Monday, April 27, 2009

Molech - Part II

What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovas! Moloch whose factories dream and choke in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisable suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstacies! gone down the American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!

Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!

- Allen Ginsberg, "Howl" , part II. Full text here.

Molech - Part I

And you shall not give any of your seed to set them apart to Molech, neither shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 18:21)

The Molech that we know and love...

Devourer of children, worshipers of this deity would heat this idol up with fire and place their newborn babies in its arms, watch them burn to death. Rabbinic tradition says that the idol was made of brass, and that the child was placed in one of seven compartments along with animal and meal offerings. More details here and here.

The Moloch Machine from Metropolis

Fritz Lang, a Jew by birth but whose parents embraced Christianity, fled Nazi Germany in 1933 after being offered the head position of the German film industry by Goebbels. For an interesting essay that discusses the numerous Christological references in Metropolis, see this essay by David Michael Wharton. (Note: the video linked to here was due to its high quality, but it is a pretty good re-score as well.)

Moloch horridus

An Australian lizard that is only about 19 centimeters long. Named by John Gray in 1841, he had in mind Milton's Moloch, a lieutenant angel of Satan "besmeared with blood, of human sacrifice, and parents' tears." David Attenborough says that it is "as inoffensive and enchanting a reptile as you are likely to find" (Life in Cold Blood, p 150). Instead of a devourer of children, this moloch sits beside a trail of ants and gulps them down one at a time, up to 2000 or so in a single session. More info here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bad Proofs of Torah #1 - The Burden of Mitzvot

The "Acceptance Of A Burden On Themselves And Their Prodigy [sic]" proof is the first of Gottlieb's "10 Proofs of Torah" (hey kids, collect 'em all!) in his book, The Inescapable Truth - a Sound Approach to Genuine Religion. Here is the opening paragraph:
The first proof is, that unless G-d Himself intervened and visibly prevailed upon the people to receive this unique G-dly Law from Him, the people of Israel, or for that matter any other people, would never have accepted this kind of a set of laws from anybody else. If the whole nation of Israel actually did not receive this particular set of laws the way it is claimed by the promulgator of this law, then this law could not have been perpetuated even for one generation. For no father would ever earnestly and consciously mislead his son to believe in a complete falsehood even temporarily, let alone hand it down to him for the rest of his life, and generations after him. It is especially true when the falsity and lie imposes special burdens, hardships, and serious obligations and duties on the son throughout his life. Thus, as far as Judaism is concerned—and I refer to Torah-true Judaism, with its six hundred and thirteen commandments to be observed in the strictest way and minutest details every day of our lives—it is inconceivable that all of these commandments would be handed down to us by each one of our fathers as the explicit words of G-d if they were not convinced and had not actually heard, seen, and witnessed by themselves its true occurrence.
The refutation: just read Da'as Hedyot's insightful observation in his post Finding Religion in College!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ramban - A Vampire Sympathizer?

Newsflash! New material has surfaced that Rabbi Moses ben Nachman was a card-carrying member of the VCLU - the Vampire Civil Liberties Union! Although disguised as a commentary on the Torah, Leviticus 11, this excerpt is proof positive that Ramban was both a vampire and a ghoul sympathizer!
THESE MAY YE EAT. "But not an unclean animal. Has it not already been forbidden by means of a negative commandment? But [this verse is stated] so that [if he eats of it] he transgresses both a positive and a negative commandment." This is Rashi's language, and so it is found in the Torath Kohanim.

Now Rabbi Moshe [ben Maimon] said that this verse is in order to forbid human flesh -— "these may ye eat, but not human flesh. Thus the flesh and the milk are forbidden by means of a positive commandment." But we have not found such an interpretation by our Rabbis. Perhaps he [Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon] thought this to be the case because of that which we have learned there in the Torath Kohanim: "I might think that the flesh of those that walk on two legs and the milk of those that walk on two legs should also be forbidden to be eaten by means of a negative commandment? Therefore Scripture says: These ye shall not eat — these are forbidden to be eaten by means of a negative commandment, but the flesh of those that walk on two legs and the milk of those that walk on two legs are not forbidden to be eaten by means of a negative commandment". From this text the Rabbi [Moshe ben Maimon] may have deduced that they are not forbidden by means of a negative commandment, but are forbidden by means of a positive commandment, and he derived it from the verse: these may ye eat.

But the matter is not so. For our Rabbis have clearly said in connection with the blood of those that walk on two legs and the milk of those that walk on two legs that there is not even a commandment to abstain from eating them by Rabbinical enactment. If the flesh thereof would be prohibited [by Scriptural law], then [the blood and milk thereof would also be prohibited in accordance with the general rule]: "anything that comes out of that which is impure, is also impure." The blood of crawling reptiles and that of human beings the Sages have excluded from the prohibition against blood, and they have said: "The blood of the crawling reptile is like its flesh, and one incurs whipping for eating a crawling reptile," meaning that it is not forbidden as blood [for the wanton violation of which one incurs excision]; thus they made it like flesh [but we find no such statement in connection with human blood]. Rather, when they said that there is no negative commandment against eating them, they meant to say that you cannot exclude them on the basis of it [i.e., on the basis of a specific Scriptural verse], and they are thus permitted. According to my opinion, however, this only applies to flesh [or blood] of a live person [which can not be prohibited on the basis of a definitive verse and hence if a person’s teeth are bleeding he may suck the blood thereof and not be afraid of having committed a sin]. However, the Rabbis have learned in connection with a corpse by means of an analogous use of words found when speaking of it and of the heifer whose neck is broken that it is forbidden to have any benefit from it.
Vampires who make sure to imbibe only small amounts from any one individual can therefore rest assured that they are fully within the daled amot of halacha. Ghouls, of course, will have to ensure that their victims are fully compensated for the five types of damages that they might incur. The news is still bad for ghouls of the H.P. Lovecraft persuasion who feast on corpses, since they would be in violation of a Torah prohibition of deriving benefit from a dead body.

(Ramban translation by Charles B. Chavel, which is an anagram for "SHH Clever Cabal". Coincidence? I think not!)

Bad Proofs of Torah - Was Moses a Zoologist?

Nevertheless you shall not eat of them that only chew the cud, or of them that only are cloven-footed: the camel, because it chews the cud but doesn't have a cloven-hoof, it is unclean to you. And the shafan, because it chews the cud but doesn't have a cloven-hoof, it is unclean to you. And the arneves, because it chews the cud but doesn't have a cloven-hoof, it is unclean to you. And the swine, because it has a cloven-hoof, but doesn't chew its cud, it is unclean unto you.
- Leviticus 11
"The Torah is informing us that these are the only existing examples of animals with one sign without the other... How could any human, at the time the Torah was written, have known this?" That's the "proof" in a nutshell, as made by in the section of an article on Parashat Shemini called Evidence Of Divinity Of Torah.

I have refrained until now from discussing this so-called proof of the divinity of the Torah as it has been discussed in depth by many others. The most definitive treatment of this zoological issue is, of the course, Rabbi Slifkin's (unfortunately out of print) book The Camel, the Hare, and the Hyrax. It is somewhat surprising that the "proof" is still being used by OrthoFundies, since its assertions have long been shown to be seriously flawed. Indeed, the attempt to use this as a proof is so untenable that it has been turned on its head to prove the exact opposite by those seeking to show the fallibility of the Torah! (R. Slifkin unfairly calls those critics "atheists".)

Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness in my ongoing posts on "Bad Proofs of Torah" - and in the spirit of Parashat Shemini - here is my terse summary of why this is a bogus argument:

To assert that the shafan and arneves are maaleh gerah, one must extend "chewing the cud" to animals that are not true ruminants. But then one must accept that many other animals not mentioned in the Torah also chew the cud. And to claim that these other animals are from the same "min" and are somehow included in the category of shafan and arneves is to make the idea of min so wide-ranging as to render the word meaningless.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How to Recognize a Jew

Perhaps it's only a matter of persistence, but it always seemed to me that Lubavitchers have an uncanny ability for sleuthing out a Jew in crowd in their attempt to get someone to don a pair of tefillin. For a while I thought that they had some mystical way of determining those with a nefesh elokus from those with only a nefesh beheimah (per the Tanya) but then I discovered that they must be relying on something more mundane. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is rather a simple matter to distinguish a Jew from other common folk. Just refer to this checklist which describes the physical characteristics of the Jew:
  • Restless suspicious eyes
  • Curved nose and nostrils
  • Ill-shapen ears of great size like those of a bat
  • Thick lips and sharp rat's teeth
  • Round knees
  • Low brow
  • Long clammy fingers
  • Flat feet
  • Repulsive rear view
Here is a handy picture to assist you with your search:

For more details, see The American Jew and The Original Mr. Jacobs, both by Telemachus Thomas Timayenis. These startling exposés date to the late 1800s, and are available in their entirety courtesy of Google Books.

ADDENDUM: Timayenis (1853-1918) was a Greek immigrant who was a champion of oppressed Greek peddlers in Boston. "Telemachus Thomas Timayenis is an extremely problematic figure in Greek-American history. Before his death in Boston Timayenis was involved in a long stream of legal battles and would commit what we know today as ‘hate crimes.’" For more, see here.