Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Practical, The Rational 1988

From Barbara Ginsberg’s Desktop

“K A H A N E”

The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea

July-August 1988            Tamuz-Menachem Av 5748         

 The Practical, The Rational

Breathes there a Jew with mind so dead who never has proclaimed allegiance to rationality, pragmatism and the joys of being practical?  To be a person who speaks of “faith” and belief” is clearly to have one foot in the camp of the Ayatollah and no normal Jew would ever dare be brushed with the tar of “fanatic!”  No, the Jewish people is a “normal” people, a rational one, and thank G-d that the normal people is also the most abysmally ignorant of its own Judaism and teachings – otherwise it would surely burn all the Bibles and Talmuds that babble about “cursed is he who trusteh in man.”

And so it follows that trusting in G-d is a quaint thing, to be jollied over at the Jewish Museum and in lecture series, but only an extremist would take it to the light of modern day.  This is a practical world, one in which tough and pragmatic men understand the real realities and make their plans accordingly.  Prayers are wonderful for the holidays and with which to open conventions but let them attempt to escape to the streets to demand equal time and to be taken seriously, and we shoot them down as dangerous fanaticism.

That is why the sophisticates from Peres to the AJC, from Moment to Olam HaZeh reject the past as key to the future and indeed, hallow only the moment, the “zeh”.  We believe only in the things we can see and touch and feel and understand.  Only the logical and rational play any part in our equations; guns, allies, realpolitik, those are the things and stuff of which the real is made of.

And that is why we dare not annex the “occupied territories” (Judea-Samaria-Gaza); and that is why we dare not even talk of removing the Arabs from the Temple Mount; and that is why only madmen should think of expelling or “transferring” the Arabs; and that is why we dare not ever anger the Americans without whom we would be in the sea.

Very well, I am convinced.  Secular logic is, after all, so compelling.  I have decided to convert.  I have decided to accept the religion of pragmatism.  You now behold, before you, a superb example of rationality and practicality.  But to the bitter end. And here, fellow pragmatists and healthy rationalists is the bitter end.

Of course this religious dependence on G-d is absurd.  Of course the reality is weapon and the United States and allies and good will.  Because it is only this that will stand us in good stead when the Arabs produce or receive their first nuclear weapon or decide to use the chemical-biological weapons that are today’s “poor man’s” nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan is on the verge of producing (and may, indeed, have already produced) its own nuclear weapon.  It does not take very much to produce a “primitive”, outdated, atomic bomb, which is limited in scope, say like the one dropped on Hiroshima… And if Moslem Pakistan develops such a weapon does one believe that its devoted faithful will not share it with their oppressed Arab Moslems and Palestinians?  By all means let us be hard headed and come up with a rational answer to that.  Without the nonsense of faith.

And when the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Engineers, General Yoseph Ayal tells us (August 17) that certain Arab states are developing the capacity for chemical and biological warfare, there is no doubt that our practical senses will handle the matter with equanimity and without interference from G-d and his faithful.  My only problem is that in all my pious rationality I really do not know how to deal with the above.  Practicality somehow fails to give me answers as to how to deal with Arab nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the hands of fanatical Moslems.

And bringing back tongue from cheek, the bitter reality is that the realists have nothing but bitter reality and not the slightest answer to the pragmatic and practical problems that defy rational solutions.  The reality is that Israel faces such awesome practical threats just over the horizon, that a normal, practical, rational Jew, would be insane to stay if he could, somehow, leave the country.  It is only the “impractical”, the “irrational”, and the “dreamers” who have any rational reason to remain.  They believe in G-d .  They have faith in an Almighty and a Torah that decreed there never can be a third exile.  They know that perfect faith and trust in G-d, while observing His commandments, will assure victory over our enemies.  That is why they stay. That is why they are undeterred by the certainty of Arab nuclear and chemical and biological weapons.  Because they pray.  Because they do not miss a mincha – and evening service – or any other kind.  Because they do know that “these may come with nuclear bombs and these with chemical warfare, but we shall proclaim the name of the L-rd.” 

A rational Jew?  That is a rational Jew.  Any other kind, the one who decides to trust in Ronald Reagan is mad, fanatic, extreme, a real Khoumeniite.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Down with Chanukah 1972

From Barbara Ginsberg’s Desktop

Rabbi Meir Kahane Writings (5732-33) (1971-73)

Down with Chanukah
Written December 15, 1972

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 na├»ve 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.

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