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

 

March 14, 2017

America and Judaism Share One Great Concept

 

Most nations and religions trace themselves to some great person who was responsible for their greatness and in some form or another deify that individual. For nations the examples are legion. Rome traced to the two children raised by a she wolf, Romulus and Remus, China was unified by a leader who was born of a dragon which brought him to China where he unified the separate kingdoms forging a great power, England has King Arthur and the Camelot myth and so on it goes. Christianity gave us Jesus, Islam gave us Mohammed, Buddhism gave us Buddha, Taoism came from Tao and so forth with each religion traced to a person who is raised above other men and in some way deified or immortalized. What follows will likely not sit us well with many readers but is presented for thought and not as any claim that the two seminal foundings were directly related beyond their emphasis on the sanctity of the human spirit and its enabling by the Creator, by Hashem.

 

But with the United States there was no one individual though George Washington is regarded as the father of the nation nobody would claim that he founded or singularly established the country. His greatest feat was giving up power when he could have continued as President until his death thus establishing the temporary power of the office instead of making it into a form of elected monarchy. The American idea was the world of the Founding Fathers, a group where though many people may choose one they prefer, none is more vital to the forging of the United States than the others. Sure we credit Thomas Jefferson with writing the Declaration of Independence but this only came about because John Adams deferred and chose him because he was a talented writer and an amiable person where, as John Adams is credited with stating in persuading Thomas Jefferson claiming when Jefferson claimed Adams was the stronger writer and better at expressing himself claimed that was why he could not be its author because he was far too disliked and anything he wrote would be torn apart by many of the others. James Madison is credited with crafting the initial wording of the constitution but again it became the work of all the signatories in some means or another. The United States is not traceable to a single person but instead to singular ideals expressed in that Declaration of Independence and a form of governance delineated in that Constitution and those are the two pillars upon which America rests.

 

Judaism is similar in that there were great people but no individual can be credited with establishing the religion. Granted when Hashem altered Avram’s name making it Avraham and Sari became Sarah, this would be the seminal point where the Covenant would be made and circumcision the sign of the contract which was to be undertaken by every male; yet the religion itself is transferred through one’s mother and not the father. To be a Jew one is required to have come from a Jewish mother. But Avraham received the Covenant with Hashem; he did not codify Judaism and did not write the Torah. Torah was transcribed by Moses which was why he is referred to as the lawgiver. But Moses transcribed Torah and led the Israelites from Egypt which is told in Torah in Exodus and retold in Deuteronomy. Moses went to great lengths to refute any deification including assuring that he would have no burial location which would be known so as to refute any worship giving all due credit to Hashem. Joshua was the leader of the Israelites when they conquered the Promised Land. Hashem kind of left out that after leaving Egypt the Israelites were going to have to conquer the Promised Lands but that was the way of forming a nation and claiming your place among nations in those early days of humankind. There also were numerous Judges and Prophets who ruled the Israelites but none were greater than the others in reflection and thus none were ever made to be more than wise and knowledgeable men. King Saul was the first Israelite king and was deficient in many ways but did preserve the nation passing it to King David more by default than any other means as the battle which claimed Saul’s son and heir to the throne also threw Saul into such grief that he took his own life, not the most glorious of endings. From King David the throne passed to King Solomon. King Solomon was regarded as one of the wisest of men but also had great failings chief amongst them were the inadequacy of his children who brought great harm upon the Israelites or Hebrews.

 

Torah the Founding Document of Judaism with Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights Founding Documents of the United States of America

Torah the Founding Document of Judaism
with Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights
Founding Documents of the United States of America

 

What is less known by many is that the Jews were the remnants of the Israelites. The kingdom ruled by Kings Saul, David, Solomon and so forth broke into two kingdoms with the northern Kingdom called Israel and the southern Kingdom named for its larger tribe, Judah, named Judea. Israel consisted of ten tribes and their priests and was conquered by the Assyrians and never actually heard from until modern times. These became known as the ten lost tribe of the Jews but were really the ten lost tribes of Israel. Jews are the remainder of the tribes of Benjamin and Judea and the Priestly classes, tribes, of the Levites and Kohanim. These two tribes basically merged into the entity of Judea and the people were the Judeans, obviously. With time people grew lazy and did not care to actually say Judeans so it eventually shortened to simply Jews. Judea traced back to Judah and Benjamin to Benjamin, two of the sons of Jacob. One need remember that when Judaism relates to Avraham it is almost always referenced as Avraham, Isaak and Jacob as these were the Patriarchs buried in Hevron in the cave bought by Avraham in which to bury Sarah. Still the story of the Jews hinges greatly on Jacob’s twelve sons but one was responsible for the survival of the entire family, Joseph. This was one of the more unusual stories amongst many unusual stories. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but because of this act he was in the right place at the right time to become a favored one of Pharaoh and was placed as Chancellor over Egypt second only in power to Pharaoh himself. He managed resources of food saving Egypt from a great famine and saved his family as well. This led to the eventual enslaving of his family which was then brought forth by Hashem through the vessels which were Moses with Aaron. As is said, the rest is history except in this case it is more accurate to say the rest is the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament and then history as that story has had a rebirth which was foretold in the Bible with the formation in a single day of the nation of modern Israel in its ancient homelands, though that is still being contested the eventual forming of Israel will include its ancient lands even if that takes a thousand years.

 

Judaism and the United States owe their formations to many individuals with none more vital than the rest and neither would exist if not for all of these great people all of whom were guided by principles and forces beyond their comprehension. Did these people know they were a part of something far greater than themselves, of course they did. But each group had the guidance of great people when required the most and both claim that Hashem is an integral part of their formation as a nation. Neither deifies any individual and instead when they use the term Creator their reference is to the Creator of all things as told in Genesis and both Judaism and the United States of America claim to owe their creation to that very same Creator and both claim the view that mankind was imbued and “endowed by that Creator with unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These principles are found throughout the laws and preaching in Judaism and were carried forth in Christianity and found their place in the Declaration of Independence where they were once again ensconced in the human mind and established repeatedly but most forcefully in Torah and thus made available for Thomas Jefferson to include in his declaration.

 

Beyond the Cusp 

 

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