Archive for the ‘Akedah’ Category

Out-sourced Sacrifice

With staffs slashed, with news rooms down to 30 percent, with all the pub closings and church closings, and the death of the box store, the old hostile take-over world is changing. With the culture of online universities, and crematoriums rather than the Land itself, who still has a loyalty to the old places, to the Fatherland, or to Isaac, on Rosh Hashanah? What do you owe your father and his Fatherland?

Appealing to your vanity, Abe, in the directive, for all-time, that you SHALL be a blessing. To a place you do not KNOW, you shall be a blessing?
The Akedah

In an indescribable life, with Lot, with your half-sister, along with your own father… “On your journey, I shall bless you!”

So the events. The Call to give up your home, at the age of 70. The sacrifice of all that you have. “And I shall make your name great. And all shall praise your name?” And the event involves this idea of sacrifice, connected to not your son but your nameless mother. Leave!

So after this idea of sacrifice – of the past – so the world will never forget, you have to now sacrifice the future. Or had the event been the miracle of Sarai finally giving birth, without a place called home, as a stranger in the land? At the age of 89! Or had the event been setting your first-born son, in the Call to Sarah to give up HIS home, free? Or in appealing to the opposite of your vanity, in the things which give identity, had the event been sacrificing her first born son, to set YOU somehow free?

Adoption. The National debt. Land as well as Land Management. The next generation. The price of the Louisiana Purchase, as the new states-to-come lead to a Civil War. Your own kids, left with this mortgage. How could you not feel the sense of punishment in the story about The Sacrifice?

“God, keep our Land, glorious and free!”

Like the North American immigrant, as to the question who am I, after leaving “it” all behind. The work in the Water and Soil Conservation office. In the lyrics of “Oh Canada” there is the hymn to balance liberty with security, with The Spirit of the Land directed at ‘Our’ God. With This Spirit comes but the crimes against the Spirit of our home and Native Land, with the adopted Spirit? Behold the Tabernacle …. That God may dwell with men and women.

Given one chance to address The Court. To waste the bullet in the duel. With a hoped for Forgiveness, accompanied by change and NOT punishment. If you know the ending of Hamilton. “Go ahead and shoot.”

“When the earth has turned beneath you, and your voice is seldom heard.”

Measure the invisible things that come out of sacrifice – their love, their kids, their God. Measure and compare the themes over this lifetime, of you to your better half. The connection of infertility to fertility … separate from the issue of punishment. For the women there is this sense of punishment, while Abe was out there walking the Earth, getting a sense of the Living God. To grow something deep, forever, for all the places without borders.

The Elephant in the room. In what is missing in each story, which son gets to enter willingly? Did the chief servant and the slaves? The first born son as an adolescent? The elephant in the room was a missing freedom, in the story of circumcision… for the forced in and the forced out.  Like in the conception of Hagar, has the trauma ever been forgotten?  For Ishmael? The first born son, in Recovery, of something forgotten? By Isaac? Can you explain the hatred for Christian, Jews, Muslims, and all religion in the western world? Is it an envy that God seems to give all the riches to Christians and Jews and Muslims, if you have seen their places of worship, or seen just the people standing at this Western Wall?

There always seems something foreign about Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Muslims. Over their concern for the outside world. When all politics is local, how can you be concerned about the far away, like the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims are? So why do you have this sense of Punishment in the story about The Sacrifice? What had been missing in The Akedah?

What did Abe come away with in The Spirit of the Land directed at One God who he called ‘Our’ Creator?  From out of all the acts of saving, there is “Sacrifice.” Being saved. For just your own? And then there is the hospitality in saving others… While being so human. Out of The Call, what followed in the chronology? The man fighting in war to save Lot. The man fighting for the victim, in the collective SACRIFICE, like the God of Abraham did in The Akedah? The man, now fighting, clearing a spot, for the Spirit of a land and for a “dwelling place for Spirit.” So what is going on in these stories about giving up being either human or divine? Giving up your Homeland along with your home, then giving up your first born son, until finally sacrificing the first born son of your wife.

To believe in such Spirit of a Land, how human does Abraham seem to you? To have such intense desire, like Abe. Did you ever comprehend the difference between the human for a divine purpose … that all might be divine? There had been this connection of Ishmael/Isaac to one place, versus Moses/Jesus connection in the book of Exile, in giving something up, to all the Earth/ to all people. Could the half-sister of Abraham, the half-son of Sarah, the half son of God comprehend the difference between the human for a divine purpose? And what, if you were really born human, was the perspective of Joseph, to a foster Land if-not-adopted son?

Did you ever comprehend in the stories of relationship, in the theme of “the missing” in the story of the Passion, the other half?  The half that Jesus cries out to? That he thinks he was wrong, in his leap of purpose, in this identity as The Messiah? In his Player Development, formed, by those related to Abraham, and then to be cut loose, Isaac – so much like Doug Mientkiewicz by the Minnesota Twins this week. Not fines AND suspension, or even banishment… but Death, as your father, through you, tries to save the world.

It is the second sons, in the world where firstborn sons are favored, who are supposed to challenge the Truth!  Now what, sport followers/ Apostles/ Sarah? When you had carpet-baggers running the show, everyone should be on edge!

The back and forth… “this alone I seek” prayer: “Hear and show me your ways, Lord!  One thing I ask…this alone I seek. To dwell in the House of the Lord, in the Temple. To be a part, Oh Lord!  Bring me to your dwelling.”


When you have to come back a separate, different way. So, there is this long period of recovery, either for the Victim or for anyone, like her/his family, who had come to know the Victim. And there is this long period of recovery, in trying to return to what was once there. So the sons of Isaac were supposed to grasp something so Intangible that comes out of the freedom to leave, in the story.  When a Victim was so innocent, and somehow this indescribable event is connected to learning how to pray, directed at God-alone prayer with others, out of the alone-ness in the stories, like in the three Abrahamic religions – of Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

To convey and pass on a sacrifice: How many time would God intervene, after Sarah’s out-sourcing, in this disorganized human world? Did you comprehend the irony of a people who grab hold of what you had uncovered — Spirit — after once giving up everything, now hugging the past, so that the most important part of Abraham’s story would not be forgotten?

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Imitations of Attachment

Moreton Fig TreeDid you ever notice  Egypt and the Egyptians in all the stories of Victims in the Book of Genesis?  Victims facing what I would call capital punishment?

Ishmael. After the forced relocations. Taking it personally – the crime, in the family. The narrator  never points out the threat of being reduced to utter non-existence. If you knew them all so personally. Until there developed a fear, perhaps out of being forced out.  And then the coverups, in the tradition of mystery.

Behold a narrator who brought you there: Passover is the story of being saved from death. Or is it the story of saving, after being saved? When Exodus – the leaving – follows Passover. And does the “serving” stay with the one-time slaves / hand-maids? How is that same variation on a theme – Judas and Imitations of Attachment – present in the story of Exodus? Just as for Ishmael, to be written out of the story, there is The Great Unsettling for the Narrator when you are not being counted any longer in the family.

The Great Unsettling emotion with Passover is over-coming a fear of death. For people who had come out of slavery. When the Great Commandment was to know, to love, and then to SERVE ….. God. The threat in the story of Passover – the threat of being reduced to utter non-existence – is seen when your first born son is lost. The inheritance was in The Call. To banish Ishmael,your half Egyptian son – your son who was born a slave.

The Call. Like when Abraham had left his own home behind in The Call, so his first born son, Ishmael. When you were born into something, so often the power of God remains to be seen. Like what he too had been born into, but left behind. And so the Exile of Hagar and son, in another Great Unsettling. Compare the banishment of the first born son of Abraham to Exodus. When Moses freely chose to lead the Israelites into exile.

And somehow the distortion of the great emotion with Passover, if you DID overcome the fear of death, involved suicide. Or in the case of yesterday’s news out of Brussels, mass killing in these imitations of attachment. If suicide is ever the answer, you never really recognized true love. If you do not really know Someone – if you got caught up in issues of power – did you ever want to serve …. in this Creation? When you carry only imitations of love, because of what you are born into? The horror back in Egypt, in the house of the Pharaoh, on the night of Passover, was that same horror for those who actually had come to know Judas – those who did believe and love, together. But those who never, under the Romans, really shared a homeland, with the goal of serving if not your own, the stranger.

The Spirit. The one revealed to Abraham. The one revealed to Moses. The meaning of Passover, again, is this great unsettling. When you are born a slave? That every day identity of a handmaid or a slave, who could not escape being enslaved to the earth, by the sweat of their brow. Twenty-four hours a day. With your children being sold out from under you. So the need to get your own place to worship your very own One God. So note from betrayal after Joseph had saved the Egyptians – so much like Hagar had saved Sarah and Abraham from extinction by delivering their first born son – these people of Egypt. Even though the son – Ishmael – seemed rejected one day by the mother, Sarah. Or who most thought was her true mother?  And wasn’t this the same story? God was going to reveal what exactly happens when a perfect Son is sacrificed, and the Church and the State will not rescue who Pilate heard was the King of the Jews.  After Joseph, the son of Jacob, had saved the Egyptians, this son of Joseph was gonna save all the world in this Passover! When sons always look at the end like their fathers, God was going to reveal what His fertility and Resurrection is all about. To those who had come to know him. To those who had come to love him. Like the Joseph who came forward to claim the body. AND those willing now to serve him. Yes, formed in his likeness, God was going to seat the Messiah at his right-hand. And there is a humility coming to know your ancestors.

In a story of the people with power and the underlying fear of Insurrection, who was Judas? And how did John the Evangelist – he was not the Apostle John – know of the exchange of the thirty pieces of silver? When there was so much confusion for all who had lived through that night . . . of Passover. Did you ever compare Peter’s betrayal to Judas’? What had been this fatal flaw of Judas but his anger over what he had been born into? In what is now called the Holy Land? And as far as this tradition of antisemitism in history, why didn’t Christians feel the same way to Peter, James and John – or to mother Mary for that matter – as they do to Judas?

” Called.” With suicide comes the reflection of blame. Where is God’s Mercy for Judas? Didn’t God need Judas in this story of The Passion? How did Judas fail to love, as the others eleven seemed to have? He had never been one of the special three taken up the mountain at the time of the Transfiguration. His calling is not even recorded in the Gospels, other than a suggestion in the Gospel of John that Judas had the money bag that paid for the Last Supper. It is as if the writers had no feeling for Judas. So what had been the cause of the Crucifixion? Isn’t the cause part of God’s plan, in salvation history?

So there was this imitations of attachment, for three years? For three whole years.  Did you ever compared the identity of Judas to the other Eleven. Judas selected by Jesus.  And Judas also choose to become a follower.  Behold the relation to follow to an updated Call, like the Apostles all would be called to leave, like Abraham. Home.  Only unlike Abraham, Judas was not ready to be moved. And only thirty pieces of silver – symbolic of purity, strength, clarity, focus and TRUTH – were to blame? Or was it his perception of belonging to the Holy Land? To Israel?  Whoever thought a Jew had a part to change the world, in a LAND and a place when inequality threatened stability?   Was Judas like Barabbas, a threat to the Romans? Taking it personally – in the family – the threat of being reduced to utter non-existence.  So the thirty pieces of silver. The scene that I envisioned, after the Seder on Holy Thursday, was like at a cemetery, with the ghosts of the first born sons. Without the currency but the spirituality of silver. Born into a currency, in what you carried with you? Into the Garden. So why should ONE currency prevail over all others? As inequality threatens stability, why silver and not Roman currency, like what Jesus once had asked whose face was on the coin? Did you ever consider why in the story, the price was measured in silver, this invisible currency?  Note all the invisible threats in The Passion – the systemic threats to God. With either the lightness of God’s Presence or as a burden, as my God is compared to your God? If you ever lived through currency wars. And the leaven in the story? In the advent before Passover, when observant Jews remove all the leaven from their home if not their homeland … To become unburdened. Blood on the doorpost.  Behold a hacked interior Spirit? This identity of Judas had been hacked, if you compared his identity to the other Eleven. Judas could not escape his pride living in the soon to be called “The Holy Land.”  Judas mostly loved his homeland, in a world not so split between Church and State.  So a narrator who brought you to an oppressed nation living under slavery, or just under the dominion of the Romans …. did you hear the anguish manner of sincere Jewish prayer?  “Favor us, oh Lord! Keep us from the strangers’ ways….oh hear our Sabbath prayer.” .

Behold the Agony in the Passover Prayer!   This Year!   “Where is the lamb?” From out of the anger when you don’t belong – in an oppressed nation living under slavery – to direct that anger at others who had that same sense . . . like the refugee. As you voluntarily leave the PLACE and what you were born into. As you sacrifice – a creation process in its own right – for others. When you grow a Spirit, through a tooling for remaking.  Behold the Agony in the Garden!  With a spotlight on an invisible Presence … in this God of Abraham. When you, like Hagar, like Ishmael, are left with nothing. But Spiritual growth.

The Great Unsettling for the Narrator is not being counted any longer in the family. Afterwards. What he too had been born into, but left behind – the son of Mary and the son, the world thought, of Joseph. The Law could not, to the great disappointment to Peter that night, save him – The First Born – again. And the chief priest could not. No, The Law was not going to save the Victim this time. The Law that was given in Exodus. It was the Law that got Adam and Eve kicked out of Paradise, in the beginning. This one Apple law. What a ridiculous law! This time the Father was not on the surface going to save his son, through the law and Pontius Pilate. And the Church officials in the way of the chief priest were surely not gonna save him. Instead Jesus was going to die.


In the September 11th of its day, Passover. In the September 11th of its day, the Akedah. In the September 11th of its day, leaving home, accompanying her husband from Haran to Canaan, as Sarah had. In the beginning. And so the leaving and the come-back stories, with the change beyond imitations of attachment to one of union based upon true love. In what is mostly a love story, of saving after being saved, and leaving to teach the world.  In a story of another Great Comeback, after a son leaves again, does the “serving” stay with these one-time slaves / hand-maids?

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So there is the betrayal by Judas, compared to Peter’s denial? Note the different understanding? One Apostle took action and the other ran away in a different dimension of sell-outs of a beloved. So Judas just did not have the right expectation of the purpose of a Messiah? With the emotions connected to love, if there was a true love rather than an imitation of attachment, did Peter? To deny knowing him, after three years. When Pilate recognized something in the way of power, in this Messiah, Pilate came the closest to understanding the power of God in this story. In the way of fatal flaws, Judas just did not have the right expectation of the purpose of a Messiah which led him to act on behalf of the Land in the story? His emotional response was related to overcoming the fear of death of the Land. Or overcoming the death of the Spirit in this Land? Based upon what you had been taught? Based upon your own expectations, connected to belonging? Had that Passover been like living through another refugee crisis, like the First Passover? When the slaves seemed to be taking over the place? So his fatal flaw was related to Spirit missing ….or was this fatal flaw of Judas, like in the midst of that first Passover, having just no understanding of what was happening — maybe much like the other eleven? 

I am not sure how many would understand the sacrifice – over what had driven the sacrifice of The Akedah – but the same fatal flaw of Abraham? Out of love for his wife, he had a son. But he did not love the mother of his son as much as he did the mother of his second son? And he was not supposed to have any feeling for her? So how did this affect their son – what had made Ishmael so different? I am not sure how many would understand this son. Behold the community standard which contributed to the fatal flaw of Abraham, that led to The Akedah!  When all along the difference about Abraham had been his detachment from the LAND. But how could you remain detached when you had a son, whose mother you did not love? And how would a father ‘s detachment from the LAND affect the son’s detachment from the world?

Behold the same great internal divide.  So how would a son’s detachment from the LAND affect these relationships based upon divine love?  For Judas …. who loved the LAND with TOO much feeling. Dayenu! Behold the “Dayenu” in the story of the Promise Land, in the story of Passover, in the story of The Passion.

“Forgive us!” What did you hear in the Lord’s Prayer? That Kaddish prayer is the “Our Father” prayer, with the plea to “deliver us from evil.”  Give us our bread, unleavened, that we might rise again some day.  Like the Irish celebrate 100 years this Easter.  Of the Uprising. With the loss of innocent life.

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Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries

Larry Gillick, S.J.

 

On the Day That the Sacrifice Begins

I live half-a-mile from The History Center.  In the New World there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of history and memory, like with Church or State.  Had this been the same unsettling connected to the Messiah – in the beginning – dealing in public ministry, as History is used against you? Whether with cameras or like Laws of Church or State can be used against you … as PLACE – the invisible …. in what always has been here – is used against you? This Spirit from where you come … like in The Americas, founded on the back of slavery and Imperialism?

Consider that first day on the job as a Messiah. And the loss of this protected status … in the beginning, closest to home …. later all over Israel. With the entire tradition resting upon purity, washing, dinnerware, bloodlines. This theology of Purity, ever since the time of Abraham. With Sarah, his half-sister.

Move! Letting go! Sacrifice. Note The Bond, just like for Ishmael in the story of Hagar — speaking of captives and refugees — becoming invisible as you move …. God-like. Feel the great unsettling of The Spirit of the Lord, connected to authentic sacrifice! When nothing else is left…. locate the displaced in the story, like the Lakota in South Dakota. Yes,in order to survive, MOVE! — to what the Canadians called the Reserve Land. And then what is left of my center, as a child – as a captive, like Ishmael – looks to their parent(s) as authority figures? But did you feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son?

The noun Targum – Targumim (singular) –refers to “translator, interpreter,” derived from early semitic quadriliteral root ‘trgm‘, and the Akkadian term ‘targummanu.’ A translator of the Hebrew Bible is called a hammeturgem (he who translates). Necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, with the common Hebrew language in transition, to give explanations, as Hebrew was being used for little more than schooling. Besides denoting the translations of the Hebrew Bible, the term Targum also denotes the oral rendering of Bible lections in synagogue. Other than the meaning “translate,” the verb Tirgem also means “to explain.” Writing down the targum was prohibited. Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture by a Rabbi in common worship, in the common language of the listeners, with paraphrasing in the common language after Hebrew Scripture was read.

“…. handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’ Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”

In either saving or being saved, locate the comeback in the story …. with an audience that felt that they did not need another authentic sacrifice connected to a Messiah? Hearing of the great unsettling teaching, The Spirit of the Lord, in “their” synagogues …. praised by all. Into the real Promise Land, into the synagogue, Jesus had come back to Nazareth, to where he had grown up, and went according to ‘his’ custom into his synagogue, in public ministry, on the Sabbath day. And there in the House of God was the great unsettling Presence … in The Spirit of the Lord. Living with the invisible loss of language, as PLACE is used against you, as PLACE claims you as its slave? How old were, how blind were, how oppressed were the eyes of all in the synagogue? As your place of birth blinds you to the outside world.

With language directed at intimations of attachment, This Spirit from where you come … founded on the back of sacrifice. The humility,in an endurance for a generation, living under the great Roman Empire. Dealing with loss, for the those who were small, slow, weak? For those who endure, generation after generation, over and over, sacrifice. Loving not your teammates from Rome, but your neighbor. . . but who is my neighbor? Where so many try to choose their neighbor, based upon the choice of domicile. With all the different degrees of closeness to a neighbor, as your child becomes captive …to a PLACE founded on the back of sacrifice! Captive to an identity that they are born into. With a King who bowed down, as the Giant had bowed down in death to David.

There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status, for the son of David, who had worked as a carpenter in a search for God’s Will? “… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” Met with silence? Do you feel the invisible size in another story of sacrifice?

There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status! With the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile — threatened the Jewish and Christian communities — and wasn’t this then what happened in the Inquisition to the Jews of Spain, in 1492. What had the prologue said about ‘mostly the same lives’ in that David Remnick book Reporting? There is an unsettling loss of this protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice, to develop your very own abilities in all areas – intellectual, artistic, social, physical – of accomplishment.

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Besides meaning “translate,” the verb “tirgem” also means “to explain.” While Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture, writing down the targum was prohibited  — not unlike some communities banning or limiting study altogether of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon’s (Our Rabbi Moses Son of Maimon”) The Guide for the Perplexed, as well as his writings on Jewish law and ethics.

According to scholars, otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract, and obligation, dhimmis did not enjoy, as citizens in the Islamic state, certain political rights reserved for Muslims.  Dhimmis — Jews and Christians  — had their rights fully protected in their own communities, but with certain restrictions.  It was obligatory for dhimmis to pay the jizya tax, which complemented the Islamic tax (the zakat) paid by Muslim subjects.  Excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, the various dhimmis communities were allowed to rule themselves under separate legal courts in the Ottoman millet system.  Under Sharia Law, the dhimmi communities were usually subjected to their own special laws, rather than some laws that were applicable only to Muslims.

Noting the history of Spain and the subsequent history of the Spanish Empire, the family of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon (Maimonides) chose exile. Some speculate that it was likely that Maimonides feigned a conversion to Islam before escaping.  When brought up by a rival in Egypt, his forced conversion was ruled legally invalid under Islamic law.  Maimonides moved about for the next ten years in southern Spain, eventually settling in Morocco.  This was during this time when he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.

Yes, I live 800 meters away from The History Center which is somehow directed at intimations of attachment, like the attachment that I got at home from my parents and grandparents, to share a form of secular holiness that often is directed to a home … or a neighborhood … or a city. There was a distinct sense of place in my life which had always been asserting itself, enfolding over time, staking a claim on a people. Before it was lost or overtaken. Or just taken anyway? After you had come to know something about a place.

“… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him… And he said to them,’Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’ …They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’ …. he said, ‘Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’ When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town.” And did you note, how after the reading from Isaiah in his hometown, Jesus became — in THE TRADITION  OF ABRAHAM, ISHMAEL, and ALL the descendants of the sons of Abraham  — homeless?  ‘For we know partially and we prophesy partially…’  So, in search of a Promise Land, Jesus chose exile.  

Note, while reviewing the words of Isaiah, the proclamation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord … has sent me to proclaim …. to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim….,” with the credentials of a carpenter.

Feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son of David.  God-alone prayer seems so selfish, without stories and without sacrifice….. and without a community to give and receive support. And according the the previous verse, Jesus had just come back from his forty days alone in the dessert.  For me, without a community to give and receive support, I would believe in neither miracles nor prayer.  In the God-question – in the perspective as the Receiver of prayer, without others – prayer is self-indulgent, affecting no one else, unless you did belong to a community.

‘They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.’ There is the unsettling loss of protected status, with the choice of exile; did you feel the alone-ness in the story, as a son of David? In Nazareth, “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”

When the power of a culture is based upon a shared literature. In stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories, if the power in the ideals of a father – the bonds, the identity, and all the belief – is gonna survive. If the identity in a name is going to survive at another level. When you were forced to somehow start over.  Without a home. And there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of Church or State, when a human is displaced.

On the day you became the Authority over your own life – or think that you could do anything that you wanted….alone or together, though this is the perspective only if you were the Master, not the Handmaid.

Note these Victims of sacrifice, followed by the Post Traumatic Stress to anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice in the Book of Firsts of the Hebrew Bible as well as in the first book of the New Testament.

Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Did you ever notice all the victims of rape in the Book of Firsts. The daughters of Lot whose own protected status is now connected to their father. Note the rape stories, connected to the daughters of Lot, later to the daughter of Jacob and Leah, Dinah, whose own protected status is now connected to her brothers … or not? Note the barren women, in half-relationships, in arranged marriage, with mostly informed consent? Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Note the unsettling stories, of sacrifice, which includes Hagar, a woman whose own protected status is not connected to a man. Was Lot a rape victim, with all of the sons of his nameless daughters who went on to find their own nations? Did you ever note the chronology, where after the birth of Ishmael comes the story of Sodom? Doesn’t chronology – in the spotlight on the First Born all over the Book of Firsts – mean something? And those Ishmaelites were the folks who ended up saving Joseph so he might save his family as well as all of Egypt. Note the unsettling stories, with the various degrees of informed consent, just like in the story of Hagar’s pregnancy related to such personal sacrifice?

Could you connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice? And these were the sons who were related to such personal sacrifice. So how is the birth of Abraham’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal sacrifice? After the attempted sacrifice of Ishmael on Mount Moriah, after the birth of Isaac, after he is weaned – if you ever noted the chronology – Abraham sets the captive (Hagar) free, along with his own son. Yes, locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Did you count the barren women in arranged marriage whose sons all became prophets? Did you count Ishmael? Had there been agony in the arrangement in Abraham’s marriage, as Abraham was asked to sacrifice his first born son – to banish him when he had reached adolescence. In the perspective of Sarah, Ishmael was sacrificed in his exile from his father. And Hagar had been this woman in an arranged relationships, whose son became a prophet.

Living in denial, note the little attention paid to the VICTIM of rape … like Ishmael. In either saving or being saved, locate the need for a body before you ever sacrifice. With an appreciation for the mothers – before you note these Victims of sacrifice – locate who it was who first gave birth with agony in those days, before anesthesia. In that the first born son of Abraham was born a slave, was there in the manner that Ishamel was born a slave an imitation of attachment, for Sarah and Abraham? In a world where birth and motherhood give meaning and purpose to a human life – if your faith in God did not – over time Ishmael becomes unwanted to Sarah. What did Sarah know about all the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent? On the day you became the authority, over your own life – or think that you did – are you conscious of your own protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice that occurred in the past, over giving birth? With an appreciation for the mothers and their life cycle as women whose sons all became prophets, note – in the day and age now where so many believe in the organization called Planned Parenthood as well as this authority over your own body and consequential life (or think that you did) – and locate the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent. With different degrees of education and experience – like music appreciation in elementary school – note the lack of appreciation connected to your perspective of Hagar, for what she was willing to do out of love. What did Sarah know about falling in love with a stranger, in that she married her half-brother – Abraham who had always been there – ten years older than she was? And wasn’t Abraham’s fatal flaw Sarah’s fatal flaw – not understanding what it means to really belong – that Abraham had been forced in the name of love to share with her? By locating all the victims in the Book of Firsts – focused since the argument of Cain with Abel – in either saving or being saved, what had motivated Abraham to travel first to Mount Moriah with his first born son, per the story in the Qoran. Was Abraham’s motive to subsequently travel to Mount Moriah with Sarah’s first born son, per the story in the Book of Genesis, the same? If you compare Abraham to Adam, did you see the same acquiescence to Sarah and her handmaid that Adam had given to Eve, concerning eating the apple? Were the female prophets married to the male prophets using, in the name of love, the God of Abraham? Isn’t this especially the same female fear of being used and exploited … connected to creation? Just as Sarah tried to have this God of a nomad belong ‘to us,’ through her handmaid’s son –through birth – Abraham set forth to Mount Moriah to have this God belong ‘to us,’ through his sons’ sacrificial death. Yes, locate the need for a body before you ever so personally sacrifice that a mother so well understood. How did Abraham address the anger of Sarah over the sacrifice of their protected status – like with the various degrees of anger by some believers – with such a perfect son? And the believers, as a descendant of the Father of Faith or anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice, believed that these Victims were perfect, up until the moment on the Mount when they were saved – before the Post Traumatic Stress. And the perfect really have no need for God? Or forgiveness?

Note how closeness and the Truth about closeness, through / with /in love stories, along with a feeling about the misuse of human power – to whom did this Living God really belong? – lead to a stories about Mercy and the birth right of God’s Mercy. As if you are entitled to have this protected status, carrying a name, as a descendant of the Prophet Abraham?  There is the realness of raw emotions after a son seemingly lost his father, of a closeness to his father.  Yes, over time a prophet becomes unwanted, like the presence of Isaiah was an unwanted intrusion, in his native land. When the Victim in each of the stories of sacrifice taught the importance of giving up the protected status that you once had considered to be the inheritance, in the name of Forgiveness. And both of the sons of Abraham – in stories on innocence – had come back to bury their father. Together.

Did you ever notice how you are on-guard with outsiders? Did you note in a relationship, the best humor is always domestic, like about a father or any family member …. if you had once been living in a spirited place? If mostly these are the same lives, the same stories, over and over, there comes the unsettling time in witness or hearing testimony about either true human sacrifice or an act of rape, that the unsettling sets in, again. Maybe like with the circumcision of a grown-up. And there is this long period of recovery, either for the Victim or for anyone, like her/his family, who had come to know the Victim. And there is this long period of recovery, in trying to return to what was once there. When a Victim was so innocent. And somehow this indescribable event is connected to learning how to pray, directed at God-alone prayer with others, out of the alone-ness in the stories. In the three Abrahamic religions, whether in the Old Country or the New World, there is the same unsettling for anyone who personally knew the Victim — Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus — with a closeness. In the three Abrahamic religions, if you were ever going to come to learn how to pray, you needed first an appreciation connected to a body and the stories directed at keeping a reverence for indescribable sacrifice directed at a Living God. But mostly you needed an authentic love relationship connected to a splitting if a sacrifice is ever gonna mean anything.

….. and then she died.

Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. But how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? How is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah.

Memory is the key to any identity, touching your emotions in this tremendous bond, touching you deeply, connected to your identity. So “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”

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POST SCRIPT: ….. and then she died.

Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, was, in the dénouement — in the release of tension in the dénouement — coming back home in his lame-duck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility, while dealing with loss of mostly power in old age, and starting over. Is pride, involving a desire for power, based upon knowledge – to somehow be more important than others – the most serious of the deadly sins for Chosen People?  Based upon more than surface knowledge, how is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah. So was it Abraham wondering before The Akedah, or or Isaac wondering afterwards, if he had even mattered, begging to have had mattered, begging to be blessed, so that God would never forget, NEVER forget Abraham, just like THAT Holocaust — or had it been Sarah wondering if Abraham ever really loved her?

Recognize the developments after The Akedah story as Isaac, not Abraham, becomes the protagonist by the time of the dénouement of the story? So how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? Somehow the movement in the common stories, like the physics after The Akedah, or in Eid Al Fitr— creating something out of nothing, like with the lingering Spirit from a closeness, in the beginning — becomes this birth right, related to Closeness, even after all the splittings and separation  …. with all the lingering human doubts. So was Ishmael, was Isaac, ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice?   And how did they come to understand this God of Abraham Who had first called the Father of Faith, away from his own father’s home so long ago, giving up a sense of protected status connected to borders?  Since The Call of Abraham …. “Let me show you a Promise Land, a place you do not know….and you shall be a blessing.” … there is this unease over this place you do not know, similar to my unease when I am running late for an important appointment. Only a displaced son carried this unease related NOT to a clock but to an unknown place – a lot like over not belonging here – maybe so much like being a Jew in Germany in 1939, when you carried the unease with your every moment of your life, or like a one of the millions of refugees suffering mass displacement, from Syria in 2016?

Memory is the key to your identity, touching your emotional connection in this tremendous bond, with different degrees of deepness, in the 26 European countries without visible national churches that have abolished passports and any other type of border controls, on imitations of attachment, directed at union.  In a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right — note the discovery of forgiveness through the son, in all the Abrahamic religions — with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture — like out of that closeness, in the beginning.  As that closeness, in the beginning, often seems one day lost if not sacrificed, in a more secular world with such free movement.  Did you note how the son really ends up saving the father …or, in the case of Ismael, the mother?   On issues of union, beyond imitations of attachment?  Yes, “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”

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larry gillick, sj
jorge mario bergoglio, sj and molly mattingly

Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries

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System Substitution

Moreton Fig Tree “Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.” Like in the Tree of Knowledge story, note the forced out native-born in the story, like the North American Indians, comparable to Eve and Adam.

System substitutions again, by Abraham. Note the circumcision, only after he went and fathered a child through his wife’s handmaid. So in the science of consequences, his first born son was a slave. If you did Algebra I.

In an apparition, there was suddenly the unexpected banishment, like an accidental death? And these stories just seemed to be repeating themselves. With the hovering ghosts of ingratitude toward Hagar, Sarah at least banished her handmaid and her son. The thing that got between two women might have had something to do with the methods of shared prayer if not shared belief.

Narrative tension is primarily about withholding information. In a story when both Abram and Sarai had the same father but different mothers, what has become of the command given to Adam to cleave? “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Though Abram had left home in his calling, here he was still cleaving to his half-sister perhaps out of the prejudice that he had about the outside world.

In any relationship, there is the issue of undivided support.

In an act that failed to distinguish, Abraham had fathered a child. And in the science of consequences, there is another separations and a split. In a perspective which challenged, to provide a fierce undivided support for a split child – did Ishmael belong to Abraham or to the mother? And so in the relationship, based upon cleaving, there is still the issue of support. So what is this perspective about a handmaid leaving the father of her son? If Ishmael belonged to Hagar, what of his relationship with Abraham, his master?

In a story when neither Adam nor Eve had a father or a mother, what is this new perspective for Ishmael about leaving a father? And I am drawn to the opening line in the National Book Award winner, The Round House: “Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.”

So another author captures the story of beginning – in the conflict of the Native-born with the outside, with only the one post-Apple- Age-command given to Adam, about cleaving.

With the fear in the story, doubt was always the center of either mystery or faith which moved THESE STORIES beyond the power of imagination. If you get the small details wrong, with all the fear in the story about land and women and suffering, you will get the big picture wrong – affecting if not your money, if not your land, then at least your kids. And in growing up, based upon my parochial education, let me say that the Christian world in the Americas never gave a second thought about Ishmael until sometime after September in the first year of the New Millennium.

Hagar Spirit. It is the size and shape of ghosts which get through things. Feel the Post Traumatic Stress when a father sets a captive free. It seems fair to say that the lesson of the Emancipation Proclamation is that a society ignores the formation process of Creation by solely setting a captive free. So note another separation like between Abram and Lot, only this time between Abraham and the mother of his first born son. And were you sensitive enough to a chronology over a lifetime to realize there was a significant period of time when Abraham never knew for sure – with his human doubts – whether he would have any other son? Abraham who had negotiated with his God over saving 100 people in Sodom, in contrast to his ancestor Noah who failed to negotiate with God when he knew what was coming…. the father of faith, told what was coming. Before the discovery that God might be negotiated with. Note the conflict over power in the story, when surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition, whether as the last person on earth — or the first — and feeling so all alone? Living with exception to these kinsmen, with Sarah and all the strangeness of Sarah through the things not physically shared – the torture of her barren-ness for the inability to carry the God of Abraham to the next generation through a child. Locate the personal boundaries in the story, with violations of individual if not communal boundaries in the story of Hagar.

The all-knowing story-teller, working for The Academy of Private Detection, before answering the question whether the G*d of Abraham would live through and/or beyond Ishmael, had some exploring to do of the people without power in this chapter of the story? Chosen, like in a mate, if the G*d of Abraham would survive for his son, with the involvement of political and Spiritual powers? Through story, image is defined by others, especially in the way of Ishmael’s handmaid-mother. What is apparent to me in my religious tradition somehow acquired through Abraham is that every tradition of the Abrahamaic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – has a need for both a story and a real living human body in order to pass on the method of prayer.

From age to age, from east to west, WHERE you come to feel a Living G*d, it is story that shapes the way you think, as you come to know in the ritual of seasons, with at least this quasi-religious timetable, where to find a Living G*d. So in these stories locate the system substitutions again and again by Abraham, which over and over is repeated in the system substitution of his sons and grandsons. You learn these days in Algebra I about system substitution …and there is a theology of failure. Note the actions of substitution after Abraham realized his mistake.

The chronology in the life of Abraham started with the Call. The place in the story was always important – like the PLACE of origin – though Abraham acquired his wisdom over time because he just kept moving. So would Ishmael? There is something missing in the life of Ishmael. It is the hole that often can represent Spirituality. Note the reluctance of the narrator if not the Author of Life to state the self-evident about the inequality which threatened stability, based upon the PLACE and TIME that you were born into, with the displaced ghosts. In the beginning, like just another speck of dust – you. And when your father banished your mother over the conflict over the unconditional. And your father was gone from your everyday life. But in the case of Ishmael, not until he reached an early teen-age year.

Note the unconditional in this story, for those willing to keep moving, to start over – and the chronology which led to the idea of “unconditional love.” What transpired just before this banishment was the circumcision, after Abraham had gone and fathered a child through his wife’s handmaid. So in the science of consequences, his first born son, in the eyes of the world if not in the eyes of Abraham, was a slave.

In the ghosts of the religions of Abraham, stories do affect the way you pray … thoughtfully. In Ghost stories, this hole left in this birth of Ishmael is comparable to a hole left after a death. Remember, that thou art dust, visible and invisible. Long after you forget, one winter morn the quiet spirits of your ancestors show up again on your windshield after the morning frost melts ….and you notice that dust and it meaning, years later. When there is something in the hole that is now missing. As inequality threatens stability, in the construct of ghosts , there is the hole. And the construct of each and every ghost is still dust, from the dust of PLACE and TIME. Discussing the placement of Spirit in the hole – in the silence of Creation – the seen and the unseen construct of ghosts is still dust. Forever buried dust?

Did you grasp the resentment in the story? Why did Sarah even have a handmaid? Why did a childless woman need a handmaid? Was Abraham bringing back the spoils of war, as a sign of her worth … to prove her True worth …. like a Valentine from long ago? What had come between Sarah and the ideals of her handmaid over who she was: over identity and belonging, and over who this G*d of Abraham and of Sarah was? In having to still prove your worth at this age was there the lack of respect from outsiders to both Abraham and Sarah, without children? Did Hagar know the same feeling, as a handmaid? Was the wife of Abraham hostile that Abraham had taken in an arranged relationship – only a temporary one – a handmaid, against the mores of the people he had grown up with? Did Abraham and Sarai think that they could contend with a son born into slavery? When did the insight into the uncaring nature of others — a missing hospitality — begin that grew out of concepts of pride?

Order, before there was any law … in the beginning. Chosen first, but elite? Was the first born son better than the others? In the serial stories there are the personal and/or nostalgic associations. Not for the light-hearted, the debate is over goodness in what, for so many, were just kid stories … over whose sacrifice was best, in the debate over how to worship God which began as Abel, “for his part, brought the fatty portion of the FIRSTLING of his flock.” In the theme of “firstborn” and of chosen, with inheritance, as you assembled the children to hear the stories … about the the beginning of.

Did you ever follow the chronology which led to the idea of “unconditional love,” in the placement of the story of Sodom and purity — about intimacy — just after Ishmael had been born to Hagar? There is always the conflict over belonging to the G*d of Abraham, because Abraham himself was so divided in his love (over issues of purity), perhaps over to whom his new son belonged? Did you note the constant strife between the herdsmen — the stories over and over about shepherds — and now between Sarah and Hagar, which always exists in relationships? In the silent themes of PLACE, bloodlines, and the fertility which determine power and freedom, at this point in the Book of Genesis, Ishmael was the bastard son of Abraham, after Hagar had sacrificed her purity to her masters. When you were living as a conquered people and a conquered nation – with all the silent invisible hostility – Hagar had conceded forever not only her status but that of her son? But with the far off hope that something would one day change?

To connect the dots about Hagar, about intimacy, about unconditional love, Abraham has sacrificed his purity in the same way Adam had, to appease Eve. As your life becomes a formula, with personalities, plot structures, and noble character within, in order to develop comfort, with consistent shapes, often reaching consensus over right and wrong if not goodness over evil, there was this this hole left from this birth of Ishmael? When there did not yet exist a rule of law. And so the innocence of Abraham sacrificed, in order that Sarah might have a son.

The story begins with Creation which, as we have seen, is the story of the acts of distinguishing one thing from another. It ends by alluding to the most crucial distinction of all … wrote Daniel Mendelsohn in THE LOST.

And so the story of Abraham. An apparition is mostly an opening of light, if you did your Algebra I. And if it is Thursday, I am working on Algebra I and system substitution, but finding Abraham in the stories about sacrifice and human bodies, and their connection to unconditional love. How to communicate deep feeling of flesh and blood nomads in search of something, while unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — in the story of the Father of Faith, concerning his God and the relationships of Abraham, moving slowly toward the proper way of worship … through stories about sacrifice and human bodies? “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories. Mostly the same stories, generation after generation. When your relationships at their foundation were so alive, but with a great restlessness. When you prayers were so alive….and you wanted others to then have the same experience. Even if sometimes you had to hood-wink a son.

Locate the VICTIMs by the end of the Book of Genesis. As Ishmael goes missing. And in a role passed to Isaac – who had to appreciate his own father’s pain about a missing son – and then in the story of Joseph, it is Jacob, who is the ultimate VICTIM of hood-winking in response to “Where is the Lamb” question. In these stories of the missing. Like Israel, surrounded by people who he could never really trust, even his eldest son of Leah. And did you witness in the stories of Jacob & Sons, all of the Violence over trying to be One? Again. And so the invisible God of Jacob, so distinct from the God of Abraham. If you ever spent the time to try and see. And did you notice a greater suffering as the living VICTIM went missing, for over twenty years, in a witness of the unseen? With so much emotional attachment … to first Jacob, and then his son, Joseph? And the long-forgotten first born son, Ishmael?

And so this birth right, connected to the invisible if not to the missing. Yes, locate the importance of the binding in the hole left in the relationships, in stories about unconditional love … with God’s intervention in the holes.

COPYRIGHT PHOTO of a Moreton Bay Fig Tree COURTESY OF, belonging to, HO TONY of New Zealand. Touch to enlarge the photo, to locate the Spirit in the tree. Is Abraham near the root?

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2015 POST SCRIPT:
Speaking of “system substitution,” the trial of Jason Rezaian, the reporter working for the Washington Post in Iran was not much different than the news stories from 2011 involving Dorothy Parvaz or even the arrest of Shane Bauer. Yes, when we endow our lives with stories. Through stories about sacrifice involving human bodies? “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the current editor of The New Yorker, a one-time reporter for the Washington Post. Mostly these are the same stories, generation after generation. When your relationships at their foundation were so alive and you wanted others to then have the same experience. Because of a great restlessness you were born with, that seemed to move the next generation.

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Larry Gillick, livelydust.

Noah’s Wife

Maybe you have been in the Paperlessworld before. Maybe you have read about the Akdedah. What has never been brought up until now is the connection of Noah to the story. Oh, there has been mention of who was Abraham, as well as who was Sarah.

“Welcome to the Dormady Academy of Detection. This semester we will be using as text The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn. As your will read, Mendelsohn is fond of quoting a twelfth century rabbi, on the meaning of the Book of Genesis. ‘The key issue for Rashi is that the wrong reading suggests an incorrect chronology of Creation: That God created the heavens and then the earth, then light, and so forth.  But this is not how it happened, Rashi says. If you get the small details wrong, the big picture will be wrong too.’”  https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/noahs-wife/

Noah's wife It is Daniel Mendelsohn who observes, “The story which began with Creation which is and was the story of the acts of distinguishing one thing from another, but ends by alluding to the… distinction between a man and a woman knowing God.” This is the most crucial distinction of all.

To unquestioningly buy it: war, slavery, religion, if not God. And so the Akedah in which the real main character is Isaac. The story begins with Creation which is the story of the acts of distinguishing. When we inherit and accept things, and eventually one day our sons and daughters quit the act of distinguishing.

And so the story of Abraham, when who is gonna remember another death, like Isaac’s? And why would you make this stuff up? With God somehow sharing in Abraham’s suffering. When in the words of Gene Tiffany, discerning the dignity of suffering, as suffering delivers us to a new place, and suffering is never below a creature of God.

When suffering brought its own dignity, even to a nomad like me. Note all the things which allow a nomad to travel, not unlike the things which allow a man to retire: money, food, wheels, or some form of transport. And so Abraham, the descendant of Noah. So who was Noah? What do you know about Noah?

Daniel Mendelsohn adds much to the picture of Noah, by reviewing each and every word of the story.

Marked. Noah’s wife. Abraham. The connection of self-esteem to work,or the lack thereof. The connection to slavery. The sweat of the brow, and the suffering.

There was a recognized everyday need, when you were marked, by what others saw. With all the seem-to-be ends in the stories… of Cain. Or of Noah’s world. Not much different than the moments when the Akedah story seems about to present the end of Isaac, if not of God, as revealed to Abraham.

Was there not a missing interest, by the majority of other folk alive at the time, in the God of Abraham? And was this not a threat to the future, in the apathy in a world when everybody spanked their kids?

The seen and the unseen. Like a ghost stealing your consciousness, the clouds really did get in the way of a spiritual journalist.

Most surprises are negative. Creation and the always differences between what you set out to make and what you make. Ask a parent. It cannot be all in technique. You gotta try to say something.

Recognizing the theme in the first chapter of Genesis “to separate,” note from the stories how heroes attempt to separate “my creation” from the rest of creation? And thus the developing concept of “CHOSEN” from all the rest. If there had not been a need for a connection to Cain, was there a need in the stories for a connection to Noah’s wife who was the one descendant after the story of the second creation connected back to Cain? In a world where most surprises are negative, did you ever wonder if Cain got spanked?

Note the marked fertility. Why had Abraham marked his slaves, Hagar’s son, and Sarah’s son? Just like Cain had been marked. And just liked Noah’s wife had been marked on her forehead which was the first thing any stranger would remember about her. So had the real appeal of Noah, to God, been in his wife? Or had the over-powering appeal of Noah to God been, as the just man of his generation, connected to whom he had chosen as his wife? And at this point, there was not enough attention to the story, at least by Christians like me who had embezzled the story of Noah, but had never thought enough about the inside meaning in the story.

“Noah, if you want to do mankind a greater service, tell funnier jokes.” Because Noah sure comes across as rather bland.

Somehow that line is connected to Allen Konigsberg. But hadn’t it been Noah’s wife who first asked Noah why the chicken had crossed the road?

A nomad who had been born of Noah’s nameless wife, without laws and commandments, but only norms. The movement in the story of a man without borders, moving amid strangers with danger. Note the insiders and the outsiders in the story of migrant nomads, after the ark landed, in a world without borders. Trace the connection of blood to bonds. The sons of Noah’s wife all had names. And so much like her forefather, Cain, it is said that the wife of Noah had a large distinguishing mark on her forehead, since the time of birth. Like Gorbachov? But in times of greater illiteracy and belief in luck, did the neighbors believe — with group thinking and collective behavior — this was some kind of mark of a witch?

And so the story of Noah’s wife, when who is gonna remember another birth, or the mother’s over-powering pain of childbirth, unknown, unreflected upon? The unreflected upon pain of over-powering sacrifice which seemed to cross the line, if not the road which perhaps Abraham had so quietly inherited, from the nameless wife of Noah?

For the blood detective, this seen and the unseen.  To be marked just a little more invisibly.  And so the connection of the two – between a distinguishing past and a future of the WORLD – of the nameless wife of Noah to not only Abram but to Sarai.

Had it been about what was fashionable at the time? Maybe if you had attended the Dormady Academy of Detection you would also have recognized the blood associated of Noah’s wife to Sarai, whose name after all would come to mean “laughing” — or, rather, her son’s name did.  With a great need maybe for funnier jokes.

Did you note the nameless wife of Noah, who had outlived the nasty neighbors, knew why the chickens were crossing the road. Because it was gonna rain like hell.

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And let all who have nothing…
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And let all who seek…
And let all who have nothing…

Bring the ones who are laden,
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  ADDENDUM: Birthmarks. It is said that STYLE is a way to say who you are without having to speak. And so Noah’s wife. Yes, the mark on the face of the nameless wife of Noah.

As we inherit and accept things, eventually one day our sons and daughters quit the act of distinguishing.

Did you note the strangeness of not having a name? So I should remember Noah’s wife less for her name but as a descendant of Cain. And if I ever figured out the reason why Abraham had marked his slaves and two sons, I might figure out why God had left a mark on Noah’s wife.

Beware of characters who didn’t want to be identified/named because of the sensitivity of valuation. Because they would be leaving, or because they might acquire a new identity, with their own power to create and change the world. And you thought these place-names had always been, as you were born into.

And so The Akedah, from the story which began with Creation – a story of the acts of distinguishing. But when we inherit and accept things, eventually one day our sons and daughters quit the act of distinguishing. After The Splitting, what of the story of the acts of distinguishing, in a LAND?

The splitting. The Unsettling splitting. If you cannot find, after being told you needed proof/documentation, it makes you look harder.

Isaac, after the story of Abraham. Who is gonna remember another death, like Isaac’s? And why would you make this stuff up, with God somehow sharing in Abraham’s suffering?

The franchise. Without ownership – like Ishmael – in the franchise. The young man who was going to, at a perspective forgotten, become the builder of the franchise? Like your favorite sports team? The first born son of Abraham, who had sacrificed the home, out of The Call.

Ishmael. In the words of Gene Tiffany, discerning the dignity of suffering, as suffering delivers us to a new place, and suffering is never below a creature of God, suffering brought its own dignity. Even to a nomad like Ishmael?

Saving….after being saved. Note all the things which allow a nomad to travel, not unlike the things which allow a man to retire: money, food, wheels, or some form of transport. And so Ishmael, the descendant of Abraham who had been the descendant of Noah. So who was Noah? What do you know about Noah?

Daniel Mendelsohn adds much to the picture, by reviewing each and every word of the story. Marked. Noah’s wife. Abraham. His sons. Both of them. [did you even know the names of his sons, by way of Keturah?] What “we” once knew. So the real main character in The Akedah , from the perspective of Sarah is Isaac. The story of the acts of distinguishing one from another was to end by Abe distinguishing his son from all the rest. Like through a circumcision. Or at the point when, in the act of distinguishing, he quit? If he ever quit?

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Rosh Hashanah 2013

Rosh Hashanah in 2013 is a celebration of that kind of deep inter-connectedness and inter-dependence which begins in New York City in about five minutes, and where I live in 60 minutes. In a modern story of conversion, Rosh Hashanah was a day of remembrance, much more important than the day coming up in seven days, about what happened in 2001. The themes of both dates seem to be the inter-connectedness of sacrifice to annihilation, involving the future and my personal fertility.

I think it fair to deduce that those brought up in a Universal church were supposed to believe in Universal law. For everyone. This was the theology of the Catholic church that many Catholics had a hard time swallowing — social justice for everyone. Who would be paying for it? There are various degrees in belief, like in Sharia law, if you believed in the eye-for-an-eye justice — who was paying for it — like for Syria, whether there should be punishment for everyone within their borders for having waged their own Civil War, between the Sunnis and the Shiites, now with chemical weapons; with germ warfare. Sacrificing more Syrians for the death of the innocent.

After the story begins with Creation which is the story of the acts of distinguishing one thing from another, here now is Abraham as THE heroic human figure in the Bible, after the Second Creation. It is of note that God uses story to communicate from age to age, from east to west. So on another Rosh Hashanah –the Jewish new Year — what exactly had Abraham ever really given up in the story of The Akedah? In his entire life, what had Abraham really ever given up? Here was a man so concerned with the purity of his lineage, before he ever had kids, who had gone looking within his father’s home for a bride. Why had he moved away from home in the first place? Clearly movement was part of his life – the prime part of his life. So at one point he wanted his own homeland? For what? For what reason?

To have to write it all down: the sequence, in a modern story of conversion, that your reach should exceed your grasp. Abraham and his lost control, like mine? Not unlike the spirituality of bees, there were homes and homelands as well as nomads like me who never wanted be weighed down. That was the inner struggle of a nomad — until you had a girl, who might have told you she was pregnant. There was the pain to be alone with your fertility. Is’t it funny how talkative women want to live with contemplative men?

“Why do you really care who my God is, Sarah?”

So by the end of this Akedah story, Isaac is saved. With how my contemplation has gone over the past four years, Rosh Hashanah asks the question once again, that Abraham always seemed to be asking his sons, WHAT are YOU doing with MY tradition? Are you saving it,or sharing it, or letting it die? As your interest in the past is supplanted by your fascination with the future — Abraham surgically removing foreskin on all his slaves as well as his sons — which you made claim to through fertility, which Abraham made claim to through his son, with both of his sons. Like God made claim to, if you were Christian, through His son. And the followers of Mohammud considered all of us infidels, unless you prayed like the descendants of Ishmael. So did you believe that morality was universal, or did you believe, like I believe, that morality was relative – maybe that salvation was mostly relative – passed down through generations, like in the stories of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament)? Here now is the father of faith, Abraham, as THE heroic human figure in the Bible. And I wonder what he thinks about how all of his sons got along in human history, distinguishing one son from another, in a modern story of conversion. Making people pay, as Isaac was gonna pay, maybe like for Obamacare, in a story concerning private belief and public policy.

You can look at how my contemplation has gone over the past four years, about how private deceit led to public shame when Abraham got home. And the story has been passed down ever since. To be born as a descendant of Noah and Noah’s wife, in a world in need of saving, was there a fair amount of shame to claim that his God had led him to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son, in this story read on Rosh Hashanah — about one father, one son and one woman — a loving wife and mother:

1) https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/days-of-awe/
2) https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/likeness/
3) https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-evolutionary-process-of-religion/
4) https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/atonement/
5) https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/high-2/

In the need to get the message out, in the need for the story to be spread to people with more and more leisure time, food, travel, education, there was the packaging … conveniently instead of with suffering, in a story. Everything was more convenient than what a nomad had to live with. Maybe except for love, and its formation. Note the suffering between a husband and his wife that came out of a relationship with an Egyptian servant girl had grown into the suffering between a father and his son (Abraham-Isaac), or over his two sons. Until finally the suffering between a father and his family that came out of a relationship with a woman from another tribe had grown into the suffering between a father and his sons (Isaac-Jacob),or over his two sons. Until this suffering between a father and a son had grown into suffering between a father and his family, until finally the story grew into, has grown into suffering between a father and all people. Between Christians and Jews, between the Judeo-Christian world and the Muslim one.

And so the Atonement, for Abraham. Over your realization of how much Hagar and Ishmael hated you — or about Sarah, who you had almost an incestral relationship as your wife— passing on everything in an arrangement that she had planned about your family. Did you recognize God in all of the deep suffering, in these stories? Did you see the human deception in the arrangements, with a need to hold onto something. The things in a modern story of conversion which affect perspective: speed, the distance, and all the senses that perceive.

Did you recognize the deep anguish in the story? It used to be more evident in my life with the way the day Friday was distinguished from all the rest. It was due to more and more convenience that the world lost a connection to the deep anguish. The suffering between a father and a son (Abraham-Isaac) had grown into suffering between a father and son (Jacob and Joseph) over the loss of a mother/wife. Note the slight evolution in the perspective in the stories, between generations. In a story after story about ‘something’ missing between one father, one son and one loving wife and mother. So how would the descendants deal with missing rain, or missing food? And always the movement in the story of the descendants of nomads. The threat to all the tribe, if you learned how to diagram the sentences, seemed to be about a missing love.

Rosh Hashanah in 2013. To have to write it all down, in story of the celebration of a kind of old deep inter-connectedness and inter-dependence, but much more about a personal anguish. So hear once again this story and feel the deep anguish in the story, as the world tries to decide what to do about Syria, and a war that seemed to be starting in about five minutes in New York, or maybe in an hour where I live.

Copyright © 2013.

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Hostility: Out of Plagues to Exodus

 No one is a born story-teller. With words, in translations, there was such a long learning curve that cut into you. In words and borders and getting across time. With power and dominion. And BONDS which came from stories.

 I am this descendant of island people. People who lived in one place, mostly in rural areas for hundreds and hundreds of years. My blood is all Irish. I am reading Richard White’s book, Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. White explains in this book what a homeland means, when you burnt the peat and ate only local produce. And saved the produce. For hundreds of years, before refrigeration and before imports. He is the son of an Irish mother and a Jewish father, after exodus.

 Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, as your own world was coming to an end, in exodus. After all the lateral moves, but still the connections. Settling down, marrying outside the tribe.

 When you were born into something: what had a homeland meant as a place you burnt the peat and ate only local produce? And, living within the tribe, learning the mystery, you had to save something.

 In exodus. The movement in the stories was not so much to change the world, but only the people in it. Note the outsiders, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own. In immigration, like Jacob’s.

 In exodus. Like Rebekah’s. Jacob’s mother, living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider. Did you feel a hostility as an outsider? The holiness, either within or not. Crime and punishment, and stolen birthright. It was the outsider in the story – Rebekah – who was involved in the stolen birthright (but a birthright from only one side of the family) which would so much involve the future. What had been the birthright from Rebekah’s family? What she had been born into? She was the brother of hoodwinking Laban, the ultimate of hoodwinkers. So what was the the inheritance from Rebekah who was from a family of hoodwinkers, which Jacob would later come to so intimately know. So was it Rebekah who wondered what could be wrong with stealing a misunderstood birthright?

 Note the future in the story, in this marriage, arranged by Abraham. Like the project of becoming a wife, there was the known and the unknown; the visible and invisible; the practical and the impractical. Speaking of choosing and of the chosen. There was a theme of “knowing” or not knowing, the birthright. One oh so very personal experience, about the right way, like in any relationship. Living in captivity, in an arrangement of the times, what had been Rebekah’s experience of the God of Isaac, before any idea about how to raise two kids? What was her personal experience of – based upon scarcity, limits, and human needs — sacrifice. When you lived under a dominant culture, like Rebekah.  From one side of the family, would there have been some lingering hostility to the special attention given to the God of Abraham, with Isaac’s post traumatic stress since the moment on Mount Moriah? Rebekah, coming from a different family, with a different concrete examples of marriage — one visible, the other invisible. And her fertility as the outsider was what needed by all the descendants of Abraham.

 Private and public lives: the inheritance of Jacob from his mother was as the outsider — after his forced immigration to just survive? Just as Richard White writes about memoirs and history, about belief or disbelief, in dealing with loss, so the stories of people to whom I was related – or maybe over what it meant to be chosen, and to live with birth right. If you had figured out what Isaac’s birthright had been, which would be passed on to Jacob.

 Stories of drought and birthright and barren women, after the flood, as outsiders in the world. Like from the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days. The movement in the stories: Exodus. Freedom. Numbers. Like the twenty years that Jacob had gone away — if it had been twenty years, living in a different culture with his stolen birthright? And in these stories about the book of numbers, there was always the threat of outsiders to Chosen People, if not the earth. So in stories about insiders and outsiders, as a descendant of immigrants, I was so much like Rebekah or Jacob. When the twenty years signified the years of Jacob’s fertility which had come to an end. And then the movement in the story, again, long after mother and son collaborated over this stolen birthright.

 From the emergence from the rectangle that Noah lived in for forty days, note the forty in the story. Or the twenty years that Jacob spent with Rachel’s father, living in another culture, with a climate change. Did he feel a hostility as an outsider? Would there be a loss of spiritual power learned by marrying into an outside culture? Jacob, circumcised as his father, living away from the kosher type-rules? Living as outsiders, living with birthright, which of his own sons had been circumcised? How, if circumcised, had these boys felt living in a world of public baths? Would they always feel to be outsiders? Were the twin sons of Rachel better than the sons of the other women whom Jacob fathered children with? And which of the twelve tribes of Israel was most pure, most really Jewish?

 Chosen? Jacob with this undeserved birthright. Trying to hang on to an undeserved birthright. In words and borders and getting across time, with power and dominion, and BONDS which came from stories. With favored sons, if not real favorites. With the strangeness in this Living God of Abraham. Did Jacob think in only one dimension, with his multiple wives, about the meaning of his birthright every day? Over his different way of life, when his grandfather was still alive?

 Insider or outsider? The gestation period of forty. Darkness and light. When did Rebekah feel used over her forty weeks of gestation, living amid the strangeness of the family of Abraham with his God? The pride in fertility: like Rebekah in the story, there was the deep emotion in the story for every woman on earth, when my God is perceived to be threatened, along with the excitement when God is with us – now.

 So which of the two twin sons was most like Rebekah? And is not a mother allowed to have favorites, and bestow a birthright? In the outside world, feeling so shut out -– maybe feeling so much like Cain had?  Did you feel a hostility which grew from the pride of either outsiders or insiders?

 Inheritance. Chosen. Feel the hostility as an outsider, to the holiness — either within or not — so much like fertility. Crime and punishment, and stolen birthrights. When mothers had favorite sons, before fathers had favorites, like Joseph. With a shame in these stories. Learning the mystery, as outsiders. Feel the hostility as an outsider, learning the mystery only at home.

 Chosen? Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. There is this spatial change, in the size of things, as a child grew. In the perspective about size, in both public and private lives. So what was the change in the spiritual direction in the dénouement of the story of Rebekah, in the movement in the story of outsider, as her younger son married into her very same family? What was her shame after her son left with the stolen birthright? And did you recall why Rebekah with Isaac did not like the women that her older twin was bringing home?  So hw many years did it take Jacob to discover the meaning in the birthright?

 From living outside his tribe, somehow learning the mystery, to ever so slowly discover the shame in this story. Abraham had married his father’s—but not his mother’s —daughter. Sarah. Oh, those crazy biblical relationships. And Jacob had then married into Rebekah’s family in the same way in a largely pagan world, with nomads migrating in large numbers. In his lateral moves, in exodus. But still somehow connected, settling down, marrying outside his father’s tribe.

 Those crazy relationships. And you wanted others to have the same experience. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories, did you notice the same perceived threat of outsiders to the free worship by Israelite slaves, with a missing hope in the world, when Moses was born. Moses, the descendant of Jacob — the grandson of Levi? The perceived threat was proved true, generation after generation, leaderless, powerless in the outside world, unless somehow united in belief which came out of stories, in a passed on perspective of spatial change.

So compare the life of Moses to the life of Jacob.  After he had grown, from living outside his tribe, somehow Moses had come to learn the mystery. Children gradually learning to recognize a shame in living unquestioning lives. Like for Isaac, after what had once happened on Mount Moriah to Isaac, or after killing an Egyptian. Truth is not a property of thought which guarantees validity to my thinking, in either politics or religion. In the outside world. As proven, as, one by one, these great prophets had violated the Ten Commandments, before the Ten Commandments were placed on stone. In words. In stories about a powerless people. But since the beginning, in all of human history there were people who felt that they could annihilate other tribes. Like Abraham thought he could sacrifice his own sons. And a wife who came from the outside must have had some inner feelings about getting out. About escape. In explaining a motivation to write, to “cover” events through people, in stories about leaders, note the fear and anxiety over which human will lead us, or save us, next? Like Moses. Jut like Rebekah tried to save her one son? In stories about powerless people, Moses like Joseph somehow had come to know the Pharaoh.

 So what had Moses come to know with his time in the Egyptian world, growing up so close to the Pharaoh, in a world of power, after facing his own extinction. Until he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, in a story about human power structure. What had ever been passed on to Moses of his own culture? Had Moses even been circumcised? And what had happened to the birth right by now?

 There is holiness which come from story-telling. In the realness of the mystery stories of people to whom I am related even in exile, like in Irish fertility, as written about in Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. Movement. The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world. And the anger and blame which went towards those who left you.

 Who could, who would ever believe in Moses – like on one dark Egyptian night when so suddenly the Israelites picked up and left? Like Jacob. All of them this time, to the Promise Land. Who would ever believe so strongly in the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Who would ever so strongly believe in such a Living God?

 Truth and story-telling, with words. Feel the BONDS which came from stories. Did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be? Power. Restlessness. Shame. The visible and the invisible. To take something so private public, in a world of power. Was that the lesson of the invisible birthright, passed on in the family? From a new inner shame over letting Jacob go? Everyone’s anger at Jacob, not so much for stealing the birthright as much leaving across the desert – this dry bowl of never ending bitter tears – with the birthright.

 There was the personal transformations in the movement in the story, reduplicating Truth, in the dénouement of the story. In the shame of Rebekah, over the lost power at home? The innocent in the story was in Esau, who is lost sight of for twenty years. How did Rebekah ever reconcile with Esau over what she had done to him, with her collaborations? Rebekah who had not liked the women that Esau brought home, which resulted in a favoritism toward Jacob. Or was it about the gods of the women who Esau brought home?

 Chosen, for the next generation. Note the outsiders in the story. Note the fertility of all the barren women of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 Truth and reconciliation: shame could not be inherited — neither Rebekah’s shame, nor Abraham’s shame, nor the shame of the twelve tribes of Israel could be passed on; nor could the transformation from guilt. There was such emotion which come from collisions of public and private lives, in dealing with life and death and goodness, when you lived under a dominant culture. So was it the genes from Rebekah that allowed Moses, that had allowed Jacob, to sense the hostility either at home or in Egypt, over who was really chosen? Sensing the frozen hostility as an outsider, in the wrongful detention, and asking the others: “Are you ever gonna go?”

Note the movement in the “Let my people go”story.   The  movement in the story is in the power passed on in stories in the long learning curve – visible and invisible – about “where are you taking us?” About who really chose whom.  With a vision of prayer and a better life.  A people set apart, with the first idea of an afterlife. In a Promise Land. For a place to freely pray. And to somehow, with a spiritual dimension, with a bond, to just survive.

 


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Days of Awe

An old scout born in Minnesota (Wes Westrum), on worship and baseball, once said: Many go, few understand. It was two years ago when I read a piece in America magazine about the Akedah, the strange story read on Rosh Hashanah about how to somehow keep this God alive, what has been haunting me ever since?

Rosh Hashanah. As Jews hear once again with the start of the High Holy Days, the account of the binding of Isaac. When it has always been tough to be in such an alliance, with the true believers. When the story, like all good stories, was about the future. At what point do you relinquish whatever identity you have inherited or seemed to have helped build yourself – with Abraham, prepared to give everything that was important away. In a sacrifice.

In the story about the interior system of belief, creating something out of nothing, for sons who followed fathers, generation after generation. Abraham, Isaac, and later Jacob, with their torturous relationships, in an under-populated world populated by mostly people living in denial, if not fear, of God. In the approach of fathers to sons, the comparative approach to the real God by fathers to sons, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, on life and death, with that identity commandment. Which started with the knife, at birth, as Abraham had used a knife on Isaac when he was born. And the conflict in this story was over the method that Abraham in the story used for “evangelization.” So again the knife in this story, like he had used on Ishmael when he was twelve or thirteen. And Ishmael could ever forget what his father had done? As some kind of punishment, for what he had done?

Crazy people, having to start all over, with God or without Him. Sons, when this was all over, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question…and passing it on, with such emotion. To keep something alive with passion — having to choose, on another Rosh Hashanah. This Abraham with a split family who wanted others to have the same powerful experience, as he had had. Except maybe not like between Hagar and Sarah. Abraham who had shown up at the same place at least a generation earlier with Ishmael, if you believed the Qoran, in the reading at the end of Ramadan, of Eid Al Fitr with the same scene played out, only between Abraham and Ishmael. And when it was tough to be in such an alliance, with the true believers over the truth…and what it was you were you going do with it, once you discovered how to pray? In these relationships arranged by your family, the torturous ones over fertility, for the father of faith to his sons and to his God – over God and the inheritance of God. Maybe with a craziness not unlike all the things that happened on September 11th, if you lost the proper perspective — considering how to communicate the ideas all about identity and who Abraham was – if not outright crazy, after circumcising sons and slaves with some kind of fertility vow, as part of the identity commandment which involved power and fertility? How so different than other men, in their day. No wonder the stories of Sarah’s laughter, when she recognized all of Abraham’s craziness.

Born with a pre-existing condition. This story was all about of Isaac as a son of Abraham who must have seemed so crazy. With an overall theme directed at intimations of attachment, like the attachment that I got at home from my parents and grandparents. To share that holiness that often was directed to a home. Or a neighborhood. Or a city. From a distinct sense of place in my life which had always been asserting itself, enfolding over time, staking a claim on a people. Before it was lost or overtaken. Or just taken anyway? When you had come to know something about a place.

That a nomad was supposed to resolve the crisis over belief, oy vey! Over shared belief. In a foreign land, outside the garden. When you wanted to share a heritage or a culture. In a quest to redeem society, and not just himself, to somehow – even when you seemed so old – confer a spirit about the past, in keeping this God alive. How can it be helped if a seed grows where it lands, once it’s been scattered, no matter from where your ancestors came.

Abraham dealing with inheritance, later to be spun as issues of birthright. No matter where you lived, the struggle, the anguish, in the comparative approach of fathers to sons. Sons who followed fathers, generation after generation.

The deepest part of Rosh Hashanah which came from stories about not just transporting a culture to a new place, but then somehow planting the culture. In a new place. People dealing with independence and multiculturalism, along with the changing roles of power.

When you came credentialed by the proper authorities, and you knew something about unrecognized painful sacrifices, and you desired to give your son up, for a brand new institution. Because you had fear over lost belief? Over your realization how much Hagar and Ishmael hated you — or about Sarah, who you had almost an incestuous relationship as your wife— passing on everything that she had planned about your family. And what was the risk that her kid would be crazy? Or already was crazy, as Abraham. Was crazy Abraham, at the end, acting for Sarah, as he considers a honor killing, wondering if a sacrifice would ever be recognized. To be blessed in the name of God, having to choose, when your prayers were so alive, and you wanted others to have the same bigger than life experience. When the French “blesser,” means to wound. So was it Abraham or Isaac, wondering if he had even mattered, begging to have had mattered, begging to be blessed, so that God would never forget, NEVER forget Abraham, just like THE Holocaust. Somehow the movement in the common stories, like the physics in the Akedah, or Eid Al Fitr, creating something out of nothing — like in the beginning. So why not just end it all on Mount Moriah, Noah-like, without the ark? And God, if He let him kill Isaac, then surely understood.

And so another Rosh Hashanah, as the Jewish world considers again how to keep something authentic alive about shared belief, about painful human sacrifice even after anesthesia had been invented. What exactly was Abraham having to choose, in his sacrifice on Mount Moriah? With an intensity of the stories, like the Akedah … to communicate the idea about what Abraham knew. About himself, about his life, and then the risk that God took with Abraham, with his kin and his wife — with his split family, with Ishmael, in his second chance with Isaac, and the quality of all of his relationships. Or not. The movement in this father of faith story, to confer a spirit in the name of God, in relationship — in the end, never feeling worthy through perfect human sacrifice. With an Irish intuitive sense of what was happening, what Germans call fingerspitzengefuhl – the fingertip feel that maybe your baseball coach understood — for me the story was all about the Abraham’s plan. He was never coming back, you know. Home. To Sarah. Not after he killed her son. When neither of them were ever coming back. Originally. These guys after all were nomads, for God sake. Can you imagine the shock of Sarah when she heard the story? Or the neighbors? About Abraham, the allegedly just man of his generation, who with his ego had a concept about only marrying within the tribe, marrying his father’s — but not his mother’s — daughter. Who would ever belief or forget this story? With the shame in the story, until the part about God’s intervention, as the past and the future on Mount Moriah at odds were reflected upon.

Stories about points of view, in a creator’s desire for perfection, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, in comparative approaches to God by fathers to sons on life and death, with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture. To discover in the story somewhat unexpectedly, for sons who followed fathers, a Living God– power without domination – through the unforgettable pain of father and son trying to understand the manner to pray, in the story that transcends boundaries.

To confer a spirit about shared belief, in the name of God, with all the tension in the forgiveness story, with post traumatic stress on issues of trust, for the young, unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — wondering first about the genetic affect and then about the environmental affect on Isaac, after a father was ready to take a knife to you. How did the wounded, like Isaac, still believe in his father of faith, the tragic hero who had married his father’s daughter? Would he ever accept authority again, or find his own recognized leadership role — in the dénouement of the story? In the age of multi-culturalism, as Isaac moved outside the enclave of Abraham’s home into his own, how did Isaac hold onto such crazy belief? When belief about Abraham’s God had to be so painful, in the remainder of his life. As he clearly needed some direction, after this experience, to find his own personal God.

How did the wounded, like Isaac, still believe afterward not only in the God of Abraham, but in his father of faith — this crazy nomad taking people from the ancient Semitic population, descendants of Noah’s eldest son, to places where they never had been? And now what would you do with the the God of Abraham?

The Akedah.jpg

Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, was in the dénouement — in the release of tension in the dénouement — coming back home in his lameduck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility. When the most serious of the deadly sins for Chosen People was pride, involving a desire for power, to be more important than others? As the plot becomes untied, dealing with loss of mostly power in old age, and starting over – to recognize the developments after the Akedah story, as Isaac, not Abraham, becomes the protagonist by the time of the dénouement of the story?

When the power of a culture is based upon a shared literature. In stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories, if the power in the ideals of a father – the bonds, the identity, and all the belief – is gonna survive. If the identity in a name is going to survive at another level. When you were forced to somehow start over. In new years, hearing the old stories which came out of Abraham-like relationships, and with all the unforgettable stories, in relationship. From our father in faith — the warrior sheik who in battle freed his nephew Lot – comes the story of people shamed by what they had to endure. The physics of blood of Abraham, telling things which a son had no capacity to imagine, with the long after-affects of war, on a surrounding society that celebrated war. Creating a lax atmosphere, around an old way of life. Watching eye-popping torture. Without knowing the details, or the affects on home lives afterwards. And with the need for revival.

To discover in stories an identity — your own identity — that you would one day find you really could not escape. In new beginning, circumcision based upon unconditional love, with the continuing themes of fertility and the Truth. Stories of crazy people — Chosen People — having to start all over. To recognize the shift by the end of the story that is now all about of Isaac, on Rosh Hashanah, if compounded belief is to stay with the descendants of Issac. After all of Abraham’s chances in life passing on that power in bonds, finally, like for Isaac, the return to the same place where he had started out as a young man, to begin again.

To gain access, in stories of discovery climbing mountains like Isaac, with divine intervention at the top of Mount Moriah — in a story about receiving strength and power in a crazy belief in this God today for daughters and sons who followed fathers — connecting with other critical thinkers, passing on in new years the power in bonds which had come out of the collective memory of the journeys of nomads.

Like in a dénouement of the story, passing on the power in bonds between your own people, passing on the Spirit in some kind of Abraham-like Crazy Glue,in a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right. Accepting, like Isaac finally accepted his identity, as the son of the father of faith, as the ethnic enclaves broke apart and he needed a family to carry on the tradition. In another new year leading up to the Day of Atonement, this day was to commemorate a power in passing on the bonds of forgiveness.

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The Sequel

The Da Vinci Code. Living in the world with a comparative approach to life. It used to drive a mother crazy.

The author of The Da Vinci Code released a new book Friday, the third in a sequence, with the same cast of characters as The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Dan Brown tried quite successfully, based upon the number of books sold, to incorporate the comparative approach of religion into his fiction.

Rosh Hashanah. And the comparative approach to life. Fathers and sons. And points of view. The reading on Rosh Hashanah was about the Akedah. In the book of Genesis, the Akedah is the account of the binding of Isaac, when Abraham, at the command of God, takes his son to be offered as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah.

I read a piece in America magazine Thursday night about the Akedah by Harold Kasimow who has senior faculty status at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. According to his curriculum vitae, he teaches a course on the Jewish Tradition in the department of religious studies, and his research interests include comparative religion and Jewish studies. He seems bound by the philosophy of the department of religious studies at Grinnell College, and the promotional ideas of how to attract students to classes there.

Rosh Hashanah. It is a day of remembrance about relationships. Fathers. Sons. In a then totally pagan world, the account of the binding of Isaac. With the intervention of an angel preventing the murder of Isaac, Harold Kasimow interpreted the significance of the story as a protest against human sacrifice. He writes that “a civilization is judged by the way it treats its children.”

A day of remembrance. I am not sure why Jews, with the start of a new year, need to be reminded that a civilization is judged by the way it treats its children. This point of view, focusing totally on the future and not the past, seems to miss any comparative approach. In a tradition that was all about a covenant of the past with the present day.

A day of remembrance. At the start of a new year. Fathers and sons. Bound in relationships. Chosen People.

There must have been a reason, something very great, that God above all others chose Abram in the first place, the just man of his generation. In a conflicted world. There was a depth of feeling between fathers and sons, in a conflicted world, that seems to have been overlooked by Harold Kasimow. What does it mean to be bound by depth of feeling in a totally pagan world, on a day of remembrance for all descendants to reflect on the meaning as they continue the line of Chosen People?

Rosh Hashanah is either the end of one or a start of yet another year. What did it mean in this Akedah story for Abraham, an old man late in life given finally a child, a son, but asked to kill Isaac, facing the end of his line? Or at least the end of Sarah’s line? In a totally pagan world, what was the point of view of the participants? With this comparative approach, of a father when as a young man leaving a place of comfort to go to an unknown place. Abram gave up a lot at a young age to acquire a kingdom, an unknown of some kind. With this comparative approach, in this scene — in a totally pagan world except for Abraham — was Abraham no better than any other pagan making a sacrifice?

The Akedah

The Akedah and authentic parental authority. What did it mean to Isaac for his father, for this father of a Chosen People, to consider sacrificing his only son? Or it should be said, the only son of Sarah, the woman he truly loved. In the eyes of Isaac, “ME!” As a grown son, leaving a place of comfort, to go to an unknown place with his old father. At the beginning of his adult life, at an age guestimated to be between 22 and 34, Isaac was no longer a child in this story. How did Isaac view his role in the Akedah, as the sacrifice? He certainly knew the story of his own birth. He certainly had heard how long Abram and Sarai had waited for his coming, of the covenant, and of the name changes.

In a polytheistic world. In a world full of polygamy, his father’s world, how did he get here? Isaac, in this family? And how had it all come down to this? In a totally pagan world that never before had instruction on how to pray properly, what exactly was the purpose of this sacrifice, of prayer, to this one God? In a world for Isaac, without as much delayed gratification as Abraham had had, was parental love just a joke? Or was Abraham’s love just a fraud? And this love for God? When for most young men his age, the lesson that life and death were no joking matters was learned over the long haul of life.

To have been a son of a woman who waited so long for a son, how did he belong here? On Mount Moriah? In search of God? What exactly was going on? So what exactly does sacrifice really mean? How was this a sacrifice except from the perspective of Isaac? So to live a life of sacrifice, does any child ever really know? Does any child ever really know the fear of a parent, and these fears which were alive as their kids? Or a least until a child graduated with a great deal of debt in a time of great economic fear? In a world with so much instant gratification.

“Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” Where is the sacrifice? What does it really mean for a people, for the next generation, to be bound in their prayers to this Creator? And what did it mean for a living ram to be caught up in all of this, bound in fear in the nearby thicket? A wild animal, catching the fire of the one lighting the sacrifice? Mammals and their fears surrounding the decision about sacrifice. With all the surrounding fear of wild animals, when bound up. Mammals in this evolutionary process, with decisions about sacrifice and the method of prayer.

What does it mean for the next generation to be bound to parental authority and the authority of God? Rosh Hashanah 2009, with the delayed gratification of Abraham thousands of years ago? Was it a time of great economic fear? Was it a time of war? To hear any story of true sacrifice and not appreciate the surrounding fear is to miss a point of view, the most significant tension in the story of decisions about sacrifice. About any sacrifice, in a conflicted world.

What was Isaac’s view of the meaning of things from the past, from a father whose ways seemed so strange? How in the name of God could his father have bought him to this scene? In a world with a no sense of the manner how to pray correctly, how did he belong in such a world? To such a tribe?

Taking the time with a day of remembrance, on Rosh Hashanah, in a totally pagan world, to reflect on the significance of the meaning for a son, for a people, to be bound? Unconditionally? To God? What does it mean to reflect on the meaning of life, in a day of remembrance about relationships…. Fathers … Sons … G*d. The past with the present, fathers and sons, and points of view, about the future. Why all THIS sacrifice? Why all this delayed gratification, like Sarah had had, waiting for a son, with Abraham.

The real comparative approach, to point of view, for Abraham, for Isaac, is how the next generation takes things from the past, and makes personal sacrifices now. People and institutions, in times of great fear. Taking all of this so personally, what does it really mean for a son, for a people to be bound? in a sterile world? For a son to be bound to these stories hundreds of years old? For a son to be bound to these stories 70 years after the start of World War II? Speaking of holocausts.

In a conflicted world with this lost sense of belonging for so many, in a world filled with deep fear? What does it mean in facing death, to keep making sacrificial offerings? In the story of decisions about sacrifice, what does it cost to keep giving to charity in harsh economic times, to those causes with great personal meaning? In a academic world with a new comparative approach, to point of view, losing the next generation focused so much on individuals and individual rights until the tribe was threatened. In a world with a lost sense of belonging? What was the comparative approach to life, when facing death? For institutions? For individuals?

I don’t really buy the analysis that “a civilization is judged by the way it treats its children.” I am not sure a civilization ever faces judgment. Another civilization declared bankrupt, in all of human history, barely is worth writing about. For me the most significant theme of the Akedah is the tension in the story on how to pray properly, with great passion when the prayers involve your own kids. In the never ending tension between fathers and sons. Between husbands and wives.

There is more and more this comparative approach to life used to attract the next generation. In the age of relativism. The comparative world looks too much at what our neighbors were doing, as seen on MTV. In an increasingly secularized world, in the world of reality television comes the celebrated substitution called diversity for the God of Abraham. Until you wondered what anyone believed in any more. Until you wondered what was worthy of sacrifice. For me a comparative approach to religion stated in the philosophy of the department of religious studies at Grinnell College falls more than a bit flat, in trying to attract young people to the traditions of the past. In a modern world that struggles with the search for truth, in a pluralistic world made for TV that embraces the word “diversity,” the comparative approach by an institution seems to ring hollow.

What was Isaac’s view of the meaning of his role in the Akedah, as both he and his father struggled to learn, with their different points of view, how to pray correctly? Rosh Hashanah seemed more like a day to reflect upon the quiet struggle to understand both parental authority and the authority of God. To struggle to understand sacrifice. To be personally touched by sacrifice. The quiet delayed gratification in having had sons and daughters in an instant gratification world. For me, the Akedah is ultimately about how alive your prayers can be when personally touched by sacrifice. A lesson taught amidst great personal fear.

“Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?”

Sons who followed fathers. Generation after generation, the conflict in the story is between the unrecognized sacrifices by Abraham, in times of great fears, with a son/a daughter coming to an understanding, an awareness, of his/her role of sacrifice in God’s world. In hearing Isaac pose the above question, I think it more likely he came to a quick recognition that “…a son, a daughter is to be judged” by the way he/she treats and revers past tradition, studies past civilizations, respects authority, and make it into his/her own.

Crazy. Sons who followed fathers. A husband who could drive a mother crazy. Hey! Where was Sarah in this story? How did the mother to Isaac allow this entire scene to unfold? Without her?

Speaking of lost, that Dan Brown book just out — in sequels to stories about passing on power — was called The Lost Symbol.

 

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