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April 14, 2014


The Midrash tells us that as the Egyptians were meeting their horrible end in the churning waters of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea), the angels wished to sing out praise to the Almighty. God rebuked them and said "My creations are drowning in the sea, and you wish to sing praises?!"

And Whose fault was that?

Details, details.

Well, obviously Pharaoh's fault. Driving into that deathtrap was his decision. Pure common sense should have told him not to. 'OK, that powerful wizard leading the Hebrews or his God worked quite a miracle here. If he can do this, what could stop him to call off the spell the moment we try to follow him, so we get all drowned? I assume he uses a system with fixed spelltime and no undo magic option. So, forward!!!'.

More broadly, I don't think you answer swbarnes' comment about the plagues very convincingly.

There is a passage in the Hagadah that more or less recognizes the problem, and offers the thin - to me - rationalization that it's all about asserting divine power. OK, but how is an arbitary assertion of power compatible with justice? What would we think of a court that found a defendant not guilty but sent him to prison anyway, just to demonstrate its authority?

byomtov: "What would we think of a court that found a defendant not guilty but sent him to prison anyway, just to demonstrate its authority?"

Wait, I thought we were talking about religion, not Gitmo.

Actually I think a better parallel might be "civil forfiture" -- where government can sieze your assets on the suspicion that they were gained by criminal activity. And even if you are never charged with such activities, you have to got to court (at your expense) and prove your innocence in order to get them back.

"Guilty (and punished) til proven innocent" -- now a feature of American justice. Another "feature" to the credit of the War on Drugs.

My Hebrew is absolutely rudimentary, but here's my best shot:

First two lines:
From (at?) the house of our fathers (beit avot)... the house

second lines:
something from the blood (min hadam) ... mezuzah (next to? in place of? as a sign of?)

I'm sure someone can do a better job here.

My brother had horseradish growing in his backyard, so the homemade-horseradish thing is old hat to him. But I can almost imagine.

It just might be worse than pressure-canning habaneros, which I urgently advise no one to ever do again.

You wrote a whole article about how the text of Avengers has a LOT of scenes with Black Widow in them, but that lots of people just can't see the text for what it is, but insist on believing it is what they think it is, or should be. You were right. The text of the movie is what it is, and she really is in a lot of scenes, has a lot of dialogue, does impressive action scenes, solves the big problem in the end, and people who say she is barely there are cherry-picking very very badly.

As far as I can tell, that's exactly what you are doing with the text of the bible. The text says what it says (floods, genocide, slavery, etc), it's not critical of these events at all, but you just ignore certain bits that don't fit with what you think the Bible ought to be. Now, you are adding in retcons from outside the text.

And it's not that great a retcon anyway. Rather than God mourning along with the slave girl and the prisoner over the deaths of their sons, God could have not killed them. It's not like the son of the slave girl was guilty of keeping anyone in bondage. It was Pharaoh, who only did it because God hardened his heart. To go back to my question, how is killing the son of the slave girl loving? How is it even fair?

You want to say that Jewish tradition eventually realized the problem, and now strongly condemns the attitude displayed in the text, then fine. But that involves admitting that the attitude in the text is repugnant.

The text about God hardening Pharaoh's heart is one of those things that convinced me, when I was young, that the Bible was a very, very strange book.

I'm a bit late to the party (a friend just linked me to your Hugos post and I went on an archive binge), but the Hebrew in the Rhylands Haggadah marginalia is composed of fragments of three verses from Exodus - 12:3, 12:7, and 12:8. I suspect it is at least somewhat cropped.

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