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Archive for July 7th, 2007

Talking Torah in Lieu of Politics – Daniel Sieradski

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 7, 2007

I grabbed an excellent Blog by Daniel Sieradski this morning, after reading it with increasing joy and dread I decided that I liked it, and that in general I agree with what he has to say, and wish I could have said it just as well.

“I began by saying that you’re never going successfully appeal to the sympathies of the American Jewish community on behalf of Palestinians. Why should we care about people whom, by and large, we believe are trying to kill us? Rather than focusing on the conflict as a Palestinian rights or even human rights issue, when speaking with other Jews, we should focus on the occupation as a Jewish issue. How is the occupation bad for the Jews? How is it bad for Israel? What are the sacrifices we’re making, in terms of lives and resources, in order to hold onto the Territories?”

This is a novel idea to me. For the longest time I have been discussing with Pro-Palestinian Antisemites on-line, always on THEIR terms which naturally leaves much constructive discourse to be wished for, and I realized that much time have been spent explaining WHAT I DO NOT BELIEVE, in response to their violent and hysterical allegations both against me, as a Jew, and the basic ideas THEY believe I stand for. This idea of discussing what is going on in Israel from a Jewish perspective, in terms of what is the cost in resources, but also – I think – in credibility. As one of the more moderate debaters in a Group expressed it, quoting one of my Torah Blogs:

“The fact that others do not live this way, does not free Israel from her Holy Obligation of pursuing Justice nor does it give Israel a mandate to disregard the plight of others, when there is a need or when there is an opportunity to practice Torah. ‘How can Israel be a Light to the Nations if she does not Shine?’

How indeed?!!

This idea too was echoed by Daniel Sieradski, and though I might not agree with him totally on the solution (there are after all other ways of practicing Judaism and Being Jewish, than Orthodoxy) I think it’s achievable if presented solely as a matter of Being Jewish:

“But more importantly: What is it that we’re fighting to preserve by having a Jewish state? What is it that we stand for as a people? And what is the value of having a state if, in the process of establishing and defending it, we sacrifice that which we represent in the world (or otherwise alter that representation to be something no longer consistent with our tradition)? I went on to say that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the Jewish people to do teshuvah: To turn back to G-d and embrace the Torah.”

The question this raises with me, is exactly WHAT is “our Tradition”? If it means that we all have to become haredi and eat glatt kosher, I think it will be both counter-productive in terms of the long tradition of tolerance that Judaism emcompass, and impossible to implement – there simply are too many secular humanist Jews that value their critical thinking and independent understanding of what it is to be Jewish.

“We’re all the children of Adam. Love your brother as yourself. We’re all created in the image of G-d. These are the values we stand for: The unity of being. The oneness of G-d. The fellowship of humanity.”

Do I hear an echo of Dr Ellis Rivkin here? I like this – I loved his book “The Shaping of Jewish History“.

This, I hope, means that Daniel Sieradski realizes the predicament of the Stranger, as out-lined in Written Torah in terms of the right to practice Torah and embrace G-d without the distortion of what some consider to be the only “acceptable Tradition“. After all, the Stranger has always been part of Jewish Life and Tradition.

“…whether we’re committing a chilul Hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name, via the desecration of our legacy as a righteous nation) or a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the name, via embodying the highest principles and aspirations of our tradition). Thus, it’s a more effective strategy for addressing the issues surrounding Israel and the occupation.”

I have noticed that many Settlers are not aware that they are being sold land that is not Israel’s to sell. Organizations aimed at facilitating aliyah for European and American Jews deliberately lie about the legality of land deeds, and actively encourage Jews to Settle in the Territories. One example is Elkana:

“Elkana or Elqana is a Jewish settlement in the Samaria region of the West Bank. It was founded in 1977 and as of 2002 it had a population of 4,000. It was established as one the earliest settlements after 64 Knesset members signed a bill to allow the use of state land in the area for construction.

Elkana is sited just to the east of the Green Line, and is adjacent to the city of Rosh HaAyin. From Wikipedia

From Tehilla Web-site:

“Where else but Elkana can you have such a variety of davining closeby? We have nine synagogues and umpteen minyanim. We’re heavily into Torah learning — daily adult Kollel (men and women), huge Bnei Akiva, non-stop shiurim, and many Daf Yomi groups. Where else but Elkana can your children attend school close by all the way through college? Elkana has pre-schools, a mamlachti dati elementary school, Yeshiva and Ulpana from 7th-12th grades, and Orot College for girls. Where else but Elkana can you enjoy a wealth of cultural activities? We have an active Community Center with chugim for children and adults, and we’re only 35 minutes from Tel Aviv. Elkana has the warmth of a yishuv, together with the opportunities of a large community. And, as a local council, where many of our leaders are second generation Elkana-ites, we decide everything for ourselves.”

Chilul Hashem, indeed.

And painful to know, because it means that dismantling those Settlements will mean heartbreak and grief for people who worked hard to make a life for themselves.

Posted in Chilul Hashem, Teshuvah | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Broken Peace – Parasha Pinchas

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 7, 2007

One of the most powerful commentaries on Pinchas’ act is written into the very fabric of Torah itself. The Masoretes – the 8th and 9th century rabbinic sages who codified the written Torah into the version we know today – instructed that the word “Shalom” in the term “Brit Shalom” should be written with a broken letter vav. As a result, every Torah scroll now bears this inner message: peace achieved through zealotry and violence is an incomplete peace – a “broken peace,” as it were.For an era beset by growing violence committed in “the name of God,” this one small pen-stroke makes a profound statement indeed… From Radical Torah

I cannot help but feel that this ties in with what I wrote last year on Parasha Shoftim and Parasha Ki Tavo.

If a Peace achieved by zealousness is considered a Broken Peace by Torah itself, then it raises the question what is a WHOLE Peace?

Perhaps the answer lies in what Pinchas failed to recognize in his zealousness – Chessed – Compassion – Justice, the righteous punishment for a crime cannot be meted out without Compassion. A willingness to look beyond the actions of the other and consider all the details of his or her motivations, rather than assume the actions are all there is to a person, or a nation.

Perhaps we need to step away from “G-D” for a while and not assume that just because we read it in Torah it’s the entire Truth? Or maybe we need a new way of reading Torah?

Again I am reminded of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “there is truth, the truth of the truth, and peace. Truth is: a kid stole an apple. The truth of the truth is: the kid was hungry. Peace is: Nobody stole anything; give the kid an apple!” (Heard from Reb Shlomo Carlebach)

Zealousness, like anger and love has a tendency to cloud our judgment. We are so caught up in the feelings of the moment that all we see is that something dear to us is being violated, and while Pinchas was right on principle, by the Letter of the Law, he lost sight of the Spirit of the Law, and that’s where his peace became a broken one – he forgot the truth of the Truth and Peace in his fervor for G-d.

In my later Blog Entries I have gone after Israel pretty badly. Quite honestly I feel that she deserves it. I love her, she is my Home, though I don’t live there, she is the one place in the World where I know I have a place, should I ever need it. But I also think she is way off base. There’s nothing wrong with her zealousness. She’s got Chutzpah alright – but she is forgetting Compassion. She has gotten stuck in the role of Pinchas, and while it might bring some sort of Peace and Salvation for the Jewish People, it won’t be a whole, lasting peace.

Shalom Shabbat!

Posted in Chessed, Compassion, Israel, Numbers 25:10-30:1, Parasha Pinchas, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Torah, Weekly Parasha, Zealousness | Leave a Comment »

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