Sunday, October 23, 2011

Harold Camping, Shemini ‘Aṣereth, and heretics who do do not know enough to copy a text straight

Jewish date:  26 Tishri 5772 (evening) (Parashath Noaḥ).

Today’s holidays:  Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Bobby London (Church of the SubGenius).


This is going to be a variety of things.

1) You may remember that Protestant minister Harold Camping predicted that the world as we know it would end on May 21, 2011 (noted in “Mark your calendars for the Rapture, but don’t hold your breath”, “The Rapture and soft maṣṣah”, and “The Rapture and Pesaḥ preparation”), which of course failed to happen.  Well, Camping came up with a new prediction after that that the world as we know it would end on October 21, 2011.  Unless this blog post is a figment of your imagination, this did not happen.  Details can be found at “Oct. 21 'Doomsday' So Far Pretty Quiet” and “Radio prophet gone from airwaves on new Judgment Day eve”.  I hope he will figure out his system does not have good predictive power and quit, but I am not that optimistic.

2) Shemini ‘Aṣereth/Simḥath Torah:  I spent a lot of Sukkoth sick and under self-imposed quarantine in my apartment.  This naturally limited what I could see people do.  I did get out before Shemini ‘Aṣereth/Simḥath Torah (I went to see a doctor and found I was not infectious), so I can report what happened then.  Simḥath Torah is distinguished by the haqqafoth ritual, in which the Torah scrolls are carried around the reading table seven times (nominally, practically much more than this) with singing and dancing to celebrate the end of the annual reading cycle and the start of the new one.  Unhappily for me, the disease I have is a respiratory infection, which made singing for me unrealistic.  Good thing that there were a lot of other people there to take care of that.  Dancing was somewhat more limited than what I am used to.  The synagogue I currently attend for Shabbath and holidays meets in trailers, as their permanent location is currently under construction; this results in crowding even under ordinary conditions.  On Simḥath Torah, this resulted in slower dancing and fewer fancy moves than there might have otherwise been in order to avoid collisions.  Haqqafofth also have a tendency to go on for extended periods of time, which prompted my synagogue to do some creative scheduling.  At night, dinner was served at the synagogue right after services, thus avoiding any delay from people having to go home and get everything ready.  In the morning, qiddush was held at the synagogue between the Torah reading and yizkor (the memorial prayer for the dead), avoiding the need for anyone to wait until a few hours into the afternoon to eat.  There is also the practice of calling up all men to read from the Torah on Simḥath Torah; at first I thought they were skipping this practice entirely, but they placed it at the very end of the services.  This is the first time I have ever heard of such a practice.  I heard mention of secondary haqqafoth being done elsewhere; even though I had not heard of that practice, due to my condition, I declined to investigate it.  Maybe next year.

I have put my willow and myrtle branches into a vase with water in the hopes of growing them.  The willow seem to have grown the beginnings of roots.  I also hope to grow trees from the seeds in my citron, but I plan to wait for it to fully ripen first.  I have no hope for growing anything from the palm frond.

This wraps it up for the Tishri holidays.  The next holiday, other than the monthly Ro’sh Ḥodhesh (new moon) is the very recent Yiṣḥaq Rabbin Memorial Day, which I am eager to find out if anyone really pays any attention to and why.  (Really.  The man committed treason by enabling the enemies of Israel and ignoring that said enemies had no real interest in making peace.  That, if anything is a reason not to dedicate a holiday to him, even if he did get assassinated.)

3) Every year, observant Jews are expected to read through the entire Torah three times, twice in the original Hebrew and once in a language they understand, usually Aramaic.  They also commonly read commentaries on the Torah as well; this year I have chosen to read the classic Hertz’s Ḥummash (Hertz, J. H., ed. The Pentateuch and Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation and Commentary. London: Defus d’universitah Oxford, 1929-1936. 2nd ed. London: Soncino Press, 1961. Print.) and, since I have this thing about religious fallacies and misinformation, a heretical (“Conservative”) commentary (Lieber, David L., and Jules. Harlow. Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary. Travel-size ed. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2004. Print.).  To be sure, reading a “Conservative” commentary which makes it clear in the introductions that the people who put it together do not believe in Judaism in the traditional sense of the term is annoying.  But what is more annoying than the commentary is the text of the Torah printed above the commentary.  Why?  Because they dared change the text.  I am well aware that annotations have been added to the printed text of the Torah due to the script being defective.  But the heretics decided that certain passages (Genesis 2:23; 3:14-16; 3:17-19; 4:6-7; 4:23-24; 7:11 in my reading so far, not to mention the entire hafṭarah for Parashath Bere’shith) are poetry, and so they took the liberty of taking liberties with the spacing of the text to show off the poetriness.  This is a direct violation of a great unwritten rule:


Because these idiots have reformatted the text as poetry, some reader who is not so well-informed on the history of the formatting of the Hebrew Bible may get the wrong impression that the poetic formatting is actually part of the text and impose an interpretation which may not be correct.  Good going, heretics.