Friday, January 31, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 27:1-27:8)-1/31/2014

This parshah today focused on the building of the altar in the Tabernacle. What interested me most was how that copper would be overlaid on the horns. Rashi talked about the copper was there to atone for brazenness. So as spectacular one is, they need to tone down and be a "regular person."

This was such a nice compliment to the Shabbat talk tonight by Kabbalah expert Daniel Matt. He spoke of the feminine side of God, Shekhinah. She is identified with the Sabbath Bride. Maybe she is not so bold as Adam's brazenness in disobeying G_d and eating the forbidden fruit. Matt says, “Rabbi El’azar remarks: ‘We do not know who divorced whom: if the blessed Holy One divorced Adam, or not.’”

Now I will look for that side of G_d. I am sometimes brazen. It will be a good practice to watch that. In an interview Daniel Matt wrote, My commentary (printed at the bottom of the page) clarifies the symbolism and the unique terminology, though I here have tried not to be heavy-handed—not to ruin the subtlety and ambiguity of the original. I want to allow and compel you to wrestle with the text.” He talks about not wanting to be “heavy-handed” ... is this another word for brazenness? Is he approaching the Zohar as both a man and a woman?

Perhaps some of the contradictions in G_d's behavior is due to his/hers two sides. We love conditionally and unconditionally. We want to punish, and we want to love, no matter what. In Internal Family Systems Model we see at work many sides of ourselves debating about how we should act.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 26:31-26:37)-1/30/2014

I read today's parshah and though I would have nothing more to say about the details of the Tabernacle. So I started reading more about the parshah and came upon something that really peaked my interest: the fact you can create makes your freedom concrete.

Wow! Earlier today I was reading about Hitler's Degenerative Art Exhibit. He thought that by showing the work with paid actors denouncing it, people would realize how degenerative it was. Instead, the show was a big hit, attracting twice the number of people as the "proper art" exhibit.

The degenerative artists, losing their freedom, scattered from Germany and spread their art throughout the free world.

I've been very fortunate to have so much freedom in my life and work. In the classroom I was never told what to teach. Someone would look into my classes every few years, and that was it. I was always free to make the art I wanted to make, though sometimes I was criticized for it. But never was I told I couldn't do it ... just that some places wouldn't show it.

How great that the Hebrews could make "concrete" their relationship to G_d and their freedom. And I love that one place in the Tabernacle was "the holiest of holy." I had mentioned in an earlier post that I had stuck some chairs under an Buddhist alter and was scolded. I like to think of a continuum of holies, from the sacred Earth to a place that only a priest can go to ... and then only once a year on the day of Atonement.

A friend asked, "how it is possible to merge or explain the Torah thru the Buddhist teaching." I'm finding many more similaries rather than differences between these two paths. They both are ethical systems, and they seem to vary in very minor ways. Jews say don't murder and Buddhists say don't kill. My friend asked if God created everything did he create Buddha? Logically this would seem that it is so. I think the real difference between my friend and me is that he believes in a God as a separate being able to build and destroy, while I think of G_d as the whole kit and caboodle. Buddha is not a G-d, but a smart man. And then again, maybe the Buddhas, the Einsteins, the Picassos are my gods. I certainly put them all on pedestals. They certainly taught us who we are and the nature of our world.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 26:15-26:30)-1/29/2014

I wish they were done with this silly Tabernacle. What is so funny is that my son created such a creation as a set for his animation that will be in the Whitney Biennal in March. It is an indoor tennis court, built to rigid specifications. Unknowingly he made it with similar proportions to the Tabernacle Tent. He spend about two years on the set, and fretted endlessly with detail after detail. The floor was made of little 2" squares of slate, each of which was split in half (by hand).

My wife does Japanese tea ceremony, and also makes implements for the ceremony. When she does a public ceremony with her teacher, they prepare for weeks, making sure every detail is right.

So what is this "detail" all about. How did we all inherit this drive for perfection? My obsession with doing every day a picture and a Torah blog post has the same ridiculous focus. Why? I don't get paid from this. I'm not looking for a job. I could just watch TV. Why do we come to life when we are told to make something beautiful? Does it matter? One of my challenges at the zen center is to stop before I open the door and to leave the crud of the day outside. Or is it really crud? Of course not. But there certainly is something to leave outside, so that as I go in, the air settles and peace is found. Then another set of instructions occur. Close the door quietly. Bow to the ino. Take your shoes off. Place them quietly in the rack. And on and on. It is all the stuff I grew up thinking I hated ... and now I love it.

There are numbers throughout the parshah: two planks, one ring, eight planks with silver sockets, sixteen sockets, ... What is that about? Attention to detail? Attention to glorifying G_d? There is one 15 foot cube sized room built that priests may only enter once a year on the day of atonement. Cool?

Why do we built with care? That question plagues my mind.

Here's the lattice work that my Grandpa painted in the 60s!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 25:31-26:14)-1/28/2014

With action comes intent. In the Billy Collins poem we have Buddha and a regular guy shoveling a driveway. The regular guy has an intention to back his car down the driveway, while the Buddha is shoveling as a meditation practice. The regular guy gets cold and wants to go in and have some hot chocolate. The Buddha continues to shovel because that is his practice. There is no goal, nor is his work ever done.

In this Parshah, Moses is instructed to make a menorah and a tabernacle to go inside the bigger tabernacle. The details are overwhelming. It should be made of one large piece of gold. Moses is so confused that God tells him not to worry. Just melt the gold and it will come out correctly. (from Tan. Beha'alothecha 3) The Mishkan is also loaded with details. One could do nothing but work to create such a complex structure. It would become a meditative practice like the Buddha who is shoveling the snow.  The Hebrews would not have time to rest (except on their day of rest). Gd made sure that the task was such that it would entail devotion and concentration. He was teaching his people to become Buddhas, mindfully shoveling one shovel at a time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 25:17-25:30)-1/27/2014

More detail on the attention of the arc and its cover. And G_d will talk to them from on top of the arc. But Rabbi Gordon said that God will also speak to us from a doorway ... which I don't find in the text.

The detail again reminds me of the attention to the Tabernacle. One could see G_d as very egotistical, surprised that he'd care about such ornaments. But I want to believe that he/she/it knows that the depth of his people's faith will be enhanced by the care they give to the construction. This is not done to please G_d in the sense of pleasing a man, but rather, thinking of G_d in all of us, that the construction makes us all part of G_d. By paying the utmost attention to detail, we pay attention to our ability to connect and celebrate our connection with all things.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Parshat Terumah, (Exodus 25:1-25:16)-1/26/2014

The "Children of Israel" (as the commentary says) experienced God at Mt. Sinai, and then were going to leave. This was their chance to "come of age." Leaving would keep them children. So God gives them a job to build the Tabernacle. The detail that God requests not only will entail a lot of sacrifice from his people, but also will take a significant amount of time. It is not a job for children. It is not a job for people who wander. It is serious business.

How do I take this story? Metaphorical stories don't have details like those given for the construction of the Tabernacle. By leaving out details, we can imagine. This story has way too much information. I start to wonder about God. Is he OCD? Is he unusually bossy? Why not leave the construction to the people's imagination. What do believer's believe here?

There are many instances of mindfulness in the Torah. The detail is so excruciating that one would be able to think of nothing but "doing it right according to the details." There is no playfulness here. This is not a job for children. This is, as they say, serious business.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 23:26-24:18)-1/25/2014

A friend mentioned that the one G_d of the Torah wasn't the only god in town ... he was just the one for the Jews. The idea of one god came later. A few months ago a rabbi mentioned that there were at least five gods in the Torah.

Buddhism has gods as well, though the gods came to Buddha because he was the awakened one. 

When G_d speaks of the other gods, he doesn't say that they don't exist ... just that people shouldn't worship them. At these points, he seems a bit like a megalomaniac. 

He makes promises that couldn't possible happen, like “no woman shall miscarry or be barren.”

Finally in this parshah Moses, Aaron, Nabad, Abihu, and seventy elders all get to see G_d. "Under his feet was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity." I don't remember another place where parts of his body are mentioned.

Later on the seventh day God appeared as a consuming fire at the top of the mountain. Much more what one would expect than in the image of a man. 

And we have 40 days and nights that Moses remained with God in the mountain. I wonder what the magic is of 40, as in 40 years they roamed. Is that the normal lifetime of a man? 

Norman O. Brown reads the 40 years not from Egypt to freedom, but rather from youth to manhood. Now the Jews, with their laws and with their experience of God, were grown up and ready for their lives' work. 

Fire at the Top of the Mountain

Friday, January 24, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 23:20-23:25)-1/24/2014

Ben wrote and asked if I was a Jew. My grandpa promised me a Jaguar if I married a Jewish girl, and my relatives all thought of themselves as Jews. I asked my kids not long ago if they thought I was Jewish and they said "no." I discussed with the Rabbi today the fact that I believed in none of Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith, and he laughed, saying that it was a song ... and adding that he didn't either. Then I started thinking about Coleridge's "willful suspension of disbelief" and when I don't think about it I probably do believe, and then my rational mind chirps in, "what are you thinking, boy." I thought too about how someone once told me that Existentialism was best expressed in stories. A friend claimed that I wasn't spiritual ... somewhat probably responding to my rational atheist mind. But I don't think the rational atheist mind is the mind that has done my art, or been friends with people, or done much of anything.

And then there is my father who didn't want to give preference to any group. He was liked by the Arabs, by the Christians, and by the Jews.

Now to the Torah portion. God will not visit the people because they will sin. So he sends a messenger. Here it describes two temples—the temple on earth, and the temple in heaven.

God tells Moses that if the people do as they are told he will "hate your enemies and oppress your adversaries." If being a Jew meant that I admired a God who didn't love all people equally ... well then, I wouldn't want to be a Jew. If my God said that he'd destroy people (as in "I will destroy them") ... well then, I would not be a Jew.

Moses is told, "you shall not prostrate yourself before the gods, and you shall not worship them, and you should not follow their practices." All crazy stuff ... implying that the Jews had one G_d who wasn't a G_d for all people.

How would G_d make good on his promise "and I will remove illness from your midst"? Was God the first of the very slick traveling salesmen? Surely people would discover that their illnesses did not go away, despite the fact that they did as they were told by G_d via Moses.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 23:6-23:19)-1/23/2014

A friend called me months ago and asked me to work with him on creating a museum that would celebrate the Jews’ role in the Civil Rights Movement. Having a good gentile friend who spent a year risking his life in Selma in 1964, I told my friend that I didn't think any group should be celebrated because someone might get the message that others did not have important roles.

I've become more and more aware of the idiotic argument. We feel something and then we give a “cogent’ argument. Having a father who was on the University of Chicago debate team ... and a good lawyer didn't hurt. Once I threw a rock and hurt someone. I brought my friends back to my room and we made a list of why it was justified that we threw rocks at Rodney.

I was reading tonight about the Yiddish word “rebbi” and how it differs from the word “rabbi.” Rebbi can be used for rabbi, but it can also refer to a special teacher or mentor. Stretching this meaning a bit, I like to think of rebbi as a message that keeps coming and coming, even though it might be something you don't want to hear it. My childhood friend Greg, now a lawyer, wrote that one of his clients was going to take their life, but a Bible (a rebbi) fell down from a book shelf and saved him. What wonderful stories life provides!

Every time I open the Jewish prayer book I come to this passage, “And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Yesterday I thought that it would be fine words over the door of the museum. It felt like a rebbi message, if there is such a thing. I've always felt quite an empathy with the oddball guy or woman. I've always seen myself as kind of an oddball, and maybe that's why this passage from today's Parshah makes particular sense.

There is a parallel Buddhist story that describes the rarity of being a human being. As the story goes, the chance of being born a human is equal to the chances of a blind turtle rising from the ocean floor and putting his head through a ox's yoke that is floating in the water. Because humans are so special, we should see and treat them as brilliant gems.

Another thought came to me today as I was listening to Rabbi Gordon at giving the Rashi commentary today ... and then at Rabbi Baker’s discussion. Observing the difference of those two approaches to the Torah, I began to see why so many “Jews”walked away from their religion. When I consider again Rambam's principles of faith that I discussed yesterday, I began to realize why so many, raised in the Jewish faith, do not give the Torah the time of day. They read it as if they were living 2500 years ago ... and then look out the window and care not able to connect it to their world. How sad they miss the connections that I'm so lucky to be shown.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 22:27-23:5)-1/22/2014

The laws continue. I don't like that the authority of these laws is not their brilliance, but rather that G_d created them. But then, I could say that, by definition, what made brilliant laws was G_d. In any case, it seems strange that it is ok for a Jew to sell or give his non-kosher food to a dog or to a gentile. If kosher is "dietary laws" then others shouldn't be eating (according to a Jew's good conscience) non-kosher food. I understand there is some food that a Jew should not give or sell. I would like to know whats what.

My uncle Irving was an orthodox Jew and worked for my father on Saturdays in his store. But Irving's observance interfered with him being able to touch money. So he had my dad ring up sales. Would G_d then scorn my dad for being such a bad Jew? Or would G_d bless my father for allowing Irving to be such a good Jew?

I did like the idea of not giving special treatment to the poor or rich. I remember one professor who insisted on giving more classes to a single poor part-timer because she didn't have a husband to support her. I tried to make the point that for the sake of the students we should hire the best, not the poorest.

Nice that one should return a lost ox to one's enemy (if they are the owner). This seems to come under the Golden Rule. (The Jewish sage and martyr Rabbi Akiba, following Hillel the Elder (c.110 BC, died 10 AD),[66] had singled out the Golden Rule as a basic principle of the Torah meaning. —Wikopedia.)

This all  seems to fit what we read in the next section, "And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

I love this line, but believe abused people quickly forget their abuse. I wish more followed this law.

Last, but not least, if a donkey falls due to a heavy load, you should help him get up. Metaphorically that could apply to so many situation. We can't say, "but it wasn't my donkey."

Fallen Donkee

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 22:4-22:26)-1/21/2014

We so often hear people say, “It isn't fair." What the Jews attempted was to make fair laws. I sense that their bout with slavery taught them that people deserved to be treated fairly.

We certainly can poke holes in some of their laws. But I'm pretty sure that they were an improvement from what proceeded those laws.

We read that you shall not allow a sorceress to live. We are ashamed of the witch trials in this country, but we see here that the fear of the sorceress (men and women) was ages older than Salem. I wonder if they consider magic to be worshiping another G-d?

There is a penalty for one who lies (carnally) with an animal. Is this something the Egyptians did?

A sacrifice to any gods (pagan deities) but the Lord is punishable by death. I wonder if the Jews believed these deities were really deities, though lesser ones that theirs, or whether they were false gods.

One of my favorite laws was that you should not mistreat a stranger, nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. What a novel idea this might have been have been! Did the Jews invent this idea of loving people from other tribes?

If you take someone's garment as security for a loan, you should return it before sunset ... because how can they sleep without the garment. How civilized!

If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall marry her ... unless her father refuses to give her to him, and then he needs to pay money to the father and his daughter. How wonderful that he isn't sent to jail. For the time, it probably seemed like justice was done. In Hebrew, it says that seduces means to speak to her heart until she yields to him. I guess these are unfair tactics when you are with a virgin.

These all seem like reasonable laws, and close to many of our laws ... with the exception that there isn't a fine line between civil and criminal offenses. The penalty is retribution for the damages.  

Speaking to Her Heart

Monday, January 20, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 21:20-22:3)-1/20/2014

Before I dive into the parshah, I must make a confession. I really don't accept any of Rambam's (Maimonides) thirteen principles of faith ... except in a very metaphorical sense. Here are the principles:

  1. God exists.
  2. God is one and unique.
  3. God is incorporeal.
  4. God is eternal.
  5. Prayer is to be directed to God alone.
  6. The words of the prophets are true.
  7. Moses was the greatest prophet, and his prophecies are true.
  8. The Torah was given to Moses.
  9. There will be no other Torah.
  10. God knows the thoughts and deeds of men.
  11. God will reward the good and punish the wicked.
  12. The Messiah will come.
  13. The dead will be resurrected.
What do I do about this? Yikes. I'm glad that Maimonides made Judaism into a religion by introducing uncertainty. I am uncertain about each of these beliefs. That's the best I can do with “belief.”

On another topic, the parshah ... I enjoyed this tremendously. I find the system of justice makes more sense than ours. When you harm someone, you aren't locked away, but rather you have to pay retribution to that person. You might pay with your life if you take their life, but otherwise you owe them money or you need to be their slave.

If you kill a slave you can be put to death. But if you hit a slave and they don't die for 24 hours, then you won't be put to death ... but you still haven't done a good thing.

Lots of laws about an ox hurting people. If you know the ox is a mean one, then you are responsible. Otherwise it is an accident.
Beware of pits.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 21:1-21:19)-1/19/2014

I liked how in this parshah we see one of the ways one becomes an Hebrew slave is to pay for the damages when one causes an injury. In our legal system, we often don't see the victim compensated for their loss.

I liked too the idea that a Hebrew could sell themselves for up to six years if they were in debt. Is this much different than what a doctor, an architect, or a lawyer do after they finish their studies? We might answer, “Well, they aren't a slave." But is there a big difference between being an “intern” and being a “slave”?

There are some laws here that are very different from our own. If a Hebrew slave is given a wife, and has children, the master owns the children. Is this much different that how we treat animals? 

I wonder why so many Jews in Israel and elsewhere don't practice Judaism (whatever that means). Does practicing mean that they follow the commandments ... or is it that they practice the rituals of their religion? I wondered when reading about laws that our so contrary to our ideas of equality of males and females, and our abolition of slavery, how we rationalize laws so different to our own. How is this explained to young kids? Do we say, “Well, there is this G_d, but he is backward in his thinking”?

A friend wrote me and said that she thought Bar Mitzvah meant that you'd follow the commandments. I understand that there are 613 commandments. Certainly anyone who did follow them would be thrown in jail before they could bat an eye. 

How then does one take this book? As Rabbi Folberg asked yesterday, why is the study of the Torah better than any other book? In Zen, we call such challenges as controlling our emotions when we navigate through the laws of ancients as "an opportunity for practice." How might I read this in such a way so that I don't want to just throw the Torah in a fire. 

If a Hebrew man sells himself, he shall only be a slave for six years. But if a man sells his daughter, she shall be a slave for life. Crazy? Yes, today in America, it is not what we do.

I cite these ideas to my female friends and they want to shoot me. How do we explain these laws that supposedly came from God? How do we read this book?

As the Parshah continues, we get in more detail "an eye for an eye ...." So I can accept laws that are closer to our own, and have a hard time with laws that are very different. Is morality just based on the mores of society?

G_d watches man selling daughter

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Parshat Yitro, (Exodus 20:15-20:23)-1/18/2014

So, besides going to two Torah classes a week, two Jewish meditation sessions (one with a service), and now a Friday night services, I've been listening to Rabbi Gordon from tell me what the Parshah means.

Luckily, many others must be listening to Rabbi Gordon today, because the server must be so overloaded that rather than video I'm just getting audio ... and only about a sentence every five or ten minutes.

It was my original intention to connect the Torah to my life. That seems to be one interpretation of the term "oral Torah." And yet I seem to be avoiding that goal. I did just hear a TED talk about how when we tell someone our goals we are less likely to pursue them. One explanation of this is that we have fulfilled our social obligation by sharing our goal, so now we don't have to do it. But I will ... tomorrow.

In this Parshat God wants to talk to the people but they will have no part of it. They just want to hear his words from Moses. “but let God not speak with us lest we die.”

This wasn't the last time people didn't want to hear anything from the horse's mouth. Many Buddhists trust more the commentary than Buddha's words. And Zen people have their own literature and skip over most of what the Buddha said. Students of psychology might never read Sigmund Freud.

We all want translators, interpreters. When Robert Frost was asked what a poem meant, he replied, “Do you want me to tell you in other and worse language?”

The people saw God's voice, but feared hearing it “... or lest we die.” I think, continuing the thought that God is in each of us, that we want to get acceptance from others about our path, or whether we have done a good job. Maybe the voice we don't want to hear is our own voice. That is the God who tells us the truth. I remember in college when a therapist told me, “You are your own best expert.” I thought to myself, “No, it is my mother that knows me best.” (Oh, now I revealed something about myself.)

God then tells Moses that they should not have Gods of gold or silver like the Egyptians worshipped. And that the altar be made of whole stones, not hewn stones. Stones are hewn with a sword, so the stone becomes desecrated. Supposedly, the altar is made to lengthen man's days, and iron, since it makes swords, shortens man's days. Counterproductive. So stones shouldn't be hewn. Makes sense?

At the end of this Parshah, God tells Moses that there should be no steps to the altar, because then “nakedness” would be exposed. With the dress of the day, it was difficult to walk up steps without revealing more that should be revealed. A slight (and smooth) ramp is called for, where no exposure was possible.

Up the smooth path to the altar

Friday, January 17, 2014

Parshat Yitro, (Exodus 19:20-20:14)-1/17/2014

Moses ascends Mt. Sinai, and G_d descends. I guess we aren't supposed to imagine the big guy/gal walking down the mountain, but rather the sky and the Earth becoming one. I imagined it like a heavy fog.

How nice to go to the temple tonight and figure out that the two tablets above the Torahs are the ten commandments ... and that the one on the right is the commandments about our relationship to God, and the ones on the left is about our relationship to man.

I loved how the fifth commandment was about honoring our parents, and that was in the relationship with G_d tablet. I guess that relationship is beyond a fellow man relationship, and thus is with the other G_d commandments. Perhaps too, it is something we do (or don't do) because we trust that it is the right thing to do. It does not cover, like the other commandments, what we do when we go out into the world. I guess it is one of the two commandments that insure a long life. The rabbi I listened to at suggested this was because it takes a lot of time to care for your parents, so you'll be given a longer life if you do. This way you won't feel that time has been taken from you when you spend time doing things for them.

I was curious to learn that adultery is only if the woman is married. I guess the reason is that this would be a crime that could be penalized with capital murder. I'm not sure who gets murdered. Will have to work on that one. I'm not sure if a married woman has a relationship with a single man whether that is a capital offense, and, if so, who gets their head lopped off.

I liked hearing that all the commandments can be reduced to the first two ... and that the first two can be reduced to the first one ... and that the first one can be reduced to “I am.” I like to think about G_d as being in each of us ... and that because of our eternal nature we need to act in a way considerate of all.

There were a few confusing questions. God says that there should be no other G_ds in my presence. Is G_d ever not present?

I understand that idolatry refers not just to making graven (sculptural) images, but also toward defining G_d as a man. I'm curious if the coming messiah would be a form of idolatry.

Another issue is that God says something about him/her performing kindness to those that love him/her. What is that about? It seems that this is an invitation for non-Jews to be offended. I would like to think of God as kind to all. Sometimes love has to be won.

Moses ascends while G_d descends

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Parshat Yitro, (Exodus 19:7-19:19)-1/16/2014

I decided to be have a Bar Mitzvah. I think my best reason is that I want to understand more of what made my parents so kind and loving. There are many more reasons ... but I've now committed to studying the Torah everyday ... so here it goes.

Moses wanted the Jews to hear G_d, who was obliging, but had many requirements for this conversation. The requirements themselves seem respectful for this auspicious occasion, though some substitute requirements would probably have sufficed. I think the idea is that the people are preparing their bodies, their clothes, and their minds for this conversation.

I was particularly interested in the passage at Exodus 19:15 where Moses said to the people, "Be ready for three days; do not go near a woman." At first I thought that this meant that women are not pure. But then I heard this from the rabbi at that women are pure, and it is question of semen that is not pure when it is outside the body. Intercourse is pure, I suspect, because the semen is still contained, but when the woman emits "lively" semen that is less that three days old, it contaminates the women. I suppose if the woman were to hold the semen in until it lost its potency it (and she) would never become impure.

One might wonder who makes this stuff up ... that some things are pure and some things aren't. The Zen teacher, Dogen (1200-1253) said that there is no place where you can spit (meaning that everything was sacred). I recently piled some chairs under a Buddhist altar and my Zen teacher scolded me. I reminded him what Dogen said, and he said that some places are more sacred than others.

In the end, we each have a means of preparation for an important moment. We might count to ten, or we might clean up. Whatever we do, we become ready. Reading the Torah teaches me tolerance for crazy rules. And then, as I look in the mirror, I realize that my own rules are at least as crazy as the ones conveyed by Moses. (I just told my wife about all this ... who confirmed that these rules, like mine, are crazy.)

Moses talking to his people about their upcoming meeting with G_d