June 13th, 2003

(no subject)

Yesterday was a busy day. It began with the big exam in Greek Language. Dreading that exam has been one of my main occupations in the past week. A side occupation was actually studying for it. I stopped studying at 2:00 am the night before the exam, scheduled for 8:00 am. Couldn't fall asleep. Tossed and turned in bed at least as late as 03:50 am, which was the last time I glanced at the clock. Eventually fell asleep. Woke up at 06:30. Arrived at TAU full of trepidation but with the quiet desperation that's the English way. The exam allowed four hours. At 10:10, I left the exam room, leaving in it several tons' worth of the load previously on my chest. Surprisingly, it went well. Very well!

Feeling so much better, I decided to go to work. At work, I put in some productive hours, but my good mood didn't stand a chance: I quickly learned of the new Israeli attack in Gaza, and the deaths it caused (and will cause, no doubt). A significant personal decision regarding politics is brewing in my mind. I hope to hatch it later today or tomorrow.

Around 17:30 I left to go to Shvua Hasefer (Hebrew Book Fair) with ygurvitz. The fair was nice; the place was thriving but not packed, things were orderly. I prepared myself for the challenge of immersion in so many books, and I think I succeded in exercising restraint. I left with four or five bags of books (details later). I spent a lot of money, but it's my yearly purchase of Hebrew books, more or less. I don't think I bought more than four or five Hebrew books since last year's Book Fair purchases.

At the fair, a woman came up to us and solicited us to take an interest in the Zohar (the most significant book of Jewish Kabbalah), which was of course on sale at the fair. I hate solicitations; I like religious solicitations even less. Politely, I told her we're not interested.
"But you don't know it! There's so much to find out!" she exclaimed.
"We know enough about it, thanks." I said, hoping ygurvitz would not engage the woman in an aggressive attack on the Zohar.
"Where does your knowledge come from? Have you read it?" she inquired, and then added something like "I'm sure I could tell you things you don't know about it, even if you've read a little about it".
We were in a hurry; I decided to cut to the chase.
"Who wrote the Zohar?" I demanded of her.
She paused, and then corrected me with a friendly beam "Who received the Zohar, you mean."
"Who wrote the text over yonder?" I insisted.
"A disciple of Rabbi Simon bar Yohai" she answered with confidence.
"Thank you!" I said in a sing-song tone and briskly turned and walked away.
ygurvitz could not resist the temptation and bothered to point out to her that the Zohar is written in Medieval Provençal Hebrew (the Zohar was written by Rabbi Moses di Cordovero; even his wife wondered why he was passing it off as anything but his own work). I think she said something back, but by that time ygurvitz was catching up with me, and we left. Sigh. If we had more time, we'd have probably stayed and challenged that woman with facts. Most probably it would not have had any effect.

A similar argument took place at the new-age stand of Israeli branch of The New Acropolis, where a book by H.P. Blavatsky was on display. "Ooh, Blavatsky!", I exclaimed to Yossi with a wry grin. The Acropolis guy behind the stall mistook me for an interested client, but assumed I'm an educated one for recognizing the name.
"Are you from The Theosophical Society?" he inquired in a friendly voice. (TTS had their own book stall elsewhere on the premises.)
That's all it took to get ygurvitz going. He pointed out that Blavatsky begat an ideology of superior races and inferior races, that division preceding the world and transcending human actions (i.e. nothing can be done about it). And guess what? Jews are on the inferior side of things. Tough luck. The Acropolis guy's face wore an expression of concern, and he said it isn't so, but did not have counter arguments. Both of them seemed interested in arguing the point, but I dragged Yossi away.

Leaving the book fair, we went to hear Israeli novelist and columnist Meir Shalev speak about the book of Ruth, apropos the Jewish religious holiday "Shavuot" (literally: weeks), during which the book of Ruth is read in synagogues. Shalev, as always, succeeded in enlivening the text and bringing forth some remarkable fine points about it. It was a joy to hear him speak; I'd like to be able to speak about the Bible like this, some day.
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