Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dysfunctional Alliances

This shabbat we had visitors to AKSE, four Pastors somewhere in the Protestant spectrum, disciples in some way of a prominent megachurch minister Rev. John Hagee, who established an organization known as Christians United for Israel.  One of them spoke rather eloquently of what his organization has done to influence members of Congress on behalf of Israel and create a presence on campus that is needed to retort increasing anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric which has taken hold on many.  Which raises the question of whether all friends of Israel are good to have.  Some time back I outlined in my longest post the six contributions I made to AKSE's well-being.  Were there a seventh, it would be an effort on my part to rid the table at the sanctuary entrance of inflammatory literature, most notably a good deal of  "in your face" pamphlets from the Zionist Organization of America which I thought would send the wrong impression of what the dignified citizens of AKSE are like.

We approach a contentious presidential election where I am sometimes reminded that there really were guys who voted for George Wallace in 1968 who survive and vote to this day.  The republican candidate is probably a pretty decent fellow personally but his circumstances require him to throw some red meat to the surviving voters who have to repackage some very odious thinking in a form that people will not find threatening.  The butchers of that red meat seem to comprise the governing board of Christians United for Israel.  When they meet with members of Congress, most of whom vote on Israel's behalf most of the time without any prompting, I cannot but wonder how much of that panim el panim time goes to other parts of the agenda, many diverting far from any concept of Judaism that I might have.

While listening to a course on the Book of Isaiah this month, I learned that the most repeated mitzvah in Torah, mentioned 36 times, mandates the dignified treatment of Gerim, people who are not like us.  America may be the first place that implemented this idea effectively but it has some opposition.  The pastors and former government officials who occupy CUFI's Board are that opposition, spewing various forms of genevas da-as trying to get people to think that unemployment problems and some natural disasters result from public policies on abortion or gay rights.  That is not totally foreign to Jewish thought, by the way, with much of the prophetic literature assigning temple destruction or foreign invasions to systematized Jewish misconduct, whether that be avodah zarah, sinat chinam, or mistreatment of vulnerable people.  While the lessons of avoiding idol worship and treating people respectfully have become part of the culture, we have long since abandoned the theory that our woes are internally generated divine retribution.  Attempts at inquisition, pogroms, delegitimization of Israel and genocide really originate from evil external forces that we need to resist, with no preconceived notion that our conduct generated any of these things.

רבי שמעון אומר:
שלושה כתרים הם: כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות. וכתר שם טוב עולה על גביהן.

"Rabbi Shimon said: There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. And the crown of a good name is superior to them all (lit., 'goes up above them')."  Avot 4:13

This type of alliance jeopardizes a Shem Tov,  AKSE's for sure, Israel's perhaps.

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