This is the Month of Sivan
If Jews Were Any Good
Palestinianism Versus Prophecy
This is the Month of Sivan
Israel’s ancient ancestors associated this month with Gemini, the Twins. Which teaches, the Rabbis say, that the Torah is designed for all mankind; for the Twins, B’nei Israel and B’nei No’ach. Even though the Torah is “the inheritance of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4), it’s God’s gift, through the agency of Israel, to B’nei Noach. The Torah is for everyone.
The first day of a month – the first “rosh” or “head” of a month – is called “rosh chodesh” and it’s regarded in Hebrew thought as the concentrated version or strongest representation of the theme or spirit of the month - the quintessence of that month.
Someone born on that day, Rosh Chodesh, would be expected to be unusually strongly connected to the “forces” of the month.
On Sivan 6 there’s Shavuot, or Pentecost (penta, fifty), the Feast of Weeks, the big Torah holiday celebrating the anniversary of matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. It’s one of the three great Torah festivals along with Passover and Sukkot. It’s joyful. It celebrates the greatest gift in history, the most vivid connection ever between a whole tribe of men and God.
HaShem liberated Israel from Egypt but no people can succeed if they lack law and wisdom. So right after getting them out of Egypt God gave Israel the Guidance, or Law: first, the Noachide Law, the social laws, the moral heart of the Torah, at the Marah oasis (Exodus 15:26). Second, at Mt. Sinai, in a trackless wilderness, fifty days – why they call the holiday Pentacost - after leaving Egypt: the Torah. That is, the Ten Words introducing the whole Law, the Revelation of all the laws, commandments, statutes and testimonies memorialized in the Five Books of Moses, the heart and foundation of the whole Biblical system.
The Torah is designed to make and keep Israel a unique eternal nation. The question is, for whose benefit? Just for Israel? The Rabbis unanimously say “No!” Just by the fact that Shavuot – the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah - falls in Sivan, the Twins’ month, God has made it plain that the Torah’s for everyone, for the benefit and enlightenment of both twins.
So … let’s just say that the essence of Sivan is twins and the duality of the Torah. If anyone ever wanted someone to come along and devote himself to explicating this phenomenon, delving into the Noahide Law and exploring the dynamics of the Sheva Mitzvot b’nei Noach - the 7M or Seven Commandment system - in the light of the Torah, it may, when you think about it, not be that peculiar to get someone born on Sivan 1.
It came as a surprise to me… Especially since I was born in May – and my “sun sign” isn’t Gemini but Taurus. I’d never given any thought to any connection between my birthday, Shavuot and rosh chodesh. It was years and years after I’d encountered the Noahide Law, and long after we founded First Covenant, that I first heard about it.
You have to laugh… I was thinking about this during the shutdown with this Covid-19 dever/plague… God’s ways are mysterious but then He occasionally makes you know with certainty that He directs everything.
If only one could see these sorts of things going forward… Start with a Jewish mother with a passion for justice and knowledge and a dazzlingly multi-lingual father. Bring their kid into the world on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Name him after his mother’s recently deceased father Meir, “giver of light.”
Sometimes you’ve gotta laugh. I remember my mother once musing, early in my childhood, “maybe you’ll be a writer?” Is it possible, after all, that I finally found the right field to be in, a metier, a life-work?
One Year Ago
More than a year ago now, on the morning of May 21, 2019, the 15th of Iyar, the month before Sivan, 5799, Jack Saunders died. As we noted in the Sivan, June, Covenant Connection:
Jack E. Saunders lived and died a God-conscious, God-loving Noahide, a scholar, and God’s servant. With his loving wife, Joan, he arranged his own burial, in a plain wood casket, and was buried the same day he died. He cheerfully anticipated getting all his many questions answered - by Moses himself, if possible.
As for us, his survivors and Torah-study partners, we hope to study with Jack in next world – and find out what he learned from Moses.
If Jews Were Any Good
We’ve had some conversations about anti-Semitism lately with people who call themselves Christians, who claimed to lack any bad feelings for Jews.
If Christians thought Jews were any good, they wouldn’t be Christians.
Quite a few time-serving convicts have been released from prison due to the coronavirus. Justice is or should be a principal Noachide concern – a principal principle. That is, all humanity should be vitally concerned with government doing what is just and right. Criminal penalties are or should be a fundamental Noachide concern.
For awhile our heads were spinning. But then we recalled a basic principle from a great Noachide teacher of the Law – the Law, the great moral law discoverable from reason and experience, apart from what’s been specifically revealed in the Torah of Moses – Cesare Beccaria.
He himself credited this thought to his spiritual Teacher, Rousseau. He wrote about it in the classic pamphlet, On Crimes and Their Punishments (Livorno, Italy, 1764), that meant so much to Americans like John Adams and Ben Franklin.
“Every punishment that’s more severe than necessary is, to that extent, unjust.”
Justice in criminal proceedings is a pillar of Noachism… It finally occurred to us: It’s better, generally, to err on the side of mercy than to risk punishing excessively.
Prophecy vs. Palestinianism
One of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible is almost a throwaway line. It comes in the midst of a vivid, almost crushing litany of curses. To paraphrase:
If you, Israel, don’t acquit yourselves honorably, you will receive the following awful punishments… BUT, when I banish you from the Chosen Land, be assured, nobody else will ever make a go of the land in your place.
It’s an extremely bold prophecy, readily falsifiable, as scientists say: if it’s false you know it’s false; there’s no weasel room; you can’t quibble about specific predictions like that. But Scripture couldn’t be clearer. Leviticus 26:32. Leviticus 26:33. Leviticus 26:43. Absent the people of Israel, the Jews, the Land of Israel will lie desolate.
How could anyone have made that promise, so many thousands of years ago? The land wasn’t desert! It’s no polar wasteland. It’s part of the heart of the ancient Fertile Crescent and in some ways the heart of the world. Peoples of not just a few but many nations had thrived there for millenia. Just look at the seven Cana’anite nations, the Hittites and Hivites and Girgishites, the Jebusites etc., before God reserved it for Israel and drove them off. It’s unnatural for a good, blessed land like that to lie desolate. But that’s the ancient prophecy. And it’s exactly what happened.
Babylon’s armies under Nebuchadnezzar – there’s an instrument of the Almighty who didn’t end well (Daniel 4:33) - destroyed the First Jewish Commonwealth. Rome destroyed the Second. After each destruction they pretty much banished all the Jews. The land became desolate fast. People came to regard “the Jews’ land” - as many called it, all through the long millenia – as being permanently cursed.
Mark Twain came to the land – “the State of Missouri could be split into three Palestines,” he wrote, “and there would then be enough material left for part of another –possibly a whole one” – a few decades before the early Zionists started clawing their way back to it. He spoke of it in awe.
“Palestine is desolate and unlovely.” “It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.” “And why should it be otherwise?” he asked. “Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?” (The Innocents Abroad, 1869)
One of the many extremely irritating things about the so-called Palestinian movement, even beyond its proclivity for inflicting terror and mayhem on innocent people, is the way it tries to erase all that history, and pretends that those ancient prophecies are just “further Jewish lies.”
According to Palestinianism, “from time immemorial” the direct ancestors of the Jew-hating Arabs who claim the entirety of the Holy Land today lived on the land, in olden times; worked the land, thrived on the land, and made the land their own.
That this is hogwash is incidentally visible when you look upon the land today. Barren sand dunes became transformed into beautifully gardened institutions of science and higher learning, like the Weizman Institute – “it looks like Ann Arbor [home of the University of Michigan, near Detroit] with date palms!” I babbled, stunned by the blooming flowers and the glory of it all, in late December – and Haifa’s Technion. By contrast, see what the “Palestinians” have wrought. Bedouin villages asleep in the middle of the workday, trash-strewn, nasty, “desolate,” by every definition of that word, despite some mosques and the muzzeins’ loud pre-recorded summonses.
Palestinianism paints the Jews as white colonialists lacking any connection to the Land and the Arabs with their claims as the “natives,” like Indians in America, as indigenous to the land as the very dust and weeds. But if you check the records you find that their not very distant ancestors, mostly in the late 19th and early 20th century, came to the Land from distant lands – Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, the Arab Peninsula - have nothing to do with Israel.
“The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” Those seven words sure involve a lot of fraud!
Given the fantastic nature of what we talk about here, the communion of mortal men with God Almighty: it’s so incredible, so apparently unlikely, that even the highest quality people need the drill of prayer and worship to keep their thoughts sharp and their loyalty conscious.
In fact, you don’t have to pray all the time but it’s nice to have a complete body of prayers available to you when you can use them.
They evoke what you’re supposed to think, and when your thinking and feeling align with that, you become strongly conscious of your being as God’s conscious servant. Which is a profoundly holy moment.
Now we come to the word Selah, at the end of some prayers. It’s used commonly in Psalms – “Understood to be a musical direction,” one commentator noted (in the “Hertz Chumash,” p. 1033n) – and in a couple of passages in Habakuk (3:3 and 3:9).
It means, roughly, “enough.” Or more precisely, paraphrasing:
“We could go on infinitely about Your holy infinitude, or Your Divine qualities generally, but someone else said enough about it somewhere else so that for now, selah: it’s enough. (Go explore it yourself.)”
“Selah” in Habakuk, in the last chapter of the Book, 3:3, connects the first time to the well-known description of Israel’s land- journey from Paran,
“HaShem came from Sinai, He shined forth from Mount Paran, He came from the myriads holy, etc…” (Deuteronomy 33:2).
The second time it goes from Habakuk’s “Your bow is made quite bare, sworn are the rods of the word, selah,” (3:9) to the well-known Torah passage in Deuteronomy,
“For I lift up My hand to heaven and say, ‘As I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to My adversaries, And will recompense them that hate Me. I will make Mine arrows drunk with blood, etc….” (Deuteronomy 32:40-41).
Habakuk counted on His Hebrew audience – the People of Israel - to know how to follow up on his “selahs.” So should it be plain to us, that these words we’re reciting, that made it into our prayers, are just the tip of a whole spiritual world that’s our inheritance, and that they stand for truths that belong in the forefront of our minds.
By Michael Dallen
My God, the soul that You gave me is pure.”
Siddur (Prayer book), morning prayer