Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Do Purim

Posted by Ron Coleman on March 21, 2008

Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. (Unlike the biblically-based Jewish holidays, this is one, like Chanuka, during which I’m allowed to blog!)

As well explained in the Book of Esther, it’s the holiday of turnabout, surprises, false identities, intrigue, perhaps some emotional legerdemain, and not a little spiritual confusion. The outcome isn’t always funny, or even fun, except perhaps in the sense of the divine comedy.

It all comes around in the end, though!

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10 Responses to “Do Purim”

  1. jaymaster said

    OK, here’s another silly sounding but totally serious question: How do you determine when it’s OK to blog and when its not?

    I’m assuming there’s no mention of WordPress in Tora…

  2. No, Jack, but on days when “labor” is prohibited, we don’t use electrical appliances (except passively, i.e., if your air conditioner or lights are pre-set). Those are all the biblical festivals (Passover, Shavuos, Succos) and of course the Sabbath.

  3. jaymaster said

    Thanks Ron,

    Seems to me that blogging is more of a leisure activity. But I can understand how it’s open to interpretation. Heck, even you lawyers have argued over that amongst yourselves, right?

    This all squares well with the beliefs from my Mennonite/Amish heritage, so I get it. That amazes me a bit, although I guess it shouldn’t.

  4. No, Jay, the concept of “labor” on the Sabbath and festivals has very little to do with “leisure” vs. “work.” Take a gander here.

  5. […] On my blog I mentioned that, as an observant Jew, unlike on the Sabbath and most holidays, I could blog on Purim.  Jaymaster was trying to figure what I meant by that, and I realized that really virtually no one understands what it is we Jews are not supposed to do on the Sabbath.  So I linked here in the comments, and then it occurred to me that perhaps a few more no ones could be eliminated by mentioning this topic to Dean’s somewhat (orders of magnitude) larger audience. […]

  6. Jack said

    When I began to study Hebrew a while back (actually I first started independent study in college when I was studying Koine, but then lapsed and took it back up again while deciding to read the Torah and other problematic verses that have always fascinated me – in the original Hebrew) the work reference was one I researched because I suspected then that God’s idea of work and human work couldn’t possibly correspond. (The aim as well as the techniques employed could not possibly be the same, or even affirmatively aligned, though they might be parallel in internationality from time to time. This led me to seriously investigate both versions of the Creation story in Hebrew (as well as other references throughout the bible, old and New Testament) and it struck me then and there after re-reading the pertinent sections of Genesis several times and attempting various translations and permutations of meaning that the story of the creation of the world and of man was not the story of the original creation, that was separately implied and alluded to in the language employed, but rather the story of the re-creation and re-ordering of the world, and of man.)

    Anyways I think the implication that man avoid on the Sabbath the domination of his environment (I’m not sure I would phrase it quite that way but the meaning is instructive enough) as well as creative work (I’m not sure I would use that term either, but there is no real English word for what God was doing, or for what exactly man attempts imitation of in related activities) is a correct if only partial injunction (it’s neither my job nor my business nor my interest to go into the technical aspects, or their mechanical expression in human activity, implied by what I think the meaning circumscribes).

    But I see parallels in the Sabbath restrictions not just to the overall creation myth (I do not consider myths fantasy by the way, as goes the modern term, so I am not using it in that fashion, rather a myth to me is an encoded description of events that human language is either incapable of expressing properly, or has to be expressed in curtailed formulation due to the self-limitations of terminology used to describe events beyond the perceptual or mental range of human apprehension, and so one thing may appear to an observer in one way and actually be occurring in a different way, or events may occur which so exceed the experience, and by implication the vocabulary, of the present observer that he must employ analogical terminology which is not really accurate but rather as allusional as possible in imagery and yet that still gives clue to the actual observation, event, or condition) but also directly to the work ascribed to, and expressed by, Cain and Abel.

    I have long suspected that Cain’s offering was connected with the Sabbath, with the injunction thereof, even though not explicitly stated at that point in scripture, and was directly related to and a perversion of God’s reordering of creation in the Creation myths. And furthermore I suspect that Abel was either slain on the Sabbath, or his body was cut up and scattered on the Sabbath (in an attempt to hide the murder and what Cain was also attempting to do with the corpse), or both. It would be the one day Cain could expect God’s absence in the ambush. (Though modern Christians and some modern Jews may expect God to be “more present” than normal upon either Christian or Jewish Sabbath, I suspect the ancients saw it quite differently, as God’s rest day, perhaps even the day he slept or retried from the physical world. Therefore to “Keep it holy” would not just mean not to sully the rest day with “human work,” but not to be about “creation activities” in imitation of God, that is not to try and place one’s self in the place of God while God is absent, or to imitate God’s work in his absence. Which Cain definitely did, he attempted to play God, both in his attempts to decided life and death, and for assuming the powers of God on the day God slept, or was away. Therefore Cain’s sin was not just murder, not just lying – he set an ambush for his brother, not just bearing false witness – he implied to God of all beings that he did not know his brother’s fate, but trying to place himself in God’s place while God was away, thereby also breaking the Sabbath and assuming the powers of God – I think he was also trying to assume another power of god and that goes back to his failed sacrifice, but that’s not germane here. And he also failed to honor his mother and farther by slaying his bother and taking from them their other child. In short Cain’s sin was really a set of sins which encompassed nearly all of the important commandments and which set the standard by which man’s anti-divine and self-obsessed conduct could be measured later in human behavioral patterns, and by obverse would become the Divine standard for responsible man to man and man to God relations.)

    Anywho it is a very fascinating subject and I wish human language (even Hebrew) were better devised or constructed as to give a more clear and perfect picture of what I think the Sabbath means in relation to God’s “work” and his “recreation” and retirement from work, but it is, after all, only words.

    And as the old saying goes, “if I could really explain to you what I meant by that then there wouldn’t be any need to do so, would there? You’d already know, and so would I.”

    So a wink’s as good as a nod in the land of the deaf and dumb.
    And the dead.

  7. Jack, that’s pretty deep thinking on your part, not that I’m ever surprised.

    You ask language to bear a pretty strong burden here. I don’t think the problem is with language; it is with the concepts. But I believe that if you would study the matter via the classical Jewish texts, you would not find it as daunting as you say.

  8. Dean Esmay said

    I’m often surprised by how often Christians with a strong interest in the Old Testament don’t think to talk to knowledgeable Jews and to consult the classic Jewish sources. I understand the attitude that Talmud is too daunting, but you don’t have to become a talmudic scholar to understand most things that a Christian would be curious about.

  9. Dean Esmay said

    …although I should hasten to add, serious biblical scholars readily consult such sources. I just mean ordinary Christians I’ve run into who are big on the Bible and whatnot.

  10. Jack said

    I’m not upset in any way by the assumptions of course, guys, after all you cannot really know anyone just through the internet, but I’ve read the Talmud three times, the Torah often, in different ways, and parts of it in Hebrew, studied the Zohar and other texts for years, have been through the Bible repeatedly, and know from experience that many Rabbis disagree with each other as to what particular verses mean or even how verses may be properly translated into other languages.

    Just because I’ve read Moses Maimonides top to bottom, or Rabbi Teluskin on occasion for that matter, it doesn’t mean I’m gonna necessarily agree with their conclusions or renderings, or more likely, I’ll suspect they, like all men, will have it partially right, and partially wrong. Like Christian authorities, Fathers, and Saints they are only men, and although often very wise, I suspect if any man had ever hit upon the absolute truth of God he would not be a man at all, or at the least he’d have a lot more powerful proof to offer than theory, discourse, and argument. Or commentary on the game. He’d be playing the game.

    Or put another way, if man could truly understand God, much less explain him, and all of the mysteries surrounding him, then he wouldn’t be a man, he’d be God. But men ain’t (and ain’t likely to become, personal egos and learned learning aside), and that goes double for me, so I keep at what I can know, which will always be a lot less than I actually do know, and that’s about the best a man can expect when he’s so thoroughly outclassed by his subject matter.

    But if some ancient source says I’m right, that don’t necessarily mean that I am , and if some ancient source says I’m wrong, that don’t necessarily mean I am, and if I posit a theory which no one has ever mentioned before, that don’t say anything in and of itself, other than, I was the first to say it. God alone knows if I’m right, or I’m wrong, or more than likely, if I’m a little bit of both, and that’s enough for me I reckon, given my personal and particular limitations.

    But I appreciate the suggestions.
    I never turn one aside just on principle or out a’habit.

    But that does remind me of an old joke.

    A young fella came up to an old rabbi and asked him, “Rabbi, what can you teach me about God that I don’t already know?”
    To which the rabbi replied, “If that’s your real question, then, for God’s sake, how can I possibly help you?”

    Now I’m trying to stay off the internet a lot more and get a lot more real work done, so I’m gonna stop gabbing in circles, see you fellas later, and hope you’re all well.

    If not then get that way.
    It’s better for ya in the long run.

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