Thursday 18 July 2024

The Essence of Jewish Existence



“A People that dwells alone; not reckoned among the nations.” – Numbers 23:9


The verse above is from this week’s Torah portion, Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9). It is named after the king of the Moabites who retains a sorcerer by the name of Bilaam to curse Am Yisrael. Many believe that due to certain events that occurred prior to Bilaam’s speech, the latter ended up blessing Bnei Yisrael. Others believe that he cursed them.

At first glance, this verse which describes the relationship between Am Yisrael and the nations of the world, seems paradoxical. The persisting anti-semitism and ongoing isolation of Yisrael, especially in today’s world, demonstrate that this is an accurate reflection of reality. On the other hand, however, a bird’s eye view of world history indicates that the Jewish People have been involved in world affairs and contributed immensely to humanity and world civilization.

When examining the interpretation of this verse by rabbis and Torah scholars, it seems that it has evolved in an interesting way over the ages.

Rash”i, one of the earlier commentators  (1040-1105) interprets this verse through working with the literal translation of the Hebrew. In his view, Bilaam is predicting the future of Bnei Yisrael. According to him, Bilaam’s words imply, “You are distinguished (dwell apart) by your Torah traditions, and because of them you will not suffer the fate (be reckoned) of extinction but will survive and prosper.”

Eight hundred years later, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv), likewise, dwells on this very perplexing verse. In his view, this verse should be read thus: “If a People is content to be alone, faithful to its distinctive identity, then it will be able to dwell in peace. But if Jews, seek to be like any other nations, the nations will not consider them worthy of respect” (Haamek Davar to Numbers 23:9). Every other nation that went into exile, adopted the customs of the dominant culture, was respected and accepted as equal. That, however, was not the case with the Jews. When they sought to fuse with the native people, they were renounced and became more isolated. In other words, Netziv is not advocating total segregation but rather avoiding assimilation. Both, he believes, are impossible.

 Netziv’s analysis bears great significance considering that it was made in Russia, in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was a period when many Jews were assimilating, some converting to Christianity. At the same time, anti-semitism not only did not diminish but rather erupted in the form of violence as evidenced by the many pogroms that occured in many places in 1881.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) offers a modern angle to interpreting this verse. Utilizing the Hebrew text, he distinguishes between a “People” (am) and “nation” (goy). The first is a sociological entity, composed of groups or tribes of common origin that share the same code of conduct and collective memories. The second is a political one. That, according to Hirsch, means that Yisrael “will live in an insulated land without much intercourse with other nations. Its People will preserve “its ‘internal’ national mission as a national social body, as a nation among the nation that will not seek its greatness to impress others by his strength and heroism.” Am Yisreal will live in Eretz Yisrael, will conduct limited affairs with other nations, with no desire to compete with them, and will focus on its historical role. (commentary to Numbers 23:9).

Rabbi Sacks (1948-2020) is also puzzled by this verse. “How are we to understand Bilaam’s words?” he asks, when commenting on this ambivalent verse. Unlike some thinkers, who claim that Bilaam ended up blessing Bnei Yisrael, Rabbi Sacks claims that this verse is “not a blessing but a curse.”

In his book Future Tense, Rabbi Sacks shares his perspective on this verse. There, he recounts a meeting with an Yisraeli diplomat, in 2001, shortly before the now ignominious UN’s Conference against Racism in Durban.  During the conversation, the latter tried to calm the attendees by suggesting that it had always been our Jewish fate while quoting Bilaam’s phrase. “Hearing this verse in that context,” shares with us Sacks, “….I suddenly saw how dangerous this phrase is and how close it runs the risk of being a self-fulfilled prophecy. If you define yourself as the People that dwells alone, you are likely to find yourself alone. That is not a safe place to be.”

Rabbi Sacks reminds us that the Talmud claims, in Sanhedrin (105b), that “all the blessings with which Bilaam blessed the Jewish People turned into curses with the sole exception of the ‘How good are your tents, Jacob phrase, your homes, O Yisrael’ (Numbers 24:5). He goes on to add that “the Rabbis suggested that Bilaam was deliberately ambiguous in what he said, so that his words could be understood as blessings but also had another and darker meaning.”

Whether we believe that Bilaam cursed or blessed Am Yisrael, one fact remains clear. The verse shows the distinct character of the Jewish People. Despite its isolation, the Jewish People have remained defiant, determined and continued to choose life. Despite all the hardships and the suffering, we have endured by the greatest empires and other powers, we have outlasted them all!

Am Yisrael Chai

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday 11 July 2024

Chukat- a Lesson in Faith and Obedience


This week’s Torah portion, Chukat (Bamidbar,19-22:1), covers several topics. In this article, I will address two of them. Both surround the issues of Obedience and Faith.

The first is the enigmatic topic of Parah Adumah (Red Heifer). The second is one of the most famous and probably just as enigmatic stories of the Torah, Moshe’s violation of G-d’s command when he strikes the rock to draw water, instead of speaking to it.

The portion opens with the words, “And this is Chukat Ha’torah (the decree of the Torah). Rabbi Shlomo Katz expresses bewilderment at this verse and justifiably so. According to him, “Torah means ‘teaching,’ while ‘chukah’ means ‘a decree that we do not understand.’ This,” he continues “makes ‘Chukat HaTorah’ an oxymoron-a ‘teaching’ that cannot be understood.” Isn’t one of the goals of teaching to explain, in a logical way, that which is meant to be taught?

The first statute that this portion presents is the law of the “Parah Adumah.” G-d speaks to Moshe, “Tell the Yisraelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under the yoke.” The animal is then slaughtered, burned and its ashes, mixed with other ingredients, are used to purify a few kinds of contaminations which the Torah addresses in various places.

Scholars, Jewish as well as non-Jewish, throughout the ages, have debated this decree. No one, however, could understand it. Even king Solomon, the wisest of all men, who, according to Midrash Tanchumah, Chukat 6, grasped the entire Torah, studied this Mitzvah, examined and queried it, did not understand it. This, the Midrash explains, is what Solomon meant when he wrote, “I said I could become wise, but it is beyond me” (Kohelet 7:23).

When citing this Mitzvah, Jeff Seidel explains that within “the precepts of the Torah, we find ‘statutes’ (such as the red cow), which at first glance we define as ‘commandments of obedience,’ which, although apparently have no logic (as we find in not killing and not stealing), we must fulfill them because that is what G-d commanded.”

In his exposition on Rash”i’s Torah commentary, Gur Aryeh, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as Mahara”l of Prague, asserts that when performing a Mitzvah, it does not matter whether one understands it or not. What is of utmost importance is that it is performed properly.

My most favourite Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, ZT’L, also commented on this perplexing issue. The “law of the Red Heifer,” he emphasizes, “became a classical example of a chok, a ‘statute,’ often understood as a law that has no reason, or at least none we can understand.”

Here come the questions that are begging to be asked. Why then has G-d given Am Yisrael a Mitzvah such as the Parah Adumah, one that they cannot comprehend? Would it not have been better had He given us Mitzvot that we could all comprehend and thus perform them all?

Rabbi Mendi Kaminker has offered some answers to these tormenting questions. He bases them on the Hasidic doctrine. According to this creed, this is a cardinal principle in the relationship between G-d and us. We must perform Mitzvot out of devotion and obedience to G-d even if we do not grasp them because this is His will. Furthermore, explains Rabbi Karminer, when it comes to Mitzvot that we do understand, we should not observe them merely because we do know their underlying reason, but rather aspire to reach the G-dly component which is above our rationale. In other words, obedience is the bedrock of our faith in G-d.

The second topic that I wish to address is Moshe’s insubordination of G-d’s command.

Am Yisrael, fearing that their water supply will deplete, complain to G-d and Moshe, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in this wilderness, for there is no food and no water, and our soul is disgusted with the insubstantial food?” (Bamidbar 20:5))

G-d instructs Moshe and Aharon to approach one of the rocks and speak to it in order to draw water. “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.” (Bamidbar 20:8). Since the rock which Moshe approaches is indistinguishable from its surrounding ones, the Yisraelites, who did not notice it, begin to grumble and challenge Moses while doubting G-d’s command. Naturally, Moshe loses his temper in the face of their impatience and lack of faith, irately hits the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it, as G-d commanded him.

Though the goal is achieved, and Bnei Yisrael are able to quench their thirst, their anger at Moshe, causes Moshe and Aharon to disobey G-d’s command. What the Yisraelites failed to understand is that had they spoken to the rock, then the miracle would have been much more meaningful in forging a cohesive bond between Am Yisrael and G-d. As a result of their disobedience, Moshe and Aharon were punished and banned from entering the Promised Land.

How is it possible that Bnei Yisrael, just as in the case of the sin of the spies, after witnessing all of G-d’s great and powerful deeds, still casted doubt and complained against Him and against Moshe?

Rabbi Dov Meir Rubman, ZT”L suggests that “there is no rational explanation for their behaviour. A thinking man,” he believes, “could not have acted as they did.” What the Yisraelites failed to understand was that
had Moshe spoken to the rock instead of hitting it, then the miracle would have been much more meaningful and could have contributed greatly to forging a cohesive bond between Am Yisrael and G-d.


Unfortunately, their irrational behaviour pointed yet again to disobedience and lack of faith which led to dire consequences for their leaders, Moshe and Aharon.

Sunday 7 July 2024

The Anatomy of Unendurable Disputes


“Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure.” – Mishna Avot 5:17


Two weeks ago, we read the Torah portion, Shelach Lecha. It focused on the dispute stemming from the episode of the spies (Bamidbar 13-14) which is also referred to as “the sin of the spies”.

 The Korach Torah portion of this past week centered on another kind of dispute. This one emerged from a rebellion against Moshe, one that was orchestrated by Korach and his followers.

Some of you may question why I allude the two portions together and wonder about the connection between them. The answer is simple, they both embroil a dispute.

Our sages distinguished between two kinds of conflicts, as the quote from Mishna Avot above suggests. The dispute for the sake of Heaven, they explain, is one for the sake of truth. The other is for the sake of victory, power and personal gain.

Though, as shall be pointed out, both disputes were “not for the sake of Heaven.” They originate from entirely different motives and circumstances.

Shelach Lecha chronicles the story of the twelve spies that Moshe sent to scout the promised land prior to entering it. Upon their return, they reported to Moshe, and to the Children of Yisrael, “the land to which you sent us, does flow with milk and honey. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” They went on to describe its inhabitants as giants and extinguished any hope of overcoming them and conquering the land.

One of the spies, Calev ben Yefuneh tried to challenge the other spies and declared, “We should all go up and take possession of the land for we can certainly do it.” But to no avail. The other spies, eventually, succeeded in inciting the members of the community. “If only, we had died in Egypt! Or in the wilderness,” they lamented to Moshe and Aharon. “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Wouldn’t be better for us to go back to Egypt?” Some even call for a rebellion, “we should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Calev ben Yefunneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, the only two spies who remained loyal to G-d’s plan, tear their clothes in agony and keep begging the community to have faith and trust G-d. Their calls, however, fell on deaf ears and threats to stone them were heard.

G-d’s punishment of the rebellious members of the community did not linger. “In the wilderness your bodies shall fall, every one of you, twenty years or older, who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you… except Calev ben Yefunneh and Yehoshua ben Nun.” As for your children,…I will being them in to enjoy the Land you have rejected… For forty years, one year for each of the days you explored the Land, you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have you against me.” (Bamidbar 14:29-34).

Unlike the previous dispute, Korach’s clash with Moshe arose from his opposition to the appointments and role assignments for serving G-d which were made within Moshe’s family, upon the directives of G-d. They included selecting Moshe’s brother, Aharon, as High Priest and giving preference to some members of the tribe of Levi for high-ranking positions. Korach refused to accept it arguing that after Mount Sinai, “The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the lord is with them” (Bamidbar 16:3). Korach even went further to doubt Moshe claiming that he made those appointments arbitrarily and not upon G-d’s edict.

Moshe put Korach’s claim to the test. Naturally, he and his devotees failed. Their punishment for challenging G-d and their contemptuous attitude towards His decree was that “the ground opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korach” (Bamidbar 16:28-34).

In his article “Times of Fear,” where he discusses the sin of the spies, Rabbi Sacks, notes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, asked, “How could ten of the spies have come back with a demoralizing defeating report? They had seen with their own eyes how G-d had sent a series of plagues that brought Egypt, the strongest and longest-lived of all empires of the ancient world to its knees. Egypt was far stronger than the Canaanites, Perrizites, Jebusites and other minor kingdoms that they would have to confront in conquering the Land. Nor was this an ancient memory. It had happened not much more than a year before.”

According to him, the spies were not afraid of failure, they were afraid of success. While wandering in the desert, the Yisraelites were provided with food, manna from Heaven and water from miraculous wells. They were constantly surrounded and cloaked by the holiness of the Shechinah and lived close to G-d.

When they enter the Land, though, they would have to engage in battles, provide for themselves and worry about many temptations of the mundane world. In other words, they would end up being just another nation like any other nation.

The “mistake of the spies was the mistake of very holy men”, explains Rabbi Sacks. Ten of them sought to preserve the kind of life they experienced in the desert where they could find G-d easily, rely on Him to provide for them and fight their wars for them. “They wanted to spend their lives in the closest proximity to G-d. What they did not understand was that G-d seeks, in the Hasidic phrase, ‘a dwelling in the lower worlds.’ One of the great differences between Judaism and other religions is that while others seek to lift people to heaven, Judaism seeks to bring heaven down to earth. They should have known that G-d had intended for us for us to engage with the world, to heal its fractured parts and spread light. This was their sin. They misled the people, and thus steered them into the hands of a serious conflict, the kind that the Mishnah categorized as “not for the sake of Heaven.”

When addressing the second conflict, the one generated by Korach and his followers, Rabbi Sacks asserts that, “ if you want to understand resentments, listen to what people accuse others of, and you will then know what they themselves want.” That is precisely what Korach, and his faction wanted. They wanted to be leaders. They wanted power. And if there is a dispute that is spawned over desire for control and power, I doubt that there is anyone who would suggest that it is “a dispute for Heaven’s sake.”

Friday 28 June 2024

The Concept of G-d


There is..... no place without a fragment of G-d's light waiting to be discovered and redeemed.” -  Rabbi Sacks ZT”L

Let me preface this article by saying that this is not a theological paper. It is not aimed at debating religious items or beliefs. Neither does it seek to convince anyone of the validity of one religion over another.  Rather, it seeks to discuss the evolution of the titular concept and how it affects us in our daily lives not just as individuals but also as members of humanity.

The idea or the hypothesis, as some may suggest, of god is a constitutive pillar in every religion and culture. It has been the subject of debates among many scholars, philosophers and psychologists throughout history. Naturally, it bears a different meaning to many.

I guess that the term can be perceived as a spiritual power, above man, that enters his consciousness and outlines his world. It is plausible, therefore, to presume that the stories of creation, for instance, were designed to provide each culture with a conceivable, clear and logical explanation for the existence of the universe and the presence of a superpower that has also created man.

Since most humans need something concrete to grasp, something upon which to focus their thoughts and direct them to the divine, ancient cultures created gods that took different shapes and forms. These, generally, did not adopt our likeness or resemble humans. Rather, their creators maneuvered between humans and animals drawing a different bodily part from each and combining the good and bad traits of each in their personality. The underlying assertion for that was that god cannot be identified with only part of his devotees.

However, the Greek philosopher, Xenophanes (570-478 BCE), who should have known that, noted  that “if horses or cattle had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they had themselves with his own voice and body.” That is exactly what the ancient Greeks did. They copied images of beautiful people, physically attractive figures with well sculptured bodies. They attributed to them eternal life, the ability to change forms and the privilege to do whatever they wished.

And then, of course, there is the Jewish concept of the divine. The G-d of Abraham, the Jewish G-d, who, according to tradition, has thirteen attributes. He is an abstract entity, shapeless, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is what Alfred Adler, the acclaimed psychologist, defines as “the most brilliant manifestation of the goal of perfection.” That notion of the divine was later welcomed and willingly accepted by Christians and Muslims alike.

With time, the invisible G-d has become an idea that not only cannot be disproved but continues to spur many of us to debate His existence. We go through life trying to prove it. In the words of Rabbi Sacks ZT”L, we keep searching for “a fragment of G-d’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed.”

 The quest for the invisible G-d, has advanced humanity immensely. On our journey to find G-d, that abstract deity, naturally, many questions have been raised. “What is His essence? How do we know if He even exists? What evidence do we have for His existence?” are but a few of them.

Asking questions, as I have mentioned in some of my writings, in the past, questions about the universe that surrounds us, about nature and the various phenomena that we witness, and the search for answers have advanced humanity and contributed to the progress of our civilization.

Let me provide one example, that might help explain my assertion above, one to which  the majority of people can relate. I am referring to space exploration.

To many, the idea of space had been an enigma, a notion somewhat verging on the realm of the abstract. Man’s curiosity and desire to unlock the secrets of our cosmos pushed him to ask questions and seek answers. Space exploration was one way towards that end and has been a crane for a variety of discoveries, developments, inventions and great human achievements in more than one area. It has assisted in enhancing our lives through the advancement of medical devices such as ultrasound and other means to boost our healthcare system. It has aided economic growth, contributed to Global Positioning Systems which has impacted shipping and trade and assisted in facilitating monitoring arms conflicts.

Now, if the exploration of space, which, as we have witnessed, is anything but abstract, has added immensely to bettering our daily lives, imagine how the unending quest for G-d, an eternally invisible, abstract entity, could improve our lives even further.

Throughout human history, the higher powers of Western civilization have transformed from many gods to one G-d. The gods that bore the shapes of humans, celestial bodies, animals or plants morphed into an abstract, shapeless G-d who is invisible. This is very much the result of our increasing knowledge and understanding of the universe that surrounds us which makes it harder to accept the notion of gods in the images of the Greek or Roman gods. Following the development of the discipline of philosophy, humans have become more sophisticated and skeptical and were thus ripe to accept the concept of the abstract G-d of Judaism.

On the path leading to the progress of humanity, G-d, so it seems, has become an entity which gets harder and harder to disprove. We are, therefore, left with no choice but to keep searching for and aspire to find that “fragment of G-d’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed.”

Saturday 25 May 2024

The Year I was Introduced to "Arabic" and "Middle Eastern"


 We in the West have been civilized and safe for so long that we have forgotten the concept of ‘the enemy.’”Lee Harris


Lately, especially in the wake of the October 7th horrific events, we hear many Yisraeli  commentators stressing the need to learn to speak “Arabic,” or “Middle Eastern.” It is safe to state that the reference is rarely to languages. Rather, it is a call that points to adopting the modus operandi and frame of thought of Yisrael’s enemies and the enemies of the West. This, according to them, is of utmost importance, particularly when considering the geopolitical changes that engulf our fragile region and the unstable world.

“An enemy,” according to Lee Harris, as he states in the preface to his book Civilization and Its Enemies, “is someone willing to die in order to kill you.” Though Harris eases the definition to someone who merely wants to kill you or harm you, I believe that in the Middle East, at least, especially after witnessing the October 7th horrific acts committed by a vicious barbaric enemy, the former definition fits best. “Arabic” and “Middle Eastern” are the only “languages” Yisrael’s enemies speak, the only two they understand.

Fortunately for me, I was first introduced to these “languages” many years ago, albeit I didn’t label them as such. It was in 1977. I was then working on my graduate degree, at UC Berkeley.

As a staunch Labour Party activist, at that time, I was still mourning the victory of Menachem Begin, several months earlier. I was so upset that I refused to watch Yisraeli news, distanced myself from Yisraeli politics and concentrated on my studies.

Not that night, though. Something pulled me to the small black and white T.V. and I turned it on. I could not believe my eyes. There, on the screen, in front of me, was President Sadat of Egypt debarking a plane in Yisrael.

After rubbing my eyes in disbelief, the questions started popping up. Had I not read that Begin was, an extremist, a war monger? Hadn’t we been told that he hated Arabs? “What is going on here? I kept asking myself. I was dumbfounded.

It was then that I decided to embark on a mission to check and study the profile and demographic structure of Begin’s voters. “Surely,” I remember thinking to myself, “they must know something that I don’t.”

As I delved into the research which included much reading as well as speaking to his supporters, both in Yisrael and the U.S., I learned that most of Begin’s electorate were people who came from Muslim or Arabic speaking countries. Many were refugees from those countries. They had lived among those who call for our demise. These voters understood and spoke “Arabic” and “Middle eastern.” They were well familiar with the “Arabic” and “Middle Eastern” way of life, and what fuels those who are reared in the lap of these two “languages.”

I, on the other hand, a daughter of two Lithuanian Jews who was raised in a Western society and has never lived in any environment that comes even close to that of most of Begin’s voters. I was clueless about their culture and way of life. They taught me, in what I might describe as, a “crash course” all they knew about our enemies’ behavioural patterns. The lesson was painful. It burst the ideological bubble which had been my habitat for several years before. Their words illustrated to me that all those I felt sorry for, those that I supported in their efforts to establish a state, and, on whose behalf, I demonstrated, had one aim only, annihilate me and my fellow Jews.  Those I spoke to, all echoed the same message, “We are facing a malicious enemy who will use any means to eradicate us. The only way to deal with our enemy, according to them, is “with a mighty hand and a strong fist.” Begin, in their opinion, was the only one who understood and spoke their language.

In 1979, I officially became a Likudnik. I have never looked back.

The sooner we, Yisraelis, master these “languages,” and utilize their method of operation in the political, military and propaganda arenas, the more invincible we will become. This is of utmost importance, especially when it comes to the pursuit of Peace. In the words of  Dr. Kedar, “Peace in the Middle East is only given to an invincible state.”

Shavua tov, Am Yisrael and a great week to all.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

"נפש ישראלי?"



מסופקתני  אם ישנו אדם אחד במדינת ישראל אשר לא נתקל בשמו של יוסף חדאד, כוכב ההסברה, הנוסק בשמי ארצנו ובעולם.

בעוד מספר ימים יעלה חדאד וידליק משואה, בהחלט כבוד הראוי לאיש אשר לעיתים עומד בדד, כנגד מתקפות על ביתנו הלאומי. בכך, לשיטתי, הופך חדאד לדמות המייצגת את ישראל, הבית הלאומי של העם היהודי, באופן רשמי.

משום כך, ובעיקר משום כך, על חדאד להשאר נאמן לעקרונותיה היהודיים של המדינה, אשר אותה הוא מייצג.

חלק מצביונה היהודי של המדינה כולל את "התקווה," המנון המדינה, והמנון העם היהודי.

.להזכירכם, ההמנון מדבר על "נפש יהודי" ועל עין ל"ציון צופייה," בין השאר

מובן מאיליו שחדאד, כערבי, כלא יהודי, אינו מצופה ועקב כך, אינו חייב לשיר אותו. ברם, הפתרון של חדאד ל"בעיה" זו, כפי שמראה הקליפ המצורף, היא לשנות את מילות השיר, ולהחליף את המילים "נפש יהודי" ב- "נפש ישראלי."                                                                                                                                                                                                                         מבינה את מצוקתו של חדאד. למרות צדקת טענותיו, עדיין עליו לכבד את מהותה היהודית של מדינת ישראל, על את כמה וכמה כאחד המייצג אותה באופן רשמי.   

עלינו להתעקש על כך.

חדאד אינו רשאי לשנות את מילות ההמנון. אין לו מנדט לכך.

 אמנם, חדאד אינו טוען שעל מדינת ישראל לשנות באופן רשמי את מילות ההמנון, ואף אינו מצפה לכך. מצד שני, חדאד, הנוטל על עצמו את הזכות לשנות את המילים, הוא בהחלט דמות משפיענית. כהוכחה לכך, חדאד אף מתגאה שחמישה מהנוכחים, נכי צה"ל, באירוע המצוין הצטרפו איליו תוך כדי שהם, כמוהו, משנים את מילות השיר ל-"נפש ישראלי," למרות שרובם, אם לא כולם, יהודים.

 האם עלינו לעמוד מן הצד, לאפשר ולעודד זאת? האם ניתן לתקינות הפוליטית לכבוש כל חלקה טובה בתוכנו?

 ישראל נוסדה כמדינה יהודית, היחידה בעולם. ישראל  היא, ישראל הייתה וישראל תמשיך להיות ביתו הלאומי של העם היהודי.

ישראל אינה, לא הייתה ולא תהיה מדינת כל אזרחיה, אשר בה ניתן יהיה לשנות את מילות ההמנון ל"נפש ישראלי."  ישראל לנצח תישאר מדינה יהודית. בעת ובעונה אחת, ישראל הייתה ןתמשיך להיות דמוקרטית, כפי שמעיד חדאד.  המושג "דמוקרטיה" טבוע בדי. אן. איי של מהותה היהודית של מדינת ישראל.

עלינו להתעקש שכל אזרח בה, בין אם ישיר את ההמנון, בין אם לאו, בין אם הינו אזרח מן הישוב, או משפיען רשת, על אחת כמה וכמה כנציג רשמי של המדינה, יכבד אותו ואת צביונה היהודי של המדינה.

 .על כך, אל לנו להתפשר

חייבים לגדוע נטייה זו באיבה, לפני שהנושא יצא מכלל שליטה ועוד אנשים יצטרפו לעיוות שכזה, כל אחד   מסיבותיו הוא.

עם ישראל חי, ונצח ישראל לא ישקר!!!  


Monday 1 April 2024

- הרפובליקה הפלורנטינית והדמוקרטיה הישראלית -מחקר סוציולוגי מאת בת ציון סאקס ורוג'ר פרויקין

אחד הקורסים שאני משתתפת בהם, "רנסנס והולדתו של העולם המודרני", דן בלידת הרפובליקה הפלורנטינית במאה ה-16. בחקר הנושא, נתקלתי בניתוח הבא, מאת מארק ג'ורדביץ' ב'הומניזם ויצירתיות ברנסנס,' המאפיין את הישות הזו:
"קונפליקט פוליטי בפירנצה מתקופת דנטה ועד הרפובליקה
של 1527–30 נטה לסוב סביב ובין שני
חזונות מתחרים של הרפובליקה ושתי שפות פוליטיות כתוצאה מכך: 
האחת אריסטוקרטית, סגורה ובלעדית, והשנייה פופולרית, רחבה-
מבוססת, ומכילה. עבור האריסטוקרטים, שהתחרו ביניהם לרוב על השפעה וכוח, הפוליטיקה הייתה מושרשת
בפטרונות פרטית בלתי פורמלית: קשרים אישיים ושכנותיים של
תלות ומחויבות, נישואים וחברות, וחלוקת טובות הנאה לא פורמליות".

לרגע, כשניסיתי להתמקד בנושא ההרצאה, הייתה לי תחושה של דז'ה וו, כאילו המחבר מתאר את ישראל של ימינו.

במצוקותי, החלטתי לחלוק את מחשבותיי עם חברי היקר, רוג'ר פרויקין. באופן לא מפתיע, הוא הסכים איתי.

מאמר זה הוא המאמץ המשותף של שנינו לשפוך אור נוסף על הנושא.

אנציקלופדיה בריטניקה מגדירה "דמוקרטיה", צורת הממשל הישראלית, כ: "צורת ממשל המבוססת על שלטון עצמי של העם, ובזמנים המודרניים, על מוסדות ייצוגיים שנבחרו באופן חופשי ורשות מבצעת האחראית לעם... בזכות השווה שלהם לחירות החיים ולרדיפה אחר האושר". 

המונח "רפובליקה", עבור רבים מאיתנו, מתאר צורת ממשל שבה הציבור מצביע עבור נציגים שתפקידם לייצג את האינטרסים שלהם בפני הממשלה. ניתן להחיל את המונח על כל צורת ממשל שאינה נשלטת על ידי מונרך. "עם זאת", לפי ד"ר סטיבן צוקר וד"ר בת' האריס, "פירנצה הייתה רפובליקה במובן זה שהייתה חוקה שהגבילה את כוחה של האצולה (כמו גם הפועלים) והבטיחה שלאף אדם או קבוצה לא תהיה שליטה פוליטית מוחלטת..." בעוד שבמציאות, כפי שהוכיחה ההיסטוריה, "הכוח הפוליטי שכן בידי סוחרים ממעמד הביניים, כמה משפחות עשירות, כמו מדיצ'י והגילדות החזקות."

  שורשיה של הרפובליקה הפלורנטינית מתוארכים לשקיעתה של האימפריה הרומית המערבית.

השנה הייתה 59 לפנה"ס, כאשר הקיסר סולה, לאחר שכבש את האזור, הקצה חלקות אדמה לחיילים ותיקים שהיו נאמנים לו. לפי כמה דיווחים, העיר נוסדה מסיבות פוליטיות ואסטרטגיות. אלה היו הזרעים של מה שהפך מאוחר יותר לפלורנטין ולרפובליקות או ערים אחרות, לכל אחת מהן הממשלה שלה.

את ישראל הצעירה הרבה יותר ישבו בעיקר שתי קבוצות שנכנסו לארץ בתחילת המאה ה-20. אחד מהם הוא בעיקר אידיאליסטים יהודים מזרח-אירופיים שנטנו לחילוניות ולסוציאליזם. מאוחר יותר הגיעו יהודים גרמנים, מקהילה שהתבוללה מהר מהמסורת היהודית, כפליטים מגרמניה הנאצית. היה להם ניסיון עסקי ומשפטי וגם נטו לשמאל פוליטי. אנשים אלה הקימו את הקיבוצים הסוציאליסטים, שרבים מהם היו בנקודות חיוניות אסטרטגיות שהגנו על העם מפני איומי טרור מתמשכים.

למרות שבאופן פורמלי, פירנצה הייתה רפובליקה דמוקרטית, היא הייתה תחת שלטון מוחלט של משפחות אצולה, כמו בני מדיצ'י, באמצעות שליטתם במוסדות מפתח ותמיכת פטרוניהם. ז'אן בודן, פילוסוף פוליטי צרפתי, הציע הגדרה מרחיקת לכת למונח "רפובליקה". במחקר הקנוני שלו על הריבונות שכותרתו, 'ששת ספרים של חבר העמים' (1576), הוא מגדיר את הרפובליקה כ"ממשלה המסודרת בצדק של מספר משפחות, ושל הדברים שהם עניינם המשותף, על ידי מעצמה ריבונית".

כמובן שהמצב במדינת היהודים אינו זהה למה שקרה בפירנצה, אבל דפוסי ההתנהגות בהתפתחותן של אצולה חדשה בפירנצה איטליה מתקופת הרנסנס והן במדינת ישראל הצעירה, שגורמים להן, יחד עם מעט מאוד דוגמאות אחרות ברחבי העולם, די ייחודיות ומשכילות.

בפירנצה, הדפוס שהתפתח עם הזמן כלל מספר קטן של משפחות עסקיות, שלעתים קרובות התחרו זו בזו, מה שבסופו של דבר הביא לכך שמשפחות אלו מצאו את המומחיות העסקית שלהן, את הנישה שלהן, ואז מצאו הסכמה ביניהן, בצורה של חוקה , הגבלת התחרות והקונפליקט ביניהם, והגבלת ושליטה בכל תחרות אפשרית מצד זרים על ידי שימוש בשילוב של חוקים, גילדות שהגבילו מי יכול להיכנס לאיזה תפקיד, מקצוע או עבודה. בקיצור, משפחות אלו בחרו להגן על עושרן ועל מעמדן על ידי הקמת דרכים לשלוט זו בזו ובאלה שאינם חלק מה"מועדון" שלהן.

אז הנה יש לנו את התבנית. אריסטוקרטיה חדשה הבנויה על עסקים, לא על אדמה ואלימות, שהתחברה מעת לעת לאצולת הקרקע לאישור ולעזרה לפי הצורך במאבקים שלהם, שעשתה עסקאות, חוזים, חוקות כדי להגביל את הסכסוך, אבל תמיד חוקים שנועדו להתאים להם ולא לאנשים הפשוטים שהם העסיקו. הם נישאו בתוך הקבוצה שלהם, המועדון שלהם, טיפלו בסכסוכים על ידי מניפולציות של בעלי ברית ואפילו בכנסייה, תוך סיכון של להרוס את כל מה שהם בנו לפעמים.

כדי להחזיק ולשמור על המעמד והשליטה הללו, האליטה הישראלית עשתה פחות או יותר מה שהאליטה העסקית בפירנצה עשתה במאות הקודמות. הם פעלו לעשות כל שביכולתם כדי לשמר ולהגן על מעמדם החדש, שהיה חילוני, אירוצנטרי, אפילו מעט עוין לדת ולמסורת, ואוחז ברבות מהעמדות הפוליטיות והחברתיות של השמאל האירופי.

כמו ברפובליקה הפלורנטינית, הפריבילגיות הישראליות קבעו חוקים כדי להגן על חסינותה ועושרה מפני התחרות של אלה "שלא במועדון". היא עושה כל שביכולתה כדי למנוע שחיקה בסמכותה ושליטתה, נלחמת נגד רפורמה משפטית דמוקרטית ומתנגדת לשינויים פוליטיים שעלולים לפתוח את הכלכלה לשגשוג גדול יותר ולהשתתפות של חלקים אחרים בקהילה. אפילו בנקים שנוהלו על ידי אלה שהתנגדו, זרים, גורשו מהעסקים. רישיונות עסק היו קשים להשגה והיו זמינים רק עבור אלה שלא היוו איום אמיתי של תחרות. חברות הבנייה היו מוגבלות בהבאת טכנולוגיות חדשות, כדי שלא יתחרו בפעילות בבעלות ההסתדרות (הסתדרות העבודה). גורמים חיצוניים שרצו להשקיע בעם ולהביא רעיונות חדשים שעשויים להיות תחרותיים, נואשו מהרשויות בקשר להסתדרות, שייצגה גם את האינטרסים של מעמד שליט זה שמינה את עצמו.

התהליך הזה נמשך כבר זמן מה, אבל הגיע לנקודה שבה העומדים בראש חוששים להפסיד עד כדי כך שהם מוכנים לשתק את המדינה כדי למנוע שינוי.

למען ההגינות, עלינו להצביע גם על הניגודים בין השניים.
ראשית, בניגוד לרפובליקות פלורנטין ולרפובליקות אחרות, כמו ארה"ב, לישראל אין חוקה.

בנוסף, בפירנצה, האצולה העסקית החדשה חלקה תרבות ודת עם תושבי העיר וקיבלה את סמכותם של המנהיגים הדתיים לרוב, אם כי עם מעט ספקנות מקובלת.

בישראל, לעומת זאת, האריסטוקרטיה החדשה ניסתה להשיל את העבר היהודי ולהיות כמו עמיתיהם האירופים, כשהיא מביעה זלזול ואף עוינות כלפי המסורות שהיו חלק מתרבות יהודית. זה הפך למקור לקונפליקט ולפילוג ותגובה מחלקי אוכלוסייה אחרים, מה שהפך את זה לקשה הרבה יותר לעשות את מה שעשה מעמד העילית בפירנצה. לדפוס הישראלי היה, אם כן, מקור נוסף לקונפליקט חברתי בהשוואה למה שהתפתח באיטליה.

הבדל נוסף היה האיום החיצוני, המלחמות, הטרור, שגרמו לעם ישראל להתאגד ולא להתפצל בקווים דתיים ואידיאולוגיים.

עם זאת, מה שלא פלורנס ולא ישראל יכלו להימנע ממנו לנצח, הן הדרישות של בני השכבות הנחשלות. בשתיהם השתמשו חברי האליטה בכוחם במוסדות כמו חינוך תוך נטייה לאמצעים אחרים, בעת הצורך, אפילו על חשבון העיר במקרה של פירנצה או המדינה, במקרה של ישראל

בישראל הדפוס הזה עדיין מתפתח ויגיע לסוף צפוי. עם זאת, יש לפתור הרבה עצבנות ובעיות, כדי ליצור רפובליקה דמוקרטית אמיתית עם צדק אמיתי וכבוד לכולם.