http://vizedu.com/2008/12/how-to-use-twitter-as-a-twool/

Thursday, April 17, 2008

incorrect to refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jews

The Patriarchs and the Origins of Judaism

Level: Basic

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the Patriarchs, are both the physical and spiritual ancestors of Judaism. They founded the religion now known as Judaism, and their descendants are the Jewish people. Of course, technically, it is incorrect to refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jews, because the terms "Jew" and "Judaism" were not used generally to refer to this nation until hundreds of years after their time; nevertheless, for convenience and in accordance with common practice, I will use these terms.

The history below is derived from written Torah, Talmud, Midrash and other sources. Modern scholars question the existence of the Patriarchs and the historical accuracy of this information; however, it is worth noting that scholars also questioned the existence of Babylonia and Troy... until archaeologists found them.

Abraham

According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE). He was the son of Terach, an idol merchant, but from his early childhood, he questioned the faith of his father and sought the truth. He came to believe that the entire universe was the work of a single Creator, and he began to teach this belief to others.

Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, "The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones." His father said, "Don't be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can't do anything." Abram replied, "Then why do you worship them?"

Eventually, the one true Creator that Abram had worshipped called to him, and made him an offer: if Abram would leave his home and his family, then G-d would make him a great nation and bless him. Abram accepted this offer, and the b'rit (covenant) between G-d and the Jewish people was established. (Gen. 12).

The idea of b'rit is fundamental to traditional Judaism: we have a covenant, a contract, with G-d, which involves rights and obligations on both sides. We have certain obligations to G-d, and G-d has certain obligations to us. The terms of this b'rit became more explicit over time, until the time of the Giving of the Torah (see below). Abram was subjected to ten tests of faith to prove his worthiness for this covenant. Leaving his home is one of these trials.

Abram, raised as a city-dweller, adopted a nomadic lifestyle, traveling through what is now the land of Israel for many years. G-d promised this land to Abram's descendants. Abram is referred to as a Hebrew (Ivri), possibly because he was descended from Eber (Gen. 11) or possibly because he came from the "other side" (eber) of the Euphrates River.

But Abram was concerned, because he had no children and he was growing old. Abram's beloved wife, Sarai, knew that she was past child-bearing years, so she offered her maidservant, Hagar, as a wife to Abram. This was a common practice in the region at the time. According to tradition, Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh, given to Abram during his travels in Egypt. She bore Abram a son, Ishmael, who, according to both Muslim and Jewish tradition, is the ancestor of the Arabs. (Gen 16)

When Abram was 100 and Sarai 90, G-d promised Abram a son by Sarai. G-d changed Abram's name to Abraham (father of many), and Sarai's to Sarah (from "my princess" to "princess"). Sarah bore Abraham a son, Isaac (in Hebrew, Yitzchak), a name derived from the word "laughter," expressing Abraham's joy at having a son in his old age. (Gen 17-18). Isaac was the ancestor of the Jewish people. Thus, the conflict between Arabs and Jews can be seen as a form of sibling rivalry!

Isaac

Isaac was the subject of the tenth and most difficult test of Abraham's faith: G-d commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. (Gen 22). This test is known in Jewish tradition as the Akeidah (the Binding, a reference to the fact that Isaac was bound on the altar).

But this test is also an extraordinary demonstration of Isaac's own faith, because according to Jewish tradition, Isaac knew that he was to be sacrificed, yet he did not resist, and was united with his father in dedication.

At the last moment, G-d sent an angel to stop the sacrifice. It is interesting to note that child sacrifice was a common practice in the region at the time. Thus, to people of the time, the surprising thing about this story is not the fact that G-d asked Abraham to sacrifice his child, but that G-d stopped him!

Judaism uses this story as evidence that G-d abhors human sacrifice. In fact, I have seen some sources indicating that Abraham failed this test of faith because he did not refuse to sacrifice his son! Judaism has always strongly opposed the practice of human sacrifice, commonplace in many other cultures at that time and place.

Isaac later married Rebecca (Rivka), who bore him fraternal twin sons: Jacob (Ya'akov) and Esau. (Gen 25).

Jacob (Israel)

Jacob and his brother Esau were at war with each other even before they were born. They struggled within Rebecca's womb. Esau was Isaac's favorite, because he was a good hunter, but the more spiritually-minded Jacob was Rebecca's favorite.

Esau had little regard for the spiritual heritage of his forefathers, and sold his birthright of spiritual leadership to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. When Isaac was growing old, Rebecca tricked him into giving Jacob a blessing meant for Esau. Esau was angry about this, and about the birthright, so Jacob fled to live with his uncle, where he met his beloved Rachel. Jacob was deceived into marrying Rachel's older sister, Leah, but later married Rachel as well, and Rachel and Leah's maidservants, Bilhah and Zilphah. Between these four women, Jacob fathered 12 sons and one daughter.

After many years living with and working for his uncle/father-in-law, Jacob returned to his homeland and sought reconciliation with his brother Esau. He prayed to G-d and gave his brother gifts. The night before he went to meet his brother, he sent his wives, sons, and things across the river, and was alone with G-d. That night, he wrestled with a man until the break of day. As the dawn broke, Jacob demanded a blessing from the man, and the "man" revealed himself as an angel. He blessed Jacob and gave him the name "Israel" (Yisrael), meaning "the one who wrestled with G-d" or "the Champion of G-d." The Jewish people are generally referred to as the Children of Israel, signifying our descent from Jacob. The next day, Jacob met Esau and was welcomed by him.

Children of Israel

Jacob fathered 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. They are the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, and the ones for whom the tribes are named. Joseph is the father of two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.

Joseph's older brothers were jealous of him, because he was the favorite of their father, and because he had visions that he would lead them all. They sold Joseph into slavery and convinced their father that Joseph was dead. But this was all part of G-d's plan: Joseph was brought into Egypt, where his ability to interpret visions earned him a place in the Pharaoh's court, paving the way for his family's later settlement in Egypt.

The Exodus and the Giving of the Torah

As centuries passed, the descendants of Israel became slaves in Egypt. They suffered greatly under the hand of later Pharaohs. But G-d brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses.

G-d led them on a journey through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. Here, G-d revealed Himself to the Children of Israel and offered them a great covenant: if the people would hearken to G-d and observe His covenant, then they would be the most beloved of nations, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19). G-d revealed the Torah to his people, both the written and oral Torah, and the entire nation responded, "Everything that the L-rd has spoken, we will do!" According to Jewish tradition, every Jewish soul that would ever be born was present at that moment, and agreed to be bound to this covenant.

G-d changed Abram's name to Abraham (father of many)

Abrahamic religion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Apr 11

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Conservative Co-worker's 3 best against "Robin Hood" [sc?]

From: M, T Sent: Thu 4/17/2008 12:01 PM To: C, I; C S Subject: FW: info

Gents, my eldest daughter has begun to discuss politics with me and I remembered these stories and found them with a quick google search. I had her read them and we discussed what was fair. While there are references to parties I see this as simple comparison between liberalism and conservatism. Enjoy.

#1) liberal view (grades)

This puts the argument of democrat vs. republican in terms most of us can understand. There was a young teenage girl that was about to finish her first year of college. She considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and her father was a rather staunch conservative Republican. One day she was challenging her father on his beliefs and his opposition to programs like welfare, a large benevolent government, and rich-to-poor tax equalization. He stopped her and asked her how she was doing in school. She answered that she had a 4.0 GPA but it was really tough. She had to study all the time, never had time to go out and party and often went sleepless because all of the studying. She didn't have time for a boyfriend and didn't really have many college friends because of all her studying. He then asked how her friend Mary, that was attending the same college, was doing. She replied that she was barely getting by. She had a 2.0 GPA, never studied, was very popular on campus and was at parties all the time. She often wouldn't show up for classes because she was hung over. He then asked his daughter why she didn't go to the Dean's office and ask why she couldn't take 1.0 off her 4.0 and give it to her friend that only had a 2.0. That way they would both have a 3.0 GPA. She fired back and said "that wouldn't be fair, I worked really hard for mine and my friend has done nothing". After a moment of silence, she replied, "I guess I will never vote Democrat again".

#2) Tax Analogy

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner.

The bill for all ten comes to $100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.

The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing;

The fifth would pay $1:

the sixth would pay $3;

the seventh $7;

the eighth $12;

The ninth $18.

The tenth man -- the richest -- would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do.

The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement -- until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."

So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

So the first four men were unaffected.

They would still eat for free.

But what about the other six -- the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33.

But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal.

So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59.

Each of the six was better off than before.

And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man.

He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man.

"I only saved a dollar, too.

It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man.

"Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2?

The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison.

"We didn't get anything at all.

The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him.

But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important.

They were $52 short!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Unfortunately, some cannot grasp this straight-forward logic!

#3) DEMOCRATIC DISTRIBUTION ON WEALTH AT A BASEBALL GAME Democrats think this is a fair distribution of wealth: 50,000 people go to a baseball game; but the game was rained out and a refund was due. The team was about to send out refunds when the Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out refund amounts based on the democratic interpretation of fairness. After all, if the refunds were made equally to the people who paid for the tickets, most of the money would go to the top 2%. The Democratic plan says: People in the $10 seats will get back $15, because they have less money to spend. People in the $15 seats will get back $15, because that's only fair. People in the $25 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money. People in the $50 luxury seats will have to pay another $15, because they have so much to spend. And the people driving by the stadium who couldn't afford to watch the game will get $10 each, even though they didn't pay anything in, because they need the most help

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Praises U.S., but Warns of Secular Challenges

From: JCY Sent: Wed 4/16/2008 9:28 PM To: CRPL Subject: NYT: Pope Praises U.S., but Warns o
LATEST NEWS Pope Praises U.S., but Warns of Secular Challenges Pope Benedict XVI completes his address in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images Pope Benedict XVI completes his address in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 3 more images By IAN FISHER and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG Published: April 17, 2008 WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House on Wednesday - his 81st birthday - and praised America as a nation where strong religious belief can coexist with secular society. But he later warned that this secular tradition often prevents Americans from living their beliefs fully, accepting divorce, abortion and cohabitation outside of marriage. "Perhaps America's brand of secularism poses a particular problem," he told American bishops here. "It allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the churches, but at the same time can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator." "The result is a growing separation of faith from life," he said. For the second day, on his first official visit to America, the pope acknowledged the pain caused by the sex abuse scandal that has divided and weakened the American church. He called the behavior of pedophile priests "evil" and agreed that the scandal as it unfolded was "sometimes very badly handled." But he said the measures taken to prevent such abuses - measures he said are "bearing fruit" - needed to be put it into "a wider context," pointing to a society that he said does not always live up to Catholic teaching. "What does it mean to speak of child protection," the pope asked, "when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? "We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike," he said. His comments to bishops seemed in contrast to the festive and highly celebratory greeting he received at the White House. But his general tone, on a day when he was feted by thousands of flag-waving supporters on the streets of the capital, appeared aimed at challenging more than scolding. Page 1 of 5 1.NEXT PAGE Pope Praises U.S., but Warns of Secular Challenges Pope Benedict XVI completes his address in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images Pope Benedict XVI completes his address in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 3 more images By IAN FISHER and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG Published: April 17, 2008 WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House on Wednesday - his 81st birthday - and praised America as a nation where strong religious belief can coexist with secular society. But he later warned that this secular tradition often prevents Americans from living their beliefs fully, accepting divorce, abortion and cohabitation outside of marriage. "Perhaps America's brand of secularism poses a particular problem," he told American bishops here. "It allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the churches, but at the same time can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator." "The result is a growing separation of faith from life," he said. For the second day, on his first official visit to America, the pope acknowledged the pain caused by the sex abuse scandal that has divided and weakened the American church. He called the behavior of pedophile priests "evil" and agreed that the scandal as it unfolded was "sometimes very badly handled." But he said the measures taken to prevent such abuses - measures he said are "bearing fruit" - needed to be put it into "a wider context," pointing to a society that he said does not always live up to Catholic teaching. "What does it mean to speak of child protection," the pope asked, "when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? "We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike," he said. His comments to bishops seemed in contrast to the festive and highly celebratory greeting he received at the White House. But his general tone, on a day when he was feted by thousands of flag-waving supporters on the streets of the capital, appeared aimed at challenging more than scolding. Vatican officials have portrayed this trip as an opportunity to show Americans a fuller picture of the pope, beyond his reputation for doctrinal orthodoxy. Still, he found fertile ground for his conservative brand of faith in President Bush, who has made his own Christian faith a central tenet of his life as an American politician. Christian conservatives - and, increasingly, Catholics - are a key component of the president's political base, and the White House has made aggressive efforts to reach out to them. That was reflected in the crowd of 13,500 who turned out on the South Lawn on Wednesday morning, where the pope was welcomed by a 21-gun salute, a fife and drum band, a soprano who sang the Lord's Prayer and two rounds of "Happy Birthday." The crowd burst into applause when Mr. Bush told the pope that Americans "need your message that all life is sacred," a reference to the two men's shared opposition to abortion rights. More obscure, but still significant, the president adopted a phrase of the pope himself when he said the nation needs the pontiff's "message to reject this dictatorship of relativism." The term is considered the defining phrase of the papal election in 2005, in which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on the day that his fellow cardinals went into the conclave that elected him Pope Benedict XVI, decried the idea that all belief is equally true. "Here in America you'll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square," the president said. "When our founders declared our nation's independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the 'laws of nature, and of nature's God.' We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built." Dressed in his traditional white cassock and skullcap, the pontiff delivered a message celebrating the greatness of American democracy, as well as the nation's embrace of religion. "I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society," the pontiff said, adding, "Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth." It was Benedict's first time in the United States since he ascended to the papacy, and only the second time the leader of the world's Roman Catholics has visited the White House. The first was in 1979, when Jimmy Carter played host to Pope John Paul II. After the public ceremony, the pope and the president had a private meeting in the Oval Office. The White House issued a statement afterward saying the two "devoted considerable time in their discussions" to the Middle East, particularly resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. While the pope has expressed his opposition to the war in Iraq, the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said Mr. Bush brought up the topic in their meeting. Ms. Perino said the discussion was "largely about the plight of Christians" - an issue that the pope raised when the two met for the first time at the Vatican last year. She would not elaborate, saying "they had an understanding that it would be private." Leaving the White House, the pope returned to the home of papal nuncio, giving thousands of bystanders - waving flags and white-and-yellow Vatican pennants, strumming guitars and banging drums - a glimpse. "It was close - I couldn't believe it!" said Martha Littlefield, 44, a native of Mexico who traveled from Houston with 200 Catholics to see the pope. The pope ate lunch privately with American cardinals and in the early evening met with Catholic charity groups. He then traveled to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for his meeting with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with about 300 bishops in attendance. The meeting was significant as the pope's opportunity to outline his vision of the state of the American church to the people who must carry out that vision. It was also significant as the first meeting with the pope since the sex scandal erupted in 2002. Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the conference, greeted the pope with frank remarks, saying he is a source of encouragement and hope when the church is in a trying time. Cardinal George acknowledged that the sexual abuse by priests was "sometimes very badly handled by the bishops" - the phrase that the pope directly quoted - which he said has made "both the personal faith of some Catholics and the public life of the church herself more problematic." He said that while the church "rejoices in her cultural diversity," it is "troubled by ideological differences that weaken not only our witness to the world but the life of faith itself." In an address whose transcript ran six dense pages, the pope tackled a broad range of issues, praising the vitality of the church but worrying that many Catholics are not fully living their faith in so secular a culture. "While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior," he said. "Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?" he said. "Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted," he said. Ian Fisher contributed reporting.

Fatally ill Professor's Last Lecture

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