Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kiwi's Questions #1

The following is from an email I received from Kiwi the Geek, a long-time Psychotoddler reader and fellow blogger on Our Kids Speak. She has some interesting questions and I thought it would be good to post them here so that people more knowledgeable than me can have a chance to respond to them. Specifically, she is looking for the Orthodox view, but I'd be interested in all points of view. If any of you know of someone who can answer these questions authoritatively, please direct them here.

Part 1:

I hope this doesn't weird you out too much, since I'm a Christian, but I have some questions about prophecy & Israel & such that you might be able to help me with, or direct me to some websites. If you don't mind. I just watched a documentary on the subject. Obviously some of the answers are in my Old Testament, but I don't know where to find them...

Apparently part of what was once Israel -- the tribes of Mannasseh, Reuben, and Gad -- are now undisputed territory of Jordan. (By undisputed I mean in contrast to the West Bank and Gaza.) Are these considered the rightful territory of Israel today or not, since those tribes requested the land long after God's many promises, just before the Israelites began to take possession of Canaan? Are there groups that want to reclaim that area as well?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. It depends, I guess, by what you mean by the word "Israel". Israel today is a country defined by people of the world. I don't believe the territory of the modern country Israel necessarily has anything to do with G-d's promise to the Jews. That is, before 1948, G-d's promise was as valid as it is today. Unfortunately, as we are still in galut and have not yet merited the redemption, we are not yet worthy of having His promise fulfilled. Nevertheless, we are very lucky to have a country (albeit a secular one) that is where our future home will be, may it be soon and in our days. That being said, I don't consider any of Israel to be rightful territory on the basis of G-d's promises. What is rightfully theirs is territory acquired through the same process by which other countries have defined their own borders (e.g. territory won in a war where they were not even the instigators!).

All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the commenter and do not necessarily express those of Orthodox Jews (a group of which I count myself a member). For all I know, I may be way off :)

Anonymous said...

Ayelet, that seems like an almost word-for-word explanation I heard from a rabbi just a few weeks ago. Of course, there was another fervently Zionist rabbi nearby who called it all hooey and said we should be trying to take it all back, but I think that's way outside the mainstream. (Right? I could be wrong, but I've never heard anyone go so far before.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Ayelet, I wondered about that too. I seem to vaguely remember a prophecy that the Jews wouldn't return to faith as a group until the Messiah actually arrived, but I don't remember if that was Jewish or Christian. (which would refer to the second coming of Christ.) So that means maybe this should be a 2-part question: Is the land east of the Jordan considered rightfully part of Israel by those who are trying to take it with or without God, and is it considered part of Israel with respect to the prophecies.

Am I allowed to say 'God' around here? Cuz it's a habit, for me.

Anonymous said...

We were taught in grade school that when writing G-d we should not spell out the whole name, because it is like taking His name in vain. Also then, you can't throw out the paper you wrote it on. Even though it's not a true "name" (more of a job description). False gods can be spelled out just fine (just like you can say elohim acheirim, ie other gods, because it is not a reference to G-d Himself).

Those crazy Jews. Don't worry Kiwi, we won't try to burn down your town if you write out the G word.

Anonymous said...

Although many authorities will tell you that backspacing type is not the same as erasing print, so typing God and "throwing it out" isn't the same as writing it in actual paper.

And as for Israel, from my Ortho-day-school upbringing, I would say that while many/most would love to have Israel as described in the Torah (from the Tigris/Euphrates to the Med. Sea, etc.) we're happy with what we could get - it's better than nothing. There are many on the far right who believe that one day we'll get the rest, and there are probably just as many others in the middle-to-left who believe that one day we'll get along with those on the right - a far reach on both sides to be sure.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I really don't know the Old Testament very well. The Tigris & Euphrates are in Iraq, so the promise covered ALL THAT? Then Israel never occupied even half the promised land, right? Where does it say the boundaries? I wanna look it up.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I really don't know the Old Testament very well. The Tigris & Euphrates are in Iraq, so the promise covered ALL THAT? Then Israel never occupied even half the promised land, right? Where does it say the boundaries? I wanna look it up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kiwi,

Here's an angle that may be different, but one that actually is key to the idea of fulfilling the commandments of the Torah.

Israel as an entity is the source of many specific rules and regulations that only apply inside Israel, such as laws regarding not growing food every seven years. The question then is whether a Jew in the geography we are discussing is required to keep those laws or not. That area was certainly subject to these laws in ancient times, and in fact 3 of the 6 required "cities of refuge" were in those lands. (Excuse me for not defining that here, it is not a simple issue, certainly not when described on its face). Therefore so far it seems from a purely law-based perspective that this area is no less "Israel" than Jerusalem.

Once the Jews are united during the Messianic process they will once again find out who belongs to which of the 13 tribes and most sages agree that the best scenario would be for the tribes to again gather in their original dwelling areas, as there are deep spiritual connections between what makes each tribe unique and the land alloted to them. This would mean that the 2 1/2 tribes would again live east of the Jordan, yet another source that tends towards that land being considered as consecrated Israel.

Some of the comments above ("we're lucky to have a country," "we're happy with what we could get") sadden me deeply. Comments like that come from guilt, from the ghetto mentality that unfortunately still seems to permeate so many Jews even today, as it has been an attitude passed down from the shtetl where life was so bad they were happy with whatever they could scrounge. And of course, where to draw the line? Are we "happy" if we "get" to live in Tel-Aviv and the surrounding Gush Dan area only? Of course not. King David would never have spoken like that, nor would have Menachem Begin or Ben-Gurion. Fear of expressing pride and respect for what one believes is right demonstrates cowardice and a total lack of faith, if they have any faith.

There is no clear answer, the question will stand strong until the time is right for the ultimate relationship between Jews and their land.

Anonymous said...

Well, this just shows how far I have to go to get off the secular track and onto a more religious path. Sorry, but the sceptic in me just won't be stifled.

Y'know all those folks who don't believe in global warming? Who think it's a bunch of hooey dreamed up by atheist scientists with a lefty agenda?

Okay, let's suppose the godless geeks are onto something, and their predictions have at least a shred of truth to them. Maybe not Divine Truth with a big "T", but scientific truth, the kind with actual, provable facts attached.

In that case, the whole Middle East will be a dust bowl within a century or so ... a mere blip in terms of Jewish history. Either that, or under a few hundred feet of water as the glaciers melt. I can't remember offhand if Israel is far enough above sea level to avoid Florida's doom, when retirees in Boca Raton will be swimming to their penthouses.

I say the President of Iran was onto something, however unwittingly and malevolently. I say we carve out some serious real estate in Alaska while the going's cheap. You won't miss Israel when it's uninhabitable.

We can always send Bar Mitzvah boys on scuba expeditions to the Western Wall, if need be.

Okay, I'm sure I'll get struck by thunderbolts for this one. Fire away ...

Anonymous said...

Why does it take so long for a comment to post? It never actually says it's finished, I just come back in an hour and reload the page.

So what you're saying, Wandering Chew, is that even the land historically occupied by Jews isn't really Israel, because the Jews aren't observing all the laws?

Are there any groups of Jews who know what tribe they're from? I thought some could trace their lineage back to the ancients.

What is a shtetl? I thought PT said once that he worshipped alternately at a shul or a shtetl, but here it seems to mean a village.

Am I right in thinking that Begin & Ben-Gurion were leaders of Israel circa 1940s-60s?

Anonymous said...

Kiwi - I think most Jews today descend from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. That is based on the understanding that the other tribes were exiled from Israel earlier and were "lost" (Have you ever heard the term "the lost tribes"?), i.e. never returned. Of course, there are those who have a tradition that they descend from Levi and are thus either kohanim, priests, or regular Levites. The significance of this tradition is based on the fact that the priests served in the temple as did the Levites who were not priests (they were charged with the musical aspects of the services). Today, those who believe they are priests have specific roles in the prayer services during important holidays. They also are honored during Torah readings and other services with being first up.

PT probably said shul or shteeble, which is a smaller, homier, usually hassidic type of synagogue. Shtetl, as you correctly inferred form context, does mean village.

Wandering Chew - what's wrong with feeling lucky to have a country of our own? I don't delude myself into thinking that this is in any way near the ideal that we will hopefully merit very soon. Is it inappropriate to be thankful for what Hashem has granted us in galut (i.e. a chance to live near holy places, relative religious freedom in many places in today's world, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

Shteeble, that's right. Shtetl seems to have a connotation of a persecuted village, say in Eastern Europe, where they might be subjected to a pogrom any day of the week?


The other tribes were 'lost' by being exiled, but did those Jews all get wiped out? It would seem not, if every tribe will be represented when Messiah comes back. 12,000 from each tribe, or is that in the New Testament? I can't remember. So if descendents of those tribes are still alive, did they forget they were Jewish, because of intermarriage and worshipping other gods? I read recently about a racially mixed group that's concentrated in the Appalachians, among whom Jews are represented. But their Judaism is very syncretic, if that's a word.

Anonymous said...

Kiwi, I feel your pain. I also have a hard time with foreign terms and references. You get invited to this site and you're all excited thinking we're finally going to teach you the secret handshake, only everyone starts shouting in gibberish.

What you need to know is that you can't speak parseltongue unless you have Slytherin blood in you. Oh wait, that's JK Rowling. Wrong epic (it's the stupid pills. Sorry).

I have also struggled through "Moses Potter and the Tablets of Stone" looking for answers, but I'm pretty sure my eyes glazed over during the passages where the Secret Is Revealed. Though I guess most Christians are convinced it's in the sequel.

Me, I think Israel is important (and this is just me) because everybody else has their piece of dirt. Estonians, Latvians, Moldovians and a bunch of other never-heard-of-'em tribes all squawked and threw up boundaries, why not us? The most disenfranchised people in history?

And if the U.S. ever reneges on George Washington's promise that "the sons of Abraham will always have a home here", I'll be buying those one-way El Al tickets.

I just don't think G[backspace]D is involved in this particular real estate transaction. I think S/He is too busy fretting about the Andromeda Galaxy, which is headed right this way. If I were G[backspace]D, I'd be working on the whole entropy question and trying to put Humpty Universe back together again, not dithering over lines in the sand down on teensy Planet Earth.

But then, there's no Five Books of Anne, is there?

Anonymous said...

Why does it take so long for a comment to post?

Questions, questions, questions, Kiwi. Chaim's just getting too fancy. Chaim, the JIBs are over and we LOST. Get over it!

So what you're saying, Wandering Chew, is that even the land historically occupied by Jews isn't really Israel, because the Jews aren't observing all the laws?

I think what he was saying was that for now, the only significance of the biblical boundaries of Israel has to do with whether you are required to do certain things when you live within them.

If you live in Israel, then every 7th year you can't grow your crops, and you can't buy produce from Jewish farmers who do grow then (there's your eco-friendly religion right there, Anne). You're supposed to let the land rest. After 7 of these cycles you get a Jubilee I think.

But if you live outside of these borders, you can grow fruit every year. So the significance to whether Amman is in the biblical zone has to do with whether you are required to rest your field there or not. It has nothing to do with how observant you are.


Anonymous said...

Questions, questions, questions, Kiwi.

I've always been known for my prolific questioning. ;o)

So the significance to whether Amman is in the biblical zone has to do with whether you are required to rest your field there or not.

But an observant Jew would do it anyway, right? That doesn't even matter, I got my original question mostly answered, but you see how I just can't stop myself? I have a few more, but they don't matter either. I just get so trigger-happy when I'm around you Jews, there are so many questions to be asked!

Anne, I learn quick, and PT, for one, usually answers my questions, except when he's a smart mouth. ;o) And I don't mind reading the OT, probably know it better than most Christians. I tell the stories to my Sweetie at bedtime. I just love to learn, but I don't know prophecy whatsoever, and haven't succeeded in finding a good source to learn. I'm told Jewish Christians can find the answers in the Tanach, which is apparently a basis for their belief.

And if the U.S. ever reneges on George Washington's promise that "the sons of Abraham will always have a home here",

I never heard that! must find reference...

Anonymous said...

But an observant Jew would do it anyway, right?

Not if he doesn't live in the biblical land of Israel. I don't rest my fields.

I just get so trigger-happy when I'm around you Jews

We have quite enough of that going around, thankyouverymuch.

Jewish Christians

Ain't no such animal. Pick a team.

Anonymous said...

On the lost tribes and how will all tribes be represented during the time of the messiah: It is highly likely that individuals from all 12 tribes were in southern Kingdom at the time of the destruction of the northern kingdom (on business, in Jerusalem, etc) Remember the whole area was pretty small. Imagine if the northern half of the US was wiped out. There would still be people from the northern states sprinkled throughout the remaining states. That said, most Jews today are probably from Judah and Benjamin, as someone else noted. When the messiah comes, we believe he will tell each Jew what Tribe they come from.

Anonymous said...

I am going to try to answer the original question. If you look in the Bible(somewhere in Deuteronomy) you will see a description of the borders of the land of Israel, as described by God. Of course, there are a number of interpretations as to exactly what those borders exactly are, and a number of maps exist with lines that are the best known approximations of what they are. The land to the east of the Jordan was not part of it, but since they had been conquered, were allowed to be part of the Land of Israel(this term will refer to the Biblical borders/country). Indeed, when Moses was setting up cities of refuge, three were on the East side of the river, and three were on the West, validating the inclusion of the East side in the Land of Israel. The East bank of the Jordan(and indeed most of the Biblically defined Land of Israel) frequently was not in Jewish hands, even in the time of the First Temple. During the time of the Second Temple, as best as I know, the East side was not in Jewish hands.
Fast forward to the 20th century. The British mandate initially included both sides of the Jordan, but the British split off Jordan. Therefore, what was left to split between the Jews and Arabs(a political/geographical settlement, not a religious one) was the West side of the Jordan. There has actually been an Arab state in Palestine(here defined as the borders of the British mandate) since Jordan's independence(Jordan not previously having been an independent state throughout recorded history, as far as I know, but a European creation). The limiting of Jewish claim to the West side of the Jordan has been a funciton of realpolitik, and not a limitation on religious aspirations. In fact, I grew up with the saying "shtei gadot l'Yarden, zu shelanu, zu gam keyn"- The river Jordan has two banks, this one is ours, and this(other) one is also ours. (I even made it into a song :-)).

The short answer therefore is that religious Jews yearn for a restoration of the entire Land of Israel, but it is in context of a religious restoration(messiah), not just a geographic restoration. Therefore, it is somewhat pointless to agitate for land that is presently a recognized Arab state. It would get us nowhere. However, we have neglected the(possibly politically useful) arguement that an Arab state already exists in (the majority) of Palestine already.

Anonymous said...

And if the U.S. ever reneges on George Washington's promise that "the sons of Abraham will always have a home here",
I never heard that! must find reference...

You can find a very clear summary of the source material here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/bigotry.html

Basically, it's a quote from a letter that George Washington, as President, wrote to the Jewish congregation in Rhode Island in 1790. The relevant quote from the letter:
"May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Anonymous said...

In the last college religion class I took, the professor showed us a neat documentary on the Lemba Jews and the kohayn tradition, and how anthropologists finally started taking their claim that their ancestors came from Israel more seriously once they did some DNA-related comparative blood typing between the Lemba kohaynim and other kohayns from the world population.

That was significant of nothing, except that the Lemba consider themselves one of the Lost Tribes.

Anonymous said...

That is interesting, except that by definition, Cohanim (Priests) are all direct descendants of Aaron, and therefore from the tribe of Levi. BTW I think that is amazingly cool that these Cohanim and Levites can trace their ancestry all the way back. Even if only 5% of them were correct, it would still be an amazing feat.

Anonymous said...


Do you have a field to rest?

Anonymous said...

Well...no...not as such. But I'll tell you this, if I DID have a field, I wouldn't rest it every 7th year. Nosiree.

Anonymous said...

Where did my comment go?


Anonymous said...

My comment got lost too. Trying again...

Jewish Christians - Ain't no such animal. Pick a team.

At risk of starting WW3, I have to respectfully disagree. I don't wanna start another debate here, or turn this blog to undesired purposes, so come over to my place. PT, I hope you'll come, as I covet your input. For the record, I did NOT ask these questions so I could discuss Judaism vs. Christianity, or convert people.

dilmadilbert, when you refer to the arab state, do you mean Jordan, or the West Bank & Gaza governed by the PA?

Thanks, REReader. That's a wonderful quote!

And just to be a smart mouth, what would you call a person who was ethnically Jewish and religiously Christian?

Anonymous said...

If you want to see what they think might be part of the ten lost tribes, check out Simcha Jacobovics video, "The Ten Lost Tribes" (or at least I think that's what it's called). We watched it in school, very interesting and informative.

Anonymous said...

And just to be a smart mouth, what would you call a person who was ethnically Jewish and religiously Christian?

By Jewish law, I would call them Jewish Apikorsim (heretics, from the Greek "Epicurean"). In practice, I have known several such, and I have never had one of these people ask me to my face what I would call them, and I feel no obligation to impose my views on them. On the contrary, I feel far more inclined to model what I consider appropriate beliefs and otherwise let them be.

Anonymous said...

Back to the original question --

I don't buy into the "Greater Biblical Israel" theory of the modern State of Israel. The Biblical Israel was defined as all the territory within the political borders of the the Israelite/Judahite tribes or monarchy. They fluctuated quite a bit. Minimally, it meant Judah (a few miles north of Jerusalem and south almost to Eilat) as a vassal state of whatever empire happened to be passing through, and maximally, it meant a land including parts of modern day Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. People who think the modern state is equivalent to "Biblical Israel" probably don't realize for how short of a period (less than a century) Judah/Israel was a powerful, large, united state even if we take the Bible at its word as history.

This position allows us to view the modern state in a pragmatic sense, rather than a purely ideological or mystical sense. The Jewish state serves a purpose now for today's Jewish people whether or not a magical "messianic" redemption occurs in the near future.

Modern Jews probably include people from Judah, Benjamin, Levi, and any the descendents of refugees who escaped from the destroyed kingdom of Israel to the kingdom of Judah. There are also some groups who maintained some vague Jewish or Jewish-like customs, with vaying degrees of success. The Ethiopian Jews are among them.

And, to unrelated topics: I consider myself a reasonably observant Jew, and I refer to our God as "God" in English all the time. It is my understanding (and that of many others) the the prohibition refers only to the Tetragrammaton (the four letter name of God). I wrote a rant about a similar topic here if anyone's interested. Of course, one should treat all religious writings with respect. It is also questionable as to whether what one writes on a computer is equivalent to writing and/or erasing. If it were, it would never be possible for a Jew to (and this is so off-topic now that I will end my rant here).

Anonymous said...

oops -- sentence cut off:

If it were, it would never be possible for a Jew to use a computer (and this is so off-topic now that I will end my rant here).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Elf.

I've pretty much got the answer to my question now, on this thread at least. Thanks everybody!

Anonymous said...

If all Jews will be told to which tribe they belong when the messiah comes, to what tribe will converts belong? I'm a convert so the answer to this question is important to me!

Anders Branderud said...

Reply to Kiwis comment about "Jewish Christians":

(le-havdil), A analysis (found here: www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archaeology using a rational and logical methodology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

Judaism and Christianity have always been two antithetical religions, and thus the term “Jewish Christianity” is an oxymoron
The mitzwot (directives or military-style orders) in Torah (claimed in Tan’’kh (the Jewish Bible) to be the instructions of the Creator), the core of the Judaism, are an indivisible whole. Rejecting any one constitutes rejecting of the whole… and the Church rejected many mitzwot, for example rejecting to observe the Shabat on the seventh day in the Jewish week. Examples are endless. Devarim (“Deuteronomy”) 13.1-6 explicitly precludes the Christian “NT”. Devarim 13:1-6 forbids the addition of mitzwot and subtraction of mitzwot from Torah.

Ribi Yehoshuas talmidim Netzarim still observes Torah non-selectively to their utmost today and the research in the above website implies that becoming one of Ribi Yehoshuas Netzarim-followers is the only way to follow him.

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