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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Hans Blumenberg: The Paradox of Jesus’ Last Words

Joe Paul Kroll completed his PhD thesis, A Human End to History? Hans Blumenberg, Karl Löwith and Carl Schmitt on Secularization and Modernity, in 2010 at Princeton University.

A great deal has been written, not least in these pages, of the ‘monstrous phrase’, known also as der ungeheure Spruch: the Latin motto preceding the fourth book of Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit, nemo contra deum nisi deus ipse.

Carl Schmitt, in Politische Theologie II, attributes a Christological meaning to this saying, tracing its roots to a fragment by the dramatist J.M.R. Lenz, in which a girl invokes the image of Christ against an overbearing, God-like father with the words: “Gott gegen Gott!” Schmitt interprets this as the revolt of the Son against the Father, of the redeemer God against the creator God.

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Hans Blumenberg: ‘Vergleichsverbot’

Joe Paul Kroll completed his PhD thesis, A Human End to History? Hans Blumenberg, Karl Löwith and Carl Schmitt on Secularization and Modernity, in 2010 at Princeton University. This post and original translation is his first post on Chakira.

Hans Blumenberg wrote enough during his lifetime to keep his editors, archivists, publishers, translators and not least readers occupied for decades to come. Having retired from academia with a sense of relief in the early 1980s, Blumenberg’s writing took two principal forms: work on the ‘big books’ on the one hand, short essays, vignettes rather, on the other. Blumenberg’s fancy might be taken by a quotation pulled from his vast archive on index cards – literary correspondences being a favorite source –, by events recounted in biographies, by arresting turns of phrase in the works of Husserl, Wittgenstein or Heidegger and, of course, by metaphors wherever he came upon them. The result is sometimes inspiring, sometimes confusing and vague, and sometimes, as in the case below, somewhat awkward. I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions, adding only that it does offer a potentially unsettling perspective on Blumenberg’s own attitude to Vergangenheitsbewältigung, a topic on which he could be pointed as well as judicious almost to a fault. But as ever, Blumenberg is hard to pin down.
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Meir Soloveichik: All Religions are Unique in the Same Way

In praising Mitt Romney’s Liberty University speech, Meir Soloveichik has done the impossible. He has bridged the incommensurable gap between religions, rendering knowledgeable verdicts on the status of Mormonism vis a vis Christianity. Of course, it’s slightly easier to do the impossible if you only proclaimed the thing impossible earlier in the article.

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Ceasar at the Sacred Grove

I’m posting on Lucan’s Civil War in conjuction with my friends at waggish.

Goethe’s apophthegm “nemo contra deum nisi deus ipse” was a major preoccupation of Hans Blumenberg. One way to explicate this enigmatic remark is historically. For one god to have the room to exist, another god sometimes needs to go away. So, on the simplest level, one god sometimes has to supplant another god. The project of genealogy would be to show the artificial nature of these transitions. Lucan, in book 3 of the Civil War, undertakes just such a genealogy. Presaging Caesar’s accession to the divine pantheon, Lucan details his deforestation of a sacred grove “because it is in his way.”

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Barack Obama’s Revelation

Carl Schmitt famously interrupted the workaday realities of politics with the hierophany of “the political.” Ensconced within the mysterious realm of the definite article, Schmitt’s political offered a stormy rejoinder to the processual sterility of liberal politicking. This Romantic alternative politics has resurfaced in an illiberal post in the Forward which shows a disdain for politics. Jay Michaelson, channeling the POTUS, rises above petty horse trading for the sake of revelation.
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Moshe David Valle Bites the Bullet

Recently, the New Yorker discussed a peculiar American institution. Jill Lepore’s article on the second amendment yokes a sickening feeling over our bristling-with-arms culture to a history chronicling the Amendment’s recent miraculous growth. The analysis is anything but dispassionate. Of her trip to a gun school, Lepore has this to say.

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