Thursday, April 12, 2007

Binyan olam

"V'liY'rushalayim ircha b'rachamim tashuv, v'tishkon b'tochah, kaasher dibarta. U-v'nei otah, b'karov, b'yameinu, binyan olam, v'chisei David m'heirah l'tochah tachin.

And to Jerusalem, Your city, in compassion, return, and dwell in its midst, as You spoke. And build it, soon, in our day, an eternal structure, and the seat of David quickly establish." (Translation approximate.)

This magnificent obsession has helped preserve the Jewish people lo these 2,000 years or so.

I've recently come to understand that this belief (which I don't share) in the coming of Mashiach Ben David (the Messiah, Son [Descendant] of David), the return to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), and the rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash (Holy Temple) is the "security blanket" of the Jewish People.

In additon to the problem that I don't hold this belief, it also comes with baggage--baggage with which I'm not entirely comfortable.

"L'fanecha, HaShem, yichr'u v'yipolu, Before You, L-ord, may they bend the knee and fall (prostrate) . . . " (Aleinu)

Perhaps it's unavoidable, to a certain extent. Perhaps it's part of the human psyche to believe that one's own way is the best way, the only way, that all others should drop what they're doing and join.

The problem, of course, is that the other guy also thinks his way is the only way.

We want our binyan olam, our eternal structure. We hope for it all day. (Li-y'shuatcha kivinu kol hayom.)

But can't we have our security blanket without tearing it out of the hands of others?

See also some related thoughts of mine from one of my earliest posts.


Blogger Elie said...

I don't read this prayer as anticipating that all gentiles will become Jews, just that they will acknowledge the unity, divinity, and soverignty of God over the universe. Judaism doesn't look for converts; the Torah already has a set of "seven Noahide laws" for all humanity, which are essentially the core behaviors of any civilized society. Surely the world would be a better place if knowledge of God and adherence to these laws became universal, which is exactly what the author of Aleinu hopes for.

Fri Apr 13, 01:33:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Okay, courtesy of Wikipedia, here's a list of the Noachide Laws.

Agreed, the world would certainly be a better place if all peoples had a court system and forbade murder, theft, and the eating of a limb of a living animal. But the prohibitions against idolatry and blasphemy both assume that we can all agree on who's the true god and who's the false one. As I was saying in that ancient post of mine (see link), monotheism is, I think inevitably, intolerant--if who's/what's G-d to me is an abomination to you . . . It's no small thing to "acknowledge the unity, divinity, and soverignty of God over the universe," with or without conversion. My point is that I think that requiring ethical and moral behavior is one thing, but requiring a specific belief is another, and is too much to ask.

Fri Apr 13, 02:11:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Elie said...

I see your point and I guess this is where we do disagree. I see belief in the the one-ness of God as fundamental/basic enough to be of universal applicability. And therefore, I don't view the hope expressed in Aleinu, that this belief spread throughout humanity, as being overly parochial or exclusive. But again, I understand that from the POV of non-monotheistic religions (not to mention, athiests!) it would be.

Hope we all find out some day.

Fri Apr 13, 02:21:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife teaches adult Jewish education, and the hardest topic for her students is the concept of choseness. The Enlightened psyche of today insists on parity, equality, and does not tolerate particularism. The usual line is " as long as we are all good people, is there really a difference between ___________(religion) and Judaism?" and, "doesn't God love every person?"

The answer is, yes, there is a difference. Although we may have a similar concept of God(monotheism, totally good, etc.), the particulars of being Jewish, and believing in the Jewish God are not only important but crucial. Many refer to Christians and Moslems as worshipping the "One God" as we do, but the basic idea in Judaism is that there are two ways to follow in God's path. For non-Jews, the path is the 'Noahide laws' as mentioned above. For Jews, who were chosen by God to be a special people(a kindgom of priests and a holy congegation per the Bible) the path entails all the rights and obligations of Judaism. In the eyes of God, Jews have different responsibilities, and in return Jews enjoy a different status. We truly are the chosen people, taken out of Eygpt, presented with the Torah, and charged with a sacred mission. Whether we shoulder the responsibility for that mission or not, it still is our mission.

In the future, when God is more revealed to the world, everyone will acknowledge God. And, if non-Jews realize that the God of the Jews is the True and One God, then they too will want to be part of God's chosen people. It is not an act of coercion. It is a consequence of recognition and free choice.

(One nice explaination of the dichotomy of free choice and the all-knowing God is the concept of tzimtzum- diminishment, where God withdraws a bit from the world, so that there is room for man to choose. If it was so blatently clear to everyone that God was present and all knowing, who would be able to choose to sin? In the messianic future, when God's sovereignty is manifest, free will may very well be somewhat curtailed, not by God, but by the elimination of some choices as being so obviously wrong as to be inconcievable.)


Tue Apr 24, 03:44:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Noam, would that I had your faith. I'm still enough of a Reconstructionist to be uncomfortable with the Chosen People concept. And I'm a bit ambivalent about the "mission" idea. Nevertheless, I've taken on some of the responsibilities, but by choice. Being different can be a joyful thing, and I treasure all the holidays and home rituals that some of our neighbors of other religions don't have. Believer or not, I find much of beauty and meaning in the traditions of the House of Israel, and in Bet Yisrael I'll stay.

Tue Apr 24, 08:06:00 PM 2007  

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