Thursday, January 29, 2015

Shipping...


What if life is an optical illusion at its best?..

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NOT OBEYING IMMORAL ORDERS

This article is written by the chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks, who is a great man and a real gentleman indeed.

Friend of mine shared it and I thought it is worth for other people to read, because it is so universal and not from only Jewish point of view definitely.

ENJOY and be rebellious! :-)


On Not Obeying Immoral Orders

By Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The opening chapters of Exodus plunge us into the midst of epic events. Almost at a stroke the Israelites are transformed from protected minority to slaves. Moses passes from prince of Egypt to Midianite shepherd to leader of the Israelites through a history-changing encounter at the burning bush. Yet it is one small episode that deserves to be seen as a turning point in the history of humanity. Its heroines are two remarkable women, Shifra and Puah.

We do not know who they were. The Torah gives us no further information about them than that they were midwives, instructed by Pharaoh:  ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live’ (Ex. 1: 16). The Hebrew description of the two women as ha-meyaldot ha-ivriyot, is ambiguous. It could mean “the Hebrew midwives.” So most translations and commentaries read it. But it could equally mean, “the midwives to the Hebrews,” in which case they may have been Egyptian. That is how Josephus,[1] Abrabanel and Samuel David Luzzatto understand it, arguing that it is simply implausible to suppose that Hebrew women would have been party to an act of genocide against their own people.

What we do know, however, is that they refused to carry out the order: “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” (1: 17). This is the first recorded instance in history of civil disobedience: refusing to obey an order, given by the most powerful man in the most powerful empire of the ancient world, simply because it was immoral, unethical, inhuman.

The Torah suggests that they did so without fuss or drama. Summoned by Pharaoh to explain their behaviour, they simply replied: “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive” (1: 19). To this, Pharaoh had no reply. The matter-of-factness of the entire incident reminds us of one of the most salient findings about the courage of those who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust. They had little in common except for the fact that they saw nothing remarkable in what they did.[2] Often the mark of real moral heroes is that they do not see themselves as moral heroes. They do what they do because that is what a human being is supposed to do. That is probably the meaning of the statement that they “feared God.” It is the Torah’s generic description of those who have a moral sense.[3]

It took more than three thousand years for what the midwives did to become enshrined in international law. In 1946 the Nazi war criminals on trial at Nuremberg all offered the defence that they were merely obeying orders, given by a duly constituted and democratically elected government. Under the doctrine of national sovereignty every government has the right to issue its own laws and order its own affairs. It took a new legal concept, namely a crime against humanity, to establish the guilt of the architects and administrators of genocide.

The Nuremberg principle gave legal substance to what the midwives instinctively understood: that there are orders that should not be obeyed, because they are immoral. Moral law transcends and may override the law of the state. As the Talmud puts it: “If there is a conflict between the words of the master (God) and the words of a disciple (a human being), the words of the master must prevail.”[4]

The Nuremberg trials were not the first occasion on which the story of the midwives had a significant impact on history. Throughout the Middle Ages the Church, knowing that knowledge is power and therefore best kept in the hands of the priesthood, had forbidden vernacular translations of the Bible. In the course of the sixteenth century, three developments changed this irrevocably. First was the Reformation, with its maxim Sola scriptura, “By Scripture alone,” placing the Bible centre-stage in the religious life. Second was the invention, in the mid-fifteenth century, of printing. Lutherans were convinced that this was Divine providence. God had sent the printing press so that the doctrines of the Reformed church could be spread worldwide.

Third was the fact that some people, regardless of the ban, had translated the Bible anyway. John Wycliffe and his followers had done so in the fourteenth century, but the most influential was William Tyndale, whose translation of the New Testament, begun in 1525 became the first printed Bible in English. He paid for this with his life.

When Mary I took the Church of England back to Catholicism, many English Protestants fled to Calvin’s Geneva, where they produced a new translation, based on Tyndale, called the Geneva Bible. Produced in a small, affordable edition, it was smuggled into England in large numbers.

Able to read the Bible by themselves for the first time, people soon discovered that it was, as far as monarchy is concerned, a highly seditious document. It tells of how God told Samuel that in seeking to appoint a king, the Israelites were rejecting Him as their only sovereign. It describes graphically how the prophets were unafraid to challenge kings, which they did with the authority of God Himself. And it told the story of the midwives who refused to carry out pharaoh’s order. On this, in a marginal note, the Geneva Bible endorsed their refusal, criticising only the fact that, explaining their behaviour, they told a lie. The note said, “Their disobedience herein was lawful, but their dissembling evil.” King James understood clearly the dire implication of that one sentence. It meant that a king could be disobeyed on the authority of God Himself: a clear and categorical refutation of the idea of the Divine right of kings.[5]

Eventually, unable to stop the spread of Bibles in translation, King James decided to commission his own version which appeared in 1611. But by then the damage had been done and the seeds of what became the English revolution had been planted. Throughout the seventeenth century by far the most influential force in English politics was the Hebrew Bible as understood by the Puritans, and it was the Pilgrim Fathers who took this faith with them in their journey to what would eventually become the United States of America.

A century and a half later, it was the work of another English radical, Thomas Paine, that made a decisive impact on the American revolution. His pamphlet Common Sense was published in America in January 1776, and became an immediate best seller, selling 100,000 copies. Its impact was huge, and because of it he became known as “the father of the American Revolution.” Despite the fact that Paine was an atheist, the opening pages of Common Sense, justifying rebellion against a tyrannical king, are entirely based on citations from the Hebrew Bible. In the same spirit, that summer Benjamin Franklin drew as his design for the Great Seal of America, a picture of the Egyptians (i.e. the English) drowning in the Red Sea (i.e. the Atlantic), with the caption, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Thomas Jefferson was so struck by the sentence that he recommended it to be used on the Great Seal of Virginia and later incorporated it in his personal seal.

 The story of the midwives belongs to a larger vision implicit throughout the Torah and Tanakh as a whole: that right is sovereign over might, and that even God Himself can be called to account in the name of justice, as He expressly mandates Abraham to do. Sovereignty ultimately belongs to God, so any human act or order that transgresses the will of God is by that fact alone ultra vires. These revolutionary ideas are intrinsic to the biblical vision of politics and the use of power.

In the end, though, it was the courage of two remarkable women that created the precedent later taken up by the American writer Thoreau[6] in his classic essay Civil Disobedience (1849) that in turn inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King in the twentieth century. Their story also ends with a lovely touch. The text says: “So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them houses” (1: 20-21).

Luzzatto interpreted this last phrase to mean that He gave them families of their own. Often, he wrote, midwives are women who are unable to have children. In this case, God blessed Shifra and Puah by giving them children, as he had done for Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel.

This too is a not unimportant point. The closest Greek literature comes to the idea of civil disobedience is the story of Antigone who insisted on giving her brother Polynices a burial despite the fact that king Creon had refused to permit it, regarding him as a traitor to Thebes. Sophocles’ Antigone is a tragedy: the heroine must die because of her loyalty to her brother and her disobedience to the king. The Hebrew Bible is not a tragedy. In fact biblical Hebrew has no word meaning “tragedy” in the Greek sense. Good is rewarded, not punished, because the universe, God’s work of art, is a world in which moral behaviour is blessed and evil, briefly in the ascendant, is ultimately defeated.

Shifra and Puah are two of the great heroines of world literature, the first to teach humanity the moral limits of power.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Me" in Scandinavia


Social media is not as bad as I thought :-D
I stumbled on one Swedish girl's profile on Instagram, who is so like me, really.

She's feminist, has red hair and covers it with colourful tichels. She has two little children, wears glasses and loves Astrid Lindgren's books.

And - she is CAPRICORN!!! I can't believe it. I mean, it couldn't be otherwise, only Capricorn could be that smart and witty, and really positive and nice.

Now, tell me, have I always been crazy to have this extraordinary feeling that I belonged to Scandinavia?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

No Racism! Or Integration without assimilation



My student neighbours are big supporters of #NoPegida. What can I say, I was student too and I also had idealistic dreams of living in a tolerant and free world. My student neighbours claim that the World should be Bunt (colourful). I agree with them. I have always believed that every man has a right to live wherever he wants to and that is why I live here too. Because this is the place where I feel comfortable.

This means, that I should make others feel comfortable too, especially people who this land belong to. As they received me, accepted me and let me live here and have benefits, so I have to respect it.
I have to respect this country, its people, its culture, its religion and try to integrate.

I am not going to discuss, who is right or wrong. I won't say who's enemy and who's not, because it is just politics. I hate politics, politicians and provocative mass media. 
I don't like caricaturists, because if they mocked Islam yesterday, they will mock Jews tomorrow; and they have done it many times in the near past, you can google the Dreyfus case and see.

Although it doesn't mean, if somebody mocks your religion, you go and blow them up. Only insecure people do that. If you are a true believer and you are sure that nobody can harm your faith, no stupid media can abuse your sacraments, you will just feel pity about those G-dless people and walk away.
Or not.
Better educate yourself and your nation, take care of your country, care more about your people and nourish them instead of sending them to death.

I mentioned integration above. We had a talk about integration with my friends of different faith, and we all came to conclusion that integration does not mean assimilation. We should be faithful to our religion, don't forget the language, traditions, avoid intermarriages, but not shove all this on other people.

It is Europe after all with its own traditions whether we like it or not.

I wish there was peace and everyone lived happily and securely in its home country, because nobody would've left its home for a strange land...

Monday, December 29, 2014

20 - 30 - - 40


Right!

I turned 30 last week. 30, people, is not a joke.
Although I remember like yesterday when I turned 20 and threw a pajama party, invited my girlfriends and had this deep, spiritual couch talk about different things: what we wanted to be, how we wanted to leave a trail in this world and where we wanted to go to fulfill our calling. We were so young, fresh and full of idealism.
I hoped and almost believed I would be that kind of journalist, who saves the world; my childhood friend thought she would get married soon and have bunch of kids, the other one wanted to travel the world, fourth one of our gang just hoped she would finish her studies and find a good job to rent a flat and move out from her parents'.

So, where are we now?

You know about me, being big fat Mama Sophie - wife of the most Yiddishe man in the world, mum of two naughty boys with Biblical names, and daughter of the most liberal and intelligent lady in the world. I am basically stay-at-home mama, cooking, baking, yelling, often singing and dancing with my children; also naturally bossing around like every mum, who has to do so or things will not be as she wants them to be.

As for my childhood friend, who wanted to get married right away, she hasn't got married yet (no kids either), but she works very hard and is happy about it. The "traveler" one is happily married with one baby girl and second child on its way soon, she hasn't traveled anywhere since then ;-) and the fourth one, indeed found a good job and all, but she hasn't left her parents' yet because her dad got sick, soon passed away and she decided to stay home and comfort her mum.

These are our stories. Very realistic, down to earthly, nobody saving a planet, nobody conquering the Everest, but - living the life as it came down to us, you know?
Most of the times that's how it is, isn't it?
We never know how we "end up", because at 20 none of us can be aware of what is really GOOD for us. In GOOD, I mean, what is right and logical. Priorities change so easily.
And I am a big believer of GOOD things, you know that ;-) I believe everything has its reasons and seasons, if I could put it this way. My people and I don't believe in coincidences. Hashem's will is in EVERYTHING.
Even Jesus Christ knew that, who rebelled against us (oh, happy birthday, by the way :-) Jesus and I are both stubborn Capricorns, aren't we?) and yet all he said is a mere paraphrasing of Jewish Prophets (see Isaiah and Jeremiah) and the Talmud.

Anyway.
I like that I am this old.
30 seemed so old, when I was 20. I thought it was the end of fun, and actually it is :lol: not for everyone, but for the "real slim shady mum" like me, because I don't care much about anything else, but my family nowadays; surely I do about parents, relatives, friends and then comes the world. 20 year old Sophie wouldn't believe in that, but 30 year old one strongly does.

I like that I can look back and see that so many things have happened in my life. There's much more good coming, I know, but the past was ok too, thank G-d. It was hard, but it helped me to appreciate the life afterwards.
I grew up in dark 90's of Post Soviet Georgia and did my homework like Jane Austen in the light of diesel lamp, because electricity was a luxury then and we had it scheduled, couple of hours in the morning and 3-4 hours in the evening. I know, it sounds bizarre now (probably not for most 3rd world countries), but that's how it was. I studied hard, because only that could help me in life. And probably that was/is something that I've been good at, rather G-d made me that way.
School, University... and then came traveling...
Then the Spiritual Quest...

Then Him.

Him again.

:-)

Chuppah.
Love.
Children.
Crazy busy Mama life still in progress.

I think I am fine with all.
So, yeah, it actually does take 30 years to have things figured out and realised who you are, what you want and where you need to be.
Now I can't wait till I am 40 :-D

All the credit and thanks go to the great Creator of the World. Baruch Ata Hashem!!!

Have a nice week!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ramblings Of A Mum At Her Last 29+



This evening, when I was putting my son to bed (and it took me more than half an hour, because of his resistance like every other toddler hating to sleep and endlessly asking for water, for toilet and etc), and suddenly started thinking about my childhood friends, relatives, places that I have been and loved. Then I really felt that I miss all that so much.
That authenticity. Authenticity of youth years, of friendship, of relationships that form your character and future too.
I started to miss visiting my friends, whose families I was close with and I would always stay with them for dinner.
I can't remember single friend of mine, whom I have visited and left without dinner.
That is all about my tiny lovely country Georgia. Yes, the incredible Georgian hospitality is not a myth. It is true from the beginning to the end. People will open up for you, they will feed you, will give you to drink, they will sacrifice their last piece of bread, but will never upset a guest.

This tradition is given from G-d to my people (I am so lucky having TWO nations). The first and the most hospitable man was Abraham, who would sit out of his tent and wait for anyone to appear, so he could feed the traveler, let him rest and talk to him about One Creator.

That is Georgia.
Hospitality, being friendly, open, HUMANE.

I have never seen anything like that in other countries. And believe me, I have visited not few.
Staying for dinner?

Once I was invited to a friend's house in Europe, who threw a big party. I came with my other friend, because I couldn't leave her alone, plus I thought it wouldn't make much difference, since the friend who was throwing a party, was a really rich one. Well, it did :-( she told me right away that she didn't expect me to bring a friend too and I should've told her before.
I was so disappointed, I could cry.

Because I come from Georgia and bringing your uninvited friend to a party is not a problem at all. Hosts will welcome everyone same. The poorer man is, the kinder heart he has.

So why am I writing this anyway?
I just wish I had friends here too that I could visit spontaneously, just dropping by for some tea and staying for dinner, then coming over and making pajama party just like that. I miss that.
I realise, times change, like we all do and you can't always be carefree and wild.
I am almost 30 and so are most of my childhood friends obviously. We try to catch up online, but it doesn't really work. We still lose the closeness, we lose the important moments even though we share them via social media.

I think I wish I were as hospitable as Abraham. I wish I were as kind as Rebeccah who gave Eliezer and his camels to drink, I wish I were as selfless as Rachel Imeinu, who didn't think twice to save her sister's dignity and gave up her love for it... I wish I were as humble as Moses, as peaceful as Aaron... and I could go on without ending, because all our forefathers- and mothers were special.
So when hard times come up and I feel like I cannot take anymore, because some things are just too hard for my post feminist and socialist self, then I remember all those people, their good deeds, their efforts so we could still live and remember who is ABOVE us, it gets easier. Not very much, but little easier than before.

I am this 29,5 year old mama who never got away from her Salinger-y self. Don't think I ever will ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Selfie" Question-Answer Post

The other day I was thinking if I am modest enough. I mean, do I behave nicely? Am I a good example for other girls and women of my social and religious level? Am I always dressed properly? Do I perhaps laugh little louder than I should?

And after I got all the answers to my above asked questions, I realised what a crazy world we live in.
Modesty? How can anyone be modest (including myself) having Instagram and sharing its "selfies", which I find so very selfish (the word says it itself) and stupid, although I've done more than couple of selfies myself too.

Dressing properly is another important thing for an Orthodox Jewish wife and mum. There are some dress codes, we all follow. It has never been too hard for me because I come from Georgia, where girls dress (at least used to) modestly, not bearing too much skin.

The other day I overheard a Muslim girl actually, who had her beautiful hair all covered saying, that it was not all about hiding from men, but making it clear, that there is more than physicality in women that you should think about. Nice point, right? I actually loved how she saw her traditions and once again made me feel better about really faithful people. I am glad to know that there are Muslim women and men, who truly believe in G-d, good morals and kindness.

So once you are open-minded, always ask questions, try finding questions and believe that G-d is One and Only, you are on a right path.

Now to the laughing part. Yeah, that is something I still have to work on. I love to laugh a lot. If not a laughter, I would have not managed this life. Really.

Tuesday thoughts, here they are.

Have a lovely week!!!

Enjoying beautiful Autumn (resisted well not to post a selfie ;-) )