The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

NASA hid a message in the Perseverance parachute.

Which brings me onto a Big Jewish Festival: Happy Purim everybody! This is the story of blah blah blah…

NASA, Teddy Roosevelt and Steve Jobs couldn’t have done what they did otherwise.

8 thoughts on “The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

  1. If only the all knowing and mighty creator of the universe could have come up with a system like an easily decipherable binary code with which to pass on the rules that it would like us to live by. Sadly, we are led to believe by the all the Abrahamic religions, it decided instead to contact iron age peasants living in societies where only oral traditions we available. We are therefore left with a written version of ‘Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance’ or ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’ instead of a perfect message.

    If only that perfect god had the foresight of NASA then there would be no arguments about whose religion is the correct one and we wouldn’t have to put up with deluded TFTD speakers each morning.

    I wonder if Ephraim has ever thought of that?


  2. People have often picked me up on the way I refer to my football team as ‘we.’ But you don’t play for them, I’m told, after a remark such as “we battered X Utd the other day,” or “We’ll be top of the table if we win this one.” I get it, and understand that this fanatical association with and total commitment to a club might seem odd to outsiders. The connection can even become slightly historical “we were in the second division in the 1950s” whether I was there or not. But there comes a point where I refer not to ‘us’ or ‘we’ but to Liverpool FC, as in “Liverpool was started in 1892.” It’s too far back to claim any close relationship.

    It puzzles me then, that the representatives of modern Judaism, almost alone amongst the Abrahamic faiths, has the same mindset. “We were wandering in the wilderness…” “Moses told us this or that…” But are the ancestral roots of modern, practicing Jews no less diverse than everyone elses? Are all Jews direct descendants of the scriptural Israelites? I’m aware that Jews are defined as a race as well as a religious group, but I would never refer to the Anglo Saxons as “us or we,” or the Celts, or the Romans, or the ancient peoples of Africa or any other ethnic group from whom I’m surely descended; I don’t think I’d even refer to more recent British or English historical events with so strong a word as ‘we.’ Yet the Rabbi talks easily of ‘us’ and ‘we’ when discussing the supposed vicissitudes of an ancient Middle-Eastern tribe some 3,000 years ago – which is in any case difficult to define historically from amongst all the other tribes of the time. By using ‘we’ and ‘us’ in this context I feel that Mirvis (who is only following a common practice) claims more for his faith than the realities of history actually justify. If modern day ‘Druids’ claim that ‘we did this or that at Stonehenge 3,000 years ago we would look askance at them.

    In any case, studies of human genetics have discovered that beyond a period of a few hundred years we no longer share any genetic material with our earlier ancestors.


    1. In Adam Rutherford’s book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes written in 2016 he describes how genetic and statistical studies show that everyone alive in Europe 1000 years ago is related to everyone alive in Europe today. In the same way everyone alive in the world 3000 years ago is related to everyone alive in the world today.

      Now I know that certain groups try to maintain their ‘purity’ of lineage by not intermarrying much with outsiders, but if Mirvis says, on behalf of his religion, that ‘we’ did such and such 2500 years ago then, given Rutherford’s evidence, he is talking about all of us in a genetic way.

      Obviously some of us have more genes that link us back to whichever original small tribe we want to continue being associated with, and like to keep the cultural and religious differences of that tribe. But the evidence is that we are all one species linked genetically and given the opportunity we can sign up to any of the other religions or cultures if we want to. Our genes don’t have to define our culture. Just because my relatives have lived in the Midlands for generations doesn’t mean I can’t support Liverpudlian’s favourite football team, for instance. In the same way I can sign up to a South Seas Cargo Cult if I think that particular religion explains the world better than any other I have encountered.

      I like to imagine one of my ancient relatives wandering around the Promised Land at Stonehenge while at the same time others were wandering the Promised Lands of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Cambodia, China, Arizona, Australia or Zimbabwe.


    2. “…difficult to define historically…” – and genetically: the Judaeans of 3000 years ago would have been genetically indistinguishable from the neighbouring Hittites and Phoenicians.


  3. The Chief Rabbi sounded positively cheerful as he generously gave us the backstory to Purim this morning. I found it quite entertaining too, not least because the Book of Esther is one of the most completely fictional bits of the BBoMS, the nearest it comes to a romantic novella.

    The Chief Rabbi is (has to be) a well-read man, and he cannot be unaware of the view of many scholars that Esther is a made-up story. Yet he blithely presents it as if it were unquestionably true. Not for the first time, the dogma of religious belief trumps everything else, as it does for the many Christians – perhaps most of them – who think that the Gospels literally contain the Gospel truth.


  4. So, genetically, we’re all Jewish? Interesting.
    I suppose it’s more likely than being Amalekite after ‘we’ wiped them out in our distant-but-shared past.
    Happy Everyone Being Jewish Day, er, everyone!


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