Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brad DeLong Offers a Religious Lesson

Funny. Brad DeLong is a University of California Berkeley economics professor, but here in his blog he is giving a religious lesson. And, he does an excellent job!
It really looks as though originally the God YHWH had a wife: Asherah, Queen of Heaven, She Who Treads the Sea. We see her as late as the time of Jeremiah:
Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven!
Jeremiah does not like this.

He and his theological allies changed Judaism, ripping YHWH's wife out of the religion: no more Queen of Heaven. (Later on the Yeshuan Heresy was to bring the Queen of Heaven back, kinda-sorta, but that is another story...)

Now comes Jeffrey Goldberg continuing his snitfest against Alison Benedikt, this time for daring to alter the Haggadah:
Who is the Wicked Son?: Benedikt linked, in this repellent rebuttal, to an Amazon page featuring all manner of Haggadot, ostensibly to prove that all sorts of people write their own seder service. This, of course, is true, but what people generally don't do is "delete" the unpleasant bits. They explain and analyze them, but they don't delete. I wanted to make sure I was correct in thinking that Benedikt was doing something un-Jewish by deleting sections of the Haggadah...
Seems to me that it is the essence of all religions to change over time. It is what they do...
Sadly, religious traditionalists (and even more strenuously religious fundamentalists) don't understand the very nature of their own religions, i.e. they are an expression of a people's understanding cast into a religious experience, i.e. text, services, traditions, pageantry. And as such, they are bound to change as the community of religious believers change and as the society around them changes and as the world around that changes. What evolutionary theory teaches is that to be static is to die. Life is a dynamic process. A living religion is a dynamic process.

I'm 100% behind Allison Benedikt when she stands her ground and affirms her shaping of her own religion: "I am Jewish, you mother fucker. And I'm not unique." That is the perfect reply to somebody "standing on authority" and trying to define her. She will define herself. That is what people and communities have done throughout history!

I like the viewpoint of Rabbi Andy Bachman. Here are the key bits:
The cyber-argument that is taking place at Goldblog, between Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic (and soon Tablet) and Village Voice editor Allison Benedikt, presents two classic symptoms of the current problem about American Jews talking about Israel.

Allison's original piece, "Life After Zionist Summer Camp," appeared in Awl and you can read it here.

Jeffrey responded to the piece with his own take, calling it "Giving Up on the Zionist Dream." You can read it here.


The Sages have another teaching on the number 4 that is worth remembering. At Sukkot, the holiday that commemorates our Exodus from Egypt and journey to Freedom in the Land of Israel, we are commanded to hold in our hands 4 species--a lulav (which produces sweet dates), myrtle (a sweet fragrance), an etrog (fragrance and taste) and willow (which has neither taste nor fragrance.) One represents the Jew who learns; another is the Jew who does good deeds; a third is one who learns and does good deeds. And the 4th -- the willow -- does neither. But we hold all 4 together because we are diverse and most strong when we are united.
I see Bachman's view as that of a healthy dynamic that stresses unity within the community in accepting divergent viewpoints. That makes for the strongest community and it means they are more likely to already incorporate the variants which most successfully will adapt to the future.

By the way, for those not in the know: the "Yeshuan Heresy" is Christianity and DeLong is hinting that the Queen of Heaven has been resurrected in the image of the Holy Mother, Mary.

My only complaint about DeLong is that he doesn't always take time to make sure everybody can understand his arguments. As a "prof" he is given to erudite statements that fly over the heads of the unwashed. But how will the unwashed become washed if nobody stops to lend them a towel and a basin of water?

1 comment:

brad said...

The curious can google, or consult wikipedia...

Brad DeLong