Archive for the 'Arnold Toynbee' Category

14
Apr
11

Passover’s Relevance Today


In the Hebrew calendar year of 2448 (currently, the year is 5771) the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, exited that land under Moses’ leadership. Passover – the Festival of Freedom – has ever since been one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar. With its lengthy preparations, its rituals and the joy expressed at being free, it is unlike any other Jewish Holy Day. Jewish slavery in Egypt ended three thousand three hundred and twenty three years ago, but Jewish history is unfortunately rich in attempt after attempt by various powerful empires (who have since disappeared!) to convert or enslave those accursed, stiff necked, Jews.

In spite of every such try – right through modern times – the stubborn Jew refuses to go away, refuses to convert, refuses to die. Historians are perplexed! The Jew is a total anomaly! Forces far superior have tried their best to destroy him, in vain, only to became themselves little more than the equivalent of a few chapters in learned history tomes. Arnold Toynbee, the late British historian, in his Study of History refers to the Jew as “the fossil of history,” but he is hopelessly wrong… A fossil has been dead for thousands of years while the Jews are and will still be here long after Professor Toynbee will be forgotten, long after the learned Professor ceases to be even a footnote in some book of historical curiosities.

The message of Passover, the longing for freedom, the two thousand years of exile, the praying and crying to return home have paid off. In 1948 (63 years ago!), the State of Israel was officially established by the United Nations. Interestingly enough, Abraham (whom Jews and Arabs descend from) was born in the Hebrew year of… 1948! Was this just a mere coincidence?!?!?

The Jew’s dream of living – once again – in an independent Jewish country may have come to fruition, but the danger to Jewish survival is far from over. The same enemy that threatens to change the face and lifestyle of the West first wants to destroy the Jew, as an appetizer to his final goal of total conquest of the planet. Europe – especially – and the US, have long mislaid their will to fight for their Western values. Europe, the enlightened, has lost its spirituality and with it any reason to defend its lifestyle which has morphed into a search for instant gratification rather than for something of lasting value. Europe, at one time produced great civilizations and empires, it produced immortal works of art, literature and music. But it lost its inner qualities along the way and instead replaced them with emptiness. Its current philosophers, authors, composers do not compare with the masters of yore and – unlike the classics – are unlikely to be remembered within a few centuries from now.

America the mighty, where a strong work ethic and spirituality once propelled it to the undisputed leadership of the free world,  the America that brought to fruition the dreams and longings of everyone thirsting for freedom and a better chance for a happy life, that America, like Europe,  is also badly afflicted with horrible diseases. As a result of a mislabeled, misnamed, liberalism and its associated maladies (all aggravated by an acute case self hating anti-Americanism), that America suddenly moves around like a confused giant, faltering in its way, unfocused in the present, unsure of its future course.

Just as there were some Jews who preferred to stay in Egypt at the time of the Exodus (only 20% of the Jews actually left with Moses), just as there were those who could not imagine the Hebrew tribes would ever form their own independent kingdom, so there are today those who doubt the viability of a Jewish country on Jewish land. Not only are there self -hating “enlightened” Jews inside and outside of Israel, but there are also the doubters and fools who run its government.

The leadership of a country at war, has to do everything in its power to protect its denizens in the most forceful, most efficient manner possible. World opinion be damned, they never have, nor will they ever come to the aid of us Jews at the moment of peril. Looking at Israel’s governments, over the last 20 plus years, one must wonder how pervasive is the horrible malaise that is so prevalent in Europe and other places. Israel was given to the Jewish tribes by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, as promised to Abraham. Instead of vigorously defending their patrimony, instead of vigorously and unequivocally defending the Jewish rights to their own land, today’s leaders bend to the will, to the opinion of the same Europeans who live on soil soaked with centuries of innocent Jewish blood. When in history has appeasement ever worked?!?!? Remember WWII and British PM Neville Chamberlain’s dangerous, foolish, “Peace in our Time” act of appeasement towards Hitler?

When in history has anyone in Christian Europe ever turned the other cheek? Yet that same Europe who never followed its own dogma demands that the Jew turn the other cheek, isn’t that hypocritical? Isn’t that little more than pathological hatred of that stiff necked Jew who refuses to die, who refuses to become a fossil? And yet, Israeli governments – some further than others (I admit!) – are more intent in pleasing the Europeans and liberal Americans than in defending their own people?!?!?

Food symbols of Freedom...

As long as these governments have greater fear of world opinion tha they have regard for their duties as Jews, then perhaps Israel’s hour of redemption has not yet arrived. If Israel is to be no more than a mere Western enclave in the Levant, rather than a proud nation living in its own land of thousands of years, then it may yet again (chas vesholom, sholom vechas, God forbid!!!!) be spit out of its land.

Israel was historically entrusted with a mission, the mission was to become a light unto the nations, a mission that meant fearless pursuit of our values as commanded in the Torah and explained by our Sages. Alas, what we have instead is a country run by political eunuchs with no belief, with no gumption to fulfill their Divine mission. We are about to celebrate Pessach, to commemorate the time the Almighty, Himself, liberated us from slavery and yet… over 3300 years later, in our own country, we still live emotionally enslaved to those who would gladly celebrate our demise.

Yes, we too suffer a serious malaise; we are deficient – as a nation – in our spirituality, in our belief in the Almighty and ourselves. Adapting the mores of other nations, living life in the manner of other nations never worked for the Jew – on the contrary –  it has only led to his getting ruthlessly decimated. Let’s face up to the truth and our responsibilities; we are different, we have a Divine mission! Let us hope that this Pessach we break the chains of spiritual, emotional and intellectual slavery and become truly liberated from our self imposed indenture to others’ bankrupt values. If we do, then and only then, will the West wake up from its complacency and vigorously stand up to those who would take today’s world back to the barbarism of the seventh century of the Current Era.

CS

11
Dec
09

Bayamim Ha’em, Bazman Hazeh


[In 2007, I wrote the following on my other blog, I will re-post here some excerpts which best describe my feelings on Chanukah, our people and the millenia of Jewish struggle. CS]

Photo Credits: templeinstitute.org

Bayamim ha’em – in those days…
Roughly about 2100 years ago a ragtag army of Jews who refused to follow the fashionable Hellenistic ideas and culture, Jews who clung to their anachronistic religion and customs, decided to revolt against the Greek (Syriac) Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV. Anyone with some practical sense or conventional wisdom could have easily predicted the revolt would end disastrously… but he would have been very wrong!!! This ragtag assembly of Jews faced overwhelming numbers of superior and superbly equipped Seleucid warriors (100 Greek soldiers for every Jewish one) destroying them, leaving the few remaining Seleucids fleeing in fright.

What was the motivation of this group, what made them fight with their every fiber of body and soul? The Hellenists unlike other conquerors of the Holy Land did not intend – originally – to exterminate the Jews, they meant no bodily harm… all they sought was for the Jews to abandon their old religious beliefs and become a part of the enlightened NOW of that time, to abandon their outdated, out of fashion creed and embrace the Hellenist enlightenment. They wanted the Jews to become immersed in Greek culture with its literature, its philosophy, its emphasis on physical prowess as practiced in the gymnasiums. They wanted the Jews to lose their spirituality and thereby their distinct identity. Many were seduced by those ideas so in vogue in the enlightened world and gave up their Judaism. Many went so far as to wear a special cup that would mask the mark of their circumcision. Many… but not all!

When Antiochus decreed that henceforth anyone who had their sons circumcised would be killed together with the new baby, most men gave up the ritual, many ceased procreating in fear of the death threat against themselves and their potential offspring. The men were ready to give up… but not their women! Many a woman would, in direct violation of the law, circumcise her son and rather than quietly await death at the hands of the Seleucid Greeks would jump from a mountain top and rob the hated oppressor of the pleasure of killing a Jew… The Nation of Israel was often roused from its slumber, from its complacency, from its hopelessness, by its courageous women… Examples abound!

Soon the rebellion spread and many who had already despaired suddenly found new strength, new hope, new reasons to stand up to the tyrants. As the women set the courageous example of resisting the oppressor, the men soon followed suit refusing to comply and taking up arms instead. The little flame that is forever lit in each and every Jew’s heart suddenly ignited and burned brilliantly. The terrible anger, humiliation and pain they experienced at the loss of their wives, their daughters, their mothers, the fury against an unjust oppressor who wanted to trample their religion and replace it with false gods, kindled within them new fires, new resolution, renewed faith.

Matityahu the Priest and his sons never wavered in their beliefs. They suddenly amassed many recruits, renewed cohesively with sense of faith and purpose, and succeeded against the best and fiercest army of the day. The Temple in Jerusalem was soon restored, cleansed of the Greek impurities and the Holy faith of the Jews again shone brightly within its walls. The wonder of finding one small vial of sanctified oil meant to burn one day and miraculously burning for eight (thus giving the Israelites enough time to prepare more of the consecrated oil) was a Divine message that their sacrifices, their faith and their refusal to give up their belief in Him had been acknowledged!

Since our earliest history as a people, the strongest empires, the mightiest armies, have conquered Israel. They scattered us throughout the world. Through harassment, persecution, rape and murder, they sought to break our spirit. Many broke and left the fold! Neither the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians,  the Babylonians, nor the Romans fully succeeded… nor are they, themselves, still around. The spark of Judaism that shines in every Jewish heart, can never be extinguished… it takes very little to reignite it, to bring it back to its full power.

The medieval blood libels, the Spanish (and Portuguese) Inquisition, the murderous Ukrainian Cossacks of Bogdan Chmielnicky, or Hitler and his willing accomplices, etc., etc., decimated us tremendously throughout our history. Many a European village, filled with Jews, was razed to the ground with its soil forever soaked in our blood. But the stiff necked, stubborn Jew, though numerically crippled every time, survived it all and improved.

Bazman hazeh – at this time…
British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, in his monumental A Study of History (on the rise and fall of civilizations), referred to the Jews as “the fossil of history.” Logically, we should have disappeared long ago. Logically, we should have barely made it, as a small footnote, in some forgotten history tome, but… we Jews are still here. The learned Professor Toynbee was grievously wrong! The Jews are not a fossil, a fossil has no life. A fossil is merely a bone, a fragment, a reminder, a remnant, of what once was very alive. Toynbee was wrong, the Jew LIVES! And… unfortunately, for the learned professor… WE RUINED HIS THEORY!!!

The Jew today is a vibrant force in whatever country he/she may reside, whether in the sciences, in the professions, in technology, in business, in education, in the arts, in literature, in every facet of modern life. Jews come in every hue of the political spectrum, we differ as much from one another as any other people or more. Yet, through it all, whether we follow Ashkenazi or Sephardi traditions, whether we are chassidim or litwisch whether we come from Uruguay, the US, Iraq, India, Poland, or Italy, or any place on this planet, every single one of us carries a small spark of that Hanuka oil burning in our hearts. That is the reason why no conqueror, no oppressors could destroy us, that is why we are still Jews today… and will still be Jews when those very oppressors and haters have themselves been relegated to the dustbin of history.

Enough of my ranting! Chanukka is a time of joy and renewal, so here is a very simple, delicious, heimische latke recipe. Enjoy it with your family as you sing, play dreidel, or just… enjoy!

Potato Latkes


10 large grated Idaho potatoes (hand grater preferred!)
5 tablespoon grated onion
8 eggs, beaten
6 teaspoons salt
Cover pan with oil, until 1/2″ heigh.

Put the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, getting rid of as much moisture as possible. In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. In a large pan,over medium-high heat, heat up the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the mix into the hot oil, press down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. serve it hot. Makes 12 generous servings. When you are ready to eat you may put apple sauce on top or, if you are having it with dairy, add some sour cream, or just have them as they are. Enjoy!

May the lights of Chanukka forever burn brightly in every heart!

A freilachn


Chanuka!!!

CS




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