Devarim

"You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn and take your journey" Deuteronomy 1:6-7.


By Rabbi Brian Fox, July 15, 2010
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Philo of Alexandra was one of many who realised that there are different types of journey. One can travel in one's mind and have one's body stay still. For Philo, Abraham's journey was just of this type. How often have we as a Jewish people changed our place, changed our style and changed our practices. There has always been the pull of Israel on us. The Zionist dream did not start with Herzl.
We moved from Tabernacle to Temple to synagogue: each style replacing the other but never forgetting what came before. Some Jews celebrate Shabbat with vigorous singing, even having songs without words: the niggun. For others that is too uninhibited. They prefer the more sedate practices of German Jewry: full of dignity and decorum.

It was on this Shabbat exactly 200 years ago in a Jewish school in Seesen, Germany that Rabbi Israel Jacobson dedicated his temple. He could never have known the prophetic power his words of dedication had: "On all sides enlightenment opens up new areas of development. Why should we Jews remain behind?" Now we have a massive world movement of non-Orthodox Judaism.

Change has also come to the traditional streams of Judaism. Who would have thought 200 years ago that in our age there would be the state of Israel? Who could have anticipated that in our age there would be more Jewish children attending full-time Jewish schools than at any other time in history? We have lived in the mountains and we have come down to the valleys.

But wherever we have lived we have believed in netzach Yisrael, "the eternity of the Jewish people". From humanistic Judaism to the Neturei Karta, there is one belief that is common to all Jews: the survival of the Jewish people. Far from a vacuous "survivalism", it is belief in quality survival.

Some changes have been more successful than others. In Israel that Hebrew language lives: a fact all but ignored by the diaspora. As far as Hebrew goes, we diaspora Jews have stayed in the mountains of foreign languages. We have yet to live in the valleys of Hebraic emancipation.

    Last updated: 11:21am, July 15 2010