Toldot Genesis 25:19-28:9 – Mother, Memory and Motive Bong Joon-ho Mother

Why did Rebecca favour Jacob over Esau, his older twin brother? Why was Rebecca willing to help Jacob deceive her husband, Isaac, in order for Jacob to get Isaac’s blessing instead of his older brother, Esau? Why did Rebecca urge Jacob to flee his father’s household for her brother’s, his Uncle Laban’s home in Haran? Why was Rebecca so sure that if Jacob stayed away for enough time, Esau’s fury would subside and he would forget what Isaac had done to him? If Rebecca favoured Jacob so much, why was she so fearful of losing both of them in one day, and how could she lose both of them if Esau meted out his anger and desire for revenge on his younger twin, Jacob?

My daughter, Rachel Adelman, who now teaches in a rabbinical seminary, Hebrew College in Boston, wrote a book entitled The Female Ruse: Deception and Divine Sanction in the Hebrew Bible of which the first chapter deals with the Rebecca story. She also edited a special collection of essays for the Society of Textual Learning and its scholarly journal, Journal of Textual Reasoning. Her opening essay in that essay was called, “From Veils to Goatskins: The Female Ruse in Genesis.” The core question of that special issue was how female subterfuge, the “female ruse,” the role of the mother as a trickster on behalf of a favourite son, was treated in the Jewish canon, and how it could function to determine religious norms?

In a world of male dominance, where the activities and even identities of women are so much defined by men, in a world where the boundaries around women are very restrictive, where the male authority figures are so condescending towards women – we live in the age of Anita Hill and Supreme Court Justice of the United States, Clarence Thomas, the age of President Donald Trump who once boasted on video that he felt free to grab women “by the pussy,” a man whom his first wife, Ivanka, claimed tore out a clump of her hair and raped her in a fit of rage because she had recommended the hair transplant doctor from whose transplants he was then suffering such pain, a presidential candidate whose personal lawyer went to jail for paying for the silence of women whom Trump, on the basis of the evidence I had heard, seemed most probably to have molested – so the much milder patriarchal biblical context should not be very difficult to grasp.

Given what happened to the women who claimed that Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh in his hearing for ratification were treated for telling what clearly appeared to be the truth about his behaviour as a young man, it should be evident that trickery can have unexpected ethical and even legal consequences when truth does not, when truth even has devastating consequences for the women telling that truth. In essence, when concealment transforms an identity and it is the female who decides and determines the lineage of a people, the female ruse needs to be explored and even respected. Rebecca’s use of disguises, of masking, is not only forgiven but memorialized and condoned in the Torah. God, from the Garden of Eden onwards, is in cahoots with women to overcome the mindblindness of men. Women become the vehicle for unveiling divine knowledge, the knowledge of the heart in contrast to the objective knowledge of that which is said to belong to the opposite side of the brain, lest dogma and brute force become the determinants of the political game.

The knowledge of the heart is not the opposite of rational calculation, but, rather, is married to rational calculation as distinct from a schizophrenic system that divides those two realms into two different worlds. Subversive methods have to be used to overcome the marriage of power and purported objective reasoning, in contrast to a utilitarian calculus with a subjective purpose. Further, the greatest male commentators on the biblical narrative, such as Rabbi Akiva, were sensitive to both the necessity and the means by which women acquired agency through not only cunning and subterfuge, but, in the case of Sarah, the use of coercion in usurping Abraham’s authority and forcing Hagar to flee into the wilderness with her son, Ishmael, and Abraham’s eldest and favourite. Sarah performed a horrendous and illegal act, amounting to intent to kill, in the expulsion of Hagar and her son. Why is she treated as a heroine in the Torah?

The key element of undertaking the deceit is visual perception. The consequence will be a subversion of the established legal realm in favour of a world where God is celebrated, not simply as a God of mercy but as a Dionysian figure, a God of happiness and rejoicing rather than the hand of severe justice. As my daughter has written, “God works through the feminine ruse to redeem people, political power, even the law over the course of biblical history.” (See also my daughter, Rachel’s essay, “On Laughter and Forgetting,” themes also taken up in the film, Mother, that I will also review.)

The female tricksters violate moral norms, but in so doing, these women help in the transformation of society into a more compassionate and heartfelt realm. When the authors of these stories include these subversive tales into the literary canon, is their intention to side with the women? Or is their intention designed to expose that trickery and brand women as tricksters? The snake tricked Eve and Eve seduced Adam. That is the most often told lie in interpreting the Adam and Eve story.

To make this interpretation that I am putting forth vivid and part of a very different but complex male authoritative world, instead of answering the questions posed at the beginning of this blog which I will leave for you, I want to analyze an even older film (2009) than Okja, the one that I reviewed yesterday. For the first time last evening, I saw Mother by the same Korean director, Bong Joon-ho. The film is called a thriller and/or a detective story. It certainly follows the general trope of these genres, but the movie is far more than that.

If I was making a more definitive claim about Bong Joon-ho’s entire oeuvres, I would have to review The Host (2006) and Snowpiercer (2013) as well as Paradise currently showing in cinemas.  Therefore, consider this half of a blog a probe rather than a full-scale thesis.

Mother opens (and closes) with Hye-ja Kim playing an unnamed woman of about fifty, walking towards us looking very forlorn in a very large field of tall hay and she gradually begins dancing by herself. We then see her in her own herbal remedy shop cutting herbs with a paper cutter as she ominously watches her mentally challenged son, Yoon Do-joon, playing with a dog on the curbside across the road, Very suddenly, he is struck by a hit-and-run driver. He is not seriously hurt, but he and his ruffian friend, Jin-tae (Jin Goo), note the make of the car, its colour and its licence plate and follow it to a golf course bent on revenge on the driver.

We learn very quickly that the mother is totally devoted to her son. We also learn that she is an illegal unlicensed practitioner of acupuncture on the side who promises a wealthy but barren rich woman that by using her techniques, a pregnancy can be guaranteed. She also uses acupuncture to free clients from unwanted memories that have repressed their heart and feelings. By then we also quickly become aware of the mother’s absolute commitment to her son who is twenty-seven years old but totally dependent on his single mother and that Yoon Do-joon’s mental retardation manifests itself in rash anger and even rage at any insults directed his way while he is also naïve, innocent and very unassuming.

That innocence will be one of the many deceptive tools the director uses to trick us into seeing his truth. Further, the two boys use determination, luck and calculation to find the five professors who drove away without stopping after hitting Yoon Do-joon with their car; they fled the scene so that they could get to their golf game on time. The two boys and the five men engage in a fight and all seven end up in jail charged, in the case of the professors, with hit-and-run, and, in the case of the two boys, who bested the five professors in their fight, with assault. The police try to mediate and get both the cold and indifferent academics and the two rash boys to drop charges, until the police discover that the boys broke the rear-view mirror of the Mercedes Benz that hit Yoon Do-joon and it will cost a great deal to fix.

The charges for hit-and-run as well as assault are dropped, but the mother is forced to borrow to pay for the repair when the mirror was really broken by Jin-tae who lied and insisted that Yoon Do-joon did the damage. Jin-tae is a thug who uses his mentally challenged friend and would betray him easily if and when needed. Thus, packed into a very short time at the beginning of the movie is a theme of deception used for self-protection versus the mother’s illegal deception to earn money to support her son to whom she is so devoted. We learn of the materialism of society and the use of its authority to protect property rather than persons. We are also presented with a stereotype of academics as cold, totally indifferent to issues of justice or compassion, and only intent on “their pound of flesh.”

What follows is the murder of a high school girl, Moon Ah-jung, whom Yoon Do-joon followed into a dark alley, but whom we also see back away from the scene. Moon Ah-jung’s body was found the next day hanging over a rail with her hair hanging down. The police find a witness who identifies Yoon Do-joon as having been at the crime scene, but only after the police themselves had located a golf ball that the boy had fished out of a water hole at the golf course and inscribed his name on. Serendipity combined with clues point to the boy’s guilt while we viewers are convinced of his innocence from what we observed.

The mother searches for the killer through byways and dead ends. She is the detective in this tale since the police are convinced that they have found the murderer, especially since the boy talks without the aid of counsel and even signs a confession when requested by his interrogators. The movie fits all the boxes to dub it a crime thriller about murder and finding the real killer. In seeking to prove her son’s innocence, the mother travels down one blind alley after another.

The movie comprises a combination of recovered memories, one of which leads to the alienation of the son from his mother, and new knowledge that has to be hidden. There are totally serendipitous moments, as if this movie were a satire of its own genre, and newly discovered evidence on the way to finding the killer. As the movie unfolds, another murder takes place, though that murder is covered up. That is one way of learning that the surface of the movie will not be the same as its depth.

You will have to see the movie yourself to see how an almost absurdist version of the detective trope can disguise a film loaded with deep meaning. Instead, I will compare and contrast the tale of Rebecca in the Torah with the narrative in Mother to reveal how deception is used and memories recovered to uncover the underlying meaning of mayhem and murder.

Both the film and the Torah tale use the device of a cover-up both literally and figuratively. Rebecca has Jacob cover his arms with an animal skin so they will feel hairy to his father who can then mistake Jacob for his brother Esau in spite of Jacob’s high voice. The mother in the film uses several guises herself through the movie to find the killer, such as pretending to be a health care worker when she visits a junk collector who may have been a witness to the murder.

The mother uses her medical techniques of acupuncture to unlock the forgotten repressed memories that burden the junk collector’s heart – his role as a junk collector is very relevant – but the result in inadvertent and unintended. So are Rebecca’s. Her advice appears to be successful in tricking Isaac, but the trick is uncovered and Jacob is forced to flee for his life. Obtaining the blessing, in the short run, seemed to result in the opposite of the goal intended, the inheritance of Isaac’s wealth by his son Jacob rather than Esau. Jacob is forced to flee and earn his fortune on his own by both being deceived and learning to use deception. As it turns out, God uses deceptive ways to counteract normal psychological and sociological forces to achieve a better outcome.

Both tales begin with two boys of very opposite character with the thug dominating the innocent in the film and the hunter type dominating the stay-at-home younger twin in the biblical tale. While the thug disappears from history in the movie, Esau does not but is prophesied to emerge to be the forebear of multitudinous tribes, but ones that will in the end be subservient to the much smaller group of descendants of his younger brother.

In the movie, there is no sense of a long-term historical pattern unfolding. Rather, Bong Joon-ho is more of a Rousseau figure, offering a glimpse of a return to nature, a return to a mythical and misinterpreted Garden of Eden as an escape from the trials and tribulations, the deceit and the power plays of the larger material world. Bong Joon-ho would sacrifice the thugs of this world and relegate to them the status of permanent losers while the Torah makes every effort to preserve the seed of Abraham if only in an opposite way than would otherwise develop from natural determinants. Rebecca will not lose her sons, Esau and Jacob, on the same day but will gain a place in the history of both.

In the Torah, Isaac is the blind one. In the movie, following the genre, the official police are the blind ones as they, in typical fashion to the underpinnings of the genre, draw conclusions to easily and too readily without seeking to develop a much larger picture. That is an instruction that the Torah gives its readers and that the director of the movie sends to his viewers.

Both tales have a prequel. Rebecca and Isaac want a child and pray to God for one. He plants two in her womb. Rebecca experiences violence between them. God prophesies that the two will be divided from one another. “One state shall become mightier than the other and the mighty one shall serve the lesser.” The mother in the movie it turns out was also divided within herself and subverted her own action to resolve and end the tearing within herself, but the subversion of her effort takes place for the most mundane cause. The mother was too cheap to purchase the right chemicals to do the job. Her mind was at odds with her heart and her heart had to undermine the mind with its own determination process. Sarah more self-consciously recognizes that the cowboy and the farmer cannot be friends and that she must choose one that will advance civilization not retard it, even if it means, even if it must mean, favouring one child over the other and will require subverting a patriarchal order.

The nature of the divisions in the two cases are very different. In the Torah, it will be a battle between two ways of life, the restless nomad or the settled agriculturalist. In the movie, it will be an internal struggle between compassion and love versus self-interested detached and calculating reason. But in each case, the deeper meaning has to be mined, has to be unveiled. The cover-up has to be removed to discover and recover the hidden meaning. The mother is not the only one required to undertake detective work. Both reveals do so in very different ways and for very different reasons, but it is incumbent on the reader to excavate below the surface, to unveil the cover-up of standard literary tropes to reveal the meaning underneath the surface of banal and even incredulous tales.  


The Settlements and the Burial of Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah Parashat Chayei Sarah חיי שרה

The Settlements and the Burial of Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah

Parashat Chayei Sarah חיי שרה 


Howard Adelman

There is just too much going on. This week and last week I spent two days of each week glued to my television to watch and listen to the historic impeachment hearings with respect to President Donald Trump of the United States. In Israel, this past week, not only did Benny Gantz fail in his efforts to form a government, but Israel’s Prosecutor General, Avichai Mandelbit, with an evident heavy heart for charging his mentor, Bibi Netanyahu, out of duty to the rule of law, announced the indictment of the Prime Minister of Israel on three charges, bribery, fraud and breach of trust, of which the most serious was bribery. Bibi called these legally laid charges “an attempted coup.”

The actions for which Netanyahu was charged echoed precisely what Trump has been accused of – using his official position, not to advance the national interests, but to undermine those interests by offering to trade favours – a meeting in the Oval Office and the release of over four hundred million dollars of armaments and aid – in return for the President of Ukraine announcing a probe into the role of the Bidens in a Ukraine utility company with a questionable record with respect to legality. Biden senior would possibly be Trump’s opponent in the coming presidential election campaign and the announcement of such a probe would stain Biden in the contest. The American President had allegedly held out the attraction of an Oval Office visit and releasing of funds for personal gain, namely besmirching the name of a possible, even perceived as likely, political opponent.

The third grenade rather than bombshell blew up in Canada amongst the Jewish community about how to respond to Canada neither voting Nay nor abstaining, but voting is support of a North Korean sponsored UN resolution at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee supported by 164 other countries, entitled, “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” a right that was uncontroversial for even Israel. This was the same week that the U.S. State Department announced that it would no longer consider the Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. In the past, both Liberal and Conservative governments have not just abstained but voted against similar resolutions. Why? Because the resolution calls for “an end to the Israeli occupation” and for the preservation of the “territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all [my italics] of the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

The radical shift in the Canadian voting pattern was on no one’s radar as far as I can tell and appeared to be linked with another favour of a third and very different kind, trading Canada’s positive vote in return for support for Canada acquiring a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In this case, there was no claim that the exchange was illegal (the Netanyahu case) or improper and possibly an impeachable offence in the America case.

The Canadian switch was questioned, not because the action of passing the motion was either illegal or even improper, even if it was supported because of Canadian national interest, but because of opposition to the substance of the motion and the policy shift as well as lack of notice so that the policy change could have been debated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had just announced his new cabinet following the recent Canadian elections. The new Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada, François-Philippe Champagne, insisted that Canada had explained its position to its allies and had been in touch with members of the Jewish community about its decision to support the UN resolution.

The question was when, since it was clear that notice had only been given only very shortly before the vote was taken. The reaction among the established organizations of the Canadian Jewish community was initially relatively weak. Michael Mostyn of B’nai Brith expressed his organizations disappointment. Jeffrey Rosenthal co-chair of CIJA, the Jewish lobby Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, called the vote a “distressing departure.” Karen Mock, President of JSpace, downplayed the Canadian vote, insisting that it made no difference to its passage and did not imply that Canada supported all parts of the resolution, even though Canada’s vote this time was unqualified (there was no EOV, explanation of vote that underlined the parts which Canada supported, those it did not support yet why, on balance, Canada supported the resolution).

Karen, nevertheless, insisted that, “The occupation should be condemned. The right of self-determination for all people’s emphasized, and the direction the U.S. is going re annexation and settlement expansion should definitely be opposed if we want Israel to remain Jewish and democratic.” Yet the resolution only supports the Palestinian people’s right to self determination and the Jews are left as resident aliens. Further, the resolution does not simply oppose annexation and settlement expansion, but deems all settlements illegal – contrary to a ruling of the Israel Supreme Court. The territory on the east side of the Old Green Line is referred to as “occupied Palestinian territory,” including the Jewish quarter in Old Jerusalem, that is occupied by Israel when it belongs to the Palestinian people according to the resolution.

Israel’s ambassador to Canada, was much stronger than B’nai Brith and CIJA, and certainly JSpace. “We think the resolution is not a substantive resolution, but an attempt to delegitimize Israel and is part of the whole package that should be rejected out of hand.” The Israeli Supreme Court has upheld the practice of “enclave law” in Area C of the West Bank wherein Israeli Military Orders are deemed to include the application of Israeli domestic law, such as educational, labour, welfare, property and health law. The effect was to make the combined military legislation and extraterritorial application of domestic legislation as, in effect, making the old Green Line irrelevant in law. In contrast, Palestinians still resident in the territory are ruled under a combination of Jordanian and military law. Any future of the development of law with respect to the territories as a whole was left to future negotiations. This was the case prior to the efforts to expand Israeli sovereignty to significant parts of the territory of the West Bank while expanding the application of the concept of what was to be included under sovereign control.

These momentous events, in Israel, the U.S. and Canada, took place in the very week that we read Parashat Hayyei Sarah in synagogues, a portion that begins with Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah as a burial site for his beloved Sarah. (Genesis 23:1-20) Sarah died in Kiriath Arba – now Hebron – where Israel now had one of its most controversial settlements in the West Bank. In that portion, Abraham was a “resident alien” among the Hittites, the dominant population then in the area. The Hittites offer the grave site free to Abraham. However, twice Abraham politely rejected the offer and insisted on paying for the grave site at “market rates” – four hundred shekels of silver, a price that seems exorbitant – for the cave and the surrounding fields just outside of Hebron.

There we have it all coming together in one week – discussions of illegal and improper favours for favours and the issue of the illegality or legality of settlements against the biblical and historical background in which the founding father of the Jewish people purchased a gravesite at market rates. What is the import and significance of Abraham purchasing Sarah’s gravesite and does it have anything to say about the UN vote this past week as well as the parallel controversies over favours for favours in Israel and in the United States?

I begin with the Biblical text first and note that the purchase agreement immediately follows the very famous story of Abraham’s almost completed sacrifice of his own son Isaac, the so-called Akeidah. It is also very noticeable that Isaac is nowhere in sight at the burial of his mother. He only reappears in the next chapter from of all places the location where Hagar, Abraham’s concubine who had been thrown out into the desert with her son Ishmael, was promised by God that she would be a mother of a nation with so many members that they could not be counted.

Isn’t this very odd? Isaac’s father seemed willing to kill his son, presumably to demonstrate his faith, but is saved from doing so. Hagar is thrown in the desert and is also rescued by God. Then Isaac does not return to see his mother or at least attend her grave, but visits the very place where Hagar was visited by God.  Did Isaac bring Hagar and Ishmael back with him as one midrash insisted? Isaac and his older brother by thirteen years, Ishmael, together bury their father in the cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 25:9) Did Isaac go to see Hagar because he resented that his own mother did not stand in the way of what Abraham had done to him? Or did the two, Isaac and Ishmael, just get together to share their common sense of rejection, for though Abraham did not slay his son, there is no indication that he embraced him following the trauma of his father trying to kill you.  Instead, father and son went their separate ways. (This depiction captures somewhat the coldness of Queen Elizabeth and her husband towards their own children in the current third year of the TV series, The Crown.)

Further, the God who took mercy upon Hagar and her son and the God who seemingly cruelly ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son are opposites. Both sides of this schizophrenic God, a God of mercy and justice versus a God willing to traumatize Isaac just to test Abraham’s faith, gave promises that the Ishmael line and the Isaac line as both seeds of Abraham would both thrive and proliferate. What is one to make of such a tale and what relevance does it have in the controversies over settlements in the West Bank? Further, what is one to make of this short vignette that ends with God promising that Isaac’s descendants will inherit all the land of Canaan while Ishmael is destined to become a father of the Bedouin living between Canaan and Egypt, that is Paran (Genesis 21:21), presumably the Sinai desert?

 The very recent resolution that Canada reversed course and not by supporting Palestinian self-determination, but by endorsing the Green Line of 1949, a temporary armistice line, as the basis for negotiation, and further insisted that the territory east of the Green Line, including French Hill and the Old City of Jerusalem, were “occupied territories,” that is, “territory under the authority and effective control of a belligerent armed force.” That certainly characterizes the Crimea, now occupied by Russia, and even the Donbass of eastern Ukraine where Russian troops and its local proxies have instigated a violent secessionist conflict. “Occupied territory” is not the applicable phrase to a territory administered under a peace treaty or agreement, such as Area C administered by Israel in accordance with the Oslo Accords.

Although settling the West Bank, or parts of the territory by Israel, may or may not be illegal, they are certainly regarded as inadvisable by many and an “obstacle to peace.” Certainly, most countries regard the settlements as obstacles to peace. And almost all countries, other than Israel, the U.S., and its few dependent island states, regard the expansion of settlements as obstacles. This is a political rather than an international legal issue as is the effort that would be necessary to transfer 450,000 settlers out of Area C that now contains only about 100,000 to 150,000 Palestinians.

This where this week’s parashat comes in. For can anyone say that those residents are alien residents any longer, especially if the people bought their homes? But that simply raises the question of whether the public lands, as distinct from private land purchased, were state occupied or administered lands. This is a political rather than a legal issue. The terms “inadvisable” and “obstacle” may be appropriate or not, but the reference to “illegal” settlements and to occupied territory seems inapplicable since the only peace agreement of relevance is the one formally entitled the 1993 “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” which specifically not only recognized the Palestinian Authority as the representative of the Palestinian people, but allowed the PA to create an autonomous government there but left Israel, de facto and de jure, as the legal authority over Area C. Further negotiations were to settle what happened to Jerusalem in Area C, the possibility of return of the Palestinian refugees, the status of Israeli settlements, security and borders. The PA was only given administrative control over Areas A and B.

The powers and responsibilities of the PA and of Israel were set out in Article IV of the Accords. Article VII specifically stated that the withdrawal of military government “would not prevent Israel from exercising the powers and responsibilities not transferred to the PA. Further, Israel would continue to be responsible for internal security and public order of both settlements and Israelis. The International community generally considers the settlements to be illegal under international law and the UN has repeatedly insisted that the settlements are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, according to the Israeli Supreme Court and the Oslo Accords, the only relevant document for making such a decision is a peace agreement and not an international court of law. Until the Trump administration this past week, the U.S. considered the settlements illegitimate, but not illegal.

All this is to say that mutually binding agreements, such as the one made between Abraham and the Hittites and the one made between the Israeli government and the PA, ought to be the reference point and not the resolutions of other parties, including the UN or the U.S. It is a legitimate argument to insist that Canada should judge its support for UN resolutions in the light of legal agreements rather than UN and international politics. In that case, the Canadian shift in policy could be depicted as a trade of favour for favour, not one that would be deemed illegal as in the Bibi case, or one that might be deemed as impeachable according to American law as in the Trump dealings with the President of Ukraine, but as improper given the context in which the resolution was passed, its content and the lack of time allowed for Canadians and the Parliament of Canada  to consider such a dramatic shift in policy.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part V: Reason on Trial

In 1632, Galileo was summoned to appear personally in Rome at the Palace of the Holy Office upon the appearance in print of Dialogue concerning the two Chief Systems of the World, Ptolemaic and Copernican. It was a sensation. Copies sold as soon as they reached the shelves of a bookseller. However, prudently, copies were not initially delivered to Rome, ostensibly because they might carry the plague. His friend, Benedetto Castelli, received an advance copy and found it to be an infinite delight.

However, the Jesuits were now once again in the ascendency in Rome and were on the warpath. Father Christopher Scheiner, an astronomer himself who had published Rosa Ursina the year before, demanded that the Dialogue be banned as heresy. In fact, Galileo’s volume had included a clearly recognizable pointed attack on Scheiner’s position. This time, however, the book also provoked his old friend, Pope Urban VIII, perhaps because the controversy created more enemies and more demands on himself when he was already under siege for his self-aggrandizing schemes that had thrown the Vatican into deep debt. His illegal seizure of Medici properties did not help. Nor did his foreign policy. After all, as Gaspare Cardinal Borgia charged, Urban had failed to back King Philip IV of Spain (1621-1640) in the Thirty Years War against the German Protestants. The pro-Spanish faction was in the ascendency over the those befriending France. Urban did not need a troublesome academic dispute to add to his mounting troubles.

Further, Urban felt that he had himself been insulted when the character in the Dialogue, Simplico, weakly defended his views in the volume. As Sobel wrote, Urban felt that, “Galileo had played him for a fool.” (Sobel 225) That is the immediate background to Galileo being summoned from Florence in September to appear before the Roman Inquisitional Court, the Congregation of the Holy Office. In the meantime, sales of the book were banned, but all copies had already sold out.

The strategy initially was to stall. Galileo was old and sick. Further, no one wanted the plague now ravaging Florence once again to arrive in Rome with copies of the book. Galileo had appealed to his powerful old friend, Francesco Cardinal Barberini, Urban’s nephew, for some clemency. In December, a medical report on Galileo’s ill health certified by three physicians was sent to Rome. The Inquisitors were unmoved and threatened to bring Galileo to Rome in chains. In January, Galileo voluntarily set out to travel to Rome and arrived after two weeks of travel and two in quarantine.

When first called on 12 April 1633, he had already been held two months under house arrest in the Tuscan embassy. During that time, Galileo learned from a leaked document that his alleged crime dated back to 1616 when he had visited Rome before Urban had been elected pope, before Ferdinando had become the Grand Duke and before his foremost advocate at this time, Ambassador Niccolini, had reached a position of power.

According to that note, the initial suspended trial of 1616 was much harsher than had generally been believed. Not only was the publication of the Discourse supposed to cease. Not only was Galileo required to desist from teaching the Copernican doctrine, as he had pledged, but he had been ordered not to discuss his now dubbed hypothesis with anyone. The spin that he was allowed to discuss it, but only as a hypothesis, was denounced as false. Galileo was in real trouble even though he had preserved Cardinal Bellarmino’s letter that supported the contention that he could discuss the theorem, but only as a hypothesis.

Had Galileo actually received an injunction never again to discuss the Copernican theory?  Was he ordered no longer to defend, no longer to teach the Copernican position view? Galileo adopted what later became known as the Berthold Brecht tactic of dealing with the Stasi, the East German thought police. Be not only contrite but profess your absolute innocence. Insist that others had misinterpreted your intent. “I did not seek permission to write the book, because I did not consider that in writing it that I was actually doing something contrary to, far less disobeying, the command not to hold, defend or teach that opinion. Rather, I was refuting the opinion.”

Galileo went before two officials and a secretary and no witnesses in a form of what is now called a preliminary inquiry. The ten judges as jurors were not in attendance. The questioning was totally pedestrian – when did he come to Rome, by what means, can you identify the book, can you summarize its contents, have the words been altered, when and where were the contents penned, when and how had he received notice from the Court, what had he discussed with the Cardinals in 1616 in Rome at the previous stage of this trial, what was his authority for writing the book, had he received an injunction, did he recall its words, in light of the injunction had he sought permission to publish?

As Galileo replied, permission to publish in 1616 was not required, only minor changes. He had not defended Copernicus, he insisted, but refuted him. As he offered his initial informational testimony, he remained humble.

Had the initial stage inquisitors not read the book? If they had, they would certainly know that this was a bald-faced lie. Galileo had only disguised his opinion. The first hearing ended and three theologians were assigned to read the book and cross examine Galileo in a second hearing equivalent to a Grand Jury in the American legal system. They unanimously concluded that Galileo had unequivocally supported Copernicus and to add to that “crime,” Galileo was guilty of perjury before the court.

All three wrote separate opinions and all concurred on the major conclusion – Galileo had defended rather than criticized Copernicus. Further, he had treated the opponents of Copernicus as mental dwarfs. Though the book had received the imprimatur of the Sacred Palace, the highest office now had to be embarrassed since the volume reeked of heresy. Even Francesco Cardinal Barberini could no longer stick his neck out and defend Galileo both to his uncle, the pope, and before the court. His friend Father Riccardi persuaded Galileo to confess and an effort could be launched to settle the affair quietly. Given Galileo’s age, his issues with health, hopefully the punishment would be mild.

In the second hearing Galileo offered his Brechtian performance. He had reread the Dialogue. The readers were indeed correct. He had not seen what they had with their greater perspicacious reading. He thanked them for the opportunity to reread the text and admitted fully that he had overlooked very heretical statements. But he insisted, he had not intended to defend Copernicus but to find fault in his position. Further, the argument from sunspots and from the tides had been stated with too much forcefulness and had led to the justifiable misreading of his intent. The problem was one of inattention, ignorance and inadvertence. He promised to revise the book and refute Copernicus in a more effective way. Had they given him the chance, would Galileo have set a precedent for Brecht in putting his views even more cleverly in an even stronger way?

In his third hearing before the full court of ten theologians, he showed the affidavit of 1616 of Cardinal Bellarmino. He claimed that neither in the public document nor in any private correspondence had he been enjoined not to teach or in any was disseminate the doctrine. He believed he could put it forth for refutation. He had neither willfully nor knowingly disobeyed any order of the Inquisition. His fault had merely been one of wanting to appear clever. He asked to be able to make amends and pleaded for mercy and for his jurors to take into consideration the honour and esteem with which he was held.

Members of the Holy Office fell into two factions, those excited and enthralled by the Copernican thesis and its proofs and those appalled at the affrontery and dishonesty of Galileo and were not persuaded that God had to be logical, only omnipotent. As my Hasidic cousin has said in countering the argument for evolution, God could have created the world as if the world had been created for twelve billion light years when in reality it was less than 6,000 years old. Such are the gambits of the irrational.

On 16 June 1633, Pope Urban III convened and presided over a meeting of the Cardinals responsible for determining Galileo’s guilt. The whole history of the affair from 1616 to date was before them. The issue was one of intent. Was there any evidence that President Donald Trump intended to insist that the president of Ukraine make a public announcement that the government of Ukraine would look into the role of the Bidens in 2016? The evidence was not 100% conclusive, but it overwhelmingly supported such a conclusion. The evidence that Galileo supported and disseminated the views of Copernicus was also overwhelming.

In one case, the guilt was about of irrationality, conspiracy theories, undermining agreed and established American foreign policy, endangering Ukrainian soldiers and, most of all, doing so to benefit Potus in a coming election. In Galileo’s case, he was guilty of esteeming reason and accurate observation so greatly that he was willing to lie before the court and pretend he believed what he actually condemned. He had, with smarmy intent, tried to deceive the court. His defence had been pitiful and his plea of mercy did not move the majority.

They ordered Galileo to serve a prison term and to perform penance. He was to be publicly humiliated. On the issue of intent, Galileo did not offer a defence, but repeated his now unbelievable assertion that he had held the condemned Copernican view to be false. I am not guilty, he insisted. “Do with me as you will.”

It is apparent that his defence was never a retraction and merely a false front. The court saw through it and insisted that he had indeed defended the Copernican worldview. They offered, however, to be merciful if he, “with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith [no, not a professed belief in the truth] …abjure, curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and every other heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church in the manner we will prescribe for you.” The Dialogue would be prohibited from distribution. Further, Galileo was sentenced to an indefinite prison term. He would also be required to undertake penitence.

It was not a unanimous decision; 7 of the 10 jurors signed the majority opinion. Francesco Cardinal Barberini, Galileo’s old friend, did not appear for the sentencing. The guilty document was presented for Galileo to sign. However, it contended that Galileo had lapsed as a Catholic and that he had used deceit to obtain an imprimatur for the publication of the Dialogue in 2016. The officials agreed to delete these references from the document. Galileo then abjured as ordered.

How then can I argue that he never recanted? Because he admitted to promoting the Copernican theory, whether intentionally or inadvertently. He agreed that the Church had banned the teaching of the theory. These were all true statements. He swore that, “I have always believed, I believe now, and with God’s help I will in future believe all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” and that “I abjure with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest such errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future, I will never again say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon similar suspicion; and if I know any heretic, or person suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to the Holy Office.” He also promised to deliver all the penances – alms, prayer and satisfaction.

Galileo was assigned to his friend, Ascanio II Piccolomini, Archbishop of Siena under house arrest. However, his host treated him as an important guest. Dialogue was suppressed. But the publishing house, Elzevir, printed his Two New Sciences in Leiden, Holland in 1638, and his fame became immortalized four years before his death and one year after he became blind.  

I hope I have established Galileo’s importance to science, to freedom of speech and to a culture of humanism where all humans are first and foremost treated as human beings. But what is the importance of Galileo to Jews? First, as I said in my initial blog, he treated them as equal human beings. Second, Jews generally at the time were, via the Rambam (Maimonides) in the Aristotelian camp antithetical to experimental science and mathematical proofs. Galileo provided a route out of their parochialism. Third, Galileo sewed the initial seeds for a scientific reading of the biblical text, whether through linguistic, historical or other modes of scientific hermeneutics. The Reform movement can be said to have had its roots in Galileo.

But Reformers do not seem to have acquired Galileo’s Brechtian skills.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part IV: Reason and the Religious Establishment

Galileo was distrusted by much of the religious establishment, first because he trespassed on territory considered the monopoly of religious authorities, both natural and religious beliefs, and, second, because of Galileo’s flamboyant style. Both the natural world and religious practices were seen to be the prerogative of the established religion. In 1612, Cardinal Conti had supported Galileo’s conclusion rejecting Aristotle’s view of the immutability of the stars. He even accepted that scripture supported the rejection of immutability. His views were verified through the work of the Bendictine monk, Benedetto Castelli. It is one thing to assert that Holy Scripture cannot err and that its conclusions are absolutely true and inviolable versus the very questionable thesis that biblical interpretations were inviolable.

There existed the divinely-made world and divine words. According to even Joshua, the sun appeared to stop its regular supposed Ptolemaic motion, but that was merely how the appearance was represented, how what was seen was experienced, and not how what was experienced actually occurred.  Further, reason alone would show: 1) that if the sun stopped in the heavens, the earth would also have to stop as well and the day would have to be extended; 2) the sun stopped in the heavens at noon precisely where it had been located in the Copernican system. As Vatican librarian Cesare Cardinal Baronio remarked, “the Bible was a book about how one goes to Heaven – not how Heaven goes.” (Sobel 65)

However, in 1616, both the pope and a cardinal inquisitor reprimanded Galileo. Roberto Cardinal Bellarmino, a Jesuit, the same man who prosecuted the case against Giordano Bruno in 1593, without examining any evidence, had concluded that the motion of the earth was contrary to scripture and that Galileo was a heretic. On 29 June 1930, that same Bellarmino was canonized by Pope Pius and named Doctor of the Church, one of only 36 in two millenia of church history even though he had been the major figure who led the Church to decree that professing heliocentrism was heresy. Galileo was ordered to refrain from teaching those ideas.

For the previous two years, hotheaded philistines in the church had denounced not only Galileo, but concluded that the universities were made up of a traitorous “deep state” of scientists and mathematicians who practiced diabolical arts. As has been the custom through the ages, these troglodytes took their opinions, however absurd and unsupported by evidence, as truth, in fact, as the real truth in contrast to conclusions drawn and supported by evidence and reason. If “the people believed it, it (whatever that was) had to be true.”

As Galileo noted, these ignoramuses engaged in propagating conspiracy theories and fabricated interpretations which they contended were supported absolutely by the words of the Bible. The lies contravened the truth, repressed it, even as the evidence mounted that revealed the truth more fully and more accurately. Of course, the support for lies had been institutionalized in the Council of Trent held between 1545-1563 that dictated the precise way clergy had to be educated, determined who had the right to interpret Biblical texts, rejected the rabbinic (and Lutheran) support for varied personal interpretations and, most importantly, decreed that no one other than lawfully appointed authorities were even permitted to interpret scripture contrary to established views.

Galileo took the prudential course of choosing silence on the issues in contention, but did not renounce his views. He simply turned to other pursuits – inventing navigational instruments to allow sailors to navigate by the stars as well as the compound microscope. He also wrote poetry and literary criticism, but avoided biblical criticism.

It was only when Supreme Pontiff Urban VII, became the new pope in 1623 that he resumed his work on the heavens, though he would take another nine years to publish his classic defence of the heliocentric universe in contrast to the earth-centered view of the world, Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican. Galileo quickly fell out with his old friend, Urban VIII, ten years before he died and was summoned to Rome in 1624. He was especially at odds with The Inquisitional Court.

Galileo was summoned to Rome again in 1632. Contrary to the claim of The New Scientist (, Galileo did not recant. He was contrite. He confessed, and, as the third act of penance required, he offered satisfaction by engaging in good works – alms for the poor, prayers and fasting. On the 1992 occasion of Pope John Paul the II retracting the reprimand of Galileo by The Inquisitorial Court, the Pope deemed Galileo’s repression to be the result of “a tragic mutual incomprehension,” when there was nothing mutual about it, and the incomprehension was totally on one side.

The New Scientist erroneously stated that Galileo recanted. “In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo – seen facing his inquisitors – recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered, ‘all the same, it moves’.”

In 1616, Galileo, to repeat ad nauseum, did not recant. Further, Bellarmino never demanded a retraction. He simply informed him of the unanimous ruling of the theological panel that the Copernican theory was heretical and advised that Galileo not publish his beliefs as facts. Galileo agreed to present his claims as a hypothesis. Galileo acquiesced in the request that he stop teaching his theory, but, again, he did not recant. Further, in his communications he referred to his convictions as hypotheses. His book was suspended until the requisite amendments were made referring to his theories as hypotheses.

Bellarmino even published a letter that insisted that Galileo had not abjured any doctrine held by him, but only that the Copernican theory was contrary to scripture and, though it could be held up as a hypothesis, it could not be defended or promulgated. Galileo obeyed the decision of the authorities and would refer to his convictions as poetic conceits, fancies, chimera, elements of a dream. In 1633, when the trial was renewed, did Galileo retract? Did he renounce, repudiate and abjure in formal solemnity his long held scientific conclusions?

After 1616, Galileo retreated into other activities, but he did not retract his convictions. This was Galileo’s pattern. He very much depended for his work, his rapidly increasing wages and his safety on whomever occupied positions of power. Look at his prior history in academia. Would Galileo have achieved his position at the University of Padua if Ferdinand I had not become the Grand Duke of Tuscany five years earlier following the death of his brother from malaria? Galileo had been his son’s tutor. Later, in 1605, thirteen years after he assumed his professorship at the University of Padua, Prince Cosimo de’ Medici was being tutored by Galileo. Four years later, Cosimo became Grand Duke of Tuscany when Ferdinand I died (1605), even though Galileo had agreed to prepare his horoscope in spite of his personal skepticism about its value. Five years after that, in 1610, at the age of 45, Galileo was appointed chief mathematician and philosopher to the Grand Duke.

Five year after the Thirty Years War began in 1618, Maffeo Cardinal Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. Even though Galileo had first made his acquaintance in 1611, they shared a mutual experience of age, place of origin, alumni standing at the University of Padua as well as interest in both science and poetry. However, even though Galileo dedicated his book, The Assayer, to him in 1623, it did not win him protectzia, even though Barbarini had been an admirer and friend. In history, as a politician, Barberini proved to be adept at nepotism, patronage and corruption. He even had himself named to the prestigious Lyncean Academy. That corruption went well beyond monetary theft and included the appointment of ignorant and unscrupulous clerics to attend to mass and confessions at nunneries where they were free to prey on young girls who had donned the habit.

In The Assayer, Galileo mocked terms that pretended to be scientific explanations, such as “sympathy,” “antipathy,” “occult properties,” “influences,” for their inability to be backed by evidence that could verify or falsify the notions connoted. (Sobel 92) Received wisdom and majority opinion were not routes to the truth.“I believe that good philosophers fly alone, like eagles, and not in flocks like starlings.” (The Assayer) He went on to declare that, unlike eagles that are rarely seen or heard, starlings “fill the sky with shrieks and cries, and wherever they settle befoul the earth beneath them.” They appear to be kin to Canadian geese.

As a result of the restrictions placed upon Galileo, Italian astronomers had to lead a double life, rejecting Galileo theologically while admiring him “theoretically” so that cognitive dissonance became integrated into their scientific versus their political lives. Between 1623 and 1632, Galileo remained safe for a decade until he published his classic, Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican in 1632. This was made possible because the style he adopted allowed the manuscript to obtain a provisional license, subject to a few minor corrections, but more importantly, because his friend, Niccolò Riccardi, controlled the licensing of books.

Once again, Galileo was summoned to Rome to stand trial for heresy by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. When Galileo arrived, he witnessed the extent to which the Pope had expended monies to heighten his own self aggrandizement. On trial was not only Galileo’s classic, Dialogue, but the suppression of science by a religious self-serving establishment, individual rights versus authoritarian demands, reform versus a petrified tradition, knowledge versus ignorance, discovery versus mindblindness, freedom of thought and speech versus their repression.

Galileo was not treated like any other individual who came before the inquisitional court. He had the protection of Grand Duke Ferdinando. He was an acclaimed scholar. He was also frail and sick. Instead of being placed in a dungeon, he was allowed to stay in the Tuscan embassy hosted by Ambassador Francesco Niccolini and his wife Caterina. Further, just as contemporary detectives do, the Court sent Monsignor Lodovico Serristori to befriend and extend to him the court’s good graces, all the while working to ferret out the strategies and tactics by which Galileo intended to defend himself. But Galileo was required to pay this supposed defence attorney 6 scudi for his advice.

Galileo was allowed to remain in isolation for weeks and then two months before he was called in for questioning. Niccolini intervened on his behalf, but to no avail. The Inquisitional Court rejected the ambassador’s entreaties to allow the elderly and sick Galileo his freedom or, at the very least, to return to Tuscany under house arrest where he could await being called for trial.  

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part III: Galileo – Science and the Bible of Nature

The Torah begins with a cosmological metaphorical account of the creation and character of the universe. One can get caught up in the literary and religious meaning, but it is important to recognize that the initial cosmological story is a claim that the universe is a bible of nature and that the understanding of that bible precedes any understanding of the various historical and political accounts of human behavior.

If you do not understand and grasp the bible of nature, you will not understand the condensed tales of the behavior of all of humanity and then of the origin and development of the nation of Israel. That there might be a correspondence between what we observe at a behavioral level, at the level of the human microcosm and then the level of the macrocosm has been a conceit of astrology. Galileo turned a literary notion of that conceit (astrology was a literary rather than scientific conceit dressed up in pseudo-scientific garb) into a natural one. Radically different orders of experience had to be grounded in a common conception of nature, and that accomplished by paying close attention to what we grasp with our senses to a microscopic degree and what we deduce from reason and mathematics abstracted as much as possible from experience itself.

For Galileo, both science and religion were preoccupied with the “marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries.” The point of both science and religion is to make the unknown known and for both to bracket what could not be known at this time given the developments of our skills and knowledge. Further, on the alleged dichotomy between science and religion, Galileo’s eldest daughter’s letters, “recognized no such division during his lifetime.” (Sobel 12)

Galileo’s aptitude for mathematics and science came early. There is the tale that he used the Tower of Pisa to test his theory that material objects fell at virtually the same degree of acceleration regardless of their weight though differentiated by air resistance. If Galileo had used the anecdotal feather versus a cannon ball to prove his theory, he would have been laughed out of the academy. Instead, according to established Aristotelian belief that material objects fell at a speed relative to their weight, Galileo showed mathematically that a cannon ball would have to reach the ground ten times faster than a musket ball one-tenth the weight when the latter, in fact, as he demonstrated physically, reached the ground very shortly after the cannon ball did. Reason and experimentation were necessary to validate a theory. The traditional explanation was patently absurd.

Galileo was a prodigious inventor as well as a scientific and mathematical genius. He invented a device for irrigation, a marine compass, an improved telescope, a way for ship pilots to navigate, the way to determine longitude at sea, a way to improve military fortifications, an early pocket calculator, all enormously valuable to the mercantilist nobility of Tuscany. He revealed the mathematics behind the lever, developed lenses with twice the magnifying quality of those made by the Dutch, a significant benefit to sailors at war watching enemy ships and maneuvers through an eyeglass. He invented the pendulum clock. But his greatest initial achievement was his validation of the Copernican theory of the movement of the heavenly bodies. That depended on his increased improvement of lenses that eventually had a magnifying power of twenty and that were used in telescopes to show that heavenly bodies were anything but perfect spheres. The moon was not spherical at all.

Nicolous Copernicus was born ninety years before Galileo and had long before published his classic, De revolutionibus. In 1543, this Polish cleric had argued that the Earth was not the centre of the universe. Even its sun was not. As we would learn, there are 200 billion other stars in the Milky Way galaxy to which the sun belongs. The Milky Way is also not the centre of the universe. There are 200 billion galaxies. 200 billion stars in this galaxy and 200 billion galaxies – I cannot imagine numbers that large let alone the number of stars in all the galaxies. And to think just 400 years ago, the vast majority of people on this earth believed that the earth was the centre of the universe.  It was Galileo who established that the distant stars only appeared immoveable because of their great distance. Talk about a revolution in thought!

The scientific revolution was taking place throughout Europe. Already in the sixteenth century, Andreas Vesalius had disproven the belief that men had one less rib than women by simply counting them and showing that both genders had 12 pairs. (On the Fabric of the Human Body) He also demonstrated that the earth was just one of a finite number of planets that circled the sun. A contemporary of Galileo, Johannes Kepler, published the first two laws of planetary motion. In 1628, William Harvey disproved Aristotle’s ebb and flow theory of blood and established that blood circulated by means of the heart as a pump. By tracing the nerves to the brain, Harvey also established that the heart was not the centre of the nervous system.

The cosmological world view, the anatomy and physiology of the body, the physics of motion to which Galileo would contribute so much, the geography of the earth and its spherical shape and motion through the solar system, all provided a brand new sense of the world around us. Galileo was perhaps the greatest contributor to that revolution, not only because of his theories, but because he established the basic principles of the scientific method dependent on repeated and repeatable observations married to abstract theories from which predictions could be made. Further, he showed that advances in technology were often necessary prerequisites to advances in science.

Galileo became obsessed with the heavens at the age of 40 in 1604 when a new star appeared, much to the consternation and concern of the intellectual world at the time since stars were not supposed to come into being or die; they were supposedly fixed in the heavens for eternity. When Galileo himself began to teach at the University of Padua in 1592, he himself had taught that the earth was the centre of the universe. In the new century, Galileo began to question this long held and widespread belief.

By the time that new star appeared, Shakespeare, who had been born the same year as Galileo, had written his greatest classics. In the 1580s he had already become not only the greatest playwright of his time, but the greatest playwright of all time. Who claims that mathematicians and scientists come into their greatest productive and creative period in their twenties while artists take a much longer period of gestation to mature?

Galileo was highly productive after he turned forty. In 1610, when Shakespeare had already written 38 plays, Galileo discovered the planet Jupiter with his improved version of the Dutch Hans Lippershey’s 1608 creation of the refracting telescope which he had used to discover and describe mountains on the moon in 1609. Galileo published The Starry Messenger. As a result of his prodigious number of inventions and his experimental and mathematical proofs, in 1610 he was made what we now call a research professor with no teaching duties and a salary sufficient that he no longer had to depend on renting quarters to students.  A year later, he was named to the Lyncean Academy that had been founded only eight years earlier and quickly became the most famous institution for academic networking at the highest level for its time.

However, by then, Shakespeare had written Hamlet (1601), Othello (1605), Macbeth (1606) and The Tempest in 1612. Galileo was a late bloomer in comparison. But what a tempest he produced when, by the same year Shakespeare’s play of the same name appeared on stage, Galileo had established empirically that the surface of the moon was rough, with mountains, valleys and craters, that other planets had their own moons, that at least Venus travelled around the sun, and that the sun itself was imperfect with many dark spots, spots that came into being and decayed, did so with irregularity, changed shape, but were nevertheless enormous and, depending on their number and size, could impede sunlight from reaching earth. Galileo even invented a system whereby the portraits of the sun each day could be projected on paper on which he could draw the daily location and sizes of those sunspots.

In 1612, he published his erroneous theory of the tides in Bodies That Stay Atop Water or Move Within, though the work very successfully demonstrated why ice floated on water and clearly demonstrated that the sun did not have a perfect body. However,instead of the tides resulting from the gravitational attraction of the moon, Galileo then contended that they were the result of the rotation of the earth and the movement of the earth around the sun much as water piles up on one side of a basin when it is moved.

He held onto that theory and published an elaborated account in 1616, Theory on the Tides, even though it later directly contradicted his own explanation for why we and other animals never experienced the earth’s rotation. In 1613, Galileo published his Sunspot Letters about the shifting position of black spots on the sun with pictures with near photographic quality that established that the sun rotates on its own axis and, further, proving that the earth rotates around the sun rather than vice versa. However, his dismissal of comets as mere illuminations proved erroneous.

However, I must jump ahead to the end of Galileo’s life after he had been condemned by The Inquisition when he returned to his very early interest in motion and his developed interest in the strength of different materials. In 1633, Galileo penned his most important work, not his Discourse dealing with Copernican theory, but returned to his work on motion which he had begun to explore thirty-five years earlier when he was a very young professor at the University of Pisa before he even moved onto Padua.

He had begun with the study of the speed of falling bodies, but went on to describe the swinging of a pendulum in accordance with a mathematical scientific law. His mathematical calculations for the rate of acceleration of a falling body arose from repeated observations of the rate of travel of a bronze globe down an inclined trough. That study of motion yielded the mathematical law of the rate of acceleration for bodies on earth, 32.2 feet per second per second. Prior to then, traditional science dictated that the acceleration of a falling body would be proportional to its mass — that is, a 10 kg object was expected to accelerate ten times faster than a 1 kg object. Galileo demonstrated the absurdity of such a claim.

Instead of making determinations about the physical world in terms of a telos, a final cause, an end to which an object wanted to go as if it had a built-in inner intention, Galileo focused on how an object behaved. That focus included observation, experimentation and the development of mathematical formulae in terms of which predictions could be made about the motion of bodies. While Aristotle had held that mathematics belonged to the immaterial world, Galileo demonstrated its applicability to the material world. In terms of a thrown object instead of one in free fall, Galileo demonstrated with mathematical precision that the object always followed the arc of a parabola.

Galileo was not only interested in the motion of bodies, but in their malleability, how they bend and break. His new dialogue, Two New Sciences, revived his characters, Salviati, Sagredo and Simplicio, from his Discourses. It was set in a Venetian shipyard where precise measures had to be made when a new ship was launched lest it be crunched by its own weight.

The title page of the Leiden, Holland 1638 edition read:





Concerning Two New Sciences

Pertaining to

Mechanics & Local Motions

by Signor

Galileo Galilei, Lyncean

Philosopher and Chief Mathematician to His Serene Highness

The Grand Duke of Tuscany

With an Appendix on the center of gravity in various Solids

I want to end this blog with a metaphor rather than science. In Galileo’s last book, he had broken down the motion of a hurled projectile into two vectors, its forward motion and the downward acceleration of an object in free fall. For a quarter century, his scientific achievements traveled a similar parabola, between two vectors, the forward projection of his science initially towards the heavens and the downward repression by the Inquisition that ended with the science of local motion and of the strength of solids falling to earth. Ironically, these two new sciences were, in part, the product of repression and not free fall, for in his house arrest, Galileo found the time to complete his original scientific work. Earth was precisely where those two sciences belonged. From the soil of Italy, the Dutch would resurrect and lift on high this last illustrious scientific product. The last blog will cover the latter vector of religious repression.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part II: Galileo’s Biographical Background

Giulia di Cosimo Ammannati, the maiden name of the wife of Vincenzio Galilei, gave birth to Galileo in Pisa in 1564, four hundred and one years earlier on the same day that my second son, my fourth child, was born, 15 February 1965. The year of birth is in accordance with the Gregorian calendar that came into being in 1582, but Galileo was born in 1563 according to the old Julian calendar at the time.

Galileo enrolled in the University of Pisa in 1581 at the age of 15, the same year his father published his book on musical theory in Florence, Dialogue of Ancient and Modern Music. Fifty years later, Galileo adopted the same format of a dialogue when trying to persuade a recalcitrant establishment of the verity of the Copernican universe. His father had taught him the theory of ratios for notes, when music was taught as a branch of mathematics. However, his father was a composer and believed that creativity – in mathematics, in science and in music – was not confined to logically deductive methods. Sensitivity to the sweetness of sound as well as accurate ratios was required in tuning an instrument. And Galileo was a very sweet as well as a very logical man, sweet in temperament and sweet in taste in the sense of his acute sensitivity to the world of his experience.

In his book on musical theory, Vincenzio wrote, “It appears to me that they who in proof of any assertion rely simply (my italics) on the weight of authority, without adducing any argument in support of it, act very absurdly. I, on the contrary, wish to be allowed freely to question and freely to answer you without any sort of adulation, as well becomes those who are in search of truth.” (Sobel 17) Galileo grew up to become his father’s heir in spirit.

Galileo entered university at the age of 15, not so much because he was a prodigy, which he was, but because students then went to university at a much younger age than they do now. By 1592, eleven years later, he was teaching at the same prestigious University of Padua and by then had significantly improved upon a rudimentary thermometer that had been invented in Holland a few years earlier. Galileo had begun to work on the motion of falling bodies, which would culminate with his final, and many would argue, his most important book, Two New Sciences (1637), that dealt with material science and with the laws of motion.

In Padua, his eldest daughter, Virginia Galilei, later Sister Maria Celeste, was born to his beautiful Venetian mistress, Marina Gamba, who never lived with Galileo. It was 1600, the same year Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. Livia, his second daughter, was born a year later. Five years later, his son, Vincenzio, named after his father who died in 1591, was born, the same year that Galileo invented the military compass. In 1614, when Virginia was 14 and Livia only 12, they both assumed a religious habit. Vincenzio was 8 years old. Since Galileo had to earn a dowry for his daughters in the nunnery and then sufficient funds to spread around to get his son legitimized in 1619, the year his mistress, Marina Gamba died, Galileo was under enormous financial pressure that was eased as his fame led to a much higher salary and a greater sinecure. However, it is difficult to find a year in which he was not under financial pressure from a number of sources.

Vincenzio, though legitimized at great monetary expense and the goodwill of friends of Galileo, seemed to be destined to be a ne’er-do-well, squandering his money when he attended university. He was a rapscallion. But he later straightened himself up to earn a doctor of laws at the age of 22 and became an upstanding citizen. Galileo, though burdened financially by his three children and emotionally by his son’s youthful waywardness, in the 1620s became burdened by his extended family. In 1627, his brother, Michelangelo, who had followed in the footsteps of his father as a musician, asked if his wife and some of his eight children could live with Galileo while Michaelangelo traveled to Munich to seek greater acclaim. His brother also wanted his family to be safe from the turmoil of the Thirty Years War.

Without awaiting Galileo’s consent, his brother’s family arrived on his doorstep in 1627 and Galileo now found that, at the age of 63, he had a number of extra mouths to feed, his sister-in-law, Anna Chiaria, and six of her children for what turned out to be a stay of almost a year rather than a month or even a couple of months. Further, shortly after, Galileo lost his sinecure at the University of Pisa. The following year, his eldest daughter, Maria Celeste, pleaded for additional financial help because she needed a private room to escape the craziness of her roommate and the nunnery had entered a period of financial straits. It did not help that in 1630, the plague once again ravaged Tuscany.

Galileo’s brother died in Munich, presumably of the plague, and once again Galileo had to resume support of his sister-in-law and her numerous children. The plague also ravaged through Tuscany. After it subsided, and once he was freed from house arrest, Galileo moved to the Martinelli villa in Arcetri to be much nearer his eldest daughter in the nunnery. But Galileo had the greatest burden to bear of his whole life. After he moved to Arcetri, his dearest eldest daughter, Maria Celeste (Virginia), died in 1634.

These are all personal background notes for our concern with Galileo’s contribution to the freedom of religion, freedom to take on any religion and within that religion subsume one or other set of beliefs, all against a very different intellectual biography of a scientific and mathematical genius who not only made critical contributions to the science of astronomy, the laws of motion and the strength of materials, but, most critically, to the scientific method which would also have a profound influence on how the Torah is read and interpreted. However, what entrances most people is Galileo’s political biography and his relationship with the Inquisition that pursued him in 1616 and then again in 1633 as a continuation of that prosecution and the sentence he had to endure for the rest of his life.

This biographical note also requires setting the above political/religious struggle against the background of the scientific one (which I will expand upon in subsequent blogs) by discussing Galileo’s close friends. For the sake of economy, I have selected three: the Benedictine monk, Benedetto Castelli, Frederico Cesi and Maffeo Cardinal Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII; under his depiction I will also introduce his nephew, Francesco Barberini. There were many others:

  • Carlo Cardinal Conti
  • Roberto Cardinal Bellarmino
  • Grand Duke Ferdinando, both the Ist and, even more importantly, the IInd, as well as various other members of the all-important Medici family
  • The Dominican Father Niccolò Riccardi from Genoa who became the group’s inside man in the Holy Office (it was he who added the publication blurb that went beyond validating The Assayer as not contrary to established doctrine but praised its subtle and solid speculations about nature)
  • The jurist Giovanni Ciampoli who had been a student and proponent of Galileo’s ideas and joined the Academy of Lynceans in 1615 and who would become Pope Urban VIII’s “secret adviser and the guiding spirit in the new Curia” (Redondi 71) as well as Pope Urban VIII’s foremost and most successful diplomat
  • Giovanni Rondinelli, his personal physician as well as friend
  • Ascanio Picolomini, Archbishop of Siena who was such an important benefactor of Galileo in his final years
  • Most importantly for how Galileo’s memory has been preserved, his last student, Vincenzio Viviani.

Friends were important to Galileo. They were also critical to helping him survive the oppression of The Inquisition. Father Benedetto Castelli was a pupil of Galileo. In a letter to Castelli on 21 December 1613, Galileo insisted that profound religiosity required both “necessary demonstrations” and “sense experience,” That is how the bible of nature is revealed by unveiling the laws that govern that nature. Thus, the controversy with the Inquisition was not simply over the Copernican view of the universe, but also Galileo’s contentions that the divine can be understood through the study of nature and, further, that biblical hermeneutics can be enhanced by science in contrast to simply accepting the inherited interpretation by the Holy Fathers.

Castelli, for example, in 1612 took it upon himself to argue with the Pisan professor, Giorgio Corsio. Castelli favoured Galileo’s form of atomism versus the anti-atomistic nominalism of the Aristotelians. He would join with Father Cavalieri and Giovanni Ciampoli to expand upon and spread the new message of Galileo. In the controversies over applying scientific method to the Eucharist beginning in 1626, though the controversy dated back to the publication of The Assayer earlier, Castelli took on the role of both critically reviewing Galileo’s arguments and offering defences of his own. Further, Castelli was also the teacher of Evangelista Torricelli who became part of the second generation of Galileans, though tragically, both teacher and student died in the same year in1647.

Frederic Cesi provided the most important intellectual and academic home for Galileo in the Accademia dei Lincei, the Academy of Lynceans (deliberately set up in opposition to the Collegio Romano) which Cesi founded and to which Galileo was nominated in 1612. It was one of the first modern networked research institutes as well as a professional home for academics working scientifically and an intellectual home for the anti-scholastics. The initial members were mostly jurists and literary men.

Prince Cesi’s home, at least his country home near Urbino, served as an intellectual retreat where the advocates of the new science could share their thoughts and writing and even develop defense strategies as well as intellectual attacks (Operation Sarsi in 1623 when The Assayer is finally printed), ensuring prudential and diplomatic editing of works that could avoid unnecessary confrontation with the religious authorities, and putting forth other publications to advance the positions of the new scientists.   

However, it was the advancement in science that could be said to have been its most important function. Because of the printing press, books were now more widely available, but they were still relatively expensive. Prince Cesi created a magnificent library at his country home that expressed the great outpouring of support for humanist and theological culture as an alternative to the largest library at the time, the Collegio Romano Jesuit Library. Cesi’s library offered freedom of access, but not formally freedom of acquisition, for all books were still subject to the suppression laws of the Inquisition, though part of the new creativity was finding ways around those limitations even though the Inquisitorial Court had dubbed the new positions as contrary and injurious to faith, as propagating atheism, moral pessimism, materialism, naturalism and libertinism. Nevertheless, as in all totalitarian systems, a thriving trade in samizdat literature emerged. The fulcrum of a broad collection covering many topics that could be consulted was critical.

Federico Cesi was Galileo’s publisher in Rome. His home there was also a museum for an accumulation of fossils as well as another location for his extensive collection of books. Cesi’s most ambitious project was an encyclopedia of nature in all its aspects, the Theatrum naturale which, nevertheless still excluded mathematics, mechanics and astronomy as still too risky. Besides, Cesi was not a mathematician. He was a humanist. And even then, he was only able to publish the volumes on botany and zoology; physics, chemistry and geology waited later publishers.

Possibly the most important of Galileo’s friends was Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, a brilliant and politically ambitious prelate. In 1612, he supported Galileo. The key events took place between 1616 when Galileo was first accused of heresy and 1632 when he was charged and there was an actual court case run by the Inquisition. On 6 August 1623, Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII. A refined intellect now had control of the highest office and it was widely known that he was friendly with Galileo. The counter-reformation was underway as countries such as Hungary and Bohemia reverted almost as one to Catholicism and the Jesuits gained control of monasteries allegedly in the hands of corrupt religious orders. Usually in league with Spain, the Jesuits were very suspicious of the new pontiff, who had served in Paris, and his outreach to Richelieu. The Lynceans saw their opening with their old rivals, the Collegio Romano.

The other Barberini, Francesco, a nephew of the new pope, was appointed by Cesi to the Academy of Lyceans and, a few days later, Pope Urban VIII, in the same year he became pope, bestowed on his nephew the robes of a cardinal. Francesco was only 26 years old. He had also been Galileo’s student. The publication of Galileo’s The Assayer quickly followed; it was dedicated to the new pope. In authoritarian regimes, it is very helpful to have friends in high places.

However, The Assayer was a satire, more specifically a satire of the Aristotelians who populated the Collegio Romano and their cult of tradition. If Galileo had enemies before, they were now determined on revenge for both their loss of power and their humiliation. Three years later, in 1626, they found an opening. As we will see, Galileo’s friends were important simply as friends, but also as developers and exponents of his views and as defenders in the face of the power of The Inquisition.

I will examine how that power was exercised in a subsequent blog that will take up the trial of Galileo in which Pope Urban VIII, Cardinal Matteo Barberini, played such a crucial role.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part Ib: Why the Jews?

Pope Alexander VI offered sanctuary to Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, from Portugal in 1497 and from Provence in 1498. Jews were given protection by King Ferdinand I of Naples. They were also offered protection in Tuscany. Except for the Jews in Sicily, then under the thumb of the Spanish monarchy, the Jews otherwise thrived until two Jewish apostates denounced the Talmud in the sixteenth century and on Yom Kippur of 1553, all copies of the Talmud in the Italian Papal States were burned. Pius IV and Paul IV persecuted the Jews of the Papal States from which they were eventually expelled. However, under Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590), the position of the Jews in Italy improved greatly. They were permitted to live in any part of the Papal States and to offer medical treatment to gentiles.

The situation of the Jews in the Papal States was soon reversed. Gregory XIV succeeded Pope Sixtus in 1592, but died almost immediately. He was replaced by Clement VIII who renewed the anti-Jewish bulls of Pius IV and Paul IV. Jews fled and were received and welcomed by Duke Ferdinand del Medici of Tuscany.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, there were then many Jews in Tuscany and Vienna with whom Galileo could have had interchanges rather than a Jewish doctor far away in Hamburg. However, though many Jews were physicians and some were scientists and mathematicians, Jews in general in the seventeenth century were not particularly notable for their scientific achievements, in stark contrast with the twentieth and twenty-first centuries where they form a very disproportionate role in those activities and an even greater disproportion of winners of Nobel prizes.

Jews then had the same genes, perhaps even a greater drive, than contemporary Jews in North America, but their religious beliefs at the time, no less than that of Roman Catholics, meant they were more wedded to the Aristotelian beliefs of Maimonides just as the RCs were to Saint Thomas Aquinas. Further, even in comparison to the Medieval Period, Jewish intellectual life was “relatively isolated and inner-directed” (Ruderman, ch. 2), largely disconnected from the then current thinking and literary tastes of the outside world in the seventeenth century – with the exception of the intellectual, professional and mercantilist elite.

On the other hand, discord with Jews was least in the universities in the city-states of Italy. The University of Padua was a case in point. It was critical to developing the medical and, to some degree, scientific and mathematical communities of Italy. Galileo claimed that his time in Padua, with its fellowship and tolerance, was the happiest period of his life. After a short stint at the University of Pisa, Galileo celebrated his academic appointment in 1592 to Padua, the institution where he had first enrolled as a student in 1581. Soon after his appointment, he invented the thermometer.

Nathan, the son of the famous Solomon of Udine who had achieved great status as the Turkish ambassador to Venice, was one of the first Jewish students at the University of Padua in the latter part of the sixteenth century. The University of Padua subsequently became the mecca for Jews with the means and fortitude to travel from the other side of the Alps to attend this centre of higher learning renowned for its amazing intellectual stimulation – it was the Princeton of its time. There was no quota limiting Jews and they flocked there, particularly to the Faculty of Medicine.

The Padua synagogue with its majestic bimah and Torah Ark on the opposite wall was built in 1584 in the historic ghetto. It survived the fascists because they destroyed the modern synagogue that replaced this restored one that had been abandoned. Today, there are still 45,000 Jews living in Padua. A few families hidden by Italians trace their roots in Italy back two millennia.

In Padua, Galileo hobnobbed with the elite and with the creative, religious and intellectual leaders of his time. But Padua lacked an elite wealthy Jewish mercantilist class. Galileo served the Christian elite, initially as a consultant on navigation and ship-building based on his knowledge of mathematics and physics. It was at Padua that he won the patent for his irrigation device based on his own theories of gravitation. He also happened to be an electrifying lecturer. But it was also in Padua that he, along with two friends who died, contracted probably what we now call legionnaire’s disease; Galileo suffered for the rest of his life from the after-effects. It was also in Padua that his mistress gave birth to his first “illegitimate” daughter in 1600, the very same year that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake.

I have no knowledge of Galileo meeting Rabbi Judah Assael del Bene who was also a renowned scientist in Padua, but who was very much younger than Galileo. Nor even earlier of any meeting with Joseph Hamiz, who had graduated in medicine from the University of Padua in 1624. Like Bruno, Hamiz became fascinated with Kabbalah and eventually endorsed Shabbatai Zevi as the messiah. Undoubtedly, both del Bene and Hamiz knew of Galileo. Yet as eminent as all these Jews were, they did not fully embrace the new science. While also rebelling against the rationalism of Aristotle, they did so often by reverting to older religious-philosophical beliefs rooted in Plato and Jewish mysticism that would give birth to Hasidism.

This was my main reason for beginning with Galileo. For as a, if not the, leading figure of the new science, there was no indication that he dealt with Jews as anything other than equal humans. As his brilliant and sensitive daughter, Maria Celeste (as I wrote above, born in 1600, the same year that Gordano Bruno was burned at the stake) echoed his views in a 1623 letter: “we are all of us here on Earth like strangers and wayfarers, who soon will be bound for our new homeland in Heaven, where there is perfect happiness.” But while in graduate school, I had been taught that there was a reason for why Galileo could be tried by the inquisition and renounce his beliefs; those beliefs would stand as the truth in spite of such a renunciation. In contrast, Bruno had to die for his truth and could not renounce his beliefs, for his truth was ultimately subjective and depended on his commitment to it to establish the validity of his convictions.

However, this is a false story. Galileo never retracted his beliefs. (This is a controversial statement which I will defend in much greater detail in my concluding blog.) Given his significant improvements of the telescope that had just been invented and the proofs he offered, both mathematical, experimental and visual, Galileo continued to support the Copernican sun-centred system of the world. However, he edited what he claimed about them and agreed to define them as hypotheses rather than ultimate truth after his first 1616 trial by the Inquisitional Court, but he never withdrew his claims for the veracity of the theory. The contrast between Bruno and Galileo that I was taught as a student was offered to radically differentiate science and religion, to define science as concerned with objectivity while religion was concerned with faith and subjective conviction. The problem is that Galileo did not share this dichotomous division.

Galileo was a religious Roman Catholic. He commented on biblical texts and tried to show the text was compatible with the new science. He clashed with those in power who claimed one, and only one, divinely authorized interpretation, namely the one prescribed by institutionalized power. Religious belief and belief in the nature of the cosmos were both subject to objective analysis. Therefore, I chose Galileo to begin with, not so much, in fact, not at all, because he had an opinion of Jews per se. He had none. They were simply other humans with different practices. Galileo was not only a pioneer in the new science, but a pioneer in the new approach to religion as well. This and his scientific and mathematical achievements provided a model for Jews who wanted to retain their Judaism but also live in the modern world.

One final note. Lest readers be left with the impression that all Jews at that time were caught up in a romanticized throwback version of science, many Jews, many illustrious Jews, were not. But they tended to follow the illustrious non-Jewish mathematicians of the first half of the seventeenth century. For example, the renowned Venetian mathematician and scientist, Simone Luzzatto (1583-1663), was himself a famous rabbi in the Venetian ghetto. He believed in human reason. He concurred with Galileo’s conclusions. But he also believed that reason could not attain its ultimate goal without divine assistance. (Socrat) Reason in the study of nature and religion served complementary rather than disjunctive functions.

In another area, he was ahead of Galileo. In 1638, four years before Galileo died, Luzzatto wrote a Discourse addressed to the leaders of the Venetian Republic as a radical break from the traditional fawning petitioning, that Galileo himself always used. In Luzzatto’s petition, he presumed equal rights as a citizen to other non-Jewish residents of Venice. It had important consequences on the development of the idea of separation of religion from politics so that a century-and-a-half later, in the founding of the American republic, religious liberty, and not just tolerance, became a founding ideal. (See the Letters between Moses Seixas and President George Washington.)  

To be continued.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Science and Religion – Part Ia: Why the Jews?

The Renaissance, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the Scientific Revolution and the communication revolution as a result of the invention of moveable type, that all began or took place in the sixteenth century, altered the view of the world and impacted the lives of both Jews and Christians in Europe in the seventeenth century. In the spring, I gave a series of lectures on some greats in the sixteenth century transitional period between the medieval and the modern period and the relationship between these important figures and Jews and Judaism. How did the many different dimensions of those interactions play out in the seventeenth century?

As autumn comes to an end, I plan to give three more lectures (and write corresponding blogs) on great figures of the seventeenth century and their relationship to Jews. They include Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, Hugo Grotius, Blaise Pascal, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Lurking in the background throughout this survey will be Baruch Spinoza, a Jew ex-communicated from his congregation in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century.  

I begin with Galileo Galilei. Why Galileo?

Personal Identification

It could be personal. Galileo’s daughter, a cloistered nun in San Matteo, on 18 October 1630, when her father was on the verge of publishing his most famous book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World, wrote her father a letter. In her pattern of self-renunciation and humility, combined with her enormous respect and love for her father, she asked rhetorically, “If you could teach me the secret you yourself employ, Sire, for getting by on so little sleep, I would be most grateful.” (Sobel 199) I identify with Galileo. He slept little. So do I.

Further, like myself he went to medical school for two years before he shifted to mathematics and physics; I went on to study philosophy after two years of medical school. Perhaps my choice of Galileo was because I identified with him, not only for the few hours of sleep he enjoyed each night, but because I have always been overwhelmed by his scientific achievements. In addition, I identified with him because he disdained academic dress and manners. When I first taught at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, I was required to wear an academic gown. I did as I was required, but I used my gown to erase the chalk marks I made on the blackboard. Galileo also “deemed official doctoral dress a pretentious nuisance.” (Sobel 19)

Finally, it could be because some of his enemies spread rumours that Galileo was a Jew, a man from the Galil. The rumour was patently false and had no merit whatsoever, but we are well acquainted with “fake news” these days and false allegations that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who interfered in the American 2016 elections.

Galileo’s Interactions with Jews

Galileo had some interaction with Jews. However, those contacts were infrequent and exceptional. For example, he did write a letter to the 17th century Jewish mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and physician, Jacob Rosales of Hamburg, one of the three Hanseatic cities. (The others were Danzig and Lűbeck.) Galileo had presumably met Rosales when the latter lived in Rome. They had much in common, but also a number of fundamental differences, both on science and religion. Rosales, for example,nseatic cities that included Danzig and Lbeck as well,Hanseatic cities also happened to be a Sebastianist, an exponent of political messianism.

A bit more on Rosales. Christened Imanuel Bocarro Francês in 1593 in Lisbon, Rosales became an ex-Marrano who returned to Judaism after his escape to Hamburg (1631-1652). Subsequently, he was denounced by the spy on the Sephardic Jewish community throughout Europe, Semuel Aboab, alias Francisco Domingo de Guzmán, but this informer to the inquisition operated between 1661-2, well after Galileo’s death. When Galileo was in touch with Rosales, it was over a dispute between modern science and Rosales’ commitment to traditional science and astrology. Galileo admired Rosales for his proficiency in astrology, but was never persuaded of its scientific bona fides.

Galileo himself dabbled in astrology. Any physician trained in Europe at the time had to be an accomplished astrologer, since doctors were then required to cast horoscopes in order to see what the stars adumbrated of the patient’s life. Astrology was intended to assist in diagnosis, in prescribing remedies and even in understanding the causes of specific diseases. However, Galileo never took astrology seriously. He engaged in it at the request of a patron, such as that of Madama Christina when Grand Duke Ferdinando was ill, but he joked that astrologers really only saw things in retrospect.

A plethora of Jewish physicians lived in Hamburg and Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, many of them mentored by the very illustrious Rodrigo de Castro, another Marrano who reverted back to Judaism. In de Castro’s theory of plagues, those epidemics were the result of the spread of extremely small organisms, a theory clearly in advance of his time and the germ theory of disease established two centuries later when it was determined that the plague resulted from microbes living in and on rats; the fleas living on those rats spread the disease when a rat died and the fleas migrated to another host.

At the time, although the accumulation of dead rats adumbrated the arrival once again of the plague – never as horrific as the fourteenth century when one-third of the population of Europe died – the widespread belief was that the disease resulted from “swamp air,” or, more often, a full moon in conjunction with specific positions of the planets. Famine supposedly played a part. But it was the stellar conjunctions that were used to trace the course of the disease and its treatment.

That was the supposedly scientific side. On the irrational populist side, beggars and Jews were accused of being responsible for the spread of the plague. Further, Galileo’s daughter pronounced to her father that the plague resulted from insufficient prayer and piety. Galileo himself, though he had observed microbes through his telescope, never recognized even de Castro’s and Rosales’ early version of germ theory.

Rosales was more enamoured with astrology as a guide to medical practice than any subscription to a proto-germ theory. In fact, as Isaac Cordoso wrote on the death of Rosales’ only son at 17 years of age, “when his only son fell sick, the stars told him he would be healthy and enjoy long life. But his son died at the age of 17, because his father trusted more in the stars than in the mortal signs of danger and in [the healing power of] medicines.” Christian physicians in Hamburg, though also proficient in astrology, were more inclined to rely on bleeding and medicines than astrology.

Galileo’s contact with Rosales predated his move to Hamburg. Rosales had fled first fled from Lisbon to Rome after he had been denounced as a heretic. He lived there until at least 1629 and possibly until 1632 when Galileo’s most famous book was published. In Rome, Rosales published the fourth part of his banned book, Anacefaleoses (the contemporary meaning is related to the congenital absence of part of the brain) and his separately published notes in his volume Luz Pequena Lunar.

Rosales’ book envisioned the heavenly monarch as eternal, divine and perfect; it was related to the sun, equally perfect according to Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmology. Earthly monarchies, in contrast, were imperfect, lacked in effect part of a brain, particularly the Portugese monarchy. Earthly monarchies were linked with lunar light and linked with its deficiencies. What would Rosales have thought of the moon, and, by extension, earthly monarchies, if he had learned that the moon had no light of its own but merely reflected the light of the sun?

Rosales was also renowned for his poetry “in Spanish, Portuguese and Neo-Latin to expound his theories about the human and divine knowledge.” He also wrote encomia in praise of his friends and colleagues. Unequivocally, he had great admiration for Galileo as a mathematician, a scientist and an astrologer, but seemed unaware of Galileo’s scepticism of the latter subject.

What comes across is Galileo’s total indifference to whether Rosales was a Christian, a Marrano or a believing Jew which he became. Mathematics and science were the new universal language. In contrast, in spite of the apparent greater tolerance for Jews in Hamburg, Christian physicians were rivals of Jewish physicians because of the so-called Jewish medical practices. But there was also a great jealousy of the Jews from Portugal, for the mercantilist elite of Hamburg engaged in banking and international trade, primarily with Brazil, lived in incredible luxury and in huge mansions.

To be continued.

Impeachment Hearings, Antisemitism and Apocalyptic Disaster

I do not tweet, but I sent out the following series of short messages in separate emails to a few colleagues which I decided to share with a wider audience.

The first note was in response to a fear of emerging antisemitism in the impeachment hearings given the large number of Jews involved.

  1. Antisemitism and the Impeachment Hearings
  1. Re Jews and antisemitism and the fact that “Shifty Schiff” as Trump dubbed Adam Schiff, and Daniel Goldman whom Trump is expected to insult next, the alleged Jewish conspiracy net will grow wider and deeper as the impeachment proceedings continue. After all, Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and Gordon Sondland, whom the Trumpers are preparing to throw under the bus, are both Jewish. Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. When the Supreme Court intervenes, it will be pointed out that one-third of the Supreme Court justices are Jewish – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. (Kagan was the first female to have a Bat Mitzvah in her modern orthodox synagogue.)
  2. Since her parents fled communism and Nazi Germany, I have been told that rumours abound that Marie Yovanovitch is Jewish (Yanovitch is a common Ukrainian Jewish name), though I have no evidence that Marie Yovanovittch is. 
  3. Further, the two indicted crooks working with Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. are both Jewish; one of them has already agreed to turn on Giuliani.   
  4. When you marry antisemitism to misogyny – Trump referred to Yovanovitch as “that woman – you have a toxic mix for conspiracy theorists and believers in “the deep state.” Trump will find worse names for all the ones mentioned in the email that I received and those I have added. Further, after all, like Vindman, many have what Sean Duffy called, “an affinity for Ukraine.”  
  5. This is far worse than the Nixon impeachment, given Trump’s crimes and the depth of his support among evangelicals who are currently mostly pro-Zionist and supporters of two routes to redemption.
  6. It is even worse than the McCarthy period and the association of Jews with communism. We have to be prepared for much greater calumnies and the increase in the rise of right wing as well as left wing antisemitism. 

All the best.

  • Looming Economic Disaster and Rising Antisemitism.

I forgot to mention how the coming economic dire straits we are entering as a result of trade wars and economic geo-politics, but even more profoundly the emerging currency war as China seeks to create an alternative government-backed digital currency to escape the dominance of the U.S. dollar and the U.S. efforts under Trump to use the dollar for political coercion  – the much bigger story behind the Trump bribery attempt on Zelensky. There is more to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckenberg’s warnings about non-U.S.-regulated digital currencies than just the technology of payments. We are entering an era in which the 2008 crash of Lehman Brothers will look like small potatoes  – and we can expect Jews and Israel to become ready targets and branded as the economic cosmopolitan and internationalist czars that brought about the great economic crash.

  • Climate Change and Israel

One last item:

If I have not offered enough apocalyptic warnings re Jews and Israel, there is the greatest danger of all, climate change. For the first time ever, the report prepared by the Israel Climate Change Information Center provides details the effects of rising sea levels on Israel and which regions are at-risk of flooding, including exactly which streets will be inundated. These include those in Tel Aviv, Acre, Haifa, and Bat Yam. In total, 2.5 million people are in danger from rising sea levels. Flooding of rivers can endanger another 2.8 million. Beyond this, there is the spread of disease, water-born mosquitoes that multiply during floods, heat strokes, contamination of Israeli aquifers and damage to desalination plants. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  • Alex Vindman

A final, final note as the White House prepares to smear Vindman – you can see how much I am bothered by what I see as coming. 

In the impeachment hearings on Friday, the Republicans tabled the transcript of Trump’s April 21 phone call with Zelensky in which the two engaged in a repetitive session of mutual admiration, adoration and congratulations. However, the transcript contradicted the White House publicly released readout at the time that said that the conversation indicated “the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and Trump’s support for Zelensky’s “reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity and root out corruption.”

But there is no mention of either topic in the transcript. The White House then blamed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for the discrepancy between the official readout in April and the transcript of the phone call tabled at the impeachment hearings on Friday. As the explanation for the discrepancies released later said, “It is standard operating procedure for the National Security Council to provide readouts of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders.” This one was allegedly prepared by the NSC’s Ukraine expert, Alex Vindman. However, the official readout was based on talking points that the president did not follow. After the call, the White House staff did not update the readout to reflect what Trump actually said — and what he left out.

Yet Vindman will be painted as the treasonous fall guy.

Horror of horrors and a taste of what is coming.

  • Gordon Sondland

A final, final, final note re throwing another Jew, Gordon Sondland, besides Michael Cohen, under the bus.

Sondland, a Trump sycophant and financial supporter, first tried to cover up for Trump in insisting that foreign aid was never linked to Trump’s demand that Zelensky launch investigations into the Bidens, and then his revision that there was a linkage for which he was responsible by perhaps presuming too much. It was he who had communicated a “quid pro quo,” not Trump. In light of other witness testimonies, Sondland now remembered those conversations as his memory was refreshed. But wait for the third revision this week in light of the Holmes testimony. Senator Lindsey O. Graham has already signalled the attack on Sondland of whom Trump said of this megadonor that, “I hardly knew the gentleman.” Graham has already declared that Sondland’s testimony is “full of crap.” “Why did [Sondland] change his testimony? Was there a connection between [Sondland] and Democratic operatives on the committee?”This is even before the second career civil servant in the embassy who also overheard Trump’s conversation with Sondland testifies. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) echoed Senator Graham. Sondland didn’t mention this call in his initial testimony so he cannot be trusted. 

Does anyone think Trump or his sycophantic supporters can be trusted in anyway?


I will next turn to more interesting if far more distant and less relevant topics in parallel with my forthcoming five-part seminar series on Gentile Views of Jews in the Seventeenth Century. The first seminar on 20 November 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at Holy Blossom Temple will be on Galileo.

The Primacy of Truth: Parashat Vayeira Genesis 18:1-22:24

If Abraham can tell a self-serving lie, why can’t Donald Trump? Abraham told a whopper, not simply a white lie. (I have included the text in Hebrew and English at the end.) He told Abimelach that Sarah was his sister – not his half-sister and certainly not his wife. It was the second time he told the same lie. In Egypt, Abraham told Pharaoh the same thing (Genesis 12). Since taking a wife into a harem would be a horrendous abuse of the social order for both Pharaoh and Abimelech, the lie could have disastrous consequences.

On hearing that such a beautiful woman was Abraham’s sister, Abimelech, king of Gerar, took her, that is, put her in his harem only to have God reveal to him in a dream that he had actually taken a man’s wife and was on the verge of committing adultery, a heinous sin. Abimelech pleaded innocence, innocence in his heart because that was not his intention (Abraham had lied to him and so had Sarah). and innocence in his hand because he had not yet laid a hand on Sarah. God let Abimelech off the hook.

But what about Abraham? God knew he had been a liar – twice, not once. And about the same matter. When Abimelech confronted him, Abraham offered two excuses. He did it to save his own life, for strangers would have killed him to take possession of such a beautiful woman. Second, it was not a real lie but a circumlocution. Sarah was indeed his sister, but his half-sister, seed of his father but not his mother. It was a misleading statement rather than a bold-faced lie.

Abimelech did not then remonstrate Abraham for his lie, but, in fact, heaped rewards upon him and was, in turn rewarded by God by lifting the curse of barrenness from his household just as He had previously lifted the plagues from Egypt for Pharaoh. But what of Abraham? Did God punish him for the lie? God did nothing. One interpretation is that Abraham did nothing wrong, either because: a) God did this for a higher purpose; b) Abraham was a prophet and could be easily forgiven for a very slight exercise of making a misleading statement; c) and/or the lie was justified to ensure that Abraham survived to serve that higher purpose.

Let’s be clear, very clear. Abraham told what is apparently a bold-faced lie. But was it a bold-faced lie? “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight. A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” (Proverbs 12:22-23) Abraham told a white lie as a prudent man concerned with his own survival. He did not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He did not speak under oath. But only fools tell the whole truth. It is wise to be discreet and keep certain knowledge to yourself.

However, Abraham did not simply withhold information out of prudence. He misled. Further, in his misleading statement cum bold-faced lie, Abraham endangered others. Pharaoh and Abimelech sinned against their social norms, albeit unknowingly, and against Abraham’s God? What if the lie could make God look bad in the eyes of non-Hebrews?  Truth and Peace or non-conflict are not two disconnected alternatives; they are complementary. Rabbi Shimon (B’reishit Rabbah 8.5) taught that Peace had opposed God creating humans because they would be in perpetual conflict. Truth also argued against creating humans, but for a very different reason; humans will be indisposed to tell the truth. Confronted with these very uncomfortable prophetic voices and opposition to his will, in a rage, God cast Truth out of heaven and down to earth. Not Peace but Truth.

Why one rather than the other or even both?  Because humans would need truth even more than peace. When we speak, we must consider the consequences of our words on others. That is why we must be prudent when speaking. I tell the truth – generally. But prudence is not my forte. When others are upset at what I say, I insist – but I told the truth. When I saw my daughter-in-law returning from a very hard day, I told her she looked horrible. She did look wan and worn out from two very hard days in a row. But I did not lead with suggesting she might be working too hard. Instead, that followed my proclamation on her appearance. It may have been truthful, but what I said was very imprudent and hurtful. And unhelpful.

Our words must be boundaried by compassion. Temper truth with diplomacy. But, as Rabbi Mary Zamore wrote in her dvar Torah on this parashat, truth must retain its primacy. A truthful but prudent statement that deceives somewhat by omission, that is, a white lie, misleads somewhat only because of compassion for the other. But Abraham was not guided by a concern for the other, but by his own survival. Further, in that concern, he even endangered others. His was not a white lie but a bold-faced one. His was not a judicious restriction on his speech out of concern for the other. Nor was it an exception, but a habit.

However, Abraham redeemed himself. How? He admitted to his lie. He did not cover up. For as I have repeated many times, the greatest sin in the Torah is always the cover-up, not the lie itself. Truth, where possible, but not always the full truth. When concerned for the other, prudence dictates omission.

Even in this case, there is a way to be prudent without telling an outright lie. “Don’t you love this new scarf I bought?” Reply: “the colour suits you.” You engage in circumlocution by telling a partial truth, but do not honestly answer the question. Because you may not love the scarf. In fact, you may dislike it. But she has bought it. She may be unable to return it. A diplomat might ask what other scarves did she see? What were their merits compared to this one? Why did she choose this one? Suggesting the possibility of second thoughts is one way of avoiding a hurtful statement.

However, when Sarah mocked Abraham when he told her that God had promised that she would have a child, her forthrightness was not guided by prudence. What she said was hurtful. She implied not only that she was too old to have a child, but so was he. Further, even worse, she suggested that God might be a liar. And she said all this to protect herself from hurt and further disappointment.

Abraham told a partial lie to protect himself. Sarah told a partial truth to protect herself. Neither of their statements were guided by prudence. However, both owned up to their mistakes. Donald Trump tells outright lies, does so only with consideration for his own benefit and, worst of all, never admits to telling the lie but engages in one cover-up after another. Further, his minions, even relatively honourable ones, act to excuse, distract from and disguise those lies. His worst ones engage in outright lies themselves.

Nikki Haley was one of the best that Donald Trump appointed to his administration. She thinks that she is just being prudent when she is confronted with Trump’s repeated lying. “That is just who he is.” That is “just how he talks.” These are just “slip-ups.” She refrains from judgement without endorsing his statements. In her interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN last evening, she insisted that President Trump was always truthful “with her.”

But is this just prudence? Further, when she questions whether impeachment is appropriate given that he may have asked for a favour and a so-called quid pro quo, but there was not there there, is she not facilitating a cover-up in the claim of prudence? In the end, she claims, he did not withhold the military aid. In the end, he did not get the Ukrainian leadership to instigate an inquiry. Finally, she insisted that there is only a year left in his presidency. Let the American people who chose him make the decision, not his political foes, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Wait for the election and let the American voters make the choice.

Nikki omits so much that what she says is transformed from prudential speech to bold-faced lies. Most of all because she claims to stand on a higher ground of protecting the democratic voice. She does no such thing. In her soothing assurances, she is protecting a lying and self-serving president who is willing to let Ukrainian soldiers die for his own political self-preservation. Democracy is not simply about allowing people to choose, but allowing the public to make informed choices. The hearings currently in Congress are the parallel to a Grand Jury, an effort to gather information and make a decision to indict. The information gathered is critical to making an informed choice.

Further, in engaging in such deliberations, the House of Representatives is carrying out its constitutional duties. They are gathering information to determine whether or not there has been what appears to be a trade-off of a long-promised meeting in the White House needed by a nascent president of Ukraine to send a signal to the Russians with whom his country is at war that he has American backing. The members of Congress are gathering information to assess whether what appears to be the case is true, that the President withheld providing Congressionally approved arms until the new Ukrainian regime agreed to announce that it would be holding an inquiry into the conduct of the Bidens in 2016.

There is speculation that Haley is engaging in this imprudent cover-up to succeed Vice-President Pence in the 2020 election. She denies any such effort. I believe her. But she may be positioning herself to become the presidential nominee for 2024 and trying to retain her bona fides before the Trump base. Her motives are suspect because they do not seem to be driven by what is best for the American people, by what is best for their ability to make an informed choice and by what is commanded of the House of Representatives by the constitution.

Nikki thinks that impeachment is the ultimate and extreme act unwarranted by the circumstances, but without supporting ensuring that all the evidence is brought forth to make such a determination. But impeachment is not the parallel to a death penalty. It is simply the appropriate act to take if indeed high crimes and misdemeanors, including bribery, have been employed by the President in contravention to what is agreed generally to be in the U.S. interests as well as the well-being of a threatened ally. Covering-up remains the most egregious sin of all. For if Trump is allowed to get away with his behavior without consequences, without as many facts as possible being put on the table, not only would Trump not be held accountable by the House of Representatives, but he would be allowed to continue to insist that he is indeed unaccountable to any one but the voter – unaccountable to established policy by Congress, unaccountable to the rule of law, and unaccountable to the Constitution.

His is a populist creed and Nikki Haley is not just being diplomatic for possibly self-serving purposes, but betrays her willingness to surrender to that populist credo. The people rule. The majority rules. The strong man rules who has the backing of the people. To hell with institutional procedures. To hell with the rule of law. To hell with the constitution. Where is Nikki Haley’s compassion that should determine her prudence? Holding a holder of high office accountable with the possibility of removing him from that office is not anywhere akin to the death penalty. “You’re fired” is not the same as, “You’re dead.”

Prudence is emet shel chesed, “kind and loving truth,” not self-serving omissions, distractions and irrelevancies. All the evidence thus far presented points unequivocally to an effort by the President of the United States to withhold funds authorized by Congress to the Ukrainian government as well as a promise of a meeting in the White House between the presidents of both nations until Ukraine publicly announced that it would be holding investigations into possible Ukrainian influence in the American 2016 election and the Bidens’ role in that effort. The fact that the aid was eventually released after the whistleblower statement became public, does not detract from the appearance of an offer of a bribe. And an offer made, not to ensure the Ukrainians look into corruption, but to suggest and imply corruption by a person who may be President Trump’s most formidable rival in the 2020 election, is a high crime and misdemeanor.

Blackmail that in the end that does not work is still blackmail. A conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime. Doing so primarily for self-centered reasons as suggested by the testimony of Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr.’s testimony that one of his aides overheard Trump in a cell phone conversation in a Ukrainian restaurant task Ambassador Sondland whether the Ukrainians were moving towards launching the investigations requested, the same Sondland that Trump claims he hardly knew. “I hardly know the gentleman.” Further, Sondland told that aide after the phone call ended that Trump cared more about the investigations than the well-being of Ukraine. The blackmail was there. The blackmail was self-serving and, in fact, ran directly contrary to the interests of both the U.S. as well as Ukraine.

Further, it had nothing to do with Ukraine’s endemic corruption but only with an announcement about investigating the Bidens and only the Bidens. Taylor testified that Sondland told him that there would be a stalemate re the Ukrainian president’s visit and, more importantly, the release of the aid until the investigation was announced.

George Kent, the top diplomat in the Ukraine, who had warned his superiors about the inappropriateness of Hunter Biden sitting on the Board of Directors of a company owned by a possibly corrupt Ukrainian oligarch, nevertheless had never heard of “Crowdstrike.” Nor was there any evidence of actual corruption by the Bidens and none of the new Ukrainian government. He informed the inquiry that the appropriate Office of Management in the U.S. had given the new Ukrainian government a seal of approval with respect to corruption as a condition of the aid funds being released. Nevertheless, there is no indication that Trump was concerned with Ukrainian corruption but only with announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

The bottom line:

Trump is a repeated self-serving liar – but that in itself is not an impeachable offence.

Trump refuses to be accountable to the rule of law – but that in itself does not appear to be an impeachable offence.

Trump refuses even to be accountable to the Constitution and refuses to cooperate with the House of Representatives in fulfilling its constitutional duties – but that in itself does not appear to be an impeachable offence.

However, if the evidence continues to build and support the claim that he withheld funds from the Ukraine on condition that they investigate his potential rival in the 2020 election, this is explicitly an impeachable offence.

The Senate, given the propensity of the Republicans to draw their wagons in a circle to protect the president, even when it involves misdirection, distraction, serious omissions, false claims, and even outright lies by some of them, may not vote for impeachment. Nevertheless, the majority of the House of Representatives will have done its duty to hold the president accountable and to inform the public. That is laudable behaviour which could backfire in some ways to jeopardize their election prospects in 2020. Even so, it is the right thing to do when imprudent outright lies threaten the well-being of the United States, the well-being of Ukraine, the well-being of peace in our time, and, perhaps most importantly, has most likely led to the loss of lives of brave Ukrainian soldiers fighting the Russians and their proxies.

Genesis Chapter 20 בְּרֵאשִׁית

א  וַיִּסַּע מִשָּׁם אַבְרָהָם אַרְצָה הַנֶּגֶב, וַיֵּשֶׁב בֵּין-קָדֵשׁ וּבֵין שׁוּר; וַיָּגָר, בִּגְרָר. 1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the land of the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.
ב  וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָהָם אֶל-שָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ, אֲחֹתִי הִוא; וַיִּשְׁלַח, אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ גְּרָר, וַיִּקַּח, אֶת-שָׂרָה. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife: ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
ג  וַיָּבֹא אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, בַּחֲלוֹם הַלָּיְלָה; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, הִנְּךָ מֵת עַל-הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר-לָקַחְתָּ, וְהִוא, בְּעֻלַת בָּעַל. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him: ‘Behold, thou shalt die, because of the woman whom thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.’
ד  וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ, לֹא קָרַב אֵלֶיהָ; וַיֹּאמַר–אֲדֹנָי, הֲגוֹי גַּם-צַדִּיק תַּהֲרֹג. 4 Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said: ‘LORD, wilt Thou slay even a righteous nation?
ה  הֲלֹא הוּא אָמַר-לִי אֲחֹתִי הִוא, וְהִיא-גַם-הִוא אָמְרָה אָחִי הוּא; בְּתָם-לְבָבִי וּבְנִקְיֹן כַּפַּי, עָשִׂיתִי זֹאת. 5 Said he not himself unto me: She is my sister? and she, even she herself said: He is my brother. In the simplicity of my heart and the innocence of my hands have I done this.’
ו  וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים בַּחֲלֹם, גַּם אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי בְתָם-לְבָבְךָ עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, וָאֶחְשֹׂךְ גַּם-אָנֹכִי אוֹתְךָ, מֵחֲטוֹ-לִי; עַל-כֵּן לֹא-נְתַתִּיךָ, לִנְגֹּעַ אֵלֶיהָ. 6 And God said unto him in the dream: ‘Yea, I know that in the simplicity of thy heart thou hast done this, and I also withheld thee from sinning against Me. Therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
ז  וְעַתָּה, הָשֵׁב אֵשֶׁת-הָאִישׁ כִּי-נָבִיא הוּא, וְיִתְפַּלֵּל בַּעַדְךָ, וֶחְיֵה; וְאִם-אֵינְךָ מֵשִׁיב–דַּע כִּי-מוֹת תָּמוּת, אַתָּה וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ. 7 Now therefore restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.’
ח  וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אֲבִימֶלֶךְ בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּקְרָא לְכָל-עֲבָדָיו, וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת-כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם; וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, מְאֹד. 8 And Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears; and the men were sore afraid.
ט  וַיִּקְרָא אֲבִימֶלֶךְ לְאַבְרָהָם, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מֶה-עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ וּמֶה-חָטָאתִי לָךְ, כִּי-הֵבֵאתָ עָלַי וְעַל-מַמְלַכְתִּי, חֲטָאָה גְדֹלָה:  מַעֲשִׂים אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יֵעָשׂוּ, עָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him: ‘What hast thou done unto us? and wherein have I sinned against thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.’
י  וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם:  מָה רָאִיתָ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה. 10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham: ‘What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?’
יא  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, כִּי אָמַרְתִּי רַק אֵין-יִרְאַת אֱלֹהִים, בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה; וַהֲרָגוּנִי, עַל-דְּבַר אִשְׁתִּי. 11 And Abraham said: ‘Because I thought: Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.
יב  וְגַם-אָמְנָה, אֲחֹתִי בַת-אָבִי הִוא–אַךְ, לֹא בַת-אִמִּי; וַתְּהִי-לִי, לְאִשָּׁה. 12 And moreover she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and so she became my wife.
יג  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי, אֱלֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי, וָאֹמַר לָהּ, זֶה חַסְדֵּךְ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂי עִמָּדִי:  אֶל כָּל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר נָבוֹא שָׁמָּה, אִמְרִי-לִי אָחִי הוּא. 13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her: This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me: He is my brother.’
יד  וַיִּקַּח אֲבִימֶלֶךְ צֹאן וּבָקָר, וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת, וַיִּתֵּן, לְאַבְרָהָם; וַיָּשֶׁב לוֹ, אֵת שָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ. 14 And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men-servants and women-servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
טו  וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, הִנֵּה אַרְצִי לְפָנֶיךָ:  בַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ, שֵׁב. 15 And Abimelech said: ‘Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.’
טז  וּלְשָׂרָה אָמַר, הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי אֶלֶף כֶּסֶף לְאָחִיךְ–הִנֵּה הוּא-לָךְ כְּסוּת עֵינַיִם, לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר אִתָּךְ; וְאֵת כֹּל, וְנֹכָחַת. 16 And unto Sarah he said: ‘Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is for thee a covering of the eyes to all that are with thee; and before all men thou art righted.’
יז  וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל אַבְרָהָם, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים; וַיִּרְפָּא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-אֲבִימֶלֶךְ וְאֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וְאַמְהֹתָיו–וַיֵּלֵדוּ. 17 And Abraham prayed unto God; and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid-servants; and they bore children.
יח  כִּי-עָצֹר עָצַר יְהוָה, בְּעַד כָּל-רֶחֶם לְבֵית אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, עַל-דְּבַר שָׂרָה, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָהָם.  {ס} 18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife. {S}