10 November 2008

God on Trial: The Rabbi Speaks

Rabbi Akiba: Who led us out of Egypt?

Judge: God led us out of Egypt.

Rabbi: I have a question. Why were we in Egypt to start with?

Judge: There was a famine, so we took shelter.

Rabbi: Who sent the famine?

Judge: Well we don't know much about the famine...

Rabbi: God sent the famine. So God sent us to Egypt and God took us out of Egypt.

Judge: And later he sent us out of Babylon in order that we might...

Rabbi: And when he brought us out of Egypt, how did he do it? By words, vision, miracle?

Judge: Moses asked Pharaoh...

Rabbi: And when Pharaoh said no?

Inmate: The plagues.

Rabbi: First Moses turned the Egyptians' water to blood. Then God sent the plague of frogs; next a plague of mosquitoes; then a plague of flies. Then he slew their livestock. Next a plague of boils. Next came the hail, which battered down the crops and even the trees and structures everywhere, except in Goshen where the Israelites lived.

Judge: But still Pharaoh did not agree.

Rabbi: And so a plague of locusts, and then the days of darkness, and finally what?

Judge: God slew the firstborn of Egypt and led us out of Egypt.

Rabbi: He struck down the firstborn, from the firstborn and heir of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the slave at the mill. He slew them all. Did he slay Pharaoh?

Judge: No, I don't think so. It was later.

Rabbi: It was Pharaoh that said no, but God let him live. And slew his children instead. All the children. And then the people made their escape taking with them the gold and silver and jewelry and garments of the Egyptians. And then God drowned the soldiers who pursued them. He did not close the waters up so that the soldier could not follow. He waited until they were following and then he closed the waters. And then what?

Judge: And then the desert and ultimately the promised land.

Rabbi: No. The promised land was empty and a new place, uncultivated.

Judge: No. There were...

Rabbi: When the Lord thy God shall bring you into the promised land you shall cast out many nations before you, nations much greater and mightier than you are. You shall smite them and utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Inmate: It shows us his favor. We are his people.

Rabbi: And he gave us a king in Saul. Now when the people of Amalek fought Saul's people, what did the Lord God command? I'll ask the scholar.

Scholar: Crush Amalek and put him under the curse of destruction.

Rabbi: Was Saul to show any mercy to spare anyone?

Scholar: Do not spare...

Rabbi: Do not spare him, but kill. Kill man, woman, babe, and suckling, ox, and sheep, cattle and donkey. So Saul set out to do this and on the way he met some Kenites. Now these were not Amalek's people, he had no quarrel with them. He urged them to flee. And the Lord our God was he pleased by the mercy of Saul, by the justice of Saul?

Scholar: No. No he wasn't.

Rabbi: And when Saul decided not to slaughter all the livestock and to take it to feed his people, was God pleased with his prudence, his charity?

Scholar: No.

Rabbi: No, he was not. He said, you have rejected the word of Adonai, therefore he has rejected you as king. And then to please the Lord our God, Samuel brought forth the king Agar and hacked him to pieces before the Lord at Gilgar.

After Saul there came David who took Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite to himself after arranging to have Uriah killed -- against the wishes of God. Did God strike David for this?

Scholar: In a manner of speaking...

Rabbi: Did he strike Bathsheba?

Scholar: In the sense that when they had...

Rabbi: Adonai said, since you have sinned against me, the child will die. (Turning to the judge) You asked earlier, who would punish a child? God does.

Rabbi: Now did the child die suddenly, mercifully, without pain?

Scholar: In a...

Rabbi: Seven days. Seven days that child spent dying in pain while David wrapped himself in sack and ashes and fasted and sought to show his sorrow to God. Did God listen?

Scholar: The child died.

Rabbi: Did that child find that God was just?

Did the Amalekites think that Adonai was just?

Did the mothers of Egypt -- the mothers -- did they think that Adonai was just?

Scholar: But Adonai is our God, surely...

Rabbi: Oh, what? Did God not make the Egyptians? Did he not make their rivers and make their crops grow? If not him, then who? What? Some other God? But what did he make them for? To punish them? To starve, to frighten, to slaughter them? The people of Amalek, the people of Egypt, what was it like for them when Adonai turned against them? It was like this.

Today there was a selection, yes? When David defeated the Moabites, what did he do?

Judge: He made them lie on the ground in lines and he chose one to live and two to die.

Rabbi: We have become the Moabites. We are learning how it was for the Amalekites. They faced extinction at the hand of Adonai. They died for his purpose. They fell as we are falling. They were afraid as we are afraid. And what did they learn? They learned that Adonai, the Lord our God, our God, is not good. He is not good. He was not ever good. He was only on our side.

God is not good. At the beginning when he repented that he had made human beings and flooded the earth. Why? What had they done to deserve annihilation? What could they have done to deserve such wholesale slaughter? What could they have done that was so bad? God is not good.

When he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham should have said no. We should have taught our God the justice that was in our hearts. We should have stood up to him. He is not good. He has simply been strong. He has simply been on our side.

When we were brought here, we were brought by train. A guard slapped my face. On their belts they had written "Got mit uns" -- God is with us. Who is to say that he is not? Perhaps he is. Is there any other explanation? What we see here: his power, his majesty, his might, all these things that turned against us. He is still God, but not our God. He has become our enemy.

That is what's happened to our covenant. He has made a new covenant with someone else.


hank_says said...

Outstanding. Thank you for sharing this.

Unknown said...

That is hilarious... now if only the xtians could figure this out as well? sigh... Religion... The bane of our existence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. What started as a trickle in judaism evolved into the present day monster called islamist violence.

As long as the theological base remains intact, we can't prevent the jihadis from playing havoc in the society.

Thanks for sharing this.

Sundara said...

That was fantastic.
I agree with Randomblink: If only Christians would read their Bible, and I mean really read it, they too would come to the conclusion that God really is a sh!thead! But no. Jesus died so that they're free to pick and choose to suit themselves!

Anonymous said...

This one part really does not convey the ideas of the movie as a whole. You should really watch it in context. In my opinion you are doing yourself and the movie a great disservice if you only watch this part.

Steve Wells said...


I agree that you should watch the entire film and I strongly encourage everyone to do so, but I wonder about the "grave disservice" part. Context is important here, but it is also pretty obvious, isn't it? Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

This part talks about god did this god did that, "god is not good just powerful and was on our side", great fun for atheists but the film is much deeper then a few good shots at god. In the end faith is all they had and it was a moving ending even for a hard atheist like me. High fives based just on just this part, in my opinion, is a dis service to film. I was really moved by this film, so maybe I'm just being sappy...

I Am said...

Thanks for sharing this. I watched the whole thing online and it's pretty powerful. I'm surprised they showed this on PBS (was it shown across the country or just certain markets?). I bet wherever it was shown they got plenty of letters.

Gad, I personally thought this clip gives you a pretty good idea what the movie's about. I watched the clip first, was impressed, and then watched the film in its entirety and was more impressed. So no this clip doesn't tell you everything about the film, and you should definitely so the whole film if you can, but I think it's a good snapshot.

Anonymous said...

Anon, from the clip I think people might get the idea that this is a film about atheism, when it has nothing to do with atheism, it is all about faith.

Unknown said...

For those who missed it and live in the country with sucky internet it will be on Netflix Jan 13, 2009

Matthew Warner said...

So the message of the movie is even though the god of Abraham is such an awful deity, have faith and worship him anyway?

Unknown said...

How long did these people live and not repent? Do you blame a judge when he sentence a murderer to death? You are viewing history from today's perspective. You are getting a summary of events and judging the whole thing. God lets people continue in sin for only so long. Remember the Caananites worshiped Baal. One of the practices of Baal worship was sacrificing your first born to Baal. I think God only allow a people to exist for so long who get so depraved, then he wipes out the whole group. Its like cancer surgery for the whole human race. The ones who need to be blamed were the Amalakites not God. They chose to continue in their evil practices. The moral of the story is how much evil will we continue to do and how long will God grant us mercy in hoping we will turn around and repent? Lets not live like the Amalakites or others like them, but live a life that loves justice and merciful, and walk humbly in the site of God.

Anonymous said...

I have not studied theology, I know little of the Jewish religion I went to a Catholic school and I am Greek Orthodox but cannot speak Greek so understand little of my religion but believe in the Christian faith but do not practice. That said, I agree this movie must be watched in its entirety I have watched it many times and it moves me both in disliking God (in support of the Jewish faith at the time of the Holecost) to having a stronger belief in a God and back and forward throughout the movie - it is done very well. In context it and the comments left do not examine the social and political movements/times in Europe/Germany for perhaps a century before Nazi Germany - you have to watch "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" for one understanding, put simply the hatred of "the Jew" because of their intellectual stronghold and superior position in society. Since WWII it has been the conflict over land given/returned/lost (from whos point of viw) in the 'Arab world". There has been a strong feeling that the time prior to WWII is revisited and this is better explored in the movie "The Believer" another insight into "the persecution of the Jew". I admire the discipline of faith, and devotion but this is subjective for one could say it is fanatacism; throughout history religion has been devisive and destructive on all sides. Then there is the issue are we really alone in the universe - in this movie there is also a scene covering this viewpoint. In the end if you are born into faith then you are a believer anyone who denies they ask God for help when the shi# hits the fan they are deluding themselves. No religion truely understands the other.

Spharion said...

I think the part of Akiba's diatribe that's easy to miss, and essential to get it in context is:
"When he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham should have said no. We should have taught our God the justice that was in our hearts. We should have stood up to him."

That's *precisely* what Akiba is doing. His stance is very significantly different from that of Moche, the original accusator. So different that when Moche sees his condemnation has brought him no peace, he turns to Akiba, pleading "now God is guilty. now what do we do?", and then we have Akiba's last words in the play, the only ones not reproduced in this transcript: "now we pray".

Actually, those are not his last words, for he starts praying along with all the other Jews, and they are praying Psalm 90. Psalm 90 is the actual closing words for him. He, who had been introduced as one of the 36 righteous ones on behalf of whom God wouldn't destroy the world, and had remained in an almost catatonic state mumbling the Torah, fulfilled his righteousness in his condemnation of God's unfairness, just as Abraham himself had done when trying to prevent God from nuking Sodom and Gomorra. With that done, he simply *resumes* praying. Akiba experiences no real rupture. He's all along been acting as he believes a pious Jew should.

Unknown said...

Is there a place to find the entire script? I would love to use it in my Drama Dept!