Sunday, November 18, 2012

The People Who Forgot Their Roots

It fascinates me that when it comes to fiction or literature, we love 'chosen' people. Harry Potter is 'The Chosen One.' Katniss Everdeen is the 'Mockingjay.' Tris Prior & Four are 'Divergent.' Clary and Jace are 'Shadowhunters.'

And yet, when it comes to real life, we do anything we can to try to suggest that we are not special, are not different, are not chosen.

I'm talking about us in terms of the Jewish people. The Jewish people is chosen by God. We are given a difficult, holy, incredible responsibility. We are chosen, not for what we innately are but for what we have the power to become. We have special talents and special responsibilities. That is what it means, what we mean, when we say we are chosen.

But so many people I know feel like they must apologize for being chosen. Moreover, they must apologize for caring for their family, for their people, for their nation. As Jews, we are one people, we are one nation; our hearts beat as one and we bleed together. Sanctified through the ashes of the crematoria, consecrated through our shared beliefs and the suffering our people has been dealt, all of us who are born as Jews are connected, in an intricate and multifaceted web.

It is shocking to me that gay people have a 'gay pride parade' where they stand up, loud and proud, and announce to the world that they love their identity, but we as Jews are ashamed, cowering and hiding, afraid to say that we either have an identity or that we are proud of it.

To believe I am chosen is not to say that you do not have an important role to play, an important place in this wonderful world. It is to believe that I have a responsibility to my nation, to my people, to God, that you do not necessarily share, a burden that is not yours. Frodo Baggins was the one who had to bear the ring, but in the end, it was Samwise Gamgee who carried Frodo. Those of you who are not Jewish, you are important in my life and I care deeply for you; I believe that you have your own unique role to play in this world, but it is not the same as mine.

And for this I do not apologize.

I do not apologize for caring deep, passionately, unashamedly about my brethren, my family, my nation, the Jews and the Israelis who are currently under fire.

I do not apologize for caring more for them and for their safety than for the evil Hamas terrorists or the people who support them.

And of course I am sorry for those Palestinians who have good hearts and who are caught up in this mess through no fault of their own. But do I feel equally for them? Are they the same to me as my family members, as my brothers and sisters, as my nation? Of course not. Of course I love my father and mother more than I love the average human on the street, even though I do love them. Of course I love Jews and Israelis more. They are my people. They are my nation.

The Palestinians are not.

So to suggest that everything I say must be laced through a carefully politically correct prism and spectrum where the struggling and suffering of Palestinians is equal to that of my Jewish brethren, that I must care equally about both of them- no, that is not my role. Yes, God made every man in His image, and so He cares equally for them all, and so do I, on some level. On some level, but not on the deepest level; if I saw my sister and a neighbor and both were about to be hit by a car, I would save my sister first and I don't apologize for that; she is my sister, blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh and I love her most. Not only- but most.

God has called us and commanded us; He has told us over and over that we are His people, His treasure, His chosen ones, His nation. He has promised that He will comfort us, raise us up, rescue us.

As God says in Isaiah 51-

יב  אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי הוּא, מְנַחֶמְכֶם; מִי-אַתְּ וַתִּירְאִי מֵאֱנוֹשׁ יָמוּת, וּמִבֶּן-אָדָם חָצִיר יִנָּתֵן.12 I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou art afraid of man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be made as grass;

What are you afraid of, o' Israel? Are you afraid of men, who will judge you because you are not politically correct and do not pretend to care for every Palestinian with the same degree of love that you feel towards your Jewish brethren?

Are you afraid of man, whose life is like "the wind that blows, like the flower that fades, like the passing shadow?"

What are you afraid of? Storm the heavenly gates! Cry out for your people, who are sitting in bomb shelters, who are running from rockets! Acknowledge that you are a Jew and that you care for your fellow Jews! Know who you are, know what you stand for and rise up, rise up and say, "I am a Jew and I stand with my fellow Jews; I will pray for them, stand with them and care for them with every breath in my body. I will live with them and die with them and I will not suffer to hear their names uttered in the same sentence with those who live to kill them. I will not have mercy for the murderers and for the victims; we have been baptized in rocket fire, and our cause is righteous. Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, sayeth the Lord."

It is God who has designated us thus; it is God who made us chosen, made us family and it is our job to cry out for and support our family. Let us ensure that we know who we are, that we do not forget who we are, and that we work to protect those we love.


Shades of Grey said...

This is fantastic. You cut right to the core of the issue, right through the miasma of self deprecation and misguided shame of self identity. We should be supportive and proud of our brethren in Israel.

I do feel bad for the Palestinian civilians that are unfortunately wounded or killed by Israel's precise airstrikes. I feel worse that their own kin are ultimately responsible, since they put their weapons storehouses next or in apartment buildings, hospitals and schools.

However, I feel far worse for my own brethren, and even moreso because they didn't ask for this fight, and don't live near military bases, yet for some demented reason "deserve" to have targets paimted on their backs.

There is no reason not to be proud of Israel for who they are and our familial relationship with them.

We should be even prouder for their efforts to prevent innocent casualties, as well as their concentrated efforts to publicize the truth of the matter in the face of the well-greased anti-Israel propaganda machine.

Am Israel Chai - Od Avinu Chai

zahava said...

Chana, this Israeli thanks you for the chizuk!

H said...

"We have special talents and special responsibilities. That is what it means, what we mean, when we say we are chosen."

I don't think that's necessarily correct. Listen to this shiur by Rabbi Hayyim Angel.

smoo said...

I think the problem is in misunderstanding the implications of the word "chosen." People tend to think it means to give an air of superiority and the right to look down upon others because being chosen means I AM BETTER THAN YOU.
This, of course, is incorrect. The Jewish people were chosen to be a light unto the nations, to bring God's presence into the world, to be metakain olam. That is an awesome and difficult task. The responsibility it entails is enormous and daunting.

R. Sacks in the humanitas lecture mentions this and describes that there are two covenants, one with Noah which is universal, the basics that humans must fulfill to be decent people. Then there is the particular covenant with the family of Abraham which represents a higher ideal, and archetype to strive for but not necessarily required of all humans.

There must be respect for the other, the one not chosen. God likes diversity; biodiversity cultural diversity. And as such we should respect those not of our faith and at the same time not diminish our right to take pride in the culture, faith etc that is our own.

see here for r sacks 1 hr awesome lecture: