Thursday, September 08, 2005

Updating Ovadia..and Updating Again

Norm Geras gives his comments on the story of Ovadia that appeared yesterday and which I discussed below..
"I'm not a believer in any deity, but if I were I wouldn't be signed up to this man's God...Apart from anything else, why so many people should be punished, and so terribly, for George Bush's support for the Gaza withdrawal remains one of the mysteries of theodicies of this kind - deployed by certain theologians even in 'explanation' of the Shoah."

Further, it's my strong impression the notion of tit for tat theodicy was pretty much dismissed as simplistic and wrongheaded in Judaism by the fourth century, if not earlier, as illustrated by one of the accounts of the apostasy of Acher, given in the Jerusalem Talmud's story of Acher [Hagigah 2:1]:
"Once Elisha saw in a dog's mouth the tongue of Rabbi Judah the Baker, dripping blood. "This is the Torah," he said, "and this is its reward? This is the tongue that faithfully declared the Torah's words? This is the tongue that never tired of speaking Torah? This is the Torah, and this is its reward? Clearly enough, there is no reward. Clearly enough, there is no resurrection." [Translation David Halperin]
The point being that it is beyond the human power to look at human suffering and correctly understand the Divine calculus as to why this is happening to this person. And attempts to do this are likely to lead one into wrongheadedness, even into heresy. There is no direct accounting comprehensible to human beings.

In this case, the self-assured imputation that poor blacks in particular, who on the whole, one assumes, have nary a thing to do with Gaza, should be suffering on Bush's account just seems absurdist. Not to mention obscene.

UPDATE: And now ADL is calling for R Ovadia issue an apology.
"Rabbi Yosef’s remarks show a profound lack of empathy for the suffering of others, not to mention an extremely warped worldview. It is disturbing that a man of faith would use human suffering and loss to advance a political agenda," the statement said.

"Rabbi Yosef owes an apology to the United States and to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We hope that religious leaders in Israel will condemn his words as insensitive and beyond the acceptable limit for a national dialogue."

Here's an account of a far more laudable Israeli reaction to the hurricane and its destruction:
an Israeli plane left for New Orleans Thursday morning transporting 80 tons of humanitarian relief and donations collected by the Foreign Ministry, IDF, kibbutz movement, Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Yad Sarah Organization and large Israeli companies.

Several days ago the U.S. embassy handed the Israeli Foreign Ministry a list of equipment and food needed in the hurricane-struck region, including blankets, medicine, large tents, folding beds, medical equipment, fresh drinking water, baby food and diapers.

"This is just a drop in the ocean, we feel it is our moral duty to assist the Americans in this serious disaster that has struck them, " Operation commander Colonel Yuval Kimchi said.

An additional relief team from Be'er Sheva's Ben Gurion University is set to arrive in New Orleans Friday.

A medical team experienced in international aid and headed by Prof. Michael Alkan from the university has already left for New Orleans as part of the Israel Aid delegation.


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