Thursday, February 10, 2011

✡ Ask your Dr. if getting off your ass is right for you... Dr. Maimonides says it is!

"As long as a person exercises and exerts himself a lot, illness will not come upon him and his strength will increase." 
"Exercise is a form of activity involving bodily movements that may be strong or gentle or a combination of the two and which cause changes in the person's breathing, which becomes more rapid." Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides, The Rambam (1135-1204). 

There we have it from one of the foremost and respected rabbis and scholars in Judaism. Oh, and it's a commandment: The sages considered it so important that they equated it with the commandment to remember the giving of the Torah/Law: On the verse "Guard yourself and greatly guard your soul lest you forget…the day that you stood before Hashem your G-d at [Sinai]" (Deuteronomy 4:9-10), the rabbis explained "guard yourself" means preserving one’s health.

I shouldn't have to say more, than to get off of your butts.  Just in case though, a little trip through history... 

Judea, occupied by the Roman army, and along comes a band of rebels circa 66-73 C.E. These men worked in fields, in shops, with animals etc, almost as Rambam's time would have known work to be, and they had to be in good shape. In other words, they exercised.  These men were so hardy that it took approximately 80,000 of the best soldiers in the world at the time to put the rebellion down.

A little further back we go and we come to the famous story of the Maccabees, that led a revolt against another of the worlds best armies, and gave us the story of Chanu, Hanukk, Hann... okay, the holyday that nobody and everybody can spell (Almost).  Do you think that they were able to do that by wishful thinking or that the Syrian army killed itself? 

Turn the clock back a little more and we find the icon of Judaism, David. Shepherd, musician, poet, guerrilla fighter and soldier, and later, King of Judea. But, to get there he had to fight, and conduct a series of hit and run missions against the king and his army, and after that, fight the Philistines, Moabites, and the Syrians (Yes, them again). He and his men had to have to get off their asses and move...  

----I'm going to skip over the Book of Judges just due to the fact that the entire book is full of ass kickery and bloodshed (The original story of the "300" is with Gideon FYI **)... because the people had to.... Exercise! 

   Even the story of the exodus from Egypt, and the collective beginning of the Jewish history gives over a lot of speculation that the men were soldiers or at least mercenaries before they even left Egypt.  Exodus 13:18 "The Children of Israel were well armed..." and later they were organized into soldier formations. They fought Amalek, and later, under the leadership of Joshua ben Nun, they took Jericho, Ai, and so forth and so on... 

If these people lived in a time of hard physical labor and exercised to stay in the kind of shape that they knew was required of a fighter, how much more so is it important in an era when our daily "activity" is largely stationary or sitting, this includes office workers sitting behind a computer, drivers and students in the schools, including the Yeshivot (Religious schools). Compounding the the problem is today's average daily diet, which is loaded with carbohydrates, grains, and processed sugars. Inadequate physical activity and unhealthy diet are at the root of many of the health problems and illnesses with which people today are afflicted. 

Ask yourself or your doctor, if getting off your ass is right for you? 

**The argument could be made that the original 300 was with Abram (A.K.A. Avraham), but he had 318 troops. Close, but no falafel.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Garden of Eden or The Fall of the Hunter- Gatherers and The Rise of Agriculture

Chapter 1 it talks about humanoids erm, man, and it says that G-d said to them that they (Neanderthals/Early Humans etc.) could eat of herbage yielding seed, on the surface (tubers excluded for a reason?), every tree that has seed yielding fruit, every beast of the field, every bird in the sky, everything that moves on the earth, and every green herb is for food...  Yes, they ate meat, and lots of it. I know that some people claim, or try to claim, that they were vegetarians, but the anthropological evidence simply DOES NOT support that idea. The bones found from those time periods show clearly that they were predominately meat eaters. Also, they would have had to have a food source that was nutrient dense and had a good calorie for calorie trade off than plant food. And, they were very healthy!!  

In Ch. 2 Adam is made: Adam was the one that had the "higher soul" blown into or given to him by G-d... ergo: man became a spiritual being.  G-d, or the powers that be (Nomadic lifestyle wanderings?)  took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, paradise, the land of all that is good. It's like one's home country where, when to hear them describe it through nostalgic memories, is the best place on earth, no place like it! Have to see it to believe it! It's almost the way people describe places today, or some place much more closer to our narrative, the way that the land of Canaan, "flowing with milk and honey" is described.  

Adam is then told that, or rather it's reiterated that he can eat of  every tree freely EXCEPT the tree of knowledge of good or bad.  G-d then performs the first surgery in history bringing about Eve or Hava.  They eat the fruit, but then the narrative says something quite out of place. While G-d is admonishing the couple in Ch. 3 verse 19, it says "by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread until you return to the ground" No mention before of fire, or harvesting or crops, just Poof! Bread!... In other words, you are no longer a true hunter gatherer, simply put a metaphor was born, the hunter-gatherer period that had been the dominate way of life for so many generations was in transition to an agricultural based society. 

 The young couple had decided that they knew better and that they had now discovered the answers to how to run the world. In other words, the kids thought they knew better than mom and dad, and well, it was time for them to go.  Like parents all over the world, when the kids think they know everything, it's time to go find out that they don't and to make their own way.  Notice, when G-d shows them the exit, it DOES NOT say that they sinned, so I have no idea where the concept of "Original sin", and absurd concept, came from, but it was not from G-d or Adam and Eve. Also, it couldn't have been S-E-X, because G-d had already given the commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply".  It clearly says the reason for the departure is "Lest he put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat and live forever!" verse 23 "So G-d banished him from the Garden of Eden".

There it is, stated clearly, they were already going to die. They were never meant to be, or going to be, immortal.  If so, why would they need to take and eat from the tree of life to live forever? 

 As the couple are making their exit, it says that Adam HAD known his wife Eve. This is interesting because it's in the past perfect sense. Cain and Abel, the two brothers, were already born before the departure from the garden... so to speak, or more metaphors...

Cain works the ground, or represents agriculture, and Abel is a shepherd (animal care). They both take an offering to G-d, and G-d being the one that shunned the agricultural move that the parents made, took a liking to the offering, or token reminder of the ways of the hunter, shown by Abel. Cain then kills Abel.

Agriculture in effect metaphorically replaces the nomadic hunter-gatherer (Never trust a vegetarian ;-) ).  Cain is "cursed" and has to wander (Serves you right hippy!) around to find a place to hide (From who?) but then says a phrase that tells us that the Adam and Eve family were not alone at all...Ch 4:14 "...Whoever meets me will kill me!" then he goes to settle in the land of Nod, east of Eden, verse 17: "Cain knew his wife", they had such an adorable little kid (a brat to the rest of the world) and "Cain became a city builder, which gives us insight that there were other people, and he named the city after his son..." People were already roaming around and settling down. Agro-business is born, and we've been screwed ever since.

So, the short version recap for my paleo-religionists is something like this:
G-d told us a long time ago, fruit √, herbs √, plants on the surface (no tubers?) √, tasty animals √ ... and the mystery plant... HMmmm, I'm guessing wheat as it mentions making bread in the next verses, BUT the conventional Jewish train of thought is that it was a fig tree.  No original sin concept found here (I think it's in the Vatican somewhere) Oh yeah, vegetarians BAD!! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In the beginning...

  We weren't there! What we do know is that "Something" happened. In science, they choose to call it "The big bang", and in theological circles they call it the voice of G-d. What would the voice of G-d sound like?  We know from the Book of Exodus, Shmot in Hebrew, that for the little tiny bit of what the Jews heard at Mount Sinai, that it was powerful enough to kill everyone that heard it.  Now, if we were to expand that to G-d playing in an empty space without the care of killing everything, then we can say that it would sound a lot like an explosion... BANG! Scientists estimate this time to have occurred around 15 billion years ago. Interestingly, enough according to Rabbi Isaac of Acco (13th Century Kabbalist), the account of creation would have occurred 15,340,500,000 years ago.  The earth, or the start of life on earth, by the same standard is 2,556,750,000 years ago, also very close to the scientific estimate of when life began here.

  There are actually two accounts of creation in Genesis (Bereshit in Hebrew). Chapter 1 talks about the start of creation in the 6 days or cycles, where G-d did not actually create the world, but put all of the components together that allow the earth to develop. After these 6 days, G-d allowed the universe to develop by itself, as all of the laws of nature and matter had been established.  Each of the six days, or cycles, brought something new into existence. The fifth cycle being the one that brought about life approximately 2.5 billion years ago. Interesting is that in verse 21, we find the "great sea giants". The term used there in Hebrew, literally means large reptiles. In modern Hebrew it has come to mean crocodiles, the descendants of these large reptiles, dinosaurs. 

The first account of man is found in Chapter 1, and it says that man was made in G-d's image, or that he, or what was later to become homo sapiens, could think, and reason, to rule over the other animals.  Later, around 974 generations before Adam, or about 25,000 years ago (The beginning of the Neolithic Age) man became complete as we know him/us today, homo sapiens. This man had evolved, or was formed from the dust of the ground, but was lacking the spiritual aspect until G-d breathed into him the breath of life...A soul, thus creating Adam Rishon, the first complete man.  In Jewish tradition this happened on Rosh HaShanah, 5771 years ago, or 3,761 B.C.E.

And G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden... and it's been down hill and uphill from there... Up next: The beginning of the end of  man the hunter-gatherer, agriculture, or we just thought that we knew better than G-d, the existence of other people (Adam and Eve weren't alone folks!) and the original industrial revolution.