Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chassidic Raggae and rebounding curses

I was thinking more this morning about my message from a few days ago about Passover Salvation and Voldemort's rebounding curses, and I realized that this is in fact the message of Matisyahu's song "chop 'em down."

The song is basically a raggae version of the Passover story of the exile and exodus from Egypt, from Joseph's being sold as a slave to the Jewish people leaving Egypt and the splitting of the sea. But it starts with the line "from the forest itself comes the handle for the axe -- chop 'em down, chop 'em down...."

The point seems to be the same one I made in that previous message -- that the power to defeat evil comes by utilizing something of the evil itself in our combat. Chopping trees is done with some wood in the axe, and defeating Voldemort used his own actions against him.

You can hear Matisyahu's "Chop 'em down" here.
And can buy the album I was listening to here.

I hope everyone had fun Passover Seders, and is having a great holiday!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More on Passover and Unity

(See here for a completely new Harry Potter related thought about Passover.)

I wrote previously about the importance of unity, both in Harry Potter and in Torah thought, particularly around Passover:

A friend of mine wrote another note about Passover and unity, noting that we start the Passover Seder with an invitation to others to join us at our Seder, underscoring the importance of Jewish unity specifically on Passover.

I'd like to add two additional thoughts about Passover and unity.

First, in the discussion in the Hagadah of the four sons, we see that the wicked son, the "rasha," would apparently still have been saved from Egypt despite being wicked, until he excludes himself from the people of Israel. Only excluding oneself from the Jewish collective results in the Hagadah saying that were he to have been in Egypt he would not have been saved. Being wicked in the first place was not as bad as excluding oneself from unity with the rest of the Jewish people.

Second, we say at the beginning of the Hagadah "not just once have our enemies rose up against us." If you look carefully at the Hebrew, the literal translation is "that not only one, our enemies rose up against us." I saw commentaries that interpret this to say that our enemies will always rise up against us when we're not one, when we're not unified together.

I hope that all of our Passover Seders can lead to the strong Jewish unity that we need.

Happy Passover everyone!

Passover salvation and Voldemort's rebounding curses

A lot of people have discussed a particular aspect of Harry's victory over Voldemort at the end of Deathly Hallows, that in fact Harry didn't destroy Voldemort, rather Voldemort killed himself, with a curse that rebounded on him when it collided with Harry's curse. I've written previously (here) that I actually don't like this aspect of the story, since I think that Harry should have killed Voldemort directly, but as I write below, there's a definite analogue to this in the Torah.

In fact, we see throughout the Harry Potter stories that Harry's defeats of Voldemort are most often because of something that Voldemort himself did. When Harry was a baby he defeated Voldemort because of Voldemort's having killed Harry's mother unnecessarily. The same enabled Harry to defeat Quirrel (posessed by Voldemort) at the end of Sorcerer's Stone. Harry beats Voldemort at the end of Goblet of Fire because of Voldemort's wand. He escapes Voldemort at the end of Order of the Phoenix because of Voldemort's damaged soul. Over and over, Harry defeats Voldemort because Voldemort's own actions turn against him.

This is a theme that we see throughout the Torah as well. Jewish salvation is very often enabled specifically by the things that our enemies themselves do.

In the Passover story, we know that Moses was raised in Pharoh's house, as Pharoh's son. The plagues are each brought as a consequence of Pharoh's actions as well. In the Purim story, Haman's downfall is due to Esther's position as queen, which was a result of Haman and the King's immoral process of choosing a new queen.

This is even hinted in the Passover Hagadah, in the song "ve'hee she'amda." We say "This (G-d's pact with Abraham) supports us forever, because not only once but in every generation someone stands up against us (the Jews) to destroy us, but G-d always saves us from their hands." The phrase "from their hands," in Hebrew "mi-yadam" (מידם), hints to us that G-d's salvation always utilizes our enemies "hands" in bringing about our salvation - G-d always saves us through our enemies hands.

Besides learning about the nature of Divine salvation, that it seems to operate similar to Voldemort's rebounding curses, we can see a new perspective on things that others do to us. Not only do we know that G-d will always save us, we can look at things that our enemies do as the potential sources of our future Divine salvation.

I'd like to wish everyone a happy and meaningful Passover, both the seder and the holiday itself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Discussion of Harry Potter and Torah on Israeli radio

Yesterday (Sunday) I was on Israeli radio station Arutz Sheva discussing Harry Potter and Torah. It was a lot of fun talking with the show's host Walter Bingham, who asked me a lot about religious opposition to Harry Potter, and why I maintain that books like Harry Potter and Torah are important despite the concerns.

You can listen to the radio program at the following web addresses:

Thanks to Walter and Arutz Sheva for the fun program and the great radio station!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the radio...

In a few minutes I'll be on Internet radio from Israel: