The voice we hear is the voice of the victims of injustice, but that is precisely the voice of God. As ones whose consciousness has been touched by the spirit of God, we say: vox victimarum vox Dei: the cries of the victims are the cries of God.
Kairos consciousness South Africa
A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz 1968
A few words today on Zionism and Judaism, a very hot topic in today’s world. The shocking military force, the disproportionate firepower visited on Gazan civilians has revolted people around the world. This has confused so many people of good will. Many ask is this Jewish? is it israeli. With its obvious belief in pure force is this a rejection of Jewish tradition?For many the modern state of Israel has done great harm to the religion of Judaism.
Here are a few probes on this question.
Abraham Geiger (d 1874) a German rabbi argued that Judaism was an evolutionary movement, from Moses and the prophets to the present. Its central core was its morality, its covenant with the Holy One which commanded compassion, mercy and justice. Judaism was not a nation but a community. According to the prolific American Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner The prayers that Judaism teaches teaches all use the world israel but this doe not refer obviously to the state. ”Israel” is the holy community called to model life in the holy image, made manifest in the Torah. Today Neusner says “israel in synagogue and Jewish community affairs means “the state of Israel.”. For this reason Palestinian Christians never use the psalms in their worship. When people hear the word “Israel” they shudder. Like Neusner they are well aware of its biblical context, but in the the context of their own lives, the resonance is simply too painful.
“The state has become more important than the Jews”, Neusner says. The worst fears of the Zionist rejectionists have come true.
in 2001 the Liberal Jewish synagogue of London expressed this problem well: ”We seem to have to choose between loyalty to our people and loyalty to God. Did not the prophets love their people? Yet they castigated its leadership.” Zionism in effect, a colonialist expansionist movement created a historic break in Jewish identity. There has always been rabbinic resistance to this though Zionism has become extraordinarily powerful across the Jewish world.
While this is hardly the place to get into the extraordinary history of Zionism one must place it in context of the powerful cries of nationalism of the late 19th century. It inspired many Jews particularly of antisemitic Russia to rise up seeking self-determination and a new identity. Its brilliant leaders, among them Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion, both atheists, had no compunction about instrumentalizing religion with its powerful prophetic and messianic themes. Many symbols were kept but God was gone,torah replaced by fiery nationalism. It is fascinating to read about the rebbes of 100 years ago who were appalled by this development. For example Dov Baer Schneerson (d 1920) the fifth Luvatitche rebbe stated, ”The Zionists must give nationalism precedence over the Torah because it is known that those who cling to Torah and the commandments are not likely to change and accept another identity.
Moritz Gudemann, the chief rabbi of Vienna,(d 1918) predicted that “the Zionists would ultimately create a Judaism of cannons and bayonets that would invert the roles of David and Goliath and would end in a perversion of Judaism, which never glorified war and never idolized warriors.” Quoting from an from an Austrian poet, he concluded that the Zionist leadership was following a path that leads “from humanity through nationality to bestiality.”
The land of Israel (“Eretz Israel”) would become the heart of the new Jewish identity. And as we see anything to gain the land was acceptable. Murder and terror were commonplace. Two terrorists became Prime Ministers, Begin and Shamir. The original occupants of the land the Arabs had to be demonized. So many “Jews of Conscience” became horrified. Where was Torah? Where were the mitzvahs?
Remarkably today in the Toronto Star former rabbinic student Rick Salutin quoted one of the towering voices of “Jews of conscience” Yeshayahu Leibowitz (d.1994).This extraordinary polymath. an Orthodox Jew, from Riga emigrated to Palestine in 1935 where he distinguished himself in science and philosophy. In 1993 he turned down the state’s highest award the Israel Prize.I finish today’s post with this statement
“The historical Jewish people was defined neither as a race, nor as a people of this country or that, or of this political system or that, nor as a people that speaks the same language, but as the people of Torah Judaism and of its commandments, as the people of a specific way of life, both on the spiritual and the practical plane, a way of life that expresses the acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, the yoke of the Torah and of its commandments.
This consciousness exercised its effect from within the people. It formed its national essence; it maintained itself down through the generations and was able to preserve its identity irrespective of times or circumstances. The words spoken by Saadia Gaon more than one thousand years ago, ‘Our nation exists only in the Torah’ (d Baghdad 942 CE)had not only a normative but also an empirical meaning. They testified to a historical fact whose power could be felt up until the 19th century. It was then that the fracture, which has not ceased to widen with time, first occurred: the break between Jewishness and Judaism.”
Tomorrow a modern Jewish prophet Henry Siegman.