Thursday, February 26, 2009

Evolution and Creation

Knowledge of our natural world seems to expand every day. As scientists discover new things about ourselves and the universe there are some who argue the relevance of religion. They say that the stories we tell of our origins have less meaning. I want to look back at what our tradition says.

As far back as the 11th century, Rashi, the great Torah commentator, spoke of creation not as a story of six defined days but rather that God created all the potential on the first day. What came later grew out of that primordial soup. Rashi was writing 700 years before Darwin; he wasn’t responding to a scientific attack on religion. Instead, he was presenting an interpretation of the story in Bereshit, a story that teaches many things including the interconnectiveness of us and the environment in which we live. Rashi seemed to know on some level that the story did not lend itself to the observations of how the laws of nature truly work. Instead of rejecting the story he looked for deeper meaning. It is not the six twenty-four hour days that are important; it is the fact that the earth and all it contains can be made sacred by how we manage it.

February marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Many religious institutions around the country took time to acknowledge that evolution is not a threat to religion with Evolution Weekend, an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic - to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. The founder of Evolution Weekend is Michael Zimmerman, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University, The Torah is a story of the Jewish people with many things to teach us; however, it was never meant to prevent us from asking questions about our universe. The two go hand in hand.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

GAZA and the Israelis

I have a lot to say here, but this speech from the Israeli UN envoy is perfect:

Members of the United Nations, Democracies, dictatorships,
republics, and the honorable secretary-general:

Within a few hours, media outlets in your countries shall present
horrific photos of blood, fire, and rubble from the Gaza Strip. The
Palestinians will be screaming, in front of the cameras, about the
massacre undertaken by the State of Israel. Initially, you may show
understanding for our operations in the Strip, yet once the photos
of wounded civilians reach you, you shall press us, as is your
custom, to stop defending ourselves.

The first signs of this phenomenon can already be seen.
Calls to "end the violence" from across the world are being
loud and clear - yet they are only being heard now, after years of
violence, and after Israel finally decided to respond. The European
Union already rushed to declare that it condemns Israel's
"disproportional use of force." Several news networks have
together panels whose members are scrutinizing the law books at this
very moment in order to ascertain whether the Jewish State violated
some international law.

I do not intend to deal with the question of where were these
condemners and critics for the past seven years, when Hamas'
murderers set the timers of their rockets to coincidence with the
end of the school day in Israel, because of a declared aim to kill
as many children as possible.

The question we should be discussing at this time is as
follows: Why do the countries of the world and global media outlets
obsessively engage in strict criticism that is only directed at
Israel? After all, there is not even one country out there that is
required to adhere to the moral criteria which the world demands of
us - of us of all people, the ones who as opposed to the rest of the
world face threats of extermination.

Our Arab neighbors are well familiar with this double standard
vulnerability. On their part, they are not bound by any kind of
moral code.

And so, they learned to exploit the international strictness towards

A long time ago, they already understood that they cannot face the
State of Israel on the battlefield. Indeed, when it comes to
photographs and videos, they boast uniforms and weapons, yet once
the fighting gets underway, they are quick to take off their
uniforms and assimilate among women and children used as human
shields. They also make sure to place their arms depots in hospital
basements and to fire rockets at population centers out of

Their great hope is to elicit an Israeli response that would
unintentionally hurt a few children. Once that happens, they will
wave their bodies before the cameras and cry out to the world for

This was the case in Lebanon, and this may happen tomorrow in the
Gaza Strip.

Easing Europe's conscience the states demanding that Israel
to certain moral standards do not even dream of asking the same of
her enemies..

After all, we are dealing with theocracies and dictatorships, where
homosexuals are publicly hanged, where women are regularly stoned
for undermining their "family's honor," and where
children suspected
of theft have their arms severed.
What do these states have to do with the value of human life?

We should therefore ask representatives of global opinion:
Be honest with yourselves - Do the lives of humans being butchered
daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur arouse you into similar

Reality indicates this is not the case. My answer to the question
regarding the obsessive preoccupation with the actions of the Jews
is purely sociological.

Many of you, the shapers of public opinion, and mostly the Europeans
amongst you, are interested in easing your
conscience: If only can only show that the Israelis-Jews are not so
moral or innocent, perhaps they deserve everything you did to them
before they were able to establish their state?

After all, here they are, occupying and butchering the poor
Palestinians; they are certainly no better than us!
To that end, you are willing to help out the lowliest terrorists.
Therefore, you bought into their slanderous Mohammed al-Dura tale,
and therefore you will rush to buy into various blood libels in the
coming days.

Those who launch missiles and mortar shells into kindergartens know
that they will always enjoy a protective umbrella from you. They
draw their self-confidence from the intolerable ease with which they
enlist your public opinion in their favor.
Therefore, you would do well to think twice before you move to stop
the punishment they lawfully deserve.
After all, you are the only lifesaver that can spare this radical
terror group the measure of justice hovering above it.

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