Saturday, October 24, 2015

Book Review for Tree of Souls The Mythology of Judaism by Howard Schwartz Book 2 Part 5.15

General Information:

Name of Book: Tree of Souls

ISBN: 9780195086799

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

Year it was published: 2004

Overall theme:

"With only one God, heaven would be a barren place, at least in mythic terms. Yet the actual Jewish view of heaven is quite different. There are seven heavens, filled with angels and other divine beings, such as the Messiah [Not jesus!], who is said to have a palace of his own in the highest heaven. The clestial Temple can be found there- the mirror image of the Temple in the earthly Jerusalem- as well as an abundance of heavenly palaces, one for each of the patriarchs and matriarchs and sages, where he or she teaches Torah to the attentive souls of the righteous and the angels..." (xliii)

"Drawing on the full range of Jewish sources, sacred and nonsacred, ten major categories of Jewish mythology can be identified: Myths of God, Myths of Creation...Each of these categories explores a mythic realm, and, in the process, reimagines it. This is the secret to the transformations that characterize Jewish mythology. Building on a strong foundation of biblical myth, each generation has embellished the earlier myths, while, at the same time, reinterpeting them for tis own time." (xlv)

 Book Two: Myths of Creation

 Part V: The Cosmic Seed

121. The Cosmic Seed

Issue: At the start, a holy spark emerged from G-d and began to glow and give off colors. The spark is known as as cosmic seed from which all existence came forth.

122. A Universe of Water

Issue: When there was a Universe of Water, G-d took snow from His Throne of Glory and there came a procedure of how the earth came to stand upon water. 

123. The Three Craftsmen

Issue: From water G-d developed the world, and created three craftsmen to do the work, and these were heaven, earth and water. Water produced earth, earth produced living things such as animals and other living creatures, as well as plants and vegetation, waters as well produced various fish and birds. G-d asked heaven to make a separation between upper and lower waters and asked for heavens to illuminate earth. When it was time to create man, G-d united three craftsmen to help produce him, and gave man a soul. 

124.The Pillars of the World

Issue: A story and speculation of how many pillars does the earth stand upon.

125. The Foundation Stone

Issue: The stone serves as starting point for all of the creating. The origin of the stone is told, that G-d took snow from beneath the Throne of Glory and cast it into waters where foundation stone was formed. Another legend says that G-d took a snow of fire, water, and air and cast it into the abyss where the world was planted in that place. There is also a story of an emerald that was engraved with mysteries of alphabet and tossing it into waters. King David, while building a temple, discovered the foundation stone and went to check it out. King David wanted to see what lay underneath it, and asked for stone to be lifted, but the stone told him not to do it. King David did not heed the warning, lifted the corner of the stone and heard rushing waters. Panicked, King David asks for advice, and comes up with idea of writing G-d's name on a potsherd and tossing it into waters, which helped with them being saved. King David repented many times for his sin, and his son, King Solomon, had the temple built where the stone was. A different legend emerges where King David uses the stone for a temple and a four letter name was carved on it, as well as measures that were taken to prevent people from learning the name, There is also a story of angels holding up the Foundation Stone, and if the stone should fall, Messiah will not be far behind. 

126. Creation by Thought

Issue: Before the creation of the world, G-d and His Name existed alone. G-d already conceived of the world in His mind, "making a world perceptible only by the intellect. Later G-d completed one visible to the external senses, using the world created in thought as the model." (98) The conception of the world came to G-d by night, and work was done by day. Different varities of how G-d created the world are gievn, that He didn't finish until sixth day, or everything was done in an instant, and so forth. 

127. A Single Utterance

Issue: G-d created the entire universe simultaneously by using only one word and nothing before or after it. However the universe lacked order, thus G-d attempts to give order to it. In this way heaven and earth and everything created at same instant. 

128. The Divided World

Issue: Upon creation of the world, G-d divided it into two parts: habitable and other a desert and then divided habitable land so it formed a circle, center of which is Israel, and center of Holy Land ends up being Jeruslame, and center of Jersalem is Holy of Holies, where G-d's bride dwells. G-d divides the desert as well, upon which Israelites wandered for forty years. That desert also had Other Side which is side of evil, and if they didn't provoke G-d's anger, then the Other Side would have been broken for all time. After coming back to Holy Land, is when the Israelites broke the power of Other Side. 

To Be Continued...

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