Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Does Need a Haggadah

EstherK posted this ReTweet a few days back

RT @Phil_Brodsky: How is is that there is no "hagadah" for Thanksgiving, yet we all know exactly what the holiday is about? #JEd21

At the time, I read it, sort of nodded my head, and didn’t give it much thought

Today, when I noticed it again, I began to give it some thought, and decided that, while it makes an interesting point, I’m not sure it’s an accurate one.

Judaic scholars tell us that the Haggadah had to have been around in some form since at least 200 C.E., because the Mishna, in Pesakhim, already lays out a rather specific seder (order) for the observance of Pesakh. These scholars attempt to say that the basic form of the Pesakh Seder was already in place during second Temple times. Other scholars argue that this is just an  attempt at wishful thinking in order to insist that the “Last Supper” was indeed a Passover Seder.  These scholars argue that the Haggadah as we know it, was developed in response to the destruction of the second Temple, the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and the rising influence of Christianity.

The oldest extant haggadah text dates from the 10th century C.E. (from the Siddur of Saadia Gaon.) The 13th-15th centuries C.E. saw the flourishing of illuminated Haggadot. Today, of course, we have many, many Haggadot, with variations, but all pretty much adhering to the same basic formulas, rituals, and understandings. The Seder may have grown, changed, been adapted over time, but its essence remains the same as it has been for thousands of years.

In contrast, Thanksgiving can only trace its official roots back 146 years to 1863, when President Lincoln first proclaimed a national holiday of Thanksgiving. He did that only after 40 years of persistent efforts by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, best known as the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” to have a national Thanksgiving holiday established. While we like to fantasize the history of Thanksgiving and trace it back to that famous banquet at Plymouth Plantation in 1693 (though Virginia claims the first thanksgiving occurred at Berkley Plantation in 1619) there’s no clear and direct linkage, other than that which we mythologize.

In 1789 President Washington issued a proclamation

"to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Subsequent Presidents and State Governors continued to proclaim days of Thanksgiving. In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War (largely persuaded, as previously mentioned, by Sara Josepha Hale.) Subsequent presidents continued this annual proclamation. FDR tried changing it to one week earlier (trying to spur Xmas shopping in the depression) but met with such resistance that, after two years of trying the change (which many states did not follow) Congress passed a bill making the fourth Thursday of November an official national holiday of Thanksgiving.

Enough history (though there’s lots more.) Can we truly say that all who celebrate Thanksgiving today fully comprehend and understand its meaning? I’m not so sure every family Thanksgiving feast these days would appropriately grace a Currier and Ives engraving. Thanksgiving is, for many, the official kickoff to the Xmas shopping season. (Clearly,the following day, now called “Black Friday” is a greater focus for many than actually offering thanks to their understanding of the Deity for the bounty of this good earth.  Plenty of Thanksgiving dinners give but brief lip service to the whole idea of giving thanks to G”d, and others are merely PTSD-inducing toxic-family gatherings.

While we can say that not everyone who observes the Passover Seder buys into the ideas and concepts it espouses, it  can be reasonably argued that they at least can learn or come to understand what the point/purpose of the Seder is. The Haggadah is the vehicle that makes that possible. As a modern, liberal Jew, I am willing to take great liberties with the Haggadah. There is much in it that troubles me, and that I choose to omit or replace. (“Pour out your wrath” being but one example.) Nevertheless, I am thankful there is a Haggadah. It has enabled this observance to survive, with most essential meanings intact, for thousands of years. In only a few hundred years, Thanksgiving has already morphed. It is not at all clear that the majority of those observing Thanksgiving truly understand what the holiday is all about. It is not as self-evidently clear as we perhaps wish it might be, or, perhaps more to the point, it often interferes with other values we might hold in esteem (like watching grown men throw a pigskin around and tackle each other, eating like a glutton, enabling dysfunctional families to pretend all is normal, etc.)

Thanksgiving as it exists today is not the holiday imagined by Sara Josepha Hale; not like the harvest feasts held in 1619 or 1693; not like the national coming together envisioned by Lincoln; perhaps a bit more like that imagined by FDR as a tool to stimulate the economy, but still not the same. The Passover Seder of today is certainly not the Seder of 100, 500, 1000, or 1500 years ago, but it is far from being unrecognizable to those who did observe it in those days. We owe that to the Haggadah.

So maybe this country needs the equivalent of a Haggadah for Thanksgiving. We have the beginnings of such a thing in the way we fancifully are taught the stories of those first Thanksgivings in school. There’s no great crime in incorporating myths and legends into such a document-the Passover Haggadah certainly does so.

Of course, just like Judaism exists, even requires, tension – that effect of l’havdil that is inescapable,that balance between yetzer tov and yetzer ra – so, too, does America exist with, perhaps even require by its democratic nature, some tensions. The tension between a democracy whose constitution has a clause preventing the establishment of a state religion, yet which prints “In G”d We Trust” on its legal tender. Creating a Thanksgiving Haggadah that fairly treats all Americans-atheists, religionists, et al- could be a significant challenge. I think there are lessons on how to do this that could be drawn from how the Jewish world, with all its differences, has handled the Haggadah.

So, who wants to take a crack at it?

@2009 by Adrian A. Durlester (aka Migdalor Guy)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Random Musing Before Shabbat-Va-yetzei 5770 – Misquoted or Misspoke (or “Sometimes a Cigar…”)

In Yaakov’s dream, after he sees angels going up and down that ladder, G”d appears standing over Yaakov and says:

I am Ad”nai, the G”d of Avraham your father, and G”d of Yitzchak…” (28:13 JPS)

It’s interesting to note that G”d says “Avraham, your father” in speaking to Yaakov. Yitzchak, not Avraham, is the father of Yaakov. Now, we can take the easy way out, and use the Bob Newhart subterfuge that “it was all part of a dream.” Yet, can we so easily dismiss what happens in dreams-especially in the important dreams of our Biblical ancestors? We have built entire theological understandings around this dream and Yaakov’s response to it (which was

“Akheyn yeish Ad”nai bamakon hazeh v’anokhi lo yadati – Surely G”d was in this place and I, I did not know.”)

so I do not believe we can so callously dismiss the obvious misstatement of lineage in this pasuk of holy text. So what’s going on here? We could ask the usual “what’s troubling Rashi?” but this doesn’t seem to trouble Rashi enough to even mention it. So instead, we’ll go with what’s troubling Adrian.

Let’s put on a scholarly hat for a moment. Assuming the text of the Torah as we know it has undergone several (perhaps many) redactions, how did so many editors overlook this obvious inconsistency (or why did it not trouble them?) A simple tweak to the text would have eliminated the problem.

Did these many editors simply gloss over it, or read it as the metaphorical “Avraham avinu,” the father of all of Jews?

Perhaps we can play with the vagaries of Hebrew pronouns? The text, in describing the dream, merely says that G”d was standing over him. Only by inference do we assume that the “him” is Yaakov.  However, perhaps not. Farther along in the text, it refers to “the ground upon which you are lying” thus we can clearly, in context, make the reasonable assumption that it is Yaakov that is being addressed by G”d in this dream.

If you’re a regular reader of my musings, you’ll know where I’m likely to go with this. It must have something to do with Yitzchak. Poor, traumatized, suffering from PTSD Yitzchak. Yitzchak, the man who is apparently (though not assuredly) dim enough to be fooled into giving his blessing to his younger son Yaakov, dressed in goat skins to resemble his hirsute brother.

There is a clue that perhaps this does have something to do with Yitzchak after all. Later on in the parsha, near the end, twice we read of G”d being described as “pakhad Yitzchak” the “fear of Isaac.” Though, like the other root meaning fear, yud-resh-alef, this root, pey-khet-dalet, also can mean “awe,” this root is more commonly associated with “dread” than “awe.” Dread, for me, is a step closer to the dark side than simple fear. Dread, I think, requires obvious thought process that leads to a conclusion that there is something to worry about. Fear can simply come from not knowing. Dread, I believe, is by nature anticipatory, and while it may ultimately be illogical or irrational, it stems from a belief or understanding that appears rational at the time. Fear requires no such understanding.

Yitzchak had every good reason to dread both G”d and his father Avraham. G”d called upon Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak, and Avraham willingly complied.  Sure, in the end, G”d comes riding in on the white stallion to rescue Yitzchak – nevertheless, were I Yitzchak, I’d probably continue to have issues with G”d, perhaps in a Yonah sort of way, as in “why did you put me through this painful charade if you knew in the end the outcome would be merciful?”

Now, if you look ahead to next week’s parsha, you find a spoiler to my entire thesis. Early in the parsha, Yaakov call’s upon G”d:

“O G”d of my father Abraham and my father Isaac….” (Gen. 32:10 JPS)

So perhaps what we hear in Yaakov’s dream is just idiomatic speech after all. It still leaves us wondering, however, why, in the dream, it doesn’t also say “and my father Isaac.” No matter how you slice it, there’s an oddity here. Was G”d misspoken or misquoted?  Did some text get accidentally left out? Is this the text’s subtle way of reminding us that it was all just a dream, by leaving some sign that all was not as it should be? That’s a pretty standard literary device. Is this why, even after this seminal moment, this epiphany for Yaakov, that he still will only admit a conditional acceptance of G”d (see me home safely, and you will be my G”d) ?

This was Yaakov’s dream. Only Yaakov’s subconscious could tell us why, in this dream, he speaks of Avraham as his father, and not Yitzchak. Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Our understanding of G”d is inevitably bound up in the nature of our relationship with G”d. Of Yitzchak’s relationship with G”d we know little, and can only surmise. Only after Yitzchak had re-dug the wells of his father, lived the repetition with King AviMelekh of what had happened between his father Avraham and a Pharaoh, and acquired great wealth, did Yitzchak speak with G”d and build an altar to G”d (Gen 26:23.) In fact, G”d doesn’t really speak to Yitzchak much until then.

We can only guess what Yitzchak might have related to his sons Yaakov and Esav regarding the little joke that Avraham and G”d played on him. Could some of this be reflected in Yaakov’s subconscious, and play out in this dream, in which G”d does not mention his real father? Might this help explain why, even after such a dream and awakening, that Yaakov continued to only have a conditional relationship with G”d? Had Yitzchak taught him to be a little suspicious, perhaps?

Near the end of the parsha, Laban and Yitzchak settle up. In witness to their agreement, Laban calls upon the G”d of Avraham and Nahor.  In an obvious “dis” of Laban’s choice of G”d to witness this agreement between them, Yaakov

“swore by the fear (pakhad) of his father, Isaac.” (Gen 31:53 JPS)

Yaakov’s relationship with G’d may have been deepening somewhat, but not enough for him to let go of what he knew of his Father Yitzchak’s relationship with G”d. Perhaps, in next week’s parsha, when Yaakov wrestles with the “ish” one of the gremlins he is wrestling with is that “pakhad Yitzchak.” Yitzchak has passed his neuroses down to his offspring. (I think they may have been passed down all the way to us.) If nothing else, our weekly encounter with Torah gives us the chance for more self-analysis. Because sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar…

Shabbat Shalom,

© 2009 by Adrian A. Durlester

Friday, November 20, 2009

Random Musings Before Shabbat-Toledot 5770 (Redux 5763 – Not Sticking in the Knife)


The tail end of this seemingly endless bout with the flu still only leaves me with occasional moments of true lucidity. Though my musings do often lapse into non-lucidity on their own, I thought it wise not to tempt fate, thus I offer you a retread from 5763, and also commend to you my other musings from the parasha, which can be found at (For some reason, some of the pages of earlier musings are offline at the moment-some hosting balagan, apparently, so I apologize in advance if you can't reach any page. Shabbat Shalom um'vorakh. – Adrian

Random Musings Before Shabbat-Toledot 5763

Not Sticking In The Knife

It's such a hard temptation to resist. It's that defiant, stick-out-your-tongue gesture that we seem to derive a brief moment of pleasure from. Esau certainly seems to be the kind who might do such a thing. Having been denied the birthright and first blessing his brother stole from him, and probably upset with his father for unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly?) falling for the deception, Esau is a likely candidate to stick his tongue out at his father in a defiant gesture. Yet he resists.

The rabbis like to paint Esau as quite the negative. An earthy man, not smart like his brother. And yes, Esau does indeed threaten to kill his brother. One can hardly blame him. Yet Esau does not kill his brother Yaakov. And when Yaakov is advised to stealthily slip away lest Esau catch him and kill him, Esau does not pursue.

So there we have something to admire about Esau. He didn't pursue his brother to revenge himself. He didn't give in to the temptation.

And yet another--he resists the opportunity to thumb his nose at his father Yitzchak. He knew he had already displeased both his parents by marrying Judith and Beeri, both Hittite women. The text tells us that these marriages were a source of morat ruach, bitterness to Yitzchak and Rivka. And now Esau sees his parents sending away his brother to kinsfolk with the clear intention of assuring he marries within the tribe.

And instead of that defiant gesture, what does Esau do? The last few verses of our parasha tell us. (Bereshit 28:6-9.) Esau realizes now how his marrying the Hittite women displeased his parents, and so he took a wife from within the tribe--sort of. He marries Ishmael's daughter Nevayot. Now, one might argue that, in so doing, Esau was still sort of sticking it to his parents, but that would be imposing our modern viewpoint on the realities of Esau's time. Ishmael and his line were part of the clan. At the end of Chaye Sarah we read of Ishmael's line, and how they dwelled alongside their kinsmen. No, Esav honored his parents wishes. Showed his parents the respect they deserved from him.

And he did this even at a time when he could easily feel wronged by his parents. A powerful lesson indeed.

So Esau resisted the temptation. Perhaps he was learning. After all, we discover next week that Esav prospers, and, despite Yaakov worst fears, revenge is not on Esau's mind.

And so, too, can we learn. I know I've done it. Found a way to appear nice yet "stick it" to someone with a clever twist of words or a sharp-tongued phrase. I'm not proud of it. And I pray for the strength and wisdom to learn, as Esau did, to control that urge.

May you, too, be able to resist that urge, and follow Esau's example.

Shabbat Shalom,

©2002 by Adrian A. Durlester

Friday, November 13, 2009

Random Musing Before Shabbat - Chaye Sarah 5770 – Call Me Ishmael II

Nine years ago for this parasha, I wrote a musing entitled "Call Me Ishmael." I thought it was time to share it again with a few updates. Here we go.

Call Me Ishmael II

At the end of this weeks parasha, we read that after the death of Abraham, G"d blessed Isaac, and Isaac lived in Beer-Lahai-Roi.

Though I had read these words many times before, this time, something didn't feel right. Something was tugging away at my mind. Some nagging question. Some connections I couldn't quite make.

I looked at the words again and again, in Hebrew, in various English translations. Made perfect sense. Abraham dies, G"d moves on to the son.

"Wait a minute," I thought, "G"d doesn't bless Isaac UNTIL after Abraham is dead?" Isaac, whom G"d used as a pawn in an ultimate test of faith for Abraham. Isaac, who was likely scarred for life at having seen his own father raise a knife to kill him. Where's the justice in that? If anyone was deserving of Gd's blessing it was this innocent young man who dutifully played his part in the divine drama and was then cast aside whilst his father played out the remainder of the story. It was Abraham who received Gd's blessing at the culmination of the akedah incident. Isaac got diddly-squat except psychological trauma.

(As many of my readers know, I have this pet theory, not of my own origin, though I cannot say where I first heard the thought, that Isaac went off to live with Ishmael and Hagar after the trauma at Moriah. They both had good reasons to have "father issues" and Isaac may have had good reason to trust Hagar more than even his own mother, who may have known what dad was up to but did nothing to stop him. Little pieces of the fictional history I will write someday about this imagined period when Isaac, Ishmael, and Hagar lived together keep flitting into my head. Someday they will all coalesce. Yet again, I digress.)

So why does Isaac not get G"d's blessing until after Abraham is dead? What is the key here? I kept scanning the words. Beer-Lahai-Roi, are the words I kept coming back too. Beer-Lahai-Roi. Where had I heard that place name before? And then it all came flooding back. This is the site of G"d's annunciation to Hagar.

Fearing loss of esteem in Abram's eyes because Hagar was now pregnant, she harsh;ly treats Hagar who runs away. G"d speaks to Hagar at a spring in teh wilderness. (Note-this is the first time that G"d speaks to a woman directly in the Torah. Notice, btw, it wasn't to an Israelite woman!!) G"d promises that Hagar's son will be father of a numerous people. For this vision, it is said, Hagar names the place beer-lahai-roi.Pick your interpretation: The well of life vision, or The well of the life that sees; or the well of the life that sees me. etc.

OK. There's a connection. Quickly I checked through the text. Had G"d blessed Ishmael? Yes. In Gen. 17:20 G"d says to Abraham that Ishmael now has G"d's blessing. So Ishmael was blessed by G"d yet Isaac had not been blessed by G"d, and would not receive this blessing until Abraham died. Yet it was Abraham who insisted, had asked G"d to bestow a blessing upon Ishmael, when he and Hagar were to be cast out. Abraham had asked G"d to bless Ishmael, but had made no such request for Isaac. Strange.

Maybe Isaac's blessing was just assumed, as he was the "true" son of Abraham and Sarah, so there was no need to ask G"d to bless Isaac-his existence, from Sarah's old and withered frame, and Abraham's less than studly self is blessing enough, right?  But Ishmael was Abraham's son through his wife's maid-slave, and he did not have the same status as a true son of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham felt awful, even a little guilty, at having to send Ishmael and Hagar away. There's reason enough to ask G"d to bestow a blessing on the lad.

(Let's not get into Sarah's obvious lack of concern here. Twice she wanted to send Hagar away. Hagar's only crime - doing what her mistress and master ordered her to do! Once again, the Torah teaches us that our matriarchs were no less paragons of virtue than our patriarchs. And just wait until we get to Rebekkah, Rachel and Leah!)

Once he had left Abraham's camp, G"d was already at work in Ishmael keeping the promise to make of him a great nation. Not so with Isaac. Isaac was only a bit player (albeit with a really big moment at one point in the play) until Abraham has died. Then, and only then, was G"d ready to work through Isaac.(Maybe even G"d recognized that Isaac might need a little "time away" to deal with all that had transpired at Mt. Moriah.)

So Abraham dies, Isaac receives G"d's blessing-and then settles down in Beer-Lahai-Roi, where G"d had first told Hagar of the greatness to be bestowed upon Ishmael. Why? Why go back to that particular place? What is the Torah telling us? (Assuming it is telling us anything...)

The interpretation is further confused by reading what follows the statement in Gen 25:11 that G"d blesses Isaac and Isaac settles in Beer-Lahai-Roi. A listing of the lineage of Ishmael! (Gen 25:12ff) Fulfillment of the annunciation made to Hagar at Beer-Lahai-Roi.

Is this the Torah's way of telling us that G"d's promise to Abraham and then to Isaac will also be filled? Look what G"d has done for Ishmael, a concubine's child. Surely G"d will do this and more for Isaac, true lineal descendant of Abraham and Sarah.That's ione way to look at it. Doesn't do so much for me.

Is there another connection or explanation possible? Perhaps. When told she would bear a son in her old age, what did Sarah do? She laughed.

Now perhaps G"d is saying "the joke's on you, Sarah." I have brought your son, the one for whom you insisted that Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael, back to the place where I first told Hagar of the greatness I would bestow on her son, Ishmael.

"Ha, Ha, Ha, who's got the last laugh now?" comes to mind.

A few closing thoughts.

Once again, the children of Isaac and Ishmael have been drawn back to the place of their origins. Now is the time for the descendants of Ishmael to remember the kindness of Abraham to their ancestor. Now is the time for the descendants of Isaac to remember that Abraham may have gotten the first blessing, but next was Ishmael, and then Isaac only after Abraham's death.

The Quran tells us that it was Ishmael, and Not Isaac, whom Abraham offered up to G”d. (Quran, Sura 37:99-110.) Sarah may have felt differently, but I imagine Abraham would have found it just as difficult to offer up either one of his sons.

As is often the case, I think I have raised many questions and provided few answers. If this is as true for you as it is for me, then I have done well. Please share your thoughts with me on what the Torah is teaching us with these interconnected incidents, be my partner in study, and together we will raise even more questions.

There is a place in Beer-Lahai-Roi for both Ishmael and Isaac. May it be G”d's will that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael live in peace.

Wishing you and yours a Shabbat Shalom,


©2009, portions ©2000 by Adrian A. Durlester

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Judaism Based on Exclusion Cannot Survive

Generally, I’m not a fan of religion intruding in government, or a fan or government intruding on religion. However, in this pending case before Britain’s Supreme Court, I’m definitely cheering for the plaintiff, and siding against the forces that wish to keep Judaism an exclusionary religion.

A practicing Jewish man, whose wife underwent a liberal Jewish conversion, sued the Jew’s Free School in London (a government supported high school) when it rejected his practicing Jewish son’s application on the basis that his mother was not Jewish by the standards used by the school.  They sued, lost and appealed. The Court of Appeal overturned the lower court opinion, and wrote:

“The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,” the court said. It added that while it was fair that Jewish schools should give preference to Jewish children, the admissions criteria must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined.”

The same reasoning would apply to a Christian school that “refused to admit a child on the ground that, albeit practicing Christians, the child’s family were of Jewish origin,” the court said.

I think the Court of Appeal is correct in its reasoning. It is time for Judaism to stop being allowed to hide behind this charade of allowing only the orthodox community to decide “who is a Jew” by it’s traditional, halakhic, yet completely arbitrary standard. It is discriminative, bigoted, and exclusionary. In this day and age, one’s religion is defined by choice and praxis. This is certainly true in the traditional community. Any other standard is patently absurd.

There was a time when I could be swayed by arguments that traditional religious communities ought to be able to operate by their chosen set of values. I am no longer so swayed. Standards that have become exclusionary and unfair need to give way to more enlightened understandings. I’m sorry if this makes a mess of things for the orthodox, but they have been living a fantasy anyway. I suspect we all have a little stray DNA in our makeup. If we really think our bloodlines are clean, and that we can all prove matrilineal descent back to ancient times (when, in point of fact, patrilineal descent was the norm) we’re only kidding ourselves.

Many will say that we shouldn’t disturb the delicate balance that currently exists between the traditional and liberal streams of Judaism. I used to be one of that crowd. I do still believe that reconciliation between the streams of Judaism is possible. However, I have slowly come to the conclusion that allowing the traditional community to continue living in this house of cards it has constructed for itself is not only against the interests of the liberal community, but of the traditional community as well.

Yes, the Jewish community has always seemed to survive through a remnant. Why should we continue to settle for that?  Each time we survive only as a stub, we diminish ourselves. It’s time to grow and thrive, not divide and shrink further. By changing our viewpoints on “who is a Jew” and making things like choice , praxis, and ethics part of that definition, we can grow and thrive. Sad that it might take a secular high court to force us to change. Our tradition teaches us dina d’malkhuta dina – we must respect the law of the land. If Britain tells us we cannot segregate our schools on the basis of  matrilineal descent alone, we’ll have little choice but to heed their decisions. Would that we would make this choice for ourselves as a community, rather than waiting for a secular court to do so for us.

Adrian (aka Migdalor Guy)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Musing Before Shabbat – 5770 - Not Even Ten?

Seems G"d knew what G"d was talking about. G"d allowed Abraham to argue with G"d to see if Abraham could actually persuade G"d to spare S'dom and Gomorrah for the sake of the righteous who did live there. From fifty to forty-five to forty to thirty to twenty to ten , Abraham successfully argued with G"d to spare S'dom and Gomorrah its fate for the sake of the few innocent, so they should not be swept away along with the guilty.

Yet it soon become clear that there are not even ten innocent ones, according to to the text. It says that "all of the townspeople, then men of S'dom, young and old-all the people to the last man"  gathered at Lot's house and asked that the strangers be brought out so that they could be "intimate" with them.

There's a problem here. I'm willing to accept that misogynist redactors of the text of the Torah has a hand in shaping things. Yet, were they so misogynistic as to have G"d exclude all the females from the count of the innocent?  Are we simply to assume that all the females of S'dom and Gomorrah were as wicked as the men?

On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be any protest from the women. The text does not speak of women who tried to stop their men from acting wickedly to the strangers. So we could perhaps take their silence as acquiescence- in which case, perhaps there really were no innocent in the towns.

What about children? Were they all wicked too? Did their young lives deserved to be cut short for the sins of their parents?

I'm just not comfortable with that. Far be it for me to question G"d, but that's exactly what I'm going to do! During the time of Noakh, and during this time at S'dom and Gomorrah, G"d willingly destroys G"d's own creations, assuming all of them deserve it (except for those G"d hand picks to survive.)

Noakh gets picked because he's decent compared to the rest of the folks in his time. (So what did Mrs. Noahk do to deserve the honor of surviving, other than by being Mrs. Noakh ?)  Lot probably deserves a similar description-he did offer up his daughters to the townspeople in order to spare the strangers. So compared to the evil people of S'dom and Gomorrah, perhaps he wasn't so bad.

Why have anyone survive at all? You're G"d-why not just start over again? You  created this mess - what with your "enjoy the garden ids, and eat anything you want-except from that tree..." Then You wiped it all out, save for Noakh and his family - and you seemed to have gotten the same results. Hmmm, G"d, was that a miscalculation on your part? Did you think an almost fresh start would work?

Tell me G"d - were there really no innocents among the guilty - no women, children, even men? Or perhaps you just consider them collateral damage? G"d gives, and G"d takes away. Blessed be G"d? You gotta be kidding.

This whole story stinks (along with many others we find in Torah.) Yes, human kind hasn't exactly been at its best much of the time. Have You?

You destroyed S'dom and Gomorrah.
We destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We've had a few not quite global wars.
You wiped out the entire population fo the planet except one family.

We've killed many soldiers in the name of a good cause.
You drowned Pharaoh's soldiers in the sea.

We killed many while occupying the lands you promised to us (and sadly, we keep killing for the same reason.)
You told us to do it.

Hail humanity. Hail G"d.

To quote from the final lyrics of the song "Molasses to Rum to Slaves" from "1776" - 

"Who stinketh the most?"

Shabbat Shalom,


©2009 by Adrian A. Durlester