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A communal confession on Yom Kippur

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

As Temple Israel in Great Neck, Long Island celebrates the soldiers that “defended” Israel in its devastation of Gaza during the Jewish High Holidays, the run-up to Yom Kippur is eliciting another, diametrically opposed, challenge to Jewish life. This comes from Rabbi Brant Rosen who just published his congregation’s confession that will be prayed on Yom Kippur.

Those on the political right and even those progressive Jews who continue to sit on the fence with regard to Israel and Jewish life in America, should take notice. Rabbi Rosen’s confession is wide-ranging. His title, “A Confession of Communal Complicity,” says it all. Unlike most rabbis during the High Holidays, Rabbi Rosen isn’t hiding behind a liturgy developed when Jews had little power. Rabbi Rosen knows that the Jewish situation in the world has changed from powerlessness to power. He isn’t pulling any religious or political punches.

Rabbi Rosen begins with a short introduction about the traditional prayer of confession on Yom Kippur. He continues with the prayer itself:

I’ve written a new Al Chet prayer that we will be using during Yom Kippur services at Tzedek Chicago. The Al Chet is part of the Vidui – or Confession – in which the congregation stands up and publicly confesses the sins of their community. It is at its core, an open statement of communal complicity.

I’ll say no more because I think the words really do speak for themselves. Feel free to share and use.

We say together:

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ
Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha…
(For the wrong we have done before you…)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for forgetting that we were all once strangers in a strange land;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for preferring militarized fences to open borders.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for supporting trade policies and murderous regimes that uproot people, families and communities;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for drawing lines and turning away those who come to our country seeking a better life.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for demonizing migrants as threats to be feared;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for labeling human beings as “illegal.”

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for internalizing and assenting to racist ideologies;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for allowing oppressive systems to continue unchecked.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for our complicity in regularly profiling, incarcerating and murdering people of color;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for denying fair housing, public schools and greater opportunity to our black and brown communities.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for dehumanizing, excluding and murdering gay, lesbian, trans and queer people;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for shaming and stigmatizing the infirm, the mentally and physically disabled, and the elderly.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for buying into and promoting the ideology of American exceptionalism;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for oppressing other peoples and nations in the name of American power and influence;

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for profiting off of weapons of death and destruction;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for contributing to the increased militarization of our nation and our world.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for expanding our military budget while we cut essential services here at home;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for believing that militarism and violence will ensure our collective security.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for the destruction of homes, expropriation of land and warehousing of humanity;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for a brutal and crushing military occupation.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open air prison;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for repeatedly unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Prayers of confession are usually short or long, depending on where clergy want to focus the congregation’s attention. Usually, such prayers are throw-aways, diversions. Everyone knows that the congregation is going to go on as if the prayer had never been offered. Especially for the affluent and empowered, prayers of confession are prayed quite easily. Lunch is right around the corner. Gated homes await them.

Rabbi Rosen’s prayer is different. It’s concise and hard hitting. There aren’t any loopholes. Living and serving in Chicago, and in the founding days of a new synagogue, Tzedek Shalom, Rabbi Rosen places Jews squarely in the American empire, as beneficiaries and enablers. In short, Jews are riding high. Rabbi Rosen also places the Israeli empire on notice. As a Jewish affair, Jews have particular responsibility for Israel. The oppression of Palestinians is central; it forms the backbone of the confessional prayer. From its opening, everyone knows where the prayer is heading.

Notice Rabbi Rosen’s specificity – a “brutal and crushing military occupation” – “blockading 1.8 million Gazans in an open air prison” – “unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land” – “wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism” – “rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.” Rabbi Rosen is relentless.

In a few confessional sentences, Rabbi Rosen defines Judaism and the Jewish community as it has become. But the confession itself provides Jews with a choice. On the day of days, when God judges Jews for who we are, offering another possibility if confession is real and justice is pursued, a change is possible. With Rabbi Rosen’s specificity, though, his reminder is crucial.

Though rabbis usually pedal Yom Kippur as a day of individual introspection and challenge, Rabbi Rosen’s confession is communal. Individual Jews as part of a larger communal movement must turn away from the empire injustice Jews are deeply wedded to. America and Israel, as they are today, are false Gods, leading Jews astray. Rabbi Rosen’s prayer is an ancient challenge for today. Is the Jewish community, as a community, engaging in the Jewish sin of sins, idolatry?

Issuing his congregational Yom Kippur confession days before the holy day itself is a risk and challenge. How dare a rabbi in good standing accuse the Jewish community of feasting at the table of empire, injustice and idolatry? In conscience, can he – can we – remain silent?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His new book, Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures, is forthcoming.

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42 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    September 18, 2015, 12:17 pm

    Remarkable.

    Because this prayer is given in advance, other congregations can ask that it be made part of their own. And thereby begin conversations to move American Jewish communal life away from its present role as an Israel-support mechanism.

  2. Kathleen
    September 18, 2015, 9:14 pm

    Just read the prayer. Whew…beautiful, honest, deep and wide. Soulfully transformational. Went for the guts of the issues with grace and grit.

    Thank you Rabbi Rosen

    Only two comments. Come on folks hope you read and take it in.

    • tokyobk
      September 19, 2015, 12:21 am

      Personally, I don’t know what else we who id in any way as Jews should be thinking about before Yom Kippur except I/P even if we don’t go as far or take the same pov as Rabbi Brent, who is to be commended here and in general.

      I have suggested before that threads like these get very little comments because for -some- of the active commenters here, the interesting part of I/P is indeed the trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community. Rabbi Brent Jews (and we are growing in number) makes that harder.

      For 100 comments you need some of Jewish abuse of power angle.

      • tokyobk
        September 19, 2015, 12:29 am

        Rabbi Brant.

      • echinococcus
        September 19, 2015, 2:16 am

        Tokyo,

        That’s totally inadequate. The “we” that is growing is not clearly identified. The only useful sorting in these times of war is Zionist and Antizionist, and I don’t mean infiltrators.

      • Sibiriak
        September 19, 2015, 3:01 am

        tokyobk: I have suggested before that threads like these get very little comments because for -some- of the active commenters here, the interesting part of I/P is indeed the trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community.

        —————-

        1)Conceptualizing the I/P conflict as the latest instance of “the trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community“— isn’t that, in essence, anti-Semitism (anti-Jewishness)?

        2) “-some- of the active commenters here“– what percentage of the commenters, roughly, would that group be? If it’s only a small group, then their interests couldn’t account for the lack of comments on this post. If it’s a large group, then you are insinuating that MW is a hotbed of anti-Semitism (anti-Jewishness), are you not?

      • Annie Robbins
        September 19, 2015, 3:52 am

        For 100 comments you need some of Jewish abuse of power angle. –

        ok, so..not really seeing how that applies. did you even read rabbi rosen’s prayer (enough reference to abuse of power to sink a ship)?

        did it ever occur to you that some people don’t comment during prayer.

        can you give it a break on the accusatory guilt tripping tokyobk, for this one thread. please.

      • Keith
        September 19, 2015, 11:39 am

        SIBIRIAK- “Conceptualizing the I/P conflict as the latest instance of “the trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community“— isn’t that, in essence, anti-Semitism (anti-Jewishness)?”

        Yes, indeed. It is Tokyobk’s never ending construction of an anti-Semitic strawman which he then projects onto his fellow Mondoweiss commenters, frequently me. And while the comment doesn’t reflect me at all, I am sure that Ben believes it to be true. Interestingly, the “the trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community,” seems to be a clumsy, unintended way of describing the belief in eternal and irrational anti-Semitism. The historical (trans-historical?) malfeasance of the Jew-hating non-Jews? In any event, Ben seems incapable of constructing believable strawmen, but not from lack of trying. Perhaps he will come to the realization that it is not possible to maintain an image of erudition while slinging mud?

        As for why I personally don’t make more comments on Marc Ellis’ posts, it is because I rarely disagree and have nothing of substance to add. I consider Marc Ellis to be a highly principled and moral person and have said so in the past. I commented this time regarding Jewish myth-history which is, by and large, a potent ideological misrepresentation of actual events. I have in the past tended to downplay current anti-Semitism as an insignificant phenomenon, however, I have come to realize that the Mondoweiss obsession with anti-Semitism has little to do with actual anti-Semitism and everything to do with the ideology of anti-Semitism which underpins the modern concept of Jewishness. I conclude with a quote:

        “Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust.” (Uri Avnery).

      • Mooser
        September 19, 2015, 11:42 am

        “For 100 comments you need some of Jewish abuse of power angle.”

        Thanks, “tpkyobk”! Why just the other day, several people asked me for a definition of “Jew Hobbyist” and I couldn’t provide one.

        Thanks for dropping in and supplying us with a perfect example of the genre! Happy scrap-booking!

      • Mooser
        September 19, 2015, 12:36 pm

        ” I have come to realize that the Mondoweiss obsession with anti-Semitism “

        Whoa, Keith! Back down the throttle, close the valve a little.
        How did it get to be a “Mondoweiss obsession”? It might be the obsession of a few commenters, (most of them, for some strange reason, named “tokyobk”) but I hardly think it’s a “Mondoweiss obsession”.

      • Mooser
        September 19, 2015, 12:41 pm

        “Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago”

        Don’t worry, Keith! Remember, by all accounts, well over half, as much as four-fifths (and that doesn’t even make a case!) of Jews have little or no contact with the organized Jewish religion.
        So the chances of a Jewish religious revival are pretty good, almost inevitable.

      • Elisabeth
        September 20, 2015, 3:53 am

        Why don’t you just talk straight and accuse us of anti-semitism openly?
        “trans-historic malfeasance of a monolithic community” pffft…
        I can’t read your comments in the same way from now on. I may as well skip them.

  3. just
    September 18, 2015, 10:50 pm

    Rabbi Brant Rosen is a man of grace, observance, and true faith. He offers up prayers and confession not only for him and his congregation, but also for millions to partake of. If only folks would and could listen to (absorb) his words and repeat them~ even if they have to start with a whisper.

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    I read this amazing article after reading this stunning and moving piece from Taxi:

    “Holy Slingshots and Bastard Bullets

    The Palestinian today is a human slingshot and the stone in hand is the wrath of the land upon the cruel invader.

    To have endured close to seven remorseless decades of daily brutality and death and to not have surrendered deserves earnest applause and fecund tears from the high sky. The patient ones are rewarded by the gods, they say. If this be true, then the enduring practice of Sumud has by now become an added survival organ in the Palestine body. Sumud as dear and silent clinging to life. A fixated insistence on justice. Sumud as higher love. The virtue that needs to be taught to child and suffering hostage alike.

    “All ownership is god’s”, a Palestinian lady once told me. “But we inherited the guardianship of this land from our ancestors – this land is our duty; this land is our living history”; she added, “Palestinian bones are in this earth, old ones – they’ve turned into diamonds”.

    History as divine personal memory. History as sad story and song and blood on the grass. History as white bone and ghost of chaos and comfort.

    The insanity of the enemy will not be allowed to contaminate or consume – it will be fought with every human fiber, with every rock and grain of sand stained with the blood of Palestine.

    Cannon and missile and violent lies cannot extinguish the light in the eye of the dreamer of freedom.

    Bells incessantly clang in the enemy’s nightmares: dear Palestine, you confuse the enemy with your defiance even as you sleep with tears of love and loss. Sumud is the mighty shield of the bravest, forged by sheer human will and the unshakable aspiration for liberty.

    Even as you weaken some days, even now as the enemy oils his gun to use against your soft hands clenching rock and rage, resist – resist as your land calls you to resist. Resist as the land hands your bruised palms a perfect rock. Resist. Resist insatiably, perpetually resist – eat, drink, breath, dream and dance resistance. Resist even as a deadly storm is gathering above you. There is nowhere to go to and no other choice but to resist. Defy, defy, defy! Defy the hate and the eyes of the enemy – defy the walls and the torture chambers – defy the grave and the chains around your spleen – rebel against the tank, the bulldozer and their rolling misery. Rebel against the monstrous jets over your ancient gardens. Rebel against everything your enemy throws at you – even if all you have in hand is a slingshot. Holy slingshot against bastard bullet. …

    … They who resist live a life of high danger – but in a world full of high possibility.”

    https://platosguns.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/holy-slingshots-and-bastard-bullets/#more-10202

    It’s truth, poetry, and so much more.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    September 18, 2015, 11:05 pm

    RE: “How dare a rabbi in good standing accuse the Jewish community of feasting at the table of empire, injustice and idolatry?” ~ Marc Ellis

    HOW DARE HE!
    HOW DARE HE!
    HOW DARE HE! ! !

    • JLewisDickerson
      September 19, 2015, 12:14 am

      P.S. Not so fast, Rabbi Rosen! ! !
      John Hagee Today, ‘Israel- God’s Two Minute Warning’ – Jul 5, 2015

      P.P.S.THE BOOK OF JOHN:

      • 1940: John Hagee is born in Goose Creek, Texas, to pastor parents.
      • 1958: Hagee preaches for the first time, at his father’s Houston church.
      • 1960: Hagee marries his first wife, Martha.
      • 1975: Hagee divorces Martha and leaves his ministry, amid hints of infidelity.* He quickly begins a new ministry at Trinity Church.
      • 1976: Hagee marries Diana Castro.
      • 1978: Hagee and Diana make their first trip to Israel. He also launches Global Evangelism Television.
      • 1981: Hagee hosts the first “Night to Honor Israel”
      • 1987: Hagee dedicates new Cornerstone Church.
      • 1996: He draws fire from African Americans for his “go home with a slave” promotion to raise money for high-school students.
      • 2005: Hagee blames the sinfulness of New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina.
      • 2006: Hagee helps to create Christians United for Israel.
      • 2008: He endorses John McCain for president. McCain later rejects the endorsement.

      SOURCE – http://www.sacurrent.com/sanantonio/the-zionist-in-winter/Content?oid=2284801

      * P.P.P.S. – H. L. MENCKEN’S ODE TO JOHN HAGEE:
      “Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.”
      SOURCE – http://atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/deep-within-the-heart-of-every-evangelist-lies-the-wreck-of-a-car

      • Elizabeth Block
        September 20, 2015, 10:17 am

        He also said (quoting from memory), “Heave an egg out of a train window anywhere in the American south and you’ll hit a fundamentalist.”

        And I love this one. Mencken was, among other public roles, the Baltimore village atheist. When the local Baptists asked him if he believed in infant baptism, he replied, “Believe in it? Hell, I’ve seen it!”

  5. michelle
    September 19, 2015, 6:11 am

    .
    seems like Rabbi Brant Rosen is a man who wants nothing to come between himself and G-d
    and he wants the same for every & all
    .
    G-d Bless Rabbi Brant Rosen
    .

    • Kathleen
      September 19, 2015, 11:17 am

      Indeed. The words, images seem to run deep. Attended at least 15 Passover dinner’s with Jewish friends. One friend born in Israel, served in Israeli army, speaks Hebrew would read prayers and we had text in English. I think more than likely a loose version of serious, religious Jews. I would say most of my Jewish friends are secular. Always took notice of the depth of the prayers the collective all inclusiveness of the prayers when it came to forgiveness, blessings on all.

      However would also be wrapped up in my head with how many of my Jewish friends had not capability to really look at the facts on the ground in the conflict and the contradictions in the prayers. Things of course are shifting.

      Don’t get me wrong here. Growing up embedded (against my will) in the Catholic world also noticed how lovely and inclusive many of the prayers were and the massive contradictions in the actions of the male dominated clergy, the congregation and its actions.

      Lots of contradictions in most Religions. Although I do appreciate the intent. And it sounds like Rabbi Rosen has deep intent that manifest in action.

    • Mooser
      September 19, 2015, 11:48 am

      “and he wants the same for every & all”

      Good Lord, what a terrifying thought! Look, do me a favor, if God shows up wanting a face-to-face with me, tell Him I just left, and left no forwarding address. And the check is in the mail.

      • michelle
        September 19, 2015, 1:46 pm

        .
        hello Kathleen & Mooser
        may you both sparkle with an overflow of Blessings
        m
        .
        seems like in many ways people go through the motions without stopping to smell the flowers (and the rot)
        .
        if truth love & peace said come walk lifes path with me who would decline
        .
        G-d Bless
        .

      • Mooser
        September 19, 2015, 4:04 pm

        if truth love & peace said come walk lifes path with me who would decline –

        That path leads up the rough side of the mountain.

      • michelle
        September 20, 2015, 1:25 am

        .
        hello dear Mooser
        once again you tease me with links to utube
        my dial up can’t manage pictures much less videos
        m
        seems like you’re already climbing the rough side of the mountian bet the view at the top will make the effort worth the climb
        .
        have you seen the movie titled Home based on the book by Adam Rex titled The True Meaning Of Smekday
        or the movie titled Beyond The Reach
        there’s one i haven’t found at the library yet that i would like to see titled Camp X-Ray
        .
        G-d Bless
        .

      • Mooser
        September 20, 2015, 1:16 pm

        “once again you tease me with links to utube
        my dial up can’t manage pictures much less videos
        m – “

        Oooops! I’m sorry, Michele. Didn’t know that, or had forgotten. We were on dial-up for a long time, I know what it’s like. We’re on DSL now, it’s the only way to get Internet without TV cable.

        The video was of FC Barnes and Family singing that song.

  6. Keith
    September 19, 2015, 10:59 am

    MARC ELLIS- “Rabbi Rosen knows that the Jewish situation in the world has changed from powerlessness to power.”

    This is myth-history. Throughout the last millennium, Jews have been relatively privileged and powerful. They were always above the peasants/serfs, the lowest of the low who formed the bulk of the Gentile population. They were the towns people. And some of the Jewish elites achieved great power. “By mid-century (19th), the entire European state system was dependent upon the international financial network dominated by the Rothchilds.” (p18, “The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State,” Benjamin Ginsberg) So to talk about historical Jewish powerlessness is to reinforce Jewish myth-history which depicts never ending victimhood and irrational anti-Semitism. In fact, surveys indicate that for most Jews the most essential part of Jewishness is remembering the Holocaust (victimhood). So while your intentions seem honorable enough, your reinforcement of the meme of eternal victimhood contributes to a group psychology inimical to your stated goals. The Jewish elite have been empire Jews for at least a millennium and are unlikely to be swayed by appeals to a mythical past.

  7. Juergen
    September 19, 2015, 3:20 pm

    This is a broad, all-encompassing prayer that many of us could use or adapt to our particular situation. Thanks for highlighting it.

  8. JohndeClefPineiro
    September 19, 2015, 4:00 pm

    As with any people, there are those with a conscience and those who would rather bury their conscience with divisive nationalist or ethnocentric allegiances that ignore our core humanity.

    Rabbi Rosen’s powerful communal confession reminds the world that no people are all the same.

  9. Elizabeth Block
    September 20, 2015, 10:15 am

    It seems to me that asking forgiveness without ceasing to do what you are asking to be forgiven for is … fatuous? hypocrisy? bullshit? in any case, unlikely to cut any ice with God or with the person you have wronged and are still wronging.

  10. Steve Grover
    September 20, 2015, 10:57 am

    Ellis sez:
    “How dare a rabbi in good standing”
    He is not a Rabbi in good standing. He was booted out by the Chicago Board of Rabbis. The only Rabbi to ever be thrown out.
    Ellis also sez:
    “In a few confessional sentences, Rabbi Rosen defines Judaism and the Jewish community as it has become”
    He will never define Judaism or the Jewish Community. The Jewish Community has nothing to do with Rosen and that won’t change unless he says a few Al-Chets for:
    Slandering the Jews of Israel
    Disgracing the Chicago Jewish Community
    Teaching young Jews to hate Israel
    Disgracing his Rabinnic Teachers

    • Elisabeth
      September 21, 2015, 4:07 am

      Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic church have all had to face their past, and have expressed remorse for the anti-semitic doctrines that led to so much abuse.
      One day Jewish congregations worldwide will wrestle with a similar shame of having actively supported, publicly defended and financed an ideology that:

      Slandered the original inhabitants of Israel
      Disgraced the worldwide Jewish Community
      Tought young Jews to hate non-Jews
      Disgraced the very core of Jewish religious teaching

      Rabbi Rosen is amongst those that people will be able to point to as having preserved the honor of Judaism at considerable personal cost.

      • Keith
        September 21, 2015, 4:46 pm

        ELISABETH- “Disgraced the very core of Jewish religious teaching”

        Are you familiar with the teachings of Moses Maimonides, Judaism’s most revered rabbinical scholar?

      • Mooser
        September 21, 2015, 6:27 pm

        “Are you familiar with the teachings of Moses Maimonides, Judaism’s most revered rabbinical scholar?”

        Uh-oh! Bad stuff, huh? Ol’ Mose lacks the broad, flexible outlook? Not a spreader of sweetness and light to all and sundry? Oh well, lay it on us, Keith.

      • Keith
        September 22, 2015, 8:24 pm

        MOOSER- “Uh-oh! Bad stuff, huh? Ol’ Mose lacks the broad, flexible outlook? Not a spreader of sweetness and light to all and sundry? Oh well, lay it on us, Keith.”

        You are quite correct, he was not what we nowadays would consider a spreader of sweetness and light to all and sundry. He was what Joel Kovel describes as a “sainted medieval philosoper.” He wrote a codification of Talmudic law in the 12th century which remains influential. His writings reflected the times. As such, he is a part of real history as opposed to the sugar coated myth-history. A serious problem arises when fundamentalist Zionists reach into the past and use Maimonaides’ medieval philosophy as a guide for present day actions. Nothing wrong with Maimonaides per se, but it is wrong to ignore what he actually said about Gentiles and Jewish behavior towards Gentiles, and the influence it had on the history of Jewish religious teaching. As I have said in the past, I agree with Israel Shahak and Joel Kovel that Zionism is in many ways a throwback to the philosophy and attitudes of medieval (classical) Judaism.

    • Mooser
      September 21, 2015, 6:34 pm

      “He will never define Judaism or the Jewish Community.”

      Isn’t that what they used to say about Rabbi Wise?

  11. Elisabeth
    September 22, 2015, 7:05 am

    Why do you ask me Keith?
    Are you going to tell me Maimonides was an advocate of Zionism avant la lettre?

    • Keith
      September 22, 2015, 7:53 pm

      ELISABETH- “Why do you ask me Keith?”

      I was just curious as to your knowledge of the “core of Jewish religious teaching” which you feel has been disgraced.

      • Mooser
        September 23, 2015, 12:23 pm

        “core of Jewish religious teaching”

        Well, gee, shouldn’t a look at a Jewish catechism (I use the word in its catholic, not Catholic, sense) clear all this up? No doubt, a consistent core should be apparent in the material presented to every student. References, chapter and verse, this we believe, you know.
        Should be easy to link to, a lot of it is probably on the web, these days.

      • Elisabeth
        September 23, 2015, 2:57 pm

        I was thinking of the Judaism of people like Emmanuel Levinas, a philosopher I grew up with so to speak, in my household. You seem to think you know more about Judaism than me. Possible, but why the need to brag?

      • Keith
        September 23, 2015, 3:11 pm

        MOOSER- “Should be easy to link to, a lot of it is probably on the web, these days.”

        Please notice the quotation marks around “core of Jewish religious teaching.” I was quoting Elisabeth who claimed that the Zionist ideology “Disgraced the very core of Jewish religious teaching.” I was merely inquiring as to what she considered the very core of Jewish teaching. My reference to Maimonides was to highlight a legendary source of historical Jewish religious teaching as a point of departure to clarify Elisabeth’s understanding. Your interest in this discussion seems little more than a snark. Am I wrong? Are you really interest in discussing real Jewish history and the various phases of Judaism and how they relate to Zionism?

      • Keith
        September 23, 2015, 6:31 pm

        ELISABETH- “You seem to think you know more about Judaism than me. Possible, but why the need to brag?”

        My knowledge of Judaism is relatively slight, one of my primary sources is “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years,” by Israel Shahak. Your comment struck me as both wrong and a tad presumptuous. I am unfamiliar with Emmanuel Levinas or how he relates to the historical core of Jewish religious teaching. As I said, my knowledge of Judaism is slight, however, I have seen enough references to Classical Judaism in the books I have read to believe that Zionism is, in fact, a throwback to the ideology of Classical Judaism, and which, in fact, permeates the essence of Zionist influenced Jewishness. Based upon your comment, I assume that Emmanuel Levinas espouses a highly moral version of Judaism as does our own Marc Ellis. And while I applaud Marc Ellis’ prophetic vision, I doubt that he represents the real world attitudes and actions of the majority of those who self-identify as Jews. Had I known that you would take my little reference to Maimonides so personal, now accusing me of being a braggart, I wouldn’t have bothered to post it.

      • Ellen
        September 23, 2015, 11:55 pm

        what she considered the very core of Jewish teaching

        Isn’t it the good ole’ Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule — do unto others as you would do onto yourself?

        Now go figure it out……

        Or something to that effect.

        Doesn’t that sum it up for you Keith?

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