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Archive for November, 2013

A couple of months ago, I was talking to my nephew and he told me he was a Jew.
I asked if he had ever been to a synagogue.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the Torah or the Talmud.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the complete Old Testament from the Bible.  No.  I asked if he had ever spoken to a Rabbi about the Jewish faith.  No.
After chuckling, I asked him why he thought he was Jewish.  He advised me that Jesus was Jewish and he was a follower of Jesus, so he was Jewish, too.  Needless to say (after another chuckle), I advised him that declaring yourself to be of a certain faith does not “make” you a member of that faith if you do nothing else to demonstrate your beliefs.
Later, though, it occurred to me that I know almost nothing about the Jewish faith either.  Yes, I’ve read some of the Old Testament, but I’ve never read any of the Torah and would not be able to tell you the first thing about any differences between it and the Old Testament.  So, when I was visiting my local second hand book shop and I stumbled upon a copy of a book which professed to be an “everymans” guide to orthodox Judaism, I picked it up and added it to the reading list.  As it happens, I rested the book close to my computer and it “called” to me repeatedly – so I bumped it up the list.  I finished it last week and the rest of this posting is my review…
The book is titled: “This Is My God” (1988©), and was written by Herman Wouk.  The book was originally published back in 1959, but this is a republishing with a chapter update about Israel (the nation-state).  Mr. Wouk wrote the book because a friend came up to him and said his son knew next to nothing about Judaism and the friend knew Wouk to be a practicing Jew and could he recommend a good “starter” book for him to give to his son with the hope the son might gain some appreciation for their heritage.
Now Wouk admits to not being a Rabbi (a teacher of the Torah) and could not think of (or find) such a book – even after asking around himself – so he decided to write one.  After about a year or so of intense research, he did.  And this book is the result of Wouk’s effort.
I have not read any of Wouk’s other works, but he is a terrific writer!  The book is obviously a very simplistic introduction to Judaism.  That does not mean it is not worth reading.  It merely recognize’s there are whole libraries devoted to the various aspects of Judaism and anything other than an overview would have taken many, many volumes.  Having said this, I felt reading this book was an insightful introduction to this faith upon which my own was based.  Indeed, it is the faith on which both Christianity and Islam are based.  All three faiths are the “children” of Abraham.
Although I don’t usually attribute such sentiments to books, this book has been a blessing to my own personal faith.  (I am a practicing Roman Catholic.)  Wouk’s words are kind and wise, yet humble and moving.  And most of all, they are educational.  There were several times I said to myself, “Wow! I never knew that!” or “So that’s why…”
Two quick examples are: there is no requirement for a person to be a Jew to enter Heaven.  One only needs to live a good life to be judged worthy of Heaven.  And second, not all the stories in the Bible are about Jews.  Some “holy” men are not Jews at all.  Job for example.  This was a real “Wow!” moment for me as I’d always just assumed Job was Hebrew.  Wouk explains why this is not so, but I still could hardly believe it so I had to do some additional research on the internet.  As near as I can tell, there is no proof he (Job) existed let alone that he was Jewish.  Like I said, the book is full of little “gems” to help you explore your faith (if you are a Christian).
The book is a fast read at only a little over two hundred and eighty pages and is so well written it doesn’t even feel that long.  There is a fifty page “Notes” area which has clarifications and recommendations for further readings and an eight page Glossary at the very end.
So, final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  You will, of course, see several quotes from this book over the next few months as I try to share some of Wouk’s writing with you…
So I called up my nephew to thank him for “prompting” me to learn about Judaism as the basis of my own faith.  His response: “Uncle Kevin, I never meant for you to read a book about it!”  I guess he just doesn’t know me that well…
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On This Day In:
2012 When Young
2011 14 Ways To A Better Judgement

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Remember, for every shot you fire, someone, somewhere, is making money.
  —  Tom Clancy
[Found on a blog I follow: http://dshenai.wordpress.com/
The specific post is:  http://dshenai.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/tribute-to-tom-clancy-with-his-insightful-quotes/
Thanks Deo!  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 When Young
2011 14 Ways To A Better Judgement

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Too Few

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.
    —  Oscar Levant
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On This Day In:
2012 Three Characters
2011 Universal Payment
2010 Privatizing the TSA?  (An old – and long – post, but still relevant!!)

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Fragments: No Plan
There is no plan for life,
No map for living.
No one can lead you by the hand,
Say for sure where you should turn.
We want to believe
There is a path
That must be chosen wisely,
Though wisdom
Is only something that we learn
From looking back
On our choices.
Most of all we yearn to be happy.
If you do what you feel
Is right
When you feel it
The present comes into focus
And living
Takes care of itself.
  —   From a blog I follow: “The Mirror Obscura” located at: http://themirrorobscura.com/
The original post was: http://themirrorobscura.com/2013/10/11/fragments-no-plan/
[Another poetry site I’ve recently begun to follow.  The “fragments” part refers to the opinion of the author, that the poem is not truly completed, but he wanted to post it to get it out in the universe anyway.  My opinion is some of his “fragments” are better than my “completed” works.    Well, worth checking out!  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Singing About Love
2011 The Awesome Power Of Truth

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Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.
  —  William Penn
[Found at:  http://stevendavisuk.com/
The specific post is at: http://stevendavisuk.com/2013/10/10/my-top-10-motivational-quotes/
  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum
2011 Similar And Different
2010 Reminiscing
Differences

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It is unprecedented for the men who made a revolution to remain in power after it is over.  Yet one still finds revolutionaries: that proves how badly history is taught.
    —  André Maurois
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On This Day In:
2012 Between Two Worlds
2011 Common Humanity
2010 The Last Two Olympians

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The sweetest path of life leads through the avenues of learning.
  —  David Hume
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On This Day In:
2012 Living Free And Abolition
Morning Wood
2011 I Resemble That Remark

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If the power to do hard work is not talent, it is the best possible substitute for it.
  —  President James A. Garfield
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On This Day In:
2012 Heroes Restored
2011 As You Should

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Well, that’s my excuse anyway.  And I think it’s a good one…
Seriously, I finally got around to seeing the new Thor movie: “Thor: The Dark World“, and I enjoyed it.  Like most comic book movie adaptations it is not great cinema, but it is an enjoyable action flic to keep us interested until the next Avengers movie comes out.  (Actually, the next movie out will be the second Captain America film.)
When reading the Thor comics (as a kid) there were a number of years where they started off just on Earth and then they made a transition to Thor in Asgard which allowed for more epic-heroic story lines.  Thor was almost never a believable character on Earth.  Hello!  How many Earth villains can stand up to a “god”?  But, in Asgard, his character blossomed in my imagination.
The problem in the comics is (was) there weren’t enough known god characters to go around fighting with (let alone against), so a whole slew had to be invented.  This is extended in both Thor movies where not only are there characters which don’t exist in Norse mythology, there are also multiple races (racial in “human” terms that is, not alien) among the Asgardians.  However, once you get past this “politically correct” quirk in the movies it quickly comes down to can they act and carry their roles.  They do, certainly as well as any of the anglo/white “Norse” characters do anyway.
Another “problem” I had with the movie was that the bad guys had power weapons (guns) while the Asgardian’s fight with swords, knives, shields, and, of course, a hammer.  Well, that is, most of the time.  When Asgard is actually invaded, the Asgardians break out the power weapons – in this case multi-barrel anti-aircraft cannons.  All of which looked pretty cool, but left me thinking: “Huh?”
My reaction to the first Thor movie was that it was two movies in one: one on Earth and one in Asgard, and neither was done as well as if they had just done one or the other.  This sequel is a bit of the same, but for some reason it made more sense the in way it was handled in this one, so it wasn’t a negative for me.  I would say it was about 30% Earth and 70% Asgard, which seemed better.
At this point, I’m really starting to tell too much about what happens in the movie and not enough about whether it was any good.  It was.  I enjoyed it.  No, it’s not great cinema (although the special effects are pretty awesome and starting to really look believable), but it is a good, old fashioned, heroes fight bad guys movie.  There is also just enough comedy in the movie to make it “fun”, which is also a big plus to me.  If that is your pleasure (and it certainly is mine), then you’ll enjoy this movie too.  Just don’t wast energy trying to think about it and make too much sense of it.  It’s just a movie…
Highly recommended!
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On This Day In:
2012 Never, Never, Never
2011 Testing 1, 2, 3

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While everyone well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.  Absolute princes, or others who are accustomed to unlimited deference, usually feel this complete confidence in their own opinions on nearly all subjects.
    —   John Stuart Mill
From: “On Liberty”
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On This Day In:
2012 Never, Never, Never
2011 Testing 1, 2, 3

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I’ve been blessed with new cheerleaders and the shadows of old ones who stretch across the divide as best they can.  I am lucky.  It may feel like the loneliest path to take sometimes, but I know I’m not alone.  And I will try to write it all the best I can, for my sake and just in case there is anything that makes the load lighter for anyone else who stumbled across this blog walking a similar route.
Onwards and upwards.
[From a blog I follow: http://thebambooprinciple.wordpress.com/
The specific post is:  http://thebambooprinciple.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/a-milestone/
  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Isn’t This Just Pleasant?
2011 No Void In Sight

 

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Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words.  If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.
  —  Tom Clancy
[Found on a blog I follow: http://dshenai.wordpress.com/
The specific post is:  http://dshenai.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/tribute-to-tom-clancy-with-his-insightful-quotes/
Thanks Deo!  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

 

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The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed.  It is the very essence and reason of his being.  When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the fabric of international society.  The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable.  They are based upon the noblest of human traits —  sacrifice.
   —   General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
[Actually, and unfortunately, MOST of the time the charge of the soldier is to protect those in power and with wealth, from those who would rise up to take that wealth.  To paraphrase a quote I learned many years ago studying political science: “The rich (/ powerful) and few surrender what they must; the poor and many seize what they can.”  Not very Christian or religious, but historically true none-the-less.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 A Division Of Men
2011 Miles, Legends and Superwoman
Got Tragedy?
2010 My Company For A Prince!!
On The Shoulders Of Titans

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But the novel will never die.
It is immortal because human beings just haven’t found – and perhaps never will discover – a form of storytelling and expression that reveals the workings of a mind and heart the way a well-crafted novel does.  It is a wholly pre-technological medium: a succession of monochrome sheets bearing arranged chunks of curly cuneiform.  Yet through these lines you connect with another psyche trimmed of its gender, age, epoch, social class, and ethnic identity.  The author may’ve been dead a thousand years.   Still when you finish the last page you want to keep the conversation going – to write to them, to have coffee with them.  “Tell me more about…”.
For all of their charms, songs, sculptures, movies – they do not have that power.  Novels, which are written alone and in silence, and are savored by readers in the same way, are not in danger of going so long as people are still around.
  —  From a blog I follow:  The Bully Pulpit, which is actually at – http://jrbenjamin.com/
The original post was: http://jrbenjamin.com/2013/10/11/the-novel-will-never-die/
[I have only recently begun to follow this site, but it looks very interesting so far…  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Passing…
2011 Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.
  —  Alvin Toffler
From his book: “Future Shock
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On This Day In:
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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