Home » David Werdiger, Religion and Jewish Thought

Going, Going, Gone!

September 21, 2009 – 5:26 pm35 Comments

auctionBy David Werdiger

Five hundred dollars, tzum ersheten mohl!

Five hundred dollars, tzum tzveiten mohl!

Five hundred dollars, tzum dritten mohl!

And with an emphatic klap on the bimah for effect, the auction is over.

This was not Phillip Kingston standing in front of another Caulfield property; this was me auctioning the kibbudim for Rosh Hashana. For as long as I can remember, our Shul has auctioned the privilege to perform certain parts of the service during the High Holyday period. For many years, it would happen in the middle of the service itself on each day – a kind of light interlude between the Shacharit service and the Torah reading. People complained that it was an inappropriate disruption to the solemnity of the day, so for a time, it moved to a special segment on Saturday evening before the first Selichot (most often the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana). But for some reason, people were reluctant to show up at 11pm just to partake in an auction. So now we break it up into a few different segments, on each Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Some Shuls auction the aliyot (the privilege of being called to the Torah) on every Shabbat; most only do it on special occasions; some not at all.

I’ve been doing the auctions at my Shul for several years, in both the main minyan and the Kollel. Each year, there are about seven or eight sessions, auctioning well over 150 items, including a wild, drunken one on SImchat Torah.

Why do we do this? Well, for many shuls, it’s an important fundraiser.

It mostly comes down to the notion of segulot (a very difficult word to translate – I saw “spiritual remedy” somewhere) associated with performing certain ritual acts. Some examples are opening the ark to take out the Torah so your pregnant wife should have an easy birth; and prayer after lighting Shabbat candles as an auspicious time for asking things of God. Whether some of these acts are superstitions, or have some profound spiritual impact on our lives, no-one truly knows.

During the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur period, when we pray for a good year, acts like these take on a far greater importance. On the first night of Rosh Hashana we eat a variety of symbolic foods. Being called to the Torah on these days is a special merit. Some people find certain parts of the service personally inspirational, for example, opening the ark and standing in front of it for the reading of Unetanneh Tokef. I am especially inspired by the haftorah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashana – the story of Chana and the birth of the prophet Samuel. Would I pay a lazy $1500 for the privilege of reading it for the congregation? That is another matter!

Using an auction to decide who gets what in a shul is unpleasantly commercial and elitist. The more affluent members of the congregation are not always more deserving of honours and merits than others. What happens in many cases is that these honours are purchased for someone else, so for some items, the bidders are competing for the right to buy the maftir reading for the Rabbi. I know some people who buy things and give them out to people who otherwise would never have an opportunity. That sort of thing truly embodies the spirit of the Holydays.

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  • ariel says:

    David, this is a timely topic and I agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly.

    The shule which I attend has deliberate over the years about auctioning the aliyot but continue to come to the same conclusion: that the wealthier members (who also tend to be the 3x a year shule-goers) would win the bid everytime and embarrass those who can’t afford it but who probably deserve the kavod more by virtue of their spiritual contributions to the shule and community.

    But the question remains as to what to do about fundraising.
    At our shule, contrary to the Rabbi’s prefered position, we tend to lein the parasha several times over so as to call up as many people as possible so as to raise as much money as possible. This year the Rabbi put his foot down and said that we could only lein 2 rounds.

    My preference is to have a competition whereby the members who come to shule at least 10 shabbatot (say) a year will be honoured with an aliya…

  • Chaim says:

    I also have to agree. the auctions are discomforting for those of us who can not afford to compete.. In one Shul I went to, I did not get an aliya all year unless I had a child or a chiyuv….

    I also used to notice that other than the rich – this one poor guy in the Shul used to get an aliya every other week – more than most people. I guess he was the token “charity” for the shul.

    Having said that – The shuls need to raise money somehow…

    Last year in Shul – one guy bought Maftir Yonah on Yom Kippur for a tremendous amount. He remained anonymous and donated the aliya to one of the Rabbis from the community who does not get so much attention.

    As for the sugula aspect… Maybe this is why the rich keep on getting richer and the poor poorer…

    Last year I actually bid for a Rosh Hashana aliya knowing that I could not afford it. I really needed to sell my house and the Rabbi I spoke to said it would be a great segula. I sold my house within a month and was able to pay for it…….

    Also a litte known tid-bit. Everyone frowns upon hagba and g’lila. G’lila is usually even given to children. However – these are actually truly one of the highest zchus. “the rolling up”. There is a concept that if you put the final nail in it is as if you completed the whole thing. – (I was trying to find the exact wording and the source but can not remember).

  • inabsentia says:

    This is precisely why Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the gates of the temple.

    And in two thousand years the Children of Israel have still not learnt a thing. One wonders not only if they are worthy of redemption, but even capable of it.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Does anyone care to speculate if “inabsentia” might be Mel Gibson’s dad? :)

  • Chaim,

    It’s a gemorah somewhere – “v’hagolel notel schar kulam” – “the one who rolls [the Torah] takes the reward of all the others [who were previously called up]”. The gemorah then asks if that person actually takes their reward, and rules that rather, his reward/merit is equivalent to the sum of all those who were called up.

    The question is … who exactly is the “golel“? Is it the person who lifts up the Torah and displays it, or the person who rolls it up afterwards? How about the Sefardi-style Torahs in the round cases? And what does this say about the Chabad custom of hagbah where the person who lifts also rolls it up, and the person who does glilah just dresses the Torah?

    As an aside, I reckon hagbah is an excellent segulah for your AFL team winning … consider how similar the hand movement is to signalling a goal! :)

  • frosh says:

    Hi Sadduce,

    We’ll run an investigation when time permits, and possibly publish an estimate of the probablility that Inabsentia is Hutton Gibson :-)

  • inabsentia says:

    It is amusing that one who quotes from the story of the world’s most famous Jewish person will be accused of being a gross antisemite. I had believed that contributors to this site were more open minded than that.

    The point was that the idea of moneychanging at the temple, or in this instance, auctioning kibbudim in a shule, is so obviously idolatrous and wrong, yet both the Jews of that time and of now will resort to the most absurd logic to justify it.

    I would dare say that the entire chassidic notion of segulahs is completely idolatrous, but again, those devoted to those branches have blinkers around their own beliefs. Their is a rigind dogma that judaism in all of its form is monotheist, despite the prevalence of dubious practices and beliefs, especially within the kabbalistic and chassidic systems. Prayer at gravesites, belief in angels, belief in the sitrah d’acha and of course the messianic practices that cannot be named without attracting a deluge of ignorant and blinkered criticism are all fundamentally idolatrous practices justified solely on the basis that there is some mekor for them.

    To argue that the system of the auctioning is fair because the wealthy donate their prizes to the poor is also utterly ridiculous. Since you accept in principle that it is the wealthy who should be able to determine the allocation in the first place, it becomes irrelevant what they do with their spoils since the system recognizes their prerogative to apportion them.

    It is one of the great shames of Jewish history that the greatest son of that nation has been so utterly blackballed by his own people that even the mention of his name invokes fearful cries of antisemitism.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Maybe I was wrong, perhaps it is not Mel Gibson’s dad – its Bishop Richard Williamson instead?

  • inabsentia says:

    Sadducee – i have followed your comments. You are an individual of great care and thought. These grotesque accusations are beneath you and do not do yourself the justice that your thoughts and opinions so usually deserve.

  • inabsentia,

    Of course Jesus is blackballed – he left the faith and started another religion! Is Jason Ackermanis a favourite son of the Western Bulldogs?

    Do we even know that the moneychangers at the temple in the time of Jesus were corrupt? They were providing an essential trade function to visitors. Do we know what currency spreads they operated with? Was there evidence of collusion or breaches of fair trading?

    On what basis do you say that segulahs, prayer at gravesites etc are idolatrous? Because you don’t believe there’s anything outside of the physical world we live in? Others have every right to believe differently.

    To your core issue: all not-for-profits raise funds from the wealthy, and often honour them in some way (names on buildings, honourary doctorates, aliyot), even though it’s only because they wrote a cheque. If you can think of better way to do this and still ensure the continuity of shuls, churches, hospitals, universities etc, then put it forward.

  • TheSadducee says:

    inabsentia

    Ok – serious time – I apologise for having some fun at your expense.

    However, I personally find it troubling and offensive when someone comes online, to a forum aimed at Jewish interests and starts speculating about whether Jewry are capable of redemption or not.

    Who are you to make that sort of judgement and from where do you derive your conclusions?

  • Chaim says:

    David – Thanks.

    As I understand it, because Hagba in Chabad also rolls it, he fulfills it.

    inabsentia: IN Chassidus and Kabbala, we do not believe that the Sitra Achra has any indepedent power. It only appears to us that way in order to give us the power of free choice. Bilaam himself said say: “I cannot violate the Word of G‑d”

    Read Tanya chapter 24.

    http://www.jewishcontent.org/cgi-bin/lessons.cgi?date=08022009&d1=1&Center=y&Java=y

    Your other comments are too, just silly and don’t deserve discussion. Yes the mention of Yoshka should invoke fears of anti-semitism. Just look at history.

  • inabsentia says:

    Oh you are all alot of fun. One mention of Jesus has you all in a spin. I can barely wait until an opportunity to criticise Rav Schneerson presents itself. That should have most of this crowd apoplectic.

    But lets see if we can’t deal with this like adults.

    Let’s begin with the comments of the esteemed author of this piece. The idea that Jesus began his own religion is patently absurd. There is almost no shred of actual evidence that he either started a religion or declared himself the messiah or the son of God (rachmana litzlan). The religion of Christianity was begun by his disciples and does not seem to have become more than another sect of Judaism until quite some time after his death.

    My point regarding Jesus might be put as follows. Of all the eminent figures of the Rabbinic period, none has influenced the course of human history more so than Jesus. A close reading of the sayings attributed to him and not to his disciples reveals that he was a peerless master of the mashal and a genuine advocate for the poor and downtrodden. Moreover, the New Testament goes to great lengths to assure the readers that Jesus never once advocated abandoning the halacha. The essence of his ethos can be found in the sayings of Hillel and littered throughout the Perek HaShalom among others.

    For two thousand years the Jewish people have refused to even glance at the contribution made by Jesus. And with good reason. the Christians were not tradtionally the greatest friends of the Jewish people. However, it is now 2009. The time to hide behind anachronostic biases is long past and a reappraisal of the contribution of Jesus must be made. More so than the Hillel and Shamai, then Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, dare I say even more so than the esteemed Rav Schneerson himself, the teachings of Jesus have done more to influence mankind, and more to spread the ideas of monotheism and the Torah throughout the world than any other. Jesus was a Jew and it is time for his own people to welcome him back into the fold.

    As for the money changers. The function they performed was in changing Roman coins which contained idolatrous images of Roman emperors, to Jewish coins which were theologically neutral. All good and proper under the conventions of the halacha. The point was that Jesus saw through this shabby deception. He could see that halachic loopholes and creative decisions were being used to excuse every kind of licentious behaviour possible. The halachik system was being appropraited to allow people to truly be navalim b’rshut hatorah. The money changers were using people’s superstitions and beliefs to turn a tidy profit. Jesus on the other hand saw the House of God as being a sacred place, one that should have been above such craven indulgences to Mammon.

    Is there a better system for non-profits to finance themselves than by prostrating themselves before the wealthy? Perhaps not. But an auction is clearly a form that finds favour with Mammon, bringing out egotism, competition, one-upsmanship, keeping up with the jonesism and countless other base emotions. To accept the reality of fundraising is one thing, but to bring a grubby little auction into a Mikdash Me’at is something else entirely.

    As for my gripes with segulahs – to criticise backward and anachronistic superstitious behaviour is not to deny the existence of the spiritual. Practitoners of Judaism should be striving towards genuine spiritual moments, not indulging in bone-pointing and the left overs of our pagan past. Never forget, it was the Haggadah itself that asserted – from the beginning our forefathers were idol worshippers. Dont be so naive to think that we have expunged those practices entirely. We simply dress them up in different names. The yetzer hara will never declare himself to be the yetzer hara – he will insist until his dying moments that he is the yetzer hatov.

    Sadducee – the Rabbis themselves claimed that only a fifth of the Israelites in Egypt were worthy of redemption. The rest perished. For those of us who believe that redemption is a genuine historical reality, as opposed to a child’s bedtime story, then asking the questions of what constitutes worthiness of redemption is perhaps the greatest service one can render to the Jewish people. Just because scripture assures eventual redemption, doesn’t mean it assures it for anyone personally. And moreover, if one cannot question the moral stature of the Nation using the redemptive lexicon then you are no better than the mobs who stoned the prophets to death for daring to disabuse the Jewish people of the notion that God would not punish them. Redemption is not assured to anyone Sadducee, not even to you.

    And as for Chaim, well it would do you well to expand your knowledge of Chassidus and Kaballah beyond one single text. And while I would not detract from the greatness of the Alter Rebbe’s writings, the Tanya is not a comprehensive survey of Chassidic and Kabalistic beliefs. Indeed not only is the sitra d’acha a dangerous dualist idea that found its way into the Kabbalah, but more ancient texts speak of the ten negative sephirot presided over by the negative godhead. Kaballah is simply not as kosher as many of us would like it to be.

    I cant respond to your other comments because you do not do me the courtesy of attacking them properly. I will say, however, that as an individual of strong and courageous opinions, you simply let yourself down by both denigrating my opinions as silly and by denigrating Jesus by referring to him in the derogatory colloquilism. You certainly don’t need to use the descriptor Christ when talking about him, that is understandably insensitive, but it simply doesn’t do the Jewish people any credit to refuse to say his name. Remember Lord voldermort. By not naming him, you grant him even more power.

  • Chaim says:

    inabsentia: there is a difference between the Yoshka you think existed as per non-Jewish sources and the one discussed in Jewish sources. It is interesting how you seem to have the “truth” 2000 years later as opposed to much earlier Jewish commentators.

    You scoff at superstition but “Ben Stada who was considered to be a practicer of black magic” “Yeshu {the Notzri} practiced magic and deceive and led Israel astray”

    But you are right, the Nazarenes did keep most Jewish laws after he died until they were mostly killed by the Romans.

    My knowledge is not limited to one text. One text refutes your accusation. Yes there are ancient texts which can be interpreted in many ways. Sound familiar?

    I will give you one thing. Christianity brought the concept of Moshiach to the world and I think plays a role in preparing the world for the real one.

  • inabsentia,

    Quite right – Jesus himself didn’t invent Christianity – that was an off-the-cuff comment. How much influence he had on the process is not clear; he was/is “just” the figurehead. On the one hand, you nominate him as the most influential Jew in history, but also say that it was his disciples who formed the religion. For all we know, he may not have approved of all that was done in his name.

    Christianity is not strictly monotheistic – its notion of the trinity fundamentally incompatible with Judaism (the other major world religion that is truly monotheistic is Islam). So while it might be nice to welcome Jesus back to the fold, it can’t happen without turning Judaism into something different. As regards his teachings and values, such as advocating for the poor, these are not exclusive to Jesus or Christianity. There are no shortage of great Jewish leaders to draw the same or similar values from.

    I’m not sure what evidence you have (other than the gospels) for the level of corruption of the money changers. There certainly was corruption during the time of the second Temple. If people had listened to Jesus and changed their ways, would the destruction been averted? We have no idea. There were prophets who also rebuked the Jews and warned of what could happen if their behaviour continued.

    There are some shuls that have switched to a silent auction, and even one story of Maftir Yonah being sold on e-bay. It might be a better way. On the other hand, the competitive auction stage does inspire some people to give a lot more that they might otherwise.

    Your criticism of segulahs is quite vacuous. Some of the practices may look anachronistic to you, but do you understand the inner meaning and function of them on a spiritual level? What makes them idol worship?

    Kabbalah is complex and multi-faceted. There’s a good reason why it was not meant to be studied until age 40 and with the appropriate foundations in classical texts. I don’t think any proponent of the subject would say the notion of sitra achra points to a duality. Rather, it paints a picture of positive and negative forces in the world and how they interact.

  • Chaim says:

    inabsentia; Maybe you should actually come out clearly with you true beliefs and intentions here if you want to have a discussion like “adults”

  • Inabsentia,

    Stop pretending to be so wounded. If you enter a forum that has Jewish contributors discussing Jewish issues, and declare that Jesus was the greatest of all Jews, that Judaism today is backwards and monolatrous, and that we are incapable of redemption, how do you think that people are going to respond to you? But be that as it may, I would like to criticise what you wrote about Jesus.

    The bottom line is that, aside from possibly being the single most influential human in all of world history, we know absolutely nothing about who he was. The only sources at our disposal are the Gospels and even if we take them literally we are only vouchsafed the smallest of glances at his life. In fact, reading the Gospels as history presents a Jesus whose life was a string of random events and pithy sayings. Who actually was he? What did he believe? What did he think and say and do?

    The incident with the money-changers in the Temple is recorded by all four of the Gospels, although the Gospel according to John has it occurring at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s probably safe to say that it occurred at least once, but it is impossible to suggest how or why. Your nonsense about the Jews changing Roman coins to neutral coins is precisely that. It is far more likely that they were enabling Jews to purchase livestock for the priests to slaughter, and giving them change. You want to know a modern-day equivalent of Jesus’ turning over of the tables? Walk into a cathedral and kick the collection plate out of somebody’s hands. You can shout about Mammon all the way to the street, but none of the Catholics kicking you out will be in the least amused.

    I think that you need to make up your mind how you feel about the New Testament. Loving Jesus is fine (I, myself, find many of the sayings that are attributed to him wise, fine and very uplifting), but you need to either accept Christianity or take the teachings of Jesus with a pinch of salt. That is to say, Jesus may have died a religious Jew but the authors of the Gospels were sectarians who drove a universalist agenda. You cannot possibly come to Jesus except through the Gospels, so you need to decide whether or not that is what you wish to do. Pretending that we can all ignore Christianity but still embrace Jesus as one of our own: that, Inabsentia, is disingenuous.

  • inabsentia says:

    Oh Chaim,

    Your naivete is adorable. I can’t really engage in argument with you because we exist in two so vastly different worlds. I would not advise you to change, but just be aware that crouching within the safety of your texts means that you will never be able to increase your knowledge beyond certain boundaries. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just is.

    David,

    Quite right I believe, Jesus almost certainly would not have approved of the dubiously monotheistic religion started in his name. Although the foundations of the Trinity is from the Kaballah itself. Christianity has a lack of original ideas.

    As for auctions, I am not criticising them for the amount of money they raise, I am criticising them for what they do to your soul. They are obviously effective money-makers, if they werent this post would never have been written.

    I am not going to argue about segulahs. If you choose to engage in medieval barbarism and call it spirtuality simply because the practices posit the existence of angles, goblins and dead rabbis who can intercede on behalf of the living, well, I can say nothing. As for their true inner workings, well, there are post facto justifications for all sorts of nonsense, it doesnt make any of them true. Using a dead tzaddik to intercede on one’s behalf would come so awfully close to the Rambam’s definition of idolatry that they would almost be kissing each other. And for any student of cultural anthropology, to see how practices like kapparos for one, let alone all the ridiculous notions bound up in receiving aliyos and kibbudim, are in essence derived straight from idolatrous and magical practices is quite straightforward.

    And finally Mr Holloway, at last someone entering this debate who is willing to engage with the ideas on their own terms. Wonderful.

    I am not wounded, merely shocked at the backward ideas and notions of some of the contributors here. It was quite a revelation to me. I shall endeavour not to repeat the mistake a second time. And for the record, I did not accuse Judaism of monolatry, but rather the Kabbalah. If that was not made clear the fault rests with myself.

    However, suggesting that a love of Jesus can only be achieved through the gospels is to play right into the hands of the Christians and miss my point entirely. What I am advocating is that Jewish people should make a critical reappraisal of the life and works of Jesus, independent of Christianity and the acts committed in his name against Jewish people.

    It is my belief that eventually Jesus will take his place within the pantheon of Jewish heroes as the greatest master of the rabbinic era and the true heir to the teachings of the prophets.

    We may not be able to ignore Christianity, but it is quite plain that Jesus was a Jew, whose teachings emerged from within the Jewish tradition. We can claim him as our own and we should.

  • Chaim says:

    Ancient Historians Are Silent About Jesus! John F. Remsburg 1. John E. Remsberg, (The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence, Prometheus Books (October 1, 1994) wrote that at least 41 writers/historians who lived during the time or within a century after the time that Jesus is supposed to have lived were silent about Jesus, his disciples, crucifixion or resurrection.

    Although there is a large amount of written material from the 0-100 CE period there is only one reference to Jesus ‘the Christ’ and that is only a paragraph inserted in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37- 101 CE). Historians have concluded this small general reference to be a forgery since it was only found in later translations of the work and the wording is inconsistent with Josephus original writings. This is especially surprising because Josephus does mention large numbers of minor historical figures. His failure to mention Jesus suggests either that Jesus did not exist or alternately he was not thought important even in a minor role. In a similar way there is no mention of events such as the massacre of the innocents or the natural events which were have meant to have taken place at the alleged crucifixion. Even if one accepts this forged insert, Jesus is only mentioned as a small isolated passing remark. Josephus silence of Jesus’ miracles, crucifixion or resurrections is deafening.

    Aside from FORGED passages there isn’t ANY mention of Jesus ‘the Christ’ anywhere in any non-Christian work in this world ― none at all. There is NOTHING about Jesus’ life or the events in which he was supposedly involved.

  • inabsentia says:

    Good. I agree. now conduct the same survey on the life of Moses.

  • Chaim says:

    My belief in Moses ans his life is based on generations of tradition.

    There is nothing to make me believe in anything about jesus.

  • inabsentia says:

    And hence the absurdity of applying standards of subjective belief to a debate or discussion with someone who does not share the same value construct.

  • Chaim says:

    You are the one trying to convince me of something new outside of my tradition.

    I do not try to convince anyone of belief in Moses except based on tradition being that my ancestors were there.. This is not “subjective”

    I too do not try and convince anyone of creation as nobody was there.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I must take up some of the points that “inabsentia” has brought up:

    “A close reading of the sayings attributed to him and not to his disciples reveals…”

    – we feel inclined to ask you how you have determined this? What criteria have you used (which has eluded Christian scholarship btw) which permits you to make the judgement of what is authentic or not?

    “There is almost no shred of actual evidence that he either started a religion or declared himself the messiah or the son of God…”

    -well aside from Mark 14 which explicitly states that Jesus admits that he is the Christ/Messiah.

    “Moreover, the New Testament goes to great lengths to assure the readers that Jesus never once advocated abandoning the halacha.”

    -again, aside from Mark 7 which springs to mind with regards to unclean foods.

    I wont address your points about money changing in the Temple. Simon has done a good enough job of that. I would add that your imposing your own judgement of the situation onto Jesus’ actions
    i.e. you assert, without any evidence aside from the Gospel account that:

    “Jesus saw through this shabby deception. He could see that halachic loopholes and creative decisions were being used to excuse every kind of licentious behaviour possible. The halachik system was being appropraited to allow people to truly be navalim b’rshut hatorah. The money changers were using people’s superstitions and beliefs to turn a tidy profit. Jesus on the other hand saw the House of God as being a sacred place, one that should have been above such craven indulgences to Mammon.”

    “As for auctions, I am not criticising them for the amount of money they raise, I am criticising them for what they do to your soul.”

    -again, I ask you who are you to judge what impact it has on anyone’s soul? how do you know?

    as you seem to like the idea of reclaiming Jesus I would suggest to you that you consider this little pithy saying:

    “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

  • TheSadducee says:

    Oh and I forgot to address this:

    “However, it is now 2009. The time to hide behind anachronostic biases is long past…”

    -noting of course that the largest Christian sect, the Catholics only last year revised their Latin Mass prayer to merely call for Jewish conversion…

  • Inabsentia,

    I am calling your bluff. If you genuinely think that Jesus will one day take his place within the “pantheon” (?) of rabbinic scholars then you either know nothing about rabbinic Judaism or nothing about Jesus. You remind me of Fray Pul, the Jew who converted to Catholicism and who participated in the trial of Nachmanides. He went so far as to insist that the sages of the Talmud even acknowledged the greatness of Jesus themselves, and you don’t need to be Nachmanides to pull that argument apart.

    It is evident to me that you enjoy writing, and you certainly write well. Nonetheless, until you learn how to read, this discussion is a waste of time. You are more concerned with sounding supercilious than you are with actually convincing anybody of anything, so I suspect that you take a moment to formulate your thoughts. If you are unable to disprove my assertion that the only information that we know about Jesus comes from the evangelists, ignoring it and telling me that we should evaluate Jesus independently of their bias is intellectually dishonest. Indeed, I am beginning to suspect that you are not so broadminded as you profess to be, and have a bit of an agenda of your own.

    Who was Jesus to you, aside from the greatest rabbi of all time? The Davidic heir? The anointed king? The heavenly saviour, a la Daniel, who came to us on the clouds of heaven and now sits at the right hand of God? There are no wrong answers to this question, and nobody is going to jump down your throat for believing what you believe. Christianity is a marvelous religion with much to recommend it, but it’s not Judaism and Jews are unlikely to adopt its heroes as their own. The historical Jesus is a nebulous and intangible construct and, while isolating it might be uplifting and worthwhile for you, it is only a very insecure person who insists that others share his passion.

  • inabsentia,

    Re segulahs, if you’d like to get past name-calling we might be able to have a meaningful discussion. Advocacy is very different from idolatory. The generation of Enosh made the original mistake of jumping from one to the other.

    Kaporas is probably the most widely practiced ritual of this nature that remains controversial, and is branded “darkei emori” by some. It certainly does resemble voodoo, yet it also bears similarity to “smicha” done during Temple times on a sacrifice before it is slaughtered.

    The original article was more about aliyot and other kibuddim that are auctioned, rather than the more esoteric segulahs that you are talking about.

  • inabsentia says:

    Im not sure how to respond to the above flurry of activity. I will simply say this:

    My original comment was a criticism of the idea of auctioning the various honours on the High Holidays. I referenced a story from the New Testament in some naivete as to the reaction it would cause. I then further made a comment about the redemptive possibilities of the Jewish people.

    to set the record straight: I do not believe that Jesus was the messiah. He obviously was not. None of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament prophets have yet come true. The world is still quite obviously far from the Messianic state. Nor am I advocating a “belief” in Jesus in the Christian or Jews for Jesus sense.

    What I am saying, or at least what I believe I am saying, is that Jesus is the most influential Jewish person, and quite possibly the most influential human, in the entirety of history. This is not something that can be easily dismissed, and it behooves anyone who is both interested in history and who believes that history is both guided from above and has a teleological structure, a position held by most ideologies of Orthodox Judaism, to examine with as unbiased eyes as possible what the possible meaning of this is.

    It is no coincidence that Jesus was Jewish and that he lived in one of the most historically significant and intellectually fertile periods of Jewish history. It is all the more important because Jesus was quite probably part of the Rabbinic class that established the general framework of Halachic Judaism practiced up until today. It is also no coincidence that the religion started in the name of this Jew would have the most antagonistic and hostile relationship to the Jewish people.

    To dismiss Jesus as a simple apostate who left the fold is to not fully grasp the importance and significance of this man, his teachings and his contribution to history.

    This and this alone is my central point regarding Jesus.

    As for auctions, I stand by what I said. They are corrosive to the soul, they reinforce social hierarchies based on wealth, they spur and encourage the baser emotions of the participants in the auctions and encourage the greed of those holding them. I can find no redeeming quality to them, and I would say that any people who can justify such activities through logic, reason, tradition or anything else, is simply not ready to be a part of the Messianic state.

    To accept the harsh financial realities of this non-Messianic world is one thing. To glorify a ritual to Mammon is quite something else.

    What I find most astonishing is that adherents of Judaism’s most vocal messianic movement of recent years should be so blinded to this inherent paradox within their own belief system. If you can explain how an auction serves to hasten the world to a state of peace and higher spiritual consciousness then you are capable of argumentative feats that I don’t think I would be able to understand.

  • Inabsentia,

    I think that you could have done a better job of introducing your opinion, as your initial sentiment granted the impression that you were coming from a messianic perspective. That said, I’m glad this has been cleared up. I no longer find anything within your comment that is worthy of argument. I may not share your vision of a messianic kingdom, nor even your concern as regards auctions (although I also never felt comfortable with auctions in synagogues myself), but I hear where you are coming from.

    I still disagree with your appraisal of Jesus, as I don’t think that his religion makes him of necessary importance to Jews around the world. He may, indeed, have been a member of the Pharisaic community (one criticises only what one knows best), but the relationship between Pharisaism and Rabbanism is unclear. It is also unclear how many of Jesus’ indictments against the Pharisees would have even been said by him anyway.

    I’m a big fan of the Gospels, as literature, and a big fan of Jesus as a mythologised sage. Like Moses, like the Buddha, and like Mohammad, we only really know what the tradition informs us. I share your interest in the man, but I lack your conviction that religious Jewish communities are ever going to adopt it as well.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I can only second what Simon said – and again, I apologise for my earlier flippancy!

  • Nice to see we are all friends again, and not a moment too soon because YK is on Monday!

    What probably threw us was the messianic focus (particularly directed to the Jews as “they”). When I think about shul auctions (or anything good or bad that we as Jews do), I don’t always explicitly translate that to “will this bring/delay Moshiach?”, rather just in terms of whether it’s good or bad.

  • David Zyngier says:

    I have found your very learned discussions [you guys are really clever and have enjoyed showing others just that!] very interesting but largely irrelevant! We are talking about exchange of money on a Shabbat for Aliyot etc.

    The reason I stopped going to so-called Orthodox synagogues was precisely disgust at the blatant hypocrisy of selling aliyot whether in terms of X times Chai or actually calling out the $$value. I left the Reform synagogue when I was given an envelope with suggested $$$ value after an aliya.

    So I joined Kehillat Nitzan – a Masorti egalitarian (Conservative) Minyan in Melbourne there is NO expectation of monetary contributions for honours of any kind – in fact people are given honours to give Koved to their contributions big or small to the community in the widest possible sense.

  • Chaim says:

    I too am glad that this was hashed out and logically (but not theologically) I agree with Simon. Nothing new about that!

    Unfortunately this is the time when most of the money needed to run a shul is made mainly because of 3X yr Jews. The weekly contributions or even membership (which can be even more difficult for the less fortunate)do not raise enough money.

    We all know the auctions are not good – they create resentment, arrogance etc. I am still waiting for alternatives.

  • Malkmus says:

    I truly think it is just plain wrong to run these auctions and solicit money on such holy days.

    These are days which transcend material things and thoughts about them.

    I appreciate that shuls need to raise money, and that some shuls that run these auctions do not charge for seats, but this sort of fundraising, on the holiest of days, goes against everything that Judaism says about tzedakah, fundraising and holyness. There are other more appropriate ways to raise money.

    To embarass people, to glorify material wealth, to put price tags on these spiritual rituals completely violates the spirit of the day.

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