Pita for Pesach
He was a young nationalist belonging to the Arab nation and to the PLO's* Fatah, and he wanted to kill Jews. Any Jews would do, he figured: soldiers, civilians, males or females, young or old, in or out of Israel. But before he could cause much mayhem, Israel got him, tried him, and sentenced him to several years in jail.
He started out very depressed. "How can we succeed against these people?" he wondered. "Look how strong they are. They came back to this land after thousands of years of exile. The Romans and the Crusaders and the Nazis all tried to wipe them out - now they're the ones who are gone and the Jews are still here. They've got a civilization thousands of years old: how can we beat them?" In an interview with Dr. Aharon Barnea, an Israeli journalist, Salah Tamari (aka Abu Hassan, aka Salach Al-Tamari)* said that he completely despaired of any hope of the Arabs defeating Israel. But then he saw something that filled him with hope.
It was the holiday of Passover - pesach, in Hebrew - celebrating the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. By God's command (Exodus 12:15-19, 13:7), the Jewish practice is to refrain from eating all leavened foods - everything made from grain that has been allowed to rise - such as bread or beer or whiskey. Fearful punishment - spiritual punishment - awaits the Jew who willfully breaks this restriction. Not eating bread on pesach is one of the most characteristic Jewish practices of all time.
In the corridor outside Tamari's cell, a Jewish prison guard, a sergeant, opened his lunchbox and started eating a stuffed pita - that is, bread with some kind of filling. "What are you doing?" Tamari asked him. "Don't you know that it's pesach?" The sergeant answered: I feel no obligation to events that took place more than 2,000 years ago. I have no connection to that."
That entire night, Tamari told the journalist, he couldn't sleep. He thought to himself: "A nation whose members have no connection to their past, who are capable of so openly transgressing their most important laws - that nation has cut off all its roots to the land."
He would have thrown a party, except that it was prison. He concluded that his people could, indeed, achieve all their goals. From that moment, he said, he was determined "to fight for everything - not a percentage, not such crumbs as the Israelis might throw at us - but for everything. Because opposing us is a nation that has no connection to its roots, which are no longer of interest to it." Tamari went and shared this insight with "tens of thousands of my colleagues," he said, "and all were convinced."
*PLO: Palestine Liberation Organization. Note: "Palestine," not "Palestinians." Palestinianism isn't committed to improving the welfare of "Palestinians" but to conquering certain real estate - Palestine - or, anyway, "liberating" it from the People of Israel. (The sight of Palestinian Arabs on TV in the first U.S.-Iraq war literally dancing on their rooftops at the prospect of Saddam's mass-destruction missiles making human life in "Palestine" impossible, suggests that the real objective is just to deny it to the Jews.)
*Tamari has become an important official in the PLO's Fatah and in the government of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. He was the model, according to author John Le Carre', of the PLO commander in Le Carre's The Little Drummer Girl. Aharon Barnea, with his wife Amalia, who lost their son, tragically, in an Arab terror attack, is active in Israel's so-called "peace movement." http://fora.tv/speaker/4646/Aharon_Barnea
Amalek, Israel, and the
Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that the Jewish people's tenure in the Land of Israel depends, according to the Bible, on Israel's "fear of the Lord" - on the Jews' connection to exactly what Tamari's jailer renounced.
The story keeps repeating itself throughout the Bible, and all through the spectacular - frequently, spectacularly bloody - history of Israel. The central message of the prophet Malachi (which, indeed, is the central message of every prophet after Moses), "You! Remember the Torah of Moses My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb [Mt. Sinai] for all Israel, including the statutes and judgments!" [Malachi 4:4], is also the key to Israel's survival. It's the basis of the Jewish people's continuation as a nation and as a force for good in history - as well as the chief condition of the Jews' dominion in the Promised Land.
We have spoken before of Amalek in these pages:
"Now Comes Amalek" http://1stcovenant.com/pages/news/archives/July_061.html. "The LORD (HaShem) shall have war with Amalek for all generations" [Exodus 17:16]. Amalek is the anti-Israel, starting with Esau, the brother of Jacob (Israel). Amalek gets weaker when Israel keeps true to Torah, and stronger when Israel strays.
What manner of people, after hearing of all the miracles of the Exodus, the plagues in Egypt, the overthrow of Egypt's gods, the splitting of the sea, would want to fool with Israel? Yet Amalek spied on Israel and saw unholiness: a people racing through the wilderness, forgetful of the weak, the very old, the very young - the stragglers. So the elders of Amalek decided that, whatever had happened in the past, Israel could not possibly merit God's blessing. Here was a people heavy with the riches of Egypt, obviously more concerned with their Egyptian booty than with the welfare of their pregnant wives, their infants and elders; why would their God - a just God, a good God - protect them?
Some sages regard Amalek differently. But we think we need to look at history, at Amalek in the past - as a force in human affairs, as Imperial Rome under Hadrian, as Crusaders, Inquisitors, Cossacks and Nazis - and at the fierce Arab and Muslim enemies of the people of Israel today.
Amalek isn't just Haman. It isn't a normal people, or an ordinary enemy at all. It's a force in history that positively prefers to attack women and infants, and babies in the womb, the infirm in wheelchairs, the very young and very old. It likes to kill the defenders of Israel, the soldiers, but it delights in attacking the weak, the defended. That's how we can always distinguish Amalek. When Israel's enemies honor craven killers of children, and celebrate the 9/11 attack on America as a triumph, that's Amalek.
On May 5, 2009, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported that the Palestinian Authority* proudly named its new computer center after a female terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 killed 37 civilians—including 12 children—in a bus hijacking in Israel. After those murders, Dalal became one of the most popular names for girls among Arab parents in the Land of Israel.
*Note: the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority - as opposed to Hamas, which dominates Gaza - is "the Palestinian moderates." The report above is from Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, "Will America follow its laws, suspend funding to Abbas?" [Abbas is Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, the PA's President of the Nation. He won his doctorate, his Ph.D., with "research" denying the Holocaust!] The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2009. See http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1243259515568&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
A Viable Amalekite State ?
Today, even longtime "pro-Israel" groups like AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, are pressing for "the two-state solution," "a viable Palestinian state."
They don't mean the first Palestinian state, Jordan - carved out of Britain's Mandate under the League of Nations, the trust territory of Palestine - with its sizable Palestinian-Arab majority, ruled by a family of "noble" refugees (hand-picked for rulership by the British) from Saudi Arabia.
[Today Jordan is widely known as probably the best-governed Arab country on earth - despite its huge deficits, low living standards, negligible industry, huge inventory of vastly underused wastelands, and chronic 30%-plus unemployment rate. (When America last experienced 30% unemployment, it was called the Great Depression.)]
No, the "two-state solution" is Israel reduced, basically, to its "Auschwitz borders" - the armistice lines from the 1948-1949 War.
What if Israel agrees to the "two-state solution"? What if the world's Jews, represented by the democratically elected leaders of the Jewish state, volunteer to relinquish the heart of the Promised Land, the "West Bank," Shomron (Samaria) and Yehuda (Judea) - including much of Jerusalem? What will it mean if the Jewish people of this (or any) generation willingly reject God's Plan for Israel by quitting claim to the Land of Promise?
We who currently live in the world, whether Jew or Noahide, in and outside Israel, should ask ourselves:
Will pressuring Israel to evict the Children of Israel from the Land of Israel
bring us, our families and our country, blessing?
Will tearing the Nation of Israel from its ancient homeland and from its destiny ordained
by the King of the Universe bring humankind prosperity?
After so much trying, shouldn't the Jewish people realize
that offering up land "for peace" just tells others that even the Jews don't
believe that the land belongs to the Jews?
Parenthetically, one of the worst things about Amalek is the constant defamation of the Torah - which here prophesizes that, whenever the Jews are exiled from the Land, the Land shall "lie desolate" (Leviticus 26:43) until the Jews' return. History clearly affirms that prophecy. Yet Palestinianism denies it - and the myths of Palestinianism and Amalek have become much better-accepted than the truth of history and Torah.
Why does this conflict matter? Because it's good against evil? But Israel isn't all good, and Amalek isn't completely evil.* Nothing human is thoroughly evil or thoroughly good.
Truly, nothing human is perfectly anything. But even Esau, Amalek's grandfather and the real father of the Amalekites, honored his father Isaac - a big mitzvah (Divine connection). In fact, Maimonides (Rambam) teaches that Amalek may someday even come to accept the Noahide Law, and Israel's sovereignty in Israel - Hil. Mel. 6:1, 6:4.]
Let us suggest that a better way of thinking about this eternal cosmic conflict, which is so very much a part of our world today, is as one revolution - the Hebrew Revolution - against a counter-revolution, Amalek's.
Revolution & Counter-Revolution
Before there even were people called Hebrews, the Torah teaches, God gave a revolutionary Law to humankind's legendary ancestors - the Noahide Law. It made a complete break with the animalistic, instinctual, murderous thieving lawlessness and the indifferent, sloppy "getting by" of our prehistoric ancestors and Neanderthals.
A few generations later, when Egypt's pyramids were still new and the Hebrews, the People of Israel, were still a young nation, God folded the first, original revolution into the Hebrew Revolution.
Moses reports the details in the Torah. We quote and paraphrase from Rainbow Covenant:
It was a violent revolution. It raised a free nation out of slaves. It destroyed the gods of Egypt - and much of the rest of Egypt, too. It turned the economic, political and moral basis of Hebrew society upside down. It waged a continuing battle against right-wing reactionaries, like the party of the Golden Calf - and left-wing revisionists, like Korach and his men. It bloodily fought off challenges from retrogressive foreign opportunists, the Moabites and Midianites - and let us not forget the Amalekites.
Moses, directed by the God of freedom, crafted a complete system of police and courts. He organized the Hebrew masses with revolutionary discipline. Creating a special cadre of supervisory officers - while cultivating two hereditary classes, the priests and Levites - to watch the people and each other, he installed a permanent hardcore revolutionary body to keep the Revolution pure. He purged a whole generation of his own people, and left them to die in a wilderness. Then, before Moses died, he invested his people with the purpose and ability to carry on his cause.
The essence of this Revolution - the principal object of the Noahide Covenant and the Covenant of Sinai - and the axis around which the whole Law (along with all true morality) turns, is to blot out the pagan influences in the human heart, to make the existence of idolatry impossible [Rainbow Covenant, pp. 3-4].
To put it another way, the Hebrew Revolution is all about God-consciousness. It's about bringing all humankind up to an understanding of holiness and an affinity for it, so that we can make something of ourselves and give joy and honor (nachas, we say in Hebrew) to our Maker.
But Amalek, the anti-Israel, doesn't buy it. Amalek hates and envies Israel, and anyone who has God's blessing. Amalek lives almost besides himself, feeling wronged and jealous. But the counter-revolutionary, Amalek, also serves God. Amalek's motivation is all wrong - God hates Amalek - but, by opposing the Revolution at all times, Amalek helps perpetuate and publicize and spread it.
To quote the ancient Midrash Mechilta Beshallach: the Jews were unmindful of God's doings until, like a dog, Amalek came to bite them. (Mechilta d'Rabbi Ishmael)
Jack E. Saunders notes that, if it hadn't been for Israel's struggles against Amalek, particularly after the Holocaust (organized by the Arab Amalek's German predecessors), there never would have been a Noahide movement of any substance. So Amalek serves God, however murderously. Among other things, Amalek perpetually, even spectacularly, keeps the Jews in the forefront of the news.
God commands Israel to always remember and to never forget Amalek, and - let us never forget this part of the Torah obligation, the following - to exterminate the evil force incarnated in Amalek.
We submit that, just as a matter of Torah-learning, just in order to learn what Israel actually stands for, who and what Israel is, we need to study what Israel isn't: Amalek. We learn about the Revolution by studying the counter-revolution.
To understand Amalek today we should look at Amalek yesterday. The Nazis incarnated Amalek. What was Nazism?
Dorothy Thompson, the first Western journalist that the Nazis expelled from Germany, in 1934, long before the start of World War II, was a Christian herself and the daughter of devout Protestant minister. She interviewed Hitler and other leading Nazis - Germany was her beat; she was as fluent in German as in English - and learned all she could about what she called "the Hitler Revolution." This is one of her earliest - from the 30's - and most succinct descriptions of the thing:
[Nazism] is a repudiation of the whole past of western man. It is. . . a complete break with Reason, with Humanism, and with the Christian [actually, Hebrew, or Hebrew Revolutionary] ethics that are at the basis of liberalism and democracy. . . In its joyful destruction of all previous standards; in its wild affirmation of the "Drive of the Will"; in its Oriental acceptance of death as the fecundator of life and of the will to death as the true heroism, it is darkly nihilistic. Placing will above reason; the ideal over reality; appealing, unremittingly, to totem and taboo; elevating tribal fetishes; subjugating and destroying the common sense that grows out of human experience; of an oceanic boundlessness, Nazism - that has been my consistent conviction - is the enemy of whatever is sunny, reasonable, pragmatic, common-sense, freedom-loving, life-affirming, form-seeking and conscious of tradition. [Thompson, Let the Record Speak, pp. 2-3]
Does any of that apply to Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaida, or their ilk? To
Wahhabi Islam? Of course, they claim to be the guardians of all good traditions - but so did the Nazis. Israel's Muslim enemies swear that they work for God - but so did the Nazis. The Nazis claimed to be the great defenders of Europe, and of the traditions of Europe; and they made their followers, including every German Army officer, pledge eternal loyalty to Hitler by swearing a oath to God.
We submit that there is much for us to learn about our holiness revolution from their counter-revolution. In the meantime, while we study it, pending its complete destruction, let us do everything in our power to weaken and disappoint Amalek.
We do have this going for us: Amalek is not that sharp. Not to underestimate the enemy - we should never forget what it took to crush the Nazis - but the many people who damn Israel and all it stands for do not, as a rule, improve themselves thereby. Cursing Israel doesn't maximize anyone's potential. So just last month, for instance, Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO's "President of Palestine," rejected not just Israel but even the idea of a Jewish state. While the PLO has insisted all along that the Arabs will eliminate Israel in stages, continued territorial concessions finally allowing them to annihilate whatever's left, he can't even play the game of two-states and peace-in-our-time.
At a meeting with Arab Palestinian youth leaders in Ramallah, Abbas held up a framed map of Palestine – clearly labeled in English - that covered all of Israel:
“I say this clearly. I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will," said the president.
The photo of Abbas holding the map appeared on the front pages of both Palestinian Authority daily newspapers. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, ibid, “Mahmoud Abbas: ‘I do not accept the Jewish State’.” [Palestinian Media Watch, 5/28, 2009, http://www.pmw.org.il/Bulletins_Apr2009.htm#b280409 - this and the previous item by Marcus and Crook courtesy of The Israel Project, http://www.theisraelproject.org.
We were accused of "homophobia" in the wake of the last newsletter. Also, some critics doubted the validity of our charge that the Arab world, which is notorious for the lowly status of its women, has high rates of violations of the Noahide prohibition against acts of male homosexuality. So we quote from The New York Times, "Challenging Sex Taboos, With Help From the Koran," by Robert Worth (NYT June 6, 2009, p. A8):
In Saudi Arabia and other countries where the genders are rigorously separated, many men have their first sexual experiences with other men, which affects their attitudes toward sex in marriage," Ms. Lootah (Wedad Lootah, of the United Arab Emirates, an author, marriage counselor, and sex educator) said. "Many men who had [a certain kind of] sex with men before marriage want the same thing with their wives, because they don't know anything else," Ms. Lootah said. "This is one reason we need sex education in our schools."
As for the charge of homophobia, is it phobic - pathological fearfulness - to denounce a wrongful act as wrongful? Scripture tells us that certain acts are wrong just as incest or bestiality (or larceny, or murder) are wrong. If we consider the Torah true we must agree.
One may feel homosexual impulses or cravings, or even consider himself to be a homosexual, and remain not only guiltless but pure. (One ultimately receives good for struggling against evil.) Physically "lying with man as with woman," though, is another kettle of fish.
Let us remember that no one ever died of unsatisfied lust. With a policeman at one's elbow, even "irresistible" impulses somehow become resistible. The practice of male homosexuality is a choice, like other choices, conditioned by laws and social norms. We simply note: under the Creator's law, it is a crime, and a serious one - a crime that makes the world more lewd and less decent, and much less family- and woman-friendly. Society may devise whatever mechanisms it thinks best, in law and justice, to defend itself against it - to outlaw it, to diminish it as far as possible, to make it rare and drive it out of sight.
Decrees of Life
We often point out in these pages how certain Jewish laws - in the context of this issue, let us call them Revolutionary laws - validate themselves as being not just uplifting spiritually, as "higher consciousness" principles made operational, but also beneficial to physical health or mental hygiene.
These all involve practices that the Jews are required to do everywhere they go, so that all nations can learn from them. So we've discussed some of the more tangible, physical benefits of keeping the kosher food laws, for instance, and circumcision, etc. They are all "life-giving statutues," as the Torah says - and science keeps demonstrating, if only in our own time, if only very recently, that that is exactly what they are.
At an international conference of neurologists recently, Professor Linda McMaron of Britain spoke on the topic of people fainting, and sometimes experiencing heart trouble, upon getting up from bed. Research shows that fainting is caused by the sharp transition between lying prone and standing up. Professor McMaron said that it usually takes about 12 seconds for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain. She suggested that everyone, even one who doesn't have a tendency to faint, should sit on the bed after awakening and count slowly to 12 to avoid fainting, dizziness, weakness or heart-trouble.
Her presentation was very well-received, and applauded.
Another neurology professor, an observant Jewish scientist, asked and got permission to speak:
"By us, the Jews, there is an old tradition, thousands of years old, to say a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for meriting us to wake up healthy and whole. The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still in bed and sitting down. There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates oneself to say it slowly, with concentration, it takes exactly 12 second to say it. . . 12 words in 12 seconds."
He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew: "Modeh ani lefanecha melech chai vekayom, shehechezarta bi nishmasi bechemla rabba emunuasecha. [I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for you have returned my soul unto me with compassion - you are very faithful]."
According to our correspondent, Zev Isaacs, writing in the newspaper Yated Ne'eman, the audience gave this a standing ovation. "This time," says Mr. Isaacs, "it was for the Creator of the World."
We plan to address the phenomenon of teachers who, despite their profound ignorance of Torah, instruct others, in bestselling books and other media, that the Torah is mostly bunk. We hope to examine "The Book of Genesis" by R. Crumb in The New Yorker (June 8&15, 2009) and "Decoding God's Changing Moods" by R. Wright in Time Magazine (June 15, 2009).
We want to explore the phenomenon of non-Orthodox "African-American rabbis," as they are called, based mostly on "Obama's Rabbi," by Zev Chafets in The New York Times Magazine, April 5, 2009, and "Spiritual Journey Leads to Another First," about Alyssa Stanton, in The New York Times, June 6, 2009.