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Covenant Connection

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Volume 7, Issue 4   August 2012 ... Av 5772


 Freud Would Flip 

 Ferplutzing the Numbers 

 Crazy Numbers 

 The Counter-argument  

 Presbyterian Funeral




 Freud Would Flip

The Higgs boson exists. Freud would flip. What thinking person wouldn’t? For the first time, science, discovering “the God particle” at the CERN particle accelerator in Europe, sees “God’s shadow,” as it were. The Higgs boson reflects a very basic but frequently contested principle of higher consciousness from Sinai: “Everything depends on God.” 

The Higgs boson proves that every particle and atom in this and every universe is connected to an invisible, eternal, omnipresent, completely immaterial but unimaginably powerful “background field.” It makes existence possible. 

Even a great atheist like Freud would be moved by this discovery.

Mention the word “God” today if you want to reduce your credibility. Freud and the other big thinkers of his time helped forge the strong anti-religious spirit, the zeitgeist, of our own age. Most “science-minded” people today believe God, the Creator of all Things, to be made-up, a figment of human thought. Most people in the Western world now are Biblically illiterate; ignorant, they think of the Bible as folklore, like Homer, or the Epic of Gilgamesh.   

“The Jews were the only ones whose sacred Scriptures were held in ever greater veneration as they became better known.” Archbishop J.B. Bossuet (1681)

“In the Old Testament of the Jews, the book of Divine righteousness, there are men, events and words so great that there is nothing in Greek or Indian literature to compare with it.” Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)

Anyone who reads the Bible in any kind of thoughtful way soon responds to its power; the Bible’s greatness, just as a literary work, far surpasses other writing, at least in terms of range and impact, beyond question … the Hebrew Bible is, clearly, by far, unarguably, the human race’s greatest Book. 

The Bible – literally, “The Book,” advertises God’s holiness. Together with the People of Israel, it’s the central “hook” of the Hebrew Revolution. 

Freud in his time had much better reason to reject this Bible than we do today.

The universe was supposed to be eternal then – scientists considered Genesis’ account of Creation, of something out of nothing, mere babble. “Quantum mechanics” and “dark matter” weren’t even words to Freud’s colleagues; their world had no place for God, so they thought: they assumed that “Providence “ could not shape events because physics was all simple clock-work. Their Ultimate Reality was a place lacking anything for God to do. 

Most “science-minded” people of their time, based on Darwin and geology, heartily rejected the “Biblical literalists” claim that God created the Universe in six 24-hour days. (That the “literalist” claim is a mere childish mischaracterization of the Genesis story, a reductio ad absurdum of a wonderfully deep and careful text, hardly occurred to them.)

Freud would flip if he knew that science would validate the great Torah principle that God’s Creation came out of nothing, “the Big Bang” concept of Creation.  

Imagine if Freud knew about “the Adam gene” – recent proof that an “Adam gene,” having something to do with enabling the brain to process language and symbols, thus permitting universal literacy, suddenly popped up in the human genome about 58 centuries ago. [We wrote about the new discovery in our February 2006 issue.] What this means, in other words, is that the first true Adam (the first genuinely modern, writing and reading-capable human) was born right about when Scripture and the ancient Hebrew calendar always said. Wow! 

(Our masthead, incidentally, celebrates this event’s 5772nd anniversary. This is the year 5772 since Creation – since the Creation of Adam.) 

Imagine if Freud knew what the 20th Century would do to the Jews… that the People of Israel would literally return to the Land of Israel, revitalizing the wasted land, making other peoples actually envious of it….

Freud was enough of a scholar and honest truth-seeker to have looked at the Bible with new eyes.


Ferplutzing the Numbers

So… Imagine, Freud takes up the Bible… He opens it at random, to the Book of Judges. Samson, it says, took the jawbone of a donkey and “smote an “elef” – that’s the Hebrew word – of Philistine warriors. 

What’s an “elef”? If elef, in this context, means something like “big bunch,” a large distinct group of indeterminate number,” even if the “elef” was a unit of just four or five soldiers, that’s a very remarkable claim to make about Samson - but it’s not totally ridiculous. 

If elef, on the other hand, in the extremely idiomatic, frequently definitely not-literal Hebrew of Scripture, becomes a precise number, for some reason; if it becomes literally one-thousand (1,000), as Bible “traditionalists” insist, that’s ridiculous. 

If you think about it for a minute, trying to visualize Samson killing a thousand spear-throwing, stone- and arrow-slinging soldiers, you can see it’s absurd. The ridiculous number becomes an obstruction. 

Suppose Freud, like most people, simply accepts what he’s told, that the Bible’s precise number is 1,000. So… This Bible is supposed to be pure truth, right? Coming from the True God? This Book of Judges is holy, Divinely inspired? “But it lies!” Freud thinks. “It presents false quantities, ridiculously exaggerated numbers. How godly can it be? If God exists, if He’s holy, would God lie”? 

So, before Freud discovers  the depths of the Bible - how spectacularly singular it truly is, in human history and literature - he may summarily reject it, based, partly, largely,  on the Bible’s crazy numbers. 

Smarter men than Freud have ignorantly concluded that the Bible’s just like every other so-called “holy” book - just an error-prone work of very flawed men…

Freud probably wouldn’t notice that all the crazy numbers in the Bible come from giving the value of 1,000 to every “elef” in there. 


Crazy Numbers

The word Elef is what gives us the Bible’s wild numerations of things like enemies killed, and Israel’s fantastic census numbers.

(We’re not talking about the incredibly long life-spans in Genesis of people like Methusalah.  That’s another matter. The Bible uses such numbers for different purposes. One reason is to clearly emphasize that it’s got us in legendary, pre-historical times. We’re talking, here and below, about multiples of a thousand. Elefim. “Thousands.”)

The Torah itself specifically emphasizes that counting people is a touchy subject. No less a personage than the Accuser himself, Satan (!), moves King David to take a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21:1).  In Samuel, the text is more direct, referring to the same event:  HaShem IN HIS ANGER moves David AGAINST Israel, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24:1) 

Obviously, numbering the people is “a cause of guilt to Israel” (Chronicles 21:3). God was so displeased with it, even though David repented, that He sent a fierce plague, killing 70 “elefim.” (Chronicles 21:7)

Now, ask yourself, did God go and suddenly kill 70,000 people? That’s what the God-loving Biblical Traditionalists say. 

Actually, historically, for sure, that number is crazy and God didn’t do it. In fact, this whole idea defames HaShem, the Judge of all the Earth. “He does not afflict willingly” (Lamentations 3:33). God is not a tyrant! We need to keep proclaiming this in Covenant Connection, in this context and, certainly, in the context of the First Covenant and the Noahide Law. His laws – all of them – are just. His punishments, like His miracles, are never unnecessary nor excessive; He is never, ever, bloodthirsty. 

Christians, expecting “the Father” to be cruel and heartless, compared to “His kindly Son,” tend to miss this. But we shouldn’t.

Check it out. Any number this huge, even compared to the catastrophic, world-historical plagues of Europe and China, is utterly incredible  – especially when Scripture indicates that the plague in David’s Israel happened fast!

Even at its height, London’s Great Plague of 1666 was fierce, killing many thousands in the crowded, awful morass of London before plumbing. But even at its peak, this plague didn’t kill a thousand people a week!  And David’s Israel, at the dawn of the Iron Age, was no dense crowded slum like London. If 70,000 people died in David’s Israel, who’d have been left to bury them?

Accept, for a moment, that the 70,000 figure, based on an idiomatic use of “elef,” is problematic. In fact, while Scripture doesn’t give us the exact number of casualties, it does show us that sin has consequences – that God is just, and intensively involved with His Creation. The story works, in other words. We also learn or should learn this, from that very same text: that putting determinate values on these kinds of numbers is extremely problematic! 

The Bible is written so beautifully and carefully… it delivers the deepest, most surprising lessons even when we’re not looking for them. Here we’re looking at a moral issue; we’re learning a moral principle. Scripture couldn’t be telling the reader any clearer, here, to be careful with these numbers. Particularly, to be cautious with its own numbers! Plague might result!

In Hebrew Scripture, there’s something going on out of plain sight, at least, whenever it recounts vast numbers.  For sure, 70 “elefim” died due to David’s census!


The Counter-argument

“…[M]aking the army of Israel leaving Egypt larger than Napoleon’s Grand Army [is a] forgivable human mistake in reading uniquely sacred texts. [People] will know better than to take the Bible’s homiletic teachings – the stories that are so clearly legendary, that the Bible even introduces with key words to indicate that they’re legendary….” That’s from our last Covenant Connection [Oy! Mail, June 2012]. A rabbi in Jerusalem asked us to “clarify” that. So, we’ve been arguing back and forth. 

The big argument for elef = 1,000 is this: that the census figures for Israel in the Exodus and the number of contributions from the people for the construction of HaShem’s portable Sanctuary in the desert match; each amount reflects the other. The totals are consistent, in other words. What does that prove, other than that the Bible is a wonderfully carefully written work? We still don’t have a value for “elef,” for crying out loud! So much for the big argument for elef = 1,000! 

We appreciate that the ambiguity with “elef” in the text has served, historically, to frame the great things in the Bible with a multitudinous honor guard, as it were, an unimaginably vast host of the armies of Israel. It presented “proof” of a sort that what happened to Israel really matters. If the Bible’s authors gave us concrete numbers, would they impress us sufficiently? People gauge the importance of a thing by its size. If we knew that only about 10,000 people constituted the People of Israel at Sinai, would that have made the Exodus and the Revelation of the Torah seem more important to unlettered people? Not likely….

Today, we think, the enormously inflated numbers work against the honor of HaShem. 

We may need to reframe our conception of the Exodus, and other aspects of Hebrew history. We can appreciate how marvelously the Bible’s writers did their job, stating only truth, which humans soon ferplutzed…  It’s not the Bible’s fault, or God’s, that we, human beings, got these numbers so ferplutzed!


Presbyterian Funeral

We went to an old friend’s funeral last month, a neighbor’s, who died a few months short of 100. Blessed be the True Judge. May she rest in peace.

We’re sure – beyond any doubt - that God will receive her well, but her burial was inauspicious. 

She was modest and dignified and that’s the kind of funeral, a small graveside service, that her family wanted for her. So… first, at great expense, they embalmed her (!) Then they “made her up” for viewing - in a huge gray and white-lacquered casket. Which they lowered into a reinforced concrete vault, like a huge shoebox, 6-feet in the ground. Using a crane, they dropped a heavy concrete lid on top of that. Later, after the service, a cemetery worker covered it all up by bulldozing dirt into the hole. 

Those concrete vaults deteriorate over centuries; in two or three centuries, probably, my friend’s atoms will join the Earth’s. Until then, her body will decay – rot – anaerobically.  Worms and insects won’t dispose of it, since the vault is air-tight, so whatever fungi and bacteria were in her body or buried with her, that can feed off the corpse without oxygen, will eat it. Her body will decay like a moldy orange in the fridge, eventually becoming liquid.  

This is so anti-Torah… Why, we wondered, are these people – good people, life-long neighbors – paying so much money, so many thousands of dollars, for something so unnatural? Why embalm a corpse? Why entomb a corpse, versus letting the Earth have it back, clean, covered in a shroud (“shrouds have no pockets”), ashes to ashes, dust to dust? 

We were shocked by the service. A Presbyterian minister, a lady, spoke about the deceased; some of us who knew her offered testimonials; then they sang psalms, from the Bible, and quoted Scripture, such as “Happy is the people whose God is HaShem,” but they turned that into “Happy is the people whose God is Jebus”!

Christians must think that Jews don’t care about HaShem’s honor because we don’t get violent, normally, when we hear Him mocked like that, dishonored like that. “You’re saying that HaShem is Jebus, this dead Jewish guy? That’s insane!”

Except, of course, that’s what they do say. Folks seek God, supposedly, but they get Jebus…

 They held a mass, with a small loaf of bread (supposed to be matzah, you’d think) and some grape juice… “O, great. They’re communing with their god by eating his flesh, symbolically, and drinking his blood. How sophisticated!”



A young lady of our acquaintance suddenly began thinking about the Christian rite of Communion (“This is my body, this is my blood….”)

It went straight to her stomach with an “ugh.” Then it struck her as funny, that all these people should be there, in church, eating the Savior! 

She refused the Sacrament pleasantly but firmly, resolved not to go back for Communion.

She still “believes in Jebus,” she says – not to pray to, but as a great prophet, a great man. Her God is God, she says; not some underling, son, or angel, but The God, the One and Only.

There are probably a lot of people like that. But how can they get to HaShem and remain Christians? If Christianity defames the God of Israel (“God is Jebus”) and deprecates the Law of Israel, and the People of Israel, too, just how much can Christians learn from Israel? As the great Maimonides remarked, what a stumbling block Christianity is for suffering humanity!

Michael Dallen

God gave the Torah to the Jewish People so that all nations might benefit from it. – Midrash Tanchuma (ancient rabbinic commentary), Devarim 3

We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name. Amen

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