12 August 2006

Dinner on Me

Last night, Jena & Adam and Laura & Barry came over for dinner. I cooked. The parents cleaned up. Very therapeutic. Then we all went to Sweet Life for dessert. It all added up to quite a decadent evening.

Here’s the Israeli salad recipe, the best I’ve ever made:
4 small plum tomatoes
2 cukes, peeled
3 scallions
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh dill
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon

I personally would have used more tomatoes, but maybe my cukes were just too big. The most important part of Israeli salad is chopping the veggies very small. Not fine, just small. The dill was particularly good with the mint and cucumbers.
I also made spiced roast lamb and roasted red peppers and feta, but those aren’t kosher, especially together, so it’s better not to say anything about them, in case I am ever audited by the “Are-you-Converted-Enough-Inquisition-Society-of-Jews-for-the-Purity-of-Keeping-out-non-Orthodox-Converts”.

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A Solution to Katyushas?

While on Haaretz’s Link English edition website, reading about Olmert’s decision to (finally, to Israelis) authorize the implementation of the IDF’s full-scale ground offensive, I saw this advertisement, placed so very conveniently in the middle of the story.

How absurd! I said to myself. I have to check this out. Remember that Haaretz is a relatively liberal Israeli newspaper, not one known for any type of religious sympathies. So, being the curious cat that I am, I clicked on the ad. This is what I found on the page to which I was sent:

“For thousands of years it has been proven that the Jewish people have the ability to 
incapacitate and destroy their enemies through 
increased Torah study and prayer.

Sign up now for weekly Torah commentaries.

We invite you to participate in over 15,000 online classes that are currently being attended by about 100,000 people around the world every week.”

What?? I thought I was being sent to a site where I could buy M-26 rockets and nukes in bulk!
Instead I am being told that my clicking on this picture and studying Torah from these people has some supernatural effect on whether or not cities in Northern Israel are bombarded with rocket attacks.
The message is clear, I don’t even need to spell it out for you, but I will: ‘For thousands of years’, the Jewish people have been subject to persecution and torment from their enemies, but they were not defeated. How do we know this? The Jewish people, as a nation, still exist today. The Jewish people were able to ‘incapacitate and destroy their enemies’, i.e. win.
How did they do this?
How did they finagle getting thousands of slaves out of Egypt, one of the most technologically and architecturally advanced societies at that time? Okay, maybe the Egyptians weren’t that good at security. They should take some help from Israel.
How did the Jewish people manage to retain their cohesiveness in exile when all evidence pointed to a contrary outcome, one that plagued the Northern tribes after they were defeated and dispersed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE, namely assimilation?
How did a small but highly organized and motivated Jewish community in pre-Israel Palestine defeat the armies of six nations and declare independence less than a decade after six million were killed in Europe?
The solution, according to this organization – Yad Avraham (“Hand of Abraham”) is that the Jewish people were able to defeat their enemies because they were engaged in ‘increased Torah study and prayer’.
At some level, this is an accurate claim, although there are some holes to fill.
True enough, one of the reasons the Jews did not fall prey to the ills of assimilation and loss of identity was their Torah study and prayer. By the common era (0 CE), the Jews had a codified collection of writings known as the Tanakh (an acronym for the three sections – Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings)), also known as the Hebrew Bible or New Testament to Christians. By 500 CE, the Babylonian Talmud, the fundamental source of Jewish law, was completed. Jewish communities around the world also followed a similar liturgy in synagogue and in daily prayer. Thus Torah study of a standard codification of Jewish law, such as the Talmud, and prayer of a similar liturgy and content, served to united Jewish communities around the world, whether they lived in Lisbon, Bialystok, Cairo, or New York City. This unity allowed the Jewish people to ‘incapacitate and destroy’ the evils of assimilation and loss of identity, which, for the Jewish people, meant extermination.
In this sense, Yad Avraham’s claim that Torah study and prayer were for the Jewish people what General Patton was for the US in WWII.
In another very important sense, I reject the notion that studying Torah will destroy Hizbullah. Torah study did not save the Jews of Europe from the gas chambers, and to my knowledge, prayer did not avert atrocities such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the massacre of Israeli athletes by Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Pious, righteous and Torah-studying Jews wi
The other side of this claim disturbs me as well. If the Jewish people are not engaged in ‘increased Torah study and prayer’, bad things will happen. In other words, if there are atrocities, if Jews are killed or seemingly unable to annihilate their enemies, they are being punished for not engaging in these activities – for not studying Torah.
I accept that the study of Torah for its own sake has united the Jewish people, giving them strength and wisdom, but I reject the notion that lack of Torah study has brought the Katyushas or that, by studying Torah, I can stop them. Maybe I am too much of a skeptic.

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