I discuss this novel with Monica, an English Literature professor.
We were prompted with these questions by another English Lit professor — a Christian — who’s teaching the book to her class:
I discuss this novel with Monica, an English Literature professor.
We were prompted with these questions by another English Lit professor — a Christian — who’s teaching the book to her class:
1. Early on in My Name Is Asher Lev, Asher sees his father reading a passage from the tractate Sanhedrin which says that “Any man who has caused a single Jewish soul to perish, the Torah considers it as if he had caused a whole world to perish; and any man who has saved a Jewish soul, it is as if he had saved a whole world” (11). Asher, in response, asks if this concept applies only to the Jew, to which his father replies that “No . . . . Elsewhere the same passage appears without the word ‘Jewish.’” Nevertheless, throughout the novel, both Asher’s father and the mashpia ascribe a special worth to the Jewish soul which they deny to the goy; for example, Asher’s father at one point, in imagining Asher will soon become a goy, asserts, “Better you should not have been born” (176). Can we read such instances as distortions of genuine Judaic principles? What distinctions does the Jewish tradition, at its core, make between Jews and non-Jews, and are these distinctions identical to those held by the Hasidic sect?
2. What would you say are the chief characteristics of Hasidism that distinguish it from regular Judaism?
On his radio show today, Dennis Prager talked about sexy TV reporter Ines Sainz who claimed the New York Jets harassed her:
Ines Sainz is a sports reporter for TV Azteca in Mexico.
She went into the New York Jets locker room and according to the USA Today, she was dressed in tight jeans, high heels, and a low-cut blouse.
You have a sexy young woman in a low-cut blouse. I’ve seen the pictures of this woman and the jeans and I don’t know how she gets into them. Maybe she sleeps in them? Maybe she showers in them? They’re very hard to get on and off, I have to believe, by simple laws of physics. She walks in high heels, which of course is the typical dress code for a locker room. The men are walking around essentially naked except for a towel perhaps. They whooped it up.
On Dennis Prager’s radio show today, he spent an hour with relationship expert Alison Armstrong.
Dennis: “I think it is easier for men to understand women.”
“When you told me the pillow is messy and it’s yelling at you, I understood that.”
Alison busts up laughing.
Alison: I would consider my being called a sexist accurate. I am a sexist.”
Dennis: “So is nature.”
Alison: “One of the things that makes women feel safe is commitment.”
“Safety is totally different for men and for women. It’s also masculine and feminine. A masculine woman will relate to safety the same way men do — your safety is based on your ability to produce whereas a woman’s safety has to do with her physical safety and her ability to connect.
I’m listening to a 2009 lecture by Dennis Prager — “Why Have Our Universities Gone Wrong?”
Dennis says: “Did you choose anyone in your life based on what college they went to?”
“If somebody says to you, and this is particularly true for Jews, ‘I have the best endocrinologist in America’.”
“If you are a Gentile and you feel you have the best doctor in America, please raise your hand. Not one hand.
“Jews all have the best. It doesn’t matter where I go. I go to Milwaukee and I hear, ‘The best endocrinologist in America is here.’
“Maybe that’s why Jews are so healthy. They think they have the best doctors.
“How do you choose a doctor? Somebody recommended, right? You don’t even care what medical school he went to.
“Do you care where your pilot went to school?”
Jemele Hill on ESPN’s First Take says today she’s seen Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz acting in a flirty manner with football players. Her whole approach as a TV sports reporter is to flirt with her subjects. She does stories on such things as who has the biggest biceps in the NFL. To do the field research, she puts her hands on a lot of NFL biceps.
Ines Sainz says she was made to feel uncomfortable in the locker room. Well, duh! Here’s a flirty girl who’s all over NFL players and now she’s in a room with naked dudes she’s been flirting with.
Ines Sainz and other female reporters may not belong in a locker room filled with naked dudes. Male reporters don’t get to go into locker rooms filled with naked ladies. Why is that? Why don’t male reporters get to interview hot female tennis players when they’re naked? Why does this only go one way? Why is that OK?
Left-wing Modern Orthodox shuls allow women to say kaddish, while right-wing Modern Orthodox shuls usually don’t allow women to say this prayer publicly.
Marc lists off various famous rabbis who’ve permitted women to say kaddish, including R. J.B. Soloveitchik and R. Ahron Soloveitchik, Reb Moshe Feinstein, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, R. Ovadia Yosef.
“This isn’t some new-found practice of Rabbi Avi Weiss… This goes back to Russia and the traditionalist poskim. It could be that in a traditional environment without feminism, this is not a concern at all, but in an era with lots of feminism, you’ll have right-wing Modern Orthodox rabbis who’ll say women can’t say kaddish because they are afraid of what it might lead to. Where there is no feminism, it is not a big deal. In the traditional Sephardic world, women could walk in to the men’s section and say Birkhat Ha‑Gomel after giving birth, etc.”
Professor Marc Shapiro published a famous book on R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg.
I usually get whiplash listening to Professor Shapiro because he’ll go along in a purely scholarly and descriptive vein for long stretches and then suddenly he’ll include an opinion (usually in line with the approach of Modern Orthodoxy). What gets me is that he doesn’t use a different voice for his prescriptions. His pitch does not go up a few octaves, for instance, when giving a personal view.
Luckily, I am such a gaon that I can deal.
He sat in his car after therapy and did battle.
He was parked on a hill. His wheels were swung in as the law demanded. But the damn ignition wouldn’t turn. The wheel wouldn’t turn. The automatic transmission wouldn’t turn.
He’d spent all this money on his car. He’d had his license since he was 18. He’d driven to Vancouver and back. He was a man of the world, the Hustler magazine Asshole of the Month for December 1999, and yet he was stalled.
Something was very wrong with his life.
He had two and a half hours until the onset of Yom Kippur. He knew there was no need to panic. He’d been in this position before with various cars. What you do is jiggle the wheel and the ignition and the transmission and eventually things would free up and he’d be on his way.
Dutch novelist Leon De Winter said on Dennis Prager’s radio show this week: It’s not only hate. It’s also admiration and love and envy.
It has old roots. The whole idea of America was denigrated by the European aristocracy from the beginning. Who are these ordinary people to create their own country? They need princes to rule over them.
That arrogance never left the European mind.
On top of that, America became a huge economic power. The aristocracy considered industry a negative thing. That was the territory of the aristocracy. The rise of America was a sign that simple people were trying to create wealth and power and that was bad.
For decades, America has been the most powerful country. Popular culture comes from America. It is the most seductive nation the world has seen.
Dennis: “Why would Jews be against gun ownership after the Holocaust? If every Jewish family in Europe had one gun, the Holocaust would not have occurred in the same numbers… The handful of revolvers and molotov cocktails homemade in the Warsaw Ghetto took so many Nazi lives, I’m not sure the German army would’ve put up with this. Hey, we have to win a war. That’s more important than gathering the Cohen family for the gas chamber.
“The Jewish mind has been addled by the amount of hatred and evil inflicted on Jews. The Jewish people isn’t well.”
“The most successful Jew is worried that something will happen tomorrow to him. There is no Jew that doesn’t walk around like that.”
“When Jews are with a non-Jew for a period of time, they start thinking, would this Gentile save my life?”
“Many Jews have Stockholm Syndrome. They identify with their persecutors. They feel that if they crap on Jews enough, the non-Jew who hates Jews will love them.”
Every ritual conveys a value. A salt covenant represents an unbreakable covenant.
Your status is elevated by having obligations, not just rights. The poor person who receives and receives charity is demeaned. If you give, you are ennobled.
If you are in an impure state, you have to go through a ritual to get back to a pure state. This is the ritual with the red cow.
The red heifer ritual makes the impure pure and the pure impure.
Can you think of examples from real life that render society pure but the doers impure?
* How about police? They have a high rate of burnout. They keep society clean by getting dirty. They need this ritual every day.
In a 2001 lecture on Numbers 30-31, Dennis Prager says: The purpose to continuing Judaism is to touch humanity with God’s message, but if you separate yourself from humanity, how do you bring God’s message to it?
How does a Jew touch humanity and stay within the Torah-based system of observance? It is almost not doable if one stays within Orthodox observance. There are exceptional individuals who have immersed in that system and yet interrelate with humanity, but it is almost impossible.
The Orthodox have going for them the argument that every attempt at non-Orthodoxy has failed. And continues to fail. Jews have not been able to persevere as Jews outside of Orthodoxy because of assimilation. Do Jews need, by virtue of their small numbers, a system of separation? I vote no but I have no evidence to support my claim.
A self-imposed obligation is co-equal according to the Torah to one imposed by God. If you take an oath to God of self-imposition, it is as if God instructed you to do so.
We have a subtle message from the Torah here discouraging people from taking on more religious obligations than God gave them. The Torah doesn’t want you to take vows. That’s why the punishment is so severe.
I have Shabbos lunch with friends. I’ve known them for about a decade but haven’t been to their home in a year.
They’re used to me ruining their meals with inappropriate remarks but today I’m tranquil. They want to know why.
“Two years of Alexander Technique,” I say. “I used to be easily triggered. I was stuck in startle response and when I’d get a stimuli, I’d go into fight or flight. My habitual reactions didn’t serve me well. I could shut up with great effort or I could interact from a disturbed place. Those were my choices. Because my head-neck relationship was disturbed, my whole self was disturbed. Now I’ve found freedom and poise.”
When I was a kid, people said I looked like a Holocaust survivor. I was that depressed.
I’ve been a bit off since then in the way I relate to myself and to others.
Even after years of therapy, I was still making inappropriate remarks on a regular basis.
Even after decades of God and Torah, I was still a shmuck.
I was locked and loaded in my body, just a power keg waiting to go off.
I’ll admit that I’m highly skeptical of the White House’s claims that the president is getting his wedding ring “repaired.”
It reminds me too much of what happened with L.A.’s mayor in 2007.
I can’t remember any skeptical reporting in the MSM about Barack Obama’s marriage. They’re eager to buy into the dream.
I noticed that Michelle went off on a big fancy vacation to Spain a few weeks ago without the president. I can’t believe he was too happy with all the awful publicity she brought him.
Michelle Obama also spent her last birthday without the president’s company (this was noted on the Drudge Report).
In a 2001 lecture on Numbers 21, Dennis Prager fields a question from a Christian woman who said she was raised to regard impure thoughts as destructive to her soul.
Dennis: “When Christianity did away with Jewish law, thoughts became more sinful. Because Judaism makes so many behaviors sinful, it pretty much left the mind alone. When Christianity stopped making acts sinful, something had to be made sinful or the world would become chaotic, so thoughts became sinful.”
“When I moderated Religion on the Line, I started feeling sorry for many Christians. This is funny because I grew up envying Christians. I thought Christians had it great. They could eat anything they want. They can do anything they want on the Sabbath. And it’s all OK with their religion. What a deal!
“Then, after years of talking to Christian clergy and learning how much they walk around thinking thoughts are sinful, I thought, I’m lucky. If I thought thoughts were sinful, I’d be in hell. There’d be no room for anyone else. I’d just hog up the place.
“My religion tells me I can’t eat shrimp, etc, but little about what I must think or feel.
In his 2000 lecture on Numbers 19, Dennis Prager says that this is the area where he most differs with the tradition. I do not believe that there are any laws we can not understand. The traditional interpretation is that chukim (laws between man and God such as kosher) we can not understand.
Here are three reasons for not seeking out reasons so you understand the traditional antagonism for giving explanations for chukim:
* If you think you know the reason for a law, you can say, the reason no longer applies, so I can drop it.
* Israeli Orthodox thinker Yeshayahu Leibowitz said that people who looks for reasons for divine law are undermining God’s authority.
* It honors God to do it just because God said so.
Where do I differ then from the tradition? I don’t agree that God giving this law is all I need to know. It is critical to doing God’s will to know the reason and meaning of the law. It does not honor God to do it only because God said so. I do keep kosher because God said so, but I keep kosher also because I believe I understand much of the meaning of it.
I remember the first time I stepped into an Orthodox shul, the rabbi threw me out because I hadn’t signed up in advance and gotten his approval to attend his conversion class.
When it came time for kiddish at shuls, I was appalled at how Jews would push and shove to grab their food. As a goy, I was trained to wait patiently in line.
A friend of mine teaches at a Seventh-Day Adventist college. She was giving a talk at a retreat on vegetarianism and this Jewish guy stood up and said, “In all of my life, I have never heard such nonsense.”
He went on and on. My friend just stood there in shock. Protestants don’t talk this way.
I don’t know if we can undo the damage that Obama has wrought.
Economists peddling dire warnings that the world’s number one economy is on the brink of collapse, amid high rates of unemployment and a spiraling public deficit, are flourishing here.
The guru of this doomsday line of thinking may be economist Nouriel Roubini, thrust into the forefront after predicting the chaos wrought by the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble.
I grew up a Protestant. The center of our faith was individual salvation to Heaven.
I loved movies that glorified the individual against the group such as 1966’s A Man For All Seasons.
When I turned 18, I dropped my belief in God and I dropped my religious observance. I went to work on the Sabbath at radio stations KAHI/KHYL in Auburn. Then I’d come home and work around the house. I’d chop and clear until my father asked me to desist as it was the Sabbath.
I’m listening to a 2007 lecture by Dennis Prager on Leviticus 13:4: “If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days.”
In a 2007 lecture on Leviticus 14-15, Dennis Prager says: Skin disease here is not leprosy. It is not so much a pathologic condition as a condition representing death. Tame aka impure aka unclean means death-oriented.
The Torah’s great division is between life and death. Egypt was death-oriented. The world was death-oriented. The Torah is life-oriented.
What is death oriented today? The Torah wants us to remove ourselves from the death-oriented.
* Jihadist theology. Their motto is that we love death as much as Jews love life. This is their own self-description. Your child blows himself up and the parents give out candy.
* Nazism was death oriented. The SS uniforms were black.
In a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19, Dennis Prager is asked: “Do you think any aspect of anti-Semitism is spiritual as opposed to practical?”
Dennis: It’s all spiritual and theological. It’s not practical at all. Anti-Semitism is among the most impractical things a Jew hater came up with. When Spain kicked out its Jews in 1492, it devastated itself.
The same holds true for Europe after the Holocaust. Europe was the center of world culture. Then they killed the Jews off. Can you name a living Austrian? A living German (outside of politics and sports)?
In 1900, Vienna was the cultural center of the world. Look who came from Europe — Freud and Einstein to give two examples. Two Jews.
The devastation of Jewry has never helped a non-Jew.
Leviticus 19: 9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
In a 2008 lecture on Leviticus 19, Dennis Prager says: We have ethical responsibilities to the downtrodden. God is the source of ethics.
The Torah does not speak here of handouts. The poor have to come to the field. They have to work for it. They’re collecting it for themselves. They’re not getting it for breathing.
It is corrupting to give people things for free.
My father was the president of the synagogue we attended. I remember only a few things from that period, but one of them was how constantly he would say, “It’s the ones we give free memberships to who complain the most.”
On his radio show today, Dennis Prager said: This man is a brilliant mind, but we often confuse brilliance with common sense. They’re not related.
They say he’s the greatest physicist says Albert Einstein.
Stephen Hawking says everything comes from nothing. No reason. He just doesn’t want to believe in God.
So many believers are so happy when they find a scientist who’s a believer. It has no impact on me.
My belief in God is not based on what people who study physics think. If you explain to me how something came from nothing, I’ll be an atheist. It’s not explainable.
Scientists are sophisticated plumbers. God bless science. It’s kept me alive. I had surgery this summer. I didn’t go to a witch doctor or to a rabbi. I went to a scientist.
Stephen Hawking is not an atheist because of his physics and mathematics. He’s an atheist for the same reason your friend Joe is who runs a bottling company for Pabst Brewery.
On his radio show today, Dennis Prager notes that imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says Ground Zero is not “hallowed ground” because there are strip joints there.
Dennis: “If 2900 Americans had been incinerated by strippers, nobody would want a $100 million stripper building in that place. Strippers have nothing to do with 9/11 but Muslims do. Not all Muslims, but Muslims.”
“If strippers around the world were murdering tens of thousands of people in the name of stripping, then building a stripper building at Ground Zero would be a problem. Strippers are to 9/11 as fish are to bicycles.”
Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, the most politically correct of the major news networks, interviewed SundayProfessor John Esposito of Georgetown University
. He said: “We have two dangers right now. One is that the civil liberties of Muslim Americans will be even more eroded.