So, to start with, Mike’s chemo Thursday was uneventful. The infusion center was very busy. Again, Mike is grateful that he feels so well. Thanks for all the love and prayers.
Mike stayed home from High Holiday services this year to minimize his exposure to viruses. He is avoiding big crowds of people whenever possible. He watched the services on the computer, wearing a prayer shawl given to him by his friend, Robin. Her church prayed over the shawl before gifting it to him, and he remains on their prayer list. Despite what is in the news, and the dreadful example of behavior exemplified by some of our politicians and other leaders, most people are loving and wonderful, I am happy to say.
Mike just finished his friend Rev. Jerry Gladson’s book on Job. It is entitled “Touched by the Hand of God.” Years of research and effort went into the book. Ultimately, the question of why bad things happen to good people in God’s world goes without a satisfactory answer in Job. Mike finds the characterization of God particularly problematic. First, He boasts to his heavenly underlings about how much Job loves him. Then, He accepts a bet from Satan that if Job loses everything his devotion wouldn’t change. Then when Satan goes back to God to ask if he can afflict Job with some dreadful illness because he is holding strong God says Satan can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn’t kill him. When God finally gives Job His answer to why it all happened, He basically says “I’m God and you’re not,” as if that justifies anything. Thankfully, the idea of God has evolved over the last 2500 years or so. We cats have a much clearer idea of God, and much better communication than y’all. But, y’all keep on trying, please.
Mike and Judy went to temple last night for his brother’s yahrzeit. This is the anniversary of a death of a loved one who is remembered in the worship service with the recitation of the Kaddish (see The Kaddish, April 1, 2018.) It has been 8 years since Bob died. There was just a small group for the service, but the intimacy was appreciated. A potluck dinner was held afterwards. Judy made a tsimmis, which is a baked dish consisting of sweet potatoes, apples, prunes, carrots, brown sugar, and schmaltz (chicken fat.) It was delicious, according to Mike. Nothing much to eat if you ask me, but sometimes people put meat in it, usually flanken (short ribs), I think.. I understand that a common Yiddish expression for making a fuss is to “make a tsimmis” over something. As in, for example, the Democrats are making a tsimmis over Trump trying to get the Ukrainians to help him dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
So, a small group of students at Georgia Southern University disgraced themselves by engaging in a book burning this week. The book in question was by Cuban-American author Jennine Capo Crucet entitled “My Time Among the Whites: Notes From an Unfinished Education.” She had come to the University to give a talk about her book and her experiences and ideas. Ms. Crucet was treated rudely by some students, and authorities moved her that night to another hotel for her safety. As I say over and over again, people are very angry right now.
Book burning has quite a history. There are essentially two potential motivations for the practice. One is to destroy the ideas so that they are lost to history. This has occurred in the past, but it would be impossible today. The other reason would be symbolic. Public burning of books can serve to have the same psychologically intimidating effect as a lynching. The Nazi sponsored German Student Union engaged in this practice during the 1930’s, mostly books by Jewish authors. It has been said that if you burn books eventually you will burn people. This has proven to be the case.
If you are interested you might want to check out the 36th chapter in the book of Jeremiah, where a document burning is recorded. According to the account, the prophet Jeremiah dictated a prophesy to his scribe, Baruch, the son of Neriah, to be delivered and read to the Judean king, Jehoiakim. The king didn’t like the prophesy (the Babylonians would conquer Judah) so he ordered the scroll burned. Baruch returned to Jeremiah, who dictated another scroll,and added more on to it, probably more bad news for the king. In China book burning goes back at least to the Qin Dynasty around 210 BCE.
The Christian church has a remarkable history of book burning. One example is of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who convened the Council of Nicea in 325 CE to settle Trinitarian doctrine once and for all. Many of you are familiar with the Nicene Creed which was written at that time, and which you might recite in your Sunday liturgy. After things were agreed upon he issued an edict ordering the burning of books espousing non-trinitarian doctrine. People who kept these heretical books rather than turning them in for burning would do so at their own peril. It was a capital crime.
In the middle ages there was a belief that in order for Christ to come again the Jews would all have to be converted to Christianity, and the temple would have to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. From time to time local authorities would set up public disputations with rabbis hoping to convince them of the error of their religious beliefs. These public debates generally resulted in the rabbis losing and in the burning of Jewish books. It must be said that the proceedings were rigged against the rabbis. The Spanish Inquisition was based, in part, on the notion of getting the Jewish religion abolished to make way for the Second Coming. The Jews either had to be converted or killed. Other than the Nazi led holocaust, the Inquisition was the greatest disaster ever to befall the Jews, a great many of whom were put to death by fire, along with their books. Some would list the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans as the second most devastating incident in Jewish history. At the time it was, but the religion evolved of necessity into something much more suitable to the perpetuation of the Jewish people, as things turned out.
Here is what I think. If you disagree with someone, say so respectfully, and have cogent arguments advocating for what you believe. That is where it should end, unless your opponent tries to kill you, deny you the right to pray according to your own conscience, or deny you some other basic human right. It is remarkable how important it is to some people for other people to think how they think or believe what they believe.
And, regarding some people thinking that other people should be the way they think they ought to be, let’s look at homosexuality for a minute. Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. Let’s just respect that we are not all the same, and that we don’t know what is best for people who we may not understand. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle of choice, but rather a biologically driven way of being. Judge not lest you be judged.
So, not much else is going on in Happy Meadows right now. Please permit me to make a suggestion. Just for today, try to be the best person, dog, or cat that you can be. Our code must be love, tolerance, patience, respect, and forgiveness. Give it your best shot. By the way, Gracie Bonds Staples has a good article in today’s paper (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) about forgiveness. You might want to check it out. Until the next time, be well, be safe, and try not to make a big tsimmis over anything.