miércoles, junio 29, 2005

Disengagement (II): The Land & The People

The latest developments in Israel are making me feel increasingly anxious about the possibility (in the medium term) of civil war among Jews, leading to war with the Arabs and the final destruction of the Third Temple. I don’t know how long will remain the State of Israel, but at least, I hope it will last more than myself.

It is well known that the question of the relation between the People and the Land have always been central in Jewish religious thought. For two thousand years, anyway, it was mainly theoretical. Even in the beginning of modern Israel, the religious Jews were not a driving force on israeli politics and many of them were outspoken critics of the whole Zionist enterprise.

But once the State was founded, and specially after the 1967 (very much biblical) victory against the Egyptians, the religious public became more attached to the state. As a result two old questions were revived: the first one is how Jewish should be the “Jewish and democratic state of Israel”; the second is related to the right of the elected officers to make decisions on hot religious topics, specially their right to withdraw from the mystical “Erezt Israel”, that is, the Land of Israel as defined in the Bible.

Two schools of thought emerged in Orthodox Judaism.The first one considered the attachment of the People to the Land as a sacred duty, which should fulfilled under all circumstances, and failure on keeping the land is considered a sin able to bring disaster to the nation. I will call this viewpoint as the “Land-idolatric Judaism”, joining in one statement the description and the opinion. Idolatry is when men turn a tool into a Master.

The second approach is that the Land belongs to the People, and was given by G_d to it, so the People has the right to fight for it, keep it, or render it as the price for other political or strategic commodities.

To discuss the present affairs from a religious perspective, I want to put the present circumstance under the light of Jewish ancient history.

Two catastrophic events have shaped both the history and the narrative (and remember: for Jews, history and narrative are always linked, sometimes in the reverse order) of Judaism: the fall of the Temples.

In VI Century Before Christ, the Babylonian armies under Nabocodonosor took Jerusalem, pillaged the Holy city, destroyed the First Temple and enslaved the People. The moral interpretation is also explicitly included in the Prophecy of Isaiah:

So Jerusalem will fall in ruins and Juda will be sunk, because its words and facts stand against the Lord”

Isaiah 3,12-8

The Torah can be interpreted to some extent, and sometimes, accordingly to Maimonides, even directly discarded in favor of reason ( “The Torah speaks the language of man” was his conceptual tool to reevaluate the Torah under a rational light), but in these particular case, the Text is explicit and fully coherent, both on religious and historical grounds, and no Jewish scholar have doubts about the fact that on that time, division, paganism and corruption where prevalent on the old Kingdom of Israel. I consider that in religious (and even in secular terms) this consensus cannot be challenged.

From a religious and historical perspective, there is no doubt about the fact that the I Century was exactly the opposite: a period of religious piety, and even over zealotry. The Talmudic studies were, after Hilliel, in one of their all-times maxima and no apparent reason can be given for G_d´s Anger on such a Law-observant and study-oriented generation. Anyway, the Temple was destroyed, the People was partially enslaved, and one century after, following a second rebellion, the Romans killed half a million Jews and the rest were dispersed “among the nations”. It was the beginning of the Diaspora.

In my personal opinion the lack of an accurate narrative for the Fall of the Second Temple is the biggest gap on Jewish religious historiography.

For hundreds of years, even in the Land of Israel, the Jewish People have been ruled by foreign powers. The Bible praises Cirus, the King of Persia as the Great King and the protector of Jews. Beyond the Land of Israel, the Jews had no territorial claims and even when they were a regional power, under David and Salomon, they never tried to build an Empire. In fact Judaism is the only non-proselytism monotheism, and the Torah contains careful rules to protect the foreigners “because you also were a foreigner in the land of Egypt”.

The Romans were not hostile rulers. They provided Israel with peace and tried not to interfere with local affairs. The taxes were high, but the whole Empire pay them, and anyway, it flourished. It is true that there were some pagan provocations, but compared with a history of cruelty and open oppression, the evils of Roman Empire were affordable. The price of resistance was, anyway, higher.

After the Maccabe rebellions against the Greeks (far more justified), Jewish political nationalism grew strong, and for two centuries, the relative liberalism of emperors was rewarded by Israel with a permanent state of war. As a first time in their history, instead of become fascinated and learn from the foreign powers, the Israelites fully rejected the Roman/Greek culture. In those centuries the Jews became hated not because of their superior culture or ability to create wealth, but the other way round, because they were a closed, poor and ignorant society. Those centuries, despite the light of some saints as Hilliel, were the nadir of Jewish culture. Because the Jewish People has a universal destiny it should always be linked to the universal culture. Jews not only have to be global brokers of goods and money: first of all, they should trade on ideas.

Isolated and despised, the Jews turned religion into superstition.They asked for a miracle, instead of asking for wisdom. They pushed G_d, instead of following him. The Bible contains a few miracles and a lot of intelligence. The Jewish leaders fought always using the means as optimally as they could. Esther or Gedeon asked G_d for his help, and that help was inspiration and some luck. The special cleverness and boldness of some Jewish heroes have been the preferred channel used by G_d to intervene in the History of the People. In the Last Days of the Second Temple, the Jews were waiting for a miracle, instead of looking for a reasonable Treaty.

The Jewish nation is granted that it will survive up to the Last Days, but every generation plays for own their lives and no miracle will substitute the historical process. The miracle is the historic process itself.

The idea that the People belongs to the Land and the idea that G_d will make miracles in the battlefield or even in the demographic-field is against the rational tradition that Judaism has followed at least since Maimonides. The traditional Jews used to think that the Messiah would deliver the restoration of the Land to the People. But the modern (religious) Zionism is based on the opposite causality, i.e, that the return of the Jews to Israel is no longer a result, but a pre-condition for the Messianic AEra. Once the Jewish People accepted a return to the Land before the Messianic deliverance, they also accepted the Maimonidean gradualist Messianism. Miraculous Messianism is incompatible with Zionism.

The fall of the first Temple tells us a history of the catastrophic results Jews forgot about G_d; the second speaks about what happened when Jews forget about reason, and try to precipitate the historical process beyond pragmatism

So when the Jewish leaders, both political and religious make their decisions, they should not take a divine intervention into account. G_d can intervene, but only when human forces became exhausted, and the goal of the Jewish governors is to minimize those circumstances. Recent history tells us that G_d´s intervention is slow... too slow for human standards.

Currently the rational expectations are on the side disengagement Likudniks. The time for Palestinian binational claims is coming. Israel cannot be a democratic country keeping the whole land, and cutting the links with the four million Arabs in the territories is the only strategy available to remain as a part of the Western Civilization. To remain civilized. To remain Jewish, in the full sense of the word.

Two thousand years ago, a stubborn resistance to accept the reality on the ground, leaded the Jews to an impossible war, relying on a miracle. As a result of the misleading leadership of the zealots and some Doctors of the Law, the Second Temple was destroyed and the Jews lost their land for two thousand years. Since that historic mistake, pragmatism has been a core belief of Judaism.

I wonder how is possible that after two thousand years of disgrace coming from that historic mistake, people are forgetting so fast. An allucined revival of Second Temple Mesianism will only lead to same Second Temple results.

PD.-Mi segundo post sobre la desconexión. En inglés. Pronto volveré en español!

12 Comments:

At 11:33 p. m., Blogger EVF said...

Hello!
As I said previously, I follow you with an enormous interest. And these two articles on disengagement are really very interesting, because I too think disengagement is perhaps the only solution. I found it "funny" that you have drawn such a parallelism with biblical history: I'm afraid I can't avoid being a "catholic atheist" (an atheist who cannot escape the cultural heritage of the catholic society he has been raised in), so I cannot put any value in holy history except for its metaphorical message.

About the disengagement, however, I have read an interview with a former government member of Likud who resigned because of the project, who said that this first "victory" of palestinian violent organizations will only cause an uproar in their attacks, and that nothing will stop their violence except for the destruction of Israel. What do you think of it?

 
At 8:14 a. m., Blogger Cosmic X said...

Shalom Kantor,

First of all thanks for visting my blog and leaving your comment. I'm returning the favor :-)

"The latest developments in Israel are making me feel increasingly anxious about the possibility (in the medium term) of civil war among Jews, leading to war with the Arabs and the final destruction of the Third Temple. I don’t know how long will remain the State of Israel, but at least, I hope it will last more than myself."

The Third Temple has yet to be built. If you are refering to the State of Israel, this is an offense to all those who pray for the Temple.

" Even in the beginning of modern Israel, the religious Jews were not a driving force on israeli politics and many of them were outspoken critics of the whole Zionist enterprise."

From the time of the "Second Aliyah" the secular became the majority in the Land of Israel. But let's not forget the contribution of the religious Jews that were a foundation for later aliyot. The aliya of the students of the Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon, the growth of Jerusalem beyond the walls of the Old City in the middle 1800s, the establishment of Petach Tikva, Rosh Pina, and more. The "First Aliyah" was a religious one.

"Two schools of thought emerged in Orthodox Judaism.The first one considered the attachment of the People to the Land as a sacred duty, which should fulfilled under all circumstances, and failure on keeping the land is considered a sin able to bring disaster to the nation. I will call this viewpoint as the “Land-idolatric Judaism”, joining in one statement the description and the opinion. Idolatry is when men turn a tool into a Master."

Wrong! This is what we learned in last week's Torah portion, Parshat Shelach. The spies had all kinds of humanitarian and security reasons why not to conquer the land of Israel. This was against the will of G-d who commanded us to conquer. This commandment is valid at all times (Nachmanides). Nachmanides was not an idolater!

"The second approach is that the Land belongs to the People, and was given by G-d to it, so the People has the right to fight for it, keep it, or render it as the price for other political or strategic commodities."

Please bring a source for this approach. I never heard any Othodox rabbi say that the land is ours and we can trade it around as we please.

"The Torah can be interpreted to some extent, and sometimes, accordingly to Maimonides, even directly discarded in favor of reason ( “The Torah speaks the language of man” was his conceptual tool to reevaluate the Torah under a rational light), but in these particular case, the Text is explicit and fully coherent, both on religious and historical grounds, and no Jewish scholar have doubts about the fact that on that time, division, paganism and corruption where prevalent on the old Kingdom of Israel. I consider that in religious (and even in secular terms) this consensus cannot be challenged."

Our rabbis taught: The First Temple was destroyed because of three serious sins: idol worship, sexual sins, and murder. The Second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred.

"In fact Judaism is the only non-proselytism monotheism, and the Torah contains careful rules to protect the foreigners “because you also were a foreigner in the land of Egypt”.

This protection is dependent on these foreigners behaving themselves. (See Rambam's Laws of Kings And Their Wars).

"The Romans were not hostile rulers. They provided Israel with peace and tried not to interfere with local affairs. The taxes were high, but the whole Empire pay them, and anyway, it flourished. It is true that there were some pagan provocations, but compared with a history of cruelty and open oppression, the evils of Roman Empire were affordable. The price of resistance was, anyway, higher."

Not true. The Romans prevented the Jews from learning and practicing Torah.

"Currently the rational expectations are on the side disengagement Likudniks."

It is totally irrational to give anything to the Arabs based on the Oslo experience. Sharon wants to keep himself and his sons out of jail.

 
At 10:22 a. m., Blogger Gabriel said...

Más sobre la la "desconexión" http://politicaincorrecta.blogspot.com/

 
At 9:37 p. m., Blogger Kantor said...

Hello Cosmic X. It is allways a pleasure having you here.

"The Third Temple has yet to be built. If you are refering to the State of Israel, this is an offense to all those who pray for the Temple"

Well, the statement "Fall of the Third Temple" was used by Moshe Dayan in the Yom Kippur War. The "Third Temple" is a good metaphor for the recovery of the Land by the Jewish People.

About the restoration of the Temple, I remind you that G_d was reluctant to the construction of the Temple. It was the King David who asked for permission in order to build it. He didn't command in first place. He only gave permission.

Maimonides, in the "Guide for the Perplexed", gave an explanation for the Temple cult. He said that sacrifices and rituals that were a potential source of idolatry had to performed only in one place, in order to avoid idolatry.

So for Maimonides, the first mission of Temple was to limit dangerous forms of cult. If this is true, perhaps the People is better off with only prayers and the synagoge.Perhaps the destruction of the Temple is a definitive nullification of a cult that is no longer profitable for the spirirtual growth of the Jewish People, in its present state of development.

 
At 11:13 p. m., Blogger Kantor said...

http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp439.htm

"This approach was articulated by the late Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik, who lived in the U.S. and was regarded by many modern Orthodox Jews, including Israelis, as the leading authority of his generation. Opposing the rabbinical rulings that gave exclusive emphasis to sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and noting the centrality of pikuach nefesh, his view was that policy decisions on these issues are best left to the professional military and political authorities. "

 
At 11:21 p. m., Blogger Kantor said...

"The Romans prevented the Jews from learning and practicing Torah"

The main reason for this was the constant revolts againt them in name of religion.
Anyway, at least up to Vespasian and Titus, the Sanedrin was the leading authority in dosmestic Jewish affairs. I don´t say the Romans were fair rulers, but I still hold that they were not specially tirannic.

 
At 11:22 p. m., Blogger Kantor said...

"It is totally irrational to give anything to the Arabs based on the Oslo experience"

Israel is not giving Gaza. It is getting rid of it.

 
At 12:05 a. m., Blogger opensoc said...

si los romanos no eran especialmente tiránicos,¿ que motivó el suicidio colectivo en Massada?
¿Si la fuerza imperial de los Romanos no fuera imposible de vencer, qué impulsó la expectativa de un Mesias que mágicamente revirtiese el infortunio?

 
At 2:21 a. m., Blogger Kantor said...

Los Romanos antes de las grandes rebeliones judias eran Gobernantes moderados; La prueba mas importante es que el Sanedrin gobernaba Israel con poca interferencia extrajera.

Por supuesto, en las guerras judias, fueron no solo tiranicos, sino directamente genocidas. Pero yo critico a los judios por hacer esas guerras contra todo realismo.

En cuanto al Mesias, es una idea judia muy anterior a la invasion romana.

 
At 3:26 a. m., Blogger EVF said...

Cheers Kantor, thank you for your adding me to your blogroll. Unfortunately I really, really don't have the time to update the English version of my blog, so it gets poorer and poorer compared to the "original" Catalan version.
At the same time, I'm unsure whether your readers will enjoy the reading of my blog, since I cannot be considered a liberal... I wouldn't like them to be upset because of you linking to my blog, and therefore stopping reading your blog.
BTW I really don't know where did I get your reference from, but I must say again (even if I repeat myself) that I enjoy your articles very much. The ones about the way physical determinism and human freedom were just extraordinary

 
At 12:14 p. m., Blogger Kantor said...

As Amazon says, if you liked the determinism ones, you will probably like this one on Foundations of Mathematics

http://kantor-blog.blogspot.com/2005/01/wittgenstein-i-logica-y-necesidad.html

 
At 8:27 a. m., Anonymous Torah speaks the language of man said...

BS"D

>> Two schools of thought emerged
>> in Orthodox Judaism.

Well, I am afraid you forgot the most traditional school, which says that Jews are not allowed to transgress the Sheloshah Shvuot which we sweared (see Talmud Bavli, Ketubot). And therefore this approach, which is certainly the most legitimate from an halachic standpoint, rejects any support to the zionist enterprise, which BTW always had the only intention of bringing all Jews to one place (any place, actually) and re-educate them against Torah and against Hashem, G-d forbid. Baruch Hashem, they failed with many of us, but unfortunately אין בית שאין שם מת....

 

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