Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A History and a Story

Schama's ambitious tracing of Judaism from its beginnings (about 1000 BCE ) to 1492 is a marvel -- full of incident and specifics that make the past lively. Take for example the wonderful description of the trousseau of a mid-12th century Jewish bride in Egypt -"six white robes, three cloud blue, three blue and gold, one pomegranate red, three pearl-colored, two ash grey, two deep green, and two saffron." And all this for a bride "of average means."

 The book is dense with archaeological finds, deciphered shards and papyri, as well as historical documents from medieval England, Germany, Portugal, North Africa, - anywhere that the Jews of the Diaspora found themselves and made communities. The thread that binds the history together is the devotion to words -- spoken or written. The Talmud and the Commentaries and any amount of poetry and the words of the people themselves -- all these give testimony to the rich heritage of Judaism.

And what a history it is! The atrocities and pogroms over the centuries are given full attention -- a disgraceful story and I'll never think of St. John Chrysostom in a kindly way again -- 'golden-tongued' indeed!

But there's so much more! The philosophical and cultural push and pull  between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam over the years, as well as Jews as hired mercenaries, Jews as traders on the Silk Road, Jews in Moorish Spain honored as physicians, Jews in Medieval England protected by the monarch -- in exchange for the protection money that funded the Crusades. So much I didn't know or only knew from novels. 

I especially enjoyed reading about the "vast  Jewish kingdom lying on the high grasslands of western Asia, watered by the lower Volga, bordered by the Caspian Sea to the east, the Black ... Sea to the west, and the Caucasus Mountains to the north. All of Crimea and apparently the city of Kiev lay in its power." This would have been around 978.

I chortled when I read this because I'd first heard of the Land of The Khazars when I read Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road
in which two Jewish mercenaries/swashbucklers come to the aid of the heir to the Khazar kingdom -- I thought it was all make-believe till I read Chabon's comment that he was inspired, on learning of Khazria, by the thought of 'Jews with swords.' 

Now I have to reread both these books. The first, because it is so very full of information that I more or less skimmed through, alighting at the tastiest bits. And the second, because what I learned from the first will, no doubt, enhance my enjoyment. 

NY Times review of Gentlemen  HERE

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Day -- Words for a Dark Time

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017


Bonafide, certified, fortified, justified, satisfied, maybe even sanctified!

I had my last visit from the very nice physical therapist who has been working with me since I came home and she declared herself pleased with my progress. She watched me descend (backward) and ascend the steep basement stairs that have heretofore been a no go zone and then we went for a little walk outside. 

Now it's just a matter of doing a bit more each day. But what a pleasure to be outside! The snow is gone and it's rather balmy out.

Spring bulbs are nosing their way into the light (not unlike myself.)

And the wide world awaits!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Blast from the Mythological Past

All this talk of Golden Showers, whether fake news or something much more serious, has me thinking of the legend of Danae who was impregnated by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold.

Zeus liked to have his way with maidens but often had to disguise himself in a vain attempt to fool his jealous wife Hera.

It never worked. She always found out.

And how I hope that this vulgar buffoon who is about to be inaugurated is  eventually found out by his supporters for what he really is. His cries of 'fake news' would carry a bit more weight if it hadn't been he who kept up the story that Obama wasn't born in the US, promising the faithful that 'his people' were making some interesting discoveries. And did he ever open his mouth to discredit the incredibly far-fetched 'pizzagate' libel? If he did, I missed it.

"People are saying" that DT is a useful puppet for Putin.  Will this turn out to be true? And even if it did, would it bother the true believers who seem totally okay with their leader's infatuation with Putin?

The lack of regard for facts puts this whole election into the realm of mythology. It would be interesting to read what history will have to say about this time we are living.

Always assuming that the future holds anything resembling objective history . . .