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Why is it that if you are not in support of the state you are automatically deemed anti-semitic?

March 31, 2008

Dear Rabbi,

Why is it, when discussing the state of Israel, that if you are not in support of the state you are automatically deemed anti-semitic? And no such discussion can take place without one being called a neo-nazi? Regardless of your words and feelings towards those of the faith, mention the state of Israel (nothing to do with Judaism) and if you are not in support of a state you are a nazi? Is this to discredit any such conversation or line of thought? If so, how wide-spread is it? Your web-site is very informative, and I thank you for it.

Yes, many Zionists do use the slur of anti-Semite to silence any criticism of their state. Other Zionists recognize that the critics may not necessarily be motivated by anti-Semitism, but say that they should keep quiet anyway because it leads to anti-Semitism. This was the subject of a recent U.S. State Department report.

Read our reaction to this here.

More moderate Zionists distinguish between minor criticism of their state and denying its "right to exist". They maintain that while criticizing certain actions of the state of Israel is okay, one who says that the state has no right to exist as a Jewish state must be an anti-Semite; why else would he deny the rights of the poor Jews to a small piece of land to call their own?

We, traditionally Orthodox Jews, are against the existence of a Jewish state on religious grounds. We base ourselves on Jewish legal texts which we don't expect non-Jews to believe in. Therefore it is hardly credible for a non-Jew to claim, as we do, that he loves Jews yet opposes any Jewish state because of the texts that we quote: the Jews are commanded to stay in exile etc.

Rather, if a non-Jew wishes to express the position that there should be no Jewish state without sounding anti-Semitic, he should stress that it would be better for the Jews themselves not to have a state, both in terms of their moral image in the world, and in terms of their safety. He should also accompany his statements against Zionism with positive statements about Jews in order to dispel any impression that he is anti-Semitic.

Thank-you for this advice. However I have learned that discussions regarding the state of Israel are rarely logical, and generally full of accusations and haters on all sides. So I have learned not to offer my opinons on the matters involving the current state. I am curious though regarding prophesy. Do you believe the current state and all thats going on is mentioned in prophesy? If so what should I read? All I have now is the Torah, is there any other literature you would suggest?
Thanks again.

P.S. Also, if you have the time or interest would you be willing to answer some questions regarding the time of Noah?

The prophets do speak of a war that will take place between Gog, leader of a nation called Magog, and the Jewish people. See Ezekiel 38:18-39:29. From Zachariah 14:1-21 it seems that there will be a whole coalition of nations going to war against Jerusalem.

The Talmudic sages did not possess prophecy but they did speak with a certain degree of holy inspiration. They predicted: "The son of David (i.e. the messiah) will not come until the low kingdom is gone from Israel." (Tractate Sanhedrin 98a).

The Aramaic interpretation of the Bible known as Targum Yonasan says, "The king messiah will say, I adjure you, my people, the house of Israel: why do you fight against the nations of the world to leave the exile? Why do you rebel against the forces of Gog and Magog? Wait a little bit until the nations that come to wage war in Jerusalem are gone, and then the Master of the World will recall for you the love of the righteous, and it will be His will to redeem you." (Translation of Song of Songs 8:4)

The Abarbanel (15th century Spanish Jewish commentator) writes, "G-d will put into the hearts of the nations of Edom to conquer the lands of Ishmael, and in particular the Land of the Deer (i.e. the Land of Israel), for all of them long for that land since the grave of their messiah is there. And especially when they see Jews gathered there, their anger will burn and they will conquer those lands, and they will smite the descendants of Ishmael with the sword and killing and destruction, and the descendants of Ishmael will gather and go to war against them in Jerusalem, and they will kill them and destroy them. (Mayanei Hayeshua 11:8)

The following is from the Talmud, Bava Basra 73b:

Rabbah bar bar Chanah said: One time we were traveling on a boat, and we saw a fish on whose back sand had settled, and a swamp of reeds had grown up on it. We thought it was dry land, so we went up and baked and cooked on it. And when its back got hot, it turned over, and if the boat had not been nearby, we would have drowned.

The Emes Leyaakov, a commentary on the Talmud written by Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa (1770-1832) explains this as an allegory:

He (i.e. Rabbah bar bar Chanah) saw with holy inspiration that it will happen before the coming of Moshiach that Israel, which is under his dominion, will lift itself up over the other nations. And the nations are called "the fish", and this is what it means, "sand settled," for chalsa (sand) is from the word choleh (sick), so it means that this nation's power was weakened, and "a swamp of reeds had grown up on it", for agma (swamp of reeds) is a language of subservience and lowliness, as the Aruch says, from the words, "bowing the head like a reed" (Yishaya 58:5). In other words, subservience grew on the nation. "We thought it was dry land" in other words, they thought that their (i.e. the nations') hopes had dried up, "and we went up and baked and cooked" in other words, Israel wanted to lift itself up over them and rule over them. "And when its back got hot, it turned over" in other words, they (i.e. the nations) turned over and became stronger over them. "And if the boat had not been nearby we would have drowned" in other words, this thing will happen shortly before the redemption, and when they turn over and become very powerful over Israel, if not for the closeness of the redemption, we would have drowned.

Maimonides at the end of his Letter to Yemen (in which he teaches the Jews of Yemen not to follow a certain false messiah) writes:

And these are things the prophets have already foretold, and they have told us about what I have told you, that when the time of the true messiah draws near, there will be many who lift themselves high and place doubts in people's minds, but their claims will not be born out, and they will perish and many will perish with them. And when Solomon, peace be upon him, told with his holy inspiration, that this nation when it is sunk into exile will try to arouse itself not at its proper time, and they will die because of this and travails will come upon them he warned against this, and made an oath against this in an allegorical way, and said, "I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem&" And you, our brethren, our beloved keep his oath and do not arouse the love before it is desired!

What do you want to know about the time of Noah?

Thank-you again Rabbi for the information and suggested texts. I apologize for this tardy response, but I've been reluctant to ask...kind of silly I suppose. My questions regarding the time of Noah deal with the Nephilim and the state of technology they may have posessed. I have heard mention (I dont have a written source) that Seth knowing of a coming catastrophe erected two pillars, one of stone and one of brick to record scientific data for later generations. Also, I believe it was Jacob (I'm going from memory so forgive me if I'm wrong) who erected a pillar of stone at Siriad where he wresteld with an angel of G-d. Could any of these pillars mentioned actually be the great pyramid? And if it was built in the time of Noah (not Jacobs time) could that time prior to the flood been one of technology? Much like today, or even more advanced? Could the nephilim have posessed such knowledge? Are they the descendants of a degenerate race due to the mingling of Sethites and Cainites? Or, did sons of G-d (an angelic host?) actually pro-create with the daughters of men? Do you think it relative today when we see very large humans with rows of teeth or extra digits on their hands and feet? Any information you can offer or suggest will be greatly appreciated, particularly regarding the Nephilim and the state of the planet prior to the deluge.

The source for the legend about the pillars of Seth is the Jewish historian Josephus, in his Antiquities 1:2:3:

Now this Seth, when he was brought up, and came to those years which he could discern what was good, became a virtuous man: and he himself of an excellent character, so did he leave children behind him who imitated his virtues. All these proved to be of good disposition. They also inhabited the same country without dissension, and in a happy condition, without any misfortunes falling upon them, till they died. They also were the inventors of the peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars; the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day"

William Whiston, 18th century translator of Josephus, argues that the pillar known to Josephus must have been constructed not by Seth, son of Adam, but much later by the Egyptian king Sesostris, for otherwise it would not have survived the Flood.

Some argue that by this "pillar" Josephus meant the Great Pyramid. I quote:

"In 80 A.D., when Josephus wrote the history of the Jews, the land of Siriad was a part of Egypt in which the religion of Sirius was practiced, and there can be little doubt that Josephus was referring to the Great Pyramid. The late David Davidson who wrote the most extensive works on the Great Pyramid ever published brought out that ancient writers called the Great Pyramid 'The Pillar of Enoch', a son of Seth.

"While Cheops is said to have built it in 2,900 B.C., it is not improbable that Cheops could have the name by which the Egyptians called Enoch. In any event, 'Halley's Bible Handbook not on the Great Pyramid states: "The most amazing thing about the Pyramids is that they were built at the dawn of history. Sir Flinders Petrie calls the Pyramid of Cheops 'the greatest and most accurate structure the world has ever seen'. The Encyclopedia Britannia says, 'The brain power to which it testifies is as great as that of modern man'." If as historians contend, the Great Pyramid was completed in 2,900 B.C., it would have been several hundred years before the flood. The astronomical and mathematical knowledge that went into the building of the Great Pyramid rivals that of any known today. The length of the diagonals of the pyramid's base total 25,827 inches, the number of years for the cycle of the procession of the equinoxes. The length of each base is 365,2422 Hebrew cubits, the number of days in the solar year. Twice the length of the base divided by the height in cubits equal 3.14159, or pi. The Greeks were given credit for arriving at this geometrical equation 2,500 years after the Great Pyramid was completed. By multiplying the altitude of the Great Pyramid by ten raised by the ninth power, one arrives at the figure 91, 840,000 the distance of the earth from the sun. The reason for applying this equation is that for every ten feet up the angle of slope, nine feet is gained in altitude."

Personally, I doubt that Josephus would refer to the pyramid simply as a "pillar" without elaborating, as he usually does. If we accept the archeological-based age of the pyramid, it was indeed constructed before the flood, and did survive the flood, contrary to Whiston's assertion.

Jacob's pile of stones was build much later, and was in Palestine, not Egypt.

There were nephillim or giants before the flood, but they were wiped out, with the exception of Og, king of Bashan, who the Talmud sages say escaped the Flood by clinging to the outside of the Ark. There were other races of giants that arose after the flood: the children of Anak mentioned in Numbers 13, the Emim of Deuteronomy 2:10 and others there. All these races were gradually wiped out.

The Talmudic tradition is that the nephillim arose from the union of angels and men. According to Rashi on Genesis 6:4, Irad, Methusael and Mehuyael, the descendents of Cain, were nephillim.

In II Samuel 21:20 there is mention of a giant, a brother of Goliath, who had six digits on each hand and foot. But there is no evidence of this being a particular race. When it occurs today it is nothing but a freak of nature.

The Jewish tradition looks at Josephus with heavy skepticism. Although he was a Jew who lived at the end of the Second Temple era, his writings are often based on legends he heard or books he read, not on Jewish tradition.

Again Rabbi, thank-you for your time and information. What do you make of the book of Enoch? Is it to be taken seriously? Or just another legend?

There are still several things I would appreciate your opinion on as long as you dont mind answering my questions. This email is regarding the beginning of man. Most people believe the bible states Adam and Eve as the first two humans whom every other human originated from. However while reading Genesis this makes little sense to me for many reasons. Could it not be that G-d created men, and created separately Adam out of the earth? Everything else was being spoken into existence, on the sixth day when G-d created the animals he also created men and women. Genesis 26-31 seems to me that there were many people created to have dominion over the earth (quite a bit broader than just Eden). Could Adam then perhaps be a special man? Formed out of clay, and having life breathed into him? Also, when Cain is exiled, why is he afraid of being killed to the point where G-d had marked him for his safety? How else would he have founded cities? If Adam is special, is it because he's the father of G-ds chosen people? If I may jump around again...what hope (I have heard mention) do gentiles have? This is very important to me, and I would appreciate any input that you may have to offer. Is it true that less is expected of a gentile by G-d?

The Book of Enoch is not considered authoritative, and therefore is not accepted in the Jewish canon. In the Jewish Midrashim, there are conflicting opinions about Enoch. Some say he died, some say he was taken into the Garden of Eden (i.e. the afterlife) alive, and some say he became the angel Metatron.

Your problems with Genesis arise from the fact that there are two stories of the creation of man, one in chapter 1 and the second in chapter 2. In chapter 1 it speaks of creation of man in general, and in chapter 2 it speaks of a specific man, Adam, created out of earth. Later in chapter 2 Eve is formed out of his rib. The Jewish tradition, expressed by the commentary of Rashi, is that the second story is an explanation of the first. So indeed, G-d originally created only one man. The Talmud comments on the fact that G-d created all animals, fish and birds in multitudes, whereas man was created as a single member of the species who later procreated. The Talmud says that this teaches us the great value of one human life, for all mankind comes from Adam, and if someone had killed Adam, he would have been killing a whole world of people who were to descend from Adam. Similarly, if one kills any human being, it is as if he killed an entire world.

Cain was afraid that the wild animals would kill him. G-d puts the fear of man upon the animals (Genesis 9:2) but after his sin Cain was cursed and that fear would no longer be present. In response to Cain's prayer G-d gave him a sign i.e. restored his fear.

G-d expects the gentiles to believe in Him and keep the seven Noahide commandments. Gentiles are also expected to give charity and support the poor (Ezekiel 16:49). Jews, on the other hand, are expected to keep the laws of the Torah, 613 commandments in all (although not all of them apply to all Jews some are only for kohanim in the Temple etc.). A gentile who does what is expected of him is rewarded in the Afterlife.

I'm being very brief if your question is more specific don't hesitate to write again.