Thursday, May 12, 2016

My second book, Sefer ha-Bahir, is in process to be published in the coming year! The cover design is beautiful.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mystery Guests on the Seder Plate: Charoset, Lettuce and Egg

The complex ritual of the Seder provides many opportunities for occult interpretations (see my earlier entry, The Ritual Mysticism and Magic of Passover ). Rabban Gamliel, for example, requires at a minimum that we explain the symbolism of three objects at the seder: The Pesach (shankbone) Matzah (unleavened bread) and Maror (bitter herb). But there are many more objects and gestures that get little or no explicit explanation. These are the "objects that don't know how to explain themselves."

For example - we always say the charoset (the fruit and nut compote) represents the mortar with which our ancestors set the bricks during their slavery. Yet this interpretation feels a little contrived. Why would the mortar binding us to misery be sweet? Art Waskow finally offered a drash on charoset that makes perfect sense to me. Waskow posits that the ingredients are drawn directly from foods mentioned in the Song of Songs - apples, wine, nuts, and spices. Since the early mystics understand the S of S to be God's inner thoughts at the time of Exodus, this garden of metaphors signifies the divine passion ("Your kisses are sweeter than wine") for the people Israel. The charoset then is not a reminder of concrete, but a concrete reminder of God's love for us at the time of Pesach. I think this insight is the right one and reaches back to the true roots of this minhag (custom).

Then there is the lettuce (hazeret). People are forever puzzled as to why there needs to be a second herb on the seder plate besides the horseradish. While a Mishna on the seder mentions hazeret as well as maror, many treated the terms as synonymous. Early seder plates only had five spots, while virtually all made today have six to accommodate this second herb. The lettuce has its roots in Sefardic mysticism, which insists on this added component. Why? In order to better represent the sefirot, the mystical divine structure. By having the lettuce as well as the horseradish, there are then ten components (three matzot, zaroa, carpas, maror, beitzah, charoset, hazeret and the seder plate) to the seder that parallel the ten sefirotic elements (Keter, Chokhmah, Binah, Gevurah, Hesed, Tiferet, Hod, Netzach, Yesod, and Malchut).

Finally, there is the roasted egg. Forget the "symbol of spring" or "cycle of the year" explanation. Even the "It symbolizes the birth of a nation" interpretation is a latecomer, though it makes me smile. The actual origin is not really esoteric. It's there to remind us of (that's why it's roasted) but not replace (that's why it's an egg, not a lamb) the Chagigah (festival) offering made in the Temple at Pesach. Don't confuse that offering with the Pesach lamb once eaten as part of the seder - in ancient times lambs were offered both at home and in the Temple.

But the egg in particular seems to attract funky and novel interpretations. A new drash I've heard is on the widespread Ashkenazi custom of starting the Pesach dinner by dipping a boiled egg in salt water and eating it. Earlier explanations I have heard is that it meant to remind us of Sodom, for the city was supposedly destroyed in the month of Nisan (yeah, I don't quite get it either). Then this year someone assured me it was a "Kabbalistic ritual" in commemoration of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. While we started out walking on dry land, as the Torah and Midrash says, according to this new explanation, the sea started to rise again until the Israelites had their male genitalia dipping in the salty waters.

I had to have that one explained to me twice. The person was quite insistent that this was the true meaning of the ritual. My first reaction was, "...and this is supposed to teach us -- what?" The question I should have asked was, "Since it's an egg, isn't it commemorating how the salty waters touched the genitalia of our female ancestors?" But there you have it - yet another Jewish ritual that seemingly neglects the female experience.*

Zal g'mor - To learn more consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

*For the record, I do not think for one moment this is the correct explanation. I have yet to find any evidence in the Mesorah or the Kabbalah that we dip our boiled eggs in honor of our ancestors' eggs, male or female. But now that many Jews understand that Kabbalah is built around an erotic theology, it seems some folks see sex everywhere in Jewish tradition. I welcome any source material that would further expand on the esoteric nature of the seder. One reader suggested it's a Purim drash, a silly homily composed during the prior holiday of Purim, where farce, satire, and the outrageous reigns. That works for me. There is always someone out there who seea a parody and mistakes it for documentary.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Tzohar: Gem of Noah, Light of Heaven

So what was that glowing, explosive rock stuff in Aronofsky's film Noah? Was it just a a lazy author's device of convenience, or does it actually have some authentic roots in Noah traditions? Based on it's movie name, zohar, I suspect it's the screenwriter's adaption the similar, but linguistically distinct tzohar, which actually APPEARS IN GENESIS. In Gen. 6, God instructs Noah to illuminate the ark by tzohar taaseh/ "A "brightness you will make." This term, (transliterated as either tzohar or tsohar), which literally means "Bright/glittering/noon light" (The Hebrew word for noon, tzohoriyim, is derived from the same root), is not further defined in the Hebrew Bible. Some translate this simply as "window." Jewish esoteric tradition, however, regards the tzohar to be a kind of luminous gemstone holding the primordial light of creation.

Much of the ambiguity and the imaginative use of the word tzohar is grounded in its status as a hapax legomenon, a word that appears only once in the Bible, and therefore lacking any further point of comparison for the purpose of fixing its meaning. By comparison, for example, the word hesed is used hundreds of times, in many different contexts, in many books of Bible, allowing philologists to observe all its semantic nuances. All we have to go on with tzohar is one context, and that context is Genesis 6:16. In this verse it seems at first glance to refer to a structural feature. Based on this, some translators propose “roof.” Others use “window,” “skylight,” or simply “opening.” Each translation presents a problem in that we already have elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures other words for these objects. There are also logic problems: why put an opening in a structure that will subject to torrential rain for 40 days? And since the day and night provided little or no natural light during the Flood (Gen. 8:22; Gen. R. 25:2, 34:11), what would be the purpose? All this invites speculation the tzohar was something as unique as the word itself (Genesis Rabbah 31:11).

The fact that the word for “noon/zenith,” tzohoriyim, shares the same root, but especially because of its linguistic similarity to the word zohar (“shine/radiant”), triggered an assumption that it is a form of light source rather then an aperture to let light in.

Targum Yonatan may be the first source to claim the tzohar was a luminous stone, pulled from the primordial river Pishon (T. Y. Genesis 6:16). This is elaborated on in Genesis Rabbah 31:11:

During the entire twelve months that Noah was in the Ark he did not require the light of the sun by day or the light of the moon by night, but he had a polished stone which he hung up – when it was dim, he knew it was day, when it was bright, he knew it was night.

Another version of this idea appears in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 108b:

Make a tzohar for the ark.” R. Johanan said, The Blessed Holy One instructed Noah: 'Set there precious stones and jewels, so that they may give you light, bright as the noon [in Hebrew, this is a play on words between tzohar and tzohoriyim].The same idea is reiterated in the medieval Midrash Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer 23.

The matter might rest there, but elsewhere in the Talmud, there is another tradition that Abraham also had a miraculous stone:

R. Shimon b. Yochai said, Abraham had a precious stone hung round his neck which brought immediate healing to any sick person who looked on it, and when Abraham our father left this world, the Blessed Holy One hung it from the wheel of the sun. (Baba Batra 16b)

This naturally led to speculation that that the stones of Noah and Abraham were one and the same. And given Genesis Rabbah’s allusion to the river Pishon that flowed through the Garden of Eden, the logical origin for this tzohar would be with there, where God hid the supernal light of the first day for the sole use of the righteous:

It was taught, the light which created in the six days…cannot illumine by day, because it would eclipse the light of the sun. Where is it? It is stored for the righteous in the messianic future...He set it apart for the righteous in the future Gen. R. 3:6


The Holy Blessed One created many things in His world, but the world being unworthy to have the use of them, He hid them away...the example being the light created on the first day, for Rabbi Judah ben Simon said: Man could see with the help of the first light from one end of the world to the other. Ex. R. 35:1

(also see Talmud Hagigah 12a; Lev. Rabbah 11:7, Gen. Rabbah 41:3 and Zohar I:31b, all homiletically based on Gen. 1:3, Ps. 97:11 and Job 38:13).

Those who possessed the tzohar not only had illumination, but access to the secrets of the Torah and all its powers. Thus the "chain" narrative that emerges from this various threads is that God created it, but then hid it away for the sole use of the righteous. The angel Raziel gave it to Adam after the Fall. Adam gave it to his children. It passed to Noah. While in the passage we read, Abraham returned the tzohar to heaven and hung it on the sun, other traditions track its continued use by the righteous of each subsequent generation: Joseph used it for his dream interpretations. Moses recovered it from the bones of Joseph and placed it in the Tabernacle.

A text known today as "The Queen of Sheba and Her only Son Menyelek," translated by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge includes this verse:

"How the House of Solomon the King was illuminated as by day, for in his wisdom he had made shining pearls which were like unto the sun, the moon and the stars in the roof of his house."

Even that is not the end of the matter. The Zohar claims that Simon Ben Yochai possessed it in the Rabbinic era (Sanh. 108b; B. B. 16b; Lev. R. 11; Gen. R 31:11; Zohar I:11; Otzer ha-Midrash).

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Spawns of Satan, Children of Cain

One of the least known but very persistent Jewish folkloric beliefs is that of “changelings,” that there are human-appearing demoniods, offspring of human-demon couplings, that move among us. Darren Aronofsky's Noah plays with this by suggesting the lines of Seth and of Cain are of fundamentally different kinds of humans, though he posits both to be fully human.

                                     [Illustration: E.M. Lilien bookplate featuring satyr and woman]

This belief has its roots in a rabbinic tradition that believes demons (sheidim, creatures more akin to the Islam djinn than the earth-trembling terrors of Christian imagination) are unable to procreate without human “seed.” Thus Judaism has a robust tradition of succubae, seductive female demons who are the cause of male erotic dreams and nocturnal emissions. Adam was the first progenitor of demons:

When Adam, doing penance for his sin, separated from Eve for 130 years, he, by impure desire, caused the earth to be filled with shedim, lilin, and evil spirits (Gen. R. 20; Er. 18b).                                                                                                                                                                    
Since, like humans, sheidim are subject to death (Chagigah 16a), these “semen demons,” such as Lilith, Naamah, and Igrat, periodically re-populate the demonic realm through these sexual-spiritual assaults.

The flip side of this coin is a parallel tradition that mortal women are occasionally impregnated by incubae:

Rabbi Hiyya Said: “sons of divinity” (Gen. 6:2-4) were the sons of Cain. For when Samael mounted Eve (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 146a), he injected [semen of] filth into her, and she conceived and bore Cain. And his aspect was unlike that of the other humans and all those who came from his side [of the human family tree] were called “sons of divinity” (Zohar I:37a;also see I:54a).

According to this version of the nefilim tradition, Cain was descended from an angel (Samael is called the "Prince of Heaven" in Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer 13) but at the same time a “bad seed,” as were his descendants. The female descendants of Eve similarly can find themselves periodic victims of a kind of “Rosemary’s Baby Syndrome,” usually unknowingly. The changelings that result from such "spirit rapes" move among us largely undetected, until their evil nature is revealed through gross crimes or other evil enterprises.

Given the spiritual source of their malevolence, it was sometimes thought necessary to combat them by spiritual means alongside the usual police and judicial methods. Thus we see in some Hebrew amulets of protection that the person seeking angelic protection against evil spirits will identify him- or herself as “So-and-So, son/daughter of So-and-So, from among the children of Adam and Eve…” (Sefer ha-Razim). The implication being the amulet is directed against beings not from among the children of both primordial ancestors.

This belief in demi-demon progeny persisted from Talmudic times right up to the start of the modern era, no doubt because this legend offers a ready explanation for why certain people are “bad to the bone,” much in the way we still today declare heinous serial killers and other violent criminal “monsters” (and therefore somehow not fully human).

To learn more, look up the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism available at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dream Work Noah: The Cinematic and Jewish Greatness of the Weirdest Story Ever Told

Now that Aronofsky's Noah, his decades-in-the-making auteur obsession about yet another visionary-yet-  monomanical character, is in the theaters, this seems to be the time for a parable from the Zohar - the parable of the master of wheat:

[Jennifer Connelly - Naameh indeed]

This may be compared to a man who dwelled among the cliffs and knew nothing of those dwelling in the town. 
He sowed wheat, and ate the wheat in its natural condition. 
One day he went into town and was offered fine bread. 
The man asked: What’s this for? They replied: It’s bread, to eat! 
He asked: And what’s it made of? 
They replied: Of wheat. 
Afterwards they brought him cakes kneaded with oil. He tasted them, and asked: And what are these made of? They replied: Of wheat. 
Later they brought him royal pastry kneaded with honey and oil. He asked: And what are these made of? 
They replied: Of wheat. 
He said: Surely I am master of all these, since I eat the essence of all of these! 
And because of that view, he knew nothing of the delights of the world, which were lost to him.
So it is with one who grasps the principle but is unaware of all those delectable delights deriving, diverging from that principle.
[Translation from the Pritzker Zohar by Dan Matt]

Hopefully with all the sturm and drang settling, people are finally coming to understand that the fundamentalist critics of this film are all masters of wheat as alluded to by the Zohar. They think that in cleaving only to the bare bones of the biblical narrative, they are masters of all aspects of the story, but in fact they are, to a great extent, suffering from a kind textual indigestion, or perhaps a spiritual ciliac disorder, in which they struggle to absorb the full nutritional value of the biblical narrative (and irritable about it, to boot) because of their restrictive way of reading. 
The Noah story as received is a mere one hundred verses, with little dialogue, minimal motivation, no character development or insight, no struggle; it is a skeleton of a narrative which the readers must flesh out with themselves, projecting their experiences, emotions, and conflicts, and imagination onto the scaffold of plot to fully realize its many on complex meanings and implications. The movie Noah steps into those many gaps and fills them with clever, and sometimes crazed, midrashic storytelling. These are serious men (that's a shout out to you, Coen brothers, two other great biblical auteurs) who took the story before them, stepped back from the cultural pablum and childish pious-Pollyanna that has adhered to the Genesis narrative in the modern mind, and rebuilt it in a way so as to reclaim all its dark, dreadful, and dread-filled potency.

Noah is not without its flaws, but it is, all-in-all, the most daring, powerful, in some ways, truest bit of cinematic Bible I've ever seen. It's expansion of the story is, in many ways, extraordinarily supple. Some of most critical dialogue spoke by the characters is wording lifted directly from other parts of the Bible. At the end of the first act, an archly biblical event occurs (Spoiler Alert): the miraculous restoration of fertility to a barren woman. The wrenching second act where (Spoiler Alert) Noah concludes God wants him to slay his grandchild is appropriated from the Akedah of Isaac, making it completely biblical in spirit, and is artfully used by Hendel and Aronofsky to further their vision of Noah as a proponent of "deep ecology," the ideology that holds the earth would be better off if humans were extinct (or self-extinguished). And as for Aronofsky's insertion of "environmentalism" into the an Iron age story, well, he does no more violence to the integrity of the biblical ethos than the folks who retroject middle-class, industrial age "family values" onto the Bible, a document that regards polygamy, concubinage, and captive- and slave-brides as normative. Aronofsky's biblical hook is obvious - the world is "corrupted" by man's presence and God and Noah "conserve" all the animals, not just the ones that directly benefit humanity.

Of course, what captivated me most was the fearless integration of Jewish second-temple, rabbinic, and mystical traditions into the story. The film-makers, as is the norm in Hollywood, freely adapt these things, but they are there, none-the-less, in glorious homage to Jewish folklore and esoteric tradition. These are the ones I saw:

Watchers: The fallen angels, based in Gen. 6:4 and grandly elaborated on in the Book of Enoch and the Book of Giants, are a big part of the storyline; mostly cleverly, their presence explains how a family of 6 (it was 8 in Genesis) could build the greatest maritime project before the industrial age. Aronofsky elides the more lurid part to the tradition, their coupling with human women and producing giant offspring, focusing instead on their role in Enoch as the bringers of knowledge and technology to humanity.

Tzohar: The glowy-explosive substance used repeatedly in the movie is based on the tzohar, a miraculous gemstone that tradition tells us illuminated the interior of the ark. This concept, surprisingly, is linguistically embedded right in the middle of the Noah narrative, as you can read here:

The Sword of Metheusaleh: The miraculous demon-slaying sword gets a cameo in a flashback (literally) sequence, where we see the ante-deluvian "grandfather" wield it against evil hordes:

The garment of Adam: Here the connection seems the most tenuous, but I assume this is where the idea for the magical-glowing-serpent skin-arm tefillin worn by the shamanic patriarchs of Seth is derived from. In Jewish tradition, the garment is made from the hide of Leviathan. Here, it's the sloughed-off, pre-corruption skin of the edenic serpent. Though we do not see this idea developed in the movie, the garment of Adam gave one the power to command animals:

Tubal-Cain: The terrifying and terrified king is constructed from a single verse of Genesis where he is credited as a worker of bronze and iron, but is then fused with the midrashic King Nimrod, the power-mad tyrant of rabbinic fantasy who attacks God's messengers. His stow-away on the ark is no doubt borrowed from the midrashic biography of King Og of Bashan, a ante-deluvian giant who survives the deluge by clinging to the exterior of the ark.

Of course, the big picture is all in my book:

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism -http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

These were the most obvious mythic elements borrowed from Jewish folklore. I'm going back to see the movie again, and I'll update you with what else catches my eye. You should see it too. Weird, wonderful, fantastic in all senses of the word. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Partzufim - Divine Personas, Holy Family

Partzufim: (Aramaic, “Countenances,” “Personifications”). First outlined in the Zohar, this metaphysical concept is more fully devel­oped by Isaac Luria. According to the Lurianic cosmog­ony, after the catastrophe of the Breaking of the Vessels, the shattering of the primeval structure of light, the ein sof reconstitutes the fragments of the cosmic order into five “countenances” or “visages” that are able to mediate between supernal and material realities in a way the pri­mordial vessels were not. Think of the Partzufim as analo­gous to a “patch” for a faulty computer program.1
The biblical proof text that Chayyim Vital offers for the partzufim is Gen. 2:4, where he reads the compound word behibaram, “when they were created,” as a notarikon, breaking it up into be-Hay-baram, “Through ‘5’ He created them,” “them” being all of positive existence (Etz Chayyim, Gate III, 39). 
The Partzufim interact with humanity in the work of tikkun. These countenances also constitute and encompass the personal dimensions of God that are described in bibli­cal and rabbinic writings, since they symbolize the male and female principles operating within the Godhead. In fact, the partzufim constitute a kind of “holy family,” a familial metaphor for the divine pleroma. In some writings, the various partzufim are assigned the names of biblical figures: Jacob and Israel; Rachel and Leah. Presumably, one can map the functions of the partzufim on the celestial level through studyingthe biographies and actions of those biblical characters. Other partzufim get titles, such as Yisrael Sava, “grandpa Israel,” for Abba.
 This aspect of Lurianic thought has a complex relationship with the sefirotic structure of classic kabbalah, not unlike the “wave/particle” phenom­enon in quantum physics. Thus whether the divine struc­ture manifests itself as the sefirot or as the partzufim de­pends on certain conditions, but they are essentially two aspects of the same divine force. The five countenances are:
Arikh Anpin: The “long/great countenance,” also called the Atik Yamim, “Ancient of Days.”
Abba: “Father,” the male aspect of the divine gamos is linked to the sefirot of Keter and/or Cho­chmah.
Ima: “Mother,” the celestial mother is tied to Binah.
Zer (or Zaur) Anpin/Ben: “The short/lesser countenance.” Product of the union of Abba and Ima, it is tied to the lower six sefirot: Chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, Hod, and Yesod.
Kalah/Malcha/Bat: “Bride/Queen.” The feminine counterpart to Zer Anpin, she is linked to malchut.
The Partzufim, like their sefirotic counterparts, are also integral to the notion of the restoration of the Adam Kadmon, the cosmic human. In a kind of inverted “imi­tatio dei,” all human actions that advance the cause of cos­mic restoration are mimicked by the Partzufim.2 Thus humans help to activate them and ensure the healing flow of divine energies between higher and lower worlds.
Illustration by Ursi Eso

   1. Scholem, Kabbalah, 140–44.
2. Faierstein, Jewish Mystical Autobiographies, 28–29. Also see Green, Jewish Spirituality, vol. 2, 65–70.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Obama Psalm: Curses in Politics

So I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, "Pray for Obama" - a nice gesture - and is followed by the citation, "Ps. 109:8."
May his days be few; may another take over his position.

Pretty funny [though pointless, as of Nov. 6th]. But then one reads the context of the verse....

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:
let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he has;

and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off;
and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD;
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

And things get considerably darker. And after a moment's reflection, another thought arises -- it that a curse? Yes it is. Turns out the Psalms, like the rest of the Bible, defies our stereotypes. The Psalms have all sorts of peculiarities. For example, Ps. 45 is neither a prayer nor a paean to God. It's a rather obsequious ode to a king. And the Psalms are sometimes just as surprising for what they don't contain. For example - the themes of brit (covenant) and mitzvah (commandment), so central to the Torah and post-biblical Judaism, are essentially non-entities in the Psalms. Virtually no psalm references these concepts as a framework for the writer's faith. Ps. 119 stands out as the exception. So does what does this imply for the centrality of Torah to ancient Israel?

And curses. There are actually several Psalms that are, or contain, extended curses. Ps. 35, 58, 137, all invoke hair-raising afflictions upon the writer's enemy, and 109 is the ultimate execration text.

This shocks our modern sensibilities...its seems so unreligious. But as I tell my students in my Bible as Literature course at UNT, this idea that religion only engages in the uplifting is a relatively modern rethinking of what constitutes "religion." For virtually every religion until very recently, God is expected to protect his own and punish their enemies. Truly, the idea that what God wants is the repentance of the sinner, not his destruction, is a theme already found in the Bible. But as for God's followers, well...they want satisfaction.

Of course some would argue that these aren't "curses" in the magical sense, but "prayers" venting anger. Perhaps. But, as I have discussed before in this blog, the distinction between an incantation and a prayer is very fine distinction indeed. Thus we read:

Moses is not mentioned in the parashah [Tetzaveh]....The reason for this is that Moses said to God: 'Wipe me out from Your book [Ex. 32:32]" and the curse by a righteous person is fulfilled, even if it is made conditionally. (Ba'al ha-Turim)

Many modern scholars of ancient religions would eschew the distinction entirely, lumping glamors and petitionary prayers together under the category of "rituals of power," speech-acts that will lead to constructive (or in this case, destructive) results. People want their pleas to be answered and the things they ask for, come to pass.

All this needs to be placed in historical context. Biblical Israel. The Psalms were written in a period of human history when most people lived either in a tribal environment, or one step away from it in farming villages or a fortified urban environment. Brutality from within and without the society was commonplace, armed conflict would visit people at least once in their lifetime, and at some point most tribes/nations fought using what amounted to atrocities directed against their rivals. The hope that one could escape persecution, plunder, or worse via the intervention of one's god was an understandable hope, and the idea that the deity would visit upon them what they planned to mete out to you was pretty appealing.

So much for history. We live in a different age, with different expectations for and from our enemies. In our time, law prevails by and large, and even the worst leaders are subject to election, re-election, and term limits. The time for asking for God's wrath to fall upon our political enemies and their families seems, well, a kind of curse of its own visited on our modern body politic.

The Talmud takes a stand against curses using it's customary pedagogic strategy, a story:

There was a non-believer who lived near Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. This heretic would harass the sage by citing scriptural verses to prove sectarian doctrines or to challenge rabbinic traditions. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was exceedingly agitated by his troublesome neighbor and decided to be rid of this heretic. He took a rooster and tied it between the feet of a bed. With the rooster in place, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi stared at it intently waiting for its comb to pale while it stood on one foot [according to an earlier comment, one can discern the time of  God's anger by the color of a cockscomb]. Wide-eyed and waiting for the auspicious moment, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi intended to utilize that flash of divine anger and curse the heretic. At the crucial moment, however, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi dozed off, missing the opportunity to manipulate God's anger. Opening his eyes, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi concluded: "It is not proper to act so." The sage continued, citing biblical verses to buttress his conclusion: "Moreover, it is written 'His mercies are on all His handiwork' (Psalms 145:9) and it is also written 'For the righteous to punish is not good' (Prov. 17:26)."  Berachot 7a.

Put with greater brevity, Nahal Kedumim teaches, "...even if a person has good intentions, he should not allow a curse to escape his lips."