Hineni might be the best one-word Jewish prayer.
Hineni might be the best one-word Jewish prayer.
Objective reality as we all (to some degree) know it is a product of myriad overlapping subjective realities as each of us know it; and each of these subjective realities is in turn a product of metaphysical reality none of us knows in any normal sense of knowledge.
If we are insufficiently alert our objectively-tempered subjective truth seems for all the world to be an imperfectly but adequately known objective reality that faithfully represents metaphysical reality.
The hardest thing for a human is not mistaking oneself for God. Most of us fail at this task and succumb to apotheosis.
Humility is a hard-won insight. Self-humiliation is a grotesque counterfeit.
(I’m pretty sure I’ve written this post before.)
I interviewed an Israeli woman earlier this week as part of the work I’m doing. Of course I had to tell her I’m a recent convert. She immediately brightened up and demanded to know why I did it. I tried to answer her, but everything I said she shot down with “you didn’t have to convert to do that.”
“You could observe Shabbat without converting.” “You could have your Jewish friends…” You could read Jewish thinkers…” “You could celebrate the holidays…”
Somehow I didn’t feel like she was doubting my decision. It seemed like maybe she was honoring it. Because things were immediately different between us when I told her. Kicking my ass with such familiarity, cheer and warmth, she was showing me my best answer.
Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi led Torah study yesterday. She focused on “the first thing Abraham did after becoming a Jew”: argue — and with God, no less, which she characterized as an essentially Jewish act.
Then Adonai said, “The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave! I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me; if not, I will take note.”
The men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before Adonai.
Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?
What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
And Adonai answered, “If I find within the city of Sodom fifty innocent ones, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham spoke up, saying, “Here I venture to speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes: What if the fifty innocent should lack five? Will You destroy the whole city for want of the five?”
And He answered, “I will not destroy if I find forty-five there.”
But he spoke to Him again, and said, “What if forty should be found there?”
And He answered, “I will not do it, for the sake of the forty.”
And he said, “Let not my Lord be angry if I go on: What if thirty should be found there?”
And He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
And he said, “I venture again to speak to my Lord: What if twenty should be found there?” And He answered, “I will not destroy, for the sake of the twenty.”
And he said, “Let not my Lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found there?” And He answered, “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.”
When Adonai had finished speaking to Abraham, He departed; and Abraham returned to his place.
My question was if this sequence didn’t imply an essentially liberal argument. She said, “first, you’ll need to define what you mean by ‘liberal’, and I found myself answering, almost as if the answer was being pulled from me: “For the sake of one.”
(The rabbi answered that in the ancient Jewish world, the closest thing to an individual was ten people, a minyan. There’s something in this idea, ten people as a fundamental unit, that I can feel is going to stay a live problem for me.)
After class several of us stayed in the room and talked. I pointed out a similarity between Abraham’s dialogue with Adonai and hostage negotiation as presented by George Kohlrieser in Hostage at the Table. 1) A hostage negotiator progresses in small steps, starting with any kind of response at all; 2) the goal is to move toward clarification of what truly matters to the hostage-taker, in order to find some way to appeal to it for the sake of a humane outcome; and 3) in the process to create an emotional bond and establish the negotiator as a “secure base”. It is interesting to see this newly established relationship between Adonai and Abraham starting with what can be viewed as a hostage negotiation creating a secure base of covenant.
It was a great Torah study.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh Jews were being gunned down by a right-wing antisemite who, after surrendering to police told them, “all these Jews need to die.”
Reading Whitehead’s Modes of Thought I’m reminded of Levinas’s dichotomy of totality versus infinity, and Schuon’s similar indefinite versus infinite. The former term (totality/indefinitude) is some particular conception of all possibilities, against which all particulars are defined; the latter term (infinity/infinite) is real possibility independent of any and every conception. According to Schuon, the indefinite (within a totality) simply repeats a finite entity interminably. The idea of time extending endlessly backwards and forwards is indefinite time, and should not be confused with infinite time, Eternity. That, at least, is what I took from him 15 years ago when I read Stations of Wisdom.
From within any particular conception the difference between totality/indefinitude and infinity is indistinguishable, and for casual practical purposes we treat them as identical. The difference between the two comes into view only when reality defies our conceptual repertoire by producing an inconceivable actuality that refuses to fit within possibilities anticipated by the totality in question and its indefinite possibilities.
We encounter infinity as such when we experience viscerally an incapacity to comprehend, and I will list three instances where this happens:
I’ve travelled a long way from the passage that inspired this reflection:
Matter-of-fact is the notion of mere existence. But when we seek to grasp this notion, it distinguishes itself into the subordinate notions of various types of existence for example, fanciful or actual existences, and many other types. Thus the notion of existence involves the notion of an environment of existences and of types of existences. Any one instance of existence involves the notion of other existences, connected with it and yet beyond it. This notion of the environment introduces the notion of “more and less,” and of multiplicity.
In Taoism the infinite is Tao and the indefinite is “the ten thousand things”. I love thinking about people’s totalities as “everythings” and then imagining a totality of totalities as “ten thousand everythings”, each potentially forming a relationship with infinity, starting with forming relationships with one another and their shared realities. This is not intersubjectivity worship.
Well, I tried to write about my books and how I want to prune my library, and ended up writing a history of my interests. I know there are loose ends, but I am tired of writing, so blat, here it is:
I used to have strict criteria for book purchases. To earn a place on my shelf (singular) a book had to be either a reference or a landmark. In other words, I had to see it as persistently valuable in my future, or it had to be valuable in my past as something that influenced me. My library was personal.
Somewhere along the way my library became more general. References grew to include whatever I imagined to be the basic texts of whatever subject I cared about. Landmarks expanded to include any book that housed some striking quote that I wanted to bottle up and keep. How did this happen?
When Susan met me, I owned one book, Chaos, by James Gleick. This book is the landmark of landmarks. Reading it was a major life event for me. It introduced me to two of the most crucial concepts in my repertoire. 1) nonlinear processes, and 2) Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions. I loved the philosophical fairytale of Benoit Mandelbrot discovering a radical new way of thinking, and then skipping from discipline to disciple, tossing out elegantly simple solutions to their their thorniest, nastiest, most intractable problems, simply by glancing at them through his magic intellectual lens. He’d give them the spoiler (“look at it like this, and you’ll probably discover this…”) and then leave the experts to do the tedious work of figuring out that he was exactly right. And I loved it that the simplest algorithmic processes can, if ouroborosed into a feedback loop, can produce utterly unpredictable outcomes. We can know the dynamic perfectly, and we can know the inputs feeding into the dynamic perfectly — but we are locked out of the outputs until the process is complete. And then factor in the truth that numbers, however precise, are only approximate templates overlaid upon phenomena! Nothing outside of a mathematician’s imagination is a rational quantity. And in nonlinear systems, every approximation, however minute, rapidly amplifies into total difference. I’d go into ecstasies intuiting a world of irrational quantities interacting in the most rational, orderly ways, producing infinite overlapping interfering butterfly effects, intimating a simultaneously knowable-in-principle, pristinely inaccessible-in-fact reality separated by a sheer membrane of truth-reality noncorrespondance. I used to sit with girls and spin out this vision of truth for them, serene in the belief I was seducing them. Because if this can’t make a girl fall in love, what can? I still hold it against womenkind that so few girls ever lost their minds over one of my rhapsodies. They were into other stuff, like being mistaken for a person capable of losing her mind over the beauty of a thought, or being someone who enchants nerds and compels them to rhapsodize seductively. There’s a reason for all of this, and it might be the most important reason in the world, though I must admit, it remains pristinely inaccessible to me and an inexhaustible source of dread-saturated fascination. (If you think this is misogyny, you don’t understand my religion. “Supposing truth is a woman — what then…?”)
After I got married, my book collection expanded, reflecting some new interests and enthusiasms: Buddhism, Borges, and stuff related to personality theory, which became my central obsession. Somewhere around 2001 or 2002 I also became a fan of Christopher Alexander’s psychology of architecture, and I had my first inklings of the importance of design. Incidentally, one of the books I acquired in this period was a bio of Alexander, characterizing his approach to architecture as a paradigm shift. This was my second brush with Kuhn.) Until 2003 my book collection still fit on a single shelf.
In the winter of 2003 in Toronto, Nietzsche happened to me. Reading him, fighting with him, and being destroyed by him, I experienced intellectual events that had properties of thought, but which could not be spoken about directly. It wasn’t like an ineffable emotion or something that couldn’t quite be captured in words. These were huge, simple but entirely unsayable truths. I needed concrete anchors — concepts, language, parables, myths, images, exemplars — anything that could collect, formalize, stabilize, contain or convey what I “knew”. This is when books became life-and-death emergencies for me, and sources of extreme pleasure. I couldn’t believe you could buy a copy of Chuang Tzu’s sayings for less than the cost of a new car. From 2003 to 2006 my shelf grew into a library. I accumulated any book that helped reinforced my intense but disturbingly incommunicable sense of truth — what I eventually realized was a faith.
But then the question of this inexplicable state of mind and its contents became a problem to me. What exactly is known? How is it known? Why think of it in terms of knowledge? If it cannot even be said, then how can it be called knowledge? And the isolation was unbearable. I was in a state I called “solitary confinement in plain sight” with in an overwhelming feeling of having something of infinite importance to get across, but I couldn’t get anyone to understand what was going on or to consider it important enough to look into. I got lots of excuses, arguments, rebuffs, cuttings-down-to-size, ridicule and promises to listen in some infinitely receding later, but I could not find any real company at all, anywhere. This was a problem I desperately needed to solve.
Richard J. Bernstein’s hermeneutic Pragmatism is what hoisted me out of this void and gave me back a habitable inhabited world, with his lauded but still-underrated classic Beyond Objectivism and Relativism. Equipped with the language of pragmatism, hermeneutics, phenomenology and post-empiricism (Kuhn, again) I could account for my own experiences and link them to other people’s analogous experiences. Not only that — he began my reconnection with design, which had become a meaningless but necessary source of rent, food and book money. I was able to reengage practical life. But Bernstein’s method was intensely interpersonal, an almost talmudic commentary on commentaries ringing a missing central common text.
Richard J. Bernstein’s bibliography, however, was the flashpoint for my out-of-control library. Each author became a new collection. Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos, and then eventually Latour, and then Harman and now Morton… etc. Geertz seeded an anthropology and sociology shelf, which is now a near-bursting book case. Hanna Arendt is a whole shelf, and spawned my collection of political books and my “CDC vault” of toxic ideologies. Gadamer and Heidegger were another space-consuming branch. Dewey, James and Peirce fill about three shelves. And Bernstein’s line of thinking led me directly to Buber, who also breathed fire into my interest in the research side of Human Centered Design (another half a case of books) and sparked a long process of conversion to Judaism (yet another half-case, and growing).
A bunch of these threads, or maybe all of them together drove me into Bruno Latour’s philosophy. Latour inflicted upon me a painful (and expensive) insight: Everything Is Important. Statistics, accounting, technologies, laws, bacteria, materials, roads. Therefore I must get books on everything, apparently. With this we finally ran out of room in my bookcases, them my library room, then our house. We had to get a storage space to cycle my out-of-season books into and out of again when I realize I must read that book right now. Susan just got a second space. I have books stacked up everywhere. I am a hoarder.
I am considering putting all these books back under review, and keeping only the books that fit those two original criteria. Is it a landmark for me? Is it a reference that I know I will use?
I cannot be everything, and I need to stop trying. I need things that help me stay me, and I need to shed the rest. Good design demands economy, tradeoffs, clarity of intent. I have a bad case of intellectual scope-creep. It is time to decide what is essential, and to prune away nonessentials so the rest can grow in a fuller way.
I have another half-written post I think I’ll finish now.
It seems that in the 19th Century “metaphysical need” for “metaphysical comfort” was more common than in the 20th Century, where the needs and comforts were anti-metaphysical.
This strikes me as an ontological analogue to the epistemological struggles (or were they actually also ontological struggles regarding the being of knowledge?), which concluded that if knowledge as we conceive it cannot exist, then knowledge itself is impossible, resulting in vulgar relativism.
If God as we conceived him and used him is no longer believable, then God is impossible: vulgar atheism.
objectivism : relativism :: idolatry : atheism
pragmatism :: religion
So many colons.
Behind the symbolic forms of any person’s “religion” is something much deeper, a religion-behind-the-religion which cannot be spoken about in any direct way but which can be effectively summoned, concentrated, evoked, extended, intensified and hopefully shared through religious forms — through performing, plastic and social arts.
My religion is Reform Judaism, but my religion-behind-the-religion is radical liberalism, which I believe grew out of Judaism, and in fact developed from the unceasing active reforming of the tradition.
Some people sneer at liberal religions, and view them as watered-down, lukewarm, modernistically-compromised versions of religion in pure form. From the perspective of the religion-behind-the-religion called Fundamentalism and its antithetical opposite Atheism, it is impossible to see liberal religions any other way than dilutions of pure religion, but from the perspective of religious liberalism, religion reduced to its forms and to passions about those forms has ceased to live as real religion and has devolved into something more about beliefs than relationships with God.
A friend of mine said “…so basically, Jesus converted you to Judaism.”
Yes. My attempts to understand Jesus’s teaching without the overwhelming influence of Paul’s interpretation led me to sharing Jesus’s faith, which precludes idolizing him as a god, a mistake which I am certain Jesus would have found alarming and abhorrent.
It also precludes any notion of Jesus descending from heaven to radically interrupt or to complete or perfect the Jewish tradition. The tradition was always and still is constituted of disruptions, breaks, repentance, atonement, redemption, rebirth — and it takes a highly partial (and in my opinion, grossly distorted) view of Judaism to pick out one episode from this long story and view it as a radically new first chapter of a new story.
That being said, I do feel that I share a degree of faith with some Christians I know. But that is despite their beliefs, and most of all the belief that their beliefs are the crux of their faith.
I’ve been hearing such dark and incredible tales about George Soros’s depravity and deviousness I felt I’d better look into who he is. And what better better place to start than to go directly to the source and read one of their books?
It turns out Soros is a philosopher — a Popperian. Not only does he have a well-developed liberal ethic, he has developed a profound and liberal metaphysic, which is not something I normally expect from an investor.
The profundity of his metaphysic is what makes him truly exceptional, and I suspect it is also what triggers such violent paranoia in far-right circles. This is what happens when souls who know everything because they need to know everything encounter a soul who knows a much bigger everything.
If only the far-right conspiracists weren’t deluded about Soros’s goals and the extent of his power! If Soros were in a position to actualize his political vision we all would be better off.
In conflicts, there are four sides to every story: there is my side, there is your side, there is what I think your side is, and there is what you think my side is.
If you want to know a person’s soul, don’t be distracted by how that person represents himself in a conflict. You’ll learn far more about who he is listening to what he has to say about his enemy.
If you hear dark and incredible tales of depravity and deviousness, take extreme care. Being on the side of good, facing such enemies, the righteous man might be forced to do evil things to defend himself and his people. If he has foresight and strong resolve he might even take preemptive action in order to avert an inevitable catastrophe.
Formless realities cannot be grasped with formal thinking, but our relationship with formless realities can be.
Formally grasping our relationship with formless realities makes these relationships with formless realities more bearable.
This is mainly a note to myself at this point. It feels important, so I’m posting it.
What isn’t religion’s purpose? Here is a partial list:
These things are all means to another end, another purpose.
I think my view of life is more tragic than the process philosophies I’ve encountered so far. I’ve found myself writing “lacks tragedy” in the margins of passages such as this one, from Mesle’s Process-Relational Philosophy:
It is vital to emphasize again and again that God’s power is not omnipotent unilateral or coercive power. Quite the opposite. God cannot coerce any creature. Every creature has its own freedom. Rather God is the persuasive ground of freedom. So God knows what we may choose and are likely to choose, but not what we will choose. God is omniscient (all knowing) in the sense that God knows everything there is to know, but since the future does not exist it is not there to be known. Only the possibilities for the future can be known perfectly. Nor can God remain unaffected by the world: God is the only one who has the strength, the ability, to be open to every single experience in the world. God is the only one who can take every thing in, integrate it with God’s own infinitely ancient wisdom, and create God’s self out of that relationship in each moment. God is the only one who can then feed back to every creature in the world a lure and call toward those possibilities that are best for it. All the possibilities are there, good and bad, but they come to us, Whitehead says, with God’s call toward the better.
I see no reason why God should always offer a win-win for both the participant and the whole in which it participates. In fact, I think the role of religion is to help us affirm the whole even when it requires us to make sacrifices or even be sacrificed. Attempts at claiming that there’s a possibility of individual benefit built into every crisis lacks credibility and sublimity.
I do believe in “the lure”, and in fact it is the basis for my own belief in God, but I believe this lure demands transcending love from us, and is not itself an act of love of our individual selves. The lure demands that we live from ourselves toward that which includes and exceeds us.
If you believe Earth was created as a paradise meant to remain perfect, but made imperfect by human wickedness, every flaw will be viewed as an example of corruption that should never have happened.
If you believe Earth was created brutal but has over time raised itself out of brutality in a semi-steady process of development toward something better, every flaw can be viewed as a project for improvement.
Some people look at the United States of America as a place where the Civil Rights Movement was able to happen, and this is one more reason to honor and love it.
Some people look at the United States of America as a place where the Civil Rights Movement was needed to rectify inexcusable injustices, and this is one more reason to despise and condemn it.
I have always instinctively disliked the myth of the Fall.
Last week’s pasha was Bereshit. (Happy Simchat Torah.) The rabbi who facilitated Torah Study commented that Judaism has never read the story of the Edenic exile as a catastrophe or a matter of regret. For Judaism, the book of Genesis is stage setting for the main act, Exodus: a story of liberation from bondage, a cause for perpetual celebration.
Two points of departure: an Exile and an Exodus. Two trajectories: a Fall and a Rise.
While I’m scanning passages from C. Robert Mesle’s Process-Relational Philosophy, here are two more that inspired me.
The first passage appeals to my designer consciousness:
Descartes was wrong in his basic dualism. The world is not composed of substances or of two kinds of substances. There is, however, what David Ray Griffin calls an “organizational duality.” Descartes was correct that rocks and chairs and other large physical objects do not have minds, while humans do. In Whiteheadian terms, rocks are simply not organized to produce any level of experience above that of the molecules that form them. In living organisms, however, there can be varying degrees to which the organism is structured to give rise to a single series of feelings that can function to direct the organism as a whole. We can see fairly clearly that at least higher animals like chimps and dogs have a psyche (mind or soul) chat is in many ways like our own. This psyche draws experience from the whole body (with varying degrees of directness and clarity), often crossing a threshold into some degree of consciousness, and is able in turn to use that awareness to direct the organism toward actions that help it to survive and achieve some enjoyment of life. The self, or soul, then is not something separate from the body. It arises out of the life of the body, especially the brain.
The mind/soul/psyche is the flow of the body’s experience. Yet your body produces a unique mind that is also able to have experiences reaching beyond those derived directly from the body. We can think about philosophy, love, mathematics, or death in abstract conceptual ways that are not merely physical perceptions. Without the body, there would be no such flow of experience, but with a properly organized body, there can be a flow of experience that moves beyond purely bodily sensation. Furthermore, your mind can clearly interact with your body so that you can move, play, eat, hug, and work. There is a kind of dualism here in that the mind is not only the body but it is, in Griffin’s phrase, a hierarchical dualism rather than a metaphysical one. There are not two kinds of substances — minds and bodies. There is one kind of reality — experience. But experience has both its physical and mental aspects.
To my ears, this is a beautiful dovetail joint waiting to be fitted to extended cognition. “Rocks are simply not organized to produce any level of experience above that of the molecules that form them” but if a human organizes those rocks in particular ways, for instance drilling and shaping them into abacus beads, or melting them down to manufacture silicon chips, those rocks can be channeled into extended cognitive systems which in a very real way become extensions of our individual and collective minds. It is ironic to me that even at this exact instance, in typing out this sentence, a thought is forming before my eyes with the help of rocks reorganized as silicon chips which are participating in the “having” of this very thought. And if anyone is reading this and understanding it, my thought, multi-encoded, transmitted, decoded and interpreted by your own intelligence — rocks have helped organize this event of understanding! Humans help organize more and more of the “inanimate” world into participants of experience.
And now we are wading out into the territory developed by Actor-Network Theory, which asks, expecting intricately branching detailed answers: How do humans and non-humans assemble themselves into societies? I think the commonality within these harmoniously similar thought programs is their common rootedness in Pragmatism. It is no accident that Richard J. Bernstein saw pragmatism as a constructive way out of the unbridled skeptical deconstruction of post-modernism, and that Whitehead, who acknowledged a debt to Pragmatism, is said to offer a constructive postmodernism.
The second passage appeals to my newly Jewish hermeneutic consciousness. This is a quote by Whitehead:
The true method of discovery is like the flight of an aeroplane. It starts from the ground of particular observation; it makes a flight in the thin air of imaginative generalization; and it again lands for renewed observation rendered acute by rational interpretation.
This, of course, is a description of the hermeneutic circle, the concept that we understand parts in terms of the concepts by which we understand them, but that our concepts are often modified (or replaced) in the effort to subsume recalcitrant parts. We tack between focusing on the details and (to the degree we are reflective) revisiting how we are conceptualizing those details. These are the two altitudes Whitehead mentions: an on-the-ground investigation of detail and a sky-view survey of how all those details fit together.
This is an ancient analogy. The Egyptians made the ibis, an animal with a head like a snake (the lowest animal) and the body of a bird (the highest animal) the animal of Thoth, their god of writing, the Egyptian analogue to Hermes. Nietzsche also used this image in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and that is where I first encountered it.
An eagle soared through the sky in wide circles, and on him there hung a serpent, not like prey but like a friend: for she kept herself wound around his neck. “These are my animals,” said Zarathustra and was happy in his heart. “The proudest animal under the sun and the wisest animal under the sun — they have gone out on a search. They want to determine whether Zarathustra is still alive. Verily, do I still live? I found life more dangerous among men than among animals; on dangerous paths walks Zarathustra. May my animals lead me!” When Zarathustra had said this he recalled the words of the saint in the forest, sighed, and spoke thus to his heart: “That I might be wiser! That I might be wise through and through like my serpent! But there I ask the impossible: so I ask my pride that it always go along with my wisdom. And when my wisdom leaves me one day — alas, it loves to fly away — let my pride then fly with my folly.”
And I have seen the Star of David as an image of the synthesis of atomistic ground-up and holistic sky-down understandings. And this is one reason I chose Nachshon (“snakebird”) as my Hebrew name when I converted to Judaism.
(Eventually, I’ll have to try to connect process thought with my extremely simplistic and possibly distorted understanding of chaos theory. Eventually.)
I’ve been poking around in several books on Process Philosophy/Theology to see if my own homegrown theology isn’t in fact some version of Process Theology. So far I’m finding some closely matching concepts. (Two big ones: Panentheism and “the lure”.) That is not surprising: it turns out Whitehead was influenced by Pragmatism (which not long ago I considered my religion). Process Theology appears to me to be the religious implication of Pragmatism.
For awhile I’ve speculated that Fundamentalism is actually a religion of its own: a distinctive way to interpret scripture and to practice religion. Fundamentalisms are more like one another than they are to other denominations within the same religion. I’ve come to see Mysticism and Humanism as similarly connected. (Note Oct. 3: and the book I’m reading reminded me, also Scholasticism.) There is considerable similarity across Mysticisms and Humanisms (that is, attempts to fit religion inside the Enlightenment framework). I’ve been calling them “lateral traditions”. I’m sure this is not a new concept, and when I find the language others are using to talk about this idea I’ll adopt it.
I believe Process Theology represents another lateral tradition.
Last night after we broke the Yom Kippur fast, I fell asleep and had a vivid dream. I was in a yard behind a suburban ranch house where two trees were growing. One tree was nearly barren. It had already flowered and given fruit and had shed most of its yellow leaves. The other tree had strong limbs and was bursting with green leaves. But as I stood admiring it, I noticed the soil at its base was rippling. The tree began shaking violently and the ground heaved a boiling swarm of beetle-worms, which were devouring the tree’s roots. A large section of the tree facing me calved off and crashed to the ground. Within two minutes the young tree was reduced to a flat pile of wet sawdust. Both trees were gone, and thick grass grew over where the trees had stood. There was no sign they had ever existed on the rectangular lawn. “Perfect space for a swimming pool,” observed a woman standing behind me.
Was this dream a response to yesterday’s Torah portion?
God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways. And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.
This displeased Jonah greatly, and he was grieved.
He prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD! Isn’t this just what I said when I was still in my own country? That is why I fled beforehand to Tarshish. For I know that You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment.
Please, LORD, take my life, for I would rather die than live.”
The LORD replied, “Are you that deeply grieved?”
Now Jonah had left the city and found a place east of the city. He made a booth there and sat under it in the shade, until he should see what happened to the city.
The LORD God provided a gourd plant, which grew up over Jonah, to provide shade for his head and save him from discomfort. Jonah was very happy about the plant.
But the next day at dawn God provided a worm, which attacked the plant so that it withered.
And when the sun rose, God provided a sultry east wind; the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he became faint. He begged for death, saying, “I would rather die than live. ”
Then God said to Jonah, “Are you so deeply grieved about the plant?” “Yes,” he replied, “so deeply that I want to die.”
Then the LORD said: “You cared about the plant, which you did not work for and which you did not grow, which appeared overnight and perished overnight.
And should not I care about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not yet know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well!”