January 28, 2015

Let the Foreigner Come

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:47 pm by yisraelmedad

The activities of certain Christian pro-Israel/Zionism groups, foremost among them HaYovel*, to assist the farmers of Judea and Samaria has caused quite a negative reaction among Jews opposed to Christian cooperative ventures, most recently here and here, and this event.  The following is an expanded reworking of an article I published in Hebrew on the issue.

The remarkable historical development for the past several centuries has been that the Jewish people, while still being persecuted by Christians, are being, in a parallel development, assisted by Christians to realize the ancient dream of the ‘return to Zion’, a process they term as the “Restoration”, and thereby accomplish the establishment of the Jewish national home in Israel. This is true since the days of Sir Henry Finch who, 1621 wrote his “The World’s Great Restauration, or Calling of the Jews”, and Napoleon, Lord Shaftesbury and Laurence Oliphant (who wrote the Land of Gilead) including Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov and his conversations in 1827 with the convert Joseph Wolf to promote diplomacy with the British Consulate in Jerusalem on to Lord Balfour and his declaration and until the present day.

At the present, the help is being expressed at the highest levels in the corridors of governments, foreign ministries, Houses of Parliament and Congresses and on the ground, literally, in acts iof voluntary labor in the vineyards and orchards in the hills of Judea and Samaria, and, in the words of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed:

“In modern times, we have witnessed increased support for Israel among evangelical Christians…They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel…  “Christians fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah”, September 18, 2013.

Are we at a crossroads that requires a new understanding of the period we are in, a reality that demands a new paradigm of cooperation, one based on Biblical sources?

One new approach is this

“We’re not just talking about Christians wanting to help Jews out of solidarity or charity,” Hazony said. “We are talking about the dominant faith of Western civilization saying: ‘The Jews have something to give us, something that we need.’ This is not something that appears in the old playbook for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

In relation to that, let’s recall that Maimonides in his Responsa, 148, permits teaching Torah to Bible-believing Christians because “they could return to the correct path”.  As the verse in Isaiah 27: outlines the three stages, first in future days, Yaakov will take root, and then Israel will flourish and then the whole world will benefit from those blessings we enjoy.  There is, however, another approach.

Coming Closer to Holiness

The new attitude to these Christians should not be shunning in its character, even if there is a justified suspicion that behind this phenomenon may be a desire to exploit our innocence as well as the historical experience of Church-generated anti-Semitism, the killing of Jews and forced conversions. That memory cannot be ignored. On the one hand, we must be wary of those whose intention is to attach themselves with the purpose of luring converts to Christianity. In my experience, volunteer agricultural activities in Yesha are not in that category, and certainly no Jewish residents were proselytized over the many years that these efforts have been conducted.  On the other hand, we need to recognize that the source of their enthusiasm is to help in fulfilling our Biblical prophecies as regards the redemption process.

The foreign volunteers come to us, to the communities of Judea and Samaria, to our orchards. They engage in pruning and planting and harvesting. They are involved in many tasks of manual labor jobs instead of Ishmael, in place of Thais and also in the work places where Jews do not consider cultivating a worthy enough profession. They also contribute and help us in our diplomatic, political and information struggles. They are impressed with biblical truth and the contemporary reality of Yesha and feel they must be part of it.

Do our own Biblical, Talmudic and Rabbinic sources contain relevant material that we can consult to provide us insights? King Solomon was sympathetic and considerate:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name’s sake– for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy mighty hand, and of Thine outstretched arm–when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger called to Thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as doth Thy people Israel, and that they may know that Thy name is called upon this house which I have built. (I Kings 8:41-43)

The late 19th century commentator, the Malbim,  Meïr Leibush Weiser, notes and his description echoes to our own day, that even though the foreigner is in an estranged place which is “unworthy” from a Jewish religious perspective, nevertheless, Solomon asks of God to listen and pay attention to him:

The reason for his ‘coming’ is because it has become known among them that God is great and provides and He draws up the battle lines [ … ] it is well worthwhile to listen to him despite his lack of doing t’shuvah [ … ] even though his supplication is for something unworthy of itself…”.

During our history, the non-Jew “came” and he was afforded a favorable treatment. Examples include Jethro (“And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God; …And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God” Exodus 18:5;12) , Naaman (“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha” II Kings 5:8) and, at the time of redemption, many persons from all nations will come to Jerusalem (“And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established…and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…and we will walk in His paths’”, Isaiah 2:2-3).  Some may claim that a conversion process preceded this.

It is, however, worthy to note that Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, in illustrating his two concepts of tzaddik, in his Kedushat Levi on the portion of Noah, describes the preferred one who “who worships the Creator and causes to wicked to return to also being worshippers of the Creator just as Avraham would engage in conversion”. Judaism began as a conversionary religion and we will probably reach to the future stage of Redemption that way but it is not clear that that is at all supported by the texts in all the examples I include.

The Foreigner is Part of Redemption

In Chapter 61 of Isaiah, verses 1-5, we read:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…to bring good tidings…To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion…And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall renew the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers”.

It seems quite clear that the prophecy relating to the period when the Land of Israel is being reconstituted, from its towns to its fields, non-Jews will be involved, engaged in the labor of strengthening our hold on the land.  The Malbim extends our interpretation by noting that the “stranger” will be called a ‘son of the city’ “even if he is from another nation” and that idol worshippers will provide the needs of the children of Israel.  I find it difficult not to understand the meaning of this verse, as with others, that there surely will be a relationship of dependence on the work and labor of non-Jews.  The verse is employed in the Talmud, Tractate Berachot 35B, by R. Simeon b. Yohai whose opinion is that is it possible for Israel to plough, sow and reap and yet still be able to study Torah and replies:

Is that possible?…No; but when Israel perform the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others

The establishment of Israel in 1948, and the return of Israel to the historic homeland of the Jewish people following the Six-Days War in 1967 including regions that were stolen, represents a cognitive challenge, as well as practical, ideological and theological one, for the Jewish people and not solely for Jews. The development and empowerment of the people residing in Zion, the victories in its wars and its economic, scientific and social achievements pose for the non-Jews not only the question “Who is the Jewish people” but also “Who are we?”.

According to the vision of our prophets as we have seen, the reality of redemption also includes the coming of the strangers, first to help us and support us and then to recognize the best way to a belief in God and His word. So prophesizes the Prophet: “And the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory; and thou shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall mark out.” (Isaiah 62:2), as well as “And aliens shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favor have I had compassion on thee…men may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations, and their kings in procession.  For that nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” (Isaiah 60:10-12)

Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zhitomir, the author of “The Light That Shines”, a student of the Maggid of Mezrich who immigrated to Eretz-Yisrael in 1798 (and in Haifa met Rabbi Nachman who was at that time in the country), interprets the verse in Zephaniah 3:9, “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD” with the radical understanding that the Jewish people must strengthen itself and speak forthrightly in a voice full of holiness, and so bring even the non-Jews to the sacredness:

“We can call to all, even the nations of the world, to bring them closer to the sacred [ … ] to extract from out of them their holy sparks, to bring them closer to the holy and in particular in the future when the level of attainment ability increases in the world from the youngest to the oldest. Then I will turn to the nations to turn them from bad to good, as recalled in the verse [Genesis 49:10] “until Shiloh comes” and such a pure language causes “unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be” that is, to assemble the nations to bring them close to the sacred […] for If Israel has the clear and sacred language they then can collect the sacred sparks within them that sustain them.”

The Way to Those Who Accompany

I would like to suggest a new perspective for discussion based on the current reality on the ground today which would be a “Change of Matrix”. As we are advancing through the stages of salvation, we must prepare, practically and especially consciously, the duty to promote the realization of this proposed dual track development. As I understand it, despite objections and the recoiling of certain rabbis, it is possible to approach the drafting a memorandum of understanding and commitments so that the process of “the foreigner who comes” will not constitute a risk of missionary attempts but a prelude to the next level – “the foreigners who accompany”.

After all, the same prophecies that promise the Jewish people its actual redemption (“And the broad places of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the broad places thereof…the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase…”, Zechariah 8:5;12) are related to the phenomenon of “the foreigner who comes” (“Thus saith the LORD of hosts: there shall come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities…many peoples and mighty nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD”, Zechariah 8:20;22)

The second stage in this process is “the foreigner who accompanies” as it is said:

“Also the foreigners, that join themselves to the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants…Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah, 57:6;8)

According to the commentary “Metzudat Tzion”, composed by Rabbis David ben Aryeh Loeb and Yechiel Hillel Altschuel, father and son, who lived in Prague in the 17th century, the “foreigner” is not yet Jewish in this situation but is “fully equal to the citizen of Israel”, using the same Hebrew term as is found in Ezekiel 47:22, in Exodus 12:19 and Leviticus 16:29.  He is in a process of approaching Judaism, of coming near.  He is impressed with the strength of Israel and its revitalization in its land in all areas of endeavor and we are commanded to bring them closer so that they should eventually accompany us.

In addition, the Radak, Rav David Kimchi (1160–1235), of Provence, commenting on the declaration that the Temple will be a house of prayer “for all peoples”, that whereas the reference is to a stage when the nations adopt Judaism, nevertheless, he refers to the above mentioned verse in I Kings 48:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name’s sake—

and notes that if Solomon realized that if the non-Jew’s prayer would be acceptable within the Temple, then surely when a process of the nations returning to the true faith at a later time is occurring that the convert definitely will pray in the rebuilt Temple.

What is evident is that the foreigner is not to be rejected outright but to be encouraged to come closer and that as the redemption proceeds, there are various stages and, to me, our task is to begin to realign ourselves and to understand that outright opposition to any and all relationships is wrong.  Vigilance is still required.

For example, there are those who promote this illogical approach amongst Christians who purport to be pro-Israel:

We must come to fully understand that the following of Yeshua is the only true and proper extension of Israel spiritually, fulfilled through His life, sacrifice and resurrection, and that Christianity is Jewish. As hard as this maybe for Jewish people and even Christians to understand, if they do not accept Messiah, they like everyone else remain under the curse of sin; that current Judaism whether religious or reformed has no hope for Israel spiritually, except to keep them until their appointed time of awakening, which we know must come before Yeshua returns to us…God is not finished with Israel who must come into an awakening and that along with the church, Israel’s priesthood will be re-established when Yeshua returns.

Dangers exist but I still maintain that matters have altered and in fact, the true message of the Bible is being understood by Christians that delve into the realization of the essence of the Prophets in witnessing Israel’s successes today.  Jews are not released from the need to be able to refute such illogical theology and I am amazed that many Rabbis opposed to the volunteers are uninterested in educating our youth in this sphere, unlike my own experience.

It is not also my wish to relate to the Halachic issue of whether charity or gifts can be accepted from non-Jews.  The literature is not definitively clear-cut but is not totally prohibitive.  Are we perhaps to define the assistance we merit as a “gift”? Is it possible to pay something symbolic to avoid any problems? If we use the non-Jew to replace an electric fuse on the Shabbat or the arrangement for the selling of chametz, perhaps the barrier to their work in the fields is not so complicated. As for the matter of idolatry, in principle, are citizens of Thailand who are Buddhists more “kosher”? Is it better to have Arabs working in our fields?

In this time of our developing redemption, a long-time process, we are being spiritually and materially strengthened. Israel’s position and status should be the one supported in the face of Muslim hostility, local and regional, to Judaism as well as Christianity.  As we confront European anti-Zionism, resurgent world-wide anti-Semitism and, unfortunately, also America’s current diplomacy, we are required us to seek the assistance of friends and allies. Sometimes this aid can be purchased with money as part of the normal relationships between nations, or through mutual assistance in science and technology.  There exist also friends who from out of a spiritual recognition based on the writings of the Bible will come to join us. This assistance should not be shunned but rather we need place it within a framework so that Jews should not be harmed in the Land of Israel.  These initiatives, if non-proselytizing, are, in fact, to be welcomed as they also interconnect with the process of the ‘coming of the foreigner’, for their benefit as well as our welfare.

Of course, one could think that basing one’s paradigm on the words of the prophets has less of an authoritative weight than if it were anchored in the first Five Books of Moses, the actual Torah.  Actually, there is reference in Deuteronomy to this concept of the “coming of the foreigner”.  In Chapter 29, after Moses exhorts the children of Israel to refrain from idol worship and to preserve the special status of the nation predicated on the covenantal relationship as developed through the three patriarchs, verse 21 portrays the future when after the Jews did indeed stray from the commandments and the land of Israel suffered greatly and it reads

“in the last generation, your progeny who will rise ​out of you, and the foreigner who will come from a distant land, will see all the ​plagues dealt this land​ and the illnesses with which God caused it to suffer…”

Let us not ignore the attention paid to the nations of the world through acts for their own good.  In the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 684) we learn that Rabbi Yehuda is quoted saying, “How foolish the nations are! They have lost, yet they know not what they have lost. When the Holy Temple stood, the Altar [with its seventy bulls] would bring them forgiveness. Now – who will bring them forgiveness?

Even as we note that commentators point to the significance of the diminishing character as indicating a different level of spirituality, nevertheless, the bulls were sacrificed on behalf of the non-Jews.  In the above-mentioned verse, Isaiah 56:7, non-Jews bring their own sacrifices, which are of a special category.  So insists the Midrash Sifra 7 on the portion of Emor.  That was in the past.

Indeed, the future redemption has many phenomena and one of them is that a process of the non-Jew being impressed by Israel’s accomplishments and then his ‘coming’, later to be followed, hopefully, by ‘accompanying’ God’s nation, is very much in the matrix.

In the Talmudic tractate Pesachim 68A, a discussion is recorded on the subject of resurrection of the dead in the times of the Messiah. Incidentally, it is there that Samuel expresses his opinion, repeated by Maimonides, that “This world differs from the Messianic age only in respect of the servitude to governments”.  In any case, Rav Shmuel ben Nahmani, basing himself on Rav Yonatan, holds that the righteous are destined to resurrect the dead but ‘Ulla was opposed and made a distinction between Jews and non-Jews based on two verses in Isaiah, 25:8 and 65:20. Asked, “But what is the reason for heathens being mentioned in that circumstance?”, on the assumption that in the days of the Redemption there will be no more non-Jews, he notes a third verse, 61:5, in Isaiah: “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and aliens shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.”  The last Lubavitcher Rebbe viewed this discussion as indicating that even in the end of days there shall exist non-Jews and they shall be assisting the Jews.  The challenge for them, he wrote, is to deal with the verse in Zefaniah 3:9, “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent.”  The Hebrew for ‘consent’ there is shchem, shoulder, as if in the phrase shoulder-to-shoulder and, of course, recalls the city of Shchem, known by its Roman corrupted name, Nablus (Flavia Neapolis).

We should not summarily reject the “coming” and we should also avoid basing opposition solely on suspicions that cannot be proven and moreover, that there is no proof for the fears people are raising, but seek to categorize those who wish to be a part of Israel’s restoration for it is for their good as it is for that of Israel.  Moreover, it is illogical to declare this past century that we are in an era of ‘the beginning of the flowering of our redemption’ but refuse to begin to prepare for it when it is clear from the quotations I have included that we are expected to be ready for the ‘coming of the foreigner’.

At th final stage in writing this, I came across an academic article, “The Canaanites who ‘trusted in God’: an original interpretation of the fate of the Canaanites in rabbinic literature”, which includes a related aspect to my thesis written by Philo which intersects with my concept.

In his Hypothetica, Philo writes in 6.8 that the Israelites, upon entering the Land of Israel encountered the “the Syrians and Phoenicians…in that their land” and were

met with respectful treatment and honour from them

The author, from additional sections there, points out an approach by Philo that the Canaanites, as we refer to them, acknowledged the Israelites as “dearly beloved of God” who had “won the respect of their opponents who voluntarily surrendered their land to them”.

To me, this confirmed one of my fundamental perspectives: that in a process of redemption, the successes of the children of Israel will affect the non-Jew, and are intended to do so.  Their reaction should be necessarily one of respect and honor at the least for this is evidence that the prophecies are becoming realized and at this current time, the next stages are the “coming” and then the “accompanying”.  These are their challenges; our accomplishments are the catalysts.

True, as we witness, not all of the “foreigners”, the non-Jews, those among the pro-Zionist Christians, are of this frame of mind.  There are those, perhaps, who are need be encouraged in their process if they so wish, while others, who seek to cause us to stray from our path, must be identified and kept at bay.  What is to be recognized and dealt with is that there is the existence of those who ‘come’ which cannot be denied, or, indeed, ignored.  And their volunteer work is part of the era of the redemption.

*

The results of the 2014 harvest labor of Hayovel volunteers was 438 tons of grapes which should produce at least 258,000 bottles of wine.  Since 2004, they harvested over 2000 tons of grapes and olives which represents 156,000 work hours, saving labor costs of $1,100,000.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: