Skip to main content

tv   Mosaic World News  LINKTV  October 4, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT

7:30 pm
in all kinds of ways, you can see that with the liberation story. but then with the covenant, what you have, and i'm sure you've heard this before, is you have a classic identity relationship with the ten commandments and mount sinai - on two different axis. one axis is how are humans to relate to the divine, and so there's a set of commandments about the relationship who you are as han, who god is, and how people are to relate. then we flip the axis over, and we're on a horizontal basis here, and the whole story is about how we're to relate to each other. and you think, god - from the jewish perspective - one time, only one time does god come down and talk to humans on that mountain. and god could have given a great theological discourse. god could have given great visions to moses, or great powers. what's god do? he comes down and sets up a set of simple rules about how we're to relate to each other
7:31 pm
and relate to the divine. and of course, the neat part of the story is, nobody's ever been able to live up to them since - depending on some interpretations. but the whole rest of the story, and the great myth in all of the rest of - in the prophets, the historical section of the hebrew bible and then in the writings, what you find there is the quest to live up to that covenant, and the interesting, powerful characteristics when they don't. so i want to do a couple of things in terms of our roll-ins - got to get our roll-ins in here. first, me reading the bible - just like jimmy swswaggart. no, i don't hit it on my hand or anything like that. but we went out to north shore congregation israel reformed synagogue here in the chicago area, and we will come and talk shortly to rabbi bronstein, who does a wonderful job on our dimensional triangle. but what i did is i just - i wanted to take a bible, and i picked up one of the psalms. the psalms, in many cases, are, well, they're songs about
7:32 pm
the great mythic tradition. and i just picked one psalm, i think it's 139, unless it's 136, but it's right in the 130s, and i'm just going to read it, and listen for how the creation myths, the liberation myth or exodus myth, and then the sinai myth are encapsulated in this. and then you can kind of imagine david perhaps - king david sitting around playing his lyre after the goats are milked or whatever they did back there or the figs are eaten, and he's singing the mythic drama, and people are sitting around the campfire, and they're listening, and it's undergirding or underscoring their sense of identity, who they are, and relationship, but it also has heroes and powerful acts and all this stuff in it. so let's go to the roll-in with the psalm that contains those three great myths. >> i'm standing in front of the beautiful north shore congregation israel,
7:33 pm
and we've been discussing the mythic dimension. myth - the powerful, very true stories that undergird and provide identity and orientation in all major world-views. now our investigation rld-views isn't often going to feature me reading sacred text, but this time, i'd like to make an exception, because the jewish belief in yahweh's great covena, in his creation of the world, in the liberation of the people from bondage in egypt, and the wonderful grace with which he brought the people the promised land, is all held in this one psalm 136, arae to the lord. list for these elements of the mythic drama here. o give thanks to the lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. to him, who alone does great wonders. to him, who by understanding made the heavens. for his steadfast love endures forever. to him who spread out the earth upon the waters. to him who made the great lights, the sun to rule over the day, the moon and stars
7:34 pm
to rule over the night. to him who smote the first born of egypt, and brought israel out from among them, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. to him who divided the red sea and sunder, and made israel pass through the midst of it, and over through pharaoh and its host in the red sea. to him who led his people through the wilderness. to him who smote great kings and slew famous kings, sihon, king of the amorites, and og, king of bashan, and gave the land as a heritage, a heritage to israel, his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. at the heart of jewish religious experice is this powerful presence of covenant - the relationship between yahweh, lord, and israel - creation, liberation, and ultimately, a promised land - yahweh will protect the people if the people will obey the great commandments - the ten commandmen, of course, acting like a constitutional government;
7:35 pm
the following covenant ces, some 613 different ones, requiring devotion in daily lifamong the jews. this ithe power t mythic story in judaism. >> actually, that's really my younger brother. you know, he's gone back to selling used cars, and i don't think he reads the bible any way. but no, the story in there, the power of it, is what we're looking at in myth. and again, like we said, you could just imagine how people reading that could pick up on the things that were so important to them. another thing is, oftentimes people will say, "oh, america is a christian nation." and 88 percent of the people who are some form of religion in this country are christians, so you can say anything you want, i suppose, and get away with it. but not really so, a christian nation, because the first amendment to the u.s. constitution separates church and state. however, i always like to say, "well, in some senses, it's a christian nation, but it most certainly is a jewish nation, because that whole creation,
7:36 pm
liberation, exodus, making of a holy land - we've got towns around here called zion or new canaan or whatever - what the whole drama - and again, i'm not making this up, folks, as dave barry would say - the ministers on the boats, like the arabella , coming into the plymouth colonies, actually gave sermons that replicate or bring out the whole old testament drama, so we get a feel of these kinds of things there. let me move - before we take a couple of questions here - i want to get to our rabbi bronstein, because what makes this class work is you don't have to listen to some religious studies professor talk about somebody else's religion; you can listen to the real thing. and in this case, we have rabbi bronstein, and i swear folks, i did not slip him five dollars to say what he's going to say - it just blew me away, though, because he takes the three myths that we've talked about, and then i almost stood up
7:37 pm
and clapped when he says this, but you'll hear him say that all the rituals, all the rituals in the whole jewish liturgical cycle, from his perspective and from what he's learned and grown up with, all those rituals are driven by these three great myths. and that's exactly what we want to see with that dimensional triangle - that the myths are guiding the rituals, which in turn, at the various festivals throughout the year for the jewish people, or for people in any religion, it brings them back into some authentic experience of their religion. so let's put a cork in me, and listen to rabbi bronstein explain the relationship between myth and ritual in judaism. i'm very happy to be here with rabbi herbert bronstein at north shore congregational israel. we've been discussing judaism and the powerful dimension of myth, and i'd like to start out and ask rabbi bronstein about the great stories that undergird judaism,
7:38 pm
that we find in the torah. >> you know, there's a kind of exercise i do with jewish people - students, adults - i ask them to put on the blackboard any bible stories they want. we fill the blackboard with any number of bible stories, and then play that old, "if you had to go a desert island and you could only take three things with you, which three would you choose?" when jews vote, it's almost like a genetic imprint - perhaps successful jewish education for a few thousand years. the first three, they always vote for en masse - the majority - is the story of creation, the story of exodus, and the story of sinai, the making of the covenant, the giving of the torah. so somehow it works. those in judaism are the - that's the myth, as you put it, that is a way of expressing truth for us,
7:39 pm
the existential truth. the three archetypal stories - that is, you move in - even in our liturgy, the original liturgy is organized that way - you move from creation, but then religiously, the rabbis reverse the chronology - you move from creation, through the event of sinai - that is, the people entering into covenant, the giving of the teaching, and from there, to the universal exodus. but of course the exodus story is part of the mentality of the jewish people. so it's like moving from creation to the universal redemption or the messianic age or the kingdom of god, and the liturgy is structured that way - the world of peace, inequity, and so forth, which is the deliverance, the redemption from pharaoh - symbolically; that could be inner pharaohs, idolatry, bondage, servitude to the service of the highest god,
7:40 pm
which is the kingdom of god. and that can only happen through the covenant making at sinai - that's our story. but i believe all the other bible stories are the kind of subplots or subechoes of those three major stories. like the book of ruth , the story of ruth, is a sinai story, because she enters into covenant. the book of esther is an exodus story. the story of the destructions are the negative valence of the creation stories - like sodom and gomorrah, tower of babel, the destruction of the temple - those are the minus or negative valences of the creation story. the golden calf is the downstairs of what's happening upstairs - the giving of torah, the giving of the ten commandments and so forth. so those are the three major stories, and they organize -
7:41 pm
jewish holidays are all built on those stories. passover is the exodus story and we relive it, we tell it on shivu'ot, which in the christian tradition is known as pentecost, 50 days after passover. we celebrate the giving of the torah at sinai, the children are confirmed here. and life cycle events - bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is a sinai moment. the circumcision is a sinai moment, because the child is brought into the covenant. the wedding is creation moment. >> it's such a central part, the covenant. >> it's the dominant metaphor for us. >> for someone who is not aware of the power of that term, could you unpack it a little bit for us? >> the idea is that the jewish people ultimately - first of all, we believe noah - all humanity - has a covenant with god; noah is every man. and then there's
7:42 pm
a special covenant made with the jewish people, the purpose of which is to live by the teaching, torah, teach it, live it, follow god's behest, the commandments, carry it on, until there is a universal covenant. that doesn't mean till everybody becomes jewish - it means by that time, by our concept, there won't be any separate institutional religions; that is everybody living as they ought to, as part of an alliance. it's an alliance with god. it's as if the world has to move from original chaos to cosmos or harmony, and everything you do is part of that alliance with god. you can't do it alone - there has to be the god side. but it won't happen unless we do it. so with every deed we do, every observance, lighting a candle, observing myths,
7:43 pm
visiting the sick - we call those mitzvoth, or good deeds - is part of fulfilling that covenant and building the kingdom. >> you see - hear that, rites of passage, identity and relationship, and also that quest for unity. now the buddhist or the hindu might meditate, but here in the jewish context, it's that relational thing - god, man, and women working together in harmony, to try to bring forth this kind of unity. and there's always something about every religion that just stands out. and whereas, the hindus might create beautiful temples, and let's say the roman catholics might create these magnificent cathedrals, where the jew creates is with words. it's with words - it comes from the torah, it comes from study, it comes from a constant dialogue. and that makes sense to me,
7:44 pm
because that is - if there's any religion where i can think of where there's always dialogue, and it's an open dialogue - it's not, "god's all powerful," and humans say this or that - it's an ongoing open dialogue that you get in judaism. to bring that out even more, i mentioned the talmud. the torah is the holiest scripture, and the talmud is a canonical text, it's a commentary, it's the ongoing historical conversation that started more than 2,000 years ago, and to this day, still goes on. and what drives it again is, what's the great stories? what do the myths say? what do the great rabbis say? and how do we do it? so i want to show you a little bit of a talmud here, jumping half a world away to israel. we went to the hartman institute in jerusalem, and talked to dr. lorberbaum, what an interesting thing, they're taking this ancient text, the talmud - it's almost a liberal jewish think tank,
7:45 pm
and because of the social difficulties in israel, which there are many, both interfaith and intrafaith - there's sometimes more argument between the various jewish sects there - what his group is doing, from an academic perspective, is inviting the talmud into the conversation; it's saying, we can learn how to really make israel function harmoniously if we go back to this ancient text. but just so you can get an idea of how myth drives the quest for identity and relationship and is played out in wonderful words in an endless dialogue in the jewish way of doing this, i want to show you the talmud. so if we could go to the hartman institute, dr. lorberbaum. >> the fundamental canonical text is of course the bible, and of course, speaking in a jewish context, i mean, the jewish bible, which includes, basically, all the historical books, and of course, does not include
7:46 pm
the christian gospels. the other important texts which one might quite accurately put as a canonical text for rabbidic judaism is the talmud, which we have right here. you can see this edition of the talmud - this is a traditional edition of the talmud, it's the vilna edition of the talmud, which is the one that's most popular among people that study. you can see the pages have, each of them, their own shape, and usually, people remember the picture of the pages. the talmud is 20 volumes of these kind of pages - this is the size, this is the text itself in the middle, and on the sides, you have commentaries; in this case, they're both european commentaries. this is rashi, who lived in franco-germany,
7:47 pm
and then his students. this particular discussion here, actually, is one about, which tells the stories of the destruction of the second commonwealth in the first century of the common era, and tells - really, i would say its bottom line, or the moral of the story is that the second temple was destroyed only because of vain hatred; that's what the rabbi said, that is hatred that has no real reason except just the fact that people hated each other. now, one of the things we do here at the hartman institute is that we have a beit midrash, which in hebrew means hall of study , in which we have students that join us regardless of gender
7:48 pm
or regardless of religious affiliation to study talmud together, under the understanding that the talmud is a fundamental canonical text of judaism, and any spiritual and cultural quest within israel today, within judaism today, would be greatly enriched, and deeply entrenched and rooted in tradition would it carry on a dialogue with the talmud itself. in this way, i might say that we differ from traditional yeshivas, which are usually open only to males, and only to those that are strictly religiously affiliated. we view the talmud as actually a book about complexities, in contrast to biblical scripture, in which the voice of god is spoken in that clear, apodictic way. the hallmark of the talmud is disagreement, and discussion, and discussions that don't
7:49 pm
necessarily reach ends - you just discuss. the basis is interpreting god's word, but it's open to a plurality of meanings, and that's why we believe that actually a close listening to the talmud can serve us in a pluralistic society, in a very enrichening fashion. >> now to bring us back to the reality of the myths and ritual action connected with sacred text like the talmud, let's just take - he happened to open up to vain hatred causing the destruction of the temple and the revolution 70 of the common era - a very, very sad time, a very tumultuous time for the jews. they rise up against the romans and it goes on for about four years, from '66 to '70, but ultimately, the romans prevail. and here, the discussion, the disagreement, the complexity - what caused the temple to be destroyed? and here we have this talmudic passage about vain hatred, and again,
7:50 pm
it says much about human relationships. but i want to take you to one last place in israel that relates to this, which is the western wall of that very temple, the supporting wall - all that's been left - and as kind of the dialogue, the ongoing dialogue. you may have heard it described as the wailing wall - well, it's not pejorative, as you will soon see, because i went up before this wall and they miked me, and i had some trepidation about whether this was an appropriate thing to do. and also, when i got up to that wall, we talk about numinous experience - whoa! i went up there and was not thinking anything about teleclasses or anything else; i was in awe of the power when you stand before that wall. in any event, you can in fact hear devout hasidic jews praying with the characteristic bobbing action, and what are they doing? they're reciting some of the great ancient mythic drams
7:51 pm
that may come out of the psalms or other prayers, to try to resolve back to that talmudic passage. what kind of vain hatred causes us to be in this situation where just the one wall is left of the temple, but what can that say about our relationship with god? so if we could go to the roll-in on the western wall, you can get a sense of the power here. [chanting and prayer recital]
7:52 pm
>> we're at the western wall, the last remaining wall of the second temple, which is one of the most holy shrines in the world, and certainly the most holy to the jews. here's where their prayers ascend directly to heaven, and here's where they come to feel the presence of yahweh, the lord. a very special feeling - jew or no jew, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the power, or what we might call the numinous experience that you have in this spot. >> i come to pray here because we believe that all the prayers in the whole world comes over here, and from here, it goes up to shamayim, and that's how he's hearing. and so this is the main point, where all the prayers goes up, so we come straight here. >> is this the most important place that you could pray? >> well, we think that this is the number one, the number one place that we pray here,
7:53 pm
and that from here, everything goes up. so i come right here. that's why all the people from the whole world wants to come to the western wall. >> how many times do you get to pray here during the week? >> i come like once a month or two times a month. there are people that come some people believe that if you come 40 days, every day, whatever you want, it becomes. so god is listening, it's like 40 days, now what you want, you could get. >> just one of those amazing things that happened, as we were at the wall, i'm walking around with david ainsworth, our executive producer, and we're just trying to grab these people and say, "will you talk to us? will you talk to us?" kind of odd thing to do, but we did get a few people to do it. anyway, we're standing there, and this very bizarre incident happens that you may have caught a little bit of and
7:54 pm
we got no explanation for, but it's so indicative of everything from what was the talmudic passage - vain hatred - to the confusions of society, the secular versus sacred over in israel. we're going to come back later in the semester and take a closer look when we get to the social dimension. but you may have seen the soldiers there holding the children? well, we're watching this very religious kind of ritualized activity go along, and all of a sudden, in marches, what, i don't know, i guess it was a platoon of soldiers with the, the full automatic weapons. they march right down into the wall, some of them pray, some of them are standing around. and then i don't know where they came from, but all of a sudden, about six or seven little babies materialize. and so the soldiers go down, scoop them up, hold the babies, have their pictures taken in front of the wall, put the babies down, and walked out. we went up to the soldiers and said, "what happened? what did you do?" and they just, "can't talk. can't talk to you." i had no idea, but what an overwhelming symbolic kind of thing
7:55 pm
to occur in israel - soldiers armed with guns, before the holiest spot, where all the prayers go to heaven, picking up babies, and then walking out. i mean, who knows. chris? >> that was - i really like this section on judaism. the guy you interviewed really spoke to me, and when i think of myth, and i think of alienation, and he talks about vain hatred and rites of passage, it all speaks to me of why are we here? and why must we suffer? why is life so hard? and i bet you it was better before i was born. >> you're right. >> or before our culture came into being. when were we with god, because i know we were with god once. and that's what it speaks to me of,
7:56 pm
and it speaks to me of struggle, of life, and he really hit the nail on its head in his interview with you. >> well, you see, we're starting to draw these threads together. and while i tend to take an expansive view of spirituality and religion, there is a distinctly religious life, and obviously, what rabbi bronstein is speaking of, and dr. lorberbaum are speaking of, is a life where your primary motivational function is religious - that's what motivates you. and we do live in a rather confused time in our particular culture, because you don't really know if the motivations are religious or if they're secular, and probably more than likely, they're secular. karen, i saw you there first. >> and the buddhist would say that life has always been suffering - for as long as there's been humans it's been an equal amount of suffering, and it's the nature of being here as a human. >> and in the buddhist text - we haven't spoken much about that -
7:57 pm
but there's lots of dialogue and questioning and great sages, and religions generate those sorts of things. one minute, let me hit you, warren, and then we'll pick it up in the next class. >> as you were talking about the talmud, there is a - and a lot of the talmud is question and answer, question and answer, and maybe that's all it is. but one of the questions was, "why did god create the world?" and the answer given, "because he likes a good story." >> that's a perfect way to end this particular class. perfect timing, you see. he'll get five bucks at the end of this one. but no, you're right, that god likes a perfect story, and that brings us full circle to where we started with, talking about the fact that in judaism, we see - we can conceive of a divine that not only wants a good story, but wants to listen to it with people, speak about it and continue the dialogue. and what a wonderful, powerful way to think
7:58 pm
about religion. well, in the next class, we're going to stay with myth and ritual, and continue the discussion ourselves. christopher, your word is "sipc." could you use it in a sentence, please? in the unlikely event that your brokerage firm goes out of business, sipc is there to protect you. "sipc." c-i-- [ buzzer ] i'm sorry, christopher, that is incorrect. lisa fannon. lisa, your word also is "sipc."
7:59 pm
may i have that in another sentence, please? sipc funds are available to satisfy brokerage customer claims up to a maximum of $500,000, including up to $100,000 for cash claims. sipc. s-i-p... k. [ buzzer ] don't know about sipc, the securities investor protection corporation? that's okay, we can spell it out for you. learn more at


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on