Jewish date: 1 ’Av 5770 (Parashath Devarim).
Today’s holidays: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (Judaism), The Nine Days (Judaism), Monday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Pam Grier (Church of the SubGenius), Feast of Grady Louis McMurtry (Thelema).
Topic 1: Today begins the Nine Days, an intense part of the Three Weeks culminating in the Ninth of ’Av, which commemorates the destruction of both Temples and many other tragedies in Jewish history. The level of mourning is increased. No meat, no wine, no fresh clothes, no anointing for pleasure, and no bathing for pleasure. The last one, while probably not onerous in ancient times, when they did not have so much indoor plumbing and did not bathe as frequently, is a big pain in the neck for a modern human used to showering every single day. (It was clearly not an epidemiologist who came up with this idea, as an epidemiologist would have objected to any enactment that worked against good hygiene.) While bathing itself is not forbidden during the Nine Days except for 9 ’Av, one is expected to keep the temperature of the water as low as possible, which makes showering rather unpleasant, especially since it is difficult to step into cold water in the first place. (While a cold is not so bad if one is feeling overheated, the air conditioning has been working splendidly over here, so this is not the case.) I am tempted to ask the local rav if there is any way to trade decently warm showers for fasting two days straight, I will not bother because I know full well the answer will be “no”.
Image of unfun morality via WikipediaNow, some may be asking why I would ever consider putting myself through ritual mourning and eight days of cold showers. Is not religion supposed to be about fun activities? Or if not fun, at least about spiritual highs? And the answer to these questions is “no”. Because religion is ultimately about truth, not just theological truth, but the truth about what one is supposed to do. A lot of morality is anything but fun. Sure, one may enjoy even sharing and being selfless with friends. But admitting one has done something wrong and trying to correct one’s mistakes is anything but fun. Returning lost property is not fun. Not hitting some jerk who keeps annoying you is not fun. Self-control and moderation are not fun. Letting someone jab you in the arm with a needle as part of blood donation is not fun. And so on. And why should ritual be any different? The dark parts of life are to some degree inevitable? Why should they, too, not be addressed?
Topic 2: The latest in this series on Gospel-based films, The Miracle Maker (2000):
(Yes, they have it on Hulu.) Most of the originality in this movie goes into animation and presentation, with an emphasis on miracles and parables. Theologically, there is little new here. The usual suspects, depicted as mean-spirited, are after Jesus the Annoyingly Perfect, claiming to fear Pilate’s and Caesar’s wrath. Pilate is a little craftier and more evil than usual. Unless you want to see the animation, do not bother with this one.
Topic 3: More on Islamic stunts: The Dry Bones cartoon “the Name Game”, which notes correctly that it makes no sense to try to pretend that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, even though this contradicts what terrorists themselves claim. “The humanitarian show” notes that the “poor” people of Gaza are better off that a lot of the rest of the people on this planet, including having a higher life expectancy that part of Britain, while no aid is sent to far worse off people in Turkey, Lebanon, and Iran. “Abbas to Arabs: We'd Support a War Against Israel” shows that Mahmoud Abbas is no partner for peace. And finally, we have the video “WHAT ISLAM IS NOT”, based on the article “What Islam Isn't”, which describes how Islamization works:
Note: There will be no religious humor during the Nine Days because it is not really appropriate during mourning.
Peace and consolation.