The unique, almost mysterious connection between the land of Israel and the Jewish people is at the heart of this remarkable collection of essays. Author Nathan Lopes Cardozo addresses questions such as How is it that contrary to all the laws of history, the Jewish people outlived so many powerful empires? How has such a tiny nation been able to make an unprecedented contribution to the well-being of all of humankind? Why did the Jewish people become a source of endless irritation to those who opposed their ethical teachings? and How can the State of Israel rediscover its Jewish identity as the source of its greatest blessing and hope? As he explores these issues, Lopes Cardozo explains how the Jews, even in their exile, were able to develop almost a portable homeland, taking the spirit and the concept of Israel with them wherever they went.
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About the Author
Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a Jewish scholar and lecturer recognized for his insights into how Judaism can rejuvenate itself. He is the founder and dean of the David Cardozo Academy, the Aron and Betsy Spijer Institute, a think tank dedicated to recapturing the ideological foundations of Judaism. He has lectured on Judaism and Israel at numerous universities, religious academies, and rabbinical colleges.
Read an Excerpt
TO MERIT ISRAEL IS TO MARRY THE LAND
November 16, 2004
Marriage and the merit of living in the Land of Israel have much in common. After Sarah dies, Avraham buys a parcel in the land of Canaan, which includes the cave of Machpela, in order to bury her. Speaking to the owner, Efron, Avraham says: "I will give you the price of the field. Kach mimeni – take it from me – and I will bury my dead there" (Bereshit 23:13). Efron takes the money, and Avraham becomes the official owner of this field and, hence, the legal landlord of a portion of the land of Israel.
The Talmud (BT Kiddushin 2a) connects this incident with the institution of marriage. In Devarim we read (22:13): "When a man takes a woman as his wife. ..." Because the same word, "take" (kach in Hebrew), is used as in the case where Avraham buys the Cave of Machpela, the Sages conclude that in the same way one buys the land of Israel, so one should marry one's wife – with money or an object of value such as a ring. This is an application of an interpretative rule called a gezerah shavah, which states that when two words are identical, even when they are stated in completely different contexts, both passages are subject to the same laws.
This Talmudic ruling has obviously drawn a lot of critique. How can one compare these two cases? Is marrying one's wife the same as buying a piece of land? This seems to be offensive and, in fact, in complete opposition to what a Jewish marriage is all about. Nowhere does Jewish law allow a man to deal with his wife as if she were his possession. In fact, if he does, the woman may demand an immediate divorce. Since Jewish law itself objects to any such comparison, why make it at all?
Many excellent explanations have been offered. Without denying their importance and truth, we would like to suggest a completely different approach. It may well be that the sages wanted to emphasize the holiness of the land of Israel by comparing it to a marriage. One does not buy a piece of the Land of Israel like one buys a piece of land anywhere else in the world. In Israel's case, one marries the land! The land becomes a loving partner, and one's love for this land is of a completely different nature from buying a piece of land or living anywhere else! Jews treat the land of Israel as a living personality with whom one has a deep emotional affinity. They do not relate to it as a possession to use but rather, as a living personality with a soul. It is not the love for a country of which the average native speaks. Like marriage, it is a covenant, and a covenant is built on the basis of duties rather than of rights. It is a pledge, and one does not betray a pledge. Just as during the marriage ceremony the groom gives the bride an object of value as a symbolic expression of his willingness to make sacrifices for her sake, so one "pays" for the land by making a financial offering. Just as in matrimony, where one marries for high and noble goals, so one betroths the land in order to achieve holiness, to transform oneself into a more dignified person and make the world into a better place. The many laws related to the land show that one needs to care for the land almost as carefully as one attends to the needs of one's wife. The Jewish relationship with the land is a love story, which is why Jews were unable to divorce themselves from this land even when they found themselves in exile for thousands of years. One does not abandon one's wife! For other nations this may be difficult to fathom, but for the Jew it is the very air he breathes.
It was Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel (1883–1946), the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, who gave this thought still another important dimension in his work, Derashot el ammi. Just as the giving of a valued object at the time of the marriage ceremony to one's wife is only the first payment, so is the buying of the land only a first installment. No one should ever believe that Israel is an intrinsic inheritance because the Jewish people once bought it piecemeal. One needs to merit it every moment. Just as no marriage will endure unless one continues to toil for its success all the time, so the land of Israel demands one's constant spiritual labor to merit living in it. Anything less will lead to divorce.CHAPTER 2
TO MARRY, TO BUY AND THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL
August 9, 2005
In an extraordinary statement in the Talmud, we get a glimpse into the minds of the sages of Israel just after they witnessed the destruction of the Temple, the murder of millions of Jews, and the complete breakdown of Jewish life in the ancient land of Israel.
"By right we should issue a decree that Jews should not marry and have children so that the seed of Avraham will come to an end of its own accord" (BT Bava Batra 60b).
No statement could better express total despair than these words. Once they realized that the small remnant of the people of Israel had been exiled and forced to live among violent anti-Semitic societies, they concluded that there was no longer any hope for a better future. So why continue to suffer when they could simply fade into oblivion?
Nevertheless, the Talmud reports that the simple Jews of that time chose not to give in to despair. Instead, they opposed their leaders' arguments and decided to rebuild Jewish life wherever possible. This showed courage of an unprecedented dimension. With no country, army or economy and surrounded by millions of enemies whose hatred towards Jews was well-known, these Jews found the strength to marry and raise families. Despite the total collapse of Jewish life, they opted for the seemingly impossible: to continue to build the people of Israel as they had been taught to do by the very leaders who now despaired.
In a similar vein, the book of Yirmiyahu (chapter 32) tells the story of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. In its third year, the Babylonian army caused an unprecedented famine, and deadly plagues killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. When Yirmiyahu predicted that the city would soon fall and that the king himself would be captured, King Zedekiah had him thrown in prison.
While Yirmiyahu was in the dungeon, God appeared to him and told him to buy a piece of land near Jerusalem from his cousin, a man named Hanamel. Only a moment later Hanamel indeed appeared and suggested that Jeremiah buy this piece of land. Consequently the prophet signed a contract with his cousin and had the document placed in an earthenware jar and buried in order to preserve it. Then he announced: "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Houses, fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land" (Yirmiyahu 32:15).
It is utterly astonishing that under the terrible circumstances in which the Jews lived at that moment, one simple Jew had the nerve to walk up to the very prophet who persistently predicted that utter disaster was imminent and dared to offer to sell him a piece of land! No doubt this piece of land was full of corpses and located in a war zone that prevented the new buyer from visiting his property. Who would think of trying to sell, let alone buy, in such a market?
Indeed, it is not Yirmiyahu who serves as the story's hero, but rather his low-profile cousin Hanamel. After all, God told Jeremiah to buy the land, so how could he refuse? On the other hand, Hanamel had heard no word from God telling him to sell. So where did he get the courage even to suggest such a transaction?
Nothing would stop Hanamel from going on with his life. His faith allowed him to buy and sell with the absolute knowledge that one day everything would fall in place and a beautiful Jewish life would start again in our ancestral homeland. Today things may be dreadful, but one day there will be joy. This is the unprecedented faith of Hanamel, which even Yirmiyahu had to acknowledge.CHAPTER 3
THE FAITH OF THE PAINED
July 8, 2004
One of the most astonishing facts about the current situation in the land of Israel is the unprecedented outpouring of faith. While confronted by ongoing terrorist attacks in which hundreds of people have been murdered and thousands injured, we are encountering a new phenomenon in modern Jewish history: in the face of unparalleled pain and disaster, the enormous capacity of trust in God and in Judaism by those who should have been the first to lose it.
Listening to the voices of those who have lost their parents, children or spouses, we realize the infinite power of their faith. Not once have we heard about a case where people walked out on their Judaism because of their immense pain. The religious community, which is currently paying an extremely heavy price, rather than weakening in its commitment to Jewish tradition, shows clear signs of an unprecedented strengthening of its observance and commitment to Halacha and Jewish faith. On more than one occasion young children, while burying a parent – and sometimes both parents at once – have called on their family and friends to increase their religious devotion, study of Torah and love for their people and country. And even in less religious or completely nonobservant circles, there is no abandonment of Jewish values, no flight from the land, but even a certain increase in religious practice.
It would be both vulgar and cheap to invoke Freud's argument of wishful thinking to explain this phenomenon. To argue that people in pain look for a God or a religious way of life in order to cope with their pain will not do. There are just as many arguments for people to abandon religion after suffering atrocities. The best proof of that is the Holocaust. Many survivors or relatives of those who perished abandoned their belief in God or their Jewish observance during or after the Holocaust. And while we would not dare to compare both cases – we surely admit that the Holocaust was a much greater national disaster than anything we are experiencing now – we cannot deny that on a personal level the pain of those who have lost their family in terrorist attacks has been no less.
Faith within the land of Israel is made up of different components than faith outside the land. In the early days of the State of Israel, American diplomats used to complain that whenever they discussed war-related strategies with Israeli ministers, they would become irritated because the latter would, as a matter of course, anticipate the occurrence of a few miracles without which any chance of winning a war would be unfeasible and the whole strategy a farce.
Israel is the land on which God keeps His eye from the beginning of the year till the end. It is the land to which one makes aliyah, to which one ascends, and not to which one descends. It is the land whose stones heard the voices of the great prophets, where the dust on which one walks still holds the footprints of holy biblical Jews and where the air carries the millions of prayers that were sent from all the corners of the world. It is a land that not only touches heaven but that represents heavenly conditions in earthly manifestations. It is the country where faith was born and whence it was carried throughout the world. It seems that faith has permeated the very essence of the land and its inhabitants like air in the heavens.
The secular population is also caught by its powerful manifestation. Even when they do not realize it and perhaps even deny it, they carry the seeds of faith in their subconscious and continue to believe in the unbelievable. They also realize that Israel's predicament at this moment is not just another accidental event in man's history, but rather one with enormous religious meaning. Just like the religious population, they do not know what it entails in terms of a higher meaning, but they also hear a perpetual murmur from waves that reach our shores from a world beyond.
It is like a kind of awe, transcendence and intimation of the divine that enter our space but have not yet landed on the surface of our world. As such, it is not possible to declare war on faith. It is too deep and too authentic. Secular explanations do not have the ability to grasp the profundity of the hour. Even in this struggle, Jews realize that there is a holy dimension to all that happens. Also the realization that the land of Israel still experiences many great miracles, even in the midst of all the atrocities (together with awareness of the utter absurdity of a situation packed in doses of normality so that life is able to continue), allows Jews to remain unmoved to the calls of extreme secularity.
Without diminishing the unspeakable pain of the hour, we should listen carefully to those who have been more affected by this pain than anyone else: those who have lost relatives and will never be able to return to a fully normal life. They, rather than we, the less affected, are the beacons of faith. This is most significant. We had better listen.CHAPTER 4
THE PAIN OF LACKING PAIN COMMENTARY ON A EULOGY IN ISRAEL
October 18, 2004
The story is told of a Great Rabbi who was known never to be involved in any secular endeavor. His whole life was dedicated to spiritual matters, to the study and teaching of Torah. Once, when his students saw him reading The New York Times before he left home for the morning prayers, they were shocked. How could it be that their holy teacher would lower himself to read such mundane material as The New York Times?
"My dearest children," said the rabbi, "I always read The New York Times before I go off to pray. Do you know why? Because when I read about the anguish of so many people in our world, Jews and non-Jews, I feel more in touch with them and then I know what to pray for."
As many tragedies befall our nation in the land of Israel, many of us, especially those who are not personally harmed, have difficulty "staying in touch" with these calamities. This also includes the author. The ongoing tragedies in which men, women and children are killed or severely injured by terrorists create a psychological condition within us which makes us slightly immune. While we are upset and deeply affected by these events, we go on eating and drinking, trying to live a normal life, as much as possible.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People"
Copyright © 2018 Nathan Lopes Cardozo.
Excerpted by permission of Urim Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
How to Read This Book,
An Open Letter to President Shimon Peres,
A Map of Israel and the Arab World,
PART I: ESSAYS,
LOVE FOR THE LAND,
1. To Merit Israel Is to Marry the Land,
2. To Marry, to Buy and the Future of Israel,
3. The Faith of the Pained,
4. The Pain of Lacking Pain: Commentary on a Eulogy in Israel,
5. An Angel Called Chaya Hodaya Schijveschuurder,
6. A Call to Fast and Pray: Gush Katif and the Tsunami,
7. What Will You Tell Your Children? An Open Letter to My Friends and Students Abroad,
8. The Permanent Preciousness of the Secular Jew,
9. An Oath of Loyalty,
10. Proud to Be a Jew,
11. "Not Yet": Jews by Choice,
12. Ilan Ramon z"l: A Jewish Astronaut,
13. What Is a Gavra Rabba – a Great Man?,
14. Leadership and Captainship,
15. Jewish Nobel-ness,
16. Israel's Predicament and the Need to Be a Stranger,
17. Israel's Uniqueness and Its Future,
18. Kreplach and Bissli: Revelation of a Language,
19. The Failure of the Religious Parties: Rabbis with a Knife between Their Teeth,
20. The Danger of Holiness and the Future of Israel,
21. It Is Time to Go to the Synagogue: The Faith of a Heretic,
22. Finding One's Neshama: Franz Rosenzweig and the Berliner Stiebl,
23. The Situation in Israel: A Personal Letter,
24. The State of Jewish Education Today,
25. The Day after Disengagement, or What to Do,
26. The Future of the State of Israel: A Reminder in Difficult Times,
27. God, Gush Katif and New Orleans,
28. The Tragedy of Amona,
29. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and A.B. Yehoshua,
30. A Phenomenon Called Israel: Reflections on a War,
31. The Future of Israel and the Zionist Enterprise: A Different Look,
ISRAEL AND ITS NEIGHBORS,
32. Israel Is Gush Katif: The Palestinian Claim to Israel,
33. Camp David and the City of David,
34. Prayer for the Jewish Soldier,
35. Efron and Arafat: Two of a Kind,
37. Hating War against the Enemy and PR,
38. The World and the Middle East,
39. Prayers for the Wicked,
40. Toward a Solution,
41. Israel and the Nations: Reflections on a War,
42. Europe and Anti-Semitism,
43. Why They Hate Us in The Hague,
44. The Birth of Amalek and the Making of an Enemy,
45. Rembrandt, the Holocaust and the Quest for Authenticity,
46. Boycotting Israel, Suicide and the Trauma of an Anti-Semite,
JEWISH TRADITION AND ISRAEL,
47. The Splitting of the Red Sea and the Miracle of the State of Israel,
48. There Is No Mashiach without a Song,
49. The Mystery of the Second Day of Yom Tov: Another Look at an Old Problem,
50. Hanukkah, Divine Emanations and the Future of the State of Israel,
51. Purim and the War with Iraq,
52. The Tsunami, Vulnerability, Religious Jewry and the Sanctification of God's Name,
PART II: STUDIES,
53. On the Israeli-Arab Conflict: A Biblical Perspective,
54. Hearing and Seeing and the Future of Israel,
55. Jean Paul Sartre, Anti-Semitism and Jewish Identity,
56. Counting Jews: Mortal Danger and Jewish Eternity,
PART III: TWO LECTURES,
57. Jewish Tradition and the Intifada,
58. For God's Sake, Whose Land Are We Occupying?,