Almost Biblical

by Amy Zidell

[The following is mostly observational.]

Various theories as to the timing of the recent increased violence in the Middle East have been bandied about:

  • Islamo-Fascist Terrorists have coordinated attacks from the train bombing in India to Hezbollah kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

  • Iran is playing a geo-political shell game by giving Hezbollah marching orders this as a smoke screen against Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

  • North Korea's missile launches emboldened other enemies of democracy and freedom.

  • Or... perhaps a page has been taken from the Torah. Well, not exactly a page, as technically the Torah is a scroll... anyway.

Assuming I'm on schedule with the weekly Torah portion Numbers 19.1 - 22.1 (read for Shabbat of July 14th). It takes very few neurons to see the parallels of the text with current events. For the last three to four years, I have been reading the weekly Torah portion and Haftarah every Sabbath. I am reading an English language translation, and we all understand there can be nuanced as well as great alternate meanings for specific words, and sections. So, let's assume the version I received on completing my confirmation is pretty good. For reference it happens to be:

     The Torah The Five Books of Moses
     A new translation of
     The Holy Scriptures
     According to the Masoretic text
     ©1962 by the Jewish Publication Society of America

The Biblical

The first part of the text deals with ritual and the unclean and clean process for when someone is around a dead person. Perhaps there is a logic, as at 20.14 begins aggression against the Israelites, who are on their way to the promised Land. If you're at war, death will have to be dealt with. The Israelites have been wandering in the desert a long time and it is most unfortunate that the people they encounter along the way are so hostile.

The Israelites are in Kadesh, and messengers are sent to the king of Edom with a message to effect, "You know how much our people have suffered, how we were enslaved in Egypt, how the Lord heard our cries and sent a messenger (Moses) who freed us from Egypt. We've been in the desert all this time. It's hot. We would very much like to be able to cross your country. We won't turn off the king's road to the left or to the right, and we will not drink any water from any wells along the way."

The answer they receive is basically, "Step foot on our country and we will attack you with swords."

The Israelites replied, "Look we just want to cross on the path, and if our cattle or anyone drinks any water, we'll pay for it. It is a small thing, we just want to pass on foot."

The answer was an army assembled against the Jews.

In section 21.1 - .3, a Canaanite king learned of the Israelites' location and engaged them in battle and took some of them captive. The Israelites vowed to the Lord that if the lord delivered this hostile people in their hands, they will utterly destroy their towns. The lord went along and delivered up the Canaanites.

At 21.21, the Israelites send out messengers to the king of the Amorites asking to be allowed to pass through the country. He took up arms against the Israelites. They lost to the Israelites and as happens in war, the victorious Israelites took over the territory.

The Israelites march along and they are meet with more aggression. Section 21.34-.35 discusses what happens next, "But the Lord said to Moses, 'do not fear him [enemy] for I give him and all his people and his land into your hand. You shall do to him as you did to [the previous kings who had attacked the Israelites and lost]... They defeated him and his sons and all his people, until no remnant was left him; and they took possession of his county."

The Contemporary

Divine word? Historical accounting? Military strategy? Some sort of combination? Definitely interesting.

To contemporary events, I suggest those who seriously suggest that Israel should show restraint, as if she is not, might want to refer to this.

The contemporary comparison of Israel who just wants to exist and yet finds aggressions delivered across seemingly every border is clear.

I do not understand anti-Israel sentiment. Israel has accomplished so many positive things. I ask those that hate Israel to think of the effect on the world of Israel at peace. Imagine the country of Israel being able to focus their energies on things other than self-defense. Perhaps their doctors would make even more medical breakthroughs than they already do, perhaps their engineers would help improve building safety throughout the world, perhaps agriculturists would be able to make more strides toward solving world hunger. The whole world has a vested interest in helping Israel live unmolested in peace. Everyone's life may depend on it.

I wonder how the Torah portion this Sabbath will relate to current events this week.

Another Observation

I heard most of Kofi Annan's July 20, 2006 speech at the U.N. and while I have little faith in the effectiveness or practical usefulness of the U.N., I was pleasantly surprised by some of Annan's comments. He said essentially finding a Palestinian solution would remove PRETEXT from attacking Israel. I was stunned. I have never heard anyone not Jewish or not a strong supporter of Israel speak the truth of the PRETEXT used by terrorists as reasoning behind their attacks. Terrorists use excuses and PRETEXT as PR tools to gain, through this deception, legitimacy throughout the world. Annan also said he condemned, "Indiscriminate over-whelming use of power." Well since Israel is certainly not being indiscriminate and they are not using overwhelming power, this comment does not apply to Israel. Israel has the ability to flatten enemies or the countries they inhabit, it just has not chosen to do so. Most reports are that Annan was critical of Israel but analysis of the nuance of his word choices I believe shows a refreshing, even, and unbiased response to Israel. I'll take that over outright hostility. Even a small improvement is a hopeful sign.

I urge you to support the Magen David Adom - Israeli emergency services - the Israel Red Star of David. You can read more about the group and see how to donate at the American Friends of the Magen David Adom It is a tax exempt charitable organization.

© 2006 Amy Zidell

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