Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Collapse of the Yefei Nefesh

For many years I’ve asked myself what will it take to convince the Yefei Nefesh to reconsider their naïve position regarding peace in the Middle East. There were times that their arguments seemed so cogent and convincing that I allowed myself to give ear to their positions, tempted to reconsider, but thankfully pulling back at the last minute. It’s taken the Yefei Nefesh a long time to realize that Israel’s position is just and has always been just. The murderous years preceding the intifada’s, during the two intifadas and all the horrible carnage wrought by the terrorists convinced the Yefei Nefesh of their folly. It took the unwarranted kidnapping of three of “our best” and the unprovoked continuous shelling of our northern cities to convince them that they needed to reconsider their position.

Thane Rosenbaum, literary editor of Tikkun Magazine the so called leading voice for progressive Jewish Politics and Israel bashing, wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal. His piece appeared on August 9, 2006 and titled "Red State Jews" should have been titled "Tikkun Magazine In Need of Tikkun". However, in his Mea Culpa, he isn’t quite able to fully recant. He reveals this by expressing his “sensitivity to Palestinian pain”. What about Jewish pain, Mr. Rosenbaum? What about all of our sons and daughters needlessly slaughtered or maimed? Why don’t you express your sensitivity to Jewish suffering?

In your essay you argue that you aren’t alone. The children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, and pacifists”…share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.” Mr. Rosenbaum, are you a theologian, a Halachist, a spiritual leader that you can define what are and aren’t Jewish attributes. Have you studied the sacred texts and commentaries together with the rich and voluminous rabbinic literature that you feel confident enough to render an opinion? Has your arrogance no limit?

Your distorted view of Judaism is confused with liberal secularism and the Christian belief in “turning the other cheek”. Our tradition is very clear and outspoken about the right to “stake out our claim” and defend ourselves. If we read the Biblical account of Joshua and his battles in conquering Canaan you will understand that we aggressively fought unprovoked wars that we believed were our sacred duty. As a young man studying those wars, I found it difficult to reconcile with liberal values taught in our schools. As an adult, studying Jewish history, I realized that if we don’t help ourselves to a “piece of the pie” no one is going to give it to us. So I began to understand the message and nobility of Joshua’s unprovoked wars.

It took us two thousand years to understand this lesson. What an expensive lesson. We were waiting for the Messiah to “give us something”-to lead us to the land. It took the ‘isms’ of the 19th century coupled with virulent anti-Semitism together with the Shoah to drive home the lesson that nothing is free and that no one is handing out countries. If you want a country you’re going to have to aggressively fight for it. Unfortunately, in the process, someone will be displaced. It’s a lesson in history that has happened time after time and will continue. For the most part, this is understood and even acceptable – unless it’s the Jews who are displacing someone. If we wait for the Messiah or a benevolent country to “give “us a country it will never happen. This is the lesson of Joshua’s battles. We now, too fought aggressively, we won-and we created a state that’s the envy of the entire Muslim world.

Israel has thrived and survived because of the ethics it lives by, namely survival – survival at all cost. In rabbinic terminology we would call it Pichuach Nefesh. It is a commandment of paramount importance because in our tradition, Mr. Rosenbaum, one of the Jewish attributes is” to live by the Torah and not die by it”. To sharpen the focus on this ethic of survival please take note of the statement in the Talmud, TB Sanhedrin which succinctly sums it up: Im Ba L’hargecha, Hashkem Lahargo. If someone attempts to kill you-strike first. Is there something here that you or your labor unionists and socialists don’t understand?

As opposed to our Muslim cousins, we don’t celebrate death or thrive on it. Rather we recognize the nobility of defending ourselves, even if it gets down and dirty .The difference between us and our Muslim neighbors is profound. When we arise in the morning, in our prayers among other things we thank the Almighty for the intellect he has instilled within us. We are sincere in this prayer as evidenced by what we have created. When we wake in the morning we think of all the beautiful thing our minds and hands can create, from the fine arts, healing arts and sciences to business and high tech industries. Our Muslim neighbors wake up in the morning thinking of ways to murder and kill. Their focus isn’t on creating a state where their children can grow into business people, scientists, musicians, doctors and teachers. They’re too focused on destruction. It’s the old story of the haves and have nots. But instead of developing a mature outlook by working towards the same goal as civilized people and nations of the world, they prefer to tear down the successes of others.

It’s sort of amazing that it has taken you so long to recognize these simple truths. I’m not sure I know how to react to your mea culpa, because while you aren’t responsible for the Jewish blood spilled in defense of our country, you and your kind did not make it any easier on us, especially when as a result of your false and uninformed liberalism we were prevented from appearing as a solid block against our enemies. Sleep with that tonight-Mr. Rosenbaum.