Monday, 16 January 2017

Same enemies, different ways


I'm restarting this blog , with a weekly column every Monday.


Isn't atheist/humanist/secularism, who as a group want to ban infant male circumcision and kosher food  a worse threat to Judaism than Islamist antisemitism or  the antisemitism of the  far right?

Goodness , what a question!

My reply would be to note that Judaism , the religion, philosophy and practices , have always , from time to time , been challenged and put down. Either intellectually or physically. Not all the time, but enough that Jews haven't become complacent by being the dominant theological , political or moral influence.

 Indeed sometimes it has been as scripture says : 'justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows'(Isaiah 59:9). At  the same time it is said we are to  Tzedek tzedek tirdof: 'Justice, justice shall you pursue' (Deuteronomy 16:20).

The Rambam identifies two classes of people who  threaten  Judaism and Jews  (writing freely critiquing Islam and Christianity ,  in an Islamic country and as court physician to Saladin), the emphasis is mine :

'Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our Torah and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian, may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them. This is one of the two classes which attempt to foil the Divine will.

The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our Torah and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they instituteThey seek to render the Torah  ineffectual and to wipe out every trace thereof by means of their polemical writings, just as the despots plan to do it with the sword.' (Epistle to Yemen)

 I am sure you can see the modern parallels here as asked in the question.  One  group wishes to harm Jews by killing us, the other tries to harm Jews by preventing us from being  Jewish in practice.  The method is about using pseudo  intellectual arguments, e.g. kosher is barbaric and infant male circumcision mutilation.  Similarly  ancient Greeks made such arguments. Yet Jews are still here. The ancient Greek civilization is gone. The pantheon is rubble. No one follows those gods anymore.  God's Temple is mostly rubble, but there are Jews still praying there. No one prays to Zeus.

Rambam, however,  reminds his readers - the epistle to the Yemen was to Yemenite Jews who were suffering persecution by an Islamic sect, who followed someone who claimed Mahdi or Messianic status -

'But neither the one nor the other shall succeed. We possess the divine assurance given to Isaiah concerning any tyrant that will wish to undermine our Torah  and to annihilate it by weapons of war, that the Lord will demolish them so that they will have no effect. This is only a metaphorical way of saying that his efforts will be of no avail, and that he will not accomplish his purpose. 

In like manner whenever a disputant shall attempt to demonstrate the falsity of our Torah, the Lord will shatter his arguments and prove them absurd untenable and ineffective. This divine promise is contained in the following verse, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.(Isaiah 54:17)'

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tagine trouble

Goodness! My tagines got me into an altercation with the man who thinks he's the village squire and doesn't like" non Christian" foreigners living in a big detached house.

He complained my tagines were turning the village into "little India" (he'd convinced himself I'm Indian for whatever reason, probably because on Shabbat evening I wear a kaftan, which I'm guessing he confused with a sari).

It was the summer so I'd opened the kitchen windows and he didn't like the aromas.

He was embarrassed though, because I answered the phone and it was my father in law, so automatically said "bonjour".

"Even worse he muttered under his breath, "We've got bloody Indian- French in the village!".

Won him round eventually though (:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The slow exodus of French Jews

France has the largest Islamic population and Jewish population in Europe, Jews in France are mostly of Sephardic descent, because of Vichy and because France used to control most of north Africa and Syria and many of the Jews who lived there fled , when these colonies became independent. However, unlike the the Muslim community which was built up in France at the same time , Sephardic French Jews prospered and thrived in France, despite the latent antisemitism there. Indeed at one time France was Israel's closet ally, supplying fighter jets, arms and participating in collaborative nuclear research.

Until the past 10 or 20 years , which has suffered several antisemitic atrocities , alongside antisemitic "incidents" (eg 1980 synagogue bombings, the "gang of the barbarians" , 2012 massacre of French Jewish children, the murders of people this year at the kosher deli) and this is  shown a steady exodus of Jews from France to Israel, Britain and the parts of  French speaking Canada(my husband being one of them) . This year alone 6,000 French Jews have made alyiah to Israel (in the period 2009 to 2013 13,000 did so, to give an idea of the scale) .

Last  weeks terrorism in Paris had a Jewish connection. Via the Jewish news:
'The predominantly Sephardi Paris Jewish community is traditional and its young people more often spend Friday nights at home with their families, which may well have led to the few Jewish-related casualties in the carnage. One who died was Djamila Reibenberg, wife of Gregory Reibenberg, who was the majority share owner of the cafe La Belle Equipe, one of the targets for the gunmen. Another was a 22-year-old university student, Justine Moulin, shot dead at La Petit Camboge, also attacked by the terrorists. Ms Moulin was not Jewish but was the granddaughter of a well-known member of the Paris Masorti community, Professor David Ruzie. '
The article also says  :
The Bataclan, sold just two months ago by Jewish owners who had run it for 40 years, frequently hosted pro-Israel events and was well-known as a target for anti-Zionist radicals. The band that was playing on Friday night, the American group Eagles of Death Metal, played in Tel Aviv this summer in direct defiance of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters who has called for a blanket cultural boycott of Israel. In the wake of Friday’s terror attacks the band has announced its intention to return to play in Israel as soon as possible.
So when Bibi says to French Jews "In my role as Prime Minister of Israel, I always say to Jews, wherever they may be, I say to them: Come to Israel and make Israel your home", he is simply reiterating the bloomin obvious.  I'm just wondering when this, that is overt unashamed  antisemitism as even here our synagogues and schools are like fortresses , or as an American Rabbi said to me and he was shocked at the difference to the US "like a penitentiary", will explode into Britain.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Adon Olam

Adon Olam:

This is a Sephardic hymn and my way of expressing my thoughts towards Friday's barbaric attack on the people of Paris , France and the French people :

Adon olam, asher malach,
b'terem kol y'tzir nivra.
L'et na'asah v'cheftzo kol,
azai melech sh'mo nikra.

V'acharey kichlot hakol,
l'vado yimloch nora.
V'hu haya, v'hu hoveh,
v'hu yih'yeh b'tifara.

V'hu echad, v'eyn sheni
l'hamshil lo, l'hachbira.
B'li reishit, b'li tachlit,
v'lo ha'oz v'hamisrah.

V'hu Eli, v'chai go'ali,
v'tzur chevli b'et tzarah.
V'hu nisi umanos li,
m'nat kosi b'yom ekra.

B'yado afkid ruchi
b'et ishan v'a'irah.
V'im ruchi g'viyati,
Adonai li v'lo ira.

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there's no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs diminion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Kneel before your god?

I am currently visiting my sisters (hi Hannah) and Rachel) and Brother (hi Sam) , so it is not to be unexpected that I am subject to having science fiction shows on the DVD. This particular one is from 'Stargate' (ok I think Jack O' Neil is somewhat dishy, but he's not  in this one) : 

So the aliens, who masquerade as ancient Egyptian gods demand to be worshipped as such! Except a Jew would should not ever worship a foreign god or idol. One of the few times where Jews must die rather than transgress (ye'hareg v'al ya'avor ) is when we are forced between Idolatry and death, for as it is written : "I am the L-rd your G-d who rescued you from the land of Egypt gods beside me you shall not know"... and it is also said from our Prophets "there is no Saviour but Me" (Shemot 20: 2 & Hoshea 13: 4).

Before our teacher Moses received the whole Torah at Mount Sinai, he met G-d in  a burning bush : 

"And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations."

You will note that when Moses asked the Almighty who he should say had sent him to liberate the Jewish nation from slavery in Egypt, he replied 'Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh' (Exodus 3,14). This is commonly translated into English as 'I am that I am', but a more literal translation is 'I shall be that I shall be' or 'Who was , Who is'.

Maimonides, in his guide for the perplexed,  provides an explanation for this  difficult to understand description as follows: 

"When God appeared to our Teacher Moses, and commanded him to address the people and to bring them the message, Moses replied that he might first be asked to prove the existence of God in the Universe, and that only after doing so he would be able to announce to them that God had sent him. For all men, with few exceptions, were ignorant of the existence of God; their highest thoughts did not extend beyond the heavenly sphere, its forms or its influences. They could not yet emancipate themselves from sensation, and had not yet attained to any intellectual perfection. Then God taught Moses how to teach them, and how to establish amongst them the belief in the existence of Himself, namely, by saying Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, a name derived from the verb hayah in the sense of "existing," for the verb hayah denotes "to be," and in Hebrew no difference is made between the verbs "to be" and "to exist." 

The principal point in this phrase is that the same word which denotes "existence," is repeated as an attribute. The word asher, "that," corresponds to the Arabic illadi and illati, and is an incomplete noun that must be completed by another noun; it may be considered as the subject of the predicate which follows. The first noun which is to be described is ehyeh; the second, by which the first is described, is likewise ehyeh, the identical word, as if to show that the object which is to be described and the attribute by which it is described are in this case necessarily identical. This is, therefore, the expression of the idea that God exists, but not in the ordinary sense of the term; or, in other words, He is "the existing Being which is the existing Being," that is to say, the Being whose existence is absolute. The proof which he was to give consisted in demonstrating that there is a Being of absolute existence, that has never been and never will be without existence." 

We have a Sephardi Yemeni Song with goes like this : 

'WHO WAS and WHO IS, desire Your people, listen to my prayer from your holy abode 

Chorus: Behold I yearn for Your Temple, to see the greatness of Your strength, splendour, and glory (2x) Have mercy, my Only One, Who spares those who oppose you, shorten my exile, for I lean on You 

Chorus: Behold I yearn for Your Temple, to see the greatness of Your strength, splendour, and glory (2x)
WHO WAS and WHO IS, desire Your people, listen to my prayer from your holy abode 

Chorus: Behold I yearn for Your Temple, to see the greatness of Your strength, splendour, and glory (2x) Have mercy, my Only One, Who spares those who oppose you, shorten my exile, for I lean on You Chorus: Behold I yearn for Your Temple, to see the greatness of Your strength, splendour, and glory (2x)'

This version is lead by the late and great Ofra Haza, a well know Jewish singer

Friday, 13 March 2015

Women in politics

One of the matters which rarely gets commented on is women in politics, unless they are used as token trophies.

I remembered last week  the  latest Prime Minister's Cabinet reshuffle; out went Hauge (worst foreign sec since the last one) and others, including Gove 'demoted',much to teaching union's delight  ( hasn't Cameron ever watched or read 'the house of cards'? and regardless didn't someone tell him about the 'black magic' of the Chief Whip?). But the real big news was the promotion of women. Of course this being Cameron, the decision has nothing to do with the merit or not of the women being promoted, but all to do with Cameron wanting to look modern and trendy by having women in high office. Which is great .Except, with all due respect, I don't want to think that women have got to where  they are because of being women. That is a constant smear that hangs over many a successful woman and Cameron is helping that along. 

Of course I shouldn't moan, because at least women are now in top jobs. Although whether this will do Cameron any good remains to be seen. This is no disrespect to the women being promoted, but I've noticed recently (from my forays into debating this with people) that there is a  new breed of Tory women who are thirty something, very confident, confrontational and super self confident, married into money or from money, which contrasts with those of us who have had to build everything from nothing, who are more down to earth, no less intelligent, who are folksy and know how to speak to people; modern Tory woman by contrast cannot understand that just because you have a triple first from Oxbridge doesn't mean to say you can treat lesser mortals with utter contempt.

New Tory woman doesn't get this and doesn't get that & has no experience of life outside of the rich upper middle class metropolitan way of doing things along with the attitude that comes with, i.e. rich or married in wealth, pushy, willing to trample on everyone to get what they want,  plum in the mouth, ignorant of life outside of London, but doubtless representing an area like ours in rural England, who are disparagingly called 'the turnip taliban' for holding traditional views (hyperbolic I know and perhaps hypocritical given that I went to public schools and Oxbridge, but hey I was a Sephardi working class Jew of  a third world immigrant family, who'd had to rebuild their businesses from scratch) . No wonder the Tory right is leaning toward UKIP. If you don't even care about your own constituency, why should the rest thing that you care about them? 

Half the population of this country are men and men require special handling; treating them with contempt or derision because they hold doors open for you is the stupidest idea that you can do; it is childish, rude and gets their backs up unnecessarily. Nor does a willingness to  tear your ideas apart if they are crap  make them sexist and we do need to make allowances for them in other areas . My own husband, for example, is utterly incapable of running a household, which is why it is part of my lot in life to do so, but he is at least good at handywork  around the house and with my (behind the scenes help) good at running businesses. So we all have our skill set. 

I just hope that the women promoted in  politics not only have the ability, but also the understanding of how to communicate to people (they are politicians afterall).  I also hope that they are not like the New Tory women I've mentioned above. 

Well, we'll see. Time will tell. It always does.