I’m teaching an undergraduate course on the book of Genesis this semester. One of the first assignments I require students to complete is to read through the book of Genesis (preferably in one sitting) and write one or two brief yet descriptive sentences for each chapter of the book. I have a number of different reasons behind getting students to do this assignment, perhaps my biggest reason is to get students into the biblical text right at the beginning of the semester. This exercise also provides students with an outline of the book which they can use as a study aid throughout the semester.
While I always encourage creativity, most of the assignments are well done, but pretty straightforward. That being said, a number of years ago when I was teaching a course at Wycliffe College in Toronto, one of my students, Joseph Walker, went far beyond any expectations and wrote his chapter summaries as an extended limerick. Joseph is now the rector at St Timothy’s Anglican Church here in Edmonton (he kindly gave me permission to share the limrick with you). Enjoy.
1 The God who created the world,
2 on this planet humanity hurled,
3 with a snake in the grass,
4 to tempt family en masse,
5 Adamâ€™s generations unfurled.
6 They were wicked (no need to convince!),
7 God said â€œGet in the ark, Iâ€™ll evince
8 with a great Holy Wash,
9 my covenant, gosh
10 and three sons will come out in the rinse.
11 They could not reach heaven by skill
12 so God thought â€œSomeday Iâ€™ll fulfill
13 a promise of lands
14 where Melchizedek stands
15 if Abe keeps my covenant still.â€?
16 So Ishmael resulted from quibbling
17 but the promise of â€œheirâ€? kept on nibbling.
18 After Sodomâ€™s destruction,
19 and old Lotâ€™s instruction,
20 tell us, is she or ainâ€™t she your sibling?
21 Finally Sarah and Abe had a son,
22 (by sacrifice almost undone!)
23 and then Sarah died
24 and young Isaac applied
25 to the birthing of two, not just one!
26 Now Isaac, his father did imitate,
27 and a strange way of blessing initiate,
28 on Jakeâ€™s dreamy head,
29 who then thought instead,
30 of marriage (and family) to consummate.
31 At Labanâ€™s striped flock he did point,
32 his new name put him all out of joint,
33 his broâ€™ burst his bubble,
34 his kids got in trouble,
35 and all their 12 names we have loint.*
36 Esauâ€™s descendants were listed by name,
37 Joeâ€™s brothers did wrong, to their shame,
38 what with Judahâ€™s romances,
39 and Potâ€™s wifeâ€™s advances,
40 some hard luck to Joseph soon came.
41 Yet Joseph was favored with power,
42 and his brothers before him did cower,
43 though he tricked like a thief,
44 to his brothersâ€™ relief,
45 his father with presents heâ€™d shower.
46 So Israel left his vicinity,
47 in Egypt they were blessed by Divinity
48 and the Patriarchs passed
49 on their blessings, at last
50 and the Covenant went on to infinity
*With apologies to the Brooklyn / east side N.Y. accent
If you liked this sample of his writing, you should check out Joseph’s blog, Felix Hominum.
I have inherited my father’s messy desk. When I was in my teens, I actually bought my father a little plaque that read, “A Clean Desk is the Sign of a Sick Mind.” (When my father died, I looked everywhere for the plaque, since I figured that I could use it for my own desk! For those wanting to see a picture of my desk, see my previous post on this subject here)
The New York Times has an article that highlights the benefits of mess. The article, “Saying Yes to Mess,” is written in response to the “National Association of Professional Organizers” (!) dubbing January “Get Organized Month.” Here’s an excerpt:
An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat â€œoffice landscapesâ€?) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. Itâ€™s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.
This is exactly what I have always believed! Sweet… now I don’t have to bother clearing off my desk!
The TV Land cable network has put together a list of the 100 greatest catchphrases in television. There will be a countdown special, “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes & Catch Phrases,” over five days starting December 11.
You can see the whole list here. Here are some of my favourites:
A suburban Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on Biblical figures.
But the charity balked because of the dolls’ religious nature.
Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and “we don’t know anything about their background, their religious affiliations,” said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va.
As a government entity, Marines “don’t profess one religion over another,” Grein said Tuesday. “We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family.”
Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity’s decision left him “surprised and disappointed.”
“The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids,” La Roe said. “I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible.”
This doll was featured in my previous post “Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch 7 – Jesus Kitsch” and has fully articulated limbs, including hands and fingers that can gasp and hold. This “Messenger of Faith” comes with hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals and quotes over a minute of Bible verses (John 3:16; Mark 12:30-31; John 3:3, 15:5, 20:29 — listen for yourself).
To top it all off, this Jesus looks kind of buff! While Talmida thinks the doll looks like George Michael, I think he looks more like country star Billy Ray Cyrus.
This won’t be a full edition of Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch, but when I saw this sweet pantheon of Chocolate Deities, I just had to post it (for other editions of Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch see here).
I thought about a number of different smart remarks when I first saw these: “I wonder if this is what George Harrison meant by ‘my sweet lord’?” or “Taking up your cross has never been so tasty.”
Here is the website’s descriptions of these divine delicacies:
Hand Made Gourmet Chocolates that celebrate the gods and goddesses of love and luxury, joy and happiness, compassion, peace and serenity, healing, and fertility of the body and imagination. We honor those deities who long for sweet offerings and embrace the notion that chocolate has powers to transport and inspire beyond mere consumables. All chocolates are made to order on the day you order them to ensure their freshness.
I especially liked these product endorsements: “These Chocolates are a godsend! They are artistic, meaningful AND delicious!” or “Many people worship the Buddha. Many people worship chocolate. Now you can do both at the same time.”
Here are a few of the delectable deities, starting with the Judeo-Christian tradition:
Not sure if these are Kosher, but my Jewish readers may enjoy muching on a Chocolate Star of David:
For Christians, there are crosses and sacred hearts, but sadly, no crucifixes:
Moving to the eastern religions, you find a whole panoply of pleasing gods, including Buddha, Krishna, and symbols like the Yin/Yang:
There are many more Chocolate Deities available, including gods from native religion and other ancient gods and goddesses — take a look for yourself.
The Owings Mills Times has a small news report on a lecture Richard Friedman gave at a local synagogue. Here are some excerpts:
Friedman said it is difficult to get away from humor in the Jewish culture because it is part of the religion.
“It’s an integral part of our lives,” he said.
Jokes abound in the Torah, the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, Friedman said. The humor is especially obvious if the books are read in Hebrew. The Hebrew language lends itself to puns, he said.
The three pages of the Bible that are devoted to Jonah strike Friedman as the funniest. He said in Hebrew there are 35 puns in the story of Jonah.
The cast is composed of Jonah, who doesn’t want to do God’s bidding; a whale, who has to tote a poetry-writing prophet in his gut for three days and three nights, and a town full of repentants, people and cows who go around in sack cloth and ashes.
Jonah feels betrayed because he told the people they had 40 days to repent. God forgave them after only three days. After all, he did have his reputation as a prophet to consider, Friedman said.
Jonah leaves in a tiff, and goes to sit on a hill to sulk. In the end, Jonah learns a lesson about taking himself so seriously. The repentant people, not to mention the cows covered in ashes, are just as important as he is.
Friedman said jokes help people stay involved, whether they are attending a lecture or reading the Bible.
“Jokes are fun, they are a part of life, and they serve a purpose,” Friedman said. “They give comic relief when the lecture or book gets boring.”
I think that the humour in the Hebrew Bible is one of its most neglected features (see my previous post on this topic here).
Richard E. Friedman is the Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia, and Katzen Professor of Jewish Civilization, Emeritus, at the University of California, San Diego. He has written a number of books, including Who Wrote the Bible? (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com), The Hidden Face of God (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com), and most recently The Bible with Sources Revealed (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com). The latter is a translation of the first five books of the Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy into English, differentiating textual sources by type styles and colors.
It appears that Microsoft has committed a marketing faux pas with the name of their iPod competitor Zune — at least for Hebrew speakers. An ITWorld news article, “Microsoft Zune: Doesn’t sound sweet to everyone,” reports that the word “Zune” sounds like the modern Hebrew word for “f*ck.”
The word in question is ×–Ö´×™Ö¼Öµ×Ÿ, ziyyen, which originally meant something like “to arm,” while the related noun is ×–Ö·×™Ö´×Ÿ, zayin, “weapon.” In Hebrew slang this word became used to refer to intercourse, i.e., “to slip someone your weapon,” with “weapon” being slang for penis. The nominal related to the verb which in vulgar Hebrew is equivalent to the F-word is ×–Ö´×™Ö¼×•Ö¼×Ÿ, ziyyun.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Hebrew linguists are divided over Zune. Tsila Ratner, the head of Hebrew courses in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, says Zune is an unsuitable name for a product. However, Haggit Inbar-Littas, a 30-year veteran Hebrew teacher with the London Jewish Cultural Center, says while the name is “ridiculous” and close to the bad word, it’s unlikely to be mistaken.
Microsoft breaks the controversy down to pronunciation. “While we do acknowledge the similarity in pronunciation to Hebrew zi-yun, that is not the intended meaning of the name Zune,” according to a Microsoft statement. Bloggers have picked up on the difference — one humorously writing that if you say Zune to rhyme with iTunes, out pops the profanity.
I’m not so sure that the words really sound much alike, though I am not a native Hebrew speaker. I would be curious what my readers who do speak modern Hebrew think.