Around the World Pic: Jewish Cemetery in Prague

jewish-cemetary-prague1

During my European travels I went to a lot of Jewish sites, a lot of churches, and any Mosque that I was fortunate enough to find. I love going into religious building and locations around the world. One thing that’s always easy enough to find is the Jewish cemetery, because all the Jews are always buried there since the community was only given one small plot of land for such things.

The particular cemetery in the photo I took above is located in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic – and it’s right in the middle of the city.

In this Jewish cemetery, as in others throughout Europe, people were buried one on top of the other, separated by approximately 6-18 inches of dirt. Then their tombstones were places one in front of the other. Why? No space for all the dead people! When you walk around the cemetery this makes for a particularly interesting look as tomb stones many hundreds of years old are leaning on each other and crammed together in ways hardly seen in more ‘modern’ graveyards.

Of additional note is the fact that this cemetery is filled with very important Jewish rabbis and wise men because Prague was a huge Jewish center both as a community and a place of learning. People went to Prague from all over the Jewish world to learn with its scholars and rabbis and to see a place of such renown. People stood at the graves of many of these famous men and prayed.

Care to share your experiences with us about visiting different cemetaries?

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Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 164-167

Why Give a Creation Account?

Well as the end of verse 164 tells us, the results of creation are “signs for the wise.” Every single one of these natural phenomena that we take for granted should be reminders to us that God is the ultimate creator, all-powerful and capable of anything.

Foolishly, however, there are people who don’t recognize this seemingly obvious fact of life and worship something other than God, giving that thing the love due God. No good, we learn, but this seems like par for the course when reading a religious text such as this.

But That’s Not Where My Confusion with These Verses Lies

My confusion concerns what follows in verses 166 and 167, the discussion of which I’ll begin by noting that all of the followers (of those people who were receiving God’s love) burn forever in Hell. That is, those who didn’t recognize that they should worship God, who didn’t see the signs inherent in creation, are going to Hell for worshiping something else (is that something else a person – e.g. kings or royalty – or a thing, like the sun?).

Okay, makes sense from the back end, but what I don’t get is how it seems that they understood what they did wrong by saying that, knowing what they know now about God, they would leave those they had followed just as they were left by what they followed. If they understood enough to leave and repented, despite their foolishness from the outset, shouldn’t a merciful God show them their deeds and fill them with remorse but then not make them burn in eternal hellfire?

Is my question clear because without understanding it I fear that my great companions on this journey through the Quran will not be able to correct my reading where I have erred?

So, to any and all who can help me understand who is being punished, why they are being punished and how that fits into a larger Muslim understanding of Allah in these verses, I would be most appreciative.

Summary

What are your thoughts about these verses? Did I miss anything important you’d like to add?

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The Cow 164-167

164. Creation of the heavens and the earth, alternation of night and day, and sailing of ships across the ocean with what is useful to man, and the rain that God sends from the sky enlivening the earth that was dead, and the scattering of beasts of all kinds upon it, and the changing of the winds, and the clouds which remain obedient between earth and sky, are surely signs for the wise. 165. And yet there are men who take others as compeers of God, and bestow on them love due to God; but the love of the faithful for God is more intense. If only the wicked could see now the agony that they will behold (on the Day of Resurrection), they will know that to God belongs the power entirely! And the punishment of God is severe. 166. When those who were followed will disclaim those who followed them, and see the torment all ties between them shall be severed, 167. And the followers will say: “Could we live but once again we would leave them as they have abandoned us now.” God will show them thus their deeds, and fill them with remorse; but never shall they find release from the Fire.

The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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Isaac Hayes, Who Voiced the South Park Character, Chef, Dies at Age 65

In 1997, Isaac Hayes become the voice of Chef, the large, sexed-up, black cafeteria chef at South Park Elementary, who was the only adult that Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman could consistently trust. He was wonderful, lovable, and in classic Isaac Hayes fashion, broke into song all the time. No South Park viewer could but love Chef, and appreciate Hayes’ wonderful contribution to this timeless and fantastic show about American culture.

Unfortunately, Chef was not a part of South Park to the end of his life, as his character was killed in the first episode of the tenth season, titled “The Return of Chef” (1001). It was, to be sure, a controversial move, but nothing other than controversy surrounded his departure from the show.

At the end of the 9th season South Park did an episode about Scientology, lambasting the religion thoroughly and making it and some of its celebrity members, namely Tom Cruise, look rather stupid. Isaac Hayes took issues with Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s portrayal of his religion – yes, Hayes was a Scientologist – insisting that they just didn’t understand. Moreover, he told them that it wasn’t right to make fun of his religion that way, though they noted that he had no trouble making fun of nearly everyone else’s religions in other episodes.

Hayes left during the season break and later, Parker and Stone received a letter that he was resigning permanently. Mystery surrounds this letter because it is unclear who wrote it. It is believed that Hayes was in a coma when the letter was sent, suggesting that he had no hand in it at all. Others contend that he was coerced into writing the letter, and of course there is always the possibility that he wrote it himself. If this last option, it is unlikely that he was not goaded by fellow Scientologists to do so.

This situation soured me towards Isaac Hayes because I found his character on the show to be incredibly important – and also quite funny. Nonetheless, what happened happened and in a spectacular episode about Chef’s leaving South Park for a fruity little club (a metaphor for Scientology), the character was killed off and Isaac Hayes never returned to South Park again.

Now, he’s dead for real. I hope that the final 2 years of his life were fulfilling and enjoyable. I’m sorry that he departed from South Park on such an unfortunate note. Perhaps, considering my thoughts, I should try to bear Kyle’s eulogy in mind from Chef’s funeral at the end of the episode:

“We’re all here today because Chef has been such an important part of our lives. A lot of us don’t agree with the choices Chef has made in the past few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can’t let the events of the last week take away the memories of how much Chef made us smile. I’m gonna remember Chef as the jolly old guy who always broke into song. I’m gonna remember Chef as the guy who gave us advice to live by. So you see, we shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that little fruity club for scrambling his brains. And in the end, I know that somewhere out there, there’s the good part of Chef that’s still alive in us all.”

Here’s to you Isaac Hayes.

On a similarly unfortunate note, Bernie Mac has also died at the age of 50.

What was your favorite Chef moment? What will you remember Isaac Hayes for?

To read about the group Anonymous and their global protest against Scientology, click HERE.

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