Beyond the Cusp

December 18, 2016

Imagine the Return to a Revolutionary Ideal

 

Once upon a time there was the Black Robe Regiment which was the name given by the British to the Colonial Preachers who supported American independence. Not only did they preach independence, they very often were officers in the militias against the Red Coats. The British did all they could to murder these preachers and many gave their lives for the Revolution but the danger did not curtail the Black Robe Regiment preachers who refused to be cowed and were one of the main inspirations of the American revolution. Their sermons inspired and often their brash and brave actions kept the Revolution alive and brought a number of victories against the odds with their bravery and words motivating their fellow congregants often at the most crucial of moments. The United States owes much of the founding in the fighting and the religious basis of the Founding Fathers and the state legislators whose input and approvals were required in the formation of both the federation of America and then the Constitution which was the foundation for the United States of America. There is a possibility that the Revolution could have failed without the local inspiration and organization which was often centered around the churches and their Black Robe Regiment preachers.

 

Black Robe Regiment

Black Robe Regiment

 

All that changed in 1954 at the behest of Texas Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson’s proposed legislation to amend the tax codes affecting houses of worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples and other nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) tax exemptions. The amended tax code limited the freedom of speech by members of organizations and entities who had tax exempt status under 501(c)(3) regulations making any political speech such as supporting a candidate, party or other specified political speech. The amendment to the tax codes was named for its presenter and is called the Johnson Amendment. Particularly prohibited was conducting political campaign activities to intervene in elections to public office or other sermonizing which may be perceived as backing a candidate or party. The language was vague and unspecific enough that many clergy were silenced from mentioning even certain Bible passages near election times as they might be construed as taking sides on a campaign issue and by doing so backing a particular candidate or party. Such brought to an end political preaching from the pulpit, at least in theory as some such still exists but as long as the parishioners are singing the same tune, nobody complains and such activity continues. This was specifically used to target and silence clergy from endorsing candidates. Over time this embargo on political speech became partisan in nature in too many locations as a ban against conservative politicking while backing leftist causes or progressive Democrat candidates. Still, care was taken to never mention any names and instead to often mimic campaign slogans working them into sermons or choosing verses carefully for recitation which would appear to back one candidate’s positions or damn the opposing candidate. Still, clergy still need be far more reserved and careful and a far cry from the history of clergy, especially when one remembers the Black Robe Regiment.

 

Texas Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson

Texas Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson

 

Should Donald Trump as president keep his word and successfully repeal the Johnson Amendment thus freeing certain tax exempt institutions and their personnel from conducting any political activities, especially campaigning or endorsing candidates, imagine the consequences. We would witness the liberation of the clergy and the resultant rebirth potentially of a new Black Robe regiment preaching and supporting political positions more aligned with their religious beliefs. There need be no great fears from secularists as they won’t be in houses of worship forced to hear any sermonizing, especially political sermonizing. Rescinding this regulation, expunging it from the tax code, would be a strike for freedom of speech. Placing a political muzzle on the clergy and threatening their tax exempt status was a bad idea from the start, one might even say criminal. But then Lyndon Baines Johnson was not exactly known for tact or freedom of expression for anybody disagreeing with his views. He was better known for strong-arming political rivals by any and all means at his disposal. This was most evident during his time as President which also served to allow his passing every piece of legislation which became the backbone of his “Great Society” and a remaking of the social safety net and the start of an increased welfare system. Some have blamed this for many societal problems being faced by American society currently. Just maybe a little moralizing before Election Day voting would serve as a positive influence. Just Maybe.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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October 5, 2016

Too Many Leaves Have Fallen

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In these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, Jews spend much of their free time, and some of the not so free time, reflecting on their actions and shortcomings of the last year and also their entire lives where less than golden practices became habit. In this time I have too often strayed beyond my shortcomings and looked beyond to the shortcomings of my people and the entirety of the human race. Slavery has to be a practice which was carried on far too long nearly into modern times and even now exists in some measure. We were slaves and know its hardships which we recount every year at our Seders. Passover is one of the singular observances where traditions are pretty much set in stone. The odd thing is there are different stones for Jews of different backgrounds. I should know as my father was as Ashkenazi as one can be and my mother was equally Sephardim. Perhaps this was why we only got a half serving of rice at Passover and never enough for a meal. The Seder service which is said in the home in privacy closes with an important and universal hope of all Jews, “Next year in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The Seder is far from the only set of prayers which end with this overriding and continual desire amongst all Jews no matter their individual customs, Jerusalem, as the Song of Babylon states, “If I forget thee may my right hand lose its cunning (strength) and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” That is the seriousness a Jew or any Israelite feels for their eternal Capital City and why the Arabs so demand they control the Old City, the part of which that pleading relates for they know that is the Jewish heart.

 

Remembering our past no matter where your ancestry originates there were pogroms, purifications, jihad, and just simple hatreds which drove our ancestors from their homes with what they could carry. All too often the older children had to carry the younger while father and mother carried what meager belongings they could, the Shabbat table cloth, candle holders, challah plate and cover were mother’s load in addition to what kitchen utensils she could manage while father carried his Tallits, Tefillin, Prayerbooks, Siddurim, Haggadah, necessities for his trade (which may include leading a cow or two or sewing machine, threads, cloth, butchery knives, or whatever and the Rabbi and sons carried the Torah, as many as possible and a few more as leaving even one behind was unthinkable), and whatever other items mother or children could not continue without (his was the burden of family). These fleeing Jews were often the fortunate ones as behind them were those Jews who joined the too lengthy list of fallen leaves. Every Pogrom, Purification, Jihad, forced conversions, Crusades, conquest for Allah, blame for every calamity, blame for disease in the community, and all too often just because we were Jews the leaves fell. People ask how humans could treat their neighbor so cruelly. Well, look to Europe or the past hundred years in the Arab and Muslim worlds or to Russia and remember Nazi Germany and the reasons abound.

 

One need understand the enormity of the history of the Israelite people. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came from the time when agriculture and herding were just coming into their own and the city states were forming. At this point the first Jews were but a family and believe it or not we are largely still that very same family plus those we have married and the few converts over the ages, often these converts also married into the family and converted in order to do so. There are the claims that the Exodus from Egypt we brought numerous non-Jews with us and if one reads Torah they will see we know of this and these people were kept in a separate camp and were partially responsible for the sin of the golden calf. These others were sent on their separate way with many sailing to Greece with even some Jews who found our ways too difficult and desired a more earthy and pleasure seeking existence which was all the rage in those primitive times. Egypt saw us build a city to a Pharaoh who fashioned himself to be a god. The story of our exit from Egypt is chronicled in the best-selling book in history and one of, if not the, first books ever printed by the printing press. Our travels and travails of forty years in the desert are well chronicled and many youth learn of it early in their educations. The reason why is not so well noted. Put simply, we lacked faith in the promise from Hashem that the land would be granted us by His hand. Instead ten of twelve spies told of giants living in cities behind great and unbreakable walls. The illogic of giants needing walled cities never occurred to the Israelites who reacted to these recounting with great timidity and fear. The two who told of peoples in fear of the coming of the chosen of Hashem and a land flowing with goodness went unheeded as the Jewish people who had lived a life under slavery had not the bravery or independent spirit to conquer a land even with Hashem. For forty years we gave birth to a new people free of the yoke of slavery and filled with the miracles of Hashem such as the manna which fed them in the parched desert of the wastelands they traveled through.

 

Israelite Sin Worshiping of the Golden Calf

Israelite Sin Worshiping of the Golden Calf

 

Jericho put to rest the fears of the former generation as its great walls were no match for the formulae given by Hashem which brought them down. The following victory of Ai and then of the combined armies of the Kings of Canaan proved Hashem truly would grant us the land. What is often passed over is that the Torah gives the Jews the exact method we are to pursue when coming into our promised land with any tribes of people who reside within and it is a very simple method for selecting how one treats those tribes. We are to make them a simple offer. They have three choices of varying ease for their people. The most easy is to remain within the lands on the lands they hold and simply obey the Seven Laws of Noah, the Noahic Code and we will both live and prosper in peace. They can leave the lands and we will not pursue them and wish them well. The least favorable choice is they can choose to war with us at which time we will endeavor to kill every last inhabitant and member of their tribe and burn their crops, slaughter and leave for the buzzards their cattle and remove any and all record that they ever existed from the story of mankind. That was then and we no longer live in those times. What is not well known is that some of the Canaanites chose the first two options and were granted what was promised.

 

History passed and we had an expository period under King David and King Solomon who conquered lands until they reached the Euphrates River, the farthest we have ever reached and we desire far less today, only what was promised which is well documented and for the sake of my regular readers we will not go over this again. You’re welcome. The life went well until we had strayed from Torah and had practiced even idolatry and thus lost the guardianship of Hashem so we fell before the Babylonian sword. This was not our best of times but this exile ended when the Persians conquered Babylon and knowing of Hashem from their recounting of history beseeched that we return and rebuild our Temple and worship Hashem as we desired and simply pay our tribute to the Persians and we would be left in peace. Rather nice of them had that continued forward but there came an overachiever named Haman the Agagite and descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites and our saving grace in the form of the Persian Queen Esther. We built the Second Temple and in human history soon thereafter came such luminaries as Confucius, Buddha, Tao, and others who all founded various ancient religions of which a few continue into the modern era. The namedropping was more as making note in history when much of what we call a more modern age came into being and where much of Eastern philosophy had its roots. Eventually we once again gained our freedom, but wait, there’s more.

 

Eventually there was the inevitable family squabble and the Tribes of Israel chose sides with the ten northern tribes taking the name Israel and the southern two tribes being called after the far larger tribe, Judah and the Priestly tribe remained spread amongst the people and largely in Jerusalem under Judah. After the ten northern tribes were carried away as slaves by the Assyrians there were just the priests in Jerusalem and the tribes of Benyamin (a smaller tribe) and Judah the lion, the defenders of the southern borders, remained where most belonged to the tribe of Judah so we became Judeans and eventually simply Jews. The Assyrian Greeks eventually defeated Judah as well and then the Polemic Greeks and one more the Assyrian Greeks followed by the Romans. The Romans got a little put out after the Jews, the name had cemented by them, did which no other people managed, threw off the Roman yoke twice. They dispersed the Jews to the far reaches of their kingdoms and everywhere inbetween such that we would never again challenge Roman rule. That worked rather well and as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled the Jews spread even further but we had a secret weapon through which we remained attached to Jerusalem and our lands always hoping for the Messiah to return us to Eretz Yisroel, and that weapon is Torah. Torah is our history, our rules for life, our traditions, and our defining center which keeps us in touch with Hashem and our covenant and the promises Hashem gave to us. The Torah has kept us a family despite great distances and the stories abound of Jews traveling to a strange place often not by their choosing and upon arrival finding family there, finding Jews who greeted them as only family greets one they have never even known existed. This too was one of the many strands of string that when twined together make the rope which will eventually be spun in Israel, in Jerusalem.

 

Now, as we gather slowly from the far corners of the globe from America to Europe to Japan and the Philippines and India or Ethiopia as well as South Africa, Australia, even the outback and places even stranger and more remote, the time has come to stop believing we are Jews as we no longer are. Jew was the name we were given in captivity by the Greeks and Romans who shortened Judean to Judian to Juw which became spelled Jew. The actual spellings and pronunciations are not important but what Jew came to mean to the gentiles is important. The Jew was the reason for famine, for plague, for war they were always siding with the enemy on both sides as both sides saw Jews fighting for their enemy but were blind to the Jews fighting with them in their armies. The Jew was accused of every ill and even potential harm and the fact that the Jews lived in their own small area, ghetto, and practiced a different religion, often the parent religion to the one the others practiced, they had to be the reason as they were the other wherever they found themselves. When the time came to clean the lands of the disbeliever, the Jew too was cast out or burned at the stake, hung, crucified or whatever punishment was dealt the disbeliever. Often they were simply driven from the land and forced to travel through place after place before finding one which allowed them to settle and reside for the time being. The Jew always kept a number of suitcases packed and one special suitcase in which all their religious items were kept. They would be removed when required to observe the Sabbat or to do morning prayers or observe a holiday and then carefully and respectfully repacked in case they had to leave with little notice. This suitcase was the first one grabbed by the mobs of the pogrom, Crusade or whatever reason was for killing the Jews as this suitcase must have precious jewels to be so carefully guarded. Imagine the look when all they found were some candlesticks, candles, a special tablecloth and few other religious items and books but no jewels or gold or silver other than the few religious items, often only the Shabbat candlesticks. The main thing is the Jew was a temporary guest to be bullied and thrown away when hatreds overwhelmed the people and a frenzied mob sought a target.

 

We are now coming home and we are not going to be bullied or thrown from our lands. We may not be granted easy access to all our lands, even our most precious Biblical Lands in Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem will hopefully not allow to be divided and we again forbidden from visiting our Temple Mount which we built during the times of the Second Temple before Christianity and long before Islam came into this world. Allowing the Synagogues we so meticulously restored or even rebuilt to once again be defiled and destroyed would be a sin of great magnitude. Where we need to try and be accommodating and live with our neighbors on this little sphere orbiting an insignificant star in a moderately large galaxy soon to be merged with an even larger galaxy, we also must remain true to ourselves, our history and, most of all, to Hashem which means that Jerusalem’s old city must remain with the Temple Mount as an intricate and vital part of Israel. The Islamics know the importance of these areas which is the sole reason they demand them to be separated from the Jews. This is the same story which was the reason there were so many wars between Christian and Muslim over Jerusalem and only Jerusalem as that was the reason behind the Crusades and the Islamic conquests, they both wanted to hold the City of the Jewish holiest of places as that is the home of Hashem which both claim to worship (the validity of such claims cannot be covered in brief even in this article). But Jerusalem must remain a part of what is Israel and that should not ever be placed in doubt and slowly the Israelis are realizing this fact.

 

As for the name Jew, that needs change. Those of us residing here in the Holy Lands of Israel are no longer merely Jews even if we are of the seed of Judah, we are Israelites once again. With the airlift of Ethiopians and the Bnei Menashe community from India home to Israel we are once again to be known as the tribes of Israel. There is a group in southwestern India who call themselves the Tribe of Ephraim who were found when a Chabad couple shared a Passover Seder with them. With these tribes of the ten lost tribes of Israel reappearing, the people of Israel are not all but universally of the tribe of Judah, we are once again in transition and should recognize such and refer to ourselves as what we are, Israelites, the Tribes of Israel reuniting in our ancient and holy homelands.

 

Some may ask what should become of the Arab Palestinians. Well, we can offer them three choices. They can live in their own area under their own leadership in a semiautonomous area within Israel where we promise them security and to live in peace and in return they obey the Noahic Code, or they can leave and settle elsewhere in the world and we will wish them safe travels and the best of luck and promise not to pursue them or do them harm as they leave, or they may choose to treat us with violence and hate and do injury to us as a form of war for which we will do as we can to destroy their existence and to erase the fact that they ever resided amongst us. That is what any other people would do and for those who doubt such we would like to point to items such as Northern Ireland and the British.

 

Continuing on, other examples abound such as the Spanish and the Tribes of the Basque and Spain and even France, the many different tribes which made up Yugoslavia until they each went their separate ways, the Czech Republic and Slovakia which separated from Czechoslovakia and the numerous nations which were formed by the victorious powers after World War I that make up much of the Arab Islamic world today and which are now breaking even further into tribal regions, and the conquered lands which now live under the fist of their conquerors such as Tibet or those threatened by nations claiming their right to regain control of these areas such as Taiwan and Mainland China (Red China if your old enough to remember that term) and also Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and the currently challenged Ukraine all of which are currently under direct or indirect challenge from Putin the Invader’s Russian bear. The changing tides of war and the formation and dissolution of nations has not ended as many wished to believe and world wars are no longer unimaginable. The claim that after the fall of the Soviet Union that history had ended and everything was now at peace and in equilibrium leading Francis Fukuyama to write a piece titled, “The End of History?” which has proven as much folly as the claim once made by the Commissioner of the United States Patent Office in 1899 who it is (attributed) claimed to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

 

With all the turmoil in the world today, it is beyond reasonable but is yet true that the world considers what the Israelis do within the lands granted under international laws and treaties to them for their homeland dating from the early 1920’s and the numerous conferences, treaties and conventions which were signed by all the parties involved including the Arab League and King Farouk granting the lands west of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea to be the area for the land of Israel to be formed. We, the Israeli people ask for no more than that which all powers, even to include the Arabs and Japan, British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian, and eventually the United States, League of Nations and United Nations all recognized and gave their blessings and agreement and yet to this day this is contested. The facts are not contested, just the realization, and there appears to be an undercurrent which is driven by the concept that by ridding the world of Israel, and with it the Jewish people once and for all, will end their ever considering having a real home anywhere on Earth. This is considered a desirable and possible eventuality by the leaders of the Western World to appease and pacify the Arab World. There is one answer for such people, and it is what we promised, “Never Again!”

 

Beyond the Cusp 

 

January 16, 2016

Israel and the Jews

 

Allow us to revisit some of the items we have had in articles and draw them together here in one article. This will not be a rehashing of the legal matters, treaties, conventions and other documents and agreements. This is about the Jewish People and the Land of Eretz Yisroel and there are effects which can be observed often only through experiencing and seeing the changes and other effects between the Jewish people and Israel, the land itself. The first thing is that Israel in modern times attracts Jew for any number of reasons. There are two main groups which sometimes cross over and merge for some Jews. There are Jews who feel this strange pull that can only be fulfilled by making Aliyah and return there to their ancestral home which is exactly how many Jews explain there coming to Israel. For some it is the commandment to settle the land which commands the Jewish people to sojourn and commit their only expansive conquest taking the lands promised to Abraham, Izsak and Yaakov in Genesis in the Bible, the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Some come to Israel to escape anti-Semitism as Israel is the sole nation which promises to take whatever necessary actions to protect Jews from persecution.

 

Despite the actions of the world to tie Israel’s hands by court threats, protests world-wide, coordinated violence from the Arabs both within Israel and from the areas of Judea and Samaria which have been granted autonomy where their government rewards families whose members attack and murder Jews with higher rewards for more Israelis murdered or mutilated for life. This is what drives the suicide bombers as they know their family will receive a greater salary for life called a pension for a martyr of the cause of freedom, which means literally that they died in the attack, often due to being a walking human bomb, making their family honored and given a pension which is often higher than most Arabs make even those working for their government. This pension, blood money, is an incentive for Arabs who find they are poor and have little hope of providing for the family, often a wife and more than four children that the only way an Arab may decide that a suicide assault on the Jews is their only hope for their family. There have been Arabs from the autonomous region, who have charged at IDF soldiers at a checkpoint with a knife in their hand hoping to be caught and not shot so they can be sent to an Israeli prison as, and some have confessed this, their life would drastically improve where he would have better food and general conditions. Some attacks are carried out by the younger males in a family who know that they will receive next to nothing as an inheritance and for a farming family that is close to a condemnation to poverty and helplessness and they believe their only hope is to kill Israelis so their family will receive a pension should they be martyred and a salary should they be caught and imprisoned.

 

Jews native born to Israel, Sabras (Hebrew: צבר‎), is the name of a cactus Opuntia cactus (pictured below, known in Israel as “tsabar” (צבר) and as the fruit of the Sabra cactus has a hard and thorns outside and its fruit is sweet, soft, juicy and did I mention sweet. That description is really fitting in describing many original Israel born native Jews, some of which are my family. A few native families have resided in Israel since the early and mid-1800s while others have their family’s tree going back beyond and to before the 135CE and earlier 70CE Roman destruction of the Holy Temple and dispersal of the Jews from their land. This was executed in the hope that would destroy the Jewish people as they would no longer be attached to the land. This had worked just as they had done to the remnants of Carthage and possibly numerous other civilizations which we never knew as they did disappear from the face of the Earth. Some have family records which show their families having returned to Eretz Yisroel from the Babylonian Exile when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire on his way to establishing the Persian Empire, one of the largest and most storied in all history. Cyrus the Great gave the Jews his blessings to return and rebuild the Holy Temple and serve Hashem as directed by Torah. Some Israeli families arrived from Europe after the calamities of the Shoah and World War II. An equal or potentially greater number were expunged and forced from the Arab and Muslim nations of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) as well as Iran through edict, pogroms or legal restrictions making life next to or actually impossible. In most cases all property and wealth was confiscated and in the worst instances, forced out with one suitcase per person and those were inspected and anything of worth was removed.

 

 

Sabra Cactus with Fruit and Flowers

Sabra Cactus with
Fruit and Flowers

 

 

When they claim that the Jews of Israel return to their real homeland they are actually there. When the demand is for the Jews return to the lands where they arrived from, do they include the approximate half of Israelis whose former nation was throughout the Islamic world. Further, look at Europe with the European Union and their labelling of products from parts of Israel and the numbers of Jews literally fleeing European nations such as France, Sweden and others as well as the clincher, the unapologetic denunciations of Israel in every manner such that these are so egregious as they can only be described and blatantly anti-Semitic coming from the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Her inflammatory accusations and denunciation along with her prejudging determinations which would be ruinous for Israel and against every agreement, convention, treaty, Mandate and other legal arrangements and pronouncement or still to be determined through formal negotiations and not the decree of some other nation not involved or even mentioned as a party to the situation are simply over the top. An example of her adamant refusal to take any moderation of her views is easily displayed in this recent debate in the Swedish Parliament where a member demanded of her an explanation of her extremist views shown below.

 

The lands of Israel have been conquered by nearly every empire which showed out of the Middle East, Europe and even from the Mongols from Asia and Egypt from Africa. The only empire to ever get production from the lands of Israel, which did not include simply ruling over and taxing Jews working the lands, were the Egyptians. There are those who claim the lands which today make up the nation of Israel, even if one were to concede Israel all the lands except Gaza from the Jordan River west to the Mediterranean Sea, were originally inhabited by a group of peoples, numerous tribes and city states, known as the Canaanites. This was a valid point in the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but by the time the Israelites left Egypt this was no longer the case as the Egyptians collected taxes and provided protection against the Hittites who resided further north possible within what is today Turkey, and from any other invaders. As the Exodus from Egypt was a revolt against Egypt, there would be a natural series of events that a group who had been originally welcomed and over time and a change in the lineage of the Pharaoh that they had been enslaved as had much of the Egyptian people who revolted with a shove and assist from Hashem who arranged ten incentives to persuade Pharaoh to allow the Israelite nation to leave and have their own homeland. The lands the Israelites took forty years later, give or take a few months, was land which belonged to the Egyptians and it was the tribal chiefs and some Egyptians that were defeated over some time and finally the lands were solidified by King David and King Solomon with a fair bit to spare. This marked the end of Israelite expansive designs. Here are some maps of the areas in question.

 

 

Left side map depicts the division of the Promised Land amongst the tribes and right side map compares the modern promised land from the Jordan west to the Mediterranean Sea compared to the maximum of area during King David’s and King Solomon’s reigns.

 

 

Eventually the land fell to the Babylonians who forced the Israelites into exile working them in Babylon. What is interesting is that the records show next to no Babylonians remaining in the Promised Land more than likely because it refused to produce a decent crop or provide grazing lands. The Persians having some knowledge about the Hebrews and the Promised Land had those Israelite who desired to return to their lands to do so and required only a tax be paid each year. This arrangement worked for a while and the Persian Empire finally fell to the Greeks led by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. The land was again worked by the Israelites but rifts politically had split the lands with the norther ten tribes taking the name of Israelite with them and the southern kingdom was largely made up by the tribe of Judah along with the considerably smaller Benjamin. These were called Judea and had control of Jerusalem and the Temple. The northern tribes were conquered by the Assyrian Greeks and were dispersed throughout their holding and eventually went their separate ways becoming the ten lost tribes of Israel, literally. Judea fell eventually as well but remained in the lands. The Romans replaced the Greeks and from this point forward the life of the lands of Judea and their people who were called Judeans which eventually shortened to Jew.

 

The next part of the lives of the Judean, Jews, was related by a former MK Yaakov Katz in an editorial 407,118: The up to date number of Jews in Judea and Samaria, not counting Jerusalem. In the article he gave a description of what is a Jew which I hope to never forget as it was very relevant to Jewish history, our history. He said that the way to define a Jew is to define us by what others destroyed in order to eradicate the Jewish People, a depravity which has a way too often horrific number of repetitions throughout human history. The Egyptian by restricting us through slavery kept us from our Promised Lands yet we did not simply accept their gods, their idols or leaders who claimed they were gods. The Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple hoping that would dishearten us and we would assimilate and they would be done with us. Then the Romans dispersed us such that we were scattered with only a few families in any one location which the Romans had done to others to destroy their cohesion and family. This, the Romans hoped would put an end to the Jews. Eventually, after many centuries it was the Catholic and, in turn, other Christians who forced conversion and removed us from our Torah and normal prayers hoping this would end the Jewish problem. Finally we would face the Nazis who decided they would simply annihilate the Jews and finally solve the Jewish Problem. So, if we learned anything, it is that we are defined as Jews by all of our enemies starting with the Egyptians through the Nazis and we find a Jew is the Promised lands of Eretz Yisroel from the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A Jew is the Holy Temple, may it be built in our lifetime. We find a Jew is community and one another as then we have a support group with whom we are more able to remember our commandments and perform mitzvahs and observe the Sabbath. The Jew is nothing without Torah and finally the Jew celebrates life. So, what is a Jew? A Jew is the Promised Land as we were made for each other as well as we are enriched by the Holy Temple which allows for certain Commandments to be fulfilled as they require the Holy Temple and we are to complete the Commandments but those remain unfulfilled. Our need for community becomes evident when after the Roman dispersal we quickly gathered where and how we could and made our little communities where we observed our customs which with time were adapted to the world around us. A Jew without Torah is a Jew unstuck and disconnected from the commandments and mitzvoth which was part of the reason that the greatest of the Rabbis wrote commentary and put the oral law into writings. And finally, a Jew is all about the celebration of life and the great gifts that Hashem has shared with us. What is a Jew in the fewest words possible? I will give it a try. A Jew is the land of Israel with the Temple in Jerusalem and community to be a part of with Torah and celebrating life, Torah, Mitzvoth, and Hashem.

 

All the empires, the Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Assyrian, Roman, the various Islamic and Christian conquerors, the Ottomans and the British all could not make the land bloom; but bloom they finally have done. But that works both ways. The Jews make the land and the land completes the Jew.

 

Coming home to Eretz Yisroel was the most wondrous thing in my life and has lifted burdens from me in ways I find impossible to quantify, let alone to define. For the first time I feel accepted to an extent which surpassed even Colorado in the 1970s and I thought that was heaven yet that barely compares with the coming to Israel. I often need to go look out the window to once again impress on me that I truly am home. The people I meet are mostly willing to go out of their way to help and their efforts mostly are beyond belief as they put up with us not having learned to speak Hebrew. We have found a couple of closely defined niches where we can speak freely and not fear being told to never return. As I explain, we have finally found the Jews we had searched for in the United States and they are all mostly here. I have likely been exposed and learned more about being a Jew here in the last couple of years and the rate of learning is only increasing daily. There are so many people making sure I get things correct that my biggest hope is that I remember one third and I will be far wiser than I was upon our arrival. How would I sum up Israel and the Jews in the fewest words possible? Mutual Fulfillment.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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