Failing the divine test
by Jonathan Rosenblum
December 29, 2000
"Don’t worry,’’ my friends in shul tell me. "We have a good Protector.’’
I know that. Yet I can’t help recalling that our Protector does not always spare us from the folly of our leaders, and that Jewish history has not been one long romp through sunny meadows.
Mostly, I’m afraid that our Protector may be more than a little fed up with His people. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s words, written at the beginning of Jewish resettlement of Eretz Yisrael, haunt me. Hirsch warned that there is no Divine promise that we will not be exiled once again from our Land: "From time to time in the course of the centuries, G-d allowed His people to touch the Land again. He put them to the test to see whether the miracle of their existence through centuries of exile had at last taught them to utterly despise the gods of the earth and had eradicated their stiff-necked refusal to acknowledge the Divine word.’’
The evidence on that score is not too encouraging. A month before the renewal of the intifada, our prime minister announced a secular revolution. Buses would run on Shabbat, the malls would be open, nationality would no longer be listed on our identity cards. A month later, after Arafat emptied the jails of every Hamas terrorist, the malls were empty every day of the week for fear of terrorist attacks. Parents were asking themselves before they sent their children on any bus: Is the trip necessary? Should I drive her? Can they walk? The soon to be erased line for nationality became the basis on which the security forces screened potential terrorists.
The violence first flared in full force on the eve of the Day of Judgment on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. Just days before, Israel had been floating the idea of transferring control of the Temple Mount to the U.N. Security Council. (Remember when that seemed a radical idea?). A week later, she stood condemned for war crimes by the same Security Council.
G-d seemed to be pointing directly at our loss of national identity – the destruction of which was the unspoken goal of the secular revolution -- as the source of our trials.
The message fell on deaf ears. Assessing the failures of his tenure in office recently, the prime minister could think of only one: not pursuing the secular revolution more aggresively. He promised to do so if re-elected.
Barak’s vulgar materialism – his watchmaker’s sensibility -- leaves no room for G-d’s influence in the affairs of men and nations. In the materialist universe only that which can be measured exists. And who has seen G-d or, for that matter, the human soul. That same materialism prevents Barak from comprehending the role of will and spirit in the life of nations. He cannot understand that a nation without a past is a nation without a future.
Arafat demands as a condition of peace that the Jewish people abase itself and admit that the Temple Mount is more important to the Arab world than it is to the Jewish people. That is the whole point of the exercise over sovereignty: to prove that nothing could induce the Arab nation to renounce its claim to the Temple while the Jews will do so for ephemera, for will-of-the-wisp pieces of paper.
On that mount stood the two Temples, the dwelling place of the Divine Presence in this world, for nearly 1,000 years. On that mount our father Abraham bound for slaughter his beloved son, upon whom his entire life mission depended, in fulfillment of the Divine command. For the thousands of years of exile, whenever a Jew prayed anywhere in the world, it was towards the place the Holy of Holies stood that he directed his prayers.
For centuries the dream of all our ancestors was to be buried on the Mount of Olives. Only the exceptionally pious, it was believed, would ever merit the privilege.
Today, however, the Mount of Olives must be returned to the hands of those who turned its ancient tombstones into building blocks and the Kotel to the control of those who used it as a urinal. (Once the Temple Mount is in Palestinian hands Israel will not be able to protect Jewish worshippers at the Kotel from attacks from above.)
Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran and no Arab leader, other than King Hussein, visited Jerusalem during 19 years of Jordanian control. Yet today no Arab sacrifice is too great for Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Meanwhile our Jewish materialists look at the Kotel and see only huge stones. They look out over Eretz Yisrael and think to themselves that there are more beautiful vistas in the world. (Is it a surprise that the author of the Oslo process proclaims that the whole idea of returning to the Land was folly, and that we should have settled for Uganda?) As for the dead on Mount of Olives -- degenerating matter nothing more.
Those who returned to this Land over the past century came from an intensely Jewish milieu. They were filled with love of the Jewish People and a love of the Land. They knew that a life in which there was nothing worth dying for is a life not worth living.
Their descendants, however, two or three generations removed from the sources of that love of People and Land, are left with nothing to believe in other than their own material existence.
For them, giving away all that has been most precious to the Jewish people throughout the ages is not a painful necessity but a wonderful opportunity to free themselves of the dead hand of the past and its multiple fetishes. Barak is their hero for slaughtering all the "sacred cows.’’
Channukah, which concludes today, celebrates the triumph of a faithful few over the Jewish Hellenizers, who were primarily drawn from an upper class elite so ashamed of being Jewish that they surgically removed the evidence of their circumcision. May we yet merit to celebrate a similar triumph in our day.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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