Category Archives: Totah

divine birthers II

parshat Hayei Sarah

Picking up where divine birthers I left off, the death of Sarah is the final separation of Isaac’s natural mother from the divinely born and re-born Isaac.  “The final denial of Sarah’s role in Isaac’s birth comes after the sacrifice of Isaac.  Prior to Isaac’s symbolic ‘divine birth’ [at the Akedah] Sarah dies, emphasizing that she had no part in the transformation which can be seen as a symbolic ‘divine birth’ (as Isaac is symbolically sacrificed).” [Kunin p 97]

We have explored in the previous post, the major elements in the structure of the divine birth of biblical leaders. While Isaac provides the clearest example of a miraculous/divine birth to a barren mother and impotent father, and re-birth/resurrection at the hand of God (the akedah/sacrifice of Isaac), Isaac is not an isolated case.  Once we recognize the structural elements of divine birth, it is easy to see how important it was for Isaac’s son; Jacob to be separated (exiled) from his parents and to die and be re-born (see story of angels going up to heaven = death, and coming down = re-birth Kunin p 119-20) and struggle and die and be reborn and re-named again (see story of death struggle with angel and new name ‘Israel” Kunin p 129).  Once one recognizes the pattern one comes to expect that biblical leaders are never the first born, are born to barren mothers, rejected and abused by their community, struggle and consigned to symbolic death and reborn.

What is key, is that divine birth in the bible is not an isolated or unique incident.  There is not one single divine birth.  In fact, it is not a stretch to say that, to a degree, every human has an element of divine birth.  Thus the rabbinic notion that everyone has three parents… Our Rabbis taught: there are three partners in every person, the Holy One Blessed be He, the father and the mother. (Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 30b)

It was only later, after the destruction of the First Temple and with the emergence of the idea of a single savior, that the structure of the ‘divine birth’ became identified with a single, unique individual and a unique eschatological moment in history.  It was only later that the emphasis on divine birth became the miraculous as opposed to the not-natural.

Daniel Boyarin, in his best seller; The Jewish Gospels; The Story of the Jewish Christ, shows how many concepts, previously thought to have been innovations of Christianity, actually have clear antecedents in Judaism.

According to Boyarin (who follows Leo Baeck), divine birth as a prerequisite for a redeemer of Israel appears first in the post exilic book of Daniel 7

13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.


Boyarin writes: “At a certain point these traditions became merged in Jewish minds with the expectation of a return of a Davidic king, and the idea of a divine-human Messiah was born. This figure was then named “Son of Man,” alluding to his origins in the divine figure named “one like a Son of Man/a human being” in Daniel. In other words, a simile, a God who looks like a human being (literally Son of Man) has become the name for that God, who is now called “Son of Man,” a reference to his human-appearing divinity.

So just as the ‘Sacrifice of Isaac” actually refers to the survival and re-birth of Isaac… the ‘not-sacrifice of Isaac’, so too the reference to the awaited messiah as the son of man was actually a tag for he who was divine and only ‘like’ a son of man… the ‘not-son-of-man’.

Earlier references to God giving birth to a King did not originally have any hints of incarnation of the deity as king, but were taken as a sign of intimacy: “I will be to you as a father, and you will be to me as a son.” (Boyarin pp 28-29), but once the “one like a Son of Man” concept emerged, along with the messianic king, it changed the way these references were read by pre-Christian Jews.

For instance in Psalm 2: 6-7

6 ‘Truly it is I that have established My king upon Zion, My holy mountain.’
7 I will tell of the decree: the LORD said unto me: ‘Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee.

The next element of this singular divine human was that his suffering would bring redemption.  Here Boyarin draws on the famous suffering servant of God found in Isaiah 53

3 He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed.
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him by disease; to see if his soul would offer itself an offering, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and that the purpose of the LORD might prosper by his hand:

Boyarin writes: “I cannot overstate the extent to which the interpretation of this passage has anchored the conventional view of Judaism’s relationship to Messianism. It has been generally assumed by modern folks that Jews have always given the passage a metaphorical reading, understanding the suffering servant to refer to the People of Israel, and that it was the Christians who changed and distorted its meaning to make it refer to Jesus. Quite to the contrary, we now know that many Jewish authorities, maybe even most, until nearly the modern period have read Isaiah 53 as being about the Messiah; until the last few centuries, the allegorical reading was a minority position. (Boyarin p 152)

By showing that the concepts of a divine birth, suffering and sacrifice of a redeemer are found in Judaism prior to Jesus and before the advent of Christianity, Boyarin is out to make an important point about Christianity:

“the Christ was not invented to explain Jesus’ life and death. Versions of this narrative, the Son of Man story (the story that is later named Christology), were widespread among Jews before the advent of Jesus; Jesus entered into a role that existed prior to his birth, and this is why so many Jews were prepared to accept him as the Christ, as the Messiah, Son of Man. This way of looking at things is quite opposite to a scholarly tradition that assumes that Jesus came first and that Christology was created after the fact in order to explain his amazing career. The job description—Required: one Christ, will be divine, will be called Son of Man, will be sovereign and savior of the Jews and the world—was there already and Jesus fit (or did not according to other Jews) the bill. The job description was not a put-up job tailored to fit Jesus!” (Boyarin p 73)

“the New Testament is much more deeply embedded within Second Temple Jewish life and thought than many have imagined, even—and this I emphasize again—in the very moments that we take to be most characteristically Christian as opposed to Jewish: the notion of a dual godhead with a Father and a Son, the notion of a Redeemer who himself will be both God and man, and the notion that this Redeemer would suffer and die as part of the salvational process. At least some of these ideas, the Father/Son godhead and the suffering savior, have deep roots in the Hebrew Bible as well and may be among some of the most ancient ideas about God and the world that the Israelite people ever held.” Boyarin p 157-8)

I would add to Boyarin that not only does Christianity draw many of its core theological concepts from prior Biblical traditions, but in so doing, Christianity becomes a receptacle and valuable resource for Biblical students to uncover those concepts which may have been suppressed, repressed, fallen into misfavor, or just forgotten.

It seems to me that divine birth as it appears in Genesis is one such core concept that has been eclipsed.  The fact that latter Jewish messianists and Christians modified it to refer to a singular individual and put the emphasis on the redemptive and supernatural (magical) divine powers of this not-son-of-man, should not dissuade us from uncovering the original function and meaning of divine birth.

It seems to me, that the divine birth revealed in Genesis emphasizes, not so much the divine nature of the biblical leader, but rather a disruption with the constraints of his natural birth.

The divinely born breaks free from the ties to his place of birth and his parents.  The divinely born does not benefit from the natural birth order and primogeniture… he breaks down a culture of entitlement and ‘natural’ hierarchy of class.  The divinely born succeeds through the sweat of his brow, overcomes rejection and suffering, and finally, the divinely born believes that he can be re-born, that nothing is impossible and nothing, not even his persona (name), and least of all, his destiny, can not be changed.  The divine birth I find in Genesis introduces a covenant with God (cut between the pieces) which is a rejection of natural law (and natural birth) and embraces culture, learning, and other human/divine conventions where change, sanctioned by the divine is possible and blessed.  Divine birth presupposes a covenant with the divine which transcends any contract or deal with the powers that be.  Divine birth presupposes a divine covenant which breaks with the accepted political structure… it speaks truth to power.  Divine birth was and is a true gift of the Jews.

Chagall's Jesus

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, divine birth, immaculate conception, Israel, Jewish jesus, Judaism, Religion, resurrection, social commentary, Torah, Totah

divine birthers I

Parshat Vayera

In The Front, a movie about the McCarthy era, Woody Allen’s character is asked if he knows a suspected communist. Allen at his whiny – nebishy best tries to dodge the question …
“When you say “know,” can you ever really know a person?”
“Would you say I know him? Can you know…? “
and finishes with my favorite quote from the movie:

“In a biblical sense, know him?”

Allen is of course referring to Carnal Knowledge.

With the conception of Isaac… I have a similar question.   Genesis 21: 1

1 And the LORD remembered Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken.

The word for “remembered” (Hebrew “pakad”) is a euphemism for having marital connection with… (see Jastrow Dictionary p1206) and see Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 62b]:

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: Whosoever knows his wife to be a God-fearing woman and does not duly visit her (in a conjugal sense – pakad) is called a sinner; for it is said:

And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt miss nothing.  Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth. (Job 5:24-25)

“Rabbi Joshua ben Levi further stated: “It is a man’s duty to pay a (conjugal) visit to his wife before he departs on a journey; for it is said: “And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt miss nothing.”

Admittedly, Pakad can also mean: to remember, to command, to record as well as refer to a neighborly visit, but even when used with a G-Rating, the Rabbis were not shy from interjecting a little sexual innuendo to the meaning of Pakad.

These are the accounts of the tabernacle, even the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moses, (Exodus 38:21)

These are the records (pikudei) of the Tabernacle: You find that when Israel was in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed that the men must not sleep in their homes, so that they would not engage in sexual relations with their wives. Rabbi Shimon bar Halafta said: What did the daughters of Israel do? They went down to draw water from the Nile and God would bring little fish into their buckets. They cooked some fish and sold the rest, buying wine with the proceeds. Then they went out to the fields and fed their husbands. After eating and drinking, the women would take bronze mirrors and look at them with their husbands. The wife would say “I’m prettier than you,” and the husband would reply, “I’m more beautiful than you.” Thus they would arouse themselves to desire and they would then “be fruitful and multiply,” and God took note of them (pakad) immediately. Some of our sages said, They bore two children at a time, others said, six and others said twelve, and still others said six hundred thousand…and all these numbers from those mirrors….And all these numbers from mirrors…In the merit of those mirrors which they showed their husbands to accustom them to desire, from the midst of the harsh labor, they raised up all the hosts, as it is said, “All the hosts of God went out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:41) and it is said, “God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt in their hosts” (12:51). –Midrash Tanchuma; Pikudei 9

So according to the Rabbis of the Midrash, that which God remembered (pakad) were the conjugal visits (pekudai) of the women of Israel.

So my question is: When God “visited” Sarah… was it in the biblical sense… was it a visit of the conjugal variety?  Or to put it slightly differently… what is the nature of Divine Birth in our tradition?

In a previous blog post (Prince William Chose Well) I explored incest in the Biblical tradition.  I’d like to continue that exploration, this time, with an emphasis on divine birth.

The belief in a divine child is the core of the Jesus myth and we Jews like to think that it is totally alien to Judaism, but the truth is that not only was the child of god fairly common in ancient lore as anyone familiar with the Bible will recognize, the barren matriarch is a common Biblical theme, followed by a miraculous birth. Since any miraculous birth is by definition a divine birth we have to admit that the notion of a son of God is hardly unique to Christianity.  My follow-up question is how divine birth as an idea, developed differently in Judaism.

In a book that I referenced in my previous blog, and subsequently purchased;  (The Logic of Incest: A Structuralist Analysis of Hebrew Mythology 1995 by Seth Daniel Kunin, the author defines “‘Divine birth’  to mean a transformation whereby the individual is changed from being a product of natural (human) descent to one of divine descent. Although in many of the cases of ‘divine birth’ no actual birth takes place, the term birth is used because the texts often highlight the transformation with a denial of human or natural birth, they also often include elements associated with birth, that is, renaming and words meaning birth.  These texts also often include rituals or events similar to rites of passage.”… “All of the ‘divine birth’ texts also include a denial of human fertility.” [Kunin notes 1 to page 63 and 64]

Isaac’s mother is a woman of 90 and barren. Her husband, Abraham at 99, is no youngster. Miraculously Sarah gives birth… Unlike similar stories of miraculous births in both the Old and New Testaments, in the case of the conception of Isaac, both natural father and mother are barren.  They are divinely re-born and given new names Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.  In addition, Abraham enters into a covenant ‘between the pieces’ where “Abraham is asked to make a bloody pathway consisting of progressively smaller animals… the passage through the bloody path can be interpreted as a symbolic birth or new beginning” [Kunin page 73] … a birth canal.

Even when Isaac is born, Abraham (his natural father) is asked to distance, disconnect himself from his natural son by sacrificing him where (according to at least one Midrashic account) he is actually slaughtered and then re-born (resurrected) by God.

In Pirke deRabbi Eliezer we find a clear reference to the death and (divine) re-birth of Isaac at the Akeda.  “Towards the end of the texts discussing Gen. 22 it states, ‘When the sword touched Isaac’s throat, terrified, his soul fled.  Immediately (God’s) his voice was heard from between the angels, and he said “do not lay your hand on the boy”, thereupon his soul was returned to his body… And Isaac knew of the resurrection of the dead from the Torah, that all the dead are destined to be resurrected’ [Kunin page 229]

The death of Isaac (or the symbolic death of Isaac) is necessary in order to enable him to be symbolically transformed.  The element of transformation or birth (the reverse of the sacrifice) is the structural center of the text, and, with the progressive denial of his physical parent, his spiritual parent comes to the fore.  In Gen. 21: 1 (quoted at the start) the text suggests that God played an important role in Isaac’s birth: ‘the Lord did to Sarah as he had spoken.  This creates the possibility that God was the parent rather than Abraham. [Kunin page 97]

But leaders born of Divine birth not only die and get re-born, they also suffer.  Similar to other prophets (e.g. Hannah to Samuel as in Samuel I 2: 21) and rulers/saviors (c.f. David as illegitimate), Isaac’s birth is ridiculed by the neighbors and his parentage is questioned and a subject of gossip.

Yalkut Shemone 93 tells that Abraham gave a feast to celebrate Isaac’s birth.  All the people were telling each other that Abraham and Sarah could not have been the parents, and that they must have picked Isaac up in the market.  God puts a stop to this by making Sarah’s breasts overflow with milk to feed all the children present, yet they still talked of Abraham and Sarah’s age.  So God made Isaac look exactly like Abraham so all could see that he was the father. [Kunin p.244]

As mentioned previously, the emphasis on both a barren mother and a impotent father make the Isaac story unique and worthy of Isaac’s paradigmatic position as the first JFB (Jew From Birth).

So Isaac and all subsequent leaders of the people of Israel has a divine birth that separates him from his natural parents, he is belittled, possibly persecuted, delegitemized and suffers and ultimately  is killed as a burnt offering/atonement sacrifice only to be re-born at the hand of God (or his angels).

Kunin is to be complimented for the way he connects the symbolic structure of Isaacs’s birth to that of Abram, Sarai, Jacob and Joseph as well as Cain and Abel.  (read the book…..)  In so doing he reveals other patterns such as a rejection of the natural order of primogeniture, in which the elder is greater as opposed to the divine concept of choseness and covenant.

Israel is descended from people chosen by God rather than entitled by nature.  This element is found throughout the text: Seth is Adam’s third son, Shem is Noah’s third son, Isaac is Abraham’s second son, and Moses is also a second son.  This aspect of chosen descent is part of the logic by which Israel is distinguished from the nations…. [Kunin p 106]

Similarly, the biblical narrative favors the farmer and nomadic gatherer (Jacob – dweller in tents) over the hunter (Ishamael and Esau) and the city-dweller (Lot and Sodom) .  Not that at the time the Bible was edited, or ever, were the Israelites really nomads, but from an aspirational perspective nature = entitlement = status and stasis – structure – natural law and divine = choseness = covenant = rebirth – reboot – artifice – culture.

In using divine as the opposite of ‘nature’ or, as discussed above, ‘natural birth’, there is also an association of divine with culture.  The opposition suggested here is that the myth creates a dichotomy in which the other nations and their cultures are associated with nature and natural birth, while Israel and its culture is associated with culture and divine.  Israelite myth, as a handmaiden of Israelite culture, validates Israelite culture as divine. [Kunin p. 117]

In my next post, we’ll explore how divine birth plays out in Christianity, how Christianity and Judaism exploited the same logical structure in different ways… and our debt to Christianity for preserving the structure of divine birth, sacrifice and resurrections so that we could rediscover in our earliest myths……


Filed under Bible, divine birth, immaculate conception, Judaism, Religion, resurrection, Torah, Totah

walking without pretext

parshat lech lecha

In his book, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, by Thomas Cahill the concept of pilgrimage does not appear.  I am surprised, because pilgrimage is seminal to the Jewish narrative and calendar.  Three times a year Jews made the trek up to Jerusalem on their major festivals called Regalim (foot festivals).  The very word for festival; Hag comes from the same Semitic root as the Arabic Hajj which means  pilgrimage and is the core of a Muslim’s life.  Many of us were introduced to English literature with a reading of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, which is about pilgrims on the way to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral… telling tales.  Every Christian and Muslim understood the obligation of pilgrimage as a core component of a life well lived.

Pilgrimage does not rate as a gift of the Jews, because pilgrimage has disappeared from mainstream Judaism and our collective culture. [UJA Missions, Birthright and tourist trips don’t count… too much baggage, pre-arranged accommodations, supervision/guidance and too little walking]

It may be, that we Jews lost our taste for pilgrimage when it was adopted by competing religions.  Certainly the fact that so many Jews were slaughtered during the Crusades would not have endeared them to this variant of active vacation.  The anti-Semitism associated with pilgrimage kinda takes the bounce out of your step. The triennial pilgrimage may have also fallen into disuse after the destruction of the Temple and associated exile.  A pilgrimage is a trip away from home, the yearning for a return to Zion and aliyah is a return home.  Pilgrims buy a return ticket.

In a book that I just finished  and will quote more extensively below, the author Gideon Lewis-Kraus suggests that Jews for the most part don’t do pilgrimage: “because pilgrimage has largely been for sedentary people, so the Jews of the Diaspora didn’t have much use for it. The last thing they needed was yet another reason to keep moving.”

It seems to me, that we lose if we ignore pilgrimage… the institution, the tradition, the narrative and most of all the state-of-mind. … and it all started with Abraham in Genesis 12.

1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.

This is usually translated as “Get thee out (from your country and your birthplace and your father’s house. . . .)” But it literally means, “Go to yourself.” Rashi, understands lech lecha to mean: “go for yourself”. Lecha, he explains, means “for your benefit and for your good”. The Siftei Chachamim writes that lecha actually means li’retzoncha, according to your desire or will. According to the Pri Ha’aretz, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk  “Go to find your true self. Go to develop yourself to its utmost. Go where? To the land that I will show you. To the place of the origin of Man’s body and soul.”

I am particularly intrigued with the concept of pilgrimage, because of Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s book; A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful.  Kraus; a secular Jewish writer in his early 30’s living a bohemian life with other expats in Berlin decides on a lark one early morning at a bar to go on a 500 mile Christian pilgrimage to the El Camino de Santiago. He becomes addicted to pilgriming and on completion of the Camino, does The Shikoku; a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) on the island of Shikoku, Japan.  His third and last pilgrimage is to Uman where he joins Hasidim (and his estranged gay-Rabbi father )  to visit the Beslever Rebbe’s grave.

In his irreverent, sometimes hilarious and always thought provoking musings, he struggles to find the essence of pilgrimage and, to my mind, reveals what we may be missing.  Here are some excerpts that try to provide a pretext for taking a pilgrimage…

“There are a lot of reasons, and that’s part of what this book is about, figuring out what it means to want to make a pilgrimage, and then what it feels like to be on it, and what it does and doesn’t do to your life afterward, but it all has something to do with leaving your home, leaving comfort and responsibility behind, and putting yourself and your usual desires aside to concentrate on doing this difficult, painful trip that a lot of other people have done for a long time, and to be in the company of other sufferers who are doing it now. While you’re on it, everything feels so simple, even if you’re in pain, and you make these instant friendships based on a shared sense of need and vulnerability, and it’s a sense of need and vulnerability that are beyond explaining— there’s no real need to be able to say why you hurt or why you’re doing it, you just sort of trust that everyone is doing it for some reason or another and that’s enough.” It occurred to me it was strange that I’d brought my father to do exactly that— to explain himself— and what he’d ended up showing me was that these explanations are always evolving. [p 323]

But the thing about this sense of order is that it’s provisional, this sense of coherence that it’s evanescent. This makes it a bounded experiment in the as if, a few weeks of coming to terms with difficulty and disappointment— and cost— in terms of their necessary existence. It’s a vacation to a land where life has meaning— the meaning of moving forward, of getting to Santiago— and things, in the broadest sense of the term, make sense, in the broadest sense of the term. Its fixed points allow you to deal with the fact that everyone is in motion. It’s so easy to feel this way on the road because it’s provisional. This is its strength and its limitation. It is to be used and discarded. Its remove from the past, from conflict, from real life affords you the chance to form relationships with wonderful people from whom you expect nothing, whom you begrudge nothing, whom you owe nothing, people who haven’t ever had the chance to hurt you, and probably won’t, and if they do or you do you just walk away, you stay in motion. The stakes of communitas are low because everything is taking place in the present. The grace comes easy. And the sense of coherence that seemed so vital and inalienable while you were on the Camino, the sense that you’re simply spending your hours the way you’re spending them and, for the moment, not worrying too much about the costs, disperses into the air like incense the moment you’re no longer on the way. But a life cannot be lived, at least by most people, walking up and down the Camino, or walking the circuit of Shikoku until death. The real trick, then, is to find some way to recall these feelings of grace and coherence and meaning and forgiveness— for what we gain with this coherence is the ability to forgive, ourselves and others— when the as if has run its course, when Santiago is achieved and you are returned to a world where all is conflict and nothing makes itself plain to us, where there is no hope for miraculous intercession and the people you love most will hurt and disappoint you and you, in turn, will hurt and disappoint them. Where the ground is shifting and we rarely know where we stand. …. If you’re able to believe that there is a God and that God acts in the world, if it has never occurred to you that this makes theodicy a problem, if you have that true gift that is faith, you ought to count yourself inordinately blessed. For the rest of us, there is one Camino or another, and then, perhaps more important, there is the memory of that Camino. These are brief encounters with radical acceptance that we do our best to secretly save up in our hearts. [p 327]

The neutral word “pretext”— as opposed to the loaded words “reason” and “excuse”— suspends, for the moment, the question of moral responsibility, and makes way for the final fact that, as Wittgenstein says, we just do what we do. We’re all going to find pretexts for doing what we’re going to do anyway, for having our adventures and doing our demmij along a road in northern Spain, or in a broken-into temple in rural western Japan. There is no such thing as the life we deserve, just like there is no such thing as a prophylactic against regret. There is the life we live. There is the series of crises we do our best to muddle through. No sacrifice now will make the future effortless or the pain we will inevitably cause easier for others to forgive. The thing that can be so hard about my dad’s life, about anyone’s life, is that he caused so much pain and is somehow happy now. He is happy and has come to tell a story in which the pain he caused was worth it. But we all do our best, and we hurt some people and get hurt by others and what’s as terrible as it is wonderful is that we endure, we endure and find ways of looking back and, if we are able to manage the trick of perspective, if we are able to hold on to our memories of Santiago, we find a way for it to have made sense. [p 332]

These conversations always make me think of a line in Wittgenstein where he’s talking about the chain of reasons we give for doing something. If you ask someone “Why?” enough times— if every time they provide a “Because…” you respond with another “But why?”— they get to a point where no further account is available, where they are doing something that seems to them self-evidently worthwhile. You must then simply say, “I have hit bedrock. My spade is turned [i.e., turned back on itself, can dig no more]. This is what I do.”
People say, “I’m doing this because I’m in pain.” But the more I heard that, the less sense it made: the causal connection isn’t at all obvious. Nobody can say why this experience, rather than, say, a spa trip, or marathon training, ought to provide solace. I think Wittgenstein points in the direction of an answer. There’s something satisfying about having to throw our hands up, acknowledge our final inscrutability to ourselves. It’s a relief that there’s only so far we can take an explanation, and a comfort to be thrown back upon the nontrivial fact that we have preferences— preferences— that custom and idiosyncrasy and accident have given us the desire to do something instead of some other thing, or instead of nothing. It short-circuits the usual chain of accounting and gets right to the part where you have to shrug and say, “This is what I do.”  [p 223]

Sounds like lech lecha to me……

El Camino de Santiago


Filed under Bible, Judaism, Pilgrimage, Religion, social commentary, Torah, Totah, travel