Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Portrait of a Scientist

[video clip from To Catch a Predator]

The next time you read that an eminent scientist has declared that evolution is a fact, man is an ape and the Bible is a myth, bear in mind that quite possibly that scientist, in spite of his education, intelligence and position, is morally and ethically very similar to the gentleman portrayed in the above clip. Therefore, he may well have a personal agenda for saying what he does.

Question everything. Don’t just accept it on authority.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reward and Punishment – Now You See It Now You Don’t

[Hans Frank, governor of German occupied Poland from October 26, 1939 until January 1945. Photographed here after being hanged at Nuremberg, Germany on October 1, 1946]

One question many people have about God is “If there exists a universal judge, who rewards good people and punishes bad people, then why don’t we see more evidence of this in the world around us? Why do we not see immediate divine reward and punishment?”

I think that one answer is that God wishes the human race to continue to exist. If reward and punishment would be immediate, this would most likely be impossible. Considering the rebelliousness and lack of discipline of most people, very few people would survive long enough to produce and raise children if they were struck down dead the moment they first sinned.

Based on this principle, punishment and reward can be more immediate the higher a spiritual level people are on. During Biblical times, the Israelites were often quickly punished for sin, although as the Biblical era continued this seems to have been delayed further and further. Korah, for example, was destroyed on the spot. Centuries later, the punishment for the sins of Manasseh was delayed for about 60 years (see II Kings 21:12). The Talmud begins referring to reward and punishment after death, for example in Avos 5:29. In recent centuries, kabbalists have taken this a step further and taught that reward and punishment may be in future lives.

We now live in a time when reward and punishment may (or may not) be very remote from the act that caused them. They may occur in this life, the after life or a future life. The one fact, which has not changed, is that everything will be fairly settled eventually. And, as we see from the above photograph, even today reward and punishment may be fairly prompt.

Human Evolution

[Neanderthal man; a biological dead end]

According to today’s New York Times, there is no fossil evidence that humans evolved from apes. This is in spite of 150 years of intensive fossil hunting. Human fossils are found, ape fossils are found, but nothing in between. I wonder why?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rosh haShanah – The Day of Total Obedience

[the shofar – ram’s horn]

To be a Jew means to be a slave to God. This is very literal. Leviticus 25:55 states that a Jew cannot be purchased as a permanent slave in the way a gentile can be since we are already slaves to God. We literally belong to Him.

To a gentile, this is the most horrifying idea possible. An atheist like Richard Dawkins almost chokes when speaking about an assertive God. Christians seems to have a problem with this as well. They tend to contrast the “harsh” God of the Torah with the more forgiving Jesus. They also find comfort in spiritual loopholes such as penal substitution, for Protestants, and the sacrament of penance for Catholics. While Muslims do not accept those ideas, they nevertheless believe that if one totally struggles (literally “makes jihad”) for the sake of God, his sins are forgiven. (This has led to some unfortunate consequences.)

For the Jew, there are no easy ways out, no shortcuts. We are slaves. We must listen and obey.

The ultimate example of that obedience is the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. Here God asks Abraham to do something extremely cruel, destructive and senseless. He asks Abraham to murder Isaac his son. This is the ultimate test of obedience, and Abraham passes the test perfectly, prepared to obey without complaint, hesitation or question even though the command defies all logic.

The Binding of Isaac is closely connected to Rosh haShanah.

According to one opinion in Pesikta Rabbasi 40:6, the Binding took place on Rosh haShanah. This makes sense when one considers that according to the Talmud Rosh haShanah 16a the ram’s horn is blown in remembrance of the Binding of Isaac. (A ram, caught by its horns, was substituted for Isaac at the last moment.) The Binding therefore has a central place in the “remembrance” prayer of Rosh haShanah.

In this sense, Rosh haShanah is the most truly Jewish day of the year. Perhaps that explains why even so many secular Jews attend services on that day.

Let’s experience Rosh haShanah, the first day of the new year, as a renewal of our commitment to obey God with total discipline and commitment. We must redouble our efforts in Talmudic study, since obviously we cannot obey God if we have not bothered to study what He has commanded us. We must also inspire ourselves with ethical literature.

And let’s remember that God is not asking us to do anything as incomprehensible as murder our innocent children, as He asked Abraham. Rather, what does He ask of us; merely to be just, merciful and to humbly think about Him (Micah 6:8).

Wishing everyone a blessed new year!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

In Memoriam

[the butcher Osama bin Laden, may he rot in hell forever]

In memory of the thousands of victims of Islamic violence who died on September 11, 2001, I am posting a link to an earlier post.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Orange

I just bought one of these for a dollar in the deli across the street from my office. What a masterpiece of intelligent design! The fruit is sweet, delicious and nutritious. The peel is a beautiful wrapper, easily removed. The pits may be thrown on the ground and, in the right conditions, will each grow into a tree that will produce thousands of additional oranges. Imagine being able to break off part of a computer, throw it on the ground and see a computer factory grow from it.

Human breeding has improved upon the original wild citrus, however those are merely small finishing touches on a masterpiece.

To counter that this all appears to be designed, however in reality has been created by chance, is like saying I only imagine that I am a human, however I am in reality an earthworm dreaming that he is human. It is a denial of what our senses perceive bordering on madness.