by Rabbi Avi Shafran
Am Echad Resources
February 15, 2002
".The Jews' spilling human blood to prepare pastry for their holidays is a
". During the holiday [of Purim], the Jews wear carnival-style masks and
costumes and overindulge in drinking alcohol, prostitution, and adultery.
"For this holiday, the victim must be a mature adolescent who is, of course,
a non-Jew - that is, a Christian or a Muslim. His blood is taken and dried
into granules. The cleric blends these granules into the pastry dough.
". A needle-studded barrel is used. about the size of a human body. the
victim's blood drips from him very slowly. [the victim's] torment affords
the Jewish vampires great delight."
The above was excerpted from an article entitled "The Jewish Holiday of
Purim" and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. The
author is a faculty member at King Faisal University in Al-Damman and the
piece was published in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh on March 10.
One day earlier, an entirely different sort of untruth, considerably more
subtle but in its own way no less shocking, appeared in the pages of The New
York Times. While free of any gore or menace, it offered a sad revisionist
account of its own - not of hamantaschen, but of the Torah itself.
The Times story was about "a new Torah and commentary" produced by the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and which is "expected to become
the standard Bible in the nation's 760 Conservative synagogues."
The revisionism lies in the approach the book's editors took, and an essay
they took care to include. The upshot of both is that the Torah, the
carefully preserved gift of God to the Jewish people transmitted from Jewish
generation to Jewish generation over millennia, the soul of our nation and
the lode of so much that is treasured in contemporary civilization, is only
a collection of human fabrications.
Denying the Torah's divine origin opens many doors. "When the tradition asks
us to do something that does offend us morally," the new book notes,
"Conservative Judaism claims the right to challenge and, if necessary,
change the tradition."
That is, of course, essentially the Reform movement's position, though when
this writer dared point out that convergence of both movements in Moment
Magazine just over a year ago, and the resultant absurdity in the
Conservative claim of fealty to halacha, Conservative leaders fumed and
hurled insults. The emperor stands utterly naked now.
Truth be told, the new Conservative publication goes even further than has
the Reform movement. As The Times tells it, the current official Reform
Torah commentary, while it rejects the historicity of the forefathers and
foremothers of the Jewish people, nevertheless affirms that the Exodus from
Egypt belongs "in the realm of history." The Conservative publication, by
contrast, rejects the veracity of both the Exodus and the Jewish settlement
of the Holy Land.
Given current events, that is not an insignificant point. Besides spreading
the canards that Jews need blood for their religious rituals and seek
world-domination, Islamists tirelessly insist that we have no historical
connection to the Holy Land, that our tradition is a fraud. In that
allegation, tragically, they can now claim prominent rabbinical allies here
in the United States.
Conservative leaders see themselves as on the cutting edge of what they
imagine to be incontrovertible science. Archeologists, they delicately (or,
like one West Coast rabbi last Passover, indelicately) explain, see no
evidence for an Exodus or a Jewish influx and settlement of the land. So, at
least to sophisticates, those things must not have happened.
Leave aside that archeologists argue among themselves whether or not
evidence for those events exists. Leave aside that the "argument" against
the Jewish historical tradition largely boils down to a lack of evidence.
Leave aside that that the discipline of archaeology, unlike biology or
chemistry, is inherently speculative, based almost entirely on assumptions,
and predicated on imagining things that simply cannot be known with
certitude. Focus simply on the fact that, from the very start of its
enterprise, archeology effectively ignores the unparalleled testimony of the
Torah and Jewish tradition; and that preserving that testimony is the
essence of the Jewish mandate.
At a time when the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps is
vehemently denied by some - a mere 50-odd years after they functioned - one
might be forgiven one's skepticism toward pronouncements that recorded
events of several thousand years ago never happened. Especially when such
pronouncements contradict - indeed, undermine entirely - the meticulously
preserved and transmitted historical tradition for which a people, scattered
throughout the world over the course of millennia, have lived and died.
Years hence, the current era may well be seen as having been a crucial
turning point for hundreds of thousands of American Jews, the period when
they were presented with, and had to act upon, a stark choice: to affirm the
specialness of the Jewish people, the Jewish land and the Jewish mandate -
or to follow their leaders into eventual Jewish oblivion.
We in the Orthodox world - and it is a variegated world, with Haredim and
"Moderns," Torah-scholars and scientists, professionals and professional
parents, blue collar workers and academics - hope with all our hearts that
our cherished brothers and sisters join us in choosing to affirm the truths
of the Jewish past and in remaining part of the Jewish future. in, as the
Torah puts it, choosing Life.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Rabbi Avi Shafran serves as director of public affairs for Agudath Israel
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