06 October 2016

The Obstinate Jew: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Best: Introduction

5 Tishrei 5777
Day 5 of the Yamim Nora'im

Introduction | The Good | The Bad | The Ugly | The Best

Please pray for the speedy and thorough recovery of Hayah Miryam bat Hinda Ruhama (חיה מרים בת הינדא רוחמה).

During the Ten Days of Awe in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, Jews the world over take time out for introspection and returning to G-d before the Great Day of Atonement, Yom haKippurim. (Many also use the month of Elul for preparation with the thought, “the King is in the field...so I'll try to speak with Him while He's more accessible.” But show me where in the sources, Tana"kh or Talmudic, Elul is discussed in this manner. I'd like to study.) 

It is said that the protracted time we, as a people, have spent in galut mode began because of sinath hinam (שנאת חינם), unjustified hatred (translation: Morfix). (The phrase itself is difficult to break down and translate literally because it ends up not making sense. Also, not everyone believes this alone is why we still don’t have the signs that all is well with the world.) I want to explore how we (including myself) can solve this heretofore insoluble problem, with the hope that it could help clear the way to ha-ge’ulah ha-shlemah, the complete redemption!

One of the things the Jewish People is well-known for, usually in a negative sense, is the paradigm of the Stiff Necked Jew; in our times, “stiff-necked” can be called obstinacy. However, I consider it to be a trait like any other, good or bad, depending on how we use it and where we direct it. The original Hebrew term, k’sheh oref קשה אורף, literally means hardness of neck. (Kasheh also means solid, stiff, difficult, strict or severe, depending on the context.) It may refer to instances when individuals among our people were threatened with beheading and it was rendered impossible by the neck being so hard it was as though turned to marble for that moment – such as when Moshe Rabbenu killed the Egyptian who murdered a Jew, and was to be punished for it, but the sword failed to kill him. But that's just my thought about it. 

I believe I first read about the concept of the proud Jew being a good thing from Yishai Fleisher a long time ago. I just found the article again and read it, and it doesn't say "stiff-necked" anywhere in it. But for some reason I associate this article with the idea that we Jews can stand up for ourselves and not be ashamed even if some of the things we practice today seem reminiscent of what we avoided back in hutz-land (wherever we olim came from). We are all too aware that the goyim label us and consider us the same stiff-necked people who disobeyed haShem so very long ago. Sadly, it informs much of our visceral reactions to things we see among our fellow Jews; therefore, we cannot entertain the notion that there might be absolutely nothing wrong with what we are seeing (like rabbis' pictures in a foreign-exchange office, as in Rabbi Fleisher's article linked above.).

The good part will discuss how we would not have survived without that certain bit of obstinacy against the nations who hate us.
The bad part will talk about how Jew-on-Jew hatred because of things about him or her (or their family, or their neighborhood, or their Jewish orientation) that appear to be sin but may actually not be.
UPDATE on BAD and UGLY: I saw an article about our lack of gratitude for Eretz Yisrael and the fact that we can come back and live here; the foregoing things I was going to write about in this part, I believe, stem from this. I reblogged the article.
The ugly part will include the Jew-on-Jew hatred as above that I had planned for the bad part, and also reveal how our bad behavior towards one another allows the nations to come against us with impunity, regardless of what kind of Jew we are.
The best part will encourage us to redirect our stubbornness towards our relationship with HaQadosh Baruch Hu and with each other.

My dear readers, thank you for your patience and for waiting while I wrote about this very important topic, mostly during the month of Elul and, I hope, finishing up during the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) of the month of Tishrei. I am frankly quite daunted by it because there are many details I could miss. So, I am writing along these main principles, which are the following:

  • The Creator of the Universe gave the Hebrews/Israelites*/Jews (hereafter HIJs) the Torah, both Written and Oral, which encompasses our entire lives in exquisite detail.
  • There is no other true religion (keeping in mind that observant Noahides, who ultimately will comprise the rest of the world, are practicing a very basic form of Judaism, which our forefathers kept before the Torah was given. But note that one must be very careful when becoming Noahide-law-observant, to choose well from whom one learns it. Otherwise, that Noahide might end up “stepping on Jewish toes,” so to speak, which he MUST not do; the nations (at least most of them) do it all the time, on purpose.).
  • It is particularly important for HIJs to be careful when reading or hearing the words of outsiders about us (it is so difficult to block it all out these days) because most of them are lies and, at best, exaggerations; furthermore, because they are largely projecting their own faults onto us and our actions, they do not think well of us or have our best interests at heart, to say the least.
  • Therefore, it is assumed here that most faults of HIJs in our times — which are quite real, which is why we always need to "return in teshuva" — are all the more pronounced and obvious due to the protracted (extremely long, unreasonably extended) exile many of us are still stuck in, whether externally- or internally-imposed, until the redemption is completed, may it be so imminently; and that most things that are said about HIJs are completely false or exaggerated, with no empathy or understanding at all. Someone must give the HIJ the benefit of the doubt; since most of the rest of the world does not, we have to stubbornly, obstinately, even with “stiff necks,” do so ourselves.
  • We reserve the right to decide who belongs to our group and who does not. Those who otherwise would be said to belong, but who live their lives without regard to the group’s survival and continuation, whether national or spiritual, ARE NOT INCLUDED. The same goes for anyone who wishes to belong whose practices, if followed by us all, would lead to HIJ destruction – whether they know it or not (the latter must be warned, of course, before being rejected!).

I conclude this introduction with a true story from yesterday. I went to the hospital to visit a very dear friend, who is there because she was in a bad accident and both legs were broken. She has many friends and her family is large, b”H, bli ayin hara’, and two of her other friends were there too. At one point, one of the friends had left and we who remained were speaking about how many Jews would be included among those getting to go into ge’ulah sh’lemah. The other woman (I had not met her prior to this visit) was saying that she doesn’t know what direction American Jewry will take, and whether the rules for full acceptance into the Jewish people would possibly loosen so that many Reform and Conservative families who comprise halakhic non-Jews among their members might be included. I am not so sure about this, and said so.  Our sick friend was trying to subtly and kindly disagree as well. Since my remarks were more direct, she turned to me and said, “We cannot know the future.” She said this several times, and my reply was something that, if I had heard it from someone else, I would have been really amazed at how it came out: “We cannot know the future. But we are assured of one thing: Those who follow haShem fully and completely will be included.” Our sick friend nodded and gave her a meaningful expression.

I did not add any qualifiers or other words because there are lots of things that people believe and live by that may not be "following fully and completely" but nevertheless fit in most people's concept of Jewish living — even among many religious Jews. This may contribute a great deal to the notion that, even in Israel we are still in galut, just as much as any HIJ in the rest of the world.

Speaking of which, I am sorry for having offended anyone who happened to read something I wrote and didn’t understand that my remark(s) was (were) not directed at him or her or the likes of them (I have been in that position many times, too.). Shanah tovah ug’mar b’hatimah tovah. Hamevin yavin.

Yom Kippur: The Original Soul Food  - R' Ephraim Sprecher

*The term Israelis is not included in my newly-made-up abbreviation because at the time of this writing it includes citizens of Medinath Yisrael other than Jews; and for the purposes of this article – and, for that matter, all the writing on this blog – it is not desirable to involve or invoke non-Jews, Israeli or otherwise, unless specifically indicated.

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Anonymous said...

Praying for a refuah shlema for your dear friend.

We may not know the future, but we know that Hashem will bring complete healing. This is why Mashiach's occupation should be of no mystery. He has much practice and patience. These days are preparation for the awe of awes.

Myrtle Rising said...

Chava, thank you very much for this. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

I especially appreciate your link to the more comprehensive list of reasons for the 2nd Destruction. Many of them are unfortunately applicable today, such as trying to equalize everyone in a harmful way, general immorality, neglecting the education of school children (today, not accepting children into schools based on nonsense "reasons"), and not reciting important brachot, going according to the letter of the law while neglecting its spirit, and so on.

The examples used in the OU post indicate narcissism, which is an aspect of sinat chinam, but not what people necessarily think of or taught about when they think of or are taught about sinat chinam.

I like the principles you laid out.

And BTW, I've never found you remotely offensive! May you have continued bracha with your writing.

May you and everyone else have an easy fast.