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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

By Rabbi Meir Kahane, Zt"l
21 Iyar 5746 (May 30, 1986)

If we would like to know the heart of the tragedy of Israel, of the Jewish-Arab struggle, of the reason why peace eludes a Jewish State that so desires it, of the cause of the ongoing suffering and tragedy, of the immutable rule that there will not be tranquility and peace for the Jew or his state, let me explain. Some time ago, an opinion poll was given to Arabs and Jews by sociology Professor Ephraim Ya'ar of Tel Aviv University. The professor gave his respondents a list of 14 factors that may or may not influence the course of peace between Israel and the Arab states, and asked each of them to rank the list in importance from one to 14. The results? The Arabs placed "the will of G-d" first; the Jews placed it last. Or another example: Yet another Tel Aviv University project was conducted by its Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies. Respondents were asked to comment on the Biblical verse, "The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." They were asked who, in their minds, represented the Guardian of Israel. Fifty-seven percent replied "the Israeli army" and 17% declared that it was G-d ... And that, dear Jew, is the reason and the source and the cause of a tragedy that is building up, and that, unless swift, radical change takes place in Jewish thought and action, will bring down horrors upon the Jew and his state, Heaven help us.

The truth is that the Jew has long since become the most unbelieving of all people, the most atheistic of nations. Deluded by his intelligence and intellectualism, believing that he inhabits the heavens, he turns into the most arrogant and proud of men. Like some modern-day Adam, he has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and dreams of Divinity. Like some modern-day builder of Babel, he is convinced that he can climb to the heavens and conquer. His cleverness and brightness that so persuaded him that he is the wisest and most perceptive of men, insures that he will be the blindest and most obtuse. No people and no faith is so convinced that its destiny is essentially its own, in its own hands. None has relegated G-d to the bin of antiquity, to the shadow of irrelevance, as the Jew. There are those who are convinced that He does not exist. There are those who invent Him as a Being who, indeed, has a place, but it is conveniently limited and He had better know it. There are those who pay prodigious amounts of lip service and ritual to G-d and whose religion fills their lives as long as there is no need to place their "belief" on the line in time of danger. Few are the Jews who sincerely believe that victory in war is totally in the hands of G-d, who are prepared to take the difficult and dangerous steps their religion demands, lest they have to put their faith where their claims are.

The people that were the most religious of all have become the most indifferent to G-d. The People of the Book place more faith in that of the check than the Bible. In time of crisis, the Jew does not believe in anything, except that which he can see, touch, feel. He can see the U.S. President; he believes in him far more than in the G-d of Abraham. He can feel the Arabs; he fears them more than the intangible G-d he pays lip service to as long as there is no crisis. He can touch the tanks of the Israeli army, and so he prays that there will be enough of them instead of believing that One is enough of Him. "For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2). The truth is that we will swear our belief in the Omnipotence of the G-d of Israel as long as this remains in the abstract, in the realm of theory. We show our fervent belief in the miracles that happened YESTERDAY, but we shrink from testing them today or tomorrow. That which we need not do ourselves is easily believed in and avidly taught or sermonized. Yesterday is always smoothly dealt with - who needs to place himself on the line? Who must be tested? The belief in the GENERAL Omnipotence of G-d easily fills our hearts. It is only when we must get down to specifics, to real and actual implementation of faith in our own lives, that the hypocrisy becomes a stench which is overpowering.

The G-d of Israel is not a Santa Claus. The religion of Israel is not a plaything. If there is one thing above all that the Almighty desires of us, DEMANDS of us, it is FAITH. "Therefore, the L-rd heard and was wroth; and a fire was kindled against Jacob and anger also came up against Israel, because they believed not in G-d and trusted not in His salvation" (Psalms 78). That is the Jewish Iron Law: Belief and trust in G-d, rather than looking to and raising Jewish eyes unto the gentile. There can be no greater Hillul HaShem, desecration of the Name of G-d, than when the Jew places his faith in the power of the gentile. For what he is saying by this is that there really is no G-d; and this is the end of Judaism, and this is the end of any reason for the existence of the Jew. Jews have long sighed, " It is hard to be a Jew." As with most things, this too is a statement of hypocrisy. They do not really believe it. They really do believe that they can mold for themselves a good and happy life and at the same time gild it with a thin covering of comfortable Judaism.

Of course, it is nonsense. Of course, it really IS hard to be a Jew, the kind of Jew that the Almighty demands - the kind of Jew who is the son and daughter of Abraham, who faced the furnace for his belief and did not flinch; the kind of Jew who is the son and daughter of Mordechai, who faced the gallows and did not bow; the son and daughter of the Jew whose entire Torah rests on the one commandment: "And the righteous shall live by his faith." That is difficult. That is a Jew. King David turned, in his day, to G-d and lamented: "My G-d, my G-d, why hast Thou forsaken me?" If one listens carefully, the voice of the G-d of Israel can be heard in this era of Jewish neo-atheism, calling softly: "My people, My people, why have you forsaken ME?"

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