1. Zosia Zaks, Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults, page 57:
Problems with roommates can become serious. You have to be emotionally ready to deal with the drama, to stand up for your rights without being rude, to admit your own mistakes and shortcomings and fix them promptly, and to face change as necessary. This might seem overwhelming to you. Many people live with roommates and love the experience. You can enjoy living with roommates, too. Just be prepared—it isn’t always easy.
These are reasons that I live alone.
2. Sara Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought, pages 247-248:
“Service of the heart” involves many theoretical questions concerning the value of action without devotion, the worth of spiritual devotion, the possibility of a spirituality unaccompanied by action, and the like. These questions engaged Jewish thought at various times, and although they are not discussed in the Bible, the fundamentals of both aspects of devotion often do appear there. Deuteronomy repeatedly emphasizes the duty of observing God’s commandments, and we find occasional references to the spiritual side of the commandments—the need to observe them wholeheartedly: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 26:16). The need to act from the proper spiritual motivation is related not only to the observance of commandments in general, but also to specific duties. Examples include the obligation to supply the poor man with his needs—“You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him” (15:10)—and the commandment to free slaves in the seventh year—“It shall not seem hard to you, when you let him go free from you” (15:18).
I’ve often criticized Christian tendencies towards perfectionism. I’m not saying that all Christians are like this, but I’ve heard some Christians say, “If you don’t have the right motivation for an action, then you might as well not do it.” I prefer the Jewish notion that we should perform a mitzvah, even if we don’t have the right motivation, and the right motivation may rub off on us with time, as we see the value of the mitzvah. Is this optimistic? There are plenty of religious people who do rituals by role, without going deeper. Personally, my performance isn’t always good, and neither is my motivation. But I try to keep both present in my religious life, on some level.
Last Sunday, when I did the Lord’s supper, I got to do this. I had matzos, grape juice, a Bible, and praise music, which were part of the ritual. But these things brought me to a spiritual awareness: of God’s goodness through Jesus Christ, of my admiration of God and my desire to be like him. As I listened to the song “Change my heart, O God,” I realized that the Christian life is about God changing me so that I’m like him: kind, loving, forgiving, etc. At least right now, that helps me to see beyond my petty grievances.
3. D.A. Russell, Criticism in Antiquity, page 78.
[A tragic poet] has to enter into the personality of his characters, and their circumstances, each in turn, as he writes the part.
I wonder if I’d be able to write fiction—to invent a variety of characters and somehow empathize with them. Michael John Carley has Asperger’s, and he’s written plays. When an NPR reporter asked him how he did that, since writing plays involves some knowledge of social interaction (which Aspies aren’t overly good at), Carley replied that his plays are mostly about philosophical topics.
4. R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, page 71. Hanson discusses the Epistle of Barnabas, a late first-early second centuries C.E. Christian document:
This at first sight extraordinary collection of proof-texts [in Barnabas about baptism] Lundberg explains convincingly by showing that in the writer’s mind is the thought that the Baptism of Jesus was a descensus in which he broke the power of death and the devil, and provided a Cross, or wooden causeway, or else a rock, by which those who are baptized into him can cross the Sea of Death. The Baptism of Jesus must presumably here mean not only his Baptism by John in the Jordan, but his whole experience of Passion, Death, and Resurrection, as it does in Mark 10:38 and Luke 12:50.
Personally, I hope that Jesus’ baptism by John is about more than Jesus teaching us by his example that we should be baptized.
I’d like to toss into this section some stuff about my Latin mass and my Moses movie for today. At my Latin mass this morning, we had the priest who speaks about love. He talked about a variety of things: Christ wanting Peter specifically to be informed of Christ’s resurrection, which was Christ’s way of showing Peter that he was still welcome in the Christian community, despite Peter’s denials of Christ a few nights before (Mark 16:7); God’s spiritual animation of human flesh by combining it with divinity through Christ’s incarnation; etc. At the end of the homily, the priest said that we should show others through our lives that we are resurrected: that our old, sinful selves have died, while our new, Christ-like selves are now present.
That reminded me of a sermon I heard for my weekly quiet time a few weeks ago, on I Kings 17 (see Phyllis Schlafly’s Positive Woman 6, I Kings 17). In that chapter, the Phoenician woman only knows that Elijah is a prophet when he raises her son from the dead, even though Elijah had caused her food to self-regenerate before that point. One preacher remarked that unbelievers are more likely to acknowledge the power of God when they look at our changed, resurrected lives: our display of Christ-like love and the death of our old, sinful selves.
I think it’s good to be righteous—to give to others and to be kind. And I also try to humbly ask my higher power to take away my character defects, in accordance with Step 7 of the Twelve Steps. (My sponsor calls bad days “Seventh Step days,” since those especially are times when his higher power is building character in him!) But I’ve often wondered something: why should I have to do good works and overcome sin to convince unbelievers that I am spiritually resurrected? If God has resurrected me, then why do I have to do so much of the heavy-lifting, while giving credit to God?
That brings me to my Moses movie for this Day of Unleavened Bread. Today, I watched The Prince of Egypt, as well as listened to the commentary of three of the directors. Here were three points that stood out to me:
First, the commenters said that they were thinking of depicting an Egyptian taskmaster beating Miriam, Moses’ sister, so that Moses would kill the taskmaster out of loyalty to his family. But Jews from all over the spectrum—Reform, Orthodox, etc.—agreed that this was not the path the movie should take. Rather, in a rare moment of unity, they said it was important that the Egyptian beat an anonymous Israelite so that Moses would be shown to feel identity with his nation (Israel), not just his family. And a woman director then remarked that there were slaves of other nationalities in Egypt as well, so Moses was sympathizing with a human being who was being beaten, not just a Hebrew. While the Jewish consultants tried to emphasize Moses’ affinity with the Hebrews, this director was seeing a more universalist impulse in the scene.
In the movie, Moses is reborn when he learns that he’s a Hebrew, not an Egyptian. When he considered himself an Egyptian, he really didn’t care that there were slaves of other races who were oppressed in Egypt. He was like Raamses, who didn’t notice slaves being beaten when he was at the site of construction, in his preoccupation with the glory of Egypt. When Moses learned that he was a Hebrew, saved as a baby from the Pharaoh’s decree to slaughter every Hebrew male infant, he got a new perspective. He was no longer a pampered, fun-loving, palace brat who assumed the legitimacy of the Egyptian system around him, for he began to notice people in their pain. Granted, he was a decent fellow in his Egyptian stage, for he stuck up for Raamses when he was in trouble, as well as allowed the Midianite slave-woman (Zipporah) to escape. But he didn’t have the depth of empathy and love that he gained once he discovered he was Hebrew.
Second, part of Moses’ rebirth occurs in the desert, when he’s fleeing from Egypt. In once scene, Moses removes his princely jewelry and his Egyptian wig, symbolizing the death of Moses the Egyptian prince, and the rebirth of a new man. Moses lost everything, but that was an opportunity for (in Jethro’s words) “a new and brighter birth.”
Third, the directors said that they wanted to present Moses as a genuine human being, with his own identity and struggles, even when he was a mouthpiece for God. Moses is a mouthpiece of God, and yet he has his own identity. In my opinion, the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments (which I will see tonight or tomorrow), did not do this that well. Charlton Heston’s Moses before the burning bush had struggles, profound questions about God and life, and an identity crisis. After the burning bush, however, it was like he became perfect. Encountering his lost love, Nefertiri, did not phase him one bit, for he saw through her superficial outer beauty and was too committed to God and his people to be distracted with womanly wiles. Every word he spoke was Scripture-esque, and his facial expression was other-worldly. The one moment he struggled was when he pounded his fist on a table and said, “Turn from thy fierce wrath, O Lord!” But many have seen that scene as phony and contrived.
But other Moses movies show that Moses did not lose his complexity as a person once he encountered God. He still struggled—with himself, with his mission, with Israel, with God. And that’s pretty much what the Scriptures depict.
In my opinion, there is such a thing as spiritual resurrection, which occurs when God teaches us through people and circumstances. Yet, we remain human beings, even as we grow.
5. N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 57.
H. Gratez argued that the Septuagint dates to the second century B.C.E., rather than the third century B.C.E., which is the view of most scholars. Graetz argues that the Septuagint resolves disputes between Pharisees and Sadducees along Pharisaic lines, in its translation of texts, so it must have emerged in the time of the Pharisees. Marcos doesn’t provide details, but he cites Graetz’s article, “The Genesis of the So-called LXX,” which appeared in JQR 3 (1891) 150-156.