Forgot What it Means to be a Jew

Israeli Author Yoram Kanyuk and the ‘Nakba’

On the day that the Arabs and their supporters from the left ‘celebrated’ their audacious lie about the ‘nakba’, which in essence is the cry of the robbed Cossack who complains about his unsuccessful attempt to violently plunder the Land of Israel and murder the Jewish nation who has returned to his home; on the same exact day, the author, Yoram Kanyuk, publicized his desire to renounce his classification of being ‘Jewish’ in his official identity card, his left-wing comrades wildly applauding him. Kanyuk is one of those people who are willing to recognize the rights of all nations – and even those pretending to be a nation – but prefers to ignore his own nation.

Such an attitude is a miserable repetition of the mistake made by the ‘enlightened’ assimilators of Western Europe 150 years ago. They hoped that by severing ties with their Judaism, they would be accepted as equals amongst the non-Jews, but not only were they not accepted as equals, they aroused a wave of horrible anti-Semitism. In the eyes of your average, normal person, alienating oneself from his ethnic origin is considered treason – and no one loves or honors a traitor. Traitors arouse suspicion and fear, and when they are Jewish – they fan the flames of anti-Semitism. Occasionally they are exploited, but afterwards, they are discarded like a useless vessel.

One can understand the Jews who assimilated 150 years ago. They suffered terribly in those days, and the difficult results of assimilation were as yet unknown. They hoped that in the advanced and developing countries of the times, the dawn of equality, brotherhood, and liberty would shine. However, it was precisely in those countries that the most evil and wicked tragedy of human history – the Holocaust – took place.

Today’s Kanyuk could have learned a little from Jewish past, gazing deeper and more lovingly into Jewish tradition. If he has complaints and reservations about Judaism’s present situation as a culture and religion – on the contrary, he should offer his thoughts for public debate in order to improve the situation.

Improvement

Since Kanyuk and his friends have turned their backs on their own identity, we Jews who are faithful to the Torah and the nation are obligated to complete what they have omitted. We must work with greater vigor, with wisdom and integrity, in order to reveal the light and treasures of the Torah in its entirety, for the benefit and redemption of all mankind, and for the sake of revealing the image of God in man.

The “nakba” ‘celebrations’ should also awaken us to be involved more actively in fighting for our rights over the Land of Israel, and in additional efforts to settle all of its width and breadth.

Our devotion to the Land, and our willingness to fight for it, does not stem from hatred towards any man or group, but rather from the request for historical and moral justice, based on the Torah and conscience. Justice requires that one who incites wars will lose, and as a nation, we should act accordingly, utilizing every war that the Arabs initiate to broaden Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. If we fail to do so, not only will we have misappropriated our historical duty, but we will also bring closer the next war.

Reward and Punishment

Many people ask, “Why is the reward for fulfilling mitzvoth which is mentioned in the Torah portion ‘B’Chuko-thai’, and in all of the Torah, a material reward, here in the Land? Isn’t it man’s goal to cling to God? If so, it would have been fitting for the Torah to mention the spiritual reward in the World to Come!” Many answers have been given to this question, and one of the most fundamental is connected to the Land of Israel. For in the Land of Israel, the material aspects of life are also sanctified, physical labor is also a mitzvah, and the material reward one receives in Israel expresses closeness to God, with which one can continue to get even closer to Him.

Accordingly, the most severe expression of punishment is exile itself, as it is written (Leviticus 26:33): “I will scatter you among the nations, and keep the sword drawn against you. Your land will remain desolate, and your cities in ruins.” In addition, the promise of Redemption is dependent on the Land, as it is written (Leviticus 26:42): “I will remember My covenant with Jacob as well as My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham. I will remember the Land.”

The Land of Israel and Social Issues

Many people argue that as a result of dealing with the mitzvah’s of settling the Land of Israel, the social challenges are neglected. However, from the Torah portions dealing with the sabbatical and jubilee year we have learned that precisely through the mitzvah’s of settling the Land and the revelation of its holiness, it is possible to contend with social problems in a respectful and fair manner, so that on the one hand, the qualified and diligent person can become wealthy from the work of his hands, and on the other hand, poor people are given the chance to rehabilitate their status.

On the one hand, anyone who contributes to economic prosperity of the Land of Israel thereby fulfills the mitzvah of settling the Land (Chatam Sofer on Tractate Sukkah 31), and therefore, the profits one makes by way of his incentive and diligence are fair earnings, and we have no complaints about rich people who made their wealth by means of their hard-work and talents. On the other hand, since the Land is holy, the values of ethics and justice, love and honor for one’s fellow neighbor, are revealed within it. Therefore, the priestly tithes must be taken from the produce, certain crops must be left in the fields for the poor, all of the fields are abandoned in the sabbatical year, and all of the fields return to their original owners in the jubilee year, in order to give everyone a new opportunity.

It’s interesting to note that many of those who deny the holiness of the Land tend to lean to one of the extremes concerning the social issue: either they lean towards being radical socialists who don’t appreciate aptitude, diligence, and personal incentive, and want all possessions and money divided evenly amongst all, or as equally as possible; or, on the other hand, they lean towards extreme capitalism, thinking that principles and values exist only in the heavens, the synagogue, or the mitzvah’s between man and his Creator, but in this world – it’s dog eat dog.

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