Wednesday, December 31, 2003

FURTHER TO MY POST on sermons from preachers employed by the Palestinian Authority, Seth Sanders e-mails:

"Oh beloved of Allah, who are the Jews? Regarding their belief about Allah: The Jews have said that the hand of Allah is fettered in chains; [but] it is their hand that is fettered in chains, and they are cursed for their words? According to the Jews' belief, as it is written in some of their holy books, such as the Talmud, Allah divides his time into three parts. One third of the time he weeps. Why? Because his [chosen] people are dispersed in all directions. Another third he spends playing with the whales, and the final third he spends doing nothing in particular. This is their perverted belief about Allah..."

I am not sure if Mr. Ibrahim Madhi (or is that Mahdi, "messiah"?) has seen the Talmud for himself, but the Jewish� themes� he spitefully reinterprets are indeed there. In fact the image of divine bondage is of such stunning boldness and pathos that it would be hard for an ill-disposed reader *not* to garble it this way. First of all, the line about God's hand being in chains is from the Qur'an, Sura 5.64. That Muhammad did correctly attribute this to the Jews is clear from Michael Fishbane's learned and inspiring new Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking:

Commenting on the statement in the Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana (17.5, i 286f in the Mandelbaum ed.) that God's own fearsome and potent right hand, with which he redeemed Israel, has gone into bondage and exile and will only be redeemed when the Jewish people are, Fishbane says that this image "recurs in midrashic literature as a sign that God was involved in the sufferings of Israel, and would not forget or abandon Zion. By means of an even more dramatic link to Ps 137:5 (read as a divine oath) God is said to have put His arm behind Him in remembrance of the Levites' act of cutting off their fingertips when their hands were bound, so that they would remember Jerusalem and not rejoice in psalmody while in exile. Obviously, such passages were intended as positive expressions of divine compassion. But others were less impressed. Struck by the bold anthropomorphic detail...some were scandalized and noted such texts negatively. One such author was the Karaite Al Qirqidani...who adduces the synagogue poet R. Eleazar Kallir's reference to God's arm being bound, as well as an ' the Jews' to the same effect. The latter is undoubtedly a citation from the Koran...which states that 'The Jews say: Allah's hand is chained up.' Such a reference was not intended as a compliment."
(p. 149).

The material about the weeping and playing with Leviathan is also there, though I have not found the locus.

Seth is quite right and I should have made clear in my brief comment that Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi (the name appears spelled thusly repeatedly in the MEMRI report) is alluding to some actual Jewish themes but is twisting them for his own purposes. I too have read somewhere about God weeping, and the playful Leviathan appears first in Psalm 104:26 and I think it is picked up in rabbinic passages. I'm not sure where the idea of God's spending his time "doing nothing in particular" comes from; perhaps it's a deduction from the tradition of his right hand being tied behind his back.

Nevertheless, I still doubt that the Sheikh's comments reflect long and thoughtful study of the Talmud or Jewish literature. And, more to the point, this particular formulation isn't exactly helpful in a sermon paid for by the PA and combined with Holocaust revisionism and a call for a new caliphate centered in Jerusalem.

Seth's review of the book by Fishbane is linked to and excerpted here.

UPDATE (1 January): Rebecca Lesses has more information on these early Jewish traditions and the Karaite and Muslim polemic against them in her blog Mystical Politics.

No comments:

Post a Comment