Sunday, April 05, 2009

Passover is nigh

Well, here I am in Israel. (In answer to Hal's question below- and don't feel bad! I just hadn't let on!) Friday we (my brother-in-law and I) went matzah baking, the first time I ever did. Some pictures, courtesy of Chanan Morrisson, are here. (Late addition: Video.)

I recently saw something that made me think of a recent post by Fred. The post is self-explanatory- a lot of "professional historians" put in a lot of work so that he could do what he does, and the sneering (especially when it takes on a tone of religious judgmentalism) is really uncalled for. And this book only drove the point home more strongly. Don't get me wrong- it looks like a great Haggadah and, innocent or not, I have no problem at all with studying R' Eybeshit'z works; my only issue is with the following passages in the various introductions. (I can't say I'm the world's biggest expert here, so while I'm pretty sure of some things, other things I simply question with some basis. But it's the tone that's most important. For background, see here and here.)

Anyway, the Haggadah first has an introduction by Berel Wein. Thank God for little favors (for something of the opposite, see, for example, the end of this post), they face the whole controversy head-on. But on their terms, of course. R' Wein writes:
Traditional Jewry has always sided with Rabbi Yehonatan [NL: I appreciate the sentiment, but that's quite a stretch from "Yonasan"] and accepted his
denials of all the charges made against him [NL: Did he really deny it? Not so sure about that]. Only in the rarified atmosphere of Judaic academia does the dispute still rage in our time.
(Notice that R' Wein either thinks, or would want his audience to think, that a "rarified atmosphere" is somehow a bad thing. I'll be the first to admit that academics live in an ivory tower, but "rarified atmosphere" isn't the phrase I'd use.)

Then, the author of the book, in his introduction, quotes...his rebbe, R' Wein:
Rabbi Yehonatan [NL: OK, I'm pretty sure R' Wein's original didn't use that form] rallied [NL: Really?] his disciples and colleagues to his
defense. [NL: The Vilna Gaon is among those listed, which is really quite a stretch, leaving aside that he wasn't really a "colleague"] The innocence of Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz has been established...
The reason he's telling us this, he assures us, is to emphasize what a brave man R' Yonasan was.

Anyway. My point is, leaving the revisionism, bad enough as it is, aside, there's that sneering attitude toward "academia" that Fred rightly decries. To make matters worse, there's this placing "academia" and "traditional" somehow in opposition when, in fact, some of the more well-known academics dealing with this are very much "traditional." And R' Wein, at least, knows that. Or should.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"The Missing Mahatma"

(Let me just start by pointing out that anyone who so blithely holds up Ghandi as a role model in matters involving Jews is pretty massively historically ignorant. But that's small potatoes.)

As a run-of-the-mill fanatic, I was, of course, deeply troubled by this piece. I was also troubled by where it appeared- perhaps I should be puzzled, but seeing how easily the neocons drop all other principles (if they ever had them) is possibly the reason I'm troubled as well. Oh, and the fact that I wasn't really surprised that internet searches for criticisms of the piece yielded mostly- exclusively, actually- leftist (Jewish, natch) kooks saying that this Gershom Gorenberg character sold out to those same neocons probably kept me from being troubled in that regard, even if I was disgusted. So, b'makom asher ain a herring a fish. Here I go:

But I was troubled for two somewhat contradictory reasons. First, like I said, as a good extremist, I'm not as rah-rah about "peace," even accomplished under "good" circumstances, as some. Oh, I'm all for peace, of course- who isn't? (As Meir Kahane once pointed out to some peacenik in the US, he was the one with the kids in Tzahal.) But that word is used under certain definitions, as if certain people had exclusive rights to it. That...I don't like. Not the exclusivity, and not the definition.

And that ties into my second objection. Read Gorenberg's little "fantasy." Isn't it odd that his dreamed-of "Mahatma" decides that his number one thing to do is lead a massive (and thus, by definition, about as "nonviolent" as, say, any state action if not less so) demonstration against...Israel, as if that was their number one problem? I don't care what his point is, peace, religion, etc. With all due respect, those people have bigger problems than "free access to Al-Aqsa as the first step toward Palestinian independence alongside Israel." And even if independence is the number one issue, I can think of better (well, bad, even if not worse in the big picture, but better for them) "first steps." Like actually, you know, declaring independence, say. Or generating their own electricity.

(Said "free access," by the way, is not only a dangerous concession that whatever Muslims say must be true, but is an absolute joke when one considers that Muslims have far, far more "free access" to "Al-Aqsa" (barf) than Jews.)

It goes without saying that his little "fantasy" ends with the Jews- sorry, Israelis, no anti-Semitism here- shooting people. These people have some issue in their heads, I just wish I knew what it was.

So us fanatics can breath easy. Even in the fantasies of non-violence triumph created for them by their non-Arab "friends," Palestinians still come out the bad guys. The non-fanatics can continue their lily-livered (but sincere and most effective- don't get me wrong!) defenses of Israel while still paying lip service to peace. Of course, the problem is there are those who don't even do that, and the perverse desire of one Ben Nitay to keep them around. But as to whether the Arabs will ever catch on...well, I'm not so worried, for the moment. May they continue not to catch on for as long as it takes. And you know what "it" is.

Greetings from Jerusalem, one and all.

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