This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16).
* What is a Torah perspective on sex addiction?
* The point of the plagues is to let the world know about God. Why is God important?
– God is the transcendent source of morality. Right and wrong is not just a matter of personal opinion or societal construction but is absolute thanks to its divine source.
– God manipulates nature. We are to dominate nature. We are to dominate our own natures. We can’t excuse ourselves by saying we’re just acting naturally.
– There is an afterlife. Either there is an afterlife or God is evil.
– God means we should have transcendence and holiness in our lives. I sense a dramatic difference in this regard between a secular home and a religious home.
– God gives life meaning. And direction.
– God means we are not just the product of nature and nurture. We have free will.
– With God, we are all brothers and sisters.
– If there is a God, then no man is God. Pharoah is not God. Jesus is not God.
* Rashi says that during the ninth plague — the plague of darkness — the Israelites were given X-ray vision so they could go into Egyptian homes and scout them for treasure. Icky!
* Judaism makes no peace with suffering. By contrast, much of Christianity holds that suffering is Christlike. Jesus suffered and so do we. Buddhism makes peace with suffering. No system has less peace with suffering than Judaism. All other systems seem to explain it away.
* Is the Israeli army necessary? If Jews simply study Torah and observe the commandments, won’t G-d keep them safe?
* Dennis Prager: “I never heard ‘God loves you’ until I heard it from Christians.'”
* If a cell phone goes off in an Orthodox shul on Shabbat, what will be the reaction? The reaction in various types of Orthodox shuls? Would someone be thrown out? If a man showed up to an Orthodox shul with an Asian girlfriend plainly not Jewish, in how many shuls would he be automatically thrown out?
* God won’t take Jews out of Egypt until they do something. God teaches delayed gratification.
* The paschal sacrifice requires a lot of time consuming and public activity, including the swathing of blood on the lintels. The Jews could not fear the Egyptians. Similarly, Judaism today is time consuming and requires public rituals. God doesn’t want the Jews to eat raw meat.
The lamb blood on the lintel will “be a sign for you.” It’s not a sign for God. There are no magical qualities to sheep’s blood. Mezuzot on the door won’t protect you.
* Jews invented collective memory, says Dennis Prager. There’s nothing like it in Christianity. Jews re-enact the Passover every year. When Jews observe the Sabbath, they commemorate the creation of the universe and the Exodus from Egypt. Collective memory is a central mental idea of Judaism.
Jeff emails: “This is terribly incorrect, and why I think you really need to go back to university and get a PhD properly so that you can do the work you are capable of instead of farting away with people even less educated than you (and you looked so alive talking to the therapist as well).
“This issue was actually a critique of Judaism, that it was more like ancient mythology. Heschel wrote “The Sabbath” specifically to refute this argument, claiming that it was time the Jews sacralized, etc. Gosh, I read Eliade when I was at YU…”
* Judaism says that events in this world have significance. Jews are not asked to remember visions and theology but a this-worldly historical event.
* What do you think of Sarah Silverman? “Mommy is one of the chosen people, and Daddy believes that Jesus is magic.”
* Moses and Aaron’s story with Pharoah reminds me of my own journey as a blogger. At first it was, “Who’s Luke Ford?” Then it was, “How can this nothing cause me so much trouble?” Then it was, “Bring me Luke Ford. I need to talk to him.”
This is happened to me several times on different beats.
People treat you carelessly when they think you have no influence. When their perception of your influence changes, they change how they treat you. Become influential enough and suddenly, all doors are open to you. If I got a big enough story, President Obama would speak to me. I remember doing a story about Bill Gates and getting a quick response from his team. My peers who had the same story I did were too afraid to publish anything damaging about the world’s richest man (or close to it).
Moshe gives Pharoah warnings before sending plagues but after getting contempt from Pharoah, Moshe sends plagues without warnings.
When a subject treats me with contempt and refuses to answer my questions (such as rabbis Steven Weil, Avrohom Union), I post my blog posts without warning. When a subject talks to me, I send him an email about what I am working on and I welcome his response prior to publication (many times I do not publish at all because I learn from his response there is no story). Contempt leads to contempt. Respect garners respect.
Some people understand right and wrong but everyone understands power. Pharoah respects power, not morality.
If you are a new kid and you show up at your new school and you’re nice, then a lot of people will probably try to bully you, but if you show up, find the biggest bully in the school, then walk up to the bully and punch him in the nose, everyone will treat you with respect. Once Moshe started punching Pharoah and Egypt in the nose, he got a lot of respect.