During the recent joyful Jewish Holiday of Succoth (a.k.a. Feast of Tabernacles), my wife and I spent time with our family in Brooklyn, New York. I will not belabor the "Feast" part of the Holiday except to say that for now the operative word is "diet". But as a balance to the carnal overindulgence, we were spiritually buoyed by the uplifting services at the magnificent Young Israel Beth El Synagogue, highlighted by the vocal gymnastics of Cantor Miller and the Choir, and complemented by Rabbi Moshe Snow's highly inspiring and cerebral Sermons. And as I was submerged in one of his artfully imparted messages, I realized that I had to share those words with the readers of my blog.
I will not attempt to relay the Sermon verbatim, but I will paraphrase the gist of it, and then embellish it with sprinklings of my own commentary. Apologies to Rabbi Snow for any divergence from his intended statement..
The Rabbis in the Talmudic Tractate corresponding to the Holiday of Succoth, relate the order of the Services in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the duration of this 8 day Holiday. Each day the Priests would perform the Temple Sacrificial offerings in a descending count, starting with 13 offerings on the first day, followed by 12 the next day, then 11, 10 ,9, 8, and finally 7 on the seventh day. The total offerings added up to 70, which the Talmud explains, corresponded to the 70 Nations of the World (at that time). The 70 offerings were a prayer to God to facilitate atonement for the sins of the World population at large. Then once the atonement for the other Nations has been effected, a single Sacrificial Offering was performed on the eighth day to atone for the sins of the Jews of Israel. This yearly Holiday tradition lasted for the duration of the Temple's existence, until it was destroyed by invading enemies.
Following the tragedy of the Temple's destruction, a Rabbi lamented, "Woe is to the Nations of the World who have lost something, but don't even know what." He was referring to the fact that the Jewish Nation had taken the initiative to regularly beseech God for the welfare of the other Nations of the world, something that was now no longer possible due to the lack of the Holy Temple.
During his tempestuous rule of the Jewish Kingdom, King David had penned the Psalms, which chronicled his praise for God, his prayers and his dialogue with God. If you peruse Psalm Chapter 109, it starts as follows:
1. For the conductor. Of David, a song. O God of my praise, be not silent. 2. For the mouth of a wicked man and the mouth of a deceitful man have opened upon me; they spoke with me with a lying tongue. 3. And with words of hatred they have surrounded me, and they have fought with me without cause. 4. Instead of my love, they persecute me, but I am at prayer. 5. They have imposed upon me evil instead of good and hatred instead of my love.The Rabbinic commentators point out that King David was not talking about affront to himself, but was instead documenting his Nation's interaction with surrounding Countries. While the Jewish State was offering love, the others returned lies, hate and aggression.
And so it has been throughout the ages. The Jews have always extended their hands in peace, offered their services to their host countries, and time after time have been repaid by malicious hate, lies and persecution. This has changed little, up to and including today.
We have just witnessed the prisoner swap that Israel had "negotiated" with the captors of a young soldier named Gilad Shalit. This young man was kidnapped 5 years ago by a terrorist group who infiltrated the borders of Israel. He has been kept in total isolation for the 5 years, with no visits allowed from the outside, including from the Red Cross.
You would think that the bond of fealty to its citizen demonstrated by the Jewish State would draw praise from the world politic. You would think that by agreeing to the release of 1027 convicted terrorists and murderers from Israeli jails to gain the freedom of a single innocent young Jew would shine a positive light upon Israel. Instead, we are witnessing a noticeable lack of acclaim upon the world stage, punctuated by such comments as we read from the self righteous Amnesty International who declared on their website:
“This deal will bring relief to Gilad Shalit and his family after an ordeal that has lasted more than five years. Many Palestinian families will feel a similar sense of relief today when they are reunited with their relatives, many of whom have spent decades under harsh conditions in Israeli detention," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.I can still hear the words of Rabbi Snow echoing in my ears as he thundered "How dare Amnesty International equate the kidnapping and holding hostage of an innocent young man with the incarceration of murderers and terrorists"? Amnesty International trumpets the words "harsh conditions in Israeli detention" in reference to hard-core terrorist and murderers who were still able to complain about not having enough visits from their families, yet Amnesty International will not mention, much less condemn, the solitary confinement of the young Israeli in a dungeon for 5 years without ANY visitors.
But at least our American Administration was supportive of the prisoner swap. Or were they?
The New York Post had reported that President Obama was "personally pleased" with the swap for the release of Gilad Shalit. Later, upon finding out that some of the murderers released had killed U.S. citizens, the American Administration had "objected" to the release of those terrorists. So is this just another indication of the clueless leadership of the current Administration, or are they Racists by saying that if terrorist murder Israeli citizens, it's not as bad as when they murder U.S. citizens?
Then of course there are those Anti-Semitic kooks that seem to find legitimacy by writing for the British publication, The Guardian. To them, the freedom of one Jew in exchange for 1027 Arabs is Israeli racism, by implying that one Jew is worth more than 1000 Arabs. (I didn't make this up)
Finally, I don't want to end this post on a down note, so I will relate a story that came to mind as I was citing Psalm 109 above.
A couple riding on the highway noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of them that read:
"Pray for Barack Obama - Psalm 109 verse 8".
They were intrigued about the meaning of the message, and when the husband remembered that he had a Bible in the glove compartment, he asked his wife to look up and read the quote. They both broke up in laughter when the wife read:
Psalm 109 verse 8 - May his days be few, and may someone else take his office of dignity.