You, Me and God
August 7, 2020
Let me put the disclaimer out first: I am no biblical scholar — I am no expert on ancient Jewish history. So, this column is really in the form of a few questions about belief and my own life.
I have stated before that I was raised in a totally non-religious environment. God, in my house, was an afterthought. Outside of having fist fights on a daily basis when he was growing up because he was a Jew, my father had no other relationship with Faith. As I have written, his father, my grandfather Abraham Shiplacoff was an ardent Socialist.
Then, in 1948, shortly before my 18th birthday, the State of Israel came into being. It triggered a sense of pride in my father and as he was with most things, he was suddenly all in on everything Jewish.
He had vetoed my bar mitzvah. Friday night was just the end of the week at our house. But, suddenly, Judaism became a nationalistic, historical fact to him — and therefore to the rest of us.
I guess just because of my own curiosity, I began a rudimentary study on the new State of Israel and its historical relationship to the Jewish People. I quickly came to realize that the last internal government in the Land was the Jewish People. That beyond the religion we were indeed a PEOPLE — matter of fact for eons before we became a religion. That I had DNA shared with my peoplehood.
There are artifacts being constantly discovered that prove that we were indeed that last indigenous people to rule the land. Years later at a Round Table meeting I attended, the Arab at the Round Table talked of his peoples’ “eternal right to the land.” The moderator, a non-Jew, quickly intercepted him with this statement: “Nonsense! The Jews had an organized civilization there. The Romans got rid of the Jews, the Persians got rid of the Romans, the Brits got rid of the Turks who took over from the Persians and the Jews got rid of the Brits. — that’s history!”
The “Written Law” — the last approved “Old Testament” — is a historical document passed down over millennia. The “New Testament” is basically prophesy.
Okay — got it! So my DNA goes back a really long time. So, what does that mean to me? I think it means I have a responsibility to do what I can to preserve that history and to keep it relevant.
If you are a Jew by birth, chances are you carry some of my DNA. The Jews who emigrated to the U.S. from Europe, when they found a fellow Jew they would exclaim: “Lantzman!” meaning someone from the same land — and they were not referring to what is now Ukraine or Poland or what is now Hungary. We were never welcomed in any of those places.
No, they were referring to the ancient and Holy Land of Israel. Holy? That meant something different. That meant that it was God, not Jews or the United Nations that declared the mandate. It came not from “Man” but from God. That is a theological argument that has been going on for generations and probably will continue far into the future.
What is not in dispute is that when the question of “What to do with the Jews?” became a matter of serious discussion after the notorious Dreyfus Affair in the late1890s, the world’s “top thinkers” turned attention to the largest ethnic group with “no land of their own.”
Well, the attempt to send Jews who desired to leave the lands of their present residence and move them somewhere else was at best ridiculous. Madagascar? Well, some years later that was where The Nazis wanted to put the Jews they failed to slaughter.
The First Jewish Congress was held in Basil, Switzerland, in 1890. Wanting to put an end to any argument by non-Jews as to “what to do with the Jews?,” the Delegates simply voted the obvious, reaffirming that we already had a land of our own. A land that had no internal government since we left.
It took another 58 years to turn that dream into a reality. I came late to the party. Those religious Jews who longed to worship at the Western Wall were generations ahead of me. The entire Israeli dream, fought by Irgun and the Haganah for years was ahead of me.
Israelis are a great example of the Jewish People: They seldom agree on anything. Look at the State now: Three elections in less than two years? An ongoing battle between the Right Wing and the more Liberal side of Israeli citizens as to borders, education, the Draft and more. Makes our political differences seem almost juvenile. So, here I am. An ardent Israel supporter who has a problem with God. Have since the Holocaust. I’m a pragmatist. I wish I could be a believer — it makes almost everything much easier. So, I’ll muddle on — as Tevya said: “On the other hand…”