Thursday, June 19, 2008


Weekly Parsha Blogging During the Actual Week of Reading Said Parsha

Don't get too excited that this'll happen often ...

I posted this to the listserv of my wife's synagogue (on the subject of a famous quote ... you'll get the gist of it from the post):

When I was a kid, in religious school they used a "sanitized" as well as longer version (which I'll quote as much as I can remember): "the goal of Zionism is to create a state where it's normal to be Jewish: where Jews are not only [a list of stereotypically 'Jewish' professions would be given here] but also [a list of not-stereotypically Jewish careers would be given here] and even Jewish policeman would be chasing Jewish thieves".

I actually had a problem with this as a kid: "Jewish thieves? as a reality this happens ... but as an aspiration? how does the aspiration to have a 'normal Jewish state' square with the idea that
we Jews are supposed to be 'Am Kadosh'? -- maybe we are not always so Kadosh in practice, but at least that's to what we should aspire". One fault I could say about the religious education I received (in an otherwise wonderful synagogue out west) is that it presented Zionism as a positive ideology and presented also the idea that we Jews should be an "Am Kadosh" but never made any attempt to reconcile the two notions.

Of course, some Jews find they cannot reconcile the two notions, whence religious anti-Zionism (now limitted to some in the Haredi community, but at one time strong both amongst the "traditionally Orthodox" as well as the Reform). Since the synagogue which my family attended was Reform, maybe the lack of attention to reconciling Zionism with the notion of "Am Kadosh" reflected this history within the Reform movement?

The connection with this week's parsha? Well, before we prepare to read the Sh'ma, including a passage from this week's parsha commanding the wearing of Tzitzis, we sing in prayer about Hashem calling us from all peoples and languages but then gathering us from the four corners of the earth into our land. Is this the solution to the kasha of the quote?

OTOH, one could argue that Zionism is, in fact, paganism (Speaking of Faith had an interesting program on Paganism yesterday and how the key aspect is the sacredness of (only) certain locations in contrast, e.g., to the Jewish view of the omnipresence and universe filling nature of divinity) -- with its emphasis on the Holy Land (c.f. Jacob realizing a place was holy even though it had no markers of holiness). Another kasha, in case the first one is somehow answered by recourse to the words of "Ahava Rabba", how does Judaism harmonize its belief in Eretz HaKadesh with the omnipresence of God?

Interestingly, the mystic tradition in Judaism both emphasizes the Merkaba (which implies God is localized, e.g. has to leave the Temple Mount in a Chariot) and the omnipresence of the divine. Perhaps, this is one of those "mysteries" which ought to only be taught to those ready for true understanding?

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