We said it last issue, Jews have a big advantage over non-Jews when it comes to perceiving God's reality and the power of the Torah. Jews are better at recognizing other Jews.
“The principal Jewish sport is reading lists of names.” Names identify. While “Black Hebrew Israelites,” and “Completed Jews,” claim to be the "true Hebrews" and "New Israel," the "true Children of Abraham," the names on the plaques and awards are the names (if you want to know the truth) of the old Hebrews, “so-called Israel,” “so-called Jews.” They are the ones who give so insanely disproportionately to the symphonies and libraries. It's not the Christian "Perfected Jews" or Completed Jews who win the Nobel Prizes and Oscars but the Jews, the "so-called Jews," "so-called Israel."
This is the System, as the King of the Universe established it. It's just as Scripture says. His will be done. He is involved with mankind, He is faithful to His promises and, no matter how inscrutable His ways and methods, His will shall be done. His instructions come from Sinai, through His prophet Moses, and other prophets, by way of Heaven. They were recorded in the Bible for the benefit of all.
God instructs Moses:
"You will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This is the message you must give to the people of Israel." (Exodus 19:6).
The Jews are supposed to serve God and man. We see those Jewish names and recognize God's word made operative. This is God's sacred scheme. This is His Biblical plan, His ancient instructions unfolding.
The prophets said it would be this way. This is proof that God is with us - whether He regards us, human beings, as His children or servants, or both (or as something else entirely) - and that He fulfills His promises. This is proof that the God of Abraham lives. God is Who and What His ancient prophets told us. So we know: He is intimately involved with every speck of Creation; He is immanent and transcendant, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, forgiving and loving and gracious, just as the ancient Scripture says. His ways are inscrutable - who are we to second guess the One Creator of everything? - but He's given us good teachings.
Addressing the Jews, “the smallest of all nations” (Deuteronomy 7:7), God commands, “Be a blessing.” “You shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1 and 18:18, Ezekiel 34:26, and Zechariah 8:13.) Obviously, God determined that mankind needed something that would somehow, perpetually, elevate our whole race (and help us save our planet). So, as spark plugs make an engine go, God created the people of Israel as a kind of catalyst, an avant-garde or a spark plug among the nations. So it was foretold - as HaShem promises Abraham, “In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18) – and so we see it working. It’s part of the dynamic of the universe. It’s also proof that the God of Abraham is real.
Mankind’s ultimate destiny, as far as we can tell, is to eventually rise to such great heights that more of us – or perhaps, all of us? – will become, like Abraham (Isaiah 41:8), “friends of God.” The Jews – mankind’s elder brother, metaphorically, at least (See Exodus 4:22) - are supposed to turbocharge the process.
Sometimes the proof of this, of how the System works, comes clearly into view. It was remarkably clear to us this last Sabbath (Shabbos, Shabbat).
Shabbos, using another car metaphor, is like shifting a transmission to neutral at the start of the end of the week. It’s a 25-hour mental hygeine break. God gave it to Israel for the benefit of every nation. The institution of the weekend and the seven-day week came from here. It’s a good time to read.
“Blessed are those who do this, who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it.” (Isaiah 56:)
So we happened upon the stories of these men below. (The world mostly doesn’t regard them as Jews, any more than it does Bob Dylan, say, or the Three Stooges. It’s hard to tell, usually: you have to look beyond the surface and, as we’ve said, it helps, when you’re looking, if you know what to look for. But God gives us proof of Providence in their stories.)
1) A review of a new biography of Ben Hecht in The New York Review of Books, the latest, April 18th issue: Mr. Hecht, a great movie-writer, respected novelist and social activist, who – sometimes as “script doctor” but usually sole writer – wrote such classic, template-creating movies as The Front Page, the original Scarface, Underworld, Notorious, Gunga Din, Wuthering Heights, and (though he didn’t get an on-scene credit) Gone with the Wind.
2) In Friday’s New York Times, a long article titled “A Primer, Submitted for Your Approval,” on “the enduring legacy of The Twilight Zone.” TTZ was the brainchild of one man, Rod Serling, its creator, who wrote or co-wrote most of the scripts.
He was its on-screen narrator: intense, handsome, dark-haired, and dark-eyed, always in a neatly buttoned dark suit, dark tie and white shirt. TTZ’s 156 episodes, more than 60-years later, are still playing in re-runs. TTZ helped shape the imagination of two generations of future television- and movie-makers and kids all over the world, according to the “Primer,” and changed the nature of science fiction. Serling was a highly decorated paratrooper who was badly wounded in World War II. He didn’t go around boasting about being Jewish, any more than Ben Hecht did, but that didn’t make either of them less Jewish.
3) Also in Friday’s New York Times: Mr. S.I. Newhouse Jr., the late magazine publisher, had “the best eye and the best collection of postwar paintings ever put together,’ said his friend David Geffen, the entertainment mogul.” His collection is now up for sale. “Newhouse was something of a legend on the auction scene,” the piece says. “When he wasn’t overseeing a magazine empire that included Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Vogue and many other publications, he was frequently on the hunt for art.” Both he and his friend Geffen - a big music publisher and movie-maker (such as Shreck; he’s also renowned as a donor to hospitals, museums, and such - are Jews who, like Hecht and Serling, were only two or three generations away from frumkeit: serious Torah observance.
4) Also in Friday’s Times, two big shows devoted to the influence of Lincoln Kirstein, “on dance and other disciplines,” are running in New York. “In the dance world,” this piece says, “Kirstein (1907-1996) is something of a god.” In the museum world, too; he was an “ex-officio curator, catalog writer, all-around idea man and donor” of the Museum of Modern Art. A lady who was close to him said, “he was a polymath, precocious, driven, bipolar and to some extent bisexual… he was Jewish, and also what we would call a social justice warrior.”
5) In Saturday’s Times, Yoshua Bengio, 55, became a computer scientist after devouring the science fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov (another non-observant Jew), the story says. The son of Sephardic Jews from Morocco who left Casablanca to emigrate to Paris, he founded the research center at the University of Montreal’s Institute for Learning Algorithms. He’s “made Montreal a global center for artificial intelligence,” the reporter says. A winner of the Turing Prize – “considered the Nobel Prize of computing” – he’s “trying to marry science with how it can improve society.” Despite that kind of idealism, Dr. Bengio isn’t any more religiously observant than the others above. He likes to read Spinoza, the story says. (Spinoza, another non-observant Jew – in fact, his local community “excommunicated” him – was the Dutch Renaissance philosopher of pantheism. He didn’t and couldn’t know what we know today, about physics, and history; the God of Abraham seemed improbable to him.)
6) A local figure, Sanford Nelson, is trying to remake a rundown section of town including 30 buildings, according to a big photo essay in the Free Press’s Friday business section. Big changes are coming to our main “farmers’ market” area, and this fellow - who is, for a change, Jewishly observant – is leading it. No one could ever tell from this article that he’s Jewish.
Who Gets Credit?
God forbid anyone thinks we’re bragging. The hero here is God, not man, nor even the Jewish People. HaShem gave Israel the Torah and it’s Torah with its values that super-charges Israel - and, incidentally, makes the Jews a nation. That Divine influence dissipates quickly, in a very few generations, but, when it’s fresh and strong, it makes the Jews seem almost like a super-race.
This is not an advertisement for the Jews but an advertisement for God and His Torah – including, especially, the Seven Noahide Commandments, the Torah’s living core – and for this Divine System we’re discussing. Everyone can’t be a Jew but anyone can learn from Torah. Torah is the teacher that leads to godly values – which are unbeatable values – and knowledge of God Himself.
This is, simply, the path of Abraham, God’s friend.