Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No New Revelation

How can a revelation replace another if the revelation (is claimed) to be reiterating, not replacing, another (not previous) revelation? This would be like replacing something with another version of the same thing. With respect to Islam, this is the true backbone of the religion, its replacement of the Judaism and Christianity that came before it; this claim deserves some attention.

First of all, we must contend with the notion that a revelation replaces another in the first place. For example, Islam's central belief is the replacement of Judaism and its tenets; why? The answer that Islam gives is that the Jews, the supposed followers of Judaism, went off the path and strayed from the message of the Torah and the reiterations of the prophets. Not to mention, they also deliberately altered the text for their own purposes, i.e., to advocate a lie that they were the only chosen people.

However, why must one group's revelation be intended for another? For example, G-d gave the Torah to the Jews when there were no other people in the world that were ready to accept and embrace a notion of pure monotheism, and it is necessary to mention that there were no Muslims alive at this point in human history. If the Muslims had been alive then, then they could have accepted the monotheistic point of view. Thousands of years later, when the Arabs, through their figure Muhammad, had their own monotheistic revelation, it did not suffice them to live with it on their own, they felt that they had to spread their particular monotheistic viewpoint to the Jews. The question is "why" and the answer is that they viewed (and had to) Divine Revelation as a continuing process. In this they are right save for one minor mistake; the Jews also believe in continual Divine Revelation, but in the sense that G-d reveals Himself from one group to another until the whole world is united under Him. To contrast, Islam believes in continual Divine Revelation in the sense that one Revelation has to replace another; it is not sufficient that different groups of people exist in the same world with different understandings of pure monotheism. This attitude is what gave the Jews the ability to accept the theology and existence of Islam, while the opposite of this attitude is what made Judaism intolerable Muslims.

We must also wonder what more there is to be learned by a new revelation; if G-d gave the eternal Torah to the Jews, there is nothing new for Islam to teach to Jews, which would also mean that Jews can remain Jews and be honest to G-d's will. This makes Islam irrelevant for Jews, which is one reason why Muhammad had such a violent reaction to Jews when they rejected him.

But it doesn't make Islam irrelevant for Muslims; they were not around when the Torah was given to the Jews, and it's quite possible (and wise) to consider Islam "Torah for Muslims," the problems begin when Muslims want Jews to become like Muslims. For instance, Muslim tradition explains that the prophets of the Torah, which describes them as "Muslims," castigated the Jews for straying from G-d's message, which would have returned them to G-d, to submission, or Islam. When we consider that the prophets were Jews telling Jews to return to the Torah, it makes sense, but when Muslim tradition defines those who followed G-d as Muslims and those who didn't as non-believers (who just happened to be Jews), then we get a formula for confusion. Indeed, we can say that Jews are still supposed to live with the Torah, while Muslims are supposed to live with Islam. It is inaccurate to say that Islam replaces Judaism, but rather that Islam replaces polytheism for Arabs in the same way that Judaism did for the Hebrews. Having said that, there is nothing for the Jews in Islam; all that they need and indeed, all that G-d asks of them is required in the Torah. Islam is not a "final revelation" in the sense that they replace one another, it is "the only revelation," for Arabs. Islam should be careful not to turn the final revelation into the final solution.

Furthermore, let's be honest, the Jews have been around longer than the Muslims, which has given them the opportunity to shift with the times and adapt their own monotheistic tradition in concordance with the Torah's Law on their own; there is nothing that Islam, the Q'uran, or Muslim jurisprudence can contribute to this process. In fact, all it can do is the opposite, it can fight the Jews and try to force change on them in ways that they do not approve, which, unfortunately, it has done repeatedly and continuously through history; this can largely be attributed to its necessity of viewing itself as the final and only revelation that everyone must conform, confirm, and convert to. Jews have had their own struggles with the surrounding world when it came to the exposure of monotheistic ideals to the pagan and polytheistic world and have caused struggles and even rifts in the Jewish religious sphere, not to mention, another religion (Christianity). Islam should worry about its own internal realities and less about Judaism's life, which, not to mention, would be an adviseable political strategy for Arabs when it comes to Israel; there is a clear connection between these two Muslim attitudes towards things external. Islam's aggression is also attributed to the power (that it once had), which meant that it reached harmony with its neighbors in ways other than letting them practice their own religions, but through power.

But the struggle to bring the knowledge of monotheism to the world cannot end, although it will have to change in form without taking away from its core truths, and violent force is not the proper, nor the effective means. Islam cannot be blamed for attempting to unify people under a monotheistic vision, for this too is the Messianic vision of Judaism and the Torah; the only thing that can be called into question is the method, and even more than this, Islam's urge to replace Judaism as part of this process of bringing knowledge of monotheism to the world. If monotheism is truly what Islam wants (which is what the Jews want), then it will have to relinquish its belief that it has the monopoly over G-d and see Judaism and Jews for what they are, the original and perpetual bringers of this type of knowledge to the world, not as corrupted sinners. Notice that Judaism does not call for, or try, to replace Islam with Judaism, for considering Islam's numbers and purported belief, it is clear that it has a high potential for goodness; we are all waiting for it to be unlocked and released. Afterall, Jewish tradition says that Ishmael did t'shuva (a loose translation of 'repented') and was a "tzaddik," a righteous person.
Channukah 2005

Larry Domnitch, THE JERUSALEM POST  Dec. 26, 2005


What induced Antiochus Epiphanes to attempt to eradicate Judaism? Some speculate that he had his own political motives. However, he initially had good relations with the Jews who had helped him take Jerusalem from his rival, the Egyptian Ptolemy. The chronicler of that era, Josephus Flavius mentions that Antiochus initially granted Jews the right to keep their laws. (Josephus Flavius, Antiquities, Book XII, chapter 3:3) He had also decreed that the Temple of Jerusalem continue to be respected by all as a Jewish institution under Jewish auspices. Furthermore, the attempt to eradicate an existing nation by outlawing their religious practices was unprecedented.

One might presume that all of Antiochus's predecessors who had ruled over the Land of Israel for over 150 years since the conquest of
Alexander the Great, had themselves, imagined forcing Hellenism and idolatry, the universal creeds of the time, upon the Jews. All other
nations readily accepted Hellenism, so naturally the question arose, what about the Jews?

The Jews for the most part were left alone to practice their faith and live their way of life. The Greeks initially on favorable terms with the Jews, had also understood that they were steadfast in their beliefs, and there was a futility of attempting to force them to accept other creeds and practices.

However, as Antiochus Epiphanes ruled, the numbers of Jews who had embraced Hellenism were increasing. Those Jews known as, mityavnim sought to popularize Hellenism among the Jews. The Book of Maccabees quotes the Hellenists who proclaimed, "let us go out and make a covenant with the heathen around us." (Maccabees 1:11)

As two brothers, both mityavnim, and heirs to the position of the High Priesthood feuded for that position, one of the brothers, Menelaus, went to the emperor and told him that the mityavnim were "desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living" (Antiquities, book 12, Chapter 5:1). He then proposed the construction of a Greek style stadium in Jerusalem, to which the emperor consented.

When Antiochus eventually issued his infamous decrees outlawing Jewish practices, the Jewish Hellenists readily consented. "They (the mityavnim) profaned the Sabbath and sacrificed to heathen altars" (Maccabees 1:43).

IT IS plausible that Antiochus was influenced by the existence of the mityavnim from whom he might have perceived that the Jews'
tenacity and resolve could actually be broken. If some Jews could accept Hellenism, maybe they all could. However, the Jews proved him

There have been similar situations facing the Jews in their history. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet regime banned
Jewish observances and closed Jewish houses of worship. Similar to Antiochus, their intent was to eliminate Judaism by destroying its
spiritual sources. Jewish assimilation in the Soviet Union was on the increase. Furthermore, there was a comparatively small but vocal
Jewish wing of the Communist Party, which in 1918 passed a resolution that called for "suspending the operations of Jewish institutions" within Jewish communities. A section of the Jewish communists, known as the Yevsektzia, also zealously aided efforts against Judaism in Russia. They helped the regime close religious institutions, and informed on those Jews who continued Jewish observances clandestinely. The Soviet authorities were also no doubt influenced by their modern day mityavnim.

However, during the difficult years of Soviet rule, courageous efforts among Jews who acted as modern-day Maccabees, persevering to
preserve their heritage, bore outstanding results. Today there are multitudes of dedicated and observant Jews from the Russian republics in Israel, and other communities worldwide.

PRESENTLY, THE world watches the nation of Israel. As nations line up to pressure and demand more Israeli concessions, what if the people of Israel held their ground? What if they categorically said no to a Palestinian state and to the pressure? What if they proclaimed that they have but one country while the Arabs have virtually unlimited territory? What if they stated that no nation can be compelled to facilitate the creation of an entity that would continue to oppose and act against its very existence? If the Jews were unmovable, world reaction might be different.

Instead, President George W. Bush, Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the EU, and various other world leaders speak of visions of
Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, although there is no tangible sign that these visions have any value.

But when many in the Israeli media and Knesset, along with American Jewish leaders utter the same lines, and espouse the same positions,
what reaction from world leaders should one expect?

The pressure we face may not be so much about George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the EU and the UN, as about an internal Jewish issue of self image; of how Jews perceive themselves within the global community.

Will events of the modern times compel Jews to seek to merge with the international community at the cost of imperiling the well-being of the Jewish state? Now is the time for modern Maccabees to stand up.

The writer is the author of The Cantonists: The Jewish Children's Army of the Tsar recently released by Devora Publishing.