Monday, July 23, 2007
The predictions I made before the book came out, based on Harry Potter and Torah, are here, here, and here. Next week I'll go through them and discuss how accurate they were.
Comments welcome! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, July 20, 2007
or see it on CNN TV yourself, in the international business news.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I think that Harry's victory over Voldemort will be based strongly on his feelings of love for friends and family. This will make him continue his relationship with Ginny, and change his mind about Ron and Hermione working with him to find Voldemort, and it will play a role in the final battle with Voldemort.
OK, it's not a revolutionary prediction, but now for the explanation of why this prediction is an application of Torah thought.
Throughout the first six books we've read of Dumbeldore's belief that love is the the most powerful magic. Early in the series this seems to be a very abstact concept, such as in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Voldemort tries to magically enter Harry's brain but is unable to do so when Harry thinks about his love for his father-figure Serius. But in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price (chapter 23) the magical power of love is given a more concrete meaning:
[Dumbelore said:] It will take uncommon skill and power to kill a wizard like Voldemort....
"But I haven't got uncommon skill and power," said Harry, before he could stop himself.
"Yes, you have," said Dumbeldore firmly. "You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can ---"
"I know!" said Harry impatiently. "I can love!" It was only with difficulty that he stopped himself from adding "Big Deal!"
"Yes, Harry, you can love," said Dumbeldore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. "Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing. You are still yoo young to understand how unusual you are, Harry."
"It is essential that you understand this!" said Dumbeldore, standing up and striding about the room, his glittering robes swooshing in his wake. Harry had never seen him so agitated... "It is Voldemort's fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, ... and yet, Harry, despite your priviledged insight into Voldemort's world... you have never been seduced by the Dark Arts, never, even for a second, shown the slightest desire to become one of Voldemort's followers!"
"Of course I haven't!" said Harry indignantly. "He killed my Mum and Dad!"
"You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!" said Dumbeldore loudly. "The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemorts! In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart...."
"But sir," said Harry, making valiant efforts not to sound argumentative, "it all comes to the same thing, doesn't it? I've got to try to kill him, or---"
"Got to?" said Dumbelore. "Of course you've got to! But not because of the prophecy! Because you, yourself, will never rest until you've tried! ... Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!"
Harry ... thought of his mother, his father, and Sirius... A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.
"I'd want him finished," said Harry quickly. "And I'd want to do it."
... He understood what Dumbeldore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to teh death and walking into the arena with your head held high... Dumbeldore knew -- and so do I, and so did my parents -- that there was all the difference in the world.
We see here that Harry's power of love is a concrete power that gives him magical motivation and strength against the black magic of Voldemort.
In the Torah this power of love, power based on relationship and based on emotion, is the power of Joseph. Joseph is the dreamer. Joseph is the only man in the Torah to be described in terms of his good looks (Gen 39:6, compare with 29:17, 24:16). Joseph is appointed leader of Egypt in a role that seems to be much more about the image of leadership than about management (Gen 41:42-43). And Joseph's blessing from his father is focused on his relationships (Gen 49:22).
On the other hand, the power of the strong rational and intellectual leader is Judah (eg Gen 44:18). Judah took charge of the plan to sell Joseph into slavery (Gen 37:26). And from Judah ultimately came King David and the royal line of kings. Judah was the source of Jewish leadership.
But, as an interesting analogue to the Harry Potter story quoted above, Judah did not have the power to withstand strong temptation from Tamar (Gen 38:15-16) while Joseph DID have the power to withstand similar temptations from Potifar's wife (Gen 39:12). Judah lost his Jewish purity in dealings with non-Jewish tribes (Gen 38:1, Rashi there) while Joseph fought to maintain Jewish seperation in Egypt (Gen 46:34).
However, and the paradigm of leadership by emotion and love and relationship, Joseph is held to a tremendously high standard. Joseph's relationships HAD to be altruistic and for the sake of the greater good. A tiny bit is self-interest (Gen 40:14) caused Joseph to be held in prison for two extra years (Gen 41:1, Rashi). If someone is going to be driven by love and emotion, it must be pure. Emotion of self-interest will not succeed.
Ultimately, the salvation of the Jews in Egypt started with Joseph, and only after that was Judah the leader. And ultimately we are told by the Prophets that Jewish salvation will come from the joining of forces between Joseph and Judah. "Take a stick, and write on it 'for Judah,' ... then take another stick and write on it 'for Joseph,' ... Join them together into one stick, so that they are one in your hand... behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations.. and will gather them on every side, and bring them to their own land" (Ezekiel 37:16-21, Haftara of VaYigash).
So we've seen strong analogues between Harry Potter's magical power of love and the power of emotion-based leadership of Joseph in the Torah. As we read about Harry's victory over Voldemort, which I predict will be based strongly on this power of love, we can also hope and pray for Jewish leadership to find the right balance between love (which needs to be purely altruistic, not self-interested) and rational strong leadership, to bring us the salvation we pray for and an end to the exile we remember on Tisha B'Av next week.
A lot of the ideas written here are based on the Torah thoughts of Rav Ahron Levitansky and Rav Matis Weinberg.
For Connections readers interested in buying Harry Potter and Torah, it's now available at Sefarim Ve'Od in the Migdal HaMayim neighborhood of Beit Shemesh. If other bookstores in your area are interested in carrying the book, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com and I'll be in touch with them.
Monday, July 16, 2007
If you're thinking about what's going to happen in this seventh and final Harry Potter book, see here and here for two predictions that I've made based on ideas from Harry Potter and Torah. I'll post a few more predictions here later this week.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The following books are books that I've found, each in their own way, to bring the "Eicha" into modern life. They're not the most pleasant reading, but if anyone is looking for something to read on Tisha B'Av, or more generally to show the feelings of war and terror, I suggest the following.
Adjusting Sights: An excellent book about the 1973 Yom Kippur war, written by a then-18 year old religious soldier grappling with the pain, loss, and utter confusion of war.
Life in the Shadow of Terror: A collection of personal accounts of life in Jerusalem during the Palestinian Intifada 2000-2003.
O Jerusalem: The classic tale of the battle for Israeli independence in 1948.
Let's all work, hope, and pray for this year to be the end of terror and all suffering, and the beginning of true world peace.
For those of you not familiar with the aish.com website, it's the most popular Jewish web site according to the Alexa Internet rankings, the accepted standard in web site popularity rankings. Check it out, it has articles and videos of Jewish interest on a tremendous variety of topics. Including Harry Potter.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Certainly, ... I shall make the Unbreakable Vow," he said quietly. "Perhaps your sister will consent to be our bonder... You will need your wand."And later we read Ron's simple explanation to Harry of what Unbreakable Vows
"Will you, Severus, watch over .... ?"
"I will," said Snape.
A thin tongue of brilliant flame issues from the wand and wrapped around their hands like a red-hot wire.
"And will you, to the best of your ability, protect... ?"
"I will," said Snape.
A second tongue of flame shot from the wand and interlinked with the first, making a fine, flowing chain.
"And, if it should prove necessary ... will you... ?"
"I will," said Snape.
A third tongue of flame shot from the wand, twisted with the others, and bound itself thickly around their clasped hands, like a rope, like a fiery snake.
"An Unbreakable Vow?" said Ron, looking stunned... "Are you
"Yes, I'm sure," said Harry. "Why, what does it mean?"
"Well, you can't break an Unbreakable Vow...."
"I'd worked that much out for myself, funnily enough. What happens if you break it, then?"
The idea of vows that magically bind a person's soul is found explicitly in the Torah, in the Torah portion of Matot (Matos). As the Torah tells us (Num 30:3):
"If a man makes a vow to G-d, or makes an oath to prohibited something to his soul, he must not break his word, whatever he says must be done."
Commentaries elaborate that vows and oaths include commitments to do certain things and commitments not to do certain things. If someone makes a vow or oath not to eat a certain food, for example, that food becomes as prohibited as pork. If someone makes a vow or oath to go to a certain place at a certain time, going to that place at that time becomes as required as any other commandment.
Oaths and vows are so important in the Torah that Jews have adopted the practice of never making them, even for things that they intend to carry out, because of not wanting to take any risk of breaking an oath or vow. As an example, on the back cover of Harry Potter and Torah I pledge to give a tenth of my profits from book sales to schools that educate English-speaking children living in Israel, but I specified that this pledge was not a Torah oath, just a pledge.
This is also the source of one of the most famous and well-attended prayer services of the Jewish year, Kol Nidrei, on Yom Kippur eve. Said right before the onset of the Yom Kippur holiday, the prayer specifies that we want to release ourselves from any vows or oaths that we've made that we didn't mean to make, and that we enter the new year with the desire not to commit ourselves to any vows or oaths that we may make mistakenly. Many of the things that people want atonement for on Yom Kippur relate to rash decisions, sometimes oaths or vows, that are made in the heat of the moment and which we later see to be mistakes. In Kol Nidrei we start the day of atonement with a request that G-d release us from all of these vows or oaths that we should not make.
Of course, for vows and oaths, and for all Torah laws, the Jewish perspective on reward and punishment is more complicated than Unbreakable Vows in the Harry Potter world, for which someone simply dies when violating. The Torah views the world as more complicated than simply "do this, you die." But like in Harry Potter's world, the Torah sees vows and oaths as very important, binding the person's soul to the promise made.
I'm not going to speculate how Snape's Unbreakable Vow will resurface in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Would Snape have killed Dumbeldore if he had had the option of attending a Kol Nidrei prayer service? We may never know.
But Jews don't need magical spells to commit to things, as the Torah says, whatever we say should be done. By taking our commitments seriously, our words take on a magical force of their own.
More stores are in the works, so check back here or at the book's web site for more....
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
In Harry Potter and Torah's chapter titled Everything Happens for a Reason I speculated about the scene in Order of the Phoenix where Dumbeldore uses a magical instrument in his office that showed an image of two snakes, and Dumbeldore muttered the mysterious words "yet still divided." It's a curious scene, and one that usually ends up meaning something later in the series. As I discuss at length in Harry Potter and Torah, in the Hary Potter series and in the Torah perspective on our lives, everything does in fact happen for a reason.
But this week will be the test: Will the Order of the Phoenix movie show that scene? Movie reviews have commented that the movie has streamlined the story considerably to fit it into the movie's time, so any scene that doesn't matter in the story has probably been cut. If this scene is in fact maintained in the movie, it will be a further sign that it will be significant in the final book, Deathly Hallows, later this month.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
One prediction that I believe in strongly is based on a chapter in Harry Potter and Torah titled Mudbloods, Moabites, and Moshiach. I believe that Harry will defeat Voldemort, and that he will specifically do so by benefiting in some way by his having grown up among Muggles. In other words, Harry will defeat Voldemort using some power that he has by virtue of his not being pureblood.
Anyone interested in the details of why I believe this will need to read the chapter in Harry Potter and Torah, but in short, Torah philosophers teach that the Jewish Moshiach (savior), and in fact King David and the entire Jewish royal bloodline, is specifically descended from immoral people and immoral relationships. Two reasons are given for this. First, saviors are distinguished from their origins by being very different from their origins. Being a moral person descended from immoral circumstances makes the savior a "new creation" of sorts. Second, rising from immoral circumstances shows that the savior has the ability to transform personally, which is a prerequisite for transforming the world.
Obviously the "mudblood" concept in Harry Potter is different from immorality in the Torah, but I think that the lesson is analogous. Something in Harry's being the "savior" in the Harry Potter series requires that he grew up among Muggles, both to make Harry distinct from his origins and to give him the demonstrated power to transform himself magically, and I predict that this will be part of the power that he uses to defeat Voldemort.
Comments welcome, either as blog comments or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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