please stand up Israel
© Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
I was in my mid 20's when back in 1974 I began my slow trek home to my Torah roots. I thought I was alone in no longer feeling satisfied by any of the "truths" and "realities" on which I had been nurtured in the home, at school, in university or through all the philosophy and literature I had ever read. Truth was on offer on all sides of the ideological supermarket. But the only book that watered my thirsty soul was the Bible.
Some thirty years later, after finding all I sought and more in the Torah heritage, I know I was far from having been alone. Countless numbers of people from all backgrounds throughout the world are waking up to realize they no longer have faith in the truths and assumptions on which they were raised.
But where do we find truth in the ideological supermarket, assailed as we are with endless streams of information and hosts of conflicting ideas, opinions and attitudes? Who is right? Who is the final authority? Who gives legitimacy to the Truth. Is it CNN? The BBC? Some scholarly academy? A think tank somewhere? The Pope? The Imams? The Rabbis?
And if we should turn to the Rabbis (if we believe that the truth must lie in the Torah), to which Rabbis should we turn? Ultra-Orthodox? Chassidic? Lithuanian? Sephardic? Kabbalistic? Modern Orthodox? Conservative? Reconstructionist? Reform? Zionistic? Non-Zionistic? Men Rabbis? Women Rabbis? Karaite Rabbis? Messianic Rabbis? Christian Rabbis…???
With everyone bandying terms that carry different
meanings for different people, the delicacy of the task of clarifying the truth
may be illustrated by considering the term
In the minds of people everywhere,
Traditionally, the term
The Children of Israel went down to
God revealed Himself at Sinai through the Ineffable Name to strike a Covenant with "the House of Jacob, the Children of Israel" (Exodus 19:3): "And now, if you will surely listen to My voice and guard My Covenant, you shall be a treasure for Me out of all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine" (ibid. 19:5).
The conditions of this Covenant were the 613
In the Talmud and the Codes of Torah Law (such as Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Aruch) the term Yisrael refers to those descended, at least through their mothers, from the Children of Israel, or to integrated converts. They are considered part of this Covenant even when far from being exemplary members of it. All are considered Yisrael, Israelites, except for a MUMAR or MESHUMAD (one who has embraced another religion), a MIN (Heretic), an APIKOROS (Non-Believer) and a MEHALEL SHABBAT BE-PHARHESIA, a blatant Sabbath desecrator, who are legally considered non-Israelites in all respects.
After their entry into the
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin with individual members of the other tribes who remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty continued to consider themselves BNEY YISRAEL. However, being under the leadership of the tribe of Judah, YEHUDAH, they came to be known as YEHUDIM. The outstanding Biblical example is Mordechai, who although from the tribe of Benjamin is called ISH YEHUDI, "a Yehudi man" (Esther 2:5).
Later on, the European preference for replacing a "Y" with a "Zh" or "J" turned "Yehudi" into "Yid", "Zhid", "Jude" or "Jew". Thus it was the Israelites who remained loyal to their ancestral religion also came to be known by themselves and by others as the Jews.
Mordechai was in exile with the Jews in
Once again, sin led to destruction and exile, this
time under the Romans, who destroyed the
The new Christian movement that arose in the same
The Talmudic rabbis and their successors fully
understood that the destruction of the
For those who remained loyal to the Torah, the practice of the Sabbath, the laws of diet, family purity and circumcision were all irreplaceable parts of a bond connecting them with God in a way that can be known inwardly only by those who observe this Covenant. With prayer and constant study of God's Torah providing nourishment for the inner soul, those who keep the Torah know that their mission is to serve HaShem – that same Ineffable Name that was revealed at Sinai. The Servants of HaShem yearn and labor for the vindication of His Torah and the promises of His prophets.
The Flight from Judaism
From the time of Jeraboam, first king of the Ten
Tribes, onwards, there were numerous breakaways and deviations from the original
code of Moses. The Ten Tribes disappeared, as did the Boethians, the Sadducees
and Essenes of the
Prior to the 18th century, the "Remnant of
Israel" remained for the most part amazingly loyal to the Judaism of the
rabbis despite the trials and tribulations of exile and wandering. Communities
from east to west accepted upon themselves the authority of the Babylonian Talmud
and of the later sages and rabbis who explained what it meant. Spiritually the
Jews were a truly international people, with voluminous correspondence flowing back
and forth between rabbis all over the Jewish Diaspora from
In the 16th Century Rabbi Joseph Karo compiled the Shulchan Aruch ("The Set Table"), laying out the "bottom line" of Talmudic law as it applies in every area of life, from Prayer, Eating, Sabbath and Festivals to Marriage, Divorce, Business, Sickness and Death. In matters of custom as opposed to strict law, the Shulchan Aruch, reflects the customs of the Spanish and oriental ("Sephardi") Jews. It was supplemented by the Mappa ("Tablecloth"), accompanying glosses by R. Karo's contemporary, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (ReMA) reflecting the customs of the German and Polish ("Ashkenazi") communities. The Shulchan Aruch with the Mappa was accepted as binding by all Torah-observant communities throughout the Jewish world.
It was from the 17th century onwards that storm
winds broke loose against these communities. The major Ashkenazic centers of
Prior to the "Renaissance" there had been
no option for the Jew in exile other than to continue as a good or bad
practitioner of his ancestral religion or else to convert to Christianity or
Islam. However, the dawning "Age of Reason" created a new option: to
practice no religion at all. The Torah demands that its adherents separate
themselves from Gentiles not only in their family life and diet habits but even
in their clothing, beards and side-curls. But from the 17th Century onwards,
increasing numbers of Jews, weary of centuries of discrimination and abuse for
being members of the "rejected"
If the forces of history provided fertile circumstances for the growth of what became a widespread rebellion by Jews against the Torah, certain highly proactive individuals devoted their lives to fomenting and spreading this rebellion until it became an international phenomenon. Up until the end of the 18th century there had only been one kind of Judaism, as codified in the Shulchan Aruch. The 19th century saw the rise of "Reform" Judaism, which sanctioned violation of the laws of the Sabbath, diet, marriage, conversion and many others. A succession of other breakaways followed, all calling themselves "Jewish", causing the authentic Judaism of the Talmud to be labeled "Orthodox" – as if it was just one more brand on the shelf of the ideological supermarket surrounded by equal competitors.
Return to the Land
The return of the exiled Israelites to their
ancestral land and the rebuilding of the
For all of these returnees to the Land, the purpose was to rectify the sins of the past and create a new future through practicing the Torah in the fullest way possible with complete adherence to its law and spirit.
By the 1800's, however, even those European Jews who
had fled their ancestral religion were discovering that it was by no means so
easy to escape the stigma of Jewish descent and the anti-Semitism it evoked
among the non-Jews with whom they wanted to assimilate. The anti-Semitism
experienced by Theodore Hertzl prompted him to devise a new solution to the
problem: a Jewish State in the ancestral
The difference between Hertzl's vision of life in
The State of
Thus the State which the Zionists established took
for itself the name of "
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the balance between Torah-observant and non-observant Jews in its population was reflected in what was known as the Status Quo, a nebulous, unwritten and barely defined "consensus". For example, it left those wishing to violate the Sabbath free to do so privately, while existing municipal arrangements forbidding the operation of businesses, cafes, places of entertainment, public transportation etc. were supposed to remain in force and be respected.
The perception of Torah observant Jews in
The marginalization of Jews who remain loyal to the
practice of the Torah is by no means restricted to
Navigating the Ideological Supermarket
It is a profound irony that multitudes of Jews in
These seekers include many born Jews in
How does one find the right path in an ideological supermarket in which so many different "brands" of Torah are on offer – by orthodox and non-orthodox groups, by Messianic Jews, Karaite Jews, Ephraimites, Christian Jews, Evangelical Jews…???
The difficulty of the search is greatly aggravated
today in the aftermath of the watershed events of
Judaism, Christianity and Islam share in common the concepts of self-restraint and discipline that are at the very core of religion, whereby one binds oneself to a regimen that is supposed to apply in all areas of life. Against this, the secular alternative value is "Freedom": the freedom to do whatever you like, whenever you like, in whatever way you like. Eat what you fancy; wear what you feel like – or nothing at all. Have sex with whoever or whatever you desire, male, female, stranger, family member, human or animal... Believe and practice what you want, be it mainstream religion, alternative religion, communion with spirits, witchcraft, sorcery, Satanism… The attitude that all alternatives are of equal status and validity is implicit in the daily output of radio and TV, in newspapers, magazines and entertainment, on campus and in popular culture.
From the standpoint of true religion, this is paganism. The view that all values are relative, as if somehow everyone is right, stands directly contrary to the faith of Abraham, who started his career by smashing his father's idols. The Torah is a teaching about right and wrong. It is about how to make vital distinctions and discriminations between good and bad, valid and invalid, permitted and forbidden, pure and impure.
The watchwords of contemporary secular culture are "Democracy", "Freedom" and "Tolerance", supposedly integrating people of all beliefs. But from the standpoint of the Torah, democracy does not mean that the opinion of the majority is sacred and infallible and must be accepted by all. Nor does it give supposedly democratically elected governments the right to suppress and persecute minorities in the name of the majority. This is tyranny.
From the Torah standpoint, true freedom is not the freedom to do whatever you want, which in any case we already possess since we are ultimately free to do as we choose. True freedom is to be released from the shackles of the gross material world, which hides and conceals the world of the spirit. The freedom conferred by the Torah is the very opposite of licentiousness.
As for tolerance: Who tolerates sinners like God, Who is "slow to anger and full of kindness and truth"? The many centuries of pain and suffering endured by the Jews on account of religious intolerance have made them outstanding exponents of tolerance. Yet the need to be tolerant of those who think differently does not require one to accept the beliefs and opinions of all people as being of equal status.
The perniciousness of the "tolerance" espoused by secular culture is that legitimacy is given only to those who fall within the permitted boundaries of politically correctness while all others are subtly or unsubtly ridiculed, discredited and branded as lunatics, extremists and fanatics.
The mass media disseminating these messages are controlled by the same wealthy, powerful elites that control entire nations' economies, judiciaries, police and armies – the earthly Malchus ("Kingdom"). The ideology of Freedom (= License) serves the socio-economic order that has grown up since the Industrial Revolution, based upon the idolatry of material prosperity and its handmaiden, technology. The consumerist, war-ridden world this has spawned is responsible for the needless waste and destruction of world resources, degradation of the entire global environment and untold human suffering.
In the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the real fanaticism is that of those who pursue only the material world.
What are we to do?
What are caring people to do when confronted by a world that seems to violate our most deeply cherished beliefs and values?
We may dream about a better world, the world envisaged by the prophets – a world without war, where people join together to search out the true God and serve Him with one accord. To attain such a world would require a new approach to public education in which the media are used not to pander to man's appetite for sex and violence but instead to promote spiritual awareness, wisdom, understanding, mutual respect, morality and goodness.
We seem to be veering further and further from this
ideal world. Does the world have to revert to complete slavery to the earthly
Pharaoh as in
Sifting and Searching
For both Jew and Gentile, only the holy Torah, which
totally transcends the mundane, can provide the tools and concepts with which
to understand this global Leviathan for what it is and to survive and overcome
it. The true mission of Mashiach is to transform the earthly Malchus into the
But it is also a major task to sift and search in order to discover the true Torah – because the Torah has been assailed with envious hatred for thousands of years, making it appear dark and forbidding, so that its inner face of light is obscured. It is said that evil speech destroys three: the one who speaks it, the one to whom he says it and the one about whom he speaks. Nothing has been reviled through the centuries like Rabbinic Judaism. The Christian scriptures mock the "Pharisees", who were none other than the rabbis quoted throughout the Talmud. Zealous Christians organized public burnings of thousands and thousands of Talmud and other rabbinic texts. Until today questioning Christians and Moslems who want to know what the Talmud really teaches are warned that these are "doctrines of devils and demons"!
Even those with some knowledge of the "Old Testament" through translations cannot fully realize to what degree their understanding of the texts is limited by their inability to access the original Hebrew, whose layers upon layers of depth, meaning and allusion find no expression in other languages. If the Written Torah (the Bible) is virtually unknown to the wider world, how much more so is the Oral Torah (encompassing the entire Talmud, Halachah, Midrash and Kabbalah), which was an inseparable part of the revelation at Sinai and the Covenant that was struck there.
Until today Torah Judaism is vibrant and alive, with
If there is a single defining feature that
distinguishes Torah Judaism from all the other competing "brands", it
is the proper observance of the Shabbat, which is "an eternal covenant
between Me and between the Children of
The laws of Shabbat that are seen as so restrictive and tiresome by those in flight from the Torah are in fact a system that teaches man to restrain his impulse to control and manipulate this world. Thus he learns that his own mastery has limits and only God is the true Master of the World.
If there is any antidote to the idolatry of materialism and technology that is now destroying the entire world, it is the Shabbat.
"Happy is the man who does this and the son of man that holds fast to it: who keeps the Shabbat from profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the alien that has joined himself to God speak, saying: 'God will surely separate me from His people'; nor let the eunuch say: 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says God concerning the eunuchs that keep My Shabbats and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast by My Covenant: Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting memorial, that shall not be cut off. Also the aliens, that join themselves to the God to minister unto Him, and to love the name of God, to be His servants, every one that keeps the Shabbat from profaning it, and holds fast by My covenant: I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56: 2-7).
Today the concept of Shabbat is unknown to almost the entire world, but this will not be so when redemption comes. In the end of days, "It shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Shabbat to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says God" (ibid. 66:23).
Peace in the
The task of clarifying, sifting and selecting the
Torah truth is vital for the future welfare of the entire world. It is no
coincidence that people throughout the world see the conflict between
In nearly 60 years since the establishment of the
State, successive secular Israeli governments and their foreign backers have shown
themselves totally incapable of finding any solution to the "
This decadent, corrupt, materialistic, militaristic
The true destiny of the Holy Land is to be a land cleansed of impurity and corruption, a model land where the Universal Laws of Mankind are observed, where idolatry, blasphemy, killing, stealing, immorality, cruelty to animals and injustice are abolished.
"And many peoples will go and say, "Let us
go up to the Mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, and He
will teach us of His ways and we shall go in His paths. For out of
And then, "The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said unto them: 'You are not My people', it shall be said unto them: 'You are the children of the living God.'" (Hosea 2:1).
Each with his friend…
"Then they that feared God spoke each with his friend; and God listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared God and thought upon His name" (Malachi 3:16).
Religion is often associated with glory, pomp and splendor. But Malachi teaches us that redemption comes through the quiet, private unsung efforts of individuals – you and me – talking together and seeking the truth. The way of the true servants of God is humble and unglamorous, filled with regret, contrition, apprehension and a deep sense of personal inadequacy. The true Messianic king, David, never claimed perfection and infallibility. When he did wrong, he admitted it: "Hide Your face from my sin and blot out all my transgressions… Let me teach the sinners Your ways and the offenders will return to You" (Psalm 51:11, 15). Mashiach is about repentance.
In the war of Gog and Magog, which appears to be now, the main work is interior:
"This verse refers to the War of Gog and Magog,
which will be a sore trial for
Who are the good? Who are the bad? At the end of the day we will all be lying in our graves, and God will judge.
It was taught in the name of Elijah: "I make heaven and earth my witnesses: be it a man or a woman, a gentile or an Israelite, a slave or maidservant, everyone according to their deeds, so shall holy spirit rest upon them" (Tanna deVei Eliahu).