April 19, 2007


Caption: Something's not kosher about these guys.

The guiding thread of this week's Goat Rope is a series of reflections on the Bible, although you are liable to find most anything else here too.

El Cabrero was lucky to have a good Bible teacher when I went to (we are) Marshall U.

He was a rabbi from a local synagogue (Reformed I think) who really made the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) an open book and also taught about later Jewish writings.

It helped to learn about exactly what was there and to get a sense of scholarly opinion about when and why various parts of it were written and how the religion of Judaism developed over time.

It would be tough to pick out favorite parts, but El Cabrero's selection for Greatest Hits, Vol. I would have to include:

*Genesis, which is pretty cool as long as you don't use it as a science book. The family saga might make you feel pretty good about your own...

*Ecclestiastes, which gave us the title of today's post. Who said tragic existentialism was a 20th century thing?;

*The Hebrew prophets, who contrary to currently popular opinion were not obsessed with "end times" events but rather with social justice. The latter parts of the book of Isaiah top would top my list; and a special shout out to...

*Jonah, which appears in the books of the prophets but is really a short story and can even be read as a kind of practical joke played on the unwilling prophet by God to teach him a lesson about compassion. There is something lovable about this most unlovable of characters.

When God tells him to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, he gets the hell out of Dodge, hopping a ship bound for Tarshish, the ends of the earth for Jonah. When a storm arises, the sailors toss him overboard to appease some angry god. Everybody knows the fish story.

When he gets vomited up by the fish at Nineveh, he reluctantly tells the people to repent lest they be destroyed. And--to his great disappointment--they do. Instead of being glad, he's angry with God for his mercy and asks to be put to death. God, in therapist mode, asked, "Are you right to be angry?"

Then he goes and pouts, sitting under the shade of a gourd vine. The vine is about the only thing in the world Jonah seems to like. But then...

God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day and it smote the gourd that it withered.

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night;

And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

The story ends there. If Jonah had anything else to say we don't know what it might have been.

I think one reason I like Jonah is his reluctance. There are way too many people in the world today who like to think of themselves as God's mouthpiece. I wish they'd take a ship for Tarshish...

THE WAL-MART TAX. There's been a lot of stuff about Tax Day lately. Here's something from Wake-Up Wal-Mart about how that corporation and others not only avoid fair taxation but also pass on the public costs of low wages and benefits to the rest of us.

THE COMMON GOOD. One aspect of Roman Catholic social teaching that I particularly admire is the ancient idea that the role of government and social institutions is to promote the common good. In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI criticizes both totalitarian collectivism and cut throat capitalism:

"After the experiences of totalitarian regimes, after the brutal way in which they trampled on men, mocked, enslaved and beat the weak, we understand anew those who hunger and thirst for justice," Benedict writes.

"Confronted with the abuse of economic power, with the cruelty of capitalism that degrades man into merchandise, we have begun to see more clearly the dangers of wealth and we understand in a new way what Jesus intended in warning us about wealth."

WHILE PRESIDENT NERO FIDDLES, at least some businesses are taking global climate change seriously. This from Business Week:

Remember the arguments for not taking action against global warming? Just a few years ago the claim was: "There's no evidence that the climate is changing." Then it became: "Well, maybe it is, but humans aren't to blame." That morphed into: "Warmer could be better, and we can easily adapt." And all along, we heard that cutting emissions would cripple the economy--and wouldn't make much difference because China and India weren't on board.

Forget all that. For most companies, the science debate is ancient history. The current argument, which could turn ugly, is about how the government should act to curb carbon emissions...

ROAD BLOCK. It looks like efforts to fix the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit hit a brick wall in the Senate.



Elipsos said...

A few of my favorites...from the rabbi teaching Hebrew Bible:

"Someone read 1 Chronicles...what does it say? Abraham begat Isaac. What's wrong about that?"
"That would truly be a miracle my friends if Abraham begat anyone. Mrs. Abraham however...."

Ex 23:19- Great. Someone decides to try and tell people not to decimate their herds by killing the kids and milking the mothers dry, so now I can't enjoy a cheeseburger.

I notice that you quote from a KJV? Do you feel that the 'old' languages makes the Bible more profane, or more confusing (confusing may also mean easier to talk less educated people- not you of course- into following)

El Cabrero said...

The KJV was prettier than the other one I had handy (Jerusalem), which turned "gourd vine" which is cool into "castor oil plant" which sounded dorky.

Re: cheeseburgers, the Rabbi told this joke:
God said to Moses "Thou shalt not seeth a kid in its mother's milk."

Moses said "OK, we won't eat dairy and meat products together."

God said to Moses: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk."

Moses said "We'll keep meat and dairy products completely separate."

God said to Moses "OK, have it your way."