Sunday, September 04, 2022

Goldfinch on zinnia


Monday, March 28, 2022

Who will be held responsible for the mess in Ukraine?

 The recent headline is (via the BBC):

"Ukraine’s Zelensky to offer neutrality declaration to Russia for peace ‘without delay’"

This could have happened years ago, without a war. I am recycling some previously posted material on this blog (some of the links in my article from 2014 are now defunct). The draft Association Agreement with the European Union that Ukraine wanted to sign back in 2013 had a military component, including
Article 7: The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)...
Article 10: The Parties shall enhance practical cooperation in conflict prevention and crisis management, in particular with a view to increasing the participation of Ukraine in EU-led civilian and military crisis management operations as well as relevant exercises and training activities, including those carried out in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).....The Parties shall explore the potential of military - technological cooperation. Ukraine and the European Defence Agency (EDA) shall establish close contacts to discuss military capability improvement, including technological issues.
Russia objected back then. 

 November 21, 2013, The Kyiv Post reported that "Russia is willing to take part in tripartite negotiations with Ukraine and the EU, but only if they are held before Ukraine signs an association agreement with the EU, Russian President Vladimir Putin said." 

 November 29, 2013, another Ukrainian source reported that "The EU-Ukraine association agreement cannot be elaborated in the EU-Ukraine-Russia tripartite format, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at a press conference after the Eastern Partnership Vilnius summit. He rejected as unacceptable the tripartite negotiations and the interference of a third country in the bilateral agreement and said there could not be a tripartite format in the elaboration of the bilateral agreement between the EU and Ukraine." 

 What Russia wanted back then is that Ukraine remain neutral. The way to ensure that would have been a Russian veto over the military clauses in the association agreement, in effect, a Russian seat at the negotiations. This was and remains into current times, a no-no to the European Union, the USA and NATO, because of Ukraine's sovereign rights and all. 

 As I wrote back in my old post, and I write now, nothing justifies the actions Putin subsequently took. But the Zelensky offer for Ukraine to be neutral is a concession after hugely damaging events the very thing that could have been conceded without wars, invasions, huge loss of life, and untold civilian suffering, not to mention global economic disruption, years and years ago. 

 Who is going to be held accountable for this? Obviously, nobody.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

India in Medieval Jewish Literature

The search for the sources of Judah Halevi's opinion led me to a publication by The Jewish People Policy Institute, titled India, Israel and the Jewish People, (2017), by Shalom Salomon Wald and Arielle Kandel.


They write as follows (the relevant end-notes are copied at the end of the excerpts):


From the 9th or 10th century on, India appears in the books of several of the most important Jewish writers – rabbis, philosophers, historians, and travel writers. India is not a central issue but it is a part of the intellectual inventory of the Jews of the Middle Ages, as it had been in Hellenistic times. 


The historian of religion R. G. Marks counted at least 19 Jewish texts written between the 10th and 14th centuries that speak of India.65 His collection is heterogeneous. It includes the most important works of the period as well as some long-forgotten books. During this period many Arab travelers visited India and some wrote travelogues that mention the presence of Jews in the country. In contrast, only one of the Jewish authors writing about India, the Karaite scholar Jacob al-Qirqisani (10th century), is believed to have visited the country himself. His Book of Lights and Watchtowers describes Hindu customs and compares them to Jewish religious practices and those of other nations. 

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Judah Halevi: The Kuzari


Judah Halevi (also Yehuda Halevi or ha-LeviHebrewיהודה הלוי and Judah ben Shmuel Halevi יהודה בן שמואל הלויArabicيهوذا اللاوي Yahuḏa al-Lāwīc. 1075 – 1141) was a Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He was born in Spain, either in Toledo or Tudela,[2] in 1075[3] or 1086, and died shortly after arriving in the Holy Land in 1141, at that point the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

From his work "In Defense of the Despised Faith", know as "The Kuzari", in the form of a dialog between a Khazar king and a rabbi, Hartwig Hirschfeld's translation from 1905:


44. Al Khazari: It is strange that you should possess authentic chronology of the creation of the world.

45. The Rabbi: Surely we reckon according to it, and there is no difference between the Jews of Khazar and Ethiopia in this respect.

46. Al Khazari: What date do you consider it at present?

47. The Rabbi: Four thousand and nine hundred years

60. Al Khazari: Does it not weaken thy belief if thou art told that the Indians have antiquities and buildings which they consider to be millions of years old?

61. The Rabbi: It would, indeed, weaken my belief had they a fixed form of religion, or a book concerning which a multitude of people held the same opinion, and in which no historical discrepancy could be found. Such a book, however, does not exist. Apart from this, they are a dissolute, unreliable people, and arouse the indignation of the followers of religions through their talk, whilst they anger them with their idols, talismans, and witchcraft. To such things they pin their faith, and deride those who boast of the possession of a divine book. Yet they only possess a few books, and these were written to mislead the weak-minded. To this class belong astrological writings, in which they speak of ten thousands of years, as the book on the Nabataean Agriculture, in which are mentioned the names of Janbūshār, Sagrīt and Roanai. It is believed that they lived before Adam, who was the disciple of Janbūshār, and such like.

62. Al Khazari: If I had supported my arguments by reference to a negro people, i.e. a people not united upon a common law, thy answer would have been correct. Now what is thy opinion of the philosophers who, as the result of their careful researches, agree that the world is without beginning, and here it does not concern tens of thousands, and not millions, but unlimited numbers of years.


More recently, about the translations of the Kuzari:

Less than thirty years after R. Judah ben Samuel Halevi completed his Book of Kuzari in approximately 1140, it became one of the first Judaeo-Arabic compositions to be translated into Hebrew. This pioneering translation marked part of the cultural transfer of Andalusian Jewish culture, written in Judaeo-Arabic, into Hebrew, and was accomplished in 1167 by R. Judah ben Saul Ibn Tibbon, “the father of the translators.” As the centers of Jewish intellectual life moved to Christian areas where Hebrew was the predominant Jewish literary language, it was only through this translation that the Kuzari was known to generations upon generations of Jews. 


With the birth of Jewish studies in the nineteenth century, scholars began publishing original texts in academic editions. Thus, Hartwig Hirschfeld (1854-1934), working with Oxford-Bodleian Ms. Pococke, the only complete, or almost complete, version of the work, produced a first edition of the original Judaeo-Arabic text of the Kuzari. He published with it a version of the Ibn Tibbon translation which was partially corrected to correspond to the Judaeo-Arabic version, but not in a consistent manner. Thus, Hirschfeld changed some passages in the Hebrew despite their being attested in all the Ibn Tibbon manuscripts and editions, but left other problematic passages untouched.


In addition to editing the Judaeo-Arabic text of the Kuzari, and producing an edition of Ibn Tibbon’s Hebrew translation, Hartwig Hirschfeld also translated the book into English.

There is a recent translation by Rabbi Chanan Morrison, based on a Hebrew translation of a new critical edition by Rabbit Yitzhak Shilat (2010)  "utilizing several Arabic manuscripts, including texts from Russian collections inaccessible to earlier researchers" : Sefer Ha-Kuzari: Precise Hebrew Translation in the Style of the Period of Its Composition.  Morrison also writes: "In preparing the text, I found Prof. Hartwig Hirschfeld's classic (but antiquated) 1905 English translation to be of great assistance.

60. The Kuzari: Does it not weaken your belief that the people of India are reported to have ancient relics and buildings that they are certain are millions of years old?

61. The Rabbi: It would weaken my belief were it based on accurate knowledge or a written historical record that is universally accepted.  But that is not the case.

They are an unreliable people, lacking clear historical account.  They anger the followers of religions with these claims, just as they anger them with their statues, talismans and practices.   They say these things are effective, and they ridicule those claiming to possess a book from God.

This conjecture is only found in a few books written by a few individuals -- books that only mislead the feeble minded.   To this category belong some of their astrological writings, which speak of tens of thousands of years, and The Book of Nabataean Agriculture, which mentions the names of Janbushad, Sagrit and Duani.  They say that they lived before Adam, that Janbushad was Adam's teacher, and other such claims.


Note: The Book of Nabataean Agriculture is, per what I can find, about the people termed as the last pagans of Iraq.  I haven't been able to find out whether there is any mention of India/Indians in that book.


Just to contrast the Morrison vs Hirschfeld translations, Morrison has:

62.  The Kuzari: Granted, had I based my argument only on the traditions of a fractious people who cannot agree about anything, your answer would be excellent.  But what will you say about the philosophers, who as the result of careful research on their erudite level, have concluded that the world is eternal, without beginning?   And here it is not a question of tens of thousands or even millions of years, but an infinite number of years!

Hirschfeld has:

62. Al Khazari: If I had supported my arguments by reference to a negro people, i.e. a people not united upon a common law, thy answer would have been correct. Now what is thy opinion of the philosophers who, as the result of their careful researches, agree that the world is without beginning, and here it does not concern tens of thousands, and not millions, but unlimited numbers of years.




Eliding over the modern phenomena of a fractious negro people,  it would be interesting to trace from where Judah Halevi obtained his opinion of India.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

Mahabharata Treasure House

 The Arsha Bodha Center's website hosts five years of Swami Tadatmananda's lectures on the Mahabharata. Each recording is about an hour long.  Swamiji brings in his trademark humor and American idioms.8

Some knowledge of the story and the characters would enhance the listener's experience, but are not pre-requisite.  

Monday, February 07, 2022

Shower Cap's Blog

 Some of the best political commentary/rants about the crazy politics in these United States of America can be found on Shower Cap's American Madness Journal.  There's a new entry each Friday.

Excerpt from the latest:

Y’know, the way I sorta judge how things’re going in this country boils down to, “is there more Nazi shit going on than last week, or less?” and I tell you, folks, since that fateful escalator ride what seems like a fucking century ago, the answer hasn’t been “less” once. Not once. Well, shucks, may as well grab a drink and join me for a few nervous chuckles at all the zany, zany ways 21st century America refuses to learn history’s clearest lessons…wheeeeeeee.                 

BUT FIRST…move over, Omicron, it’s time for the other plague menacing humanity to run wild, and though this particular variant was 100% made in the USA, I’m sure Rand Paul will still figure out some way to blame China. I’m speaking, of course, of Tantrum-Throwing Manchildren Demanding the Right to Spread a Disease That’s Killed Millions.                                                   

(This is all coming on the heels of a new study showing the unvaccinated are 23 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid than those of us who don’t have skulls full of hornets and rat turds, and how fun is it to live in a society where absolutely no one expects data that clear to change anyone’s behavior, because a certain political party decided it would be a good idea to brainwash their base into despising science?)

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Rangapura Vihara | Sooryagayathri | Carnatic Krithi

While I am an Uthara Unnikrishnan fan, my favorite by far is Sooryagayathri.  For reasons I am not aware of, this song keeps ringing in my head.