Monday, December 29, 2014

Mourn for Zion, find Redemption?

If you’re like many in Israel, you used to look at news headlines as part of your morning routine. But, like many, you may not do that anymore.

You’d like to read about your Zion. But you can’t. The news has become too hostile, too outrageous—too intensely anti-Zion.

For you, the headlines no longer inform. They depress.

Look at headlines from the last five days alone, December 24 -29, 2014. There seems to be no good news at all for our Jewish Zion.

In fact, lovers of Zion may want to mourn after reading these headlines. For example, leftists in Israel want to see a pro-Arab take-over of Israel’s Knesset (“Radical Leftists Call for Jewish-Arab List to Conquer Knesset”, Arutz Sheva,   December 27, 2014). Anti-Zion newsmakers attack Zionistic Israelis (““Former Shin Bet Chief: Right-wing Parties are 'Destructive'”, Arutz Sheva, December 26, 2014).

Jews are attacked in Jerusalem. First, Jews travelling to a funeral are attacked (“Jews en route to Mount of Olives funeral attacked by Arab youths”, Jerusalem Post, December 28, 2014). A Jewish home is firebombed (““Firebomb Hurled at Residential Home in Jerusalem”, Arutz Sheva, December 28, 2014). Then, unnamed Arabs post a Youtube instructional video on how to stab people (“Palestinians create instructional video on stabbing”, Times of Israel, December 28, 2014).

Arabs continue to talk about conquering us (“Watch: Hamas Shows Off Army 'Ready to Conquer Jerusalem'”, Arutz Sheva, December 27, 2014; and, “Hamas: We will liberate Palestine and Jerusalem”, YNET, December 27, 2014).

The UN prepares yet again to demand an Israeli surrender of ancestral Jewish homeland to create a state for those who seek to destroy us. A new UN proposal, if approved, could result in displacing up to 400,000 Jews. No one cares that this will amputate a part of Zion (“Erekat: UNSC to vote Monday on draft demanding Israeli withdrawal from West Bank”, Jerusalem Post, December 26, 2014).

No one stands up for Zion.

Russia jumps on the Arab bandwagon (“Russia Expresses Support for PA's UN Resolution”, Arutz Sheva, December 26, 2014). Jordan ‘primes the pump’ at the UN (“Jordan to present amended Palestinian statehood resolution to UN”, Jerusalem Post, December 29, 2014).

No one helps Zion.

There’s more bad news. On December 25, 2014, as another religion celebrated its holiday, Jews in Israel seemed happy to participate (“In Israel, I can celebrate Christmas”, Times of Israel, December 25, 2014). Gay pride made headlines (“Dreaming of a pink Christmas: Tel Aviv launches winter LGBT festival”, Haaretz, December 25, 2014). Intermarriage was defended (“You say ‘intermarriage’ like it’s always a bad thing”, Times of Israel, December 25, 2014).

How can a religious Zionist read such things and not weep? These aren’t feel-good stories. They are harbingers of loss.

If, like some in Israel, such stories make you feel like mourning for Zion, don’t get depressed. You see, we learn in Tanach (Zechariah, chapters 12-14) that, during the days leading up to our Final Redemption, we will fight a war called, Gog Umagog. During that war, commentaries say, much mourning will occur (ibid, 12:11). We will, our Heritage tells us, mourn the death of Moshiach Ben Yosef (Succah, 52a).

During the war of Gog Umagog, Moshiach Ben Yosef will be killed (ibid). Then Moshiah Ben David will come (ibid). Our Final Redemption will begin (ArtScroll Talmud, Succah note 1, 52a-1).

During the period of Moshiach Ben Yosef, there will be an ingathering of Jews to Israel. The ancestral Jewish land of Israel will once again be settled. Jerusalem will be rebuilt.

That will be the job of Moshiach Ben Yosef—to ingather Jews, to build Jerusalem and begin fulfilling the commandments dependent upon the land (The Voice of the Turtledove, Pomeranz Bookseller, Jerusalem, p.6). We have done these things in modern Israel.

Perhaps that job of ingathering also includes activities that support the ingathering. Perhaps Moshiach Ben Yosef also will see the settlement and rebuilding of our land--which, of course, we have also done in modern Israel.

Part of the ingathering process is to take the land, possess it (not surrender it) and to settle it (ibid, p 9). It is only after these tasks have been completed that Moshiach Ben Yosef  dies. Then, Moshiach Ben David will come.

We have done all these things in modern Israel. But now, Israel is pressured to give away portions of Zion. How can we move towards Redemption if we unsettle the land?

Here’s a question: what if Moshiach Ben Yosef isn’t a person? What if Moshiach Ben Yosef is an idea? What if that idea is ‘Zion’—the return to and rebuilding of Israel?

There are hints to this concept in Voice of the Turtledove (above, pp 20-21, 22, 25-26, 30-31). The hints are indeed subtle, but once you understand the concept, you realize the hints are there. It is a concept which comes to life through the work of many people over time (ibid, 33) who are called, ‘special messengers’ (ibid, p 36).   

Could this mean that Moshiach Ben Yosef is an idea?

We don’t know. Our Tanach isn’t a fact-book. It’s not a history book. It’s unique. It’s a Book of poetry-that-becomes-fact-and-history.

There’s nothing else like it. It stands alone, defined by rules we can’t understand, containing realities we appreciate only after its poetry has indeed turned into factual history: the destruction of the Temples, the exiles, the persecutions, the return, the blossoming of Israel, etc.

Could the mourning within Zecahaiah (ibid) that precedes the Final Redemption be linked to your depression over today’s anti-Zion news headlines?

Mourning is a sadness over loss. It’s a depression because of loss—or because of the anticipation of a loss.

Isn’t that how you feel about Zion when you see these depressing headlines? How does Zion weaken when intermarriage is approved? How does Zion cry when pieces of her are carved away for those who hate her? Doesn’t Zion mourn over the anticipation of such loss?

Could the eulogies we heard after the recent Har Nof massacre be part of Zechariah’s Redemptive mourning? What if we add to the Har Nof eulogies all the eulogies we heard this summer for the three kidnapped boys, the lone soldiers and others killed in the Gaza fighting? We saw more than a hundred thousand mourners attending those eulogies. Would the accumulated effect of those eulogies be what Zechariah meant when he said (of the days before Redemption), ‘the mourning will become intense in Jerusalem’ (Zechariah, 12:11)?

As we mourn, do the footsteps of Redemption draw near?



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