1. The Times reports, based on anecdote and oddball opinion alone, that the 7.5 million Israelis are in a funk - a bad mood - a malaise. Shades of Jimmy Carter.
Memo From JerusalemMeanwhile back in Teaneck NJ we saw record numbers of Jews celebrating Israel Independence Day in synagogues with prayers and dancing and no visible malaise. Go figure.
Mood Is Dark as Israel Marks 62nd Year as a Nation By ETHAN BRONNER
Both left and right in Israel are troubled, largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program and tensions with the Obama administration.
2. The Wall Street Journal publishes a list called "Five Best" with Diarmaid MacCulloch selecting books distinguished by blasphemous pasts. And guess which "book" is number one.
1. The Talmud, Edited by Isidore Epstein, Soncino Press, 1952The Talmud is not a book and it is not blasphemous. It is a massive collection of religious thoughts (he says that) about Jews, by Jews, for Jews. I never met a Jew who thought the Talmud was blasphemous. Isn't that the measure? That the insider judges a book by a fellow insider to be outside the line of acceptability? MacCulloch invents another scenario to explain and justify the blatant unwarranted anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. He doesn't say the church was wrong. Oops. We are not surprised.
Is it offensive to include the Talmud on this list? Of course— but the point about blasphemy is that one person's revered sacred book is another one's blasphemous text, precisely because of its solemn claims about ultimate matters. This huge collection of rabbinic sayings and commentary was accumulated over at least four centuries after the final destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70. (I recommend the 35-volume first English translation of the most commonly used Talmud, known as the Babylonian version, edited by the British rabbinical scholar Isidore Epstein.) Medieval European Christians frequently burned the Talmud in public, decrying its supposed abuse of Jesus, but the real reason was that these volumes captured the rich variety of Jewish identity—the laughter of the wise as well as their most profound meditations.