Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Tolerance…

I am always surprised at the vehemence and rudeness in some of the emails I receive.  Many come from “messianic jews’ upset with my stance of them (anyone not aware of that stance:  As far as I am concerned “messianic judaism” is nothing but a Christian missionary movement using a bait and switch scam to convert the uneducated to Christianity).  Now, I understand why they are upset with me’ after all, I take quite a hostile approach towards their missionary movement.

Where I find the hostility strange is when people I have never heard of start sending em hate mails attacking me because I am against Christianity and Islam.  This always comes as a surprise- since I never bother talking about either of those religions (why should I, this blog is about Judaism not about other religion).  So I look with amazement on these emails- am I being accussed of hating other religions because I ignore them?

To me, it raises the whole issue of tolerance.  I don’t write about other religions since they are meaningless to me and I have no issue with other people belonging to other religions.  People follow the religion they believe in and do so because they believe in it.  I have no intention of going and seeking out people to convert to Judaism and I have no intention of trying to convince people that there religion is wrong and they must change.  The only time I raise other religions is when they are involved in some way with Judaism- be it “messianic judaism” and their attempts to convert Jews by distorting and lying about the Torah or the incident with the Pope and the removing of the excommunication from a holocause denying Bishop which I blogged about at the time.

So, when somebody sends me an email saying that I hate Islam and Muslims I just scratch my head and wonder where the person gets it from.  When someone sends me an email saying how I hate Jesus, that I am just like the pharisees (thanks for that one- I wish I could be like the great sages of the Talmud!) and that I will burn in hell for blaspheming Jesus I am vaguely amused.  I suppose I am not alone in receiving this kind of mail and normally I just delete it after a mild moment of amusement.  Still, it got me thinking and writing this down to make a simple request:

Before accussing me of the numerous infidelities you can think off- from being a “Jesus killing pharisee” to “assisting the devil in his work to oppose Jesus”- please read my blog and what I actually write.   Maybe you will actually learn something and realise that just because somebody does not agree with you, they are not out to destroy you.  (yep, including even the “messianic jews”- the day they stop pretending to be Jewish, proudly join the ranks of the Christians and stop using deceit and misrepresentation in an attempt to convert Jews, I will stop making posts about them!)

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Current affairs, Messianic, Weekly Question/Issue | Leave a comment

South African Elections 2009

Tomorrow South Africa heads off to the polls for the fourth democratic election since apartheid came tumbling down.  Unfortunately, in the time since nelson mandela was elected as the President of South Africa, we seem to have undergone a falling down in standards…

After the first elections in 1994, there was great joy.  we had leaders that were recognised by the rest of thew world, leaders that promised to lead the country forward democratically and in the interests of all, not just their own narrow interests.  Unfortunately, the sense of joy fell away.  Corruption began to show- some of the stalwarts of the anti-Apartheid era were caught with their fingers in the coffers.  The arms deal towards the end of the decade just seemed to accelerate the corruption.   Along with the increase in white collar crime amongst the politicians, an increase in violent crime in the streets seemed to run in parallel.

25 years on, we now face an election where the most likely winner is somebody who managed to avoid serious criminal charges of fraud by dragging out the criminal case for years, and then blackmailing the prosecution authorities into dropping the charges.  Theris only one credible opposition party, the DA, the only other party that is likely to make any showing at all, COPE, is just an offshoot of the ANC, filled with the same people who were corrupt and pushed cronyism while in nice powerful positions.  Now, on the losing end of a power struggle within the ANC, they have started their own party.  They don’t appear any different to the way they were before, trotting out any populist nonsense needed to garner a few more votes, such as the allowing in, and putting forward as a candidate, the “Reverend” Alan Boesak- an apartheid activist who stole donor money given to his church, and then [pardoned by the State president!  Hardly the stand against corruption they claim to be interested in when they incorporate corupt individuals into their ranks!

So, tomorrow we vote, and hope for a better future.  Maybe a miracle will happen, maybe more of the populace is fed up with the antics of the ruling elite and they will be prepared o vote with logic as opposed to sentiment.  I don;t expect it- but I do hope that the ANC can at least be prevented from getting the 2/3s majority needed to alter the constitution and thus be forced to live within the law!

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Current affairs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Purim 5769

We are all familiar with the story of Purim:  The evil Haman convinces the foolish Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews and then Esther, the niece of the Mordechai, and the wife of Ahasuerus (and unknown to him a Jewess) turns the tables on Haman and the Jews are saved.  The simple story is taught to Jewish children from the time they can sit still long enough to hear it.  I remember my younger son, at the age of three, wanting to be Haman “because he likes baddies”.  This year (at age 5) he wants to Mordechai- seems he prefers the “goodies” now.  So much for the simplistic story- but very little in the Tanakh is ever what it appears to be on the surface.

Another view of the story came to me when my older son (8 years old) said “My teacher said that Ahaseurus was not a real king but a very wealthy man who was like a king.”  That struck me as odd; the megillah on the surface very definitely says that Ahaseurus was a king- but there are so many hidden things in this particular megillah (including the real identity of Mordechai who some claim to be Daniel) that it merited investigation.  And thus my reading through Mikraot Gedolot began.

Rashi brings that Ahaseurus did not inherit his crown- but achieved it on his own.  Since attaining great wealth can be seen as a crown- perhaps this was a form of support for this statement of the teacher.  Various other commentaries, however, seem to indicate he was a king, but not necessarily on his own.  Probably the most clear example of this is the “Megillat Estharim” commentary of R’ Yaakov bar R’ Yaakov Moshe Melisa.  He explains that Ahaseurus had been a King over the whole world- and then had been reduced in power- to “who was melech from Hodu to Kush”- in other words- he went from king over all to being king over a limited realm.

What struck me about this is the different flavour the story takes on when viewed through the lens of a king that has lost power, and perhaps fears losing more.  Lets look at it from that point of view:

Ahaseurus is celebrating one of his past victories, showing off his might before his nobles, courtiers and generals.  He summons his wife to dance naked before him, to display yet more of his authority and power- and she rebels against him.  Now, for a king secure on his throne and in his power- this would be provocative, but could probably be joked away.  For one who has lost power, facing the danger of further challenges to his throne and authority, this would be a hard blow- his authority is not even recognised as absolute by his wife!  Thus why Memuchan (who the commentaries state is Haman) would recommend death- it shows those present that the King still has power and cannot be rebelled against.

In the same light, his agreement to the Jews being killed can be seen through a different lens.  His second in command complains about a lack of respect for the authority of the King which he represents.  There were probably plenty of others- but here is a handy group to use as a capegoat- they are a minority, visible (Mordechai was a regular at court- how else would he have heard of the plot against the King?) and worship an unpopular religion; on top of that, Haman offers to fill the coffers of the King with the wealth they will steal from the Jews they kill.  And so, as in so many times throughout history, the Jews become the scapegoat, and target, of the authorities when a visible target is required to make their rule look good.

Through this lens, suddenly the story becomes one not just of the story of Jewish survival when in exile- but of Jewish oppression and anti-Semitism through the ages.  Haman’s anti-Semitism is purely driven by hatred; Ahaseurus is driven by political expediency and greed.  A weak ruler, needing to look visibly strong, finding a weak enemy to overthrow and thus bolster their own image; the fact that they may not actually be the enemy they are portrayed as is immaterial- as Haman says ““There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be.”  It doesn’t matter that they obey the king- or how their laws may be different, or even if they ar ehostile- the fact that the Jews are different is enough for Haman to say “it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be.”  And the enticement of the money, combined with this spurious reasoning, enough for a weak king, needing to bolster his image and rule, to agree.

Unfortunately, we see this today still.  Hitler, yemach sh’mo, also blamed the Jews for Germany’s political weaknes; when Poland went to the voting booths after the fall of communism, the impoverished Polish Jewish community, all 5000 of them, were still being accused of being the architects of Poland’s woes by some; and today- we see the neo-Nazis, Islamic terrorists and even the extreme left all combining to blame the jews for everything from the political mess the world is in 9after all, the Jews control the world, media etc) to the financial crisis (after all Jews are the capitalists AND the communists!)  Anti-Semitism does not change- people put on new faces, new masks.   There are those who are blatant about it- those who follow in the path of Haman and openly call for the destruction of the Jews; and there are those who hide it- they hide who they are under a disguise- today it is the extreme anti-Israel rhetoric, the calls forIsrael to disappear, the biased media reporting that splashes every propoganda statement from Hamas and the other terrorist organisations across the TV screens of the world as if they are angels and would never lie and exagerate!  Yet time and again their lies are shown.  At the same time- human tragedies in othe rparts of the world receive little attention.  In Sri Lanka the government battle against the TamilTigers has resulted in TWO THOUSAND CIVILIAN DEATHS A MONTH since November.   Yet the UN is quiet, no politicians are jetting out to investigate the situation, the screens are not filled with the image sof this conflict.  Indeedn. anti-Semitism is yet another message of the hidden and disguised of Purim:  it may not be overt, but it is there behind a mask.

So, this Purim, in a world seeing an increasing level of anti-Semitism, with communities around the world experiencing ever more anti-Semtism, let us drown out the name of Haman; let us work on removing the disguises the anti-Semites hide behind and showthe hidden to the world.

And please, if anyone knows of a commentary that Ahaseurus was not a King- let me know.  I still can’t find it!

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Chagim, Current affairs, Other Torah, Torah | , , , , , , | 2 Comments