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Posts Tagged ‘survival’

Is this the beginning of anti-semitism?

Posted by rabbiart on January 16, 2009

The word itself was invented relatively recently, but the behavior has been with us for way too long.  Iin rabbinical school I took a course by Professor Michael Meyer on anti-semitism.  The first passage we reviewed was the opening chapter of Parshat Shemot.  He posed the question to us – is Shemot Chapter One the first recorded instance of anti-semitism? After un-remembering Yosef, the new Pharoah proclaims

הִנֵּה, עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–רַב וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּוּ. י הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה, לוֹ: פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה, וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹׂנְאֵינוּ, וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ, וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ.

He said to his people. Look, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. We must deal cleverly with them, or else they will become even more numerous, and if we get into a war, they will join with our enemies and fight against us, and leave our land.

The text gives us no reason for Pharoah to fear the Israelites. According to the record we have in the Torah, Israel – in the person of Yosef – has done a great service to the ruling class; saving the people from famine and increasing the power of Pharoah. Of course the new Pharoah may have unseated the old Pharoah, and not want to recognize Yosef’s contributions. But his attitude toward the Israelite is classic double-bind. The are numerous, they might get more numerous, so they are a threat to Mitzrayim. But if they become sufficiently powerful and numerous, they miight ally themselves with an enemy, and leave us. The inevitable reaction of the reader (if the reader is me, of course) is to think – but then the Israelites would no longer be a threat to you, so what’s your problem.

Classic anti-semitism (even before the term existed) has been described as having four stages:

  1. You’re Jews, you’re not like us.
  2. You can’t live among us as Jews.
  3. You can’t live among us.
  4. You can’t live.

In our text, Pharoah leaps immediately to  from stage 1 to stage 4 when he order the midwives to kill the Israelite sons.  The midwives (no dummies they) feed into Pharoah’s viewpoint when they defend their failure to kill babies by saying that the Israelite women are “different”; they give birth much faster.

A signficant part of the  history of Jewish migration – and the Jewish people ourselves – seems to be described and foreshadowed by the latter part of Breshit and the early part of Shemot. In short

  • Enter the land under the auspices of a protector.
  • Produce social and economic benefit to the host country.
  • Wear out our welcome – or have it worn out for us – and get thrown out.

Not until the twentieth century – and now into the twenty-first – do we seem to be in a battle for our very survival.  In the ancient middle east – in the depths of Mitzrayim – the known world (the part Israel knew – which is to say Egypt) was against our very existence.  Pharoah sought to destroy us.  Now in the contemporaneous middle east, the known world (the part surrounding Israel) seems to be seeking our very destruction; we can read  and hear their edicts in any medium we choose.

We’ve all heard a variation of the “shortest holiday story”; they tried to kill us, we survived and flourished, let’s eat.

As it has been, so it will be in the future.  Enjoy your Shabbat meals.

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I survived three days of riding

Posted by rabbiart on November 14, 2008

In this week’s parshah there are many stories, including the story of Akedat Yitzhak, the near sacrifice of Isaac. As the story goes, after being told of what he is to do, he gets up early, saddles up, and takes Isaac on a walk. The walk a long time.  Imagine that Isaac had never been on a walk of any length before because, after all, he did not make the trek from Haran, nor did he go down to Egypt; he was born when his family was more or less settled.  He walks the first day, he walks again on the second day.  Why is the trip three days long?. is it to prepare Isaac for what was about to come down upon him. (warning, story shift coming). I don’t know about Isaac, but on the morning of the third day of this incredible bike ride, I was hurting. When told about the climb we would make to make it into Mitzpe Ramon, and feeling the hurt in my quads, my neck and my “where the body meets the seat”, all I could think was “kill me now, at least then I won’t hurt any more”.

On the first day of the ride, once we got to Ashkelon and the hotel, all I wanted to do was sleep… and sleep… and sleep more.  On the second day of the ride, once we got to Kibbutz Mashabim, I wasn’t feeling that bad, but after dinner all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.

Today started out hard and hurting. After we left Kibbutz  Sde Boker, I started feeling better.  At the rest stop before we were to start the long hard climb, I got smarter.  Took off my camelback with its (don’t know how many pounds of) water, and put it in the lead truck.  I felt lighter, and the climb was much easier.  I had permission from our lead rider and my new friend Gonen and lead rider (graduate of the Arava Institute, as are all the ride staff – there will be an interview with him, hopefully Sunday) to attack the hill ahead of himand the pack. (It’s easier if you attack; either you attack the hill, or the hill attacks you).  So I got off to a great start, and eventually went through all the gears and was going about six miles per hour.  I could see in my mirror that there was some distance between me and Gonen and the people behind him. (I’m not trying to brag, keep reading, you’ll see the point of all this.)  As I was laboring up the hill, and thinking I was about a quarter of the way up (they had warned us that we would keep thinking we were almost done, but would come to a turn and find out there was more to climb), Gonen came up right behind me and said “you’re doing great Art, you’re seventy per cent done”).  Wow, what a relief.  A minute later I looked behind me, and Gonen was back a ways behind me.  He chased me up the hill just to give me some encouragement!! I’ll have to find out how to say “what a sweetheart’ in Hebrew.

The entire experience has been like this; people looking out for each other, wonderful conversations with your newest old friends, incredible scenery and history.  I’m already hoping to organize a Bay Area (maybe California) team, get some sponsors, and come back in May 2010.

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