Isn't the cold blooded murder of children and a Rabbi just terrible?
By an incredible coincidence, there's a big Jewish festival coming up! Yes, it's Passover time once again, where we celebrate the mass slaughter of Egyptian children by the Invisible Magic Friend.
The life of every single child is important, except Egyptian ones. It was the life of one tiny little baby, Moses, rescued from the clutches of the evil Egyptian Pharaoh, who grew up to free the Israelites from slavery. Many scholars (well at least many scholars who believe the Big Book of Magic Stuff) think the evil Egyptian Pharaoh was Ramesses, meaning child of the Sun God. That's right, those primitive, superstitious people worshipped the sun and thought Ramesses was semi-divine. Phew, what a bunch of loonies!
Anyway, after the mass slaughter of Egyptian children by the Invisible Magic Friend, Moses led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years. All without leaving a single archaeological artefact, they were very tidy ex-slaves. After that they found the promised land, which unfortunately was already inhabited, necessitating their regrettable genocide and enslavement.
But I don't want to keep going on about historically dubious events when I should really be talking about the young lives mercilessly gunned down by a crazed religious fanatic. It would make it look as if I was going to speak about the historically dubious events anyway and only squeezed the loss of their innocent lives in at the last moment because I couldn't really avoid it.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer have a print edition.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica was a big book full of knowledge and a great symbol of civilisation. Can you think of any other big books children? Yes, the Big Book of Magic Stuff! It's even better than the Encyclopaedia Britannica and it's still available in the printed edition.
Writing was invented by those clever Mesopotamians, but cuneiform wasn't really appropriate for writing down the Big Book of Magic Stuff, that's why the Hebrews invented the alphabet. It's thanks to that invention that you all know that you were created in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend, except for not being invisible or magic and sometimes not over friendly.
Then that nice Mr. Gutenberg invented the printing press. The Big Book of Magic Stuff could now be owned by anybody. Thanks to the march of progress, Europeans could now print heresies and fight religious wars over them.
Finally we come to the internet and electronic book readers. Once again, knowledge about the Invisible Magic Friend is spreading thanks to a new medium that he curiously has only now made available.
We Jews love all these new techie toys but we remain the people of the Big Book of Magic Stuff. It's just not the same venerating a Kindle. So we still have thousands of scribes, usefully employed creating a handwritten Torah.
Have I ever mentioned the importance of the Lessons of History? History is really important. It's by studying history that humans have been able to avoid making the same mistakes over and over and over again.
This programme is all about leaders, which is why they have important religious leaders like me on. There are two types of leaders. There are political leaders, people who seek power, like kings, who fight their petty little wars and are soon forgotten. Then there are important religious leaders, whose words inspire and bring hope to the masses of ordinary people.
Important religious leaders, whose wisdom and humility echo down through the ages, never seek political power. They are not the kind of people who try to control others or bend them to their will.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff has many examples. Who, for example, remembers any of its kings. Names such as David, Solomon and Herod are largely unknown. Whereas, among the prophets, who can forget the unforgettable Obadiah. The words of the famous Haggai are so famous that I need not even quote them. A famous poet agrees with me, so I must be right.
In our own time, there are such inspirational religious leaders as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. With their vast reserves of cash, I would just like to say how admirable and wonderful they are. I didn't get where I am today without telling the rich and influential how admirable and wonderful they are.
Then there are the ordinary people, teachers and nurses, the kind of people we don't allow on Thought for the Day. Although not as important as great religious thinkers such as myself, I'm sure they go about their humdrum little lives in a reasonably competent fashion, possibly doing something vaguely useful from time to time.
In the tough times that we face ahead, the inspiration of we great religious thinkers will be even more important and relevant than ever before.
Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 08:14 AM - Courage, hope, perseverance etc., Lessons of history, SacksRating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)
There's a big Jewish festival underway. Happy Hanukkah everybody!
Hanukkah celebrates the rebellion of the Jews against Antiochus IV. He put a statute of the wrong Invisible Magic Friend in the temple and banned us from mutilating the winkles of baby boys. He was obviously a bit mad.
Antiochus inherited power, which is a bad thing unless you're a Jewish king. The good guy was Judas Maccabeus who put the real Invisible Magic Friend back in the temple and started mutilating baby boys' winkles again in defiance of the evil Greeks.
By an incredible coincidence, this is exactly like the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-Il. Vaclav Havel didn't fight an underground
So it shall always be, as brave men fight for the freedom to mutilate baby boys' winkles against the stench of tyranny. Courage shall always triumph over insane despots who attempt to put the wrong Invisible Magic Friend in the temple. The human spirit soars like a great human soaring thing. The light of hope banishes the darkness of totalitarianism where a bunch of unelected men tell everyone else what to do.
Thanks to men like Judas Maccabeus, no one will ever again challenge our right to mutilate baby boys' winkles.
Aren't interfaith groups just fantastic? It all started during World War II when the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly had this incredible revelation: why don't we stop killing Jews? Killing Jews, or simply just exiling them, torturing them or forcing them to become Christians, had been a bit of a Christian pastime for the previous 2,000 years. Now that the Nazis were killing Jews in their millions, the Archbishop and a previous Big Chief Rabbi decided enough was enough.
Since then there have been no end of interfaith groups, as people of different faiths try to overcome the religious differences that set them apart from one another in the first place. There are literally thousands of interfaith groups, interfaith meetings (with some very pleasant buffet lunches) and interfaith initiatives. Believe me, I know, I'm being invited to enough of them. They have been so enormously successful that they continue to be needed, thus ensuring a secure supply of buffet lunches for Chief Rabbis and other faith leaders well into the future.
Let me give you an example. A Synagogue in Swansea was vandalised and desecrated. I can't imagine who would want to do such a thing. I mean it's not as if there are any religions left, after all these interfaith meetings, who've still got a grudge against the Jews. Anyway, some people from one of the other nice religions helped us fix it all up again, so that I could reconsecrate it to our particular version of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The interfaith industry: one sector of our economy that looks set to endure for a very long time to come.
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011, 07:15 AM - SacksRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Happy nearly Yon Kipper everyone!
Happily, and by one of those amazing coincidences that always happens, there is a news story that illustrates Yon Kipper perfectly. The Nobel prize for medicine is to be awarded to the dead scientist Ralph Steinman, even though the rules forbid a posthumous award. It reminds us that we need to remember what we want to be remembered for. So I'm not going to mention what Ralph Steinman's work was, how it will help people or why it deserved the ultimate scientific accolade.
Lots of people don't become famous until after their death. Van Gogh lived in poverty but now thousands of people make a very nice living out of buying and selling his works, writing books, giving lectures series and generally milking his talent and reputation for every penny they can get. Van Gogh will be remembered because he gives employment to so many.
On Yon Kipper the Invisible Magic Friend asks, what do you want to be remembered for? I want to be remembered for being the Big Chief Rabbi, but few of you will be remembered, if you're remembered at all, for rising to such exalted ranks. Many of you won't even win a Nobel prize. No, you must be contented with more humble achievements, the little everyday acts of kindness and love, known only to you and the Invisible Magic Friend. Then when you die, you can slip into well deserved obscurity (although if you've done any masterful paintings, be sure to leave them to well deserving art dealer).
It's big Jewish festival time - happy Jewish New Year everyone!
Last week I explained how Jewish New Year was about Rupert Murdoch saying "sorry" and always has been. This week I'm going to explain how the Jewish New Year is about solving the Euro economic crisis, and always has been. The Crisis in the Euro, or "Euro crisis" as we economic experts call it, is the biggest crisis in world financial stability since the previous crisis.
The solution to the economic crisis is obvious - don't have one in the first place. You can achieve this by blowing a ram's horn for ten days every year. This tells the Invisible Magic Friend that you've read Nietzsche and are therefore worthy of forgiveness. We know, as an absolute proven fact, as certain as the existence of the Invisible Magic Friend himself, that he will forgive you. Of course sometimes he doesn't forgive you and condemns you for eternity, or throws an enormous divine wobbly and extinguishes all life on earth, but on the whole he's quite a forgiving Invisible Magic Friend.
So, all you spendthrift, sinning, irresponsible liars, it's time to get on your knees and start blowing that horn.
And that is how to solve the Greek debt crisis and reduce Italian government borrowing interest rates.
Happy Jewish New Year everybody!
When Rupert Murdoch says "sorry", he really says "sorry". Now, with some recent news out of the way, let's not bother mentioning it from now on.
There's a big Jewish festival coming up. Happy Jewish New Year everybody!
Last year, Jewish New Year was all about scientists not being as clever as theologians. The year before that it was all about blowing rams' horns. The year before that it was all about the markets. And the year before that it was all about how religious rituals make me such a nice guy.
Jewish New Year is all about saying "sorry", and it always has been. If only we could be sorry, I mean really, really sorry for all the bad things we've done, if only people could forgive us for all the bad things we've done - just think what a nice world it would be.
This is what Judaism and Christianity (but not another well known Abrahamic religion) have brought to the world: saying sorry and forgiving. Before Judaism and Christianity (but not another well known Abrahamic religion), people didn't say sorry or forgive one another.
Wouldn't it be great if we could all just get along!
Friday, 1 July, 2011, 07:02 AM - SacksRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Here's something to cheer you up. A lottery winner in Plymouth has won a million pounds and doesn't know it. Whatever's happened, their prize has gone unclaimed. Of course, if you didn't buy a lottery ticket near Plymouth then it definitely isn't you, but it's a cheery story for someone, unless they've died or lost the ticket or something.
Then there's another famous story, of a man who took pity on a rubbish artist and accepted pictures from him in return for hospitality. After they both died, the relatives discovered a fortune in T.S. Lowry pictures in the attic, but then you knew I was going to say that as soon as I said he was a rubbish painter.
So you see, there are all these cheery stories in the world to cheer us up. Yes, you may have lost your job and your pension, but at least you'll live a very long time, even if it is in poverty. Always remember, no matter how bad things are, there's always someone worse off than you. What could be more cheery than that?
As it says in the Big Book of Magic Stuff's song book, thank god I was born an Englishman!
There's a big Anglican festival just past. Happy four-days-after-the-anniversary-of-the King James Big Book of Magic Stuff everybody!
They used to brutally execute you for translating the Big Book of Magic Stuff into English, but after England decided not to be Catholic any more, the authorities' views on an English Big Book of Magic Stuff changed a bit. King James decided he wanted his very own Big Book of Magic Stuff. Then, thanks to the printing press, everyone who mattered could have a copy. People started to read the Big Book of Magic Stuff and immediately concluded that we needed wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and the Bill of Rights. After that, things began to settle down a bit.
Something similar is happening today in the Arab Spring. Has anyone mentioned the Arab Spring lately? No? Good job I was here then. Thanks to the benefits of Facebook and Twitter, revolutions are taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. This is exactly the same as the Big Book of Magic Stuff being translated into English. So the Arab world can now look forward to a century or so of wars, revolutions, a decapitated king, the Restoration and a Bill of Rights, before things begin to settle down a bit.
In the beginning was Facebook and Twitter, but shortly afterwards was the Invisible Magic Friend. For as we all know, where the Invisible Magic Friend is put in charge, liberty, freedom and democratic accountability soon follow.