Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ahavat Yisrael and Non-Ahavat

What is Ahavat Yisrael?
by Rabbi Mendy Hecht,67/What-is-Ahavat-Yisrael.html

A. “Ahavat Yisrael” means “love of Israel”—but who’s Israel? We don’t mean the country here. Israel is you. Israel is me. Israel is all of us. All Jews alive today together comprise this massive thing called “Israel.” And that’s why Israel the country has that name—because it’s the place that is home to “Israel”: all Jews. So, “love of Israel” means love of fellow Jew.

B. Love of fellow Jew is based on the Torah, where it says, “Love your fellow as yourself.” It’s an attitude—a friendly, helpful attitude towards fellow Jews.

C. Ahavat Yisrael is a spiritual approach to life that produces physical results—friendship, kindness and unity amongst Jewish people. This spiritual approach says we are all little sections of the same cosmic entity, kind of like how those little robots on those TV cartoons all merge to form one giant robot. We are all part of each other, and if we hurt each other, we’re really hurting ourselves.

It’s easy to show love to someone you love—Mom, Dad, spouse, sibling. Now take that love, and apply it to a fellow Jew you really can’t stand. Or worse. That’s where true Ahavat Yisrael begins.,67/What-is-Ahavat-Yisrael.html

This "Ahavat" sounds good in principle, but in practice is not as simple and easy to apply. Let's look at how it has fared in history.

Take Some Pages from History

The Maccabees

The revolt launched by the priest Mattathias and later led by his ­third son, Judah Maccabee, was both a civil war and a war against an outside enemy. The company of Greek officers who arrived at Modi'in intending to enforce the king's ordinances addressed Mattathias first, for he was held in high esteem by the villagers. They ordered him to begin the sacrificial offerings to the pagan idols, promising that in return he and his sons would be admitted to the circle of the king's "friends."

Mattathias refused outright. He killed a Jew who obeyed the command and then one of the king's men. His flight to the mountains, together with his sons and his friends, marks the beginning of the uprising. Thus it appears that the revolt was directed first of all against those Jews who were willing to submit to Greek custom. Only then was it directed against the foreign occupier, the Syrian ruler who was forcibly imposing his culture upon the Jewish population and plundering the Temple and the land.
The Maccabean Revolt
By Pierre Vidal-Naquet

These men [Maccabeans] organized themselves into a large, powerful guerrilla-warfare army, and soon began to launch raids against the towns and villages of the land, tearing down the pagan altars, killing the officials of Antiochus, and also executing those Jews who were worshipping the pagan gods.
. . . only the wealthy—the urban ruling class and large landowners, led by the priests—were citizens, the "democracy" of the Hellenized Jerusalem polis oppressed the vast majority of Jews, who were powerless. Even before the Antiochan persecutions, social antagonisms existed between the zealots of the traditional faith—the urban craftspeople and village dwellers—and the freethinking Hellenizers, suggesting that the Maccabees may have been liberators, but that they were also driven by some degree of self-interest.
In First Maccabees [not in Jewish scripure], Mattathias acts in the tradition of other zealots in the Torah by murdering a fellow Jew in Modi’in who approaches a pagan altar to offer a sacrifice when requested to do so by a royal official. When this apostate Jew steps up to the altar, Mattathias kills him as well as the government official and then tears down the altar. Mattathias declares, "Let everybody who is zealous for the law and stands by the covenant follow me" (I Maccabees 2:27). With this self-conscious echoing of the words of Moses when confronted with the Golden Calf – “Whoever is for the Lord, come here” (Exodus 32:26) – First Maccabees begins its justification of Maccabean zealotry.
Judah continued the fight begun by Mattathias by actively attacking apostasy—destroying idolatrous altars, compelling observance of Torah by force, circumcising newborn infants, and killing apostate violators of Torah law.

The "Great Revolt"

Is 4GW* all that new? Almost two millenia ago, this type of warfare was already practiced--and it was not the first time in history either.
*See [Reference link to be added as soon as it is ready.] for more about 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare)

... the Romans returned[with] 60,000 heavily armed and highly professional troops. They launched their first attack against the Jewish state's most radicalized area, the Galilee in the north. The Romans vanquished the Galilee, and an estimated 100,000Jews were killed or sold into slavery.

Throughout the Roman conquest of this territory, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem did almost nothing to help their beleaguered brothers. They apparently had concluded—too late, unfortunately—that the revolt could not be won, and wanted to hold down Jewish deaths as much as possible.

The highly embittered refugees who succeeded in escaping the Galilean massacres fled to the last major Jewish stronghold—Jerusalem. There, they killed anyone in the Jewish leadership who was not as radical as they. Thus, all the more moderate Jewish leaders who headed the Jewish government at the revolt's beginning in 66 were dead by 68—and not one died at the hands of a Roman. All were killed by fellow Jews.

. . . the Zealot leaders ordered the execution of anyone advocating surrender to Rome, Rabbi Yochanan [ben Zakkai] arranged for his disciples to smuggle him out of Jerusalem, disguised as a corpse. Once safe, he personally surrendered to the Roman general Vespasian, who granted him concessions that allowed Jewish communal life to continue.

Great Revolt of 66-70, followed some sixty years later by the Bar Kokhba revolt, were the greatest calamities in Jewish history prior to the Holocaust. In addition to the more than one million Jews killed, these failed rebellions led to the total loss of Jewish political authority in Israel until 1948. This loss in itself exacerbated the magnitude of later Jewish catastrophes, since it precluded Israel from being used as a refuge for the large numbers of Jews fleeing persecutions elsewhere.

[color emphasis mine. lw]

SOURCE: Solomon Zeitlin, The Rise and Fall of the Judean State, vol. 3. It is Zeitlin's thesis, which I [Joseph Telushkin] believe he argues quite plausibly, that the provisional government knew the revolt was hopeless, and therefore did nothing to help the Galilee.

[Note: "wealthy Jews comfortable with Roman rule." Typical of any government that has elevated status while the population is being oppressed. lw]

Source: Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The Jewish reaction to the presence of the Romans - who were dominating the Holy Land and worshipping idols - had many faces.

Hellenized and assimilated Jews. They welcomed the Roman presence and profited by it. They were angry with other Jews who resisted Roman domination.

The Sadducees. For the most part, these were wealthy Jews who denied the Divine origin of the Oral Law. They dominated (and corrupted) the Temple hierarchy, and were willing to cooperate with the Romans to keep their power base. They saw other Jewish factions as troublemakers.

The Pharisees. These were mainstream Jews who wanted nothing to do with the Romans, but they were pragmatic. They wanted Judaism to survive and short of giving up their religious principles were willing to make the best of the Roman domination. They disapproved of the other Jewish factions - those that tried to curry favor with the Romans and those that advocated open rebellion.

The Zealots. They were comprised of several different groups of nationalistic extremists. Amongst the zealots was a group called the Sicarii (meaning "dagger") who derived their name from the concealed daggers they carried that were used to murder their political opponents. They were incensed at the Roman presence and were angry with other Jews whom they saw as actively or tacitly cooperating with the Romans.

The Biryonim. This was the criminal element often masquerading under the guise of nationalism. They sided with the Zealots.

Splinter sects. These religious groups (such as the Essenes) held extreme views and opposed both the Sadducees and the Pharisees. For example, the Dead Sea Sect (famed for the Dead Sea Scrolls) expected the world to end shortly and went off to live in the desert to escape the depravity and corruption of city life and to prepare for the End of Days.

Jewish sources list 24 separate factions. Their conflicting views were a symptom of a disease afflicting the Jewish people at this time. The rabbis call this disease sinat chinam -- "senseless hatred" of one Jew for another Jew.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a very similar situation today. You don't need to be a scholar of political science or have a PhD in sociology to realize that by far the biggest problem in the Land of Israel, and the Jewish world as a whole, is lack of unity which leads to divisiveness, infighting and even hatred. There are factions of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, secular, religious; among the religious there are the Hassidim, the Misnagdim, and the religious Zionists. A weakened, disunited Jewish nation is easy prey for the both anti-Semites and the enemies of Israel.
The paradigm for all that is happening today can be found in the Roman era.

"The Great Revolt," by Rabbi Ken Spiro

Comments on the foregoing:

Jakow Bielski, 17/7/2007
United we will prevail
Soon there will be a movie based on the "Bielski Brothers" who united the Jews of Bellarussian during WWII and survived. 1230 Jews walked out of the forests after 3 years. The Nazis, Poles and Bellarussians all were dealt with harshly by these Bielskies. Its the story of the largest armed rescue of Jews by Jews during WWII (Defianace,1993, Nechama Tec). Also its the true story of three men who defied the Nazis saved 1230 Jews and bult a village in the forest (the Bielski Brothers, 2003, Peter Duffy) the village was called Jerusalem in the Woods. Only united as Jews of various factions did they survive the Holocaust. Now as for Israel, perhaps a more cohesive coalition in the government would send a powerful message to those who wish to repeat the Holocaust. Bravo to the IDF.
(6) Menashe Kaltmann, 15/7/2007
The problems with The Great Revolt
Thank you yet again and R. Spiro for this great article.

The Jewish People are a clever, intelligent and educated people. It seems whenever intelligent people get together you have a whole series of intelligent viewpoints. It is imperative for all of us all Jewish people to have 'Ahavat Yisrael" love of one fellow. We have to respect and love each other even if we don't agree with each other. . . .

Another view:

. . . the rebels did not constitute a uniform group. Many different forces were involved in the revolt. Among them were the Sicarii, known in the years before the war for having assassinated collaborators with the Romans with short daggers (Latin sica) which they kept hidden under their garments. The followers of Simeon bar Giora regarded their leader as a messianic figure, and in his name seem to have committed violence not only against the Romans but against other groups of rebels. The Zealots may have had their origins in the groups that had continuously struggled against Rome since the beginning of Roman rule in Palestine, but according to many scholars they only became an organized faction at the start of the revolt.

The inability of the various rebel forces to work together was one of the major reasons why the revolt did not succeed. At the same time, it must be recognized that ultimately, even if united, the Jews could not have stood up to Rome's superior military forces and unlimited resources.

[color emphasis mine. lw]
Today Israel is not occupied (except for the Arabs on the "territories") and has superior military forces and still the inability of the various forces to work together is one of the major reasons why it does not succeed as a Jewish state.

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