Tony Banks was my first rock hero, as Genesis’s keyboardist for their entire existence as well as the writer of many of their signature songs. Quiet, shy, and introvert in person, he was the one-man orchestra that put the S in ‘symphonic rock’. He has issued a number of underrated solo albums (‘A curious feeling’ and ‘Still’ both have gems on them), but in semi-retirement he has devoted himself to writing orchestral neo-classical music. The results sound much like film music, with echoes of John Barry and Bernard Herrmann, and occasionally of Ralph Vaughan Williams and other late-Romantic English composers. Tony has released two albums of his orchestral work so far, “Seven” and “Six” (the titles refer to the number of pieces on each). This is a track from his upcoming third orchestral album, “Five”, taken from his official YouTube channel.
One of the nicer features of reading an ebook on a Kindle (or in the Kindle app on a smartphone or tablet) is that you can press and hold on a word and see its definition, or on a place name and see a brief description. Many of the more recent books go one step further, and add “X-ray” content: one can click on a character name, say, and get a brief description of the character.
In this context, the conspiratorial-sounding term “deep state” is often uttered, even by people as level-headed as Instapundit. Does this refer to some mysterious, nefarious, octopus-like conspiracy at the heart of the federal government? No, it is merely the current US term for a phenomenon with which Europeans (particularly the French) are intimately familiar: the “permanent bureaucracy” of career civil servants. Governments come and go, and the unelected permanent bureaucracy stays in place.
In an ideal world, the professionalism of longtime civil servants should act as a moderating factor and ‘sanity check’ on the less well-considered ideas of elected officials, as well as stop power-grabbing overreach on their part. In the real world, at least as far back as Plato, one faces the question most pithily asked by Juvenal: “who watches the watchmen themselves?”
My contempt for the loser in the 2016 electoral campaign is bottomless: she seems to have all the moral restraint of Lucretia Borgia combined with a peerless capacity for self-pity (read this serialized fisking of her book if you have a strong stomach). In contrast, I am at least willing to entertain the notion that the FBI agents desperate to exonerate her, and find fault with Trump, had sincerely convinced themselves that they were trying to save the Republic from a disaster. There is of course, paraphrasing C. S. Lewis, no worse tyrant than one who sincerely believes his actions are for your own good.
The career civil service bureaucracy in France is notoriously incestuous, with such a large percentage of senior civil servants being graduates of just one academy, the ENA (National Administration School) that some French quip about being ruled by “l’ENArquie”. The ENA is one of France’s élite “Great Schools” that inhabit the tier above mere ‘universités’ in that country’s peculiar system. Its students are a truly elite crowd selected by standardized exams graded anonymously (and hence free of favoritism and reverse discrimination). However, this quasi-Mandarin monoculture ensures a homogeneity in outlook, and only exacerbates the natural tendency of any governing elite to conflate its own collective self-interest with the interest of the nation.
Their American counterparts are a good deal less of an elite, and a good deal more of a ‘credentialed gentry’, to use Angelo Codevilla’s term. Yet they are at least as cocksure as their French counterpart, and at least as averse to an outsider ‘not one of us’ upsetting the applecart. It is, therefore, no surprise that Clinton, Inc. and the Chicago machine behind Obama would have found willing accomplices.
Nobody in their right mind would want to go back entirely to the ‘spoils system’. And there are still people working in the Federal apparatus that it is a privilege to know and who are both highly competent and dedicated to their country. It is, however, well past time for a thorough housecleaning. It is even more past time for those politicians who suborned elements—all the way to the top—in the country’s highest law enforcement authority to be called out, disgraced, and ostracized from political life forever. I used to dismiss the characterization of the Democrat Party as “a legalized crime syndicate” as irresponsible hyperbole. Used to being the operative word. Now I wonder instead: if it really were one, what would they be doing differently?
Non-Jews who attend Jewish Sabbath and especially High Holiday services in synagogue often comment on their interminable character.
In contrast, Jewish ceremonies for life cycle events tend to be short and to the point. (Bar mitzvahs, and bat mitzvahs in liberal synagogues, are a special case: the bar mitzvah boy simply is given a role of honor in a pre-existing long prayer service.) A Jewish marriage ceremony, for instance, rarely takes more than 15-30 minutes before the festivities start.
Thus also, the formal religious part of a Jewish burial does not last very long. Typically, most of the time is dedicated to hespedim (eulogies) of the deceased, usually by family members, close friends, or colleagues.
Burial customs may differ between communities: for instance, while coffins are the norm in most Diaspora communities, in Israel only simple shrouds are used. (Men are often buried in their prayer shawls.) The central parts, however, are quite universal: burial rather than cremation, kria (rending of the clothes) by immediate relatives and spouse, the recitation of certain psalms, mourners assisting in filling in the grave, and the request by the rabbi or head of the burial society for forgiveness from the deceased for any slights, however unintentional.
One prayer, however, is so thoroughly associated with Jewish mourning that it has nearly become a synecdoche for it: the Kaddish (“Sanctification”), or more precisely the version termed “Orphan’s Kaddish” (kaddish yetomim) or Mourners’ Kaddish. Remarkably, not only was that prayer not originally intended as a mourner’s prayer, but it does not contain a single reference to death or the hereafter. [*] Moreover, it is not even in Hebrew (except for a single phrase at the end) but in Aramaic, the lingua franca in the Middle East two millennia ago. It was, hence, a prayer meant to be understood by all who recited it, including those whose Hebrew had become a little rusty. [The mind wonders, if it should therefore today be recited in the lingua franca of our time, namely, English?]
Versions of the Kaddish prayer occur throughout synagogue services. A short version (the “half-kaddish”) is used to demarcate sections; a longer version (“full kaddish”) was originally used to end the service, though a “coda” of additional prayers has been added later. The “Rabbis’ Kaddish”, which invokes blessings over scholars, is used to mark the end of a study session and, in the synagogue, after readings from the Talmud (Mishna and/or Gemara). At the end of the service, if any mourners are present, the Orphans’ Kaddish is recited.
This is its text rendered in English.
Magnified and Hallowed be His great Name
In the world that He created by His word
And may His kingdom come
In our lives, and in our days, and in the lives of all the House of Israel
Speedily and in our days
And let us say, “Amen”
May His great Name be blessed forever and for the ages of ages
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted,
Extolled, adorned, adored, and lauded
Be the name of the Holy One, Blessed be He
Even as He is above and beyond all blessings, hymns, laudations, and consolations
That are uttered in the world
And let us say, “Amen”
May there come great peace from Heaven
Upon us and upon all His people Israel
And let us say, “Amen”
He Who makes peace on High
May He bring peace upon us
And upon all Israel
[And upon all the world]
And let us say: Amen
“Even as He is beyond”: yes, one of our most central prayers says G-d is beyond, and hence beyond the need form, the prayers of us mere mortals. Does that mean our prayers are futile? Of course not—but they are for our sake, not for His.
Let me leave the last word to Maurice Ravel. And may the memory of D. daughter of A. be blessed.
[*] There is another prayer, El Male Rachamim/G-d full of mercy, that explicitly references these and asks G-d to admit the soul of the deceased into His presence and to bind it in the bond of [everlasting] life.