Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eikev: Field Trip

Once again, the controversy surrounding “Who Is A Jew” has raised its ugly head and elicited the ususal noise about splitting Jewry as it always has done. This at the same time that the legitimacy of the Jewish state is under a renewed a reinvigorated attack in the wake of the terrorist-supported and –supporting flotilli to Gaza.

“…lest the beast of the field multiply upon you” appears twice in Chumash, once in this week’s parsha [7:22] and in Parshas Mishpatim [Shemos 23:29]. There are many different explanations, some spiritual [Rashi here: only if we sin will we be subject to animal attacks], some almost environmental [Rashi there: you don’t have enough people to fill up the land and it will remain desolate].

Historically, there has been the choice of “having a state without all the land” or “having all the land without the state”; the obvious and unfortunately conscious choice made in 1948 was the former. While there may have been viable chances to actually effect the Jewish state’s rule over all of Yesha after 1967, for some reasons—likely mostly prudent ones—this was never done.

Meanwhile, several demographic issues arose. The first is the possible demographic “time bomb” that will ostensibly force Israel to choose between being a democracy and a herrenvolk state—o verblown, to be sure, and certainly less shayach since the departure from Gaza, but still definitely an issue to some extent. The second involved the myriads of Russian and other immigrants who were not halachically Jewish. This compounded what might have been once a smaller problem of PR when the state was dealing with just a few people who had “questionable” conversions. The controversy has also led to renewed calls for either the abolishment of the rabbinate, separation of “shul” and state, or both.

One might say that—without drawing absolutely clear analogies –that the “chayas hasadeh” could be anyone; could be us as much as anyone else. [Lest anyone think I am trying to be perjorative, check out the analogy to “chayos hasadeh” in Shemos 1:19 and Rashi ad loc. Different context, to be certain, but obviously I’m not the first.] And, bearing the predicate clauses to each of the aforementioned “chayas hasadeh” pesukim—“You cannot conquer them too fast” here in Eikev and “Lest the land become desolate” in Mishpatim—and, re-examining the history of the State—there are loose parallels, but parallels just the same, with the historical progression.

What should we be prepared for? A herrenvolk Jewish state? A bi-national state [which will esseitally be a Muslim-run state?] A democracy that will allow for a possible Jewish minority as long as the Arab and/or Muslim population isn’t the majority? A new definition of Israeli citizenship?

As oblique as any of this is, the only way to be optimistic about all this is to quote the “Gaon” [probably R’Hai or R’ Saadia] as brought down by Ibn Ezra [who disagrees with said “Gaon”, but no matter], who says that this statement—“pen tirbeh alecha”/”lest [they] multiply—indicates the “one day they will be victorious”. Obviously he means bnei yisrael will be victorious; but how? Over whom? When?

It might be that all that matters is that, ultimately, the right side will win.


No comments: