Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Eclipse—by Peter Eisenstadt

I suspect the beginning of all wisdom, of all religion, of all science, consisted of the earliest humans looking at the sky with wonder, looking for meanings, fashioning explanations.  They found what they were looking for. They found gods, they found portents of good fortune, harbingers of doom. They found, as the Torah and Hagaddah says, “signs and wonders.”

They also found order. The most mysterious quality of the sky was that it was humans who could figure out some of its mysteries. They found patterns. They knew that the same group of constellations appeared in the same part of the sky, every year, in the exact same place of the sky. They knew that the moon completed its cycle every 28 days, the stars every 365 days, and the five visible planets with their individual cycles, but each of them was utterly predictable. It was hard not to think that these regular patterns did not have some impact on our lives. Surely the stars and planets controlled the weather, and perhaps our personal and collective destinies? But the more we learned about the planets and the stars, the less likely this seemed. We could now understand the movement of the heavenly bodies with utmost precision, down to the nanosecond. We started to explore the heavenly bodies we once gaped at in wonder. We have even walked on the moon. Something had been gained, surely though much of the mystery had been lost. read more

Choosing Life on Friday Night—by Ayala Emmett

On Friday night, on her tiptoes, a two-year-old in a lovely summer dress is helped by Rabbi Levy to light the Sabbath candles. Her parents, holding a baby, recite the blessing.

The congregation joins the parents in an Atrium filled with people, suffused with a summer sunset and two lit candles. The words of the blessing for the candles are familiar and ancient. They are rooted in a long Jewish tradition and had appeared already in a ninth-century prayerbook. Reciting the blessing in community creates a seamless connection. Recited in the present it creates a protective canopy across time and space. read more

Thoughts about Confederate Monument Controversy –by Peter Eisenstadt

1) First, to state the obvious, contrary to our president, “you can change history.” What you can’t change is the past. As the president no doubt remembers, Hegel, in his Philosophy of History stated “history encompasses in our language [that is, German] the objective as well as the subjective aspect and signifies both historiam renum gestorum (historical accounts of the past) and res gestae (the things themselves.)” Same in English. Though today we are perhaps more skeptical than Hegel that the “res gestae” are self-interpreting. History, the interpretation of the past, is always changing. And the history of the Confederacy has undergone vast changes in recent decades. read more

On the Horrible Violence in Charlottesville—by Peter Eisenstadt

Let no one mistake who is behind the violence in Charlottesville, that took the life of at least one protestor against the neo-Nazis, and left many more seriously injured. It’s not David Duke, it’s not the so called “alt-right,” it’s not even our miserable president, who is incapable of making even a grudging gesture to the cause of justice. It is that notorious traitor, Robert E. Lee, the man responsible for the death of more US military personnel than Adolf Hitler.   The protests are over a statue of Lee that the city of Charlottesville wants to remove. This statue was erected in 1924. It’s time for it to go. read more

Victory Over the Sun –by Peter Eisenstadt

The emperor awoke. As usual he was angry and surly, yelling at his attendants, calling for his grand vizier. As usual, there was only one topic on his mind. For weeks he had speaking about nothing else. “Screw the sun. I hate the goddamn sun.   What are we doing about the sun? Every morning what do people do? They think about the sun. Is it shining or cloudy?   Why are we dependent on the sun? It’s embarrassing. The sun gets way too much attention. People think the earth revolves around the sun. That’s just fake and biased liberal science. The earth revolves around me!” read more