Chosen few

October 4, 2009

Onan - Genesis 33:8

The Bible, the Book of Genesis in particular, has been coming up in my daily rounds, lately.  I’ve been on a Bible binge of late:  read the King James Five Books of Moses, got the Wolverton illustrated version, and was just looking at some nice linoleum prints of the text in my local library.

And…R. Crumb’s long-anticipated illustrated version of the first book of the Bible, “All 50 chapters!  Nothing left out!” has arrived at last.  For devotees of Crumb or the good book, it’s a happy day.  Crumb has played it straight, so if you are hoping that he has turned the stories into an excuse for weirding us out, you will be disappointed.  If you doubt it, look at his representation of Onan in the leading image of this post:  Who would have thought that coitus interruptus would be treated with such discretion by the creator of the Snoid, Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat, and innumerable other phallic maniacs? Eve and the Serpent

He stays very close to the text, although the words are not my favorites, but a modern translation, and he’s done a lot of research.  He did take a liberty with the serpent – showing him as an upright lizard with legs rather than a snake – or did he?  In his notes, he gives a convincing justification for his change from tradition.

Abraham is the patriarch to whom God makes an offer that he cannot refuse.  He really can’t – Sacrifice of Isaacdeclining an offer from Yahweh is not an option.  Somehow, I feel that the story of Abraham and Isaac is the center of the whole convenant thing between Jehovah and the Jews.  Was it really such a good deal for the Jews to be the Chosen People?  It had advantages, but oy!, in the long-term?  There really wasn’t a choice in the matter, maybe that’s the ultimate lesson of the story.

Which brings us up to the present time:  Marek Edelman was remembered in an obituary in the New York Times yesterday.  Edelman was the last survivor of the Jewish uprising – he didn’t think that word was appropriate – against the Nazis as they moved to destroy the Warsaw ghetto and murder all of its inhabitants…liquidate is the word that everyone uses.  Apparently, he was prone to speaking inconvenient truths, are at least, truths as he saw them.  He dismissed the word “uprising” saying it was simply the desperate attempt by a couple of hundred people to determine when they would die and how.  There was not question of success.  He was not keen on Israel or Zionism.  He decided to remain in Poland all his life, a fact which drove some Jewish scholars of the Holocaust batty.  He ridiculed the notions of heroism that people retroactively assigned to some peoples’ actions, while others, those who went quietly to their deaths, were categorized as passive.  He said they only did what they could to maintain their dignity, to comfort their families for whom there was no hope at all of rescue.

For some Jews, the question of the nature of the deal they got from God rankles.  “If we are the Chosen People, how could you let this happen?”  Which brings up the question – Chosen for what?

For a depressing sample of scholarly venom deployed against Edelman, read these letters in Commentary from the 1980s regarding an article on Poles and Jews.  Commentary is a creature of the Podhoretz gang, a bunch of Jewish former leftists who “got religion” and turned hard right.  The original neo-cons.

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Doubt in Eden

May 11, 2009

from Genesis

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Now, did the serpent mean: It is certain that you will not die? Or did he mean: It is not certain that you will die? Is this a purposeful ambiguity? Funny that there should be this element of doubt right at the beginning, when knowledge is given to man. Skepticism is at the root, shall we say.

Is the serpent inviting Eve into a structured risky venture, this knowlege business? An invitation to risk assessment? Perhaps she did a quick cost-benefit analysis, and it came out positive for benefit.