There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In Service Industry (9/2), Constantine Caloudas wrote, “Following along with the services in the bilingual Gates of Prayer, where the pages turn in the Hebrew right-to-left fashion, can be confusing. So can the sermon: Zemel spoke recently on the Shema, the Jewish declaration of faith, and an argument between rabbis about standing or sitting for the prayer’s ritual customs.”
The best way for non-Hebrew-speaking Americans to alleviate this confusion is to read Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, by Israel Shahak. In Chapter 3, Shahak explains Jewish theology, including the cabbalistic Judaism of orthodox Zionists and Gush Emunim. I quote:
According to the cabbala, the universe is ruled not by one god but by several deities, of various characters and influences, emanated by a dim, distant First Cause. Omitting many details, one can summarize the system as follows. From the First Cause, first a male god called “Wisdom” or “Father” and then a female goddess called “Knowledge” or “Mother” were emanated or born. From the marriage of these two, a pair of younger gods were born: Son, also called by many other names such as “Small Face” or “The Holy Blessed One”: and Daughter, also called “Lady” (or “Matronit,” a word derived from Latin), “Shekhinah,” “Queen,” and so on. These two younger gods should be united, but their union is prevented by the machinations of Satan, who in this system is a very important and independent personage…
Other prayers or religious acts, as interpreted by the cabbalists, are designed to deceive various angels (imagined as minor deities with a measure of independence) or to propitiate Satan. At a certain point in the morning prayer, some verses in Aramaic (rather than the more usual Hebrew) are pronounced. This is supposed to be a means for tricking the angels who operate the gates through which prayers enter heaven and who have the power to block the prayers of the pious. The angels understand only Hebrew and are baffled by the Aramaic verses; being somewhat dull-witted (presumably they are far less clever than the cabbalists), they open the gates, and at this moment all the prayers, including those in Hebrew, get through. Or take another example: Both before and after a meal, a pious Jew ritually washes his hands, uttering a special blessing. On one of these two occasions he is worshiping God, by promoting the divine union of Son and Daughter; but on the other he is worshiping Satan, who likes Jewish prayers and ritual acts so much that when he is offered a few of them it keeps him busy for a while and he forgets to pester the divine Daughter.
Anyone who thinks Muslims have a monopoly on religious terrorism also needs to read Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky. Both books are available online at Alabaster’s Archives, along with numerous other books and articles on Jewish topics. This literature is freely available in Israel, but do not expect to find it in this home of the free and the brave, except on the Internet.