation? In addressing this question, Shaul Magid sets up a story about the universal and the particular that seems not to understand the meaninglessness of the question.
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the zohar starts to get bored

I am going to occasionally blog on the Zohar in conjunction with the Zohar Haburah I am running here in Boston. If you are interested in joining the group, feel free to reach out to me. Text available here and here.

Oft cited by crazy Mussar guys like the Shomer Emunim and Reshit Hokhmah, Zohar 3:126 details the process of dying. The attendant judgment and “beating in the grave” is the kind of stuff they used to scare school children with (except in Lakewood). It also lies behind many of the customs of the final moments and the funeral. I hope to talk about that graphic, scary stuff another time, but for now I’d like to talk about a how the angel of death does his work. The Zohar describes the culmination of the deathbed “trial” each and every human experiences at death. In this case, the man turns out to be guilty, he hasn’t done a single good deed to create a single intercessory angel!

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An Educated Consumer is God’s Best Customer!

Augustine bequeathed us a model of conversion as a deep, personal, introspective development. Obviously, this hardly describes many experiences of conversion. As Jews know, conversions can take place under duress. Conversions can be instances of dissimulation. People can convert for social motives. Economic motives might be an underrated factor in conversion.

In this vein, Tyler Cowen notes a fascinating article out of Cambodia on the topic of “ZMP (=Zero Marginal Product) Gods.”

At upwards of US$500, the cost of slaughtering a buffalo to revive a relative condemned to ill-health by the spirits has pushed the Jarai indigenous minority residents of Somkul village in Ratanakkiri to a more affordable religious option: Christianity.

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Jewish Gothic Horror Stories from Lakewood

Mordechai Shinefield has written about Jewish arts and culture for venues as varied as the Jewish Exponent, Spin Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 2005 he wrote about other strange Jewish urban legends for the Forward and wrote about Jewish themes in Grimm Fairy Tales as part of his MA in Performance Studies from NYU. This is his first post for Chakira.

In a time when American charedi controversies are blossoming, from stadium-filled Internet protests to molestation charges, there are apparently still transgressions lurid enough to shock. One such transgression, perpetrated by a Bnos Yaakov Elementary School, was reported by the community web blog The Lakewood View. If you were following the Internet protests at all you know how complicated a community position this blog must take just to exist. “A Concerned Parent” submitted to the blog a copy of a story that was handed out to all grades, setting off debates about the tale’s appropriateness for young audiences.

The handout tells the tale of some men attracted to a home by “heartrending” cries. There they find a woman boiling clothing and then draping the scalding clothing onto a younger woman. We find out quickly that the women are a mother and daughter. In ‘This World’ the mother allowed her daughter to dress immodestly. Now, in some Dante-esque contrapasso (or middah keneged middah) ‘Next World’ punishment, she is dressing her in burning garments.

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