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On the Meaning of Mimouna

Ten years ago, Yigal Bin-Nun wrote a sensational article in Haaretz הארץ on the origins of the Moroccan Jewish post-Passover festival of Mimouna. In the article, Bin-Nun speculates that Mimouna was a Judaized festival originally derived from local customs celebrating gods of Fortune. I wish to present an alternate thesis which provides more of the Jewish context for Mimouna within the mytho-historical arc of the Exodus narrative. . . . → Continue reading: On the Meaning of Mimouna

The Mythic Arc of Predatory Desire in Jewish Legend: primary sources on the origin and end of predation

In advance of this year’s Hazon Food Conference I’ve prepared a source sheet packet containing text arranged to elucidate what I’ve called the Mythic Arc of Predatory Desire in Jewish Legend. . . . → Continue reading: The Mythic Arc of Predatory Desire in Jewish Legend: primary sources on the origin and end of predation

Levi, the Leviathan

About ten years ago, at a Jews in the Woods gathering nearby the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland, I offered my first shiur on biblical mythology and on the Leviathan and the Behemoth. (I subsequently wrote up some of what I talked about in several posts back here and here and here on the Omphalos, . . . → Continue reading: Levi, the Leviathan

All Streams, One Source: Shesha and the Mystery of the Four-headed Shin

A Midrash of the Jews of Yemen dating from the 13th century provides the following explanation for the mystery of the four-branched shin. There is one “head” for each of the following facets: cogitation, imagination, memory, and estimation.[1]paraphrasing Midrash haBeur, translated in Yemenite Midrash: Philosophical Commentaries on the Torah, edited by Y. Tzvi Langermann, p. 242. Additionally, the midrash provides the following astrological explanation for the three and the four branched shin appearing together on the tefillin shel rosh: together their seven heads make up the seven visible wandering stars (i.e., the planets), whose celestial powers in Jewish cosmology must have one root in the mind of G!d. . . . → Continue reading: All Streams, One Source: Shesha and the Mystery of the Four-headed Shin

Great Nature and the Gematria of Elohim

Petru Moldovan writes, “Idel notices that in “Ghet ha-Îemot,” Abulafia had used for the first time the gematria combination: Elohim = ha-Teva. To Abulafia, Elohim is the act of Creation, and not its agent, as this name is the same with nature, and the gematria combination should not be understood as a simple linguistic pun, but as a way of considering the identity of nature with the divine, just as Maimonides had suggested it in the “Guide.” . . . → Continue reading: Great Nature and the Gematria of Elohim

The Sign of the Twins: On the Reconciliation of the Divine with its Likeness

Jeff Anshalem writes, “On Shabbat Ḥol Hamoed Sukkot we read of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, seemingly a strange choice for Sukkot, but the Maor VeShamesh explains what’s common to both: unity. Unity between us, symbolized by the joining together of the Four Species (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12), evokes unity between us and G!d.” . . . → Continue reading: The Sign of the Twins: On the Reconciliation of the Divine with its Likeness

More on the siaḥ of suaḥ: numinous conversations of trees and other vegetation

While working on some curriculum for the Teva Learning Alliance this summer, I was introduced to the Tseno Ureno, an amazing medieval commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Yaakov ben Yitsḥak Ashkenazi (1550-1625). Here’s Rabbi Yaakov Ashkenazi on Deuteronomy 20:19 — כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה. This is the verse from which the mitzvah of bal . . . → Continue reading: More on the siaḥ of suaḥ: numinous conversations of trees and other vegetation

On Potters and Potlings (or On turning forward with one’s head turned backwards)

A few weeks ago I was asked on the (Star) Trek Jews list what the Jewish concept of t’shuva means… here is what I wrote for someone who might know very little about Jewish thought and philosophy. I think I would have liked it to have more quotes from sources, TaNaKh, Talmud, and other scholars, . . . → Continue reading: On Potters and Potlings (or On turning forward with one’s head turned backwards)

Let the mountains sing together with joy!

According to one ancient Jewish tradition, the custom of not eating meat on Shavuot celebrates the vow God made with Noaḥ and his children on Mt. Ararat. Although the vow was witnessed by Noaḥ on Ararat, because Noaḥ’s descendants continued to eat the flesh of an animal with its blood, a suitable partner to the . . . → Continue reading: Let the mountains sing together with joy!

Metaphors Liberate Us

In an age when the possibility of living in the land of Israel is no longer an abstract yearning, at a time when Jerusalem is rebuilt (with a soon to be active light rail system!), and after nearly 2000 years without the physical presence of a Temple nor the daily ministrations of priesthood . . . → Continue reading: Metaphors Liberate Us

Reality and Hallucination: Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)

In his 1978 essay, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later“, Philip K. Dick wrote, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” This ontology is challenged by a syndrome recently brought to my attention in a recent post on boingboing.net, “Hallucinations . . . → Continue reading: Reality and Hallucination: Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)

The Collected Calypsos, Sayings, and Songs of Bokonon

From Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Cat’s Cradle (1963). Found on the internet, and rearranged chronologically. . . . → Continue reading: The Collected Calypsos, Sayings, and Songs of Bokonon

Ḥanukah: Sukkot Sheni and the Brumalia

With the dissemination and availability of 2 Maccabees (preserved in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian cannons), more Jews are learning that the eight day festival of lights originated as a renewal of the eight day festival of Sukkot. That essential Fall pilgrimage and fertility festival (which included the joyous water-drawing festival, Simchat Bet haShoeva) was . . . → Continue reading: Ḥanukah: Sukkot Sheni and the Brumalia

The Longest Darkest Night of the Year

Although the significance of Ḥanukah is masked by both its commercialization (in competition with Christmas) and its status as a “minor” or post-biblical Jewish holiday, there are important reasons to believe that it is ancient, poorly understood, and quite deep.

Before he passed away this past year, Rabbi Zelig Scharfstein of blessed memory, taught me . . . → Continue reading: The Longest Darkest Night of the Year

The Eye that Blinds

Years ago on mog.com, I wrote about Claus Cordes’ cover art for Klaus Schulz’s 1983 album Audentity, the new wave punk slit glasses shown in the film Big Trouble in Little China (1986), and the specialized glasses worn by Geordi La Forge, the blind engineer played by LeVar Burton in Star Trek: The Next Generation . . . → Continue reading: The Eye that Blinds

You Don’t Mess With the Samson

I promised myself that I would not think too hard about You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler’s comedy film this summer. But alas, reading about the story of Yiftach in the haftorah reading this past shabbat, I couldn’t help but think of the context of Zohan within the context of . . . → Continue reading: You Don’t Mess With the Samson

Cain and Abel

From her yeshivah digs in Jerusalem, Gella Solomon (of Nogah Chadash) writes to me of an aggadic commentary she’s recently composed on the story of Cain and Abel (or transliterated, Qayin and Hevel). Her midrash, narrated by Cain is deeply humanistic — Cain expresses himself and his experience of fratricide in human terms that easily . . . → Continue reading: Cain and Abel

Behemot and Bahamut

The umbilical cord of my omphalos winds its way back in time to the blessings of my mother and father, but also inwards and outside-of-time, stretching into a womb land that is all myth and dream and imagination. With some effort I can follow my way back into this makom, this space and hopefully return . . . → Continue reading: Behemot and Bahamut

The Two Lovers

On this trip, I had the pleasure of sharing a day trip between D.C. and N.Y.C. with a friend of an acquaintance. As it happens, by which I mean, by the tender coincidences blessed upon me in the happenstance of creation, this fellow, Eli K-W, also happens to love Jewish myth and has lately been . . . → Continue reading: The Two Lovers

Rejoining Tetragrammaton

Here is one more attempt at trying to explicate the mystery of Leviathan and Behemoth. This is a work in progress, but for those among you interested in myth and esoterica and/or Judaism, you may forgive its rough edges. Writing this took me most of yesterday evening and much of the morning, a work that’s . . . → Continue reading: Rejoining Tetragrammaton

Mardi Gras and Purim

This year, the Jewish holiday of Purim is on March 12th, which is so close to Mardi Gras (Feb 28th), the parallels are impossible to miss. I experienced Mardi Gras in Lafayette and Kaplan, the latter, far enough into the countryside where you can still find the vestiges of some extremely old traditions in practice. . . . → Continue reading: Mardi Gras and Purim

A Story of a Fly

Once upon a time there was a fly, big and hairy as some flies are. He was born in a city nearby a large river in Mesopotamia. There the young fly ate the flesh of a corpse until he was no longer a squirming maggot and had to find a bride to birth a new . . . → Continue reading: A Story of a Fly

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