Monday, February 21, 2005

New, Old, Ancient, All the Same

Musings #101
February 20, 2005
The 11th of Adar Alef

New, Old, Ancient, All the Same

Ok, I admit that I’m not a rabbi; I’m just a housewife, who teaches English and writes. I learned that there’s a Jewish Law that even if one of the “shofrot,” rams horns, used in the time of the Beit Hamikdash, Holy Temple, was found, it wouldn’t be considered kosher for ritual use today.

Rabbinic decisions are connected to the times in which they are made. That’s why I have a problem with a few of the responses to my feeling that we must rethink our “enthusiasm” to the present State of Israel. A few people said that my thoughts and, opinions, are wrong because of what the Rabbis Kook (both of them) poskened, taught. Now, I would never criticize what the rabbis stated about the times in which they lived, but even Rav Tzvi Yehuda passed to olam haba a generation ago.

Not to diminish anything those great rabbis taught during their lives, I wonder what they would say and do if they were alive today, when the State of Israel planning on dismantling Jewish communities, schools, yeshivot and businesses and jailing those who protest against it. I can’t help thinking of Shmuel HaNavi, Samuel the Prophet, the man who anointed the first King of Israel, Saul, and soon after, while Saul still reigned, he anointed David king. In a sense, the Rabbis Kook can be likened to Shmuel HaNavi, except for the crucial fact that they died at too early a stage in the story.

I strongly feel that we are in those times again. We are reliving the times when Saul was chasing David, trying to kill him and all who followed him. Saul was desperate to preserve his kingship and pass it on to his son Jonathan.

David wrote some of his most moving T’hilim, psalms, when he was trying to avoid Saul’s persecution and murder attempts. Every week when I learn more of those lines (at our Boker Limud Nashim, Women’s Study Morning taught by Rabbi Nissan Ben Avraham), I’m more and more convinced of the similarities.

First of all, in Biblical times, the people asked Shmuel to make them a king, “like all other nations,” (First Samuel, Chapter 8.) “Like all the other nations” so clearly reminds me how the Zionist leaders were so insistent on getting the approval of foreign countries, and how they celebrated, even today, the UN vote on the 29th of November, commemorated on the goyish calendar date. And to this day, major national decisions are made, not for what’s best for the State of Israel, but how will the goyim see us. Now, in the Divine Plan, which was no secret, there was supposed to be a king, but he wasn’t supposed to be “like all the nations.”

I have to admit something that annoys or makes some people uncomfortable, the more I learn about King Saul, the less I think of him. Now, as I’m writing this, I reread Chapter 9 in the First Book of Samuel, just to make sure that my impressions are based on the text. And it just confirmed my previous feelings. Saul was chosen more for his physical attributes, “…from his shoulders and upwards, he was taller than any of the people.” (First Samuel 9, 2) I can see that line illustrated with the classic portrait of the early kibbutznik, tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, his sun-bleached hair in a natural pompadour crowning his forehead.

Just read the chapter for the narrative. You don’t see a leader, just a well-behaved son of a prominent family, the handsome, pampered son of a “man of valor,” thrust into a position for which he was unprepared and unsuited. So it’s no surprise that later on when Goliath taunts his army, Saul is paralyzed and doesn’t react. Young David, the “Cinderella” son of Jesse, arrives with some food for his more important brothers, hears Goliath, takes out his slingshot, and kills him.

I call King David the “Cinderella,” because, like the Fairy Tale character, he was from a distinguished family, but treated like a servant. His brothers were raised to be national leaders, but he was kept out, sent off to be a shepherd. Now read Chapter 16 in The First Book of Samuel. Again, the similarities are really spooky. I see our hilltop youth in the description of young David and the fear of today’s regime echoes in Samuel’s as he tries to avoid G-d’s orders. “And Samuel said, ‘how can I go? If Saul will hear of it, he will kill me.’” (First Samuel 16, 2) Think of the government ministers “holding onto their seats” rather than defying Sharon.

Reading our once and forever history book, the Bible, we learn that because he didn’t follow G-d’s commandments, Saul loses Samuel’s backing in one of most pathetic scenes in the Bible and secular literature. The once kingly Saul crying, begging, pleading and grabbing Samuel’s cloak, willing to do anything just to remain king (First Samuel 15, 22-35.) It ends with G-d being sorry for ever having had appointed Saul king.

My writing, even at its best, can’t compete with the compelling narrative of the Holy Bible, so I suggest that you read it in whatever language is easiest for you to comprehend.

If we continue to follow our ancient history, then our troubles won’t be over for a while. It took quite a few years for David to begin his reign over the entire Jewish Nation. Our struggle is far from over, but as long as we follow G-d’s commandments, b’ezrat Hashem, t’hiyeh Geula shleimah, b’mheira, b’yameinu, With G-d’s help, there will be a complete redemption in our day, soon.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
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Smooth said...

Once again, Batya, you've written an excellent article. I've commented on it on my blog.

MatzahNacho said...

Your example of a similarity between then and now is excellent! When I'm reading or studying, like Tehillim in the morning, I find a lot too and have posted a few on my blog.

And speaking of Samuel, I just picked up Samuel I & II with a lot of commentary by Art Scroll which is a wonderful study help for those of us who aren't expert at deciphering those Mikraot Gedolot commentaries.