Live from the Lilith Blog

March 5, 2008 by

Portman’s Spicy Interfaith Flick

Israeli born actress, Natalie Portman recently made headlines for designing a new line of vegan shoes. (When I want to find stylish, leather-free shoes to match my vegetarian values, I head to Payless – but if Portman wants to make the $200 version, more power to her.)

Before the buzz about her humane footwear had a chance to subside, Portman was back in the news with another vegetarian venture. She’s set to star in Mira Nair’s new movie, “Kosher Vegetarian,” – which, like Nair’s last movie “The Namesake,” explores an interfaith romance. This time, the couple will consist of a Gujarati guy (actor, Ifran Khan) and Jewish girl (Portman).

When I posted a notice about the forthcoming flick on The Jew & The Carrot blog, a few more right-leaning readers got bunched up about the very thought of an interfaith relationship portrayed – and therefore somehow validated – on the screen. (Since I am the product of an interfaith marriage, their consternation really gets under my skin…but that’s another post.) To me, what’s more interesting than the same old conversation about how much intermarriage is ruining Judaism is the title of Nair’s film.

Supposedly, Kosher Vegetarian is only a tentative title, and my guess is that they’ll come up with something slightly sexier by the time the previews come out. But I find it fascinating that, at least for now, Nair hangs the movie’s emotional premise on food. As The New York Times’ recent article “I Love You, but You Love Meat” attested, the food we eat (and, more importantly don’t eat) can become a critical aspect of our relationships. If one partner is adamant about a particular dietary restriction, while the other is not – eating meals together (which is arguably the heart of most relationships) can get sticky. In the end, some couples break up solely because their culinary bottom lines do not meet. Whether or not Nair intends to place significant emphasis on food in her movie remains to be seen. But her title stands as a powerful reminder about how much our food choices impact our daily lives and relationships.

Luckily for “Kosher Vegetarian’s” star-crossed couple, Indian food is particularly amenable to the kosher laws. Now they just have to get past the in-laws.

–Leah Koenig

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  • http://www.equalitybasedonthesoul.com William Glick

    Historically Christian and Muslim faiths have their roots in Judaism,
    so at their core concepts about the soul, creation and God are all the same.

    I would like to address certain linguistic and philosophical similarities common to both Jews and Hindus, which may open up a broader discussion.

    1. Names of God,
    a. The most holy of all names of God for a Jew is KNA or KANA, Rabbi’s have slapped my face when I have said this name out loud.
    This is considered to be the most intimate name for God in the Old Testament. Where it is translated, “I am a jealous God,
    have no other gods before you”, the literal Hebrew translation is, “My name is EL KNA, have no other gods before you.”
    This name expands to KRE ShTN as Rabbi Aryeh Kapln,in Meditation and the Kabbalah explains
    “On Monday, you must intertwine the associated name “KRE ShTN”"

    b, From a Vedic (Hindu) view point, Kana is also an affectionate name of Krishna, The pronunciation used above “KRE ShTN” is very similar to
    the way south Indians pronounce Krishna.

    2. Abraham and Brahma: Very few know that there are two Abrahams in Jewish philosophy
    a. There is a description of how the universe was in chaos until Abraham appeared. It is said, “Over the whole, there hovered Tohu (chaos)
    and as long as Tohu dominated,the whole world was not in being or existence. When did that key open the gates and make the world fruitful?
    It was when Abraham appeared.” [Genesis II 4] As explained in the introduction to the Zohar The Soncino Press LTD–London New York
    There is also this reference one needs to ponder It is said, “Angels are supposed to have no back and four faces, so always to be able to behold God.”
    [Talmud, cf. Ezek i. 6]

    b. In the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a long description of how Brahma created the planets, stars etc. It is well know that the Brahma
    of this universe has 4 heads.

    3. DEMIGODS AND ANGELS have the same function in both trations.
    a. The Midrash teaches, “There is no blade of grass that does not have a constellation (Mazal) over it, telling it to grow.” [Sefer Yetzirah 4.6]
    “As commentaries explain, ‘God’s providence works through the angels, but the angels, in turn, work through the stars and planets. As some authorities put it,
    the angels are, in a sense, like souls to the stars. Thus, for example, some sources speak of the stars as having intelligence, but the commentaries note
    that this is actually speaking of the angels that are associated with them.’” [Sefer Yetrzirah 4.6]

    b. The Vedic conception is that there are many specially empowered demigods who help manage the affairs of the universe including the planets of our solar system.
    The controlling demigods, although not eternal them selves, function within various posts that exist as long as the universe exists. For example,
    one of the principle demigods is Lord Indra. Indra is the name of the post, but the particular demigod who occupies that post during a given period
    has his own personal name. Just like President of the United States is a post, but there have been many presidents throughout history.

    4. Durga in the Bible?
    a. “He summoned to issue from the side of Darkness a kind of female moon, which rules over the night, and is associated with Adonai, the Lord of all the
    earth. In his days, the moon was magnified and reached her fullness. A thousand mountains rose before her, and she blew them away with a puff. A thousand
    mighty rivers flowed before her, and she swallowed them at a draught. Her nails reached out in a thousand and seventy directions and her hands in twenty-
    four thousand, so that nothing could escape her. Thousands of bucklers clung to her hair. From between her feet went forth a youth who stretched from one
    end of the world to the other with sixty clubs of fire…” [Zohar]

    b. The Vedas describe the ghastly form of Goddess Kali, another name for the Goddess Durga. There is a reference of Goddess Kali in the Srimad-
    Bhagavatam in the history of Jada Bharata, when she manifested herself to protect him. It is stated, “Intolerant of the
    offenses committed, the infuriated goddess Kali flashed her eyes and displayed her fierce, curved teeth. Her reddish eyes glowed, and she displayed her
    fearsome features. She assumed a frightening body, as if she were prepared to destroy the entire creation. Leaping violently from the altar, she
    immediately decapitated all the rogues and thieves with the very sword with which they had intended to kill Jada Bharata. She then began to drink the hot
    blood that flowed from the necks of the beheaded rogues and thieves, as if this blood were liquor.

    5. (BRAHMAN) EFFULGENCE
    a. “The Most Recondite is beyond cognition, but reveals of Himself a tenuous and veiled brightness shining only along a narrow path which extends from
    Him, and this is the brightness that irradiates all. This is the starting point of all esoteric mysteries, itself being unknowable.” [Zohar IV 146b]

    b. The Absolute Truth is expressed as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavän.” [Srimad Bhagavatam.1.2.11] Brahman refers to the impersonal all-pervasive spirit.
    That is the same as the brahmajyoti, the effulgence of the Lord.

    6. METATRON AND MAHA-VISHNU
    a. It is said that a personality named Metatron cooperates with God to teach the young. While God devotes the last three hours of the day to this work,
    Metatron is in charge during the remainder of the day. (A.Z. 3b) [Everyman's Talmud, II, III] Regarding the revolving sword or flaming sword that
    revolves, it is said “the manner in which the sword rotates depends on the readiness of the individual attempting to enter. If he is worthy, it becomes the
    mirror through which he perceives, while if he is not worthy, he is burned out and cut off by the fire of this sword. The one who oversees the sword,
    preventing the unworthy from entering, is the angel Metatron.” [Meditation and Kabbalah p 80 Chapter 4, Teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia]
    “Metatron is therefore not a proper name at all but a designation for the whole category of celestial powers performing a mission.”
    [Origins of the Kabbalah, III, 6]

    b. In the creative process,it is from Maha-Vishnu that all of the universes emanate, Sudarshan Cakra (flaming sword that revolves) controlled by Visnu similarly
    punishes and grants liberation. “Without illumination,nothing can be seen, especially in this material world.
    The illumination in this world emanates from the effulgence of Sudarshan, the original vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
    The illuminating principles of the sun, the moon and fire emanate from Sudarshan.
    Similarly, illumination by knowledge also comes from Sudarshan.” [Srimad Bhag. 9.5.7, Purport]
    Also there is a series of Visnu expansions each with a chakra.

    7. THE LORD IN THE HEART
    a. When the soul is about to descend to this world, it first goes down to the terrestrial Garden of Eden and sees there the glory
    of the souls of the righteous, and then goes down to Gehinnom and sees the wicked who cry “Woe, woe”, and find no compassion. That holy form (God)
    stands by him until he emerges into the world, after which it keeps him company and grows up with him.” [The Zohar 43b] [KI TAZRIA (LEVITICUS)]

    b. In the Bhagavad-gita “Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as
    the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul, Paramatma.” [Bg. 13.23]

    8. GURU AND RABBI
    a. In Judaism, knowledge is also passed from the rabbi to his students, but not everyone is qualified to become a student. “As a matter of law, the
    sages state that these mysteries ‘cannot even be taught to a single individual, unless he is wise enough to understand with his own knowledge.’ Even in
    such a case, the complete tradition was only given over to the head of the group, and he would then only instruct those whom he saw fit. Only individuals
    possessing the highest qualities of scholarship and piety would be admitted to the circle of initiates.” [Introduction to the Bahir, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan]
    It is also stated that “One who reaches the highest level cannot reveal it to anyone. All he can do is give over the keys, so that the enlightened individual
    can open the gates which are sealed to exclude the unworthy.”
    [Meditation and Kabbalah, p 79]

    b. In Vedic culture, although a guru would speak to whoever wanted to learn the Vedic science, he was traditionally very selective whom he would
    initiate as his disciple. He would only accept those persons who qualified themselves by humble submission and service. Lord Krishna states in the
    Bhagavad-gita, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master, inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized
    soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”

    9. VEDIC AND JEWISH CALENDARS
    a. The current Hebrew year is 5767. In this calendar, the year in which Adam was created is counted as year one. If we then count the Biblical
    genealogies from the time of Adam, we find that over 5,000 years have elapsed since the time he was formed. However, the Kabbalists clearly say that other
    human beings existed before Adam, and this is even supported in scripture [Drush Or HaChaim] The fifth cycle was the one that brought life, and this took
    place around two and a half billion years ago. Around 974 generations before Adam, or some 25,000 years ago, man developed all of the physical and mental
    capabilities that we possess today…but he still lacked the divine soul that would make him a spiritual being. God then created Adam, the first true human
    being with a soul, ‘and He blew in his nostrils a soul of life’. [Genesis 2.7] [Sefer Yetzirah 4.15]

    b. The Vedic calendar states that Kali-yuga lasts 432,000 years, out of which we have passed about 5,000 years.

    10.The Ecstasy of Chanting The Names Of God
    a. People who have dedicated their lives to the service of God may at times feel unlimited joy or ecstasy while engaged in prayer. It is said, “Permute
    the letters back and forth, and in this manner, you will reach the first level. As a result of the activity and your concentration on the letters, your
    mind will become bound to them. The hairs on your head will stand on end and tremble. Your lifeblood is in your heart, and regarding this it is written,
    “the blood is the soul” [Deuteronomy 12:23]. It is likewise written, “The blood in the soul will atone” [Leviticus 17:11]. This blood within you will begin
    to vibrate because of the permutations that loosen it. Your entire body will then begin to tremble, and all your limbs will be seized with shuddering. You
    will experience the terror of God and will be enveloped with fear of Him. You will then feel as if an additional spirit is within you, arousing you and
    strengthening you, passing through your entire body and giving you leisure. It will seem as you have been anointed with perfumed oil, from head to foot.
    You will rejoice and have great pleasure. You will experience ecstasy and trembling–ecstasy for the soul, and trembling for the body.
    [Meditation and Kabbalah, Treasury of the Hidden Eden p85-86]

    b. The stage of bhava, love of God, is manifested by eight transcendental symptoms, namely inertness, perspiration, standing of hairs on end, failing in
    the voice, trembling, paleness of the body, tears in the eyes, and finally trance. [Srimad Bhag. 2:3:24 Purport]

    11. GOD’S BEAUTY
    a.The Jewish scriptures describe a vision of God. “His head is a treasure of fine gold. His locks are hanging, black like the raven.” In both
    Talmudic and Kabbalistic traditions, one of the interpretations is that it relates to a vision of God; “when He is visualized in battle, He is seen as a
    young man with black hair.” [Sefer Yetzirah Ch 6.1]

    b.The Vedas refer to the form of the Lord. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated, “the Lord is super excellently beautiful on account of His
    open and merciful smile and His sidelong glance upon His devotees. His black hair is curly, and His garments, waving in the wind, appear like flying
    saffron pollen from lotus flowers. His glittering earrings, shining helmet, bangles, garland, ankle bells, waist belt and various other bodily ornaments
    combine with the conch shell, disc, club, and lotus flower to increase the natural beauty of the Kaustubha pearl on His chest.” [Srimad Bhag. 2.24.47-48]

  • curiousmind

    That sounds like quite an interesting movie idea!

  • http://www.jcarrot.org Leah Koenig

    Thanks for the very thorough info William…there’s a lot to digest there!

    Indeed, curiousmind – we’ll see how it turns out!