Friday, August 11, 2017

Parashat Ekev: Just Because, or when will the Jews take the Torah seriously?

By Prof Stephen Schecter

Ekev. Because. Because you listen to the Lord your land shall be blessed, Moses tells the children of Israel. And what a blessing, the words scrolling down the page and rolling down the ear, promises of fruit of the body and the earth, an increase of kine and harvest and offspring galore, for there shall be no barren women in the land and no barren cattle in the field. A far cry from the famine struck land when Abraham first appeared on the scene with his barren wife, whose difficulty to conceive sowed so much trouble. But God is great and remembers His promise, and the promise was a land of milk and honey, whose stones are iron and whose hills are brass and where the rains fall in their seasons. A good land, Moses will tell his gathered flock, painting them a picture of a land flowing with lovely brooks, fountains and depths, where water springs forth from the hills and winds its way through the valleys, yielding wheat and barley, fig-trees and pomegranates and the intoxicating fruits of the vine. Indeed, so lovely is the land that when the Jews finally returned there last century and found scrabble and neglect they did not despair, but set to work to redeem God’s promise and turn it once again into a verdant and rain-soaked paradise, though today it is called drip irrigation and desalination. And instead of iron and brass there is WhatsApp and light rail and a state of the art arms industry whose wonders are sought from India to California. But when you go there you still believe you are going to a land of milk and honey, the complaints of the Israelites who left Egypt notwithstanding, even two thousand years of exile notwithstanding, not to mention the high price of milk and honey and the even higher price of living in the only Jewish state in the world because its wicked Muslim neighbours work day and night to destroy it. And because the Jews do not listen to the words Moses told them so long ago.

For the conflict between Israel and her neighbours is biblical in stature and kind, and its resolution calls for exactly what Moses prescribes in this week’s parasha. Do not be faint of heart, Moses tells his band of would be warriors, for God shall go with you. He shall send the hornet among your enemies and discomfit them and they shall not be able to hide from you, but shall perish. And when that happens you shall obliterate all trace of them. Take naught of their gold and silver, burn all vestiges of their graven imaged gods, lest you bring abomination into your hearths and a curse into your land. Do not, moreover, think the Lord is doing all this because of your good looks and your righteousness. No, He does this because the people who inhabit the land are wicked to the enth degree, their evil so great the land in which God has chosen to start His Creation anew cannot abide them. Therefore, if you love the Lord with all your heart and all your might and all your soul, you will do His bidding and follow in His ways and harken unto His advice. You will rid the land of these evil-doers that you may establish therein the laws He has given to you in Horeb. Twice given you, in fact, for I had to ascend the mountain a second time after you had sinned so grievously when I first received the hewn stone tablets of the Law. And if Moses were alive today, as alive as his words still are, he would tell the Israelites exactly the same thing.

For what are the Palestinians and the Arabs and the Muslims who burn Jewish greenhouses and murder Jewish citizens and stone Jewish rail cars and uproot Jewish train tracks and swarm Jewish worshippers but people wicked beyond belief? An what do such people, who have for a century now falsely accused Jews of wanting to destroy their holy places and whipped up their countrymen to a frenzy of hatred and vituperation against these same Jews who have sought to accommodate them time and time again, what do they deserve but conquest and expulsion, as did their forerunners from whom they sometimes claim descent? But the Jews today, like the Jews of old, do not take the Torah seriously. Not the rabbis, not their political leaders, not their countrymen at home and abroad. They seek accommodation with evil and receive contamination in return. They are ashamed of the good that they have brought with their return to the Promised Land, ashamed of their rule of law, their liberty and democracy, their morality and ingenuity, their increase of kine and harvest and offspring galore, whose beautiful lives are offered as sacrifice on the silver platter of political correctness and fear of offending the nations they mistakenly think are more powerful than they are. In short, they have forgotten, abandoned and betrayed the Lord, and so have betrayed His promise and the Promised Land which He had promised them via their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And because they do not listen to the ordinances which Moses handed down to their forefathers yet again on the eastern bank of the Jordan, they must needs read them again. Over and over do we therefore read the Torah, which over and over Moses taught our forefathers. But when people learn nothing from history, all that is left is poetry, a string of words more powerful than all the betrayals and blunderings of a wayward and stiff-necked people. As: this Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, whose stones are iron and whose hills are brass and whose rains fall in their seasons. And sometimes even one word is enough for us to hope this chosen people who refuse to be chosen will finally choose. Ekev. Because.

Shabbat shalom!

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