Beyond the Cusp

April 11, 2017

Israel in Need of an Internal Revolution

 

There are some who believe that Israel should form a committee to draft a Constitution which then should be voted upon by the citizenry. There are those who call for a simple change in how appointments are made to positions such as Judges, Attorney General, Police Commanders, Military Commanders and other political and justice and enforcement positions. There are many who are calling for Israel to annex all or parts of Judea and Samaria. Some are demanding that the Palestinian Authority be dissolved and its leadership and most of the security forces be deported. There are some calling for the office of Prime Minister to be determined by direct elections instead of by whichever political party receives the most number of seats and forms the coalition as they claim this results in granting excessive power to the Prime Minister as his party also controls the parliament and can prevent legislation from being considered at his whim. There are those demanding that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) be more religious soldier friendly touting the infractions being imposed upon far too many religious soldiers which force them to choose between a good performance review and their religious ethics as often their training or activities present conditions which break Halachic Laws, and the military command is fully aware of these difficulties and are using them to drive religious soldiers from the ranks of the military and particularly from the officer corps. When religious officers reach the rank of Major they often face opposition and malice intended to drive them from the service and they face selected distrust which robs them of any possibility for further promotions as the Central Command seeks to retain their secular purity. All of these disparate forms of revolutions are simply pieces of the problems which could all be remedied through the efforts of one group of people from within the Israeli population; the Rabbinate.

 

The first step needed would be the unification of the position of Chief Rabbi. I am far from the sole Israeli Jew who has one parent who is Ashkenazi and the other who is Sephardi. With such a divide, while leaving the rule that my Father automatically is used as the determinative factor, despite in my case that my Mother was more involved in my religious education; such individuals will often have a clash if they marry opposite their father, be he Ashkenazi or Sephardi, with a wife knowledgeable of the opposite set of rules. An example comes next week during Pesach concerning whether or not one may have rice, for example. Still, with the number of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and Sephardi youth, the number of Jews who will not look at Judaism as much as being bipolar as Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Making such an alteration will require unifying Judaism such that there is a single prayerbook, a single set service, a single Kashrut standard which is accepted by all the now disparate Rabbinate factions. This will require many of our leading and most respected Rabbis to come together and reach an agreement which will make all of them relatively and equally uncomfortable with the final set of rules, prayers, prayer services, Hebrew language and a merging of Jewish history such that the story of all the branches are interwoven into a single story. This will leave everybody upset with the results and pointing to some fact here or there bemoaning that such an important event which occurred in Kutná Hora in what is now the Czech Republic or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt has been omitted from the combined histories. Yes, we picked these locations completely at random and any similarities to events or descriptions are purely coincidental. If the numbers of complaints are relatively equal from all angles, then the stories and other merging events are likely being performed correctly and with careful considerations. These are events which will be happening behind the scenes except for the merging of the positions of Chief Rabbinates into one office covering every Jew making a giant step towards the unification of Judaism at least within Israel.

 

Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt

Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic
or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt

 

All of these steps are in preparation for making a change in Israel which will take a great effort from the entire Rabbinate, each and every member from every faction working often in conjunction with one another for a maximum effect. Israel is in need of a spiritual awakening. She has been becoming a more religious nation with a greater percentage of the population attending daily services and living Torah observant lives. There are those who are returning into the Torah observance whose lives sometimes slip but are making strides. Meanwhile others are becoming Torah observant for the first time in their lives or the first time in years after leaving such a lifestyle either while in the military, university, workforce or simply having left their parents’ house. The challenge for such individuals vary with some facing having to learn for the first time a wholly new way of living and sometimes struggling in the process. These people and the secular Jewish population require more assistance than most with encouragements and gentle assistances. They will require education and reinforcement until the religious life becomes almost, if not completely natural. The greatest challenge will be introducing the secular Jewish population to a religious life in a natural and unthreatening way. What such efforts would require, you ask. It would need for the Rabbinate, every Rabbi, to spend time being more public in their lives and leading a life which invites people to follow their examples and piques their interests. They also will be required to be approachable and open to people and affable such that people will feel comfortable seeking them out for information and guidance. This will also require Torah observant practices to be instituted as to what would be considered appropriate and inappropriate activities, actions, practices and situations for members of the general Rabbinate to engage in. Many in the Rabbinate will require further education on the acceptable and preferred means for approaching people and guiding them back to their faith. Some in the Rabbinate may be found inarticulate or otherwise unable to perform adequately and will need assignments in other areas perhaps teaching or administrative. The entire Rabbinate will need be brought under a single administrative effort.

 

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

 

There will also be a need that the Oral Law be reinstituted as an Oral Code which will be written but also updated, altered and mediated periodically with the Rabbinate choosing from amongst their ranks those they consider best suited to make wise and meaningful changes at set intervals, perhaps every three of five years. Once all these programs are in place and everything arranged neatly and actually functioning, then the people of Israel can consider returning to life as intended by Torah with the adjustments and changes initiated under the new Oral Law. There are things which will require large alterations such as the sacrifices as Israel is no longer a sleepy little agrarian society as it was three millennia ago. Instead of a King we will likely maintain an elected democratic and possibly even Parliamentary form of governance but with the single alteration that there will be a higher office than Prime Minister or President, that of the Cohen Gadol (Heb.כהן גדול), the head priest. Once these changes have been accomplished there will be one last item which will have become unavoidable by this point, the rebuilding of the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ‎) in Jerusalem. Long before we complete these changes the annexation of all of Judea and Samaria will have long been settled and completed and the world will have come to accept it as fait accompli. Should this transformation take place and Israel return to being the central home of the Israelite Jewish People living a Torah observant lifestyle, by and large, this will solve many of the problems currently faced by Israel and odd as it may at first appear, it will also make the world a better place with time.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 30, 2017

Can We All Have One Tradition?

 

There is a wonderful side of Judaism which will tear it apart. The advantages of these wondrous diversifications, the ever greater variants of the traditions and prayers within Judaism, is that you can seek your own niche where you are most comfortable and everything tends to reflect your concepts and ideals you expect from Judaism. This means that almost any Jew seeking a comfortable place within their religion, Judaism, that somewhere, should you seek long enough or be fortunate and find your home quickly, there is a congregation which practices the Jewish faith exactly as you picture such in your own concepts, points of importance and traditions you remember from your childhood mixed with other items which simply serve to interest and soothe you. This is both an advantage to Judaism and a future anathema for Judaism. Let us explain. We just hope that we upset as few people as possible but we will still tell what we fear and believe.

 

Judaism is a unique religion in that it has remained largely in limbo where the main efforts for over two and a half to a little over three millennia has been to retain everything exactly as they were when the Temple was corrupted by the Greeks and then the Romans with one brief period after the Maccabean revolt when the Temple was rededicated and consecrated for Hashem. Judaism was frozen at a period soon after their return from the Babylonian exile, the second of the three exiles (Egypt was the first) when the Persians permitted them to return and rebuild the Temple and return to their dedication worshiping and serving Hashem. This era came to a crashing halt with the arrival of the Greeks who replaced the Persians and were on their path to conquering Egypt and the Judeans, the remaining Jews residing in Judea and Samaria largely were but a minor conquest. The Greeks did all in their power to pressure the Judeans (Jews) into Greeks by impressing Greek ethics on the Judeans. First was their introduction of the Greek sexual revolution where orgies, homosexuality and pedophilia were introduced and they brought bath houses plus the worship of the perfect, unaltered human form. This led to the Greeks making circumcision against the law and any circumcised males were executed which meant that any Judean following their religion was fearful of being inspected for having been circumcised as that meant certain death. The Greeks were all but immediately replaced by the equally distasteful Romans who were slightly more crafty than were the Greeks. The Romans corrupted the Sanhedrin placing Roman approved and compromised Jews in place and in the main cities the Rabbis were mostly Roman approved. Religious and traditional Judeans retreated to the countryside and the Judean Hills and caves eking out a living subsisting on whatever they could find growing wild or raised in small farming plots. Everything was done to minimize their coming to the Roman’s attention. This led to a strict, traditional and unchanging interpretation of Torah and the practice of their religion and the keeping of their simply life style.

 

The Roman occupation in many ways did not actually begin to come to a conclusion until the decade of the 1950’s and the return of the Jews to their ancient homelands of Eretz Yisroel. The scars and deprivations of the Roman occupation remained even after the fall of Rome as before Rome had even really started their serious decline, they reacted to a Judean uprising by dispersing the Judeans to the farthest corners and throughout their empire just as they had other enemies in order to bury them from the pages of history. Every group that the Romans had used this form of punishment, disappeared from the pages of history just as the Romans had intended. The Carthaginians who were the final political form of the Phoenicians were dispersed thusly with the Capital City of Carthage having the lands surrounding it salted such that it became barren for the next few centuries. The Phoenicians or the Carthaginians, whichever name one wishes to utilize, are gone and no longer consist as a peoples. The others who the Romans thusly treated are equally erased from any following history and to the point that we do not even recognize any names which we could use to display the effectiveness of this punishment. The Judeans proved to be the exception because they had one thing which was different, their definition as a people was transportable and could be applied anywhere and though it was deigned to work best in the Promised Land, in Israel geographically, they had the ruleset and defined history contained in Torah which was established and had an agreed and exact form and wording which was never to be altered making it an anchor.

 

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and the Jewish civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

 

The other half of their religion and life definition were contained in the Oral Law, their Oral Code which was designed to be flexible and change with time as they proceeded through life together in Israel, but now they were not in Israel or together, thus the Oral Code could be altered in different means for different areas. Thus the Rabbis over the next few centuries wrote and discussed the different ideas and ideals of the Oral Code and codified them into writing such that it would no longer be altered and everybody could remain on the same pages. This became the writings which today make up the Talmud. The most interesting of the concepts in Talmud is that only the final agreed definitions apply as the law, the discussions are included for future reference when new ideas or changes in societies take place. The greatest change has recently occurred, the return and start of the Ingathering of all Jewish Peoples back to their ancient homeland in Israel. But there was and still remains a division in Judaism which derives from whether they were from the Islamic world, including Spain when it was called Andalusia by its Islamic conquerors who were removed finally around 1492 which also included the voyage by Columbus to the New World and the Inquisition in which all non-Christians were brutally converted or killed in a purification of Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella which targeted mostly Muslims and Jews. This forced the majority of the Jewish population to escape with their Muslim neighbors over to North Africa. These Jews mixed with the Jews already living throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Meanwhile there remained a sizeable number of Jews who were spread throughout Europe. There became some not necessarily insignificant differences between these two families of the Jewish Peoples.

 

There are also other groups of Jews with some dating back to the times of King Solomon and others to the full loss of ten Tribes which made up the nation of Israel (the northern kingdom which included the tribes of Dan, Ephraim, Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar and Simeon) who had separated from Jerusalem and Judea (the southern kingdom which included the tribe of Benjamin) and became known as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Some tribes of Jews in disparate regions have made claims as to being descendants from these lost tribes of which two of the most well-known are the Ethiopian Jews and the Menashe from India. The claims of these people are traced and certain realities which would survive in any actual tribes from the Israelites which are commanded in Torah. Should these tribes continue to hold these commandments and practice a Torah dictated lifestyle, then their claim is far more believable and they are invited to return home. The many different peoples is truly amazing and what is even more fascinating is that most of the people from these tribes tested had a particular gene which has been determined as being present in Jews showing the same ancestral maternal origin and also a gene which traces to the Middle Eastern peoples.

 

Eight Hundred Year Old Yemeni Torah Scroll Rescued with the Congregation's Rabbi and Seventeen Desperate Jewish Refugees Accepted and Taken in by Israel Granting Them Citizenship

Eight Hundred Year Old Yemeni Torah Scroll
Rescued with the Congregation’s Rabbi and
Seventeen Desperate Jewish Refugees Accepted
and Taken in by Israel Granting Them Citizenship

 

Where this has led is that even amongst Jews with similar backgrounds, due to the fracturing of the different Jewish communities, there started to form cracks in their practices as each Rabbi came up with something slightly different. Now the struggle is reunifying a religion which though having the identical central basics has also picked up particular practices and traditions which differ each following from a particular Rabbi. This led to some occasions where one Jew would claim, “My Rabbi taught,” while the next Jew countered, “Well, my Rabbi teaches,” and the arguments have led to some less than admirable situations. Judaism and Torah are supposed to unite all Jews to a common heritage through shared history but the histories were fractured by Roman decree and the ravages of time and separation. The Oral history being codified minimized the differences but sometimes the smallest differences are the most difficult to rectify and harmonize. Recently we read an article by Rabbi Melamed who sees the need to rewrite a new oral code which can be utilized as the basis for law in the lands of Israel. These laws would serve as had the original Oral Law and would be adaptable to change, not written in stone. These codes would cover both the secular world and the religious world. They would be a careful blending of Torah teachings and wisdom with the needs of a modern society. This would be worked through using a conclave of leading Rabbis from every discipline in Judaism with all the disparate schools represented from Ashkenazim, Sephardi, Mizraim, Chasidim, Traditional, Orthodox, Zionist, and as many others as can be represented giving the widest view and closest to totality such that what is produced while not granting any one groups complete satisfaction would find the path acceptable to as many Jews as are willing to forge a new unity and new beginning.

 

The horrors of the past will be the flames for the forge with which Israel will become one and our laws will once again be one uniting every Jew and Israelite to the other. The beginning is in sight if we take the opportunity to enlist the many flowers from the far corners of the globe and enlist every Jewish soul, our pluralistic yet harmonious neshama, and once we have merged our futures and woven our pasts into an embroidered and gorgeous prayer shawl with Tzitzit being the only strings attached, we can allow this to cover us all as a single people in our own nation home at last.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 18, 2013

Who Are Most Jewish or at Least Acceptable as Jews?

Of the entirety of the Jewish people are only the Hareidi and maybe the Orthodox the only real Jews or are the Conservative and Reform just as Jewish and how about Kabbalah or even Reconstructionist and other less popular forms of Judaism? The answer you will receive depends just as much on the individual as it does which particular branch of Judaism the responder belongs. Then there is a question as to whether one need be a Zionist to be a true Jew. This has become a pertinent question which will receive some coverage in the near future due to Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Reform movement’s US conference through a live video link. Hareidi leaders, who are quoted in Hareidi newspaper Hamevaser claimed that the previous Prime Ministers had resisted recognizing the Reform movement claiming, “It is too bad that Netanyahu is adding fuel to the raging fire and pushing the cart further into the abyss.” The Hareidi tied the Prime Minister’s apparent sin to the current political situations adding, “This is even more serious because these are very sensitive days, in which Hareidi Jewry is fighting for its life because of the decree for forcibly enlisting yeshiva students. On days in which the tension needs to be lessened, the prime minister elects to deepen the damage to the Hareidi public, and strengthen the Reform movement that has led to grave assimilation in the Jewish people.” And finally they accused the Prime Minister saying, “By so doing, Netanyahu proves that the struggle is not for ‘equality in bearing the civil burden’ or other clichés. This is a clear plot to destroy religion, Torah and the mitzvoth [commandments]. That is the true aim and there is no other.”

 

 Where the best answers would likely come from learned Rabbis there is a more political way to view this question, namely who will be determined to be Jewish should, G0d forbid, part or all of the world go off the cliff and once again decide the world would be a better place without any Jews populating the planet. Such an event is not as impossible as many had believed it had become as the memory of the horrors which gripped Europe under the hatreds of the Nazis. One need only look almost anywhere on the Earth and evidence points to a sharp increase in anti-Semitism. Iran regularly holds demonstrations with tens of thousands chanting “Death to Israel, Death to America” where by Israel they mean not only the nation but also the Jewish people and they do not mean just the United States when saying America as much as the entirety of the Western world. Then there are the leadership of the Palestinians such as Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Khaled Mashaal of Hamas will regularly speak of removing the Jews from residing in Israel as they claim that once they regain rule over the lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea their first order of business will be to remove, read that as murder, every last Jew so as to repurify the lands and remove what they see as a blight.

 

Throughout the history of Judaism there have been sects or divisions of Jews who strayed from the strict laws, mitzvah, commandments and rituals that the most strictly religious Jews hold to as the essence of being Jewish. Even the manners and practices for the most religious of Jews has altered over the ages. One obvious example are the restrictions on not eating leavened during Passover as the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi rule different items as forbidden during the holiday with rice being one of the most often used examples. Much of the disturbance between the different forms of Judaism comes down to the level of strictness regarding observance of the laws, traditions, mitzvah and rituals. What many do not take into account is all the different forms of Judaism currently are unable of completely following all of the commandments as there is not a Temple in Jerusalem to which many of the commandments and mitzvah require in order to be practiced. Rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, or elsewhere if that is the decision as before King Solomon built the First Temple there were other sites where the Tabernacle had been kept and where the mitzvoth pertaining to it had been held, should be one of Judaism’s highest priorities and that should be accepted as a foremost desire of the Jewish people. Still, there are some among the most religious of Jews who claim that Zionism is a wrongheaded cause and the Holy Temple must await the coming of the Messiah as that is who is to rebuild the Holy Temple. Just what the Jewish people need, another argument dividing us.

Now we can get to the opinion section where whatever I write I will likely receive a ton of grief for every ounce of kudos. My belief is that even the most secularized and unobservant of Jews is still a Jew even if they have completely sworn off their religiosity as there is still that remote glimmer of hope that something will awaken the spirit within them and they will return to the fold and recommit to Judaism. I would ask of those who are most observant and who have great difficulty with those Jews who only practice some of the Jewish rituals and commandments to keep open arms readied for any Jew who desires to rejoin and to remember that even after choosing to return and fully practice Judaism the wayward Jew must be walked at their own pace and care taken not to overwhelm them with changes expecting them to miraculously transform overnight. Were that it was that easy. Many Jews today are not observant because their parents were not observant and they were never taught what is required of an observant Jew. Many of these Jews do not read Hebrew and even more do not understand more than a smattering of Hebrew though they can read the Siddur and say many or even all of the prayers exactly as they are to be chanted. The lack of speaking and understanding Hebrew can pose a very high and difficult hurdle to returning to the fold and becoming a practicing Jew. Remember that even at the worst of times when many if not most of the Jewish people were Hellenized and spent more time practicing the Greek religions and philosophies than they did observing Torah yet still the Greeks were cast out and the majority of those lost Jews found their way back or their children returned to Judaism. The Jewish people are very likely on the leading cusp of such a change in these perilous times. The Jewish people have always bound together in the face of adversity and adversity is coming and very few even see it, let alone prepared for the evils approaching. When the problems strike it will require the religious members of Judaism to embrace their less observant Jews and teach them patiently Torah and the Commandments. They will need guidance and comforting and will stumble many times and will require understanding and support as they climb slowly back to the heights of Torah observance. Many will not understand what is happening to them or even why or how they were condemned for being Jews as their parents were not practicing Jews and held no ties to the family that are the Jewish people. There is a claim that almost every Jew alive today is no more than four or five generations removed from a religiously practicing Jew. Let us pray it will take less generations to bring them back home and that can only happen if those Jews who hold true to Torah are willing to take the time and live by example showing the joys that come with Jewish observance.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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