Friday, August 18, 2017

See how the Torah teaches us how to see

See, Moses tells the children of Israel. Behold, a blessing shall come upon you if you follow the ways of the Lord. For seeing truly is believing, as the Lord Himself knew well, having seen and having declared that it was good after He laboured for six days to create this world. But when the world started to unfold the Lord saw it was otherwise, and though He was disappointed with His Own Creation He did not shrink from seeing clearly what He had wrought. And angry though He was He yet relented on His anger and spared the world with Noah, and again with Abraham, and again with the children of Israel at Sinai and in the wilderness of Paran. For the Lord had learned long ago that the heart of man harbors evil from the get-go. Hence His infinite mercy, but also His refusal to let men off the hook, and of all men least of all the Jews. And so Moses warns the Israelites again and again in these instructions which he never tires of repeating, for he too knows they will repeat that which he warns them against.

When you come into the land, Moses reminds them again, you shall, to the extent that it is in your power, bring your offerings to the place where the Lord shall dwell to eat them therein. But as there is only one God so there is only one place where He may dwell in the land He is bequeathing to you. Make sure therefore to destroy all the places of idol worship and rid the land of the nations who sacrifice to them that you inquire not of their gods, for the Lord cannot abide them. There is not an abomination that they do not do on behalf of their gods, Moses stresses to his assembled Israelites, and to make it crystal clear to them he adds that one instance which says it all: for even their sons and daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods. To rid the land of these inhabitants therefore is to put an end to child sacrifice, as God enjoined Abraham back in the Book of Genesis.

For those who think God discriminates unfairly against the Canaanites, they have but to read on to see that the Lord is just as implacable to Israelites who would lead their countrymen astray. If anyone, however close a kinsman, shall entice you to go and serve other gods you shall not only ignore him, but put him to death, Moses tells them. And if an entire city of the Israelite confederacy shall have the effrontery to do likewise, you shall smite the inhabitants of that city with the sword and destroy it utterly, burning everything within it and leaving it a heap forever.

There are those who would say see, war and extermination is what the Bible preaches in the name of religion and the one true God. But those who would have us see thus are the ones who truly do not see. For they avert their eyes from the evil that runs rampant in the world, and especially the evil that is child sacrifice, whose practitioners cannot be cajoled into abandoning their evil ways. Only the fear of the Lord struck into their hearts can make them stop. And though one can strike that fear into one man’s heart atop Moriah, one cannot do so to an entire nation. For a nation follows the norms which its society teaches it to expect, which in this case means latching the evil in the hearts of men onto the evil it practises, incites and condones. Think of ISIS in our day, and think of the Palestinian Authority from whom ISIS learned its evil ways and whose leaders lay claim to a Canaanite ancestry. When you bring up young children to go and murder at random, as the Palestinian Authority does to its young and sets them loose on Israeli streets and markets, you do nothing less than organize your society around child sacrifice. Just as when ISIS marshals the young it captures and seduces into the murder of all it deems infidels, it does no less. With such societies there can be no truck. They can only be destroyed that the earth may be cleansed of their evil. For if we do not act thus, the Bible taught us long ago, we shall become contaminated in turn and the mercy which God has shown us shall vanish from the places where we live. Which means we shall forget in turn to show mercy to the people with whom we live in peace.

Already western democracies suffer from this blindness, though none suffers as much as the State of Israel itself. In the place where the Lord should dwell Israel has allowed the Palestinians to usurp its authority. The Al-Aksa Mosque has become a focal point for libel and murder by Palestinians of Israelis and by Muslims of Jews. Women and children are mobilized to harass Jews who dare go up to the place where the Lord should dwell and forbid them to pray. They spit, throw stones, even knife police who enforce this outrage. Cries of ‘the Al-Aksa Mosque is in danger’ become the excuse for riots. Verily, as Moses told his assembled Israelites thousands of years ago, if you do not uproot their places of idol worship and dispossess them of the land, you shall become dispossessed in turn. One is tempted to add: if the Israelites did not see then, how can they not see now when Jerusalem is burning before their very eyes and the Temple Mount lies desolate, a heap?

But people in democracies do not see because they cannot believe there are societies organized on the principle of child sacrifice. They think all societies are like theirs and all people are like them. They think all people basically want the same thing, good people wanting the good life. They forget that for most of human history people wanted no such thing and even today that statement is questionable as an adequate description of human motivation and conduct. They have but to read crime novels and psychoanalytic papers to see otherwise, since they no longer read the Hebrew Bible. But they could read the Hebrew Bible, as Jews are wont to do, and see the truths they do not want to see because they are not pretty. Though they are human, all too human, the stuff of humans created in God’s image.

Shabbat shalom!

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