Sunday, July 20, 2008

17 Tammuz 5768: The Fast of Tammuz/Moon Day

Greetings.

Today is the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day beginning a three-week period of semi-mourning.  Five tragedies (listed in Qiṣṣur Shulḥan ‘Arukh 121:4 and elsewhere) are said to have occurred on this day:
  1. The tablets on which the Decalogue were written were broken.
  2. The daily offerings in the Temple stopped.
  3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached, the beginning of the end of the Second Temple.
  4. The wicked ’Apostomus burned a Torah scroll, the first time such a thing occurred in history.
  5. An idol was set up in the Sanctuary by Hellenists.
While none of these things is particularly good, even worse is why much of these occurred.  Four of these are connected with the destruction of either Temple, the Second Temple in particular.  The Second Temple Period was a formative period in Judaism, during which there was a huge amount of intellectual activity and rational analysis of tradition, creating a foundation on which subsequent Judaism has been built.  It was also a time during which many competing groups existed, groups which often fought bitterly for less than honorable reasons.  The senseless infighting is directly linked with interference by the Syrian-Greeks and the Romans, leading to revolts, oppression, the destruction of the Second Temple, and the Diaspora.  It is no wonder that since sin’ath ḥinnam (“free” hatred) caused such tragedy, many are now pushing the opposite, ’ahavath ḥinnam (“free” love—and to avoid unjustified misinterpretation, that is caring for others whether or not they have earned it), as a solution.  Certainly such a solution is worth an attempt.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Texas State Board of Education approves Bible course for high schools”. I do believe that everyone should read the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, even if they do not believe in either of them, as they are two of the most important collections of works that have ever had an impact on human history. Given that, the Texas State Board of Education is indeed walking a thin line, and it is very easy to see how the course proposed could violate the Constitution. I pray these people do not screw it up.)
  2. “The Demise of Islam?” (This is an interesting perspective on the long-term viability of Islam. Certainly Islam is set to loose a lot of influence and prestige as soon as the oil runs out.)
  3. “Groundbreaking interfaith meeting shuns extremism” (Not only was this meeting not held in Saudi Arabia, where it would have really mattered, but no Israeli rabbis were invited. Who is Abdullah trying to fool?)
Today’s news and commentary:As I mentioned on Friday, for the Three Weeks I will be doing something different with weird things.  This is a time of sadness and mourning, not a time of fun.  Therefore, I will tap into the spirit this period and tackle one of the great unfun jobs necessary for work on Divine Misconceptions:  The Cthulhu Mythos stories of H. P. Lovecraft. These are meant to be horror stories with a peculiar religious bent whose influence is apparent in the rituals of LaVeyan Satanism and possibly the mythos of the Buffyverse. Now, I describe this job as “unfun”, because 1) I am not a fan of horror, 2) I do not care for the Lovecraft material I have already read, and 3) I did not find said material scary—absolutely not something that should ever happen in a horror story. (Possibly #3 is a side effect of the horror genre having penetrated sufficiently into our culture that we are desensitized to it.) But despite the unfun, Lovecraft has to be covered, so suffer through it I shall.  Therefore:

In lieu of a weird thing, today’s Lovecraft story is “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”, published in 1920.

WARNING: SPOILERS ALERT!

Theological review of “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”:

Depicted are two idolatrous societies, one of which (Sarnath) destroys the other (Ib) for no good reason.  Bokrug, the idol of Ib, takes his revenge by destroying Sarnath, after which he reestablishes his cult.

1) The story seems to be taking the position that the idol itself is the god, though this is not entirely clear.  I am not clear on whether any actual idolators take such a precarious position.

2) The theology depicted is seriously maltheistic.  Bokrug does absolutely nothing to save the Ibians who worship him, even though he has the power to level Sarnath.  Bokrug therefore apparently does not care for his worshippers at all.  The only thing that matters to him is himself, and anyone who offends him shall feel his wrath.  This sounds like a stereotype and not a god anyone would actually want to worship.

Theological rating:  D.

Scariness rating:  My pants showed not the slightest sign of coming off.


Next up tomorrow: “The Nameless City”.

Aaron
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