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“A centerpiece of the daily morning liturgy is the Sh’ma—the essential declaration of faith in the Almighty and His oneness. According to the Talmud, it must be preceded by two blessings, the second of which describes God’s love for the Jewish people. But the purpose of the first blessing, a much longer, lyrical paean to the sun and its rays, yoked to praises of the Creator sung by angels and seraphs and other elements of the “heavenly host”—is not nearly so obvious.
The Sh’ma’s two preliminary blessings come immediately after a substantial collection of songs of praise, many taken from the book of Psalms, that form a fitting preamble of their own to the Sh’ma’s quintessential statement of monotheism: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” So why, just before getting to that statement, do the worshippers open with what could easily be mistaken as a hymn to the kind of celestial bodies frequently venerated not by God-fearing Jews but, to the contrary, by nature-adoring pagans?
As it happens, the construction of this prayer, and the contrasts it draws between those bodies and the One Who made them, point to the heart of Judaism and the values it seeks to instill in the unruly rabble who followed Moses out of the desert.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Let’s hope the February meeting does not occur. Trump had been successful through the middle of May of last year when he was pressuring—but not talking to—the North Koreans."
"...taking seriously Dr. King’s critique of Northern liberalism means also calling out liberal public officials and residents who profess commitments to equality yet maintain a corrupt criminal justice system and a segregated school system."
"There are now three “states” involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Israel. Any attempt to move the peace process forward must account for this reality."
"In director Chris Smith's new Netflix documentary, Fyre – about the "elephant of a clusterf--k" that Fyre Festival actually became – we see footage of tech entrepreneur and Fyre founder Billy McFarland telling a bunch of the world's biggest supermo"
"The government shutdown flooded folks with fear. Yet it shouldn’t. The aftermath of shutdowns is also great, with U.S. stocks averaging 12.8 percent in the next 12 months."
"Channel surfing feels futile, if not obsolete. TV is no longer a remote-controlled menu to peruse as much as it’s a Tube Goldberg machine carrying our eyes from one diversion to the next."
"Natalie Wynn, the creator of the comico-philosophical YouTube channel ContraPoints, wanted to make a video that was both more trenchant and entertaining than the others. "
"Fukuyama’s new book does contain a thesis. As it happens, the new idea stands in the sharpest possible contrast to the older one. Liberal democracy, far from showing us a glimpse of a universalist future, now, we are told, faces a severe crisis. "
"...the FDA's newfound sense of urgency regarding teen e-cigarette use is overdue. Beyond the nicotine in e-cigarettes, there are other less well-understood chemical threats like diacetyl..."
"Vegetable-themed snacks like cauliflower puffs and Peatos aren’t traditional potato chips, but they’re not not chips, either."
"Homo erectus was in the news over 2018 thanks to new discoveries in the Philippines and China, which have transformed our understanding of this not too distant family member."
"I am Jewish and queer. But neither of these identities managed to make an impact on the co-chairs of the Women’s March as I begged them, again and again, to take my pain seriously."