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First Covenant

Covenant Connection

Volume 3, Issue 2

January 2008... Shevat 5768

El, God of Abraham


El, God of Abraham

Allah, Islam, and God

• Freud and Science

Atheists and agnostics

• Holocaust Atheism

Praying to Learn and Love

Shul is School

Observant Noahides, Talmidim, Noahide Clergy and Jewish Rabbis

State of the Union: Creepy Fantasy

• Prayer





El, pronounced Ayl, is one of God's names. HaShem ("the Name," representing the four-letter Name, Y-H-V and H) is El and El is HaShem. God has many names but El particularly connotes His nature as God Who is mighty as well as kindly.

El's power, according to the Torah, has no measure. He is, after all, the Creator of everything; He sustains every force and particle. But that doesn't make Him literally all-powerful. He can't overawe human beings if He expects us ever to develop into better beings. Were He to manifest too much of His power, or too much of His glory, He would shock us, probably, into a state of almost vegetable dependence; into passivity, or, perhaps, rebellion.

Even when He makes astounding miracles, like hurling fire or splitting seas, He doesn't force belief in Him on us. He always leaves us room to ascribe everything to "nature." And He never interferes with human free will, because free will - the power to make up one's own mind and make choices for oneself - is the essence of being human.

So "all-powerful" has its limits. God can't, within the limits that He Himself set out, force people to respect Him.

Rodney Dangerfield, the late comedian (born Jacob Cohen), had a trademark line, "I don't get no respect." Concerning El, we mostly hear of Him when people connect "God" to "damn." Who respects El, God of Abraham?

Christianity teaches that one needs an intercessor, Jesus, to protect man from El. In Christian cosmology, El made man "utterly depraved." But for Jesus, it seems, at least according to some Christians, El would send every soul to Hell for "conscious torment for all eternity."

[Hell, by the way, comes from a figment of ancient German theology: it's the underground realm of the goddess Hel, daughter of Loki the Trickster. Hel rules where God, supposedly, is absent. 

Muslims worship Allah. Allah is El, they say. But the Koran teaches that Allah withholds human free will. (Muhammed misinterpreted, apparently, what happened when God "hardens Pharaoh's heart." God didn't make Pharaoh do anything that Pharaoh didn't want to do, the Torah teaches; He just helped numb him to the consequences.) Allah also - among his many other differences with El, HaShem - dislikes Jews, Christians, and everyone who rejects the teachings of Muhammed. Because, supposedly, to reject Muhammed is to disrespect Allah-El.

Jews normally don't go to war to protect the Name of God or keep El from being disrespected. King David fought on His behalf and that helped him earn His love, but even David never went to war solely to defend God's Name. David knew that to commit violence for no other reason than to "protect" God - Who has the highest regard for peace, shalom, and is, anyway, accustomed to human doltishness - doesn't honor but dishonor Him. God doesn't, as we say, force belief in Him on anyone.

In the last issue we mentioned that even Sigmund Freud, who called himself an atheist and religion "a collective neurosis" (he called it "longing for a father"), felt that belief in God - that is, the One God -  enriches the individual "immeasurably." Belief in a God Whom one cannot see, or even visualize, vastly improves people's "capacity for abstract thought," he said. 

Freud rejected the God of his fathers - the El of Noah, Abraham and Israel. But he still called the fathers' religion "a triumph of spirituality over the senses." He considered its adoption by the Jewish people to have been, perhaps, the single most liberating event in all of human history.

[Since Islam posits that the world is contained within God, in a sense - if human beings lack free will, the universe is really just God's dream, a play unfolding inside God - Islamic theology necessarily works differently. Islam makes man God's puppet, while making all the world and life itself irrelevant.]

So why did Freud reject El? Why do so many other Jews? Why aren't Jews more religious?

Freud thought that he knew too much to believe in God.

Assuming that he believed what the leading scientific thinkers of his time did, he believed:

1) That the universe had no beginning. Until 1948, at least, when scientists first heard radio echoes of "the Big Bang," the explosive creation of the universe from nothingness, most institutions of higher education taught that any such concept, of creation ex nihilo, of "something from nothing," was scientific nonsense. 

2) That the Old Testament is basically a work of fiction: that Israel's Exodus from Egypt is mere myth; that even King David and Saul probably never actually existed; that the statutes of the Torah are generally obsolete, and often barbaric and cruel; and that the God of the Bible, El, is just the invention of a primitive imagination.  

3) That the physical world has little room in it for God; that events proceed like clockwork according to stark Newtonian physics, so there is "nothing for God to do."

4) That Darwin and the theory of evolution "killed God" - that they prove that Genesis and the Biblical account of life's creation is bunk.  

"God is dead," wrote Nietzsche. "Religion is an illusion born of the need to deny death," Freud wrote later. Leading atheists today -  Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens ("Christ Bearer" Hitchins, probably the most charming of the three, is, improbably, Jewish) - still stand for those ideas. They claim that science - particularly Darwin - consigns religion to the garbage dump of history. But they protest too much. Their arguments seem oddly shoddy and old-fashioned.

Would Freud be an atheist if he lived today? Are scientists today as smugly certain that they understand the basic nature of the universe as were the leading lights of Freud's era? Have any of the incredible scientific discoveries of the last century humbled them at all?

Freud and the other old-timers, whose minds were mostly formed before 1900, vastly over-estimated their own wisdom. They thought that they knew infinitely more about the universe than they actually did. They believed, like the U.S. Patent Office of their era, that almost everything that could be discovered had been discovered.

Modern physics, which teaches that the universe consists mostly of "dark matter" and "dark energy" ("dark" in terms of being opaque, in the sense of impenetrable or unknowable), would have shocked Freud. So would quantum mechanics: the fact that 1) the subatomic particles that constitute all material reality aren't just fast-moving but that 2) they can go one way (up, down, forward, backwards, sideways) or the other and also - seemingly impossibly - several ways at once. Change the course of a single particle and change the course of history. Quantum mechanics depends, literally, on God knows what. Freud, most likely, would have found not just physics and quantum mechanics shocking but modern science generally.

From our perspective today, the leading lights of yesteryear, including Freud and his contemporaries, were ludicrously over-confident. Scholars today aren't humble but they have a lot more respect than their forebears did for what man still doesn't know. The universe has turned out to be much grander, more mysterious and wonderful than the old-timers ever imagined. We can't be as smug or over- confident in our knowledge as the people of Freud's day.

The discovery of certain patterns in history, seemingly conforming to Biblical prophecy; the discovery of elements of great worthiness in the statutes, laws and ordinances of the Torah, which we've explored in these pages and in Rainbow Covenant; the discovery of certain flaws in the historical and textual theories of those who made a name for themselves "debunking" the Torah's truth and accuracy . . . take all these realities together and we see that we can't simply accept the conventional wisdom of those who wrote off El so quickly. We would be false to ourselves - we would, indeed, be chumps - if we allowed their thinking about these things to continue to dominate our own. We need to treat their ideas as skeptically as they treated the religions of their fathers. We need to question everything.

Freud disbelieved in God based on faith - that is, he rejected God because he put too much faith in the limited knowledge of man. So did those who followed him. It soon became conventional wisdom, the prevailing orthodoxy among "scientific-minded" Jews, to reject the God of Abraham and Israel as Freud did. But Judaism as a religion is based on God. It's based on the Exodus from Egypt having happened, of El, HaShem, crushing Egypt and raising up its slaves.

If God doesn't exist, nothing matters. If He does exist, nothing else matters. "Without God, all things are possible," Dostoyevsky wrote. Now we don't mean God as an anonymous cosmic force - a "cosmic muffin" - or a "God within," or "Hairy Thunderer." We mean God as El, God of Abraham. People who dismiss Abraham as primitive or patriarchal don't appreciate the sophistication of his thinking. Any image that one has in one's mind's eye of God, Abraham taught, is of something other than God.

Without this infinite, invisible God - El, HaShem - Judaism doesn't survive. Why should it? It wouldn't matter, it would all be a hoax. Without the Exodus having happened - not necessarily as the King James translation of the Bible says it happened - the Jewish people have no compelling reason to continue as a people. As for Torah and the Bible, despite all their depth and poetry and other dazzling qualities, how good can something be that rests on a footing of lies?

Freud lived long enough to barely escape from the Nazis. He died in London in 1939. As for the rest of his people, Israel, by the end of May, 1945, one of every three Jews on earth had been murdered by the Nazis.

Freud, as perceptive as he was, might have seen the hand of God here. Others, dimmer than Freud, think of the Holocaust as the last nail in the coffin of Biblical religion.

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. (Psalm 14:2)

We mentioned before, in an earlier Covenant Connection: the Holocaust was a theological project. The Nazis did whatever they could to make their victims give up on God. They taunted the Jews: "Where is your God, O Israel?"

"If you were religious folk," wrote W.H. Auden, the poet, a few years later, "how would your dramas justify unmerited suffering?" How could a just, beneficient God allow the Holocaust? If He really cared for "My people, Israel," "the apple of My eye,"  how could He have allowed them - particularly, the Jews from Europe's most "black hat" traditionally observant communities, who got hit hardest - to suffer so?

When Jews today say that they don't believe in the God of their fathers, they often add, mentally, "not after the Holocaust." In fact, the new "Holocaust centers" that keep popping up reinforce the very concept that the Nazis pushed. Which is, simply, that there is no God, as Abraham knew God, and that anyone who trusts in that non-existent God today is either unaware of what happened in the Holocaust or a fool.

This is one of the things that puts Jews off the "Prosperity Gospel" of modern Protestantism. How childish can adults get? But Holocaust-based atheism is at least as ignorant as anything in Christianity. Perhaps God acted to move the human race in a particular direction. This material, physical world isn't all there is; there is life beyond life (just as the Torah teaches). God wanted to move the People of Israel out of Europe and into the Land of Israel. He wanted to make His Torah clearer. He Who gives human beings free will, and dominion over Earth, wanted the world to make an informed choice between the Biblical force known as Amalek - incarnated in the Nazis, conceivably, and later in Islamic jihad - and Israel. . . . If we can't immediately see God's purposes, that doesn't mean that life has none.

As for Holocaust survivors themselves, most did not renounce their faith. Many, many, emerged with even stronger faith.

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any who understand, and seek God. (Psalm 14:2)

God is just. Not only that, the Torah teaches, the world has 500 times more good in it than bad. But His ways are higher than mankind's and often quite obscure. Look at the teachings of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, or at the suffering of Job. Or, for another Biblical example (and thanks, Jack Saunders, for suggesting it), look at how He tested the faith of the Jews enslaved in Egypt.

They didn't know how things would turn out - that God would miraculously redeem Israel from Egypt after 100 years. Even if they had known, most of them lived and died in slavery anyway, in "bitter bondage." How does that square with a just, loving God?

El manifests Himself in history but that doesn't mean much to people who have no context for their own suffering or other people's. If all you know is slavery or the Holocaust, and that bad things happen to good people, El must be hateful and unjust, or else He doesn't matter. That is, after all, the way that little children think.

Of course it doesn't help that Israel's great history book, the Bible, comes, for most people, attached to Christian Scripture: 

"To have bound this New Testament, so completely rococo in taste, with the Old Testament into one book, as the Bible, is perhaps the greatest piece of audacity and "sin against the Holy Spirit" which literary Europe has on its conscience." (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1885. See Rainbow Covenant, pp. 30, 34.)

Neither does it help that Christian commentary and Christian rearrangements and mistranslations of the Bible's text tend to obscure what's really there.

Most Jews, after generations of hearing that belief in El is strictly for chumps and fools, find it easier to reject El than respect Him. It's easier to "not try to define God" and just "be spiritual" than to believe in El, the God Who left a record of how He wants people to behave. Naturally, people want to think that there is nothing for them to learn from Him. It's emotionally and intellectually attractive. It frees up a lot of time and saves having to worship Him or keep His ways at all. 

In a long essay, "Why I Am Not a Christian" (1957), Lord Bertrand Russell, the great British philosopher, set out to make mincemeat of religious belief. He gets in some good whacks against Christianity. But he still has a 19th century mindset. He never heard of the Big Bang. He writes as though he never heard of the Oral Torah. So he bases his defamatory claims against the Bible - that it's cruel and harsh, that it's demeaning to women, that it demands "an eye for an eye" literally, etc. - on igorance. He writes as though only modern folk ever doubted the existence of God (Whom he persists in imagining as Jesus). As for his understanding of the phenomenon of Israel, the role of the Jews in history, the influence of Torah on them and others, etc., there is none. He's like his contemporary, his countryman Arnold Toynbee: a historian so narrow-minded that, in the age of Einstein, Marx, Hollywood and Freud, he can airily dismiss the Jews as "a fossil people." (A Study of History, 1957) 

[Ever since the peoples of Northern Europe mostly stopped being Christians, incidentally, their big thinkers are often flummoxed by Israel. It seems to make them crazy. The red-hot "anti-Zionism" and support for Arab terrorism of even some of their leading philosophers is bizarre - rather like the Nazism of the "great" modern philosopher, Martin Heidegger. As for Lord Russell, he so lacked understanding of the phenomenon of Israel that he seriously but preposterously states, in his longest work on Protestantism (Why I Am Not a Christian), that "Jews and Protestants are mentally indistinguishable."]

In 1934, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, the chief thinker of Judaism's "Conservative Movement," came out with a big brick of a book, Judaism as a Civilization; toward a reconstruction of American-Jewish Life. Kaplan, like Freud and Russell, acquired most of his mental furniture in the 19th century. Like them, he too lived convinced that he knew too much to believe in El. Religion is tyranny, Kaplan wrote. (If you want a fierce polemic against traditional Judaism by someone who grew up in it, this is the place to go.) But he made his living by teaching religion. The role of the rabbi and teacher of Judaism, he argues, should be to instill knowledge and warm feelings as to Jewish practices - such as holiday observance, say, or keeping kosher - and peoplehood divorced from Divine sanction or, indeed, from any belief in God.

Those who suffered from the regime that Kaplan helped install - he was the longtime dean of the Conservative Movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, who, as administrator and professor, trained the rabbis of the Post-war Conservative Movement - will immediately recognize the thinking that made "Conservative Judaism" so repulsive. Form without substance, emotionless insincere prayer, pointless ritual observances and uncomfortable ritual restrictions, along with the misery of studying a challenging language (Hebrew) for no clear reason, together with the gloomy nagging feeling of never measuring up - Judaism [merely] as a civilization, as Kaplan wanted it, as opposed to Judaism as religious cause, turned whole legions of American Jews against exactly what Kaplan wanted to accomplish. Kaplan sought to perpetuate a kind of social worker's Judaism, a Judaism of manners and high morals, a religion without God. But religion without God is a farce, if you had any doubt about it; Israel without El makes no sense.

[The Conservative Movement has changed, since Kaplan's time - mostly by trying to accommodate those who feel least connected to Judaism. It's currently wrestling with this phenomenon, which scholars have found perplexing: the very students who spend the most time in Hebrew school - those who continue on past the age of 13 and Bar or Bat Mitzvah all the way through Hebrew high school - keep turning out to be MORE prone to assimilate than those who drop out earlier, MORE prone to marry non-Jews, and, generally, MORE likely to reject anything and everything that's Jewish. (See "The Great American Jewish Placebo," by George D. Hanus.) The solution currently proposed for this problem? MORE Hebrew school!]

Lots of people lost their religion during the last century. In Soviet Russia, a special department of the Communist party, the Yevsektsiya, or Yiddish Section, worked to erase Jewish peoplehood. It tried to stamp out Torah. In Israel, the Socialist Party, Labor, which dominated Israeli politics, tried to "educate" the Jews out of Judaism. In the United States, Europe, and Latin America, most of the Jews' opinion leaders believed as Freud did. They didn't necessarily want the Jewish people to disappear - usually, quite the contrary - but they couldn't accept the God of their fathers either.

Reform Judaism taught that there is a Torah higher than Torah and a God higher than God. The higher Torah is "what man knows to be right." The higher God is a spirit or cosmic force or God Within Who has allowed mankind to invent El, HaShem, as a step on the way to "humankind finding itself." So much for the God of Abraham. 

By the end of the 20th century, most Jews were so estranged from Torah that they thought of God - "if He exists" - as basically irrelevant. They were persuaded to regard the religion of their fathers as "sexist, racist, homophobic and regressive." (Never mind that fantastically disproportionate numbers of the founders, leading lights and "priests" of the "progressive," civil rights, unionist, feminist, animal rights, pro-environmental and civil-libertarian movements "just happened" to grow up Jewish.) Others, more tradition-minded, often turned to the political right - but usually the religion of their fathers had been discredited in their minds too.

By the end of the 20th century, most Jews, ignorantly, almost thoughtlessly, dismissed the "Old Testament" and Torah as impossibly harsh and obsolete, and El - again, "if He exists" - as unforgiving and cruel.

By Michael Dallen


What can one know about the Divine? Some people say that the only possible philosophy today is agnosticism. T. H. Huxley, the late 19th century English scientist and polymath, invented the term agnostic from the Greek: it literally means "doesn't know" - agnostic means to lack gnosis (which is the root of the word gnostic), or knowledge. Where an atheist - like Freud, or Mordechai Kaplan - believes for sure that God, or El, does not exist, the agnostic - like Huxley, or Bertrand Russell - doesn't claim to know for sure whether El exists or not.

A friend of ours, a systematic thinker, offers the following scale for determining levels of belief.

A. Impossible: strong negative evidence to the contrary:
B. Improbable: weight of the evidence does not support the thesis with some negatives weighing against;
C. Possible but not compelling: evidence in favor is there but just not enough data and information to so conclude; or
D. Possible and compelling: bulk of the evidence fits with no serious negatives.

As for belief in El, Freud and M. Kaplan would probably say A or B. Bertrand Russell and T.H. Huxley might say B, or possibly C. But we say D. El has given us too many compelling reasons to believe in Him for us to wonder if He's real or not.

We admit, naturally, that we lack full gnosis - knowledge - about Him. We cannot see God and we cannot hear Him, or perceive Him at all with any of our senses. He is "a God Who hides" Himself (Isaiah 45:15) - the "God of Israel, the Savior." So our perception of God is radically unlike our perception of physical, material things. We can't perceive Him or be aware of His nature as we know the material and physical. This does not make us agnostics, though. This just makes us human.

Incidentally, we didn't all start out at D, above. I certainly didn't. But we have gone through the negatives, regarding God's existence. We have given them all possible weight. That is, we have entertained them as seriously as any proposition of opinion or fact. We have tested them, in other words, as rigorously as possible - because learning the truth is all-important; because God is truth, according to our paradigm, and anything that isn't true is ungodly.

[We hope to discuss some aspects of these tests in the next issue.]

Once one reaches D intellectually, one needs to work to keep aware and conscious of God. We need to keep the truth before us, even when He's hidden. One of the key ways we do that is through prayer.

How can one believe in a God Who isn't physical?

Disbelief in God is not new. It's not something that suddenly came into being with the Industrial Age. It's never been that simple a matter to accept the Hidden God. As David wrote, at the beginning of the Iron Age: the fool says in his heart, there is no God." Not only is He hidden, He hasn't manifested Himself, as He did at Mt. Sinai, for a long time. (People wonder why it's been so long. They might ask themselves, "long for who? Long for Him, the Eternal? Or maybe it just seems long to us, who rise up and then wither like grass.)

Now, names matter. The name Israel (in Hebrew, yisroel) means, more or less, to struggle with El (See Genesis 32:29, Jacob's rough night before reconfronting Esau). 

El didn't create Israel to be complacent. He created Israel to learn about Him - to "wrestle" with Him. Life's purpose, the Torah teaches, is to gain knowledge of El, to make the world more truly His. "Let him that glory glory in this, that he understand and knoweth Me." (Jeremiah 9:23).

True knowledge of God empowers man to love Him, and to imitate His attributes of loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness, to correctly exercise them on earth (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, end). Nothing could be better than one's children becoming "students of HaShem." (Talmud, Berachot 64a; concluding Mussaf prayer for Sabbath and Festivals).

We submit: Every person, Jew and non-Jew, should emulate Israel in this respect: every person should be someone who "wrestles with God." This is who our faithful, Torah-dedicated ancestors were; this is what they did. They struggled with faith - how could one not struggle, connecting with the God one cannot see or hear or even actually imagine?

This "wrestling" certainly does not mean unquestioningly accepting the tenets of any particular school or sect of Judaism. It doesn't mean abandoning science, or logic, or common sense, based on Jewish Orthodoxy or any other faith. Indeed, "Orthodox" is an off-putting term; it smacks of conformity, of following a majority, of substituting others' thinking for one's own.

True faith means asking questions. In order to learn, about God, or Torah, or anything, one must ask questions. One who wants to acquire knowledge of God must be a questioner, a student. 

We were wondering what to call those who join us, who follow the First Covenant. Noahide (or No'achide) is one name, but it's divisive: it makes a distinction between Jews and non-Jews. But Jews and Noahides alike should be students. Jews and non-Jews alike should ask questions.

Talmid is Hebrew for student.

Talmid also means disciple, or pupil. A "talmid chochim" is a disciple of the wise - the chochomim, or sages.) If you have a congregation of more than one talmid, you have the plural, talmidim. (If you have a female talmid and another female talmid, you have talmidot, the feminine plural; if you have only one male along with any number of females you still have talmidim.)

We believe that every Jew and every non-Jew, and everyone who seeks knowledge of God, hoping to learn and keep the First Covenant, should be a talmid.



We spoke before of a Noahide prayerbook - in Hebrew, a siddur. You can find a link to its publisher in the last newsletter, and Rabbi Michael Katz has copies available too. But some readers wondered, why do they need a prayerbook just for Noahides? Why not use the prayers in the Jewish prayerbook? "It's easy enough to change a few words to make them suitable for Noahides." Or again, "why use a prayerbook at all? Isn't the best prayer spontaneous and heartfelt?"  

Yes, all prayer should be heartfelt, but prayer should always be a learning experience. This particular prayerbook has been written especially for non-Jews; it's not supposed to replace the Jewish siddur, in English and in Hebrew, as a resource for talmidim, but it is supposed to supplement it as a special resource for Noahide talmidim. (No one would send us a review copy, unfortunately.) It's supposed to serve as part of an "on-going conversation," as Rabbi Katz says. We believe that the conversation is long-overdue.

As for praying "spontaneously," we've encountered a lot of confusion. Since God already knows what one wants, even before one knows oneself, petitionary prayer - which is what most people think of as spontaneous, heartfelt prayer - normally isn't, nor should be, the main part of a prayer service.  

How does one approach God, HaShem, Who can't be seen or heard or visualized? Prayer keeps the truth before us. A prayer should teach or remind the person praying something about Him and about his or her connection to the Almighty; where he or she stands with Him; how he or she should regard Him; what is the proper way to address Him; what are constructive, wholesome, proper thoughts to have regarding Him. 

Jews are supposed to love God. So should every man and woman. It is a Torah commandment, a clear blackletter law, to love God; it is one - a crucial one - of Israel's 613 Commandments. How does one learn to love? Through prayer. Prayer keeps the truth before us. Prayer should educate. A Jewish house of prayer or synagogue isn't called a shul - literally, a school - for nothing. When one prays to El, one should learn something. When one prays, or learns in shul, it should be like learning in school. The talmid, the student, studies the Divine. The talmid prays in order to love and learn from the unseen, hidden, eternal holy God.


How many Noahides?

We received a query from a new subscriber today (we have, by the way, lots of new subscribers): How many Noahides are there?

It depends on how you define Noahide, we said (we referred to the interview we did where we dealt with this question with the OU, the Orthodox Union. It's posted on their website and on ours). So, how many "fully observant Noahides"?

It's hard to define or even know what a fully observant Noahide is. (If one kept all the Noahide laws in all their details and all the other Torah precepts that they lead to, one would be a practicing, fully observant Jew - and a very saintly, angelic Jew at that.) We suggested "very observant Noahide, defined it as someone "who says grace after as well as before meals and who consciously eschews (ignores, avoids, repudiates) all other gods but God. 

As for saying grace, a blessing before enjoying a meal and a prayerful statement of gratitude afterwards, we have found that to be about as good a metric as anything. It represents a certain level of godly observance.

We figure there might be as many as a thousand or so Noahides like that in the world - though in fact we're only guessing.

Our questioner wondered about our test: he thought "very observant" would mean "adhering to all the Seven Noahide Commandments under the guidance of a qualified rabbi." We - that is, I, Michael Dallen - responded: "Don't need a rabbi. Better a Noahide clergyman."

I don't mean to downgrade rabbis, God forbid. We simply believe that a Noahide teacher who has personally gone from a foreign communion to the religion of Israel - the First Covenant, Judaism's "outpatient branch" - is bound to be a better guide, at least initially, than an Orthodox rabbi who may have very little familiarity with non-Jews or specific knowledge of the First Covenant.

It goes without saying that the Noahide teacher - the clergyman, or clergywoman - needs to be a real talmid: a real student of Torah. He or she will be the talmid of one or more rabbis, just as a Jew may study with one or more rabbis.

Rabbi Michael Katz and Rev. Jack Saunders might have their own ideas about the proper role of Noahide clergy, in connection or in association with Jewish rabbis. But neither one has reviewed this article, due to time constraints. In any event, we hope to discuss the matter further in another issue.


State of the Union

George W. Bush gave his last State of the Union address this evening. He spoke for about an hour. He promised one thing, among his many other promises, which got a standing ovation from Condoleeza Rice, his Secretary of State, and from most of the House and Senate. He promised that the world will see, in 2008, "a democratic Palestine that will live in peace side by side with a democratic Israel."

No we won't. Just in case you had any question: not a chance. Not in 2008, not in 2009, not ever. A viable Israel or, God forbid, an Arab "Palestinian state": it will be one or the other. Even then,  no Arab Palestinian state in the Land of Israel will ever be any of these things: viable, democratic, just, law-abiding, prosperous, or peaceable.

The so-called Palestinians need help - to get themselves settled as citizens somewhere and stop being "a nation" of career refugees and martyrs.

One can't call it a good sign or portent that all those powerful, dignified-looking people, who all should know better, got up on their hind legs to applaud W. Bush's creepy fantasy.


We hope you like this Covenant Connection. We will try, in the next issue, to explain why we've been offline for so long. We look forward to getting the next edition of Covenant Connection to you shortly. 



We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name.

Amen.Questions? Comments?

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