Back to the beginning

October 9, 2020 by Michael Kuttner
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Every year at this time without fail the annual cycle of Torah readings takes us back to the very beginning.

Michael Kuttner

Having successfully overcome the greatest challenges, Moshe addresses the Israelites on the eve of their entry to the Promised Land. He knows that this will be his last opportunity to speak words of warning about the pitfalls ahead. Having faced an unruly, fractious and often backsliding people for more than forty years he realizes only too well that once they have overcome their enemies and settled down to normal lives that they will likely deviate from the path set out at Sinai.

As we complete the reading of the Torah we abruptly pivot back to the beginning and commence yet again learning about creation and the meaning of life. Having just listened to the words of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) on Sukkot with its stark pronouncements about life and our own fleeting existence it is appropriate that we read how it all began again.

There is a quote which states: “nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

We cannot change the past but we certainly can try to make sure that the results of our actions today will perhaps result in a better and more beneficial future. That is what this season is all about. The First Book of the Torah in its very opening verses describes the world as void and full of chaos.

Surveying the current international and local scenes at the moment one can understand exactly what that means. Never in the lifetime of most of us has such lawlessness, violence, outrageous double standards and perfidy been experienced. Wherever one looks there is a pandemic of lunacy which unfortunately impacts everyone. Whether it is personal disdain for one’s own or communal safety by disregarding health directives, politicians who refuse to set an example of ethical conduct or international leaders indulging in hypocritical hyperbole the end result is the same. Instead of a new ending, we are hurtling at full speed towards a predictable rerun of last year’s disastrous outcomes.

On the local scene, our dysfunctional coalition is ensuring that a rapid return to a healthy and normal life and economic recovery is nowhere in sight. A lack of moral leadership and refusal to delegate has resulted in sectarian strife and mayhem. Instead of accepting that “for every thing there is a season” a time to lead and a time to retire, our narcissist leaders hang grimly on to their jobs.

Members of Knesset and officials flout lockdown and quarantine rules and then become upset when their flagrant disregard for the law is discovered. Some holier than thou religious leaders ignore scientific advice and as a result masses of their followers behave like mindless sheep and contribute to the rising cases of infection. Is it any wonder therefore that the rest of the public feel that anything goes?

Without a doubt we will eventually overcome but how much quicker this could be if only those in charge would learn the lessons Moshe tried to convey on the eve of sovereignty.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world the situation is no better.

Watching the whole drama surrounding President Trump’s increasingly disconnected assertions about corona makes one wonder whether insanity is now the new norm in Washington.

Second waves of the coronavirus are appearing in many countries. Concurrently a continuing wave of the world’s oldest surviving virus keeps erupting in Europe and elsewhere.

Instead of learning from past failures the EU and others cling obsessively to false assertions about 1967 non-borders and erroneous condemnations of Jewish settlement in areas designated for this purpose by the legally enshrined San Remo document.

Belgium’s new seven-party coalition consists of virulent anti-Israel politicians. One of their first acts it seems is the removal of military protection for synagogues, schools and other communal buildings. Brit Milah may also be targeted. All this proves that Israel phobia easily mutates into Jew phobia.

Poland has introduced legislation to ban the export of Kosher meat. Ironically this is a major source of income for the Polish Government but obviously other considerations take precedence.

The aspiring sultan of a new Ottoman empire declared that “Jerusalem is ours and Palestinians have lived there for thousands of years.”  If Erdogan actually took the time to go back to the beginning he would discover that in fact the Jews were there well before Islam, the Ottomans and the fake Palestinians. Unfortunately like all those infected by the fatal virus, delirious claims are impervious to any sort of reality antidotes.

Another case of refusing to learn from the past and thus perpetuating the same disastrous endings is provided by the leadership of the PA/PLO/Fatah. Jibril Rajoub, often touted as a possible successor to President for life, Abbas, proclaimed the other day that “it is time to go back to the days of Arafat and Ahmed Yassin.” In plain language, he is advocating for a return to intifada, murder and terror. Unsurprisingly this statement elicited no condemnation from either the UN or world leaders.

On the second day of Sukkot, a young Jewish student was assaulted and seriously injured outside a synagogue in Hamburg. This was the latest in a rising series of physical violence against Jews living in Germany. The German Chancellor and other politicians expressed their condemnation which of course is great public relations but does nothing at all to root out the poison of Jew-hatred seeping ever deeper into European societies. First prize however for unbelievable naivety must go to the President of the World Jewish Congress who is reported to have plaintively asked “why does this keep happening? Why is antisemitism thriving?” If after all this time he cannot work out the answers then he certainly should take time to go back to the beginning and study how embedded this virus is, especially in a continent whose soil is soaked with millennia of spilt Jewish blood.

The Nobel Prize for Physics has just been announced and this year it has been awarded to three scientists who made major discoveries on the subject of “black holes.”

Restarting the annual reading of the Torah gives us an ideal opportunity to relearn the lessons of the past and perhaps avoid the gaping black holes now so evident all around us.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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