Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel – my thoughts.
I despise the concept of Intersectionality, which at its core holds that if you believe in one thing you must believe in another. For example: If you object to the discrimination of people based on sexual preference and you support LGBT rights then you must also support the delegitimization of all Israelis as oppressors and colonialists… and support BDS.
As a student of the history of ideas, nothing could be more regressive and repressive than suggesting that if you hold one truth, you must hold another. Innovation occurs not only when new ideas are conceived but also when existing ideas are combined in novel ways. I love nothing more than when women’s rights groups include both pro choice and pro life feminists. I dream of the day when fundamentalists embrace environmentalism and global warming because, after-all, God created the world and left us humans as custodians.
Which brings me to Jerusalem, the de facto and historical capital of Israel.
Here is something that both those Jews and Israelis on the right and on the left can and should agree upon. We should savor such opportunities.
Those of us on the left (I am guilty as charged) should welcome the opportunity to join all informed Jews and Israelis in acknowledging the historical and unbroken ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem as our capital. As in… Next Year in rebuilt Jerusalem… ירושלים הבנויה (not necessarily… greater Jerusalem).
The fact that Trump has spoken this truth is actually a blessing in disguise since it sugar-coats this truth to our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the most light-handed way possible. Trump is not known for speaking the truth, so when he does speak the truth (even a broken clock is right twice a day) it is arguably easier to swallow.
We in the West, on the left and the Palestinian leadership do our Palestinian brothers and sisters no favor by reinforcing an unattainable belief that a united Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian State.
West Jerusalem was liberated by the Jewish State of Israel in the 1948 war initiated by the surrounding Arab States and supported by the indigenous Arab population (aka the Palestinians), and is not up for negotiation as long as the State of Israel exists.
There are other truths that we (Jews and Israelis on both the right and left) can and should embrace.
Notwithstanding the proclamations of another institution which has a problem with the truth (UNESCO), the Temple Mount was first and foremost…. the Ancient Hebrew’s Temple Mount. The fact that from time immemorial conquest of a foreign nation entailed the conquerer erecting their Temple on the ruins of the vanquished’ temple erases historical truth no more than does the piss of a dog marking territory previously inhabited by a prior canine.
The Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, and other historical facts are not negotiable. As far as I am concerned the Muslims are welcome to keep their mosque on the Temple Mount and maintain the status quo as long as they respect and protect the right of all religions to pray there (which, regrettably, they don’t.. another un-truth).
So does truth-telling destroy the non-existent peace process? Or should we ask whether treating our Palestinian brothers and sisters as children who cannot handle the truth destroys any chance for compromise and realism?
Does truth-telling undermine the honest-broker status of the West? Or should we ask whether propping up a Palestinian leadership which profits from and feeds it’s people ahistorical and unattainable untruths promotes conflict resolution?
I can say and ask all of the above and still believe in a Two-State Solution and mourn the injustice (as in אי צדק) of the Occupation. So much for Intersectionality…..
[Sorry for the picture, but it got your attention.]
“Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your new bride through a veil.” famously quipped Haim Nachman Bialik.
I would love to see this quote as Bialik as published or documented verbatim and in the original Hebrew. I’m suspicious that what I find attributed to Bialik as it may just be a translation or paraphrase:
תרגום דומה לנשיקה מבעד לצעיף
I’m sure that reading Bialik in translation is a similarly less-than sensual experience. Did he say bride or girl, did he mean just a kiss or was he suggesting something more intimate and finally was it a veil or the proverbial sheet? In any case, I do agree with Bialik that learning Torah can be like sex and in this regard it should not be practiced safely with an interfering translation… it should be done … in the original Hebrew.
While we’re on the subject of kosher sex, let’s consider one of the best examples of lost-in-translation in the Bible.
Genesis 26 sets the stage wherein Isaac fibs about his wife and tells Abimelech that Rebecca is his sister.
8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
The Hebrew word that the text uses for “sporting” is metzahek which comes from the same Hebrew root as does Isaac’s name: listen: “Yitzhak metzahek”. It is clear that the biblical writer, along with Isaac, was having some fun here. This is the only place[i] in the Bible that metzahek is used to imply sexual activity…. Unless, of course, we now re-read the texts associated with the original association of Yitzhak’s name with the laughter of Sarah and Abraham ….. and realize that his parents laughed at the thought of procreating a child…. (see Gen 17:17, 18:12,13 and 15 and 21:6). So maybe Yitzchak’s “sporting” makes us realize that there was always sexual innuendo in the glee, gaiety, and amazement with a-touch-of-self-mockery that his parents, he and maybe we feel at the joy of sex. Hey.. It’s not me… it’s the Hebrew talking.
The modern day scholar who focuses most closely on the original Hebrew sounds of the biblical text is Everett Fox, who has written a translation of the Torah following on the heels of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. Fox takes the Bible, if not as an oral document, certainly as an aural one. Fox believes that using echoes, allusions, and powerful inner structures of sound, the text of the Bible is often able to convey ideas in a manner that vocabulary alone cannot do. Fox argues that virtually every major (usually male) character in Genesis has his name explained by a play on words many time hinting at an eventual fate or character trait.
Let’s listen to the story of Jacob in Genesis 25:26
26 And after that came forth his brother, and his hand had hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob. And Isaac was threescore years old when she bore them.
The association of Jacob – Yaakov with a heel is strange. Jacob is not the only mythical hero with a famous heel, but in Achilles case, he was the owner of the heel. Jacob’s relationship with his brother’s heel is vicarious. If the biblical author, let alone his parents, want to be flattering, they do a lousy job. Jacob is to be known, at best, as a “hanger on”. Fox’s translation: “Heel-Holder”
Even if we choose to think of Jacob as a bootstrapper, we can’t forget that he pulls himself up by a bootstrap attached to his brothers heal. And let’s not forget that Esau’s heal, like Achilles, is his most vulnerable body part. Metaphorically, the heel[ii] is the exposed rear of an army (see Joshua 8:13 and Genesis 49:19). When God curses the snake for tempting Eve, it is on the snake’s metaphorical heel that man shall forever stamp (Genesis 3:15). Attacking an enemy’s heel is an insult to both the attacker and the victim.
Our unflattering association is echoed by Esau himself latter in the story. After Jacob steals the birthright, Esau taunts (Genesis 27:36):
And he said: ‘Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing.’ And he said: ‘Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?’
Jeremiah is pulling no punches, he uses “ekov Yaakov” the “heel of Jacob” as a synonym for acting subtly.
What kind of parents would the biblical author have Isaac and Rebecca be? Who gives a child such a name?
Clearly, Jacob is in need of a name change… and in fact, this is what happens after he wrestles with the Angel at the River Jabbok (literally: wrestling river).
There is nothing flattering that one can say about Yaakov’s name. His name can only portend a change. A change from a swindler, a scrapper, a kniver… someone who by choice or circumstance is forced to steal his blessings and eke out a living and a life. Yaakov is the outsider, the Ghetto Jew, but his name portends another name, where he crosses the river into his homeland and can stand on his own feet and pull himself up from his own bootstraps … attached to his own heel. This is what hopefully lies ahead for him in his future name and this is what presumably is up for grabs in the blessing that he steals.
So far in the text, you don’t have to listen to the Hebrew words of the text, you can look the words up in a dictionary or Biblical Lexicon… but when it comes to the patrimony and blessing that Jacob coveted… you have to listen: (Genesis 26: 3-5)
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father;
4 and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves;
5because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.’
The word translated as “because” is our old friend “ekev”[iv]. Used in this fairly rare sense, it has the sense of “as a consequence, a gain, a reward, end”. It is that which results from a long, tedious, painful, tortuous and circuitous journey. A pilgrimage full of blisters and maybe a touch of plantar fasciitis. Esau, might have been, like Achilles, the golden boy and favorite son and Yaakov, the parasite, but Yaakov struggled with what little he had. Esau may have been well heeled, but Yaakov had the fortitude and faith in a God of history to grab steadfastly for a better future[v]. He deserved the blessing… it had his name on it.
Listening to the lyricism of the words in the original Hebrew and opening our ears to the playful and suggestive way the writer weaves one word; ekev into the narrative, we can do what Fox[vi] suggests we do; move explanation and commentary from the footnotes, back to the body of the text and in so doing.. we can finally… kiss the bride.
[v] It is no surprise that this last sense of Ekev, came to represent the promise of the future and messianic times. The bad times and trial preceding the coming of the messiah were referred to as the “footsteps [heel steps] of the messiah” Sotah 49a-b
R. ELIEZER THE GREAT SAYS: FROM THE DAY THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, …. THERE WAS NONE TO ASK, NONE TO INQUIRE. UPON WHOM IS IT FOR US TO RELY? UPON OUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE MESSIAH עקבות המשיח INSOLENCE WILL INCREASE AND HONOUR DWINDLE; … THE GOVERNMENT WILL TURN TO HERESY AND THERE WILL BE NONE [TO OFFER THEM] REPROOF; THE MEETING-PLACE [OF SCHOLARS] WILL BE USED FOR IMMORALITY; …. THE WISDOM OF THE LEARNED6 WILL DEGENERATE, FEARERS OF SIN WILL BE DESPISED, AND THE TRUTH WILL BE LACKING; YOUTHS WILL PUT OLD MEN TO SHAME, THE OLD WILL STAND UP IN THE PRESENCE OF THE YOUNG, A SON WILL REVILE HIS FATHER, A DAUGHTER WILL RISE AGAINST HER MOTHER, A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW, AND A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD; THE FACE OF THE GENERATION WILL BE LIKE THE FACE OF A DOG, A SON WILL NOT FEEL ASHAMED BEFORE HIS FATHER. SO UPON WHOM IS IT FOR US TO RELY? UPON OUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN.
[vi] Although I must admit that Fox does not pick up on the ekev of the blessing, possibly because it does not appear directly in the blessing, but in the patrimony preceding and in the narrative. I would argue that it is nonetheless intentionally placed in the literary piece.
As the new “non-Jewish” New Year approaches, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to explore the bias we Jews have developed against the Sun and Solar Time.
It all starts with the Midrash explaining the relative size of the moon visa vi the Sun:
R. Simeon b. Pazzi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says, And God made the two great lights, and immediately the verse continues, The greater light…and the lesser light. The moon said unto the Holy One, blessed be He, “Sovereign of the Universe! Is it possible for two kings to wear one crown?” He answered, “Go then and make thyself smaller”. “Sovereign of the Universe!” cried the moon, “because I have suggested that which is proper must I then make myself smaller?” He replied, “Go, and thou wilt rule by day and by night.” “But what is the value of this?” cried the moon. “Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight?” He replied. “Go. Israel shall reckon by thee the days and the years.” “But it is impossible,” said the moon, “to do without the sun for the reckoning of the seasons, as it is written, And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years.” “Go.The righteous shall be named after thee as we find, Jacob the Small, Samuel the Small, David the Small.” Talmud, Hulin 60b. and for more detailed treatment see http://www.js.emory.edu/BLUMENTHAL/moonmidrash.html#1
So size does matter… and we Jews, the eternal underdogs.. the start-up nation.. the David versus their Goliath.. are to be compared to the moon. Not only is the moon smaller then the Sun, but it is also more dynamic… it waxes and wanes. You can never count the moon out. Like the remnant of Israel (sharit yis- rael Micha 2:12), the light of the moon may disappear, but it will surely be reborn (molad).
Here is the blessing that Jews say once a (lunar) month on the first appearence of the first sliver of the moon.. Birkat (kiddush) HaLavana:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the heavens by Your command and their entire host by Your mere word. You have subjected them to fixed laws and time, that they not deviate from their set function. They are glad and happy to do the will of their Creator, the true Author, whose achievement is truth. He ordered the moon to renew itself as a glorious crown for those he sustained from birth, likewise will they be renewed in the future, and worship their Creator for His glorious majesty. Blessed are You, Lord, who renews the months.
Blessed is your Maker; blessed is He who formed you; blessed is your Creator; blessed is your Master. Just as I leap toward you but cannot touch you, so may all my enemies be unable to touch me harmfully. May there fall upon them terror and dread; by the great [strength] of Your arm let them be still as a stone. As a stone let them be still by Your arm’s great [strength]; may dread and terror upon them fall.
Say three times:
דוד David, King of Israel, is living and enduring.
The following greeting is exchanged three times:
שלום Peace unto y O U . The other responds: Unto you peace.
Say the following line three times:
סמן May there be a good omen and good mazal for us and for all Israel. Amen.
Notice how the first part of the blessing refers to the “heavens” (sun and stars) as unchanging, immutable and “them” .. while the second part of the blessing references …. in a much more personal and warm manner, the renewal of the moon (who is, afterall the subject of the blessing) and the special relationship with the people governed by the rule of the moon “those he sustained from birth”.. the Jews. Notice also the emphasis on the protection of the vulnerable Jews from their enemies “them” and the reference to David (sic the small)…
But enough with lunar power and the Jews (aka the Lunacy of Hope).. what about the sun and the 365 day static year it represents and whose new year we are about to celebrate.
Remember this one about the significance of 613 (Tarya’g) commandments? “There are 365 negative commandments, corresponding to the number of days in a solar year and 248 positive commandments, ascribed to the number of bones and significant organs in the human body” Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a
What’s up with that? All of a sudden our Rabbis are referencing the solar 365 day year? Well fortunately, this past April 8, 2009 we had a once in 28 year opportunity to go to the top of our roof and bless the sun (Birchat HaChama).
Here’s a few excerpts from that blessing:
For HASHEM God is a Sun and a shield; HASHEM bestows grace and honor, He does not withhold good from them that walk uprightly.
PSALMS 72: 5 יִ They shall fear You so long as the Sun and the moon endure, throughout all generations.
PSALMS 75: 2 ה We have acknowledged You, HASHEM, we have acknowledged, and Your name is near; they tell of Your wondrous works.
MALACHI 3: 20 וְ But unto you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings; and you shall go forth and be fattened as calves in the stable.
PSALMS 97: 6 ה The heavens declared His righteousness; and all the peoples saw His glory.
Clearly the Sun and the Stars are compared to God and the unforgiving laws of nature/creation. This is God as Judge and once in 28 years sounds about right to me! For we Jews, built from the Crooked Timber of Humanity (Isaiah Berlin)… I’ll follow the moon!
Which brings this little rant to a close.. with a parting shot at the worst manifestation of solar power… namely the sign of the Zodiac (Hebrew – Mazal-Mazalot plural). My opinion of the Zodiac and Horoscopes (and fate and destiny.. for that matter) is pretty straightforward… it’s not for us! Or as Rabbi Yochanan says, “The stars do not influence Israel.’ Ein Mazal L‘Israel there are other opinions..(Shabat 155b-156a) but it’s my blog…
So… to summarize… we Jews are like the Moon, we wax and wane, bob and weave… just when you think we’re going to disappear.. we are reborn. We depend on the merciful God to sustain us (The God of rightiousness and judgement… not so much) . We’re made of blood and bones and we like to think positive. Yes, there are immutable rules and cycles and even a bunch of negative commandments (“you can’t do that!”).. and yes.. there is a God of Justice too… and we could even sneak a peak at our Horoscope.. but for the most part we like JFK say: ‘Other people, ‘see things and say: why – but I dream things that never were and say: why not.’ http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Quotations+of+Robert+F.+Kennedy.htm