Thoughts on Judaism

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Harry Potter and Barney - Unlikely Allies

What do Harry Potter and Barney have in common? Both are banned in fundamentalist Yeshivas and both are fictional.

Barney's crimes against humanity are many, no doubt. First, there is that OBNOXIOUS "I love you" song, implying that nish-Idden could be in the same family as Idden. There are kids of various genders and species dancing together and lying in the same bed, at least until they "roll over". And then the kids are expected to "clean up, clean up everybody everywhere" all by themselves, without the Goyte. But his most notorious crime is being a Darwinian seed of indoctrination, implying that, even though Barney does not exist (unless you "make believe" him), dinosaurs did indeed exist. This is the sneakiest fake purple creature to infiltrate the mind market for our children, since that queer Tinky Winky was run out on a rail by Jerry Falwell.

Harry Potter, pop culture's most popular child hero at the moment, also suffers from being fictional. But he has the misfortune of being a wizard as well. This means he can perform some contrived magic in his contrived little world, which emanates only from the mind of the talented Ms. Rowling and her muses. She is currently working on the seventh installment of the series (kol shviyim chavivim), Harry Potter and the Incipient Encroaching Goyishkeit.

In the books, Harry can go from place to place quickly without even employing kfitzas haderech or folding the land under him. He encounters dubious creatures like centaurs, hippogrifs and phoenices (is that a word, scrabble fans?), as well as confirmed real creatures, mentioned in the Talmud and mefarshim, like giants, unicorns, basilisks, witches / wizards, mazikim (called dementors) and obnoxious little rich kid jerks. Harry often challenges the gedolim and, by not listening, saves the universe from the evil one. Harry is even skeptical about the confirmed, Talmud true arts of astrology and fortunetelling. So it is no wonder that these poisonous stories are banned.

This is silly in my opinion though. It is clearly fiction. I mean, they all go to this huge private school and no one seems to be in charge of the primary function, collecting the tuition. And can't they just make money appear if they are so magical?

Are we going to start banning Goldie Lox (talking animals), parshas Balak (talking animals), Cinderella (magic shoes), Wizard of Oz (magic shoes and witches), Red Riding Hood (don't the animals ever shut up?), Jack and the Beanstalk (magic beans, giants and poverty), Danny and the Dinosaur, Sefer Shmuel (witches, fortunetellers, necromancers), parshas Breishis (talking animals, snakes with arms and legs like dinosaurs that lose them later), Shrek (fairy godmother, more talking donkeys, lots of magical creatures and that nasty Mike Myers) ... you get the idea.

Should we ban Chabad renegade Shmuel Boteach for endorsing Uri Gellar's tired spoonbending, psychic act as real magic, for making a side show of kabalah for the material Ester Ciccone or just for having the audacity of writing a successful book on the you know what subject?

Maybe Barney should just come with a disclaimer about evolution being a theory, not a fact, and that purple is not an exclusively gay color. Maybe Barney should carry a disclaimer stating that "mystical approach" hashkafa is a fact, not a hodgepodge of nonsensical blather. Maybe Harry Potter should carry a disclaimer saying that no one under 18 should fly more than 50 feet in the air on their broom without adult supervision. After all, can we take the chance with the children?


  • "Maybe Harry Potter should carry a disclaimer saying that no one under 18 should fly more than 50 feet in the air on their broom without adult supervision. After all, can we take the chance with the children?"

    Either that, or an explanation how nishtane hatevah is an integral part of Judaism, and while magic was once a very real force, the baal shem tov expelled the demons from our midst, so people can longer perform such feats. Lends new meaning to "michadesh bechol yom tamid".

    By Blogger Menuval, at 5:30 AM  

  • B"H
    Shalom uBrocha!
    ChabadSkeptic it doesn't say anywhere that the Besht totaly got rid of all the deamons everywhere.

    Another perspective into the efefcts of Harry Potter from my namesake Ariel bar Tzadok:

    The Real "Magic" in Harry Potter
    By Ariel Bar Tzadok
    Copyright © 2002 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
    The Harry Potter movie is enchanting and great fun. The whole experience makes one
    walk away with a good feeling and happy thoughts. This then is the big problem. Harry
    Potter extols the value of witchcraft and wizardry by portraying them as such innocent,
    exciting and enticing pursuits. Witchcraft and wizardry have a long and dangerous
    history. They are not matters that should be aggrandized, taken lightly, and marketed to
    Let us put matters into context. The Harry Potter books and film ever so subtly promote
    the use of witchcraft by children. Anyone truly familiar with real witchcraft should be
    appalled by such an endeavor. If you see nothing diabolical in witchcraft, then you
    obviously know nothing about its practices or its practitioners.
    This is what real witchcraft is about: the casting of spells in an attempt to manipulate the
    minds and feelings of others, the sacrifices of animals, the ripping out their organs and
    the drinking of their blood, the invocation of demons, and other dangerous mind altering
    psychological practices.
    Witchcraft goes under various names today to disguise itself. Under such names as
    Wicca and Goths, witchcraft and the likes are responsible for numerous teenage mental
    breakdowns, suicides, and murder.
    The Dungeons and Dragons craze that causes so much psychological harm to its
    practitioners has its source in witchcraft. The two boys who perpetrated the murder of
    over a dozen of their classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado were members
    of a Goth witchcraft cult that taught them to glorify death and suicide.
    Harry Potter homogenizes witchcraft and makes it appear so deliciously magical and
    innocently fantastical, even glamorous and desirable. Young impressionable children will therefore be drawn not only to the fantasy of Harry Potter but to the reality of
    modern day witchcraft.
    I make no apologies. Any attempt to homogenize witchcraft in any way, in my opinion,
    is extremely dangerous for our children. Are there not enough temptations surrounding
    our children? Do we really need to expose them to something that can lead them to
    practices and beliefs that will endanger their lives and the lives of others?
    Unfortunately, we adults are enchanted by the surface delight of Harry Potter and we do
    not pay enough attention to what lies underneath.
    Parents will not foresee the inherent danger to their children while they are still young.
    While they are young, messages like those in Harry Potter merely plant the seeds of
    delight in witchcraft. Once the children become teenagers, they have the ability to use
    their local libraries and the Internet to find out about real witchcraft. Granted, not every
    student of witchcraft becomes a cold-blooded murderer or commits suicide.
    Nonetheless, we already have so many examples of those who did. All these poor
    unfortunate souls shared one common trait: their passionate pursuit of witchcraft led
    them to the darkest sides of human behavior.
    If the usage of drugs, the mutilation of animals, acts of violence and suicide were being
    presented in such appealing forms with subtle invitations, people from all walks of life
    would rise up in unison to condemn such horrible perversions. Yet, by polishing up
    witchcraft and making it so appealing and accessible, this is exactly what the Harry
    Potter phenomenon is doing.
    Informed individuals should avoid Harry Potter as responsible people avoid illicit drugs
    and other destructive vices. One thing in life does lead to another. We cannot blame
    others for falling into snares if we do not help them to avoid them. Harry Potter
    magically transforms a dark part of human life and makes it so appealing. This is why I
    find the Harry Potter phenomenon so dangerous.
    Please feel free to share this review with other. Copy it and reproduce it freely.

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:54 PM  

  • Ariel's article speaks for itself. I have often said that fringe charedim have trouble with concepts like "real" and "fiction".

    Dinosaurs fake
    Pidgeon cure for hepatitis real
    Evidence of old universe fake
    Magic medicine real
    Harry Potter dangerous avoda zara
    Yoga positive diversion
    Rebbe's death fake
    mazikin real

    Harry Potter is a spoof, A SPOOF of ghost stories with some cute references to prep school stereotypes. This article proves my point fully.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 8:26 PM  

  • B"H
    You are missing Bar Tzadok's point he is saying that it has a bad effect on children's subconcious similar to the arguement that for example violent movies or video games cause people to be more violent or at least to have less senstivity to violence (as some studies show). Why do you have to make fun of everything "chareidi" I think one has to admit his arguement has some merit even if you disagree with the severity of the issue.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:59 PM  

  • Ariel

    It is totally arbitrary and hypocritical for people steeped in beliefs and superstitions wound up in real magic (even non-Jewish magic like the pigeon cure and oriental medicine) to concern themselves with stories that are fictional. As Paroah said via Rashi, "you are bringing straw to a land that is completely (made of) straw". Also, why is Cinderella parve but Harry Potter treif? (No, Cinderella does not evoke the same visceral reaction, and the differences are contrived, though fairy tales have their opponents as well.) And how are they different than any number of Baal Shem Tov stories? Because he is using "holy magic" for holy heroes, villains and plots? On the contrary, some want to convince the children that the Besht magic stories are real!

    My kids who read HP are between 8 (klug kid) and 15. Never did it occur to any of them that anything magical in Harry Potter was anything other than a SPOOF. A spoof is funny precisely because you know that it is not real, but fantasy. Otherwise, it is scary, as my younger ones find Besht stories scary.

    Why do I want to make fun of everything charedi? Please go down my page and read the post entitled "Why Rebel?" The vast majority of the baal tshuvas that I knew 20 years ago in yeshiva are divorced, frei, moved on, for these reasons (including our mutual friend Shmarya! See his comment to that post.). I make fun of them because I cannot have them shlepped before beis din, and yes, I BLAME charedi philosophy almost solely. It is largely due to the smudging of the line between magic and reality, in practical and harmful, sometimes devastating ways.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:04 AM  

  • CS
    It does not need to say that the Besht got rid of demons, because there is no "official" book of Besht stories. They are just stories about heroism and magic, unlike Harry Potter, which is FICTION about heroism and magic.

    Nonetheless, a Chabad source here tells me that such a maaseh does circulate about the Besht driving away the demons. It is a good way to get out of demon related discussions with BTs. ;)

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:08 AM  

  • Ariel

    "Harry Potter extols the value of witchcraft and wizardry by portraying them as such innocent,
    exciting and enticing pursuits. Witchcraft and wizardry have a long and dangerous ..."

    I realized that I am still not being 100% clear above. My point is that the above quoted thesis statement is false! HP does NOT extol the value of witchcraft. It simply uses its STEREOTYPICAL DEVICES as vehicles for the plot. There is NO SUCH PURSUIT in reality, like what HP books portray. Most kids can clearly instinctively draw that line between a fairy tale and reality, so it is not about the kids welfare. People who cannot do that are, by definition, insane. Only people who were trying intentionally to muddle the line betweeen fantasy and reality in children's minds, who consider that muddling a GOOD THING, would have a problem with that.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:20 AM  

  • "Nonetheless, a Chabad source here tells me that such a maaseh does circulate about the Besht driving away the demons."

    I have no idea where that stupid story comes from. It was popular when I was a kid, and haven't heard it since until just recently when a friend of mine mentioned it. This is the same guy who cautioned me against leaving open cans in the fridge overnight lest sheidim be attracted by the open metal keili. Is it too much to at least demand internal consistancy?

    By Blogger Menuval, at 2:54 PM  

  • Is it too much to at least demand internal consistancy?


    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:45 AM  

  • It is actually very, very sad. I have a seven year old who read all the HP books and has no one to talk to about them. Her little yeshiva friends are not allowed to know about the evil HP and she was not allowed to do a book report for class on any book in the series. At the same time, my four year old comes home from shabbos party and tells me that the stories about "goyim" and "tzaddikim" in Russia are too scary and everyone is killing each other. No one sees the irony here. Thanks for pointing it out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:13 PM  

  • Alas, the hypcrocy of it all.

    Cinderella, Harry Potter, LOTR, and most fairy tales ARE dangerous to Jewish theology, but not for the reasons stated above.

    Before modern medicine, villages had Crones; old wise women who knew the art of healing with herbs. They practiced paganism.

    Paganism in its old form was a circular theology based on nature. They honored life, birth and death as part of the natural cycle of the seasons. The circle of life.

    They honored women as the life bringers, for their ability to give birth. (this was a miracle in the old days)

    They had a story...different versions are found in cultures all over the world.

    It goes like this:

    A town or family or king is in trouble. A young man is sent forth to save his people. He proves himself worthy by overcoming many obsticals.

    Finally, he arrives at the tree of life, or the tree of knowlege, which is guarded by a serpent.

    The serpant is the symbol of healing and knowlege (Note: this symbol is still used by most medical organizations today)

    A maiden or Goddess appears and rewards the hero with the fruit from the tree of life.

    He returns to his people and uses his new found healing power and knowlege to save them, and thus is elevated to kingship.

    He weds the Goddess and together they rule as king and queen.

    Together they represent "The Divine Couple". The Adama. Adam and Eve. Adam meaning "of the earth" and Eve meaning "Life". As a couple, they are the life of the earth.

    He as the brave strong protector and hero, She as the keeper of healing and wisdom and the magical power of bringing forth new life.

    He honors her as she honors him, and together they are the mother and father of all human kind.

    The modern scare stories we hear about witches are a bunch of hollywood mumbo jumbo and church propoganda designed to scare people into following the patriarchial doctrines.

    Any story of Rings or fairys that has a maiden in duress being percecuted by a wicked step mother, are parables for the percecution of the Goddess followers by the patriarchial "Mother Church."

    Pagans have been victims of religious percecution for centuries, and the truth is that they have done no harm.

    We have memorials to the holocaust victims, but where are the memorials to the women who were burned at the stake, whose oly crime was honoring nature and trying to serve their communities as healers?

    Who cries for Hypatia???????

    I REFUSE the notion that I carry the wieght of original sin!

    I refuse the stolen myth that Eve was born from Adams rib. Men are not the life bringers...Women are! And that feeble twisted version of my holy story is a rip off of the buddhist story of how the buddha was born from his mothers side.

    My children are a blessing, not a curse, and I am the property of NO Man!

    This is why Pagans are feared. If our truth is known, the religions of Islam, Christians and Hebrews completly fall apart.

    Blessed Be.


    Food for thought:

    Matriarchial religions, exaulting nature and birth, appear in peaceful agricultural societies.

    Patriarchial religions, exaulting a powerful male diety, appear in industrialized societies that value men, devalue women, and engage in war.

    Think about it.

    By Blogger Kel-Bell, at 2:52 PM  

  • Nice Blog

    Best Wishes

    I have a site 80 million Down Loadable Movies If you have the time stop by.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:20 AM  

  • Rav Ariel Bar Tzadok is not Lubavich and definitely not a meshichist (believer that the Lubavicher Rebbe z'l was or is the messiah chas veshalom.) The last part of the post (Long live etc. etc.) is not part of his essay and was added. Most probably, the person who posted the essay impersonated Rav Ariel and added that phrase himself. For more info on Rav Ariel and his REAL views, only consider as a reliable source.
    Kol Tuv.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:41 PM  

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