Neviim Tovim/TheHaftarah Circle Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for November 2018

In the General Election of 1966, Oswald Mosley represented his fascist party, the Union Movement, in the constituency of Shoreditch and Finsbury.

I was aged sixteen and a member of International Socialism, which became the Socialist Workers Party. A group of us went to heckle Mosley. The comrades were older than me, some of them teachers at my school and I hearkened to their words. They said that Mosley liked to pass himself of as a man of reason, a patriot, and that he would try to appeal to the casual racism of his audience.

There would be no point in attempt Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The Facebook Forum called ‘Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies’ has as its header a picture of Jeremy Corbyn, arm extended and finger pointing, as if with righteous indignation. The tagline of the group is ‘We support Jeremy Corbyn not Labour Friends of Israel.’

Regulars on the forum may not be members of the Labour Party and it seems likely that many are posting from abroad: North and South America and from the Middle East. Nevertheless, the administrators describe themselves, just under the header picture, as defending the integrity and objectives of the Labour Party. I include this group statement in many of my screen shots.

I am posting here the collages which I made to get as much as possible on each image. I still have the raw screen shots, but these are so numerous as to be unwieldy.

The posts shown here appeared on the Truthers forum from 14 October and 2018 and are ongoing.

Now I’m going to start uploading the images. Here we go, here go, here we…

 

When antisemitism gets into gear, whether on the right or the left, there is usually someone who will refer to The Chosen People and their perceived iniquities. When you see this phrase on one of the online forums, you know it isn’t going to be complimentary. I suppose it’s understood to imply  that Jews have a sense of superiority and entitlement and consider themselves above the law.

One might tell them the midrash about God offering the Torah laws to all the nations. No one wanted to be encumbered by so many commandments except the Jews who, seeing Moses coming down from Sinai with stone tablets said ‘We’ll take two.’ The seven Noahide laws are for all mankind, but the 613 commandments relating to multifarious topics including kashrut, ritual purity, sabbath observance and textiles are not required of non Jews.

The apostles wrote of this to the people of Antioch who were being converted to Christianity and their letter was conveyed by Paul and Barnabas:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.[1]

The early Christian converts were allowed to dispense with some of the laws and statutes of the Torah. However, this was no easy ride, as Christianity brings strictures of its own and, besides this, many were chosen for martyrdom, from Stephen in Jerusalem in 34 CE to Maximilien Kolbe in Auschwitz in 1941 and Wang Zhiming in Wuding, China in 1973.

Isn’t it usually the case that those who engage in faith action feel themselves in a unique relationship with the deity? How would prayer in any denomination count, if the individual was insignificant?

The word chosen is dominant in Jewish liturgy, especially in the past tense, where it is God who has chosen. The blessing before the Torah reading in a synagogue includes the words:

Blessed are You, our Living God…who chose us from all peoples to give us Your Torah.

In the blessing before the prophetic reading, we say:

Blessed are You God, who chose the Torah, Moses Your servant, Israel Your people and the true and righteous prophets.

Pointing out that the people of Israel are chosen for Torah observance and not for perks denied other peoples will not satisfy those who believe the essence of Judaism is elitism,  a commonplace antisemitic trope, hospitable to the concept of Jews having ubiquitous influence and power and far removed from the reality of Jewish teaching.

Recurring themes in Jewish prayer are gratitude to God for the giving of the Torah and for the Exodus from Egypt; love for God and love for our fellow human beings.

Only in recent years, when I see a sneering reference to ‘The Chosen People’ – and I see it now more frequently than ever – do I wonder how I would communicate to the person who takes that negative view of Jews and Judaism the significance of ‘choose’ and ‘chosen’.

There are many instances of the word bachar, ‘he chose,’  in the Hebrew bible, but the chosenness of the people is repeated particularly in Deuteronomy, perhaps the earliest written book of the Pentateuch.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples.[3]

There is some consensus in bible study that the book of the law found by Hilkiah the priest in the time of King Josiah is none other than Deuteronomy as the language and the theology correspond to Deuteronomy.

The story is that King Josiah ordered renovations of the Temple and, while the builders were in, a scroll came to light and was brought to the king.[4]

The Deuteronomist(s), whose date(s) cannot be precisely known, is presumed to have lived well before the Greek and Roman Empires. The Jewish religion is based on books and words which record the covenant between God and Israel and Josiah was distinctive among biblical kings in basing his rule on scripture.

Modern Judaism seeks to explicate this notion of chosenness, present in our liturgy to this day, as not denying the chosenness of other peoples.

Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations from 1967 to 1991 put it this way:

I believe that every people—and indeed, in a more limited way, every individual—is “chosen” or destined for some distinct purpose in advancing the designs of Providence.[5]

Jews are chosen to adhere to a covenant set forth in the Hebrew Bible and developed over the centuries, from Rabbinic Judaism to the codifiers of the Middle Ages, to the philosophers of the Enlightenment, to post Holocaust modernity and the age of the nation state of Israel.

All who live are chosen for life, and people of faith are chosen in the service of their faith. Their devotion is not always rewarded in any obvious way.

Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof apostrophizes God:

We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?[6]

Nevertheless, people tend to love the belief systems of their own faith more than that of any other, much as we tend to love our own children and our own parents more than we love other children and parents. It seems fair to respect all paths to the supernal. Religions are not accountable for transgressions between one human being and another, or between human beings and the world.

I’ve often thought that one of the great theologians of my lifetime was the comedian Dave Allen, because he used to end his show with the words:

Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you.

 

 

[1] Acts 15:28-29

[2] Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2

[3] 2 Kings, 22:8-11

[4] Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith

By Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, Jamal Rahman 2012

[5] Fiddler on the Roof  Jerry Bock,  Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein,  first production 1964 Read the rest of this entry »


Advertisements