Monday, March 16, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #129

  1. Avakesh links to a Purim Masechta, namely Masechet Prohibition, at Hebrew Books, of historical interest.

  2. Wolfish Musings has a post about women treated callously at a funeral. I don't know the actual details well enough. Some off-the-cuff reaction:
    How can any rabbi (or any human being for that matter) tell a person mourning a loved one at a funeral to stop crying? How can anyone possibly be so heartless and unfeeling? Did the rabbi have absolutely no room in his heart to understand the pain that these women were going through?
    My impression is not that it was mere crying, but rather something that some women in certain cultures have developed a custom to do, over-the-top wailing and shouting. Indeed, the gemara talks about women wailing at funerals, professional wailers, and the idea of hiring women to wail. This type of public wailing and shouting is a form of mourning and honoring the deceased which competes with (what the men typically do nowadays) eulogizing. And I wonder if in parshat Chayyei Sarah, these were the two actions that Avraham did for Sarah (lispod leSarah ulivkosah). I am not sure that The Wolf understands the metzius of this wailing. Perhaps a sense of this can be gotten from the ululating women at the kotel at occassions such as Bar Mitzvas.

    If I understand this correctly, this rabbi was telling the women that their formal mourning was interrupting the other formal mourning of eulogizing, and they could loudly wail later. This is then not neccessarily a heartless statement, that he is telling someone in a state of uncontrollable weeping to stop crying.

    On the other hand, if it was really heartfelt crying, then what the rabbi did was indeed callous.

    In terms of preventing the women from visiting the grave:
    Yet the cemetery woman still refused and said, "It is not good for the departed. Don't you understand? You are sinning against the dead. You are harming his soul."
    it is indeed ridiculous and superstitious, but it is pretty established ridiculousness. Here is a BeyondBT post from about a year ago on this:
    ”Yitz says that the seforim say that when women come to the grave the soton dances on the kever and Mom said that in Europe women never went to the grave..”

    I tried to take it all in—all that I’d just heard —that it was wrong for me to go to my Dad’s grave…. And that by going I’d be inflicting damage onto his soul and and violating family custom—a family custom I’d never even knew our family had.

    Indeed, there might even be a link between prohibiting women visiting graves and their unfortunate practice of over-the-top wailing. At least this seems to be the case in terms of Islam:
    The most commonly referred to explanation for disallowing women to attend funerals was due to the loud wailing and improper conduct of beating themselves and tearing their hair/clothes that most engaged in.
  3. In the Jewish Press letters to the editor, an interesting response, which begins:
    Re Rabbi Chaim Tanny's March 6 letter on the alleged theological significance of the stars, comets and constellation:
    The Zohar source he quotes cannot be taken at face value. For example, it is asserted (Zohar, Parshas Trumah 171b) that illness can be cured by gazing at shining steel which is moved from one side to another like a comet's tail as it sends light into the patient's face resulting in a cure (my own idiomatic translation).
    I agree with the opposition to belief in the influence of the constellations, but I wonder at the seeming attempt to turn the Zohar's statement into something metaphorical. Before casting the Zohar in our own images, perhaps we should consider whether there was basis for this belief as science in the 13th century. It certainly seems plausible to me. The same might well be true for any zodiac-based theology. Of course, that would mean that if we choose to disagree rather than "reinterpret" we are choosing to argue with the Zohar and call it avodah zarah or superstition, which some may feel more than uncomfortable doing. But this might well be the more intellectually honest path.

  4. BlogInDm on how claiming Yidden is a Nazi song is an accidental or deliberate misrepresentation.

  5. Wow. A Mother In Israel on an undetected pregnancy in an Israeli soldier. It might just be a low quality of medicine, or else it might be bias against the obese, dismissing their concerns and not taking them seriously.

  6. Check the discussion in the comment section of parshablog on the distinction, or lack thereof, between Chamma and Shemesh.


BrooklynWolf said...

I am not sure that The Wolf understands the metzius of this wailing. Perhaps a sense of this can be gotten from the ululating women at the kotel at occassions such as Bar Mitzvas.

It's certainly possible that I'm mistaken. However, my gut feeling from the original essay is that these were genuine mourners.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

indeed, the wording of the article, "broke down and cried," strongly implies like your reading.

in which case, what the rabbi did was indeed callous.


joshwaxman said...

to clarify a bit, though: I would assume that they were actual mourners. However, they may have been mourners coming from a particular sociological background such that what they describe as breaking down and crying is this constant stream of wailing. (other aspects of the article imply a sort of clash of cultures.) In which case the rabbi's response might have been callous, but might have been the best he could do on the spot when faced with this sudden situation. or maybe he was just callous.


Anonymous said...

Heh. I wonder if the Zohar is describing a form of hypnotism.

joshwaxman said...

that would indeed be fascinating. if so, it would predate mesmerism by several hundred years. I should really try to locate that Zohar inside...



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