Sunday, April 29, 2007

Baruch Dayan haEmet - Hungarian Kosher owner passed away in Skokie,IL

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If you teach a fool to pray...

I was reading about the "religious police" in Saudi Arabia who go around the cities making sure that no one breaks sharia. Often these people have marks on their foreheads due to their extremely zealous bowing to the ground on their prayer rugs. This reminds me of an old Russian saying - "If you teach a fool to pray, he'll bash up his forehead".

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shalom y'all

from Tybee Island , Georgia.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How good it feels to fail, to disappoint...

And that is why, consciously burying myself alive, in all this poison of unsatisfied desires, results in a strange and terrifying pleasure, the pleasure of such a clear realization of one's own humiliation...

Hat Tip to for this amazing clip (the words of F Dostoyevsky in Notes from the Underground)

La Danse Macabre

From Wikipedia:

The French word danse macabre most likely derives from Latin Chorea Machabæorum, literally "dance of the Maccabees". 2 Maccabees, a deuterocanonical book of the Bible in which the grim martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons is described, was a well-known mediaeval subject. It is possible that the Maccabean Martyrs were commemorated in some early French plays or that people just associated the book’s vivid descriptions of the martyrdom with the interaction between Death and its prey.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Creation myths

I've been reading a little about the concept of the "World Egg". What is interesting to me is that most of these creation myths assume a starting point and do not question what happened before the starting point. So a myth will say that the world started from a primordial egg, but will not attempt to answer the question, where did this egg come from? A question that would be immediately obvious, even to a small child.

Is it because people realized their own limitations? Since there were so many things about the world that seemed unexplainable anyway?

On the other hand, the Hindus had a much more 'sophisticated' theory of creation (source):

In the Vedas

The Rig Veda describes the origin of the universe as:

"Then was not non-existence nor existence: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water? Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider. That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever. Darkness there was at first concealed in darkness this. All was indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit. Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent. Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder. Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The devas are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being? He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not" - (Rig Veda 10.129.1-7)

But the Rig Veda's view of the cosmos also sees one true divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, Vaak, 'birthing' the cosmos that we know, from the monistic Hiranyagarbha or Golden Womb. The Hiranyagarbha is alternatively viewed as Brahma, the creator who was in turn created by God, or as God (Brahman) himself.

In The Puranas

The later puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 trillion human years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. It must be noted that Brahma is the creator but not necessarily regarded as God in Hinduism. He is mostly regarded as a creation of God / Brahman.

We are currently believed to be in the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 155 trillion years have elapsed since He was born as Brahma. After Brahma's "death", it is necessary that another 100 Brahma years pass until he is reborn and the whole creation begins anew. This process is repeated again and again, forever.

The more I learn, the less I know...

When will I have time to read this guy?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How much is that painting in the window?

I was thinking lately how I don't own any pieces of original art. What would I pay for something that I truly think is beautiful? I keep thinking of paintings of Robert Falk. He is not a Kandinsky or a Chagall. How much for a Robert Falk original?

So I did a little research. I think I am looking at between $300,000 to $700,000.

The Birds' Head Haggadah

This Passover, I learned about the Birds' Head Haggadah, a 13th century Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript from south Germany. The guy next to me at shul told me that the reason for this was because of the strict interpretation by the Ashkenaz communities of that time of the Biblical commandment against making graven images. By altering the human form, the illustrator was deemed to have circumvented the prohibition.

I have a weakness for calligraphy and illumination and I admit to finding these manuscripts exquisitely beautiful. However, it seems to me that by making the human figures have the heads of birds, the makers of this haggadah inadvertently made them look like the very gods of their persecutors in Egypt.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chassid in Amsterdam -AKB

Robert Falk

Nude in an Armchair