Beyond the Cusp

June 25, 2017

The Scene Turned Ugly at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn

 

The rally was organized by extremist groups in the camp of Orthodox Jewry in both the United States and Israel who are against their congregants having to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) because they believe that their willingness to study Torah, most of them, should exempt all of them from service just in case they decide they desire to study Torah today. These groups are part but not all of the Haredi movement. What is interesting is that in the United States the Haredi have normal lives, as they would see things. In Israel, many of the Haredi do not work and instead spend their days studying Torah, or so the argument is made. This is why they claim they should not be forced to serve in the IDF. They claim that according to Torah, their study brings about peace and that is their contribution to the safety of Israel. This is not a universal belief and there are Haredi who serve in the IDF with great distinction in many cases. These soldiers are in risk should they visit friends or family in Haredi neighborhoods and one recently suffered broken ribs as he was attacked in his own Haredi neighborhood. This was a disgrace and the most despicable of actions by those Haredi who perpetrated this beating.

 

IDF Crest Insignia

 

This takes us back to the rally held at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, New York. This rally was anything but inexpensive. Those behind organizing this rally have deep pockets and cannot be taken lightly as with such pockets comes power. This makes the events which transpired at the rally of importance. The rally was announced as being held in sympathy with the Haredi in Israel and their soon being required to serve in the IDF except for a percentage who will be Torah scholars, but the average Haredi are going to be drafted, as are everyone else, to serve their term in the IDF. This is part of the effort to integrate the majority of the Haredi into mainstream Israeli society as this is quickly becoming a necessity as the numbers of Haredi in the population increases the remainder of the Israeli people will be unable to support the Haredi. This is being resisted and the movement has been joined by other extremist groups in the camp of Orthodox Jewry. The rally very quickly turned from supporting the Haredi cause to being grossly anti-Zionist and then finally anti-Israel. That is where the rally became troubling and unacceptable.

 

Having political views is one thing which is acceptable. Turning against the Jewish state by organized Jews and doing so in such a publically observable manner is unacceptable. Jews who believe that Israel has no right to exist because according to their belief and interpretation of Torah the Jews were to await the Messiah before reestablishing their homeland is one thing. Publically calling Israel an abomination or decrying her existence is something entirely different. By expressing such views in a public forum can only result in enforcing the enemies of Israel and possibly result in enemies of Israel acting claiming that even the Jews do not believe in or support fully the Jewish state. Calling for an end to Israel is calling for the elimination of the Israeli Jews who are going nowhere voluntarily. That is well over six-million Jews plus all the rest of the Israeli population. This is a serious breach of reality. The Jewish state is a fact and exists. Claiming that the Zionist Jews should have awaited the Messiah is a wonderful thought. There are also Jews who read the same Torah and believe that there need be a Jewish Israel and Jerusalem into which the Messiah can return. Obviously, both sides of this argument cannot be correct and to muddy the waters further there are those who believe that there will be no Messiah, but only a Messianic Age. There will be only one means of determining which of the three sides are correct, and that will require either the arrival of the Messiah or the Messianic Age. The arrival of the Messiah will, of course, answer many, many questions and settle who was correct, as if it makes any difference at that point.

 

That brings us back to now. There are far too few Jews for us to go around accusing one another of presumably unpardonable sins, at least not so publically. Jewish sects have had their differences in every age. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ben Azzai had a few differences over which Jews to this day can discuss and argue over the merits of the two Torah scholars. There are many who could rightfully declare that opposing the Jewish state today is tantamount to opposing the survival and welfare of the Jewish people as a whole. Debating Zionism was the biggest argument in Judaism a century ago but as of May 15, 1948 (5th of Iyyar, 5708) that debate was made mute. There is no reason to continue to beat a dead horse, as the saying goes. That debate is over, Israel lives and now it is the future of the Jewish people. Should Israel disappear the remainder of Judaism would assimilate and disappear except for a few stray groups clustered around their Rabbi and the Jews would become more of an oddity than a religion. That is the future of Judaism without Israel.

 

Yes, there are those with a differing view of Torah than the religious Zionists like myself. They believe the Messiah must come to establish Israel and we believe that Israel must have been established and Jerusalem brought into Jewish hands for the Messiah to have an Israel from within which to enter Jerusalem. We believe that Israel is not yet ready to receive the Messiah and until we hold Jerusalem as our capital undivided and wholly holy and ours and with all the holy cities of our Torah under Israeli law and with Jews as the citizens within. Then once we are worthy, the Messiah will come. That is when all the Jews are worthy and we will never be worthy as long as we are at one another’s throats. We are one people despite our differences and we need to act as one people. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ben Azzai had differences and debated their different interpretations all while each respecting the other. We could learn a lot from their friendly rivalry which was carried forth with high respect and never with animosity from one for the other. Debate within Judaism is almost a tradition, but always with respect and cordiality. As fellow Jews, we must act as what we are, brothers and sisters, a glorious family, the descendants of Abraham, Isaak and Jacob. Differences aside, we all say the same prayers and observe the same holidays and enjoy our Sabbath meals with family. While I understand the arguments of whether Israel was to be established before or by the Messiah and understand how many rise and fall over this argument, I see all of us as Jews first and foremost. We must all adopt this view for there are too few of us as has been the sad reality in every age. When we fight amongst ourselves, we only stir up wrath which will be our downfall. We must overcome out differences and learn to love one another as the siblings which we are. That is the long and the short of this and displays such as the one at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, New York can only serve to destroy the Jewish people making us but a footnote of history. Torah say such can never be, so apparently Torah says we must mend our ways.

 

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

 

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