Thursday, December 02, 2010

Down With Hanukah

[ YBA - I had to share this! I've been saying something similar since the early seventies.]

Only part of the story was the Maccabees fight for getting the Greeks out of Israel, and the cleansing and dedication of the Temple. The Chanukah Story was also about a civil war amongst the Jews. Judah and the boys were fighting other Jews who had turned away from their faith by combining it with Greek/Hellenistic practices. The resulting assimilation caused a loss of Jewish faith and tradition, and finally laws against practicing Jewish ritual. Chanukah is a holiday about Jews fighting against assimilation, but the ACLU-types would have us celebrate it by assimilating.
by rabbi Meir Kahane H”YD
If I were a Reform rabbi; if I were a leader of the Establishment whose money and prestige have succeeded in capturing for him the leadership and voice of American Jewry; if I were one of the members of the Israeli Government’s ruling group; if I were an enlightened sophisticated, modern Jewish intellectual, I would climb the barricades and join in battle against the most dangerous of all Jewish holidays – Chanukah.
It is a measure of the total ignorance of the world Jewish community that there is no holiday that is more universally celebrated than the “Feast of Lights”, and it is an equal measure of the intellectual dishonesty and of Jewish leadership that it plays along with the lie. For if ever there was a holiday that stands for everything that the mass of world Jewry and their leadership has rejected – it is this one. If one would find an event that is truly rooted in everything that Jews of our times and their leaders have rejected and, indeed, attacked – it is this one. If there is any holiday that is more “unJewish” in the sense of our modern beliefs and practices – I do not know of it.
The Chanukah that has erupted unto the world Jewish scene in all its childishness, asininity, shallowness, ignorance and fraud – is not the Chanukah of reality. The Chanukah that came into vogue because of Jewish parents – in their vapidness – needed something to counteract Christmas; that exploded in a show of “we-can-have-lights-just-as-our-goyish-neighbors” and in an effort to reward our spoiled children with eight gifts instead of the poor Christian one; the Chanukah that the Temple, under its captive rabbi, turned into a school pageant so that the beaming parents might think that the Religious School is really successful instead of the tragic joke and waste that it really is; the Chanukah that speaks of Jewish Patrick Henrys giving-me-liberty-or death and the pictures of Maccabees as great liberal saviors who fought so that the kibbutzim might continue to be free to preach their Marx and eat their ham, that the split-level dwellers of suburbia might be allowed to violate their Sabbath in perfect freedom and the Reform and Conservative Temples continue the fight for civil rights for Blacks, Puerto Ricans and Jane Fonda, is not remotely connected with reality.
This is NOT the Chanukah of our ancestors, of the generations of Jews of Eastern Europe and Yemen and Morocco and the crusades and Spain and Babylon. It is surely not the Chanukah for which the Maccabees themselves died. Truly, could those whom we honor so munificently, return and see what Chanukah has become, they might very well begin a second Maccabean revolt. For the life that we Jews lead today was the very cause, the REAL reason for the revolt of the Jews “in those days in our times.”
What happened in that era more than 2000 years ago? What led a handful of Jews to rise up in violence against the enemy? And precisely who WAS the enemy? What were they fighting FOR and who were they fighting AGAINST?
For years, the people of Judea had been the vassals of Greece. True independence as a state had been unknown for all those decades and, yet, the Jews did not rise up in revolt. It was only when the Greek policy shifted from mere political control to one that attempted to suppress the Jewish religion that the revolt erupted in all its bloodiness. It was not mere liberty that led to the Maccabean uprising that we so passionately applaud. What we are really cheering is a brave group of Jews who fought and plunged Judea into a bloodbath for the right to observe the Sabbath, to follow the laws of kashruth, to obey the laws of the Torah. IN A WORD EVERYTHING ABOUT CHANUKAH THAT WE COMMEMORATE AND TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO COMMEMORATE ARE THINGS WE CONSIDER TO BE OUTMODED, MEDIEVAL AND CHILDISH!
At best, then, those who fought and died for Chanukah were naïve and obscurantist. Had we lived in those days we would certainly not have done what they did for everyone knows that the laws of the Torah are not really Divine but only the products of evolution and men (do not the Reform, Reconstructionist and large parts of the Conservative movements write this daily?) Surely we would not have fought for that which we violate every day of our lives! No, at best Chanukah emerges as a needless holiday if not a foolish one. Poor Hannah and her seven children; poor Mattathias and Judah; poor well meaning chaps all but hopelessly backward and utterly unnecessary sacrifices.
But there is more. Not only is Chanukah really a foolish and unnecessary holiday, it is also one that is dangerously fanatical and illiberal. The first act of rebellion, the first enemy who fell at the hands of the brave Jewish heroes whom our delightful children portray so cleverly in their Sunday and religious school pageants, was NOT a Greek. He was a Jew.
When the enemy sent its troops into the town of Modin to set up an idol and demand its worship, it was a Jew who decided to exercise his freedom of pagan worship and who approached the altar to worship Zeus (after all, what business was it of anyone what this fellow worshipped?) And it was this Jew, this apostate, this religious traitor who was struck down by the brave, glorious, courageous (are these not the words all our Sunday schools use to describe him?) Mattathias, as he shouted: “Whoever is for G-d, follow me!”
What have we here? What kind of religious intolerance and bigotry? What kind of a man is this for the anti-religious of Hashomer Hatzair, the graceful temples of suburbia, the sophisticated intellectuals, the liberal open-minded Jews and all the drones who have wearied us unto death with the concept of Judaism as a humanistic, open-minded, undogmatic, liberal, universalistic (if not Marxist) religion, to honor? What kind of nationalism is this for David-Ben-Gurion (he who rejects the Galut and speaks of the proud, free Jew of ancient Judea and Israel)?
And to crush us even more (we who know that Judaism is a faith of peace which deplores violence), what kind of Jews were these who reacted to oppression with FORCE? Surely we who so properly have deplored Jewish violence as fascistic, immoral and (above all!) UN-JEWISH, stand in horror as we contemplate Jews who declined to picket the Syrian Greeks to death and who rejected quiet diplomacy for the sword, spear and arrow (had there been bombs in those days, who can tell what they might have done?) and “descended to the level of evil,” thus rejecting the ethical and moral concepts of Judaism.
Is this the kind of a holiday we wish to propagate? Are these the kinds of men we want our moral and humanistic children to honor? Is this the kind of Judaism that we wish to observe and pass on to our children?
Where shall we find the man of courage the one voice, in the wilderness to cry out against Chanukah and the Judaism that it represents-the Judaism of our grandparents and ancestors? Where shall we find the man of honesty and integrity to attack the Judaism of Medievalism and outdated foolishness; the Judaism of bigotry that strikes down Jews who refuse to observe the law; the Judaism of violence that calls for Jewish force and might against the enemy? When shall we find the courage to proudly eat our Chinese food and violate our Sabbaths and reject all the separateness, nationalism and religious maximalism that Chanukah so ignobly represents? …Down with Chanukah! It is a regressive holiday that merely symbolizes the Judaism that always was; the Judaism that was handed down to us from Sinai; the Judaism that made our ancestors ready to give their lives for the L-rd; the Judaism that young people instinctively know is true and great and real. Such Judaism is dangerous for us and our leaders. We must do all in our power to bury it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

We Owe the Jews

What follows is an edited version of a speech delivered by historian Andrew Roberts to the Friends of Israel Initiative in the British House of Commons on July 19, published in the National Post · Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010

From Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Caspian Sea to Aden, the 5.25 million square miles of territory belonging to members of the Arab League is home to over 330 million people, whereas Israel covers only 8,000 square miles, and is home to seven million citizens, one-fifth of whom are Arabs. The Jews of the Holy Land are thus surrounded by hostile states 650 times their size in territory and 60 times their population; yet their last, best hope of ending two millennia of international persecution -- the State of Israel -- has somehow survived. When during the Second World War, the island of Malta came through three terrible years of bombardment and destruction, it was rightly awarded the George Medal for bravery. Today Israel should be awarded a similar decoration for defending democracy, tolerance and Western values against a murderous onslaught that has lasted 20 times as long.

Jerusalem is the site of the Temple of Solomon and Herod. The stones of a palace erected by King David himself are even now being unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Everything that makes a nation state legitimate -- blood shed, soil tilled, international agreements -- argues for Israel's right to exist, yet that is still denied by the Arab League. For many of their governments, which are rich enough to have economically solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago, it is useful to have Israel as a scapegoat to divert attention from the tyranny, failure and corruption of their own regimes.

The tragic truth is that it suits Arab states very well to have the Palestinians endure permanent refugee status; whenever Israel puts forward workable solutions they are stymied by those whose interests put the destruction of Israel before the genuine well-being of the Palestinians. Both King Abdullah I of Jordan and Anwar Sadat of Egypt were assassinated when they attempted to come to some kind of accommodation with a country that most sane people now accept is not going away.

"We owe to the Jews," wrote Winston Churchill in 1920, "a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all wisdom and learning put together." Although they make up less than half of 1% of the world's population, between 1901 and 1950 Jews won 14% of all the Nobel Prizes awarded for literature and science, and between 1951 and 2000 Jews won 32% of the Nobel Prizes for medicine, 32% for physics, 39% for economics and 29% for science. This, despite so many of their greatest intellects dying in the gas chambers. Yet we tend to treat Israel like a leper on the international scene, threatening her with academic boycotts if she builds a separation wall that has so far reduced suicide bombings by 95% over three years.

Her Majesty the Queen has been on the throne for 57 years and in that time has undertaken 250 official visits to 129 countries, yet has not yet set foot in Israel. She has visited 14 Arab countries, so it cannot have been that she wasn't in the region.

After the Holocaust, the Jewish people recognized that they must have their own state, a homeland where they could forever be safe from a repetition of such horrors. Since then, Israel has had to fight five major wars for her existence. Radical Islam is never going to accept the concept of an Israeli State, so the struggle is likely to continue for another 60 years, but the Jews know that that is less dangerous than entrusting their security to anyone else.

I recently visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Walking along a line of huts and the railway siding, where their forebears had been worked and starved and beaten and frozen and gassed to death, were a group of Jewish schoolchildren, one of whom was carrying over his shoulder the Israeli flag. It was a moving sight, for it was the sovereign independence represented by that flag which guarantees that the obscenity of genocide will never again befall the Jewish people.

No people in history have needed the right to self-defence and legitimacy more than the Jews of Israel, and that is what we in the Friends of Israel Initiative demand here today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Anti-Zionism - facts (and fictions) By Howard Jacobson

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Author's Self Respect

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. 
Cyril Connolly

Friday, February 26, 2010

Abraham and the Freedom of Speach

I remember that is was a warm sunny late spring day. The kind of day, a harbinger of long lazy summer days yet to some. It was probably a Saturday. My pleasure trip for such a day was to walk to the Wellington Park library where an impressive stone building had been built on the edge of the large tree lined park that encompassed an entire city block. I must have been around thirteen or fourteen. In those days I'd simply troll the aisles until I found something that caught my attention, then I'd devour the entire book or books for the remainder of the day.

The row of books on world religions was well known to me. I think that is why the book, newly entered and placed on the shelf caught my eye. The shiny plastic protective cover made it stand out from the older, worn and used texts that had rested on those selves, who knows, perhaps since the library's establishment. It was a recent edition of the Jewish Publication Society's English translation of the first five books of the Old Testament (as I called it then). The very idea that the Jews had a version of the Bible peaked my curiosity. That should indicate the level of my appreciation for the finer points of the so called Judeo-Christian tradition.

It was the only book I took out that day. I settled myself under the sheltering boughs of some great tree that had been planted at least eighty years earlier, and I marvelled that any living thing could have lived so long and still continued to thrive. I remember all this with such remarkable clarity that it embarrasses me to admit I have trouble remembering what I did or where I went last week. Once open, I became immersed in the book, totally oblivious to my surroundings. The story, the biblical narrative, written in what was for me such a readable language when compared with the arcane stilted English of the Christian King James translation, captivated me.

I distinctly remembering the moment when I read Abraham's debate with G-d! It was more than a dialogue. No matter how self effacing and circumspect Abraham tried to be, I sensed he was struggling with G-d himself to determine what was right and what was wrong. As I write these words I can again feel the goose pimples on my flesh that I felt the very first time I read Abraham's challenge to the creator and continuing source of all existence. What if there was a quorum of righteous men still residing in the city of Sodom, what a unthinkable thing to kill the righteous with the wicked as though there was no distinction between them. Then he said : ”Will the judge of all existence not do justice?” (Genesis 18:25)

Little did I appreciate it at the time, but these words, this personal introduction to a man who supposedly lived and died thousands of years earlier, would become a pivotal point in my life, ultimately leading to my decision to live as an observant Jew. As a result, I find it fascinating when others read into this same short exchange the source of inspiration for some of the values which form the foundation of modern Western Civilization. To this end I share an excerpt from the transcript of an interview I recently read in which Professor Paul Eidelberg explores the connection between this bible story and the concept of Freedom of Speech. Enjoy!

Recall the patriarch Abraham's questioning God's decision to destroy Sodom: "*What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city? Would you still stamp it out rather than spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? It would be sacrilege to You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked; “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice? “(Genesis 18:23-25.)

God permits Abraham to question Him. Can you imagine any Muslim questioning Allah?

Abraham's dialogue with God means that God is not only a God of justice, but also of reason.

This tells us what it means to be created in the image of God. It tells us about man's unique power to speak and communicate with others. It needs to be stressed, however, that Abraham's dialogue with God reveals the ultimate object of speech - Truth. Indeed, the Hebrew word for truth is *emet*, one of the names of God.

We also learn from Abraham's questioning of God that the God of the Jews, unlike the god worshipped by Muslims, is a God of freedom, a freedom that dwells with reason and kindness.

Going further, by telling us how Abraham spoke up and questioned the King of king's judgement regarding Sodom, the Torah is teaching us that we have a right to question the laws of any government, hence, that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. However, this right must be understood from a Judaic perspective. The only rational justification for freedom of speech is man's creation in the image of G-d.

Only because man is endowed with reason and free will does he possess a right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to question the policies of government. To be consistent with man's creation in the image of God, government must be based on the primacy of reason or persuasion, as opposed to the primacy of coercion. Only the former would be acceptable to the God of Abraham.

From Genesis we learn that speech is not an end-in-itself or a mere exercise of self-expression. The basic function of speech is to communicate ideas about justice or the common good, or about what is true and what is false. To divorce speech from truth and justice is to reduce this distinctively human faculty to a mere instrument of self-aggrandizement. This is the tendency of normless democracy, which degrades man and makes nonsense of his right to freedom of speech.

It cannot be said too often that if freedom of speech is divorced from truth and justice, democracy is no more justifiable than tyranny. In other words, if there are no universally valid or objective standards as to how man should live, then there are no rational grounds for preferring democracy to tyranny. Immature minds contend, however, that relativism conduces to tolerance. But relativism undermines any objective ground for preferring
tolerance to intolerance.

Similarly, some silly f intellectuals contend that moral relativism is a precondition of academic freedom. But academic freedom can have no justification unless it is commonly understood that it is wrong to cheat or plagiarize or steal or slander one's colleagues. This suggests that moral relativists, who very much dominate academia, take civilization for

The father of civilization is none other than Abraham, whom the Torah refers to as the father of nations. The Torah portrays Abraham as the teacher of ethical monotheism which, together with the Genesis conception of man's creation in the image of God, provides the foundation for the moral unity of human nature and the idea of the human community.

The Bible of Israel thus contains, in my opinion, the most rational justification for freedom of speech, which point to its ethical limits. Apart from such limits, freedom of speech is mere noise or mischievous nonsense.

*Transcript of the Eidelberg Report,
Israel National Radio, Feb. 22, 2010,
written in honour of George Washington's birthday.