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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

G-d, Intentions and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 14, 2007


sanctification.jpg

What really struck a cord with me at that time was the analogy of Homer Simpson. Homer, like us, despite his failings and evident flaws as a human being tried his best to do what was good. He may have failed miserably but he tried his best. And THAT, in my opinion, makes Homer a good person. Why, I asked myself, would a just God punish Homer?

This ties in with what I sent out as a New Years Greeting the other day:

“The world was created on the 25th of Elul… Thus we find that Primal Adam was created on the first of Tishrei…at the 10th hour he disobeyed God’s command, at the 11th he was judged…. The Holy One said to him: Adam, you are a precedent for your progeny. Just as you came before me for judgment and I absolved you, so shall your progeny come before Me for judgment and I will absolve them. When? On Rosh Hashanah, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month.'”

Somehow we have to approach the Days of Awe with hope, with confidence that G-d will forgive us and write us a New Year. He will, Tradition says, but we have to want it. Teshuvah is more about willingness to change and taking the possible steps towards such change, that it is about actually succeeding in making those changes. G-d forgives. G-d meets us on the road, however far away we are. All we have to do is take one step at a time towards Him in willingness.

G-d really is that simple-minded. Life isn’t about being good or bad, saint or sinner life is about walking with G-d in what ever manner we are capable of, and trust that when the last Neila Prayer is said and the last Shofar has been blown for us, we will be exactly where we are supposed to be, because until then we try our best to get closer to G-d on a personal level, and that is all Life is about.

He will absolve us if we let Him.

Amen

Posted in G-d, Hope, Intentions, Neila Prayer, Rosh Hashanah, Teshuvah, The Days of Awe | Leave a Comment »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

Who deserves the Credit for the Good we get?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 2, 2007


I get a lot of thinking and inspiration from the guys and gals over at De-Conversion – they have the most spiritual and human discussions I have come across in a very long time – somehow they strike me as very Jewish in their approach (sorry Guys, but you do…:-) ).

 

From De-Conversion:“Next time you have the opportunity to pray over a meal, thank those who deserve to be thanked. In fact, next time you have an opportunity, volunteer to pray.”

Funny, I did this very thing before eating supper earlier this evening. I sometimes get a little overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider my marraige. My wife has been a marvel of patience and understanding to me, especially during this sometimes very stressful time of leaving my Christian faith. She really is the best.

I sometimes get the overwhelming urge to show gratitude, to thank someone or something for my good blessings! As a Christian, I always thanked God for those many blessings, because i really have been most fortunate. This evening, I felt this vestigial urge, even as a non-Christian, to say a prayer of gratitude.

Instead of thanking God for the food, I turned to my wife and thanked her. I feel just as blessed as ever.

I think we can learn a lot from the discussions on de-conversion – because these people are right – why exclude the entire process involved in all we get in our lives? Most of us thank G-d by route, without really thinking that for things to be available to us, human hands have to be involved.

 

The surgeon competently completing a complicated operation is doing that based on skills, talents, inclinations, and hard work – from my point of view ultimately G-d is responsible for all of that – but it took the listening to his/her personality (G-d’s Voice?) to step up and get the education that made him/her the competent surgeon, and for this he/she deserves credit.

 

Torah Teaches us that G-d is the Ultimate Source of everything, so in the end it really doesn’t matter who we thank for our good – G-d or the people involved in the process of that good. But as the Blogger above that I quoted, HeIsSailing, says – some times gratitude can be overwhelming, and we need to express it – so let’s do that, which ever way we feel is appropriate. From where I am standing it gets to the right place in either case.

 

The Talmudic Sages teach that a Frum Jew should say at least 100 Blessings a day – perhaps they were trying to convey the spiritual (not religious) truth that gratitude begets gratitude:

 

“Rabbi Meir said, ‘A person is obligated to bless 100 blessing every day, as the Torah says: ‘Now Israel, what does God ask from you, but only to fear Hashem your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your God, with all of your heart and with all of your soul. To guard the commands of Hashem and His statutes which I command you today, for your good.” (Deut. 10:12,13)

“Baruch ata adonai eloheinu, melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem haaretz… (Blessed are you, L-rd Our G-d, Who bring bread from the Earth.)” – the Jewish Blessing over Bread – can basically be used for any meal as long as there is bread (or any other grain product) present.

 

Funnily enough, the idea that it’s a process and that PEOPLE are involved – from the farmer to the baker and the cook – is implicit in Jewish Thought.

 

Acknowledging the efforts of a Woman in the Home is also a matter that is self-evident in Judaism. On Friday Night (Erev Shabbat) before the Shabbat Dinner a Jewish Husband is obligated to read Proverbs 31:10-31:

 

“A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value.
Her husband’s heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune.
She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly,
She is like a merchant’s ships; from afar she brings her sustenance.
She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids.
She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms.
She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night.
She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle.
She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute.
She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool.
Bedspreads she makes herself; linen and purple wool are her clothing.
Well-known at the gates is her husband as he sits with the elders of the land.
Garments she makes and sells, and she delivers a belt to the peddler.
Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day.
She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat.
Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her:
“Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all.”
False is grace, and vain is beauty; a God-fearing woman, she should be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.”

Although it’s an obligation to give this thanks to one’s Wife on Shabbat Evening – no-one says one cannot say it every day, or when one wants to tell one’s Wife that what she does is appreciated.

 

So, thanking people doesn’t take away from either Gratitude or G-d. Perhaps it even deepens our understanding of the complicated processes that are behind of what we eat, what we wear, where we live etc?

 

“Oh and if you’re interested in taking up the tradition of reciting 100 Blessings a day, here’s a nifty little Reform resource to help get you started.”

Thank you TikkunGer.com for providing that little tool – I will use it as soon as my printer has ink in it…

Posted in 100 Blessings, Blessings, Informed Choice, Jewish Prayer, Jewish Spirituality, Judaism, Leaflet, Living Jewishly, On G-D, Prayer, Reform, Reform Resource | 4 Comments »

Idolatrous Messianic Nationalism

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 2, 2007


Amazing how easy it is to substitute Israel for the US in this Clip…

clipped from content4.clipmarks.com
Religious language is always double edged. It is properly used as prophetic critique that calls for repentance. But it can be twisted into a self-sacralizing rhetoric that associates God with human projects of power. The United States has often fallen into this temptation to use religious language as idolatrous messianic nationalism. When this happens it is the duty of the churches to challenge such language and reveal its opposition to the authentic good news of the gospel. In 1934 the German theologians of the Confessing Church disassociated themselves from a German Christianity that identified Christianity with Aryan nationalism. I believe
the Americans churches must make a similar critique of American messianic
nationalism today.

blog it

Actually it’s not hard at all, after reading some Leibowitz and thinking about it. I wonder…where this puts me religiously…???

Posted in Idolatrous Messianic Nationalism | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Quran in the crapper – A Hate Crime – Part II

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 1, 2007


 

Hate-crime arrests in Quran desecrations at Pace University

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 23-year-old man was arrested Friday on hate-crime charges after he threw a Quran in a toilet at Pace University on two separate occasions, police said.

Stanislav Shmulevich of Brooklyn was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and aggravated harassment, both hate crimes, police said. It was unclear if he was a student at the school. A message left at the Shmulevich home was not immediately returned.

The Islamic holy book was found in a toilet at Pace’s lower Manhattan campus by a teacher on Oct. 13. A student discovered another book in a toilet on Nov. 21, police said.

Muslim activists had called on Pace University to crack down on hate crimes after the incidents. As a result, the university said it would offer sensitivity training to its students.

The school was accused by Muslim students of not taking the incident seriously enough at first. Pace classified the first desecration of the holy book as an act of vandalism, but university officials later reversed themselves and referred the incident to the New York Police Department’s hate crimes unit.

The incidents came amid a spate of vandalism cases with religious or racial overtones at the school. In an earlier incident on Sept. 21, the school reported another copy of the Quran was found in a library toilet, and in October someone scrawled racial slurs on a student’s car at the Westchester County satellite campus and on a bathroom wall at the campus in lower Manhattan. Police did not connect Shmulevich to those incidents.

Treatment of the Quran is a sensitive issue for Muslims, who view the book as a sacred object and mistreating it as an offense against God. The religion teaches that the Quran is the direct word of God.

What upsets me more than anything is the fact that this guy’s Jewish. I heard this story, without knowing this guys name or heritage, and I immediately saw images of the Nazis burning Torah Scrolls during WWII.

Desecrating another’s religious Scriptures is not what a Yid should be doing. His behavior is chilul Hashem. Regardless of civilian law, it’s not acceptable according to Torah.

Posted in Chilul Hashem | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Zionist Quote

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 22, 2007


There must not be one law for the Jew and another for the Arabs….In saying this, I do not assume that there are tendencies toward inequality or discrimination. It is merely a timely warning which is particularly necessary because we shall have a very large Arab minority. I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish State by what it will do with the Arabs, just as the Jewish people at large will be judged by what we do or fail to do in this state where we have been given such a wonderful opportunity after thousands of years of wandering and suffering.” (Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error, Page 566 – written in December 1947 – [My Emphasis])


Oh, Israel, how you have fallen!Devarim 24:17: “Thou shalt not pervert the justice due to the stranger…”I cannot let go of this issue – because it is so grave.Where are the Prophets of today? Where are the men and women of G-d that will approach the King and spell out the Law to him? Who do we approach to make Jerusalem repent?

By all means don’t believe in Torah! Don’t believe there is a G-d! That is your choice, but don’t pervert Torah and don’t pervert what the Founders of the Modern State of Israel pledged themselves to. Don’t drag their good name in the dust and mud, just because you are overtaken by hatred and egoism and have forgotten that The Land is a gift to be shared with those living within Her.

This and several other Blog entries from me the past days are sure to confuse many of my detractors and opponents, because they so very strongly believe that I am a blind defender of Israel, who only wish to kill all Palestinians and develop “Greater Israel”.

They truly cannot be more wrong about that – but that they believe this is completely their own doing – nowhere have I said different than what I have been saying for the last three years (the time I have been discussing this in Blogs and in Care2).

Their own prejudices, antisemitism and blindness have crippled their understanding of what I have actually been saying. They have assumed that because I am Jewish I am also blindly accepting of anything the Government of Israel, the Settlers and zealous religious people have done or are doing.

What I have been doing – and will continue to do – is give a balanced and nuanced, fair hearing to both sides of the conflict. That they have fanatically and violently been giving voice to the Palestinians’ side has meant that I as a Co-Host of a large Human Rights Group, have been forced to, in the name of Justice, fight their biased, antisemitic, anti-zionist and violent propaganda with common sense, facts and reason. Anyone with a brain and a mind to use that brain can see that in anything I have written on the matter.

For some reason it has been rather quiet from that front (the Radical Far Left) lately, which has permitted me to clarify my position without having to “do battle” with fanatics at every turn.

Let those who have a mind to read, read and those who only wish to attack blindly without sense and reason remain blind and deaf to the truth.

Posted in Bigotry, Chilul Hashem, Justice | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Racist Jewish State:

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 20, 2007


Knesset Deprives Arabs of Right to Purchase State Land An Israeli Arab brought a case to the Israeli Supreme Court claiming he had been refused the right to buy Israeli land owned by the Jewish National Fund. The high court found in favor of the plaintiff and ruled that the State must change its policy and allow any citizen, whether Jewish or not, to buy such land. The attorney general subsequently approved such changes. The bill voted on yesterday is an attempt to do an “end around” the court ruling. It would enshrine in law the racist notion that only Jews should be able to purchase JNF land, while other Israeli citizens should not.Remember the paeans to Israeli democracy you hear from the lips of the hoch-Zionists: “the only democracy in the Middle East,” etc., etc. You can can that now. An ethnocracy maybe, but not a democracy–especially not if this piece of crap passes on its final reading (yesterday’s vote was the first reading). Haaretz’s editorial today pretty much says it all: A Racist Jewish State:

This bill reflects an abasement of the Zionist enterprise to lows never imagined in the Declaration of Independence. Even though the Jewish National Fund purchased the lands for the Jewish people in the Diaspora, the State of Israel has already been established and these lands must now serve all its citizens.

For those living for tomorrow and not the past, the aim is to create in Israel a healthy, progressive state where the needs of the two peoples should concern the leaders and legislators. The Jewish National Fund’s land policy counters the interests of the state and cannot discriminate by law against the minority living in Israel.

What is most pathetic about the vote is that a mere 10 Jewish MKs could muster enough outrage to vote against this travesty of justice. Even Ami Ayalon, the supposed Labor Party paragon of Israeli-Palestinian understanding voted Aye. The final vote was 64-16. I know in the history of the world’s greatest legislative folly this is but one example. But for Israel it’s truly a golden one.


Today I am grieving – and it’s not even the 9th of Av yet…This is so against Torah, so against anything Judaism stands for, Secular or Religious. It is not tzedakah and it’s not tikkun olam. How did it come about?

Two things – Arrogance and Ignorance.

A deep disregard for Torah, which safeguards the Stranger’s right along with the home born, and teaches us that we should have one and the same law for both.

A profound ignorance about how the Land is bound to Torah – and how “Jewish” is intricately connected to Torah – if there’s not Torah, there is literally no “Jewish”.

The Bill doesn’t reflect the vision of Zionism as David Ben-Gurion saw it – let’s not forget what was said in the Declaration of Independence:

WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

A child can see the injustice of a legislation that denies any Israeli citizens to purchase land inside Israel. This bill is not what the 37 signatories of the Declaration had in mind, nor what they aimed at when they first set out to create a secure Homeland for the Jews.

The bill that denies the non-Jewish Israeli the right and possibility to purchase land there is chilul Hashem. Yes, G-d gave the land to the decedents of Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov, but that gift came with a provision – that one and the same Law should be for the Israelite as well as the Stranger living with him.

Oh, I know that the Sages have stated that “stranger” means “convert” – but Written Torah has made no such statement – to Written Torah a stranger is any non-Jew sojourning with the People, that includes Israeli Arabs. Honestly – if it’s not present in Written Torah – how can it be present in Oral Torah, where would the Sages have derived it from? For more on the matter of the Stranger: On the Matter Of the Righteous Gentile. Injustice and distortion of Torah has never led to anything but heartbreak and disaster for Israel.

While it can be argued that Israel had the “moral high ground” in 1948, this cannot be argued in the face of violation of simple Torah.

If you are not religious, let’s argue this from another angle: That of Human Rights and simple common decency – another corner stone of modern Judaism, that is even argued and protected by atheist, humanist Jews – the UDHR:

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 17.
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

So, the bill passed that denies non-Jewish citizens of Israel the right to purchase land within Israeli borders are simply illegal. It should go “poof” on itself, because it cannot exist side by side with the UDHR – and it certainly cannot exist along side any kind of Judaism that aims at being Jewish.

To have legislation that discriminates one group within a society, under any pre-text is immoral, and when it targets or excludes groups based on ethnicity/culture, it’s called Racism.

Jewish Nationalism is good – Jewish Racism is shaming G-d to the World, and is one step from blasphemy.

Shalom Shabbat!

Another link:

The Magnes Zionist

If you are a Care2 Member there are discussions of this Blog Entry in the following Groups:
http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=9734&pst=849466
http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=8097&pst=983767
http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=5893&pst=751342
http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=67&pst=982958
http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=1142&pst=763826

Posted in 9th of Av, Chilul Hashem, Israel, Israeli Arabs, Torah, UDHR | 4 Comments »

Jude, Kike…

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 14, 2007


Jude

The words don’t bother me – the association does – the past experiences of violence – the times I’ve had to flee from gangs of young men screaming, yelling that word, threatening to beat me, rape my wife and kill my dog…that’s what ran through my mind today as I heard yet another throng of young adults yell that word “Jude” as I went to the yard with my dog and wife.

And I know that they are taught this at home, in the church, in the youth club…just a few weeks ago a middle aged man yelled that after me when I tried to cross the street out-side my house and happened to get in the way of his car (in a place where cars HAVE to give way to pedestrians) and threatened to kill me next time he sees me.

No, the words don’t bother me – but the threats inherent behind them do.

Posted in Jewish People | Leave a Comment »

And you shall live in terror? – Parasha Ki Tavo

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 8, 2007


Because these ideas have been on my mind – I am bumping this Dvar Torah up to visibility.

“And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.” (Devarim/Deu 27:2-3)

I’d like to connect this Parsha to what I wrote on Parasha Shoftim about Israel’s responsibility and obligation to Live by Torah’s Ethical Imperative in respect to the Stranger.

When Moshe is about to die, and he instructs the People one last time about what they are to do when they have entered the Land that G-d has given them: First they are to offer thanks to G-d for the Land, for the Covenant and for personal privileges and accountability, but before they do that they are to make sure that the Covenant and the Laws of that Covenant are visible to all who come to dwell there – and then the consequences of adhering or not adhering to the Laws of that Covenant is to be read out loud – as a consecration of the Land. It is as if G-d wants to make sure that His Torah is thoroughly imprinted, not just in the People, but in the very Land. Violating Torah means Violating the Land, because Torah is imprinted on the Land.

While each Jew is certainly personally responsible for obeying Torah, and are asked to affirm this in Devarim/Deu 26:2-10, this Parasha clearly speaks about the ENTIRE people as a Collective – and not just the People, but the stranger as well – Devarim/Deu 26:11. If they fail to observe the statutes of Torah, horrible things will happen to them.

This is where Judaism gets its idea of Reward and Punishment from. The first time Torah speaks of Reward for obedience is in Shemot/Exo 20:12 – “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee.” The implication of a Punishment if disobeyed is also there. Violating Torah means Violating the Land.

People don’t want to hear about the consequences of disobeying Torah – they would much rather hear about the Blessings enumerated in the chapter following the Curses – yet the Curses (Deu 27:15-26; Deu 28:16-19) come before the Blessings (Deu 28:3-6) thus somehow spelling out that we should be aware more of the negative consequences of our actions, rather than what we can gain from acting right.

In Deu 28:66, G-d admonishes in a manner that connects to the present situation in Israel:

The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival.” (Deu 28:66)

Over and over Israel is warned that forgetting the Stranger, the Widow and the Orphan will put her in the dog-house with G-d. Over and over, also in this Parasha, is she admonished that wrong-doing has its price. So why does she insist on wronging the Stranger? Why does the Modern State of Israel keep forgetting the Holy Charge given to her in ancient times? Deu 1:16 (2), Deu 10:18-19 (2), Deu 14:29, Deu 24:17, Deu 24:19-21 (3), Deu 26:11-13 (3), Deu 27:19, Deu 31:11-12 (2) – to treat the Stranger equal to the Home-born?

This makes me think that the consequences of not caring for those, also those not Jewish, that need it or to wrong ANY human being, is the terror wrought on Israel today. Deu 27:19 is tied to Deu 16:20 by the word JUSTICE – the promise of life and prosperity for the pursuit of Justice is echoed in Deut 28:66, in a manner that almost makes my skin crawl. How can she not see this, and what will it take for her to wake?

Posted in Deuteronomium 27:2-3, Dvar Torah, Holy Charge, Israel, Judaism, Justice, Modern State of Israel, Parasha Shoftim, Reward and Punishment, Torah, Weekly Parasha | 1 Comment »

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 »

 
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