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Yesterday was a busy day. It began with the big exam in Greek… - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
June 13th, 2003
05:10 pm

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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.

Current Mood: quiet
Current Music: Matti Caspi & Shlomo Gronich -- Shirim Pshutim [live]

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
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From:jdm314
Date:June 13th, 2003 08:31 am (UTC)
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Um... aren't you a bit young to be studying Kabbalah? Surely a religious person should know better than to try to force it on you!
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From:ijon
Date:June 13th, 2003 09:08 am (UTC)
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The common warning not to study Kabbalah at a young age merely contributes to the awe it commands in believers. Also, perhaps some rabbis saw young people going nuts with all the crazy reality-rewriting mumbo-jumbo they've read in the Zohar, and decided to advise against it.

The woman who badgered us was not religious, judging by her clothes (she wore a T-shirt, and her hair was loose). Presumably, she was either employed and paid to pitch the book to people, or is an enthusiastic disciple doing it for free, but she does not have to be religious. Lots of people who don't consider themselves religious take an interest in Kabbalah. Mysticism has its charms.
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From:jdm314
Date:June 13th, 2003 09:12 am (UTC)
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Yes, e.g. Madonna. I guess I just assumed she was religious because of her zeal for spreading the word, and her insistence on "received." But both of those could have alternate explanations.

Some of the stuff I'd heard implied that the real reason Kabbalah was "dangerous" for the young was that it wasted time that could be spent on Torah (etc.)
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From:unfilthy
Date:June 13th, 2003 03:36 pm (UTC)
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I've been trying to think of books in Hebrew that I want to buy, but can't come up with anything (well, almost anything, nothing to actually make me leave the house during the exam period).
Oh, well. At least you got me listening to Dark Side again. It's been a while.
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From:gaal
Date:June 13th, 2003 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Have you tried Grossman?
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From:unfilthy
Date:June 13th, 2003 05:04 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I have a couple of Grossman books, but frankly I find it hard to connect to most Israeli literature.
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From:gaal
Date:June 13th, 2003 05:31 pm (UTC)
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So do I.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:June 14th, 2003 04:18 am (UTC)
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What do you know about The New Aropolis? My brother-in-law is very active with those guys, and I could never figure out what's it all about.
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From:ijon
Date:June 19th, 2003 10:27 am (UTC)
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Not very much. They purport to teach some sort of integrated introduction to occidental mysticism and philosophy, and they offer free trial meetings. I've never attended one, though. The first year is basic stuff, but the "advanced" courses reek of hermeticism, and they are reluctant to describe their curricula. I lack information to form a conclusive opinion, but from the outside, I'd file them under 'Harmless new-age that's less vapid than other flavors'.

If you want more reliable details, ask cinamon, who's had more contact with them than I.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:June 19th, 2003 12:09 pm (UTC)
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You never fail to send me running to the dictionary :) Thanks, man. And yes, they've got this "you're not ready to understand yet" thing going.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 11th, 2003 09:51 am (UTC)

New Acropolis

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Regarding New Acropolis, I suggest you read this:

www.kelebekler.com/cesnur/txt/liv-gb.htm

Miguel Martinez
Italy
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