Archive for December, 2010

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New year? Who says? A two-faced roman god! Revisit

December 31, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my thoughts on this holiday – the only non-Jewish holiday I acknowledge – hasn’t changed the last 2 years, I’ll just repost my blog post from then. I acknowledge it, because this is how we count. I don’t celebrate. But I acknowledge it.

So why exactly is this a new year? Ever thought about that? Why doesn’t it switch from 2010 to 2011 on the 1st of September or July? Why does the new year start with January? Why? Why? And if the count is from the birth of Jesus, then why isn’t New Years on Christmas, which according to the church is his birthday?

I made some investigations about this, and found the following facts from the book “Antikens Historier” by Alf Henriksson:

A few hundred years BC, long before Rome became a super power, they developed their own calender. Some dude (can’t remember the name right now) named the first 4 months after gods: Mars, April, May, June (Although April is a mystery, maybe it’s not a god at all). The rest of the months got numbers from the fifth till the tenth: Quintillus, Sextullus, September, October, November, December. The first two were later changed to July and August by a couple of not very modest emperors.

Then from the end of the year, December, until the beginning of the new year, March, there was the dead time when no agricultural work could be done. This king dude whose name I can’t remember decided to make that into two months and named them January and February. February is a mystery but has to do with some pagan ritual of spanking naked people with flesh. As it was the last month of the year it also has less days.

Janus is the god of the Beginning, which gives us a clue to why this happened to be the first month after a while. When the romans prayed to their gods, Janus should always be mentioned first. He had 2 faces – one to the past and one to the future. He also had a temple with two doors who were to be open during times of war (a door keeper is still called janitor after that god). So somewhere along the way, the romans changed their new year from March to January.

However, what did the church make of all this? Of what I can see, the church was actually against celebrating new years on the 31st of December. It should rather be… Christmas? No, actually 9 months earlier, March 25th. “When Jesus became human”. Then there were others who had their new years on Easter, and the Byzantines had it on September 1st. There were other ideas also. Basically, there was a total confusion about this during the medieval times, simply because the popes repressed the “normal” and well known new year of December 31st. It was just too connected to all drinking and partying the pagans used to do.

The popes weren’t able to surpress the pagan memories of their people, and when the renaissance came people started thinking that everything greek and roman was good. So December 31st was reinstated as the last day of the year, officially in 1588 with the new Gregorian calender.

So that’s what we are celebrating today, people… uhm… a two faced roman god and medieval confusion. Hurray!

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Turkish Bishops and Jeremiah – revisit.

December 26, 2010

Original Post from Dev 24th 2007

Since my view hasn’t changed the past two years I’m just reposting this that I wrote 2 years ago. With a few amendments.

Christmas is annoying. I don’t celebrate christmas, the people I spend every day with don’t, and the country I live in don’t. Still I hear about it all the time. Mostly the constant talk about it from every single person in Sweden.

What is annoying? The fact I can’t ignore it. I can’t just be indifferent. Say, these nice red flowers. If I bought one of those any other time of the year, there’s no problem with that. But God forbid I buy one now. People may think I celebrate christmas! Know what? Better ban anything red around here when it’s christmas. And don’t look at any trees, and refuse to answer ignorant swedes wishing merry christmas. But hang on… isn’t that aknowledging that I can’t ignore christmas? Yes it is! And after a few years of processing the fact that I no longer celebrate it… it’s ok. I aknowledge it. Heck, I’ll even wish you guys merry christmas. Merry christmas to you!

Interesting fact about christmas though is how it has survived all religions. First it belonged to the pagan religions celebrating the birth of the sun god (Ishtar, Mithras or Elah-Gabal etc). Then someone made it a christian holiday and decided Jesus was born that day. Here’s a quote by Cyprian remarking that change – “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born” (from Wikipedia)
It would actually have been pretty funny if it weren’t so pathetically sad.

Anyway, today we are witnessing another switch of religion of this holiday. The main religion of the western world today is Money. And christmas has truly embraced this new religion as well. Heck, they even avoid Jesus by making up some red dressed fat guy who somehow is linked to a Turkish bishop. And also people lie to their kids about that fat guy. Lying to your kids is always fun, right?

So anyway – don’t let anyone tell you there’s no need to celebrate this ancient holiday. It has been around for thousands of years at it’s apparently here to stay. The christmas tree is even mentioned in the bibel by Jeremiah

1:Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3:For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4: They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5: They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”
Jeremiah 10:1-5

So my dear fellow christmas celebrators – knock yourself out. Especially you christian guys – it’s fine to celebrate Jesus’ birth now even if it’s not historically accurate. Why shouldn’t you celebrate this ancient holiday which mixes your pagan ancestry with your “new” religion and the hectic money-earning capitalistic materialistic mentality of the western world that we have come to love so much? This way every one can celebrate the part that he likes the best. Just don’t try to force everyone to celebrate it because of Jesus’ birth. Because frankly – that’s not why it’s celebrated, and you know it.

My dear jewish fellows – look at our Christian brothers overwhelmed by the holidays as we are every Passover and Sukkot. They’ve switched religion twice in the past 6000 years and still this piece of ancient history is still important to them, and they still celebrate it. How much more important shouldn’t it then be for us, who have sticked with the same God and the same Israel and the same Torah for all these years, to stay loyal to our heritage, our culture and our holidays.

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Business Ethics–Creative Accounting and Enron

December 20, 2010

enronOk, here’s the deal. By the 24th of December I have to hand in a suggestion for the final paper that I need to prepare for my Business Ethics class. The suggestion needs to include:

1) The subject of the paper (Creative accounting and Enron – maybe something about “where’s the limit” in accounting creativity, using Enron as an example, maybe trying to define the moral reasons to the Enron scandal, maybe something about the Arthur Andersen firm and the issue of auditor independence)

2) The research question / assumption (Haven’t decided yet)

3) Chapters of the paper and what will be in each (heeeeeelp!)

4) Bibliography. I must use at least five, of which at least 3 must be written in the last 5 years, and at least 2 must be from a leading professional international business-ethics journal. (I’ve found 2 articles in “Business Ethics Quarterly” that seem relevant: “THE STRUCTURAL ORIGINS OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN
THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION” by Colin Boyd, 2004 and “THE PHILOSOPHY AND RHETORIC OF AUDITOR INDEPENDENCE CONCEPTS” by Sara Ann Reiter and Paul F. Williams, 2004. I also found an article in Harvard Business Review “Why Good Accountants Do Bad Audits” by Max H. Bazerman, George Loewenstein, and Don A. Moore, 2002, and from Business and Society Review “The Ethics Officer as Agent of the Board: Leveraging Ethical Governance Capability in the Post-Enron Corporation” by W. MICHAEL HOFFMAN AND MARK ROWE”.  I am looking for at least 2 more sources – and they must all be from 2006 or later… any ideas?)

5) I need to present the ethical/philosophical theoretical models that I will use. Things I learned in this class. That will be easy. Just reading about the enron case gives me a thousand ideas.

So, now I’m turning to my readers. Who  can help me? No, I’m not asking you to write it for me. But if you have any useful suggestion of how to focus this thing, where to look for more sources and how to go about this. I need to hand in this final suggestion by December 24th, and the paper is to be done by January 28th.

Help me…? Pretty please…?

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Pray for Israel

December 3, 2010

Worst catastrophe in the history of the State of Israel. So far 40 killed, people evacuated from their homes, residents of Haifa are encouraged to stay home.

This is not the way we wanted to celebrate Chanukka in Israel this year!

Pray for the evacuated, the families of the dead, and for the fire fighters and rescue personnel.

If you are close to the area, open your home for evacuated families or volunteer to help fight the fire (if you are physically fit for it). Call Israeli number 050-8818205 for more information of how you can help.

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Happy Hanukka!

December 1, 2010

hanukkahHappy Hanukka!

Hanukka is one of the minor holidays not mentioned in the Torah. It is celebrated due to a historic event. A miracle that God did for us. But, as we shall see, it is also much more than that. In fact, even Hanukka – just like all other holidays – points us directly to the Messiah.

The holiday is a memory of events that happened “between the old and new testament” – the rededication of the Temple in 161 BC. Here’s the background story:

The Old Testament ends with an autonomous Jewish entity within the Persian empire, with Ezra and Nehemia as leaders. In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the area, and after his death, Israel became a part of the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom. Around the year 200 BC, the Seleucid Empire, based in Syria, conquered Israel. There was a continuing process of Hellenization amongst many Jews, especially from the upper class, who were seeking a Greek lifestyle rather than adhering to the Jewish law.

In 167 BC king Antiocus IV banned Jewish sacrifices, Sabbaths and feasts, circumcision. He put up statues of Greek Gods in the temple and sacrificed forbidden animals, such as pigs, on altars that were originally dedicated to God. Possession of Jewish scriptures was made a capital offence.

According to the narrative in Macc 1, the revolt was sparked by Mattathias from Modiin who after refusing to bow down to the Greek God, killed a hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias’ place. Mattathias fled to the desert with his sons. He died the following year, and his son, Judah Maccabee led the Jewish army to free the land. He led a number of successful guerrilla warfare missions, where he won battle after battle.

After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there, and that’s the event which we now celebrate. It happened in 165 BC.

Many other events happened after this as well, but to make a long story short – Judea eventually became independent under Judas’ brother, Simon, in 140 BC, and was an independent kingdom until 63 BC when the Roman emperor Pompey conquered Jerusalem.

(Note: some parts of above historic narrative is taken from Wikipedia).

The story of Hanukka is in the book of Maccabees. It appears in both:

[36] Then said Judas and his brethren, Behold, our enemies are discomfited: let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary.

[37] Upon this all the host assembled themselves together, and went up into mount Sion.

[38] And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the priests’ chambers pulled down;

[39] They rent their clothes, and made great lamentation, and cast ashes upon their heads,

[40] And fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven.

[41] Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were in the fortress, until he had cleansed the sanctuary.

[42] So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law:

[43] Who cleansed the sanctuary, and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place.

[44] And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned;

[45] They thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled it down,

[46] And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what should be done with them.

[47] Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former;

[48] And made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the temple, and hallowed the courts.

[49] They made also new holy vessels, and into the temple they brought the candlestick, and the altar of burnt offerings, and of incense, and the table.

[50] And upon the altar they burned incense, and the lamps that were upon the candlestick they lighted, that they might give light in the temple.

[51] Furthermore they set the loaves upon the table, and spread out the veils, and finished all the works which they had begun to make.

[52] Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year, they rose up betimes in the morning,

[53] And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.

[54] Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with songs, and citherns, and harps, and cymbals.

[55] Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the God of heaven, who had given them good success.

[56] And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.

[57] They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them.

[58] Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.

[59] Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.

(1 Macc 4:36-59)

[1] Now Maccabeus and his company, the Lord guiding them, recovered the temple and the city:

[2] But the altars which the heathen had built in the open street, and also the chapels, they pulled down.

[3] And having cleansed the temple they made another altar, and striking stones they took fire out of them, and offered a sacrifice after two years, and set forth incense, and lights, and shewbread.

[4] When that was done, they fell flat down, and besought the Lord that they might come no more into such troubles; but if they sinned any more against him, that he himself would chasten them with mercy, and that they might not be delivered unto the blasphemous and barbarous nations.

[5] Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the same month, which is Casleu.

[6] And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts.

[7] Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place.

[8] They ordained also by a common statute and decree, That every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews.

(2 Macc 10:1-8)

As we know, Solomon dedicated his temple at the feast of Sukkot. The Maccabees therefore decided to celebrate this in 8 days – as the number of days of Sukkot (including Shmini Atzeret). Later, many mythical legends have been added to this story. Such as the story that the Menorah only had oil for one day, and it miraculously lasted for eight days. It is due to this legend that Hanukka has been connected to oil and light, and is today known as a “festival of lights”. This probably has more natural reasons, since it’s the darkest season of the year. But whatever the reason, we do know that God is light, and his light is always worth celebrating.

Jesus celebrated Hanukka – “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.” (John 10:22).

God never commanded us to keep this holiday. But it is a memory of a significant miracle that he did for us. It is remembering that Jesus is the light of the world. And it is remembering that our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, and Jesus redeemed us by his blood, and cleaned our heart, just as Judah Maccabee redeemed the physical temple. This holiday is about getting all idol worship out of our hearts, and not let the enemy put it there. Be zealous for God. Cut off any sin. Kill any part of you that is trying to sacrifice to an idol. (Because anything can be an idol).

The first day is tomorrow, Thursday 2/12, which means that the first candle we light this evening. We have a chanukkia, which is a candelabra with 9 candles (not 7 as the Menorah has), with one “shamash” (which means “servant”) used to light the others, and one for each day. Tonight we light the first, tomorrow night the second, etc. The lightning of the candles is usually done after the stars are out (except on Shabbat of course, then it has to be done before). This is just a tradition, but it’s a nice tradition, and it always reminds me that we are all like candles, and Jesus is our “shamash”. He is the one giving us his fire, helping us to be a light to the world – and he came to serve us! He is God, he is the Lord of Lords and King of kings, and he became flesh to serve us and to die for our sins!

The dreidel is just a tradition that has developed through time, but there is a story that connects it to Hanukka – “The Jews would gather in caves to study Torah, posting a lookout to alert the group to the presence of Greek soldiers. If soldiers were spotted, the Jews would hide their scrolls and spin tops, so the Greeks thought they were gambling, not learning.” (From Wikipedia).

Traditional food is anything oily, especially “latkes” and “suvganiot” (google it). This has to do with the “oil” legend and the obvious relation between fire, light, and oil (well, it was obvious a few hundred years ago). Again, another reminder of the Messiah – the anointed one. But don’t use that as an excuse to get fat….

I’d like to finish with a quote from the New Testament about who is really the true light of the world:

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

[2] The same was in the beginning with God.

[3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

[4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

[5] And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

[7] The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

[8] He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

[9] That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

[10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

[11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

[12] But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

[13] Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

[14] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1-14)

The temple was built for God, but blasphemed by the heathen, and the Maccabees rededicated it to God.

We were created for God, but we are ruined by our sin. Jesus is the one rededicating us to God, giving us a new heart and spirit when we are saved through his grace.

Jesus is also the light of the world, and he lights us with his spirit. He is our shamash. He came to die for our sins, when we didn’t deserve it at all.

Happy Holiday!

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