Friday, July 17, 2015

Jews and Their Dendrites

Nadene Goldfoot                               

Around 1946 when I was a young girl, my father told me about something new that would enter our life.  TV.  I thought he was crazy.  Movies in our home?  How far out he was.  What an imagination!  It was impossible!  I was almost angry with him for trying to tell me such nonsense.  Everyone knew movies were in theaters, not one's home. Crazy father!   My mind not only couldn't understand what he was talking about but rejected it completely.  I hadn't grown enough dendrites to wrap around what he was talking about.  Evidently he had read about how Philo T. Farnsworth had invented it in 1927 and people were starting to write about it.   As I look back now, it's very much like what Frank L. Baum had pictured in his mind when he wrote the Oz books.  What dendrites he must have had!

Son born in 1953, daughter in 54, in new age of TV and Mr. Moon, their favorite TV program. It came before Sesame Street was even thought about.   
My parents were able to buy their first TV in Portland, Oregon in 1953, the year my son was born.  He never had to wrack his brain about the possibility of TV-pictures coming into homes.  I loved it!
Every time our mind has to wrap around a new idea presented to us, our brains with their neurons will grow dendrites that propagate electrochemical stimulation.  Doing things that require some deeper thinking such as solving crossword puzzles or doing math problems will grow these dendrites which obviously aid in developing a higher IQ.

The lives we Jews have led from our beginnings have presented the many unwanted opportunities to grow many dendrites, probably more than most people as we have had so many times in which problem solving has been paramount in extending our lives.
Starting with Abraham, who was the father of monotheism who had some sort of breakthrough in his thinking when he realized as the idols in his father's workshop fell and broke, that they really were only clay and not gods.  He was unique in this realization, like another Einstein figuring out the theory of relativity.    People never thought about anything else but that clay idols were gods.  They never questioned it.  No dendrites growing in those brains in the city of Ur which was in today's Iraq.
Babylonian Empire
 Iraq as we know it today with capital-Babylon.  
Iraq was in Mesopotamia and the capital then as it is now was Babylonia (Bavel) or also known as the land of Shinar or of the Kasdim (Chaldees.).  It was the cradle of humanity and the tower of Babel took place here.  Abraham was born in Ur as his father and his people had come from the EAST.  Abram, as he was first called, migrated to what was to become Eretz Yisrael where he later fought against Amraphel, king of Shinar.
 From there Abraham's grandson, Jacob had taken his family group of 70 and had wrestled with the problem of famine in the land by trekking into nearby Egypt when they grew in numbers but were taken as slaves totaling the next 400 years.  It took a lot of dendrite-growing to grapple with the problem of existence there while they were forced to build Egypt's storage cities.  Moses had the problem with his conscience of having to return to Egypt after fleeing to do his part in rescuing his people and with that one G-d's directions, and managed to get them back to Canaan where they had come from 400 years before.  But it had changed.  It took them 40 years of traveling to get to that short distance and the first generation had died off before they got there.  They tamed the land and built an empire.  They became like other people with kings Saul, David and Solomon ( 961-920 BCE)
Relief of Assyrian taking away Israelites as slaves
Babylon was known to be a place of insolent pagan tyranny.  The Babylonian Nebuhadnezzar II (604-561 BCE) had inherited the Assyrian Empire. The northern section of the Israelite kingdom had already been defeated and exiled by the Assyrians about 160 years earlier than the Babylonian Exile in 722-721 BCE.
Nebuhadnezzar conquered the state of Judah (the southern part of what had all been Israel to Kings Saul, David and Solomon) in 597 BCE and again 11 years later in  586 BCE. .  Those attacks resulted in many Jews taken away by them to Babylon, a land completely different from their native land.  At the time, the Jews were made up of the tribe of Judah who inhabited Judah along with many from the tribe of Benjamin and a portion of Levi who were defeated and exiled by Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian soldiers. "Though the cream of the Jewish crop was now exiled from Judah, the majority of Jews remained after Yechanya’s surrender."  Zedekiah was the last King of Judah.  (597-586 BCE)  
This exile had lasted over 18 years and in 3 stages.  In the last stage, Jerusalem's walls were breached and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed in 586 BCE.  Most of the best of the Jews were taken forcefully.  Some were able to remain in Judah and a small group fled to Egypt.  This is recorded and mentioned again is Psalm 137: 1, 3-6.  "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept, when we remembered Zion (Jerusalem)..For there they who carried us away captive asked us for a song.."  How cruel in that they were expected to perform and amuse their captors.  That must have cut deeply.  They vowed never to forget their homeland of Jerusalem.

At first they were most depressed and felt that they had been wrong about believing in ONE all inclusive G-d.  Then they realized that they couldn't be like the other nations who put their faith in worshipping wood and stone.  Their depression was only situational.  They adjusted to their new lives as best they could and started growing a few dendrites as they worked out their new position.

The prophet Ezekiel (Yechezkel)  taught them a new idea in that it was they who had betrayed their G-d, not that G-d had betrayed them.  They had to accept responsibility for what had happened to them.  What a new idea!  Everyone had always blamed THE GODS when things went wrong berfore.  All was not lost.
Building the 2nd Temple
Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) had made the prediction of a 70 year exile before building the 2nd Temple which they knew about.  They followed given instructions of living a good life in the meantime.  They were able to settle in Babylon and Nippur and other towns along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers where they would remain for more than a millennium.  The irony is that this is where Terah, Abraham father was presumed to have come from in the first place  when the "East" was mentioned.  It's not known if they came from somewhere further than this as the rivers might have acted as a barricade.

If you want to get really picky, those who today carry the Cohen gene from Aaron and Moses are identified by the J1 haplogroup and they originated around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent which includes Jews, Arabs, Armenians, and Kurds and found in the largest groups from Iran and Iraq where it is thought to have originated.  The Q1b1a haplogroup of Jews started as Qs in central Asia 15,000 to 20,000 years ago and migrated through northern Eurasia and even into the Americas. G haplogroup, also found in Jews, originated 30,000 years ago along the eastern edge of the Middle East or India or Pakistan and then went into central Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  They really kept moving.   People as we know each other are found to have originated in Africa and then went into Asia and went Westward.  As we heard in Oregon, the saying had been GO WEST YOUNG MAN.  Evidently its an old saying.  Very old, you might say.  Follow the sun to where it sets.

Our Jews had been farmers and artisans and now they had to adjust to mercantile communities. They learned new banking and commerce skills quickly.  Many even became wealthy and got into politics.  They had business contacts with the empire's ruling classes.  They learned to fit right in.  A good number of descendants from Solomon's royal family  included Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah and they served as attendants in the Babylonian royal court.  Daniel became very important after explaining Nebuchadnezzar's dream to him.  The government treated the exiled Jewish kings, Yechanya and Tzidkiyahu  (Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) with respect.
Hanging gardens of Babylon, beauty of buildings
Perhaps it was their ancestor slaves that learned to get along with other slaves brought in from other parts of the known world then.  Socially, the Jews were doing well in Babylonia.  They preserved their identity in genealogical trees found in books of Ezra and Nechemiah.  They held onto their religious beliefs even more so than their predecessors, not wanting to make the same mistakes.  However, they were in danger of becoming assimilated into this impressive world of huge size and grandeur with their buildings and hanging gardens.  The Babylonian culture was revolutionary for its time.  They had universal education and literacy for both men and women.  Their writing consisted of cuneiform symbols.  They spoke Aramaic, which was closely related to the Jews' Hebrew.  Aramaic became the Jews' spoken language even when they returned to Judah.  The Talmud is written in Aramaic.
Babylonians excelled in astronomy and mathematics.  This could be where the Jews got their start with mathematical skills.   Priests could become astronomers, scientists who observed and recorded the movements of the stars and planets.  Others created advanced number systems and this must have led to the future Arabs of the land creating the Arabic numerals that we use today of 1 2 3 etc..  They had created a calendar system that resembled the same calendar Jews use today; both based on the moon.  Jews even adopted 4 Babylonian names for the months which shows the tie between the 2 methods of counting.  The 12  Jewish months start with the Autumn month of Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar I, Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, Tamuz, and Av.
Babylonians also had a collection of laws and edicts they may  had inherited from  King Hammurabi, known as the Code of Hammurabi.  This code gave protection to all of Babylonian society, poor and rich.  They protected the weak and poor including women, children and slaves against injustice coming from the rich and powerful.  It's good they had been taken into such a society.  Jews kept the Torah as well.

Later, they found themselves in a Hellenistic culture which did not make Torah and its laws followed as easily.   Babylonia lacked the intellectual and spiritual grandeur that the Greek culture had.  The Babylonian culture failed to appeal in the same way to the Jewish people to draw them away from what they had.  Jews felt they were the light in the darkness with what they had to offer so were not enticed by the coarser nature of Babylonian life.
Greek God Zeus 
Only when the Greeks arrived in the Jews'  lives with  their balance of physicality and aesthetics on the one side and intellectual, philosophical and spiritual pursuits on the others, were the Jews facing a great soul-searching challenge.  Again, much exercise of those dendrites became exhausting in solving problems of the soul  as well as their physical hardships.
The challenge of avoiding this-Atomic bomb destruction
Like the Jews who were forcefully returned to their origins of Iraq by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the Western Civilization is again focused on this part of the world which may be in its final stages if Iran has its way and gets nuclear power.  2600 years from before and we have to use more dendrites in solving this dilemma.  Are we about to let the Middle East go wild in having the need to arm themselves with like power to defend themselves?  Coupled with the religious pronouncement from Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the fact that we are in the days of the end of the world, and we can really see how it could end with atomic mishandling.  It hasn't been enough that we have the worry of North Korea having such power being they are also an unstable country in our eyes.  No, the Iran regime of Ayatollas do not find favor in Israel's eyes because they have been threatened over and over with extinction by them.  Their religion has been a religion of doing what they say they will do.  In other words, no warnings without intention to follow through.

The Jewish Press, July 3, 2015, front page, p. 87.

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