Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Right of Return

Pope Benedict as a Young Man

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has had a Right of Return. Jewishness involves the land, the law and the people of Israel. All are inextricably intertwined. Many commandments are communal. Torah teaches us how to relate to the land and the people of Israel and the world.

Jewish education is critical to Jewish continuity. An appreciation of Jewish traditions, land and people can not be inculcated without schools. Even the socialisation that accompanied school attendance especially increases the likelihood of marriage within the Jewish faith and people.

We urgently need a Law of Return that applies to synagogues and Jewish schools. There must be a seat for every man woman and child in a synagogue and a day school for those of school age. Adult education is essential as well. We need to identify underserved areas and target development. Whether a child is a talmudic genius or profoundly retarded, whether a child is docile or rebellious, there must be a place for him or her.

I am outraged when I hear that Israeli government wants to give away the Golan, Jerusalem or any part of the Holy Land. To give away Jewish land is to spit in G-d's face.

The Holy Land was allocated to the tribes upon basis of population. Each tribe wanted to be fully counted so they would get a just allocation of land. When we are with G-d's help gathered in from exile, how many Jews will have been sent away. How many Jews will be lost to us and go uncounted? We pray for the ingathering of exiles. Are we doing it ourselves ? When Jews were lost in exile thousands of years ago, was there no look of distraction, no whiff of alienation before they disappeared? What are we doing to discern and address that sense of emptiness that disperses so many?

I could never compare the Jewish faith to any other. The church of Martin Luther who cursed Jews and that of Rome which included the likes of Hungarian Nazi Andras Kun, Slovak Nazi Josef Tiso and American Jew hater Charles Coughlin should not be mentioned in the same breath as the Jewish faith.

Despite that, I experienced in a Catholic upbringing one thing worthy of emulation. My brother, my sister and I all attended Catholic schools. We were without exception discipline problems. My brother and I openly repudiated core Catholic teachings as well. As hard as I tried, they never expelled me from school. Neither were my brother or sister kicked out.

I can not understand how a faith that has had a third of its number murdered in one generation, that loses souls daily to cults, intermarriage and ignorance can countenance the loss of one Jewish child. It saddens me. It is only the deepest love for the Jewish people that motivates me to make such a rankling comparison. I ask forgiveness of anyone who saw "Gott Mit Uns" on a German belt buckle for making a comparison that must be painful to hear.

I only write these words so that Shleimus haaretz, (completeness of the land) should be complemented and enhanced by "shleimus ha am" (completeness of the people)

Millions of Jewish dollars go to secular education. I do not propose stopping that flow. But the preservation of Jewish teachings is not only a gift to G-d and ourselves but a gift to the world. If we do not preserve our own heritage, it is the world that is poorer for it. Feeling and showing love for each other will lend resonance to our love for the world.

Every miracle extended by G-d to the Jewish people involved an action by a person. Even though G-d did all the work, there were times when Moshe had to raise his staff or raise his hands. G-d does not want us to be spectators. He does not want us to watch miracles but to participate in them. We must not only pray for the ingathering of exiles. We must make it happen ourselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Ratzinger (the current Pope Benedict) left the lines of his compulsory military duty in Germany. He should have been shot on sight for this. However, he escaped unharmed. This picture is also not of the young priest making a Nazi salute, but a doctored photo of when the priest extends his hands over the gifts at Mass.