Thomas Hardy’s great poem on the turn of the year

December 27, 2013

thomas-hardy-grave

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

31 December 1900

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

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“How Can You Defend Israel?” Part II

January 2, 2011

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, Januar 2, 2011

Since writing “How can you defend Israel?” last month, I’ve been deluged by comments. Some have been supportive, others harshly critical. The latter warrant closer examination.

The harsh criticism falls into two basic categories.

One is over the top.

It ranges from denying Israel’s very right to nationhood, to ascribing to Israel responsibility for every global malady, to peddling vague, or not so vague, anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s no point in dwelling at length on card-carrying members of these schools of thought. They’re living on another planet.

Israel is a fact. That fact has been confirmed by the UN, which, in 1947, recommended the creation of a Jewish state. The UN admitted Israel to membership in 1949. The combination of ancient and modern links between Israel and the Jewish people is almost unprecedented in history. And Israel has contributed its share, and then some, to advancing humankind.

If there are those on a legitimacy kick, let them examine the credentials of some others in the region, created by Western mapmakers eager to protect their own interests and ensure friendly leaders in power.

Or let them consider the basis for legitimacy of many countries worldwide created by invasion, occupation, and conquest. Israel’s case beats them by a mile.

And if there are people out there who don’t like all Jews, frankly, it’s their problem, not mine. Are there Jewish scoundrels? You bet. Are there Christian, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic scoundrels? No shortage. But are all members of any such community by definition scoundrels? Only if you’re an out-and-out bigot.

The other group of harsh critics assails Israeli policies, but generally tries to stop short of overt anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism. But many of these relentless critics, at the slightest opportunity, robotically repeat claims about Israel that are not factually correct.

There are a couple of methodological threads that run through their analysis.

The first is called confirmation bias. This is the habit of favoring information that confirms what you believe, whether it’s true or not, and ignoring the rest.

While Israel engages in a full-throttled debate on policies and strategies, rights and wrongs, do Israel’s fiercest critics do the same? Hardly.

Can the chorus of critics admit, for example, that the UN recommended the creation of two states – one Jewish, the other Arab – and that the Jews accepted the proposal, while the Arabs did not and launched a war?

Can they acknowledge that wars inevitably create refugee populations and lead to border adjustments in favor of the (attacked) victors?

Can they recognize that, when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands until 1967, there was no move whatsoever toward Palestinian statehood?

Can they explain why Arafat launched a “second intifada” just as Israel and the U.S. were proposing a path-breaking two-state solution?

Or what the Hamas Charter says about the group’s goals?

Or what armed-to-the-teeth Hezbollah thinks of Israel’s right to exist?

Or how nuclear-weapons-aspiring Iran views Israel’s future?

Or why President Abbas rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s two-state plan, when the Palestinian chief negotiator himself admitted it would have given his side the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank?

Or why Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize the Western Wall or Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish sites, while demanding recognition of Muslim holy sites?

Or why Israel is expected to have an Arab minority, but a state of Palestine is not expected to have any Jewish minority?

Can they admit that, when Arab leaders are prepared to pursue peace with Israel rather than wage war, the results have been treaties, as the experiences of Egypt and Jordan show?

And can they own up to the fact that when it comes to liberal and democratic values in the region, no country comes remotely close to Israel, whatever its flaws, in protecting these rights?

Apropos, how many other countries in the Middle East – or beyond – would have tried and convicted an ex-president? This was the case, just last week, with Moshe Katsav, sending the message that no one is above the law – in a process, it should be noted, presided over by an Israeli Arab justice.

And if the harsh critics can’t acknowledge any of these points, what’s the explanation? Does their antipathy for Israel – and resultant confirmation bias – blind them to anything that might puncture their airtight thinking?

Then there is the other malady. It’s called reverse causality, or switching cause and effect.

Take the case of Gaza.

These critics focus only on Israel’s alleged actions against Gaza, as if they were the cause of the problem. In reality, they are the opposite – the effect.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it gave local residents their first chance in history – I repeat, in history – to govern themselves.

Neighboring Israel had only one concern – security. It wanted to ensure that whatever emerged in Gaza would not endanger Israelis. In fact, the more prosperous, stable, and peaceful Gaza became, the better for everyone. Tragically, Israel’s worst fears were realized. Rather than focus on Gaza’s construction, its leaders – Hamas since 2007 – preferred to contemplate Israel’s destruction. Missiles and mortars came raining down on southern Israel. Israel’s critics, though, were silent. Only when Israel could no longer tolerate the terror did the critics awaken – to focus on Israel’s reaction, not Gaza’s provocative action.

Yet, what would any other nation have done in Israel’s position?

Just imagine terrorists in power in British Columbia – and Washington State’s cities and towns being the regular targets of deadly projectiles. How long would it take for the U.S. to go in and try to put a stop to the terror attacks, and what kind of force would be used?

Or consider the security barrier.

It didn’t exist for nearly 40 years. Then it was built by Israel in response to a wave of deadly attacks originating in the West Bank, with well over 1000 Israeli fatalities (more than 40,000 Americans in proportional terms). Even so, Israel made clear that such barriers cannot only be erected, but also moved and ultimately dismantled.

Yet the outcry of Israel’s critics began not when Israelis were being killed in pizzerias, at Passover Seders, and on buses, but only when the barrier went up.

Another case of reverse causality – ignoring the cause entirely and focusing only on the effect, as if it were a stand-alone issue disconnected from anything else.

So, again, in answer to the question of my erstwhile British colleague, “How can you defend Israel?” I respond: Proudly.

In doing so, I am defending a liberal, democratic, and peace-seeking nation in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood, where liberalism, democracy, and peace are in woefully short supply.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Jerusalem Post.


“How can you defend Israel?”

December 27, 2010

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2010

I was sitting in a lecture hall at a British university. Bored by the speaker, I began glancing around the hall. I noticed someone who looked quite familiar from an earlier academic incarnation. When the session ended, I introduced myself and wondered if, after years that could be counted in decades, he remembered me.

He said he did, at which point I commented that the years had been good to him. His response: “But you’ve changed a lot.”

“How so?” I asked with a degree of trepidation, knowing that, self-deception aside, being 60 isn’t quite the same as 30.

Looking me straight in the eye, he proclaimed, as others standing nearby listened in, “I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?”

I replied: “That good liberal boy hasn’t changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it.”

Yes, I’m proud to speak up for Israel. A recent trip once again reminded me why.

Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

It’s the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. To judge from media reports about endless inter-communal conflict, such a scene should be impossible. Yet, it was so mundane that no one, it seemed, other than me gave it a passing glance. It goes without saying that the same woman would not have had the luxury of driving lessons, much less with an Orthodox Jewish teacher, had she been living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront. No one looked at them, and no one questioned their right to display their affection. Try repeating the same scene in some neighboring countries.

It’s the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa. Muslims are free to enter as they please, to pray, to affirm their faith. The scene is repeated throughout Israel. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are targeted for death; Copts in Egypt face daily marginalization; Saudi Arabia bans any public display of Christianity; and Jews have been largely driven out of the Arab Middle East.

It’s the central bus station in Tel Aviv. There’s a free health clinic set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists. Clearly, they know something that Israel’s detractors, who rant and rave about alleged “racism,” don’t. They know that, if they’re lucky, they can make a new start in Israel. That’s why they bypass Arab countries along the way, fearing imprisonment or persecution. And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.

It’s Save a Child’s Heart, another Israeli institution that doesn’t make it into the international media all that much, although it deserves a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, children in need of advanced cardiac care come, often below the radar. They arrive from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places. They receive world-class treatment. It’s free, offered by doctors and nurses who wish to assert their commitment to coexistence. Yet, these very same individuals know that, in many cases, their work will go unacknowledged. The families are fearful of admitting they sought help in Israel, even as, thanks to Israelis, their children have been given a new lease on life.

It’s the vibrancy of the Israeli debate on just about everything, including, centrally, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The story goes that U.S. President Harry Truman met Israeli President Chaim Weizmann shortly after Israel’s establishment in 1948. They got into a discussion about who had the tougher job. Truman said: “With respect, I’m president of 140 million people.” Weizmann retorted: “True, but I’m president of one million presidents.”

Whether it’s the political parties, the Knesset, the media, civil society, or the street, Israelis are assertive, self-critical, and reflective of a wide range of viewpoints.

It’s the Israelis who are now planning the restoration of the Carmel Forest, after a deadly fire killed 44 people and destroyed 8,000 acres of exquisite nature. Israelis took an arid and barren land and, despite the unimaginably harsh conditions, lovingly planted one tree after another, so that Israel can justifiably claim today that it’s one of the few countries with more wooded land than it had a century ago.

It’s the Israelis who, with quiet resolve and courage, are determined to defend their small sliver of land against every conceivable threat – the growing Hamas arsenal in Gaza; the dangerous build-up of missiles by Hezbollah in Lebanon; nuclear-aspiring Iran’s calls for a world without Israel; Syria’s hospitality to Hamas leaders and transshipment of weapons to Hezbollah; and enemies that shamelessly use civilians as human shields. Or the global campaign to challenge Israel’s very legitimacy and right to self-defense; the bizarre anti-Zionist coalition between the radical left and Islamic extremists; the automatic numerical majority at the UN ready to endorse, at a moment’s notice, even the most far-fetched accusations against Israel; and those in the punditocracy unable – or unwilling – to grasp the immense strategic challenges facing Israel.

Yes, it’s those Israelis who, after burying 21 young people murdered by terrorists at a Tel Aviv discotheque, don the uniform of the Israeli armed forces to defend their country, and proclaim, in the next breath, that, “They won’t stop us from dancing, either.”

That’s the country I’m proud to stand up for. No, I’d never say Israel is perfect. It has its flaws and foibles. It’s made its share of mistakes. But, then again, so has every democratic, liberal and peace-seeking country I know, though few of them have faced existential challenges every day since their birth.

The perfect is the enemy of the good, it’s said. Israel is a good country. And seeing it up close, rather than through the filter of the BBC or the Guardian, never fails to remind me why.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Jerusalem Post.


The Meaning of Hiram in Freemasonry and Judaism

November 27, 2010

Forever Faithful and Forthright, We Pledge Ourselves to Guard The Light. (The Magic Flute, Mozart)

All men are equal; it is not their birth, but virtue itself that makes the difference. (Voltaire)

It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right. (Winston Churchill)

HIRAM

HIRAM

Hiram Abiff & the ever-dying gods

by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagoge, Sydney. Past Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales.

This paper was delivered at the Discovery Lodge of Research, Sydney, on January 27, 2010.

***

In the third degree ritual the central feature is the death and upraising of Hiram Abiff. It brings solemnity and drama into the occasion, though our version lacks the theatricality of some other rites which use costumes and elaborate dialogue. All versions believe it is a true story that happened at the time when Solomon constructed the Temple in Jerusalem, but those who look for Biblical backing are bound to be disappointed.

In an article I wrote for the “NSW Freemason” in 1978 I examined the view of W. Bro. Rev. Morris Rosenbaum concerning the Biblical account as found – with intriguing differences – in the First Books of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles. The relevant chapters are I Kings 5, where Solomon asks his friend Hiram king of Tyre for building materials; and II Chronicles 2, where he asks him also for an expert artisan. Both passages feature a – non-royal – Hiram, who in one account appears to be an architect-craftsman and in the other an artisan skilled in working with brass. Both are called Hiram in tribute to the king: it is possible that Hiram was a generic name for a king of Tyre, like the title Pharaoh for a king of Egypt.

Rosenbaum thought there were two separate Hirams. The Hiram of the Book of Kings is the son of “a widow of the tribe of Naphtali”: the one in Chronicles is the son of “a woman of the daughters of Dan”. If there are two Hirams the mother of one is from Naphtali and the mother of the second from Dan; if there is only one, which I will argue in a moment, his father is from Naphtali and his mother from Dan. The connection with Tyre is more than geographic co-incidence, since there was a Tyrian school of craftsmanship and Solomon wanted to use Tyrian expertise.

Next problem: if Hiram (or at least one of them) is the son of a widow, his father is dead. II Chronicles mentions Hiram aviv, “Hiram his father”. Maybe Hiram the father started the work and Hiram the son completed it. This is the view of the 19th century commentator Malbim, who quotes I Kings 7:40 and II Chron. 4:11, though Malbim may have been influenced by the Masonic legend that Hiram was murdered; when I Kings 7:13 says that Solomon “sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre” it may mean that an escort was sent to bring the younger Hiram to Jerusalem to finish his father’s work.

This in outline is Rosenbaum’s theory, but I believe he has read too much into the scriptural account. The Books of Chronicles are not always objective history and it is possible that we have not two Hirams but two versions of the one narrative with slight differences between them.

If then there was only one Hiram, how are we to handle the reference to “Hiram his father”, with its implication that father and son were both involved in the work? The answer is that av, a father, does not necessarily mean a parent. It can also be an originator or master. Hence the title “Hiram Abif(f)” tells us of Hiram’s professional status as a master craftsman, not about his parentage. Even so, there is no objective evidence that one Hiram dropped out and another replaced him. It is more likely that there was only one Hiram and the Bible does not record his eventual fate.

For that we have to go to legend. In a moment we will examine the Masonic version, but first we need to know whether Jewish Midrash knows of a murder during the building works and whether the victim could have been Hiram. There are Midrashim (e.g. Pesikta Rabbati, Friedmann ed., 1880, p. 25a) which hold that some of the builders met an unusual death, but Freemasonry compresses the tragedy into the death of one builder, the foreman, and though the midrashic material speaks of the dead men entering the afterlife, Freemasonry thinks the foreman was restored to earthly existence, though it is silent as to his subsequent life.

The Midrash asserts that whilst the Temple was being built none of the workmen died or even became ill, enabling the project to proceed apace – presumably illustrating the principle that God protects those who are engaged on a sacred mission (Talmud Pesachim 8a). However, once the project was completed, they all died, for God wished to prevent heathens using the Temple builders to erect idolatrous shrines, illustrating the rule that one must ascend in sanctity and not descend (Talmud B’rachot 28a). The builders were assured of a rich heavenly reward, and as for Hiram the master craftsman himself, he went straight to Paradise and never tasted real death (Louis Ginzberg, “Legends of the Jews”, vol. 4, page 155 and notes).

There is a midrashic idea that nine people did not die in the usual way but entered Paradise alive. These included Enoch and Elijah… and Hiram king of Tyre (Derech Eretz Zuta 1:9; Yalkut, Gen. 42 and Ezek. 36:7).

The commentators debate whether Hiram really deserves a place in the list, but in any case the reference must be to Hiram the craftsman and not Hiram the king. The formulators of Masonic ritual possibly knew enough Hebrew to access rabbinic works, but they totally changed the Midrash to make Hiram die a very earthly death at the hands of the other workmen and then rise from the dead. They must have been influenced by Christian tradition about the death of Jesus, though they were careful not to turn the story into an antisemitic canard. However, we should not read too much theology into the Masonic story, which probably has contemporary political motives.

If the story as we have it has been deliberately crafted (I dislike the stronger term “fabricated”) with a basis in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish Midrash, we must still investigate whether there are additional sources from other cultures. But first we have to add one more attempt, over and above those of countless historians, to posit a theory of Masonic beginnings.

There are three main historical theories about Masonry. One begins at the time of Creation with God as Great Architect, Grand Geometrician and Master Builder, Adam as the first Grand Master, and Masonry as a thread running through ancient history. The second does not make claims about Biblical times but posits a fellowship of builders working on the great edifices of the Middle Ages. The third sees Enlightenment man creating cultural-scientific societies to study ideas and ethics and giving them a pre-history, a well-known habit developed in the interests of credibility.

The third theory is bound up with 17th and 18th century events. The Stuarts ruled England from 1643-1688, except for 1649-1660 after Charles I had been executed by Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. The last Stuart, James II, had to abdicate in 1688. After the Hanoverian George I assumed the monarchy in 1714, the Stuarts mounted invasions in 1715 and 1745 via Scotland but failed to win back the throne. They lived in exile in France with support from some quarters in England. They were called “Jacobites”, from the Latin (and prior to that the Hebrew) for “James”. Some Jacobites were Masons, including Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II; some French and Italian lodges were entirely comprised of Jacobites, who may have adopted or invented Hiram Abiff to represent the executed Charles I and to express their belief in the restoration of the Stuarts.

Plans for the return of the Stuarts were made in secret vaults which may have been Masonic lodges. HA’s refusal to divulge a secret bolstered the pledges of confidentiality which these Brothers made to each other. This theory implies that Jacobite influences were involved in the development of Masonic ritual, which was the combination of the ideas and efforts of a number of men, notably Anderson, Desaguliers and Preston, though they might have been kept in the dark about the hidden agenda of Jacobite lodges.

Hiram’s name was not new to the authors of the third degree since he is referred as the master artisan in the Regius Poem of c 1390. The first time we find the Hiram legend in a degree ritual is in the 1730 pamphlet, Freemasonry Dissected, by Samuel Prichard, though there was a rival attempt to give Freemasonry a death/resurrection story in the narrative of Noah and his sons (Graham MS, 1726; cf. Harry Carr, “Hebraic Aspects of the Ritual”, Ars Quatuor Coronatum, vol. 97, 1984, page 77).

Hiram Abiff conveyed the message better because the Noah story lacked betrayal, violence, martyrdom and revenge, even though there was a theory that his sons put his body together again after he died. Hence HA supplanted Noah and settled into the newly created third degree.

The idea of Hiram as Charles I might derive from Elias Ashmole (1617-92), the antiquarian, lawyer and alchemist who is the first (or second) known Speculative Freemason, initiated in 1646. Ashmole (like other early Speculatives, Robert Moray, Inigo Jones and Nicholas Stone) was a Royalist and a supporter of Charles II, and his lodge may have practised Masonic ritual with a Royalist meaning. However, we do not know enough about the ways of early Speculative lodges and can only conjecture.

C.S. Madhavan of the Grand Lodge of India notes that a drastic change entered Freemasonry between the first and second editions of Anderson’s Constitutions. In the first edition in 1723 we read only that “The king of Tyre sent (Solomon) his namesake Hiram Abif, ‘prince of architects’”. The second edition in 1738 speaks of the sudden death of Hiram Abiff who was interred “in the Lodge near the Temple”. The new wording shows that the displacement of Noah by HA had taken place between 1723 and 1738.

The change must have had something to do with Prichard, whose work was published in 1730, but we need more than circumstantial evidence. English Masons would presumably have welcomed the general idea of a good man who died and rose again and would have been on familiar territory in linking royal history with poetic symbolism in view of the well-loved legends of King Arthur, the symbol of chivalry and idealism, about whom Tennyson later wrote, “He passes to be King among the dead/And after healing of his grievous wound/He comes again” (Idylls of the King, 1859).

The Hiram Abiff story was not concocted out of thin air. On the other hand no-one has found any proof that there really was a Hiram Abiff who was murdered on the Temple site and then brought back to life by his supporters. Nor has anyone proved that there was an Israelite custom to pray at “high twelve”, to bury a person in proximity to the Temple, or to place an acacia sprig on a grave. There is also no proof that the real Hiram (unless he was the king of Tyre) was on close terms with King Solomon.

HA is a cultural typology developed at and reflecting the mores of a later time. Its lineage appears to have travelled through two disparate lines:
• the well known concept of gods and messiahs that die and overcome their death (examples are Osiris, Isis, Horus and Tammuz), an idea that appealed to members of secret or other societies who saw true believers martyred but the cause survive;
• widespread accounts of disasters that occurred during the building of churches, palaces and other major edifices.

The first idea has a modern equivalent in Nietzsche’s Death of God theory, plus the religious insistence that God will make a comeback. In Jewish thinking the Death of God is inconceivable, since it is an article of faith that God was not born and cannot die (“I am the first and I am the last”: Isa. 44:6), though in a metaphorical sense it could possibly tolerate the Nietzschean notion that human beings had “killed” Him. Christianity might be thought of as receptive to a Hiram Abiff narrative as consonant with the history of Jesus. However, it is difficult to reconcile a pro-Christian interpretation with the Andersonian dechristianisation of Masonic ritual, though there is admittedly a more Christian element in the Royal Arch.

Whatever the case, it is likely that this is one more example of how Masonry utilised well-known strands of folklore to construct its narratives and rituals, often starting with sketchy Biblical material but adding so much from other sources that it almost completely changed the original story. Other examples are the stories about King Solomon and the dedication of his temple, which, though crucial to the craft, should not be taken literally but understood as an amalgam of folk ideas and literary imagination.

All Masonic writers attach symbolic significance to the HA story, regardless of its origins and political significance. A popular interpretation links it to the three stages of life; as the first degree symbolises birth, when one begins to glimpse light, the second stands for manhood, when one toils toward wisdom and experience, and the third represents old age, when human powers gradually wane but one yearns for a life after death.

Perhaps Anderson and Desaguliers, unaware of or unconvinced by Jacobite political theories, decided to incorporate HA into the third degree because the death/resurrection theme appealed to them as Christians. In 1775 William Hutchinson wrote in his Spirit of Masonry, “The Master Mason represents a man under the Christian doctrine, saved from the grave of iniquity, and raised to the faith of salvation”. The dechristianisation of the craft must inevitably have been difficult for some Masons.

However, with or without christological issues the narrative illustrates and justifies the doctrine that goodness must and will prevail over doubt and difficulty, and is evidence of the common phenomenon whereby a custom or story loses its original significance, undergoes reinterpretation and rationalisation, and gains a new message and mission.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Raymond Apple, “Who was Hiram Abiff?”, The NSW Freemason, Dec., 1978
Harry Carr, “Hebraic Aspects of the Ritual”, Ars Quatuor Coronatum, vol. 97, 1984
W.W. Covey-Crump, The Hiramic Tradition, 1934
Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, various eds., vol. 4
R.F. Gould, History of Freemasonry, 5 vols., 1905
W.B. Hextall, “The Hiramic Legend and the Ashmolean Theory”, Transactions of the Leicester Lodge of Research, 1903-04
Bernard E. Jones, Freemason’s Guide and Compendium, 1950
Jacob Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 1978
C.S. Madhavan, “The Hiramic Legend” (http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com)
Alexander Piatigorsky, Who’s Afraid of Freemasons?, 1997
Morris Rosenbaum, “Hiram Abif: The Traditional History Illustrated by the Volume of the Sacred Law”, Transactions of the Leicester Lodge of Research, 1903-04
Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, 1974

 Copyright © 2010 Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple & HIRAM7 REVIEW


The Beginning of the End for NATO?

October 15, 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the cuts to defense budgets in Britain and other European countries endangered the strength of NATO, which requires members to spend 2 percent of national income on defense.

“As nations deal with their economic problems, we must guard against the hollowing out of alliance military capability by spending reductions that cut too far into muscle,” Gates said. British Foreign Secretary William Hague rejected the concerns, saying Britain will remain a reliable U.S. ally. Britain’s planned cuts – which could shave off more than six hundred thousand public-sector jobs by 2015 – would make it the most aggressive deficit-reducer among major economies.

On STRATFOR, analyst Marko Papic says perceptions of the “threat environment” that unifies NATO have undermined in the post-Cold War era, marking the beginning of the end for the alliance.

Read full story.


Independence Day: July 4, 1776

July 4, 2010

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence, showing the five-man committee in charge of drafting the Declaration in 1776 as it presents its work to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

         Live free or Die! The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the colonies‘ separation from the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States of America, with its assertion “all Men are created equal”.

The political philosophy of the Declaration with its ideals of individual liberty had been expressed by English philosopher John Locke. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.

Here, in unforgettable words, Thomas Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people.


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence:

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts: John Hancock

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple

Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire: Matthew Thornton


D-Day – June 6, 1944: The Meaning of the Supreme Sacrifice of Heroes and Guardians of Freedom

June 6, 2010

dday flags D-Day Message to the troops from Dwight D. Eisenhower

Let Our Hearts Be Stout – Roosevelt D-Day Prayer

My Fellow Americans,

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest – until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment – let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace – a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – June 6, 1944