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Friday, June 11, 2010

Malcolm Hoenlein quotes Rashi

Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, is the premier commentator on Torah, Talmud and many other Jewish holy books. He lived nearly 1,000 years ago in the town of Troyes, France. It is difficult to overstate the importance of his work for anyone who studies Jewish holy books.

What is perhaps Rashi's most famous comment is one he makes to the very first verse in Genesis. Rashi asks why the Torah starts from Genesis and not from the Revelation at Sinai. He answers the question by quoting a Medrash - a Tannaitic statement that preceded Rashi by nearly a Millenium.
Answering the question, put in the name of Rabbi Isaac, as to why the Torah does not begin with the first mitzva, Rashi replies that the Torah begins with an account of the Creation so that if there ever comes a time when the nations of the world accuse the Jewish people of having stolen the Land of Israel, the Jews can respond: “The entire world was created by and belongs to God. He created it and He granted it to whomever He deemed fit.”
When Malcolm Hoenlein, the longtime Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, made his acceptance speech after receiving the Guardian of Zion Award from Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies in Jerusalem last month, he quoted that Rashi. Hoenlein said that the time has come for all Jews to quote it.
Current attempts to deny the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel, and in particular to deny the Jewish claim to Jerusalem, bear out the wisdom of that commentary, says Hoenlein. “The dismissal of the biblical account by people who supposedly believe in the Bible and say they took the Bible and added to it, I think underscores the hypocrisy of the position, but also reveals their true intent,” he declares.

More specifically, Hoenlein points a finger at the Palestinian Authority, at the participation of “authority figures” in acts of incitement against Israel and in denial of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem. “Don’t dismiss this stuff, don’t think it’s unimportant,” he warns. “This stuff has consequences. And we’ve learned through history that words of violence lead to violence, and words of hate lead to hate. We’re seeing it all over the world.”

Hoenlein’s thinking has been deeply shaped by his experiences as the child of parents who fled Nazi Germany. “From very early on,” he says, “I was involved in political issues; from very early on I had a predilection for political issues and believed that Jews must take control of their destiny. Abba Eban once said Jews had influence in many places in World War II but power in none.”
The article I linked above goes on to interview Hoenlein about the Obama administration. Hoenlein sees lots of troubled waters ahead and you should read the whole thing. But I want to talk for a minute about using the bible to establish our own claim to the Land of Israel. I have made and continue to make the argument that we cannot give up Judea and Samaria because there is no way to establish a 'Palestinian state' on that territory and have a secure Jewish state alongside it. But it's equally (and probably more) important that we make the other argument.

All three monotheistic religions accept the authenticity of the Jewish bible. And that means - Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen to the contrary - that both Christianity and Islam accept that the Land of Israel was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We Jews are the direct descendants of those three giants, and that means that this land - including ALL of Judea and Samaria - belong to us. And we ought not to be ashamed to make that claim vigorously and passionately, because even non-Jews know that claim is a valid one.

Jews have lived in this land continuously for more than 3,000 years. Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in particular are the home of our heritage. Last week, we read the story of the spies in the Torah, and the Torah states specifically that Calev the son of Yefuneh went to Hebron to pray at our forefathers' graves - yes he went to the very same Cave of the Patriarchs that we visit today. And then in the Haftorah we read how two other spies - the Rabbis tell us that they were Calev and Pinchas - went to Jericho 40 years later. Yes, the same Jericho.

We are the indigenous people of this land. Our connection to this land is much stronger than anyone else's. And the time has come for us to assert it proudly and unequivocally. The time has come to quote Rashi.

Read it all.


At 6:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

He is the greatest of Jewish commentators. No one has ever excelled him in learning and wisdom. It is time for Jews to quote Rashi and not be ashamed of their ties to Eretz Israel but to the contrary to take great pride in it. They were there before any one else came along.

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a problematic Rashi. Here are the questions and the answers but I think Hoenlein doesn't want to deal with them:

God's Country, by Moshe Feiglin


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