According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Jewish Perspective by Elie Wiesel - The Story of Aaron



Aaron, the first high priest and brother to Moses, worships the golden calf, in an illumination from the
late 13th-century manuscript La Somme le Ray. British Library MSADD 28162, Folio 2V.

Aaron, the first high priest and brother to Moses, worships the golden calf, in an illumination from the late-13th-century manuscript La Somme le Ray. Elie Wiesel points out that this incident, which had disastrous consequences for the Israelites fleeing Egypt, cast a shadow over Aaron. In Exodus 32, Aaron instructs the Israelites, who had grown restless during Moses’ long sojourn at Mount Sinai, to gather their jewelry and fashion a golden calf. He then constructs an altar and begins to worship. When Moses returns and sees the people worshiping the calf, he is angered by their idolatrous sin and throws down the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Later, when the Lord punishes “the people who through Aaron made the bull-calf” (Exodus 32:35), Aaron remains unharmed—a mystery Wiesel raises but cannot solve.

Aaron in the Bible
Bible Review's Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/aaron-in-the-bible/

Elie Wiesel   •  10/04/2013

I have a problem with Aaron, number two in the great and glorious epic that recounts the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. He is a man of peace. He succeeds at everything. Everyone admires, even loves him. Whether great or small, they need him, his understanding and his mediation. Whatever he does, he is well regarded.

But is it possible that Aaron is without fault? Like all biblical characters, he must be imperfect. He too has his moments of weakness and his crises. But in those he is forgiven.

His younger brother Moses must overcome obstacles and dangers. More than once, Moses’ life has been threatened and his reputation questioned. But not Aaron, who passes through difficulties unscathed. Moses is often torn between two passions, two obligations: the demands of God and those of his people. But not Aaron. When the Hebrews became impatient and restless in the desert, demanding food and drink, they did not rise up against Aaron, but against Moses. Likewise, when God became angry at the people for their lack of faith, most of the time his anger was directed at Moses alone. Is this because Moses, the great political and military leader, represented civil authority, while his brother Aaron, the high priest, embodied spiritual authority? One would say that providence seemed to smile more on Aaron than on Moses.

While the Hebrews were still in Egypt, enslaved and suffering under Pharaoh’s harsh laws, it was Moses who defended them, going so far as to kill an Egyptian guard who was beating a Jewish slave. In the desert, again it was Moses who had to strike the rock to find a source of water. One gets the impression that as soon as there was danger, Aaron slipped away from the scene.

Nevertheless, Aaron’s balance sheet is not completely clean. At least two disconcerting episodes cast a shadow over his life. If the first arises out of his public persona, the second is strictly personal.


This article was originally published in Bible Review. Bible Review: The Archive (1985-2005) CD contains every issue of Bible Review, a nondenominational magazine of Biblical insights and exquisite art. It includes more than 800 articles, 2,500 photos and all editorial content. 


The first is linked to the golden calf. That Aaron played an important role in this episode is clearly indicated in the text. True, the idea of making the golden calf comes from the people, but it is Aaron who gives it life. It is Aaron who collects the golden jewelry; it is he who builds the altar and lights the flame; it is he who makes the idol. Aaron even goes so far as to invite the idolatrous masses to a feast the next day. To celebrate what? The birth of a new god? Or a new faith? “Chag la adoshem machar,” he cries. “Tomorrow is a feast unto the Lord.” Has he forgotten the Law that the Lord gave to the people of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai? Has he forgotten his brother, who ascended to the heavens to receive it in the name of this very people?

Naturally, God becomes angry. Against his people? Yes, but also, indirectly, against Moses. God tells him, “Go down and you will see how far (to what point) your people has corrupted its faith and truth” (Exodus 32:7). God does not even mention Aaron. God condemns the entire people of Israel, but silently passes over the fact that it is the high priest himself who has fashioned—with his own hands—this idol. Note well: God seems critical of Moses, who is blameless, but not of his brother, who collaborated—either voluntarily or under duress—in an abomination that had disastrous consequences: Three thousand Israelites died (Exodus 32:28). It was the will of God: The men of the tribe of Levi went from gate to gate, each with the order to kill his brother, his friend, his parent (Exodus 32:27).

But…where is Aaron? Has he joined the killers of his own tribe? He was not among the victims—that is certain, since he continued to live for many more years, fulfilling his priestly functions. As though nothing had happened. As though God had forgiven him, and him alone, for a sin for which three thousand others had died at the hand of their avengers.

Don’t we have the right to ask the text, why this favoritism to Aaron? In the Midrash (a), our sages try hard to answer this question and end up inventing several explanations that exonerate Aaron. For example: Aaron had no choice. If he had refused, he would have been assassinated. Or: It was out of loyalty to Moses that he agreed to make the idol—all alone. Thus, far from the crowd, Aaron deliberately stretched things out to give Moses time to return from his mission. Or another: Aaron chose to commit the sin himself, rather than have the people commit it, thus saving them from greater guilt and condemnation without mercy.

Yes, Aaron is certainly well loved in the Midrash—a little less in the Bible, let’s admit it. When God explains to Moses why he and his brother Aaron may not enter the Promised Land, he uses harsh words, hurtful arguments. But, Aaron can console himself because he is not the only one to be blamed.

The second episode is no less troubling. It concerns the malicious words Aaron and his sister Miriam direct against Moses. They seem to reproach him for his superiority over them—and also for his marriage to a black woman, a non-Jew, a “Cushite” (Numbers 12). God judged it necessary to reprimand them, and to punish Miriam—her skin becomes white with leprosy (Numbers 12:10).

There again, we cannot understand the divine attitude toward this “first family” of the Jewish people: If Miriam was guilty, so was Aaron. But he was not punished. Here again, the Midrash moves heaven and earth to explain this divine inequity.

The lesson of this story: In the Bible, as in life, there are some problems that remain insoluble.

Translated from French by Anne Renner.


Notes

a. Midrash is a genre of rabbinic literature that includes nonliteral elaborations of biblical texts.

Wikipedia - In Judaism, the Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural - midrashim) is the body of homiletic stories told by Jewish rabbinic sages to explain passages in the Tanakh (the Tanakh is the Hebrew canon and is also known as the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. It is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic text's three traditional subdivisions: Torah, "Teaching," also known as the first "Five Books of Moses"; Nevi'im, "Prophets;" and Ketuvim, "Writings." Hence, TaNaKh).

Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that go beyond simply distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings. It fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. The purpose of the midrash was to resolve problems in the interpretation of difficult passages of the text of the Hebrew Bible, using Rabbinic principles of hermeneutics and philology to align them with the religious and ethical values of religious teachers.


Elie Wiesel
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and profiles of biblical figures, Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. This online publication is adapted from Wiesel’s article “Supporting Roles: Joshua,” which was published in Bible Review in December 1998. At the inception of Wiesel’s Supporting Roles series in Bible Review, BAS editors wrote:

"We are pleased—and honored—to present our readers with the first of a series of insightful essays by Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and human rights advocate. Wiesel is best known for his numerous books on the Holocaust and for his profiles of biblical figures and Hasidic masters. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His occasional series for BR will focus on characters in the Bible that do not occupy center stage—those who play supporting roles."






Jewish Teachings in the Bible Series
continue to -










A Jewish Perspective by Elie Wiesel - The Story of Joshua



Moses leads Joshua by the hand. Sonia Halliday

Ever modest, Joshua hangs back as Moses leads him by the hand in this 15th-century stained-glass panel from the Church of St. Lawrence in Nuremberg, Germany. For Elie Wiesel, Joshua is a sad, troubled character despite his successes in battle and his unfailing devotion to Moses and God. Lacking experience in war, Joshua is sent by Moses to fight the Amalekites; when Joshua succeeds Moses, he leads the bloody conquest of Canaan. Yet this reluctant warrior retires to live out his days with only lonely memories, and when he dies, he is buried without the pomp and circumstance usually afforded a hero. Wiesel notes an immense sadness about Joshua in the Bible, a sadness caused perhaps by the noise and fury of Joshua’s life.

Joshua in the Bible
Bible Review's Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/hebrew-bible/joshua-in-the-bible/

Elie Wiesel   •  08/09/2013

Joshua, the perfect disciple. Obedient and humble. The man whose devotion to his master can serve as an example to all. God’s chosen, just as Moses had been. The servant become leader, whom God and Moses do not cease to encourage—so much so that we wonder why he had such a need. Is it because, in his humility, Joshua felt so inferior to Moses that he believed himself inadequate, unqualified and even unworthy to complete a task that only his master was capable of completing satisfactorily? Joshua will inherit political and religious authority from Moses but not his prophetic style. God accomplished miracles for Joshua. He went so far as to upset the laws of nature by ordering the sun to stand still, but Joshua’s speech lacks the magic that emanates from the words of the prophets.

A great melancholy emerges from his life story, a sadness that stays with him to the end of his days. Is it because his life unfolds in the midst of noise and fury?

In truth, Joshua makes me afraid. His personality is too dark, involved in too many battles, too many confrontations. The man of blood and glory, he is the one sought out when someone is needed to throw himself into the fray, to push back, or attack the enemy. To read his book is to move forward into the ashes, among disfigured corpses.

In the Scriptures, his position is assured. The image he projects is always without fault. Admirable is his devotion to Moses: Always stationed at the entrance to his tent, Joshua is the guardian of the door. He is at Moses’ side only when he is called. Never would he disturb Moses in his solitude.

Only one incident could, without surprising us, have a negative connotation: Joshua learns that two young men, Eldad and Medad, are walking around the encampment, prophesizing to the people. Annoyed by their lack of respect, Joshua hastens to inform Moses and suggests that he imprison them. But Moses, more humane and more generous than ever, rebukes him: “Are you so concerned about my honor that you think you need to protect me? May all the people become prophets!” (Numbers 11:29).

That said, Moses always has confidence in Joshua, and we do too. He carries out the missions entrusted to him scrupulously, with efficiency and devotion—that is certain. Are they dangerous? Joshua knows neither fear nor doubt. When Moses names him military commander and sends him to fight against the Amalekites, he goes. What has he done to learn how to command? No matter. He confronts the enemy, and he wins the battle. When Moses orders him to join the spies sent to cross the Canaanite frontier and bring back a precise account of the military and economic capacities of the land promised to the people of Israel, he goes.

The questionnaire the scouts receive from Moses reads like an espionage document. The commander in chief wants to know “whether the population is strong or weak, few in number or many, if the country is good or bad, if the towns are open or fortified, the land fertile or barren, if there are trees or not” (Numbers 13:18–20). The expedition takes 40 days. The text gives us the opinion of the majority and that of the minority: ten against two. Who are the ten? Eminent heads of the tribes of Israel. Their accounts are desperate and hopeless: They say the country runs with milk and honey, but the people who live there are powerful. They are stronger than we are, the towns are large and fortified, the people are gigantic. In their eyes, and in ours, we are no more than grasshoppers.

The ten make up an overwhelming majority, but it is the minority of two who carry the day. Joshua, head of the tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb, head of the tribe of Judah, see things differently. Their report is optimistic. Reflecting God’s design, their view prevails—but at a price. Terrified, the people rise up with cries and lamentations against Moses and Aaron: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt…” In vain, Joshua and Caleb try to reason with and encourage the demoralized Israelites. The more enraged among them attack the two and are ready to stone them.

That overwhelming, depressing day will remain marked in the collective memory of Israel by the punishment imposed: It is the moment when God decides that of all those who came out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb shall enter the Promised Land. The ten skeptical scouts will die soon after, and the others rescued from slavery in Egypt will perish in the desert.



This article was originally published in Bible Review. Bible Review: The Archive (1985-2005) CD contains every issue of Bible Review, a nondenominational magazine of Biblical insights and exquisite art. It includes more than 800 articles, 2,500 photos and all editorial content. 



The Midrashic Figure of Joshua

In the book that bears his name, Joshua impresses us with his harshness: it depicts a violence, even a thirst for violence, that is found nowhere else. The conquest of the land of Canaan occurs with fire and blood. Too much destruction at every turn. The only moment of tenderness in this account is the story of Rahab in Jericho. The brave and generous prostitute saves Joshua’s spies. In exchange, legend gives her Joshua as bridegroom.

This story is not in his official biography, which, moreover, is very meager. It is only in the midrashic literature that there is interest in Joshua’s private life. His father was a just man, but childless. Nun passed his days praying to God for a son, and his prayer was answered. Moses was still alive, but very old, when Joshua was teaching the Law to the people. One day, Moses came to listen. He remained standing with the crowd. Joshua saw him and, overcome by remorse, cried out in distress. Then a celestial voice was heard: The time has come for the people to receive the teaching of Joshua. Brokenhearted, Joshua submitted. It is because he respected and venerated his Master; he loved him. Of all his qualities, it is his attachment to Moses that moves us the most.

According to the legend, Joshua was then married. He had children: only girls. Having fulfilled the mission that God and Moses had entrusted to him, Joshua retired and lived in the isolation of memory. He was old, the text tells us, and the country rested from the wars.

He died alone and was buried in a place called Har gaash—a kind of angry mountain, a sort of volcano. The Talmud comments that this illustrates the ingratitude of the people toward their leader. Why was the mountain angry? Because God, in his wrath, was ready to punish his people. Why the rage? Because no one took the trouble to come to Joshua’s funeral. Everyone was too busy. Some were cultivating their gardens, others their vineyards; still others watched over their fires.

Unbelievable, but how true: In war, Joshua had been their leader. Afterwards, the people no longer needed him, to the point that no one came to pay him their final respects, to which all mortal men are entitled, whoever they might be.

How can one not feel sadness when reading Joshua’s story?

Translated from French by Anne Renner 



Elie Wiesel
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and profiles of biblical figures, Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. This online publication is adapted from Wiesel’s article “Supporting Roles: Joshua,” which was published in Bible Review in December 1998. At the inception of Wiesel’s Supporting Roles series in Bible Review, BAS editors wrote:

"We are pleased—and honored—to present our readers with the first of a series of insightful essays by Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and human rights advocate. Wiesel is best known for his numerous books on the Holocaust and for his profiles of biblical figures and Hasidic masters. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His occasional series for BR will focus on characters in the Bible that do not occupy center stage—those who play supporting roles."






Jewish Teachings in the Bible Series
continue to -










Advice to Future Parents Thinking About Having a Family




7 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Parent
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/7-things-i-wish-someone-told-me-i-became-parent

by Zachary K. Perkins
March 24, 2014

I'll never forget it.

My wife had an emergency c-section and I was sitting in a room off to the side of the operating room, nervously waiting while the doctors cut open my wife and "airlifted" my baby daughter.

I was 25 years old.

When I finally heard her yelping from the other room, I stood up and a nurse escorted me into the brightly-lit, sterile operating room. Like a dream, my life had changed in an instant. My life-focus instantly shifted from thinking about myself to thinking about this little, blotchy red person screaming before me.

In our young life, the thought of children may be far, far away, and even if you're still in college or single, there are things you can do right now which will prepare you to handle children. In one sense, they're also the marks of maturity, but not all parents become mature people and not all mature people become parents. Even if you never have kids, you might find these points useful.

1. Put down the iPhone and play.

One of the hardest parts of being a human in the digital age is our complete saturation into our phones and other devices. There's all sorts of distractions that will constantly pop up and when you have children, where you put your focus will speak volumes about your love towards them and towards others. If your focus is on your phone, computer or other entertainment device with very little time left for your children, the child will come to think of that thing as being more important than they are.

I'm preaching to myself as well when I say this: put down the phone for a while.

2. Build up patience and even if you already have some, build some more.

I always felt like I was a naturally patient person before having kids. When I'd have to wait in long lines at the DMV, I would just smile and twiddle my thumbs. When someone would cut me off in traffic, I was pretty stoic. "I'm not in a rush," I would say.

But when I had kids, the game changed. Think of it as if adults are on normal playback speed while children (especially preschoolers) are on ultra fast-forward or on super slow-motion. Also, surprisingly, they don't just do what you ask them to immediately. You have to learn to train your children with a patient attitude. I had to learn that even when I thought I was most patient, I had to gain more because children don't clock out at 5 p.m. The training never ends.

3. Enjoy your alone time now.

From high school to college and into the workforce, many young people put themselves on a trajectory of constant busyness. There's so much to get done and to do, but it's also good to take time for quiet and solitude.

When you have children, these moments will come but there will be far less time for it. Take time out for yourself and no one else now, so that when you do have children, you'll appreciate it all the more!

4. Hang around some married people with kids.

Sometimes hanging around married couples with children might feel awkward for single people. Maybe the single person doesn't have any family with kids, but if you go to a church or small group with many families, you can get used to having little kids around. It can help you learn to communicate on a child's level. It also helps you to see how the parents might handle certain situations with their children.

Plus, some younger couples may just be learning how to wrangle their children, so give grace and love to them. Let them know that their efforts are not in vain. Be a blessing.

5. Enjoy sleep now.

This applies more to when you have little children, but if you are a night-owl, that may either be to your advantage or to your doom. Children need 13 or more hours of sleep a night, and they usually get sleepy early in the evening. That means that if you put them to sleep at 7, they'll most likely be awake and ready to go at 8 or sometimes earlier.

If you're not an early riser, it might help to try and become one, but also just enjoy the time you have to sleep now. You're going to need it.

6. Be ready for the unexpected.

If you're the kind of person who when life gives you lemons, you throw the lemons back and start weeping while in a fetal position in a corner, you might not be ready for children.

Plans will change when you have kids, and it's always good to be prepared. The same can be applied to many other situations in life. It's part of growing up and maturing as a person.

So learn to evaluate the situation and adjust your expectations accordingly. Be ready for when things may change, because they are most assured to with children.

7. Learn to give affection as well as receive affection.

One thing I've learned as a parent is how to give good hugs. Children see physical affection as their primary language of love, so hugs and kisses are a huge part of providing a safe environment for kids.

Maybe you didn't receive much affection as a kid or just were never one for much physical affection. Maybe you suffered physical abuse as a child. These are understandable reasons to shirk affection, but I would encourage you to seek healing now. It's never too late to learn to give affection as well as receive affection.

In conclusion, start now with making each day count towards your future. Not just your financial future, but the well-being of your possibly eventual family and for yourself.

---

Zachary K. Perkins is a freelance writer, blogger, full-time husband and father of three. Trying to navigate Christianity as a Millennial through the Orthodox way. You can find him on Twitter or his blog.