Friday, March 16, 2007

The Calendar and Post-Zionism

This Shabbat we read Parshat HaChodesh (Exodus Ch. 12), the passage which tells the Israelites in Egypt to begin calculating the new moons with the month of Nissan in order to make the Passover sacrifice. The act of sanctifying time and the act of sacrificing are two parts of a single concept: the free person one who controls his own time as opposed to the slave, who is always dependent on the master. The lamb was an Egyptian deity, an object of vereration, not to be eaten. In the Joseph story the Hebrews are held as repugnant in the eyes of the Egyptians because they eat the meat of the Egyptian god. The sacrifice, holding the animal for four days next to the house, followed by the public sacrifice including smearing blood on the doorposts, is an in-your-face act before the Egyptians. They have served notice that they are no longer subservient to the king, people and gods of Egypt. This act is a signpost which says, up to this point slavery, from this point further freedom. Having property to sacrifice is important, having a direction to dedicate that property is even more important, but all of the above are a function of first being a master of time.
During the peculiar negotiations between Moshe and Pharaoh at one point (Ex. 8:21) Pharaoh suggests that the people need not leave in order to sacrifice to their G-d. Let them do it in Egypt. Moshe responds that the Egyptians will stone the Israelites for slaughtering and sacrificing their god. Now the plan has suddenly changed. Why? The great colloquial Israeli expression is "ma pitom?" Why all of a sudden? What happened? My thought is that it was now possible to sacrifice in Egypt because the connection between the exodus and independence was now established. A free people is no longer worried that the neighbors will stone them for different religious beliefs and practices. The neighbors are now in a state of shock and awe after ten plagues.
I just received an invitation to a friend's son's bar-mitzvah, which will take place on Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel's 59th Independence Day, which will take place this year on the sixth day of Iyar rather than the fifth. This is the second time that this has occurred. The first time was three years ago. From the inception of the state of Israel, on Friday, May 14, 1948, the fifth of Iyar 5708, the problem of the intersection of the celebration of independence with Shabbat has been an issue. The Chief Rabbinate and the Knesset previously decided that when the fifth of Iyar falls on either Friday or Shabbat the celebration would be held earlier on the previous Thursday in order to avoid desecration of the Sabbath. This was based on the rabbinic precedent that joyous events similar to the reading of Esther on Purim could be held early under certain conditions. Occasions of sorrow such as the fast of Tisha B'Av in morning for the destruction of the Temple, are postponed if they fall on Shabbat.
Independence day is always preceded by Memorial Day for those who have fallen in war and in defense of the nation. The stark contrast between the somber day of memorials, gravesides and sirens is followed by the rejoicing in the independent Jewish state. At nightfall a long siren blast is followed by jubilation and revelry. Three years ago religious leaders expressed their concern about the likelihood that the main memorial observance at the outset of Memorial Day, in the evening at the Western Wall, would be the cause of Shabbat desecration if it were held on Saturday night. Therefore the authorities agreed that the memorial events, similar to the fast of Av, should be postponed to Sunday night-Monday. The problem was that they also wanted to maintain the close connection between the memorial day and the celebration on adjacent days. This necessitated postponing Independence Day as well.
In the context of what we have said before, what does this all mean? It means that as we have sunk into the post-Zionist era we have retreated from our freedom. It means that we have let our sorrow be in the driver's seat and have command over our rejoicing and our sense of control over our own destiny as a nation. We have let Tisha B'Av become the paradigm of our national existence rather than Purim and Pesach. Other ways in which we see this is in the increased involvement in youth trips to the concentration camps of Europe and even more so in the constant diplomatic and military concessions we have made over the previous years culminating in the disastrous retreat and expulsion of thousands of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria. We have ceased to behave like a free people and have returned to the slave mentality. Our religious expression of freedom is overshadowed by our fearful fixation on the Jewish fate of death and suffering.
What do we do about this problem? We must take the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and in no uncertain terms put it in the driver's seat of our nation's fate. We must make Jewish law the determining factor in our jurisprudence rather than "enlightened" western "democracy". This fable of a "democratic Jewish state" or even a "state of all its citizens" makes us less free, not more. It subjects us to the tyranny of the nations from without and to the tyranny of secular judges, media, secret police and economic oligarchy from within. Only a return to Torah on the personal level and the establishment of true Jewish leadership on the national level based on obedience to G-d and His Torah can save us from this gathering storm of self-destruction. The secular state is certainly not the "beginning of the flowering of our redemption".

1 comment:

Batya said...

I'm glad you've blogged it.