Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To Violate the Sabbath or not to Violate the Sabbath; What Kind of Question is That?!

Exodus 16:22-30 (Torah) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Christian Bible) are the verses in discussion here.

According to the English Standard Version of the Christian Bible, Matthew 12:1-8 reads, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of G-d and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Torah allows one to violate a commandment in order to save his life, and is usually applied to a situation such as eating on Yom Kippur and violating Shabbat. The text of 1 Samuel 21:1-7, to which the verse in Matthew refers, indicates that David was hungry, having escaped due to Saul's intent to kill him. According to Rashi, David needed to eat in order to survive, so the Kohen, Ahimelech, after being assured that David and his attendants were in a state of ritual purity (because the show-bread had to be kept in such a state), gave him the bread. In Jewish Law, this is known as "mesirat nefesh," or saving someone's life, which allows the trangression of six hundred and ten out of the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah. Therefore, David's consumption of the bread was proper in the eyes of the Law, which G-d gave.

Second, Exodus 16:22-30, when the Children of Israel are wandering in the desert and receiving the manna, reads, "It happened on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of food, two omers for each; and all the princes of the assembly came and told Moses. He said to them, 'This is what Hashem had spoken; tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to Hashem. Bake what you wish to bake and cook what you wish to cook; and whatever is left over, put away for yourselves as a safekeeping until the morning.' They put it away until morning, as Moses had commanded; it did not stink and there was no infestation in it.
Moses said, 'Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Hashem; today you shall not find it in the field. Six days shall you gather it, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, on it there will be none.'"

That was the background context, this is the verse of emphasis;

"It happened on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find. Hashem said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings? See that Hashem has given you the Sabbath; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.' The people rested on the seventh day."

Deuteronomy 4:2 reads, "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, that I command you." This commandment was given to the Jews before entering the Land of Israel, when G-d informs them that their (willful) violation of the Law will cause the surrounding nations to remove them from the Land. The time in which Jesus and his disciples violated the Sabbath (in Israel) was about 3,000 years after the entrance to the Land, and although the Talmud gives its own reasons as to why the Jews were exiled from Israel, it is interesting to note that Jesus lived a matter of thirty years before the destruction of the Temple and subsequent occupation and exile, by which time his words had already spread and began turning into Christianity.

The Christian Bible states that the Pharisees told Jesus, "
Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." It seems that Jesus responded by citing "mesirat nefesh," the commandment to violate a commandment in order to save one's life. The Gospel says that "his disciples were hungry," so the point is that they were right in eating from the field. However, could they not have gotten their food from some other place? Surely they knew that to violate a commandment was allowable, but the last resort.

Matthew says, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat," but the Torah says, "Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day." Jesus and his disciples, per his own command, did exactly as the Children of Israel did in the desert, they refused to observe G-d's comandments and teachings!

Furthermore, even though Moses himself was not collecting food on Shabbat, G-d chastized him
because he was the leader of the Jewish people, and Moses was not exempt from the Law in any way. Is it not fitting to say that since Jesus was a Jew, and he was a leader, that he led Jews away from proper observance of the Law and actually had them violate G-d's commandments? The point is that Jesus and his disciples had another option that citing mesirat nefesh. Why hadn't they prepared food during the week, as the verse in Exodus commands? If they were hungry, wouldn't the Pharisees had given them some of their food, or invited them over for a nice Shabbos meal rather than chastizing them for violating the Sabbath?

Living under, and rebelling against, an occupying foreign power is not new to the annals of Jewish history. So I decided to make a brief historical comparison/contrast between Jewish behavior and Muslim bevahior under the control and sovereignty of an "other," since it has immediate modern relevance.

Suffice it to say that, after Egyptian slavery, the minority status of Jews historically began with the Babylonian invasion and conquest of Israel, which was met with the Assyrian one. In these historical events, the majority of Jews were taken from Israel into the home countries of their invaders, where they eventually became a part of the culture (in that special Jewish way), and their stay there was put to an end with the creation of the State of Israel. For example, ancient Babylon eventually shifted to Muslim control (7th century) and majority and later became modern-day Iraq, and both Babylon (the polytheistic geographical ancestor of Iraq) and Iraq, the Muslim state created in the 19th country, had a Jewish minority population that mingled its own culture with that of the "host population" and therefore remained alive and Jewish. At times, Jews would flourish, and at other times they would suffer, but religious Jews read and study something known as the "Babylonian Talmud," which is today's authorative compilation of Jewish law, and guess what, it was compiled by the Jewish sages during their years in Babylon. One of the most luminous Jewish texts, touching on every aspect of Jewish life and enriching the Jewish population with spirituality and a connection to G-d, was compiled on the home grounds of the invading country. Why cannot Muslim Palestinians thrive in the "Zionist entity" in the way that the Jews flourished in the Babylonian one?

In the Jewish lexicon, "Babylon," even thought it is an empire or kingdom that no longer literally exists, is a term connected to the invasion and attempted destruction of Jewish religious life, culture, and identity, and is therefore a negative term. The term "Babylonian Talmud" is in no way associated with that same negativity, to the contrary, it is the more authorative of the two compilations of the Talmud (the other being the Jerusalem Talmud, the holiest site of Judaism) and is therefore positive. The Jews viewed the term "Babylon" in the way that Palestinians view the term "Zion" and a rough parallel to "Babylonian Talmud" would be "Zionist Hadith," yet we see no such body of Muslim law expounding upon and uniting the world's Muslims. It is hard to imagine an extremist Muslim religious population flourishing under Jewish sovereignty, and our imagination is not put to the test today. The religious/spiritual life of Jews in Babylon flourished, the religious/spiritual life of Muslims in Israel is stagnant, oppressive, and murderous.

The obvious tension here is of hallmark significance; the Jews of Babylon, facing ultimate destruction, responded by creating the body of Jewish Law that would foster their flourishing and energetic existence into the future. They dealt with harsh and bleak adversity, not by trying to overthrow society, not by murdering Babylonians, not even by merely and passively trying to find a way to survive, but by spiritually re-establishing themselves on Babylonian turf for their own sake and in their own private quarters, therefore defeating the potential stagnation with flying colors. Every scholar knows that this era in Jewish history is associated with a rich flowering of intellectual and spiritual life, with the Jewish sages and rabbi's of the world sending letters to the Babylonian rabbi's concerning matters of Jewish Law and the rabbi's responding accordingly - a concordance known as the "Responsa." However judging by the circumstances, it should have been the grayest, poorest, bleakest, and most desperate time for the Jewish minority, but it was a "golden age."

Fast forward to today's scenario; unruly Muslim minorities has always lead to secession and the creation of Muslim states. In a basic sense, Muslim soceities find it difficult, unbearable, and intolerable to live under the sovereignty of any peoples that is not Muslim. Historically, it is true that there were times when Muslims lived peacefully in countries run by non-Muslims and flourished, but clashes began due to the fact that Muslim theology locates it at a place where it can never take the rank of an element in a society; it must be the society in which another takes the role of the element. Islam places a high value on Muslim sovereignty, not just in its holy sites (the way Judaism does), but in any place that Muslims are a sufficient population. Jews too have historically rebelled, or at least bad-mouthed their oppressors, but they were not in a constant state of readiness to see the fall of the country's order in which they lived and to replace it with a Sanhedrin, which is more-or-less is expressed in Islam as a Caliphate, an organized body of religious leaders that institutes (the respective) religious law.

Jewish religious longing has always gravitated towards Jewish religious sovereignty in Israel, the origination of Judaism and the only home to its holy sites. Muslim religious longing has always gravitated towards Muslim religous sovereignty anywhere in the world where there is a Muslim population, and the two neccessarily intersect in Israel, where Jewish holiness meets an unruly Muslim population. Suffice it to say that this Muslim population, whatever internal difficulties it faces and which are none of my concern, is willing to murder and destroy in order to overthrow and replace. This is why there is no peace between Israeli's and Palestinians, and it is the same reason why there was no peace between them before and during the founding years of the State of Israel.

The Muslims, in a very foundational way, are a deeply religious people; perhaps the world did not understand that the creation of the State of Israel was an insult to Muslim religious sensibilities, but the Muslims living there definitely knew it. In a world where cartoons infuriate Muslims, it should come as no surprise that Jewish states do as well. Yet, it is an insult to Jewish religious sensibilities to hand over their "Mecca" to people who view it as constituting only one part out of all places that Muslims live, which is known as "the Umma." In Islamic thought, religious ownership of land is predicated upon the basis of a Muslim population living within that land, and since there are Muslims living in Israel, it means that Israel is Muslim. This is the oppressive regime that is the Muslim peoples who wish to see Israel taken over; it is not the State of Israel that oppresses the Palestinians, but it is the Palestinian minority that oppresses Israel, exactly in the same way that the extremist Palestinian minority oppresses and bullies the majority population into agreements and concessions.

Living as a flourishing and successful Muslim minority in any state, not to mention, the State of Israel, is not an option as far as the general Muslims trends are concerned. The Muslims who would not mind living in such a scenario are far outranked by those who despise it and wish to see it destroyed - the former are an ultra minority, and if not, then they are paralyzingly silent and stunted by fear of extremists, torture, and death. If it is unnacceptable for Muslims to find themselves under foreign rule by any one of the nations of the world then just how unnacceptable is it for them to find themselves under Jewish rule, the nation that Islam associates as the ultimate in religious backwardsness, the people who G-d beckoned to submit to Him but rejected Him to His "face?" Indeed, there is a place for Jews in the scheme of Islam, a quiet submissive place, and in the event that Jews are loud and resistant, as we are also known for being towards our oppressors, there is another place, and that place is called "jihad." Therefore, we equally have a place for them, and it is not in Israel.