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Posts Tagged ‘Zionism’

This story of a friendship between two young Jewish men in mid-twentieth century New York tells history from the heart of one who was there.  Through layers of progression the novel delves from the senses we ignore to the delight of noticing what we see and hear to the mental realm, the subconscious realm, and on into the sphere of emotion, where compassion sits.  There is sound and there is silence, sight and blindness, confusion and understanding.  And following all of these around is the emotional reaction and the questions of why. 

Reuven, the main character, is the son of a Talmud professor and columnist, a conservative practicing Jew, who is pioneering the field of higher criticism into Jewish studies.  This high school student, who spends half his day studying Talmud (commentaries on the Jewish Scripture), another few hours with regular schoolwork, and the rest playing baseball, meets Danny, a boy his age from the neighborhood over who is also a practicing Jew, whose father is a Tzaddik rabbi in the Hassidic sect.  One of the non-fiction highlights of the book is the glimpse at the origin and history of that denomination with its distinctive customs, dress, and attitude. 

Philosophically speaking, my favorite part was the contrast between the two fathers as they respond to the Holocaust and to the Zionist push for a Jewish homeland.  The columnist says the death of millions of his people will be meaningless if the survivors don’t learn, change, and act.  He is tired of waiting for the Messiah, and so says that Jews must take matters into their own hands, to build a Jewish homeland now!  But the Hassidic rabbi believes that the sacrifice of millions of Jews, faithfully waiting for their Messiah, will be in vain if the remnant gives up now and tries to do things without God. 

I see more biblical backing in the position of the Hassid.  Israel was continually rebuked for growing impatient and doing things their own way (Abraham and Saul come to mind).  But this relies on promises, on clearly revealed truth from a proven God.  Which brings me to the question of dogma.  The Hassidic congregation believes whatever their rabbi tells them, as if he were god to them.  They believe in fate, that because Danny is the son of the rabbi, he will take his place.  But they also put a huge emphasis on personal responsibility.  In any case, their beliefs are dogmatic, unquestioned submission to tradition and the rule of the rabbi.  The son has been trained to accept things rather uncritically, with a stubborn loyalty.  So when he begins to read Freud, there is no filter of context or criticism like his friend would have.  Reuven’s higher criticism relies heavily on logic, but it can breed doubt as skepticism rules the interpretation of every book, idea, or even every person.  It almost elbows out faith, and elevates the individual. 

In the end, The Chosen shows how relationship transcends these conflicts.  The rabbi’s moving care for his people and his son takes a huge personal toll on him.  Two boys survive high school and college through their improbable friendship.  Despite their differences they show mutual respect and interest.  They learn to be grateful for what they have, and to learn from others.  As the professor father predicted, they experienced how hard it can be to invest in the lives of others. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Christians occasionally run up against the argument that religious wars recklessly took the lives of thousands of people.  Take the Crusades…  So of course Christianity is a religion of hate and violence, and it is hypocritical for purportedly teaching about loving one’s neighbor at the same time.  Guilt by association is a hard reputation to shed.  It is hard for me to have to defend myself over a crime for which I don’t feel guilty, especially when I don’t feel guilty because I wasn’t alive then.  I want to be loyal, but consistency and honesty are more important to me. 
 
Pro-life groups have the taint of extremists who bombed abortion clinics.  But I didn’t do that or condone that.  In fact, I cannot remember a bombing of a clinic in America since I turned 13 and started paying attention.  Is murdering millions of babies ok because one of the thousands of protestors was inexcusably destructive? 
 
Zionists have been shamed by a branch of extremists who wanted to use terror to further their cause.  In the case of Zionism, as opposed to that of Islam, the difference was that they were condemned by the mainstream.  Strategists, leaders, and supporters of the state of Israel sought peaceful means of creating a Jewish homeland.  Only once attacked and threatened by hostile (to say the least) neighbors who denied their existence and legitimacy did Israel take a position of miraculous strength, and apply military power. 
 
Committing a crime yourself and framing your enemies for it is classic double-agent strategy.  The ultimate example is Emperor Palpatine and the Clone Wars in Star Wars.  Or if you’re more for history than fantasy, you might refer to Hitler excusing his invasions of Austria, Czechoslavakia, and separately of Poland.  Yes.  We’re talking the trigger for World War II. 
 
During our involvement in World War II, America made the distasteful and unjust decision to inter our Japanese civilians in labor camps.  In the interest of humble honesty, I always feel obligated to admit that occasionally my country is not defending virtue and liberty.  I’m a fan of history, not names and dates so much as the connections of the dots.  What were the politics, the motivations, the idealisms that drove countries to war and revolt, to peace and surrender?  What little difference in choices would have changed the course of the world? 
 
So I have to note that the president who ordered Japanese interment during World War II was a Democrat.  Knowing that makes me feel a lot less responsible.  There are almost two countries in this America.  They alternate power, a check and balance between irresponsible oppression and defensive freedom.  I never realized it before, but I’m more or less loyal to the Republican America. 
 
But. 
 
My Republican America participates and upholds the same Constitution that occasionally puts Democrat America in power.  Even if I’m voting against them, I’m still endorsing the system.  How much responsibility does that give me? 
 
Some lifestyles are a package deal.  For example, I’m learning that to believe Church should be held in homes is a lifestyle.  Substituting a gathering in a house doing all the biblical things for the Sunday morning “worship service” in a sanctuary isn’t sufficient.  My friends would call the package living missionally.  I already believe that Christian community does life together and that the most effective Church in history met more than once a week. 
 
Perhaps another package deal is living in a Republic requires political involvement.  I can’t just vote and say I’ve done my part.  In fact, for decades under the US Constitution there was no suffrage for women, and their participation in the government had to be more involved and influential than that.  They had to do marches and grassroots campaigns.  We must do that and more, like paying attention to our representatives in all three branches of government, and proactively holding them accountable.  Voting is saying, “Yes, I believe in and endorse this system.”  The responsibility, then, is ours to do everything we can to ensure that the system is honorable and efficient. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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