Monday, October 21, 2019

Amid rising anti-Semitism, the People of the Book rejoice with the Law

by Jeff Jacoby

ON OCTOBER 14, 1663, the English civil servant Samuel Pepys decided to pay a visit to the Jewish synagogue in London's Creechurch Lane. Jews were a novelty in Restoration England. They had been expelled from the realm nearly four centuries earlier, and it was only in 1656 that they had once again been permitted to live on English soil. Pepys, knowing nothing of Judaism, wasn't aware that his excursion happened to coincide with the most euphoric day in the Jewish calendar — the festival of Simchat Torah, or "rejoicing with the law."

What he saw bewildered him.

"But, Lord!" he recorded in his famous diary, "to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this."

What Pepys had unwittingly walked in on was a celebration of the oldest love affair in history — the infatuation of the Jewish people with the Torah. In Judaism, there are no saints to adore or icons to venerate. Rather, there is a book to study and teach: the scroll of the law, the Torah given by God to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai, the essential text with which Jews have engaged intellectually and been sustained emotionally for more than three millennia.

That book is "our most cherished possession," writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the noted British theologian and member of the House of Lords. "We stand in its presence as if it were a king. We dance with it as if it were a bride. We kiss it as if it were a friend. If, God forbid, one is damaged beyond repair, we mourn it as if it were a member of the family." If a Torah scroll is accidentally dropped, everyone who witnesses it is expected to fast in penance. When a synagogue is burned, whether by accident or by arson, there is an immediate, palpable anxiety to know whether the Torah scrolls were saved or lost.

Simchat Torah occurs on the last day of a three-week sequence of fall holidays. It follows Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles). Unlike those holidays, however, Simchat Torah is not biblically ordained. It was not imposed by religious authorities from the top down, but grew organically from the bottom up. Its roots reach back 15 centuries to the ancient Jewish community of Babylonia, which formalized the practice of publicly reading the entire Torah — from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy — over the course of a year. The completion of the annual cycle became an occasion of joy, marked by singing and dancing around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls. Adults and children alike take part in the festivities. And as soon as the final verses of Deuteronomy are chanted from the end of one scroll, another is opened and the first chapter of Genesis is chanted: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Jewish engagement with the Torah never ends; as soon as we finish, we start again.

The "people of the book," Jews are called. The phrase comes from the Koran, where it appears 31 times — an apt emphasis, for no nation has ever been as closely identified with a book as have Jews with the Torah. Sacks notes that by the time Simchat Torah had spread throughout the Jewish world, Jews had lost everything that would seem indispensable to national survival: land, sovereignty, political freedom, a military. Yet they still had their book to study and teach and rejoice with. Somehow, through the centuries of wandering and exile, that was enough to keep Jewish peoplehood alive.

Three centuries after Pepys made his diary entry, another renowned writer encountered Jews celebrating Simchat Torah. In 1965, Elie Wiesel traveled to the Soviet Union, where Jews lived in fear and religion was repressed. And yet, he discovered, on one day of the year — Simchat Torah — throngs of young Jews streamed to the remaining synagogue in Moscow, bravely defying the KGB to openly celebrate their Jewishness.

For centuries, in communities all over the world, Jews have danced on Simchat Torah. Above: Solomon Alexander Hart's 1850 painting "The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy"

Wiesel was astonished.

"Where did they all come from?" he marveled. "Who told them that tens of thousands of boys and girls would gather here to sing and dance and rejoice in the joy of the Torah? They who barely know each other and know even less of Judaism — how did they know that? I spent hours among them, dazed and excited, agitated by an ancient dream." It was a harbinger of the coming struggle to save Soviet Jewry, which would eventually crack open the Iron Curtain and change the trajectory of the Cold War.

Simchat Torah returns this week amid a rising global tide of antisemitism. One year after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh and just days after the Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, Germany, Jews increasingly require police protection when they gather in prayer. Nevertheless, synagogues the world over will be filled anew with the same euphoria that so startled Pepys and amazed Wiesel. The People of the Book will once again rejoice with the Law, dancing with the scrolls that have been, for 33 centuries, the ultimate source of their identity and strength.



CIVIL WAR: Marianne Williamson and Bernie Sanders' Campaign Co-Chair Support Tulsi Gabbard

Three outside campaigns are joining forces against The Queen of Darkness. And it's quite a sight.

When Hillary Clinton launched a vicious attack against Democratic congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, she undoubtedly thought that doing so could destroy Tulsi's campaign... and possibly even her career. The reason for Hillary's hatred towards Tulsi was clear from the get-go. As Tulsi herself explained on Tucker Carlson Tonight, she is against everything Hillary represents. She's against regime-change wars. She's against a new arms race. She's an outsider -- a veteran -- rather than a career politician. What's more, she seems to be incorruptible and honest.

In other words, she's basically the anti-Hillary.

Although it was quite shocking to see just how viciously Hillary attacked Tulsi, there's some good news for the congresswoman/former soldier: other presidential candidates and/or their campaigns are publicly taking her side.

Here is Marianne Williamson, another outsider and Democratic presidential candidate who criticized her fellow liberals earlier for treating her less fairly than conservatives. And not only does Williamson clearly stand by Tulsi, she also blasts her own party in the process:

"The Democratic establishment has got to stop smearing women it finds inconvenient! The character assassination of women who don’t toe the party line will backfire," Williamson writes on Twitter. "Stay strong @TulsiGabbard. You deserve respect and you have mine."

This is quite a sight to behold. Democratic women are -- correctly and rightfully! -- pointing out that the supposed "feminism" of the Democratic Party is nothing but a sham. They aren't women-friendly, they're establishment-friendly. And "feminism" is nothing but a tool for them to get some extra votes. It isn't heartfelt, it isn't something they actually believe in.

Williamson isn't the only prominent Democratic outsider who is publicly taking a stand in favor of Tulsi. The same goes for Nina Turner, national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

"Good morning Sister [Tulsi Gabbard]," Turner writes on Twitter. "I'm just catching up with the foolery that's going on. I'm SMDH [Shaking My Damn Head] hard. Four words: Keep. Your. Head. Up."

The surprise support from Turner and Williamson for Tulsi is very telling. They are all outsiders; they're all up against the same machine... and they've all experienced the same bullying Tulsi is experiencing now. Still, it requires courage for them to publicly take a stand.

I disagree strongly with most of their views with regard to politics, but I have to admit: you don't often see this kind of courage in politics. Good on you, ladies. Stay strong. Stand tall. And keep your head up. Don't let the Clinton Machine put you down.



Tulsi Goes Nuclear on Hillary: 'Queen of Warmongers, Embodiment of Corruption'

As we reported yesterday, Hillary Clinton recently opened the attack on both Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein, accusing them of being Vladimir Putin's little puppets.

Sadly for Mrs. Clinton, Tulsi doesn't take such accusations lying down. Neither should she, of course. After all, unlike Hillary, Tulsi has actually served her country as a soldier. She has literally put her life on the line for America. Being accused of being a "Russian tool," then, is a very serious accusation in her eyes; one that she isn't willing to tolerate.

"Great! Thank you Hillary Clinton," Tulsi writes on Twitter. "You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know -- it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose."

Next, Tulsi correctly concludes that, from her perspective, the primary really is between her and Hillary. "Don't cowardly hide behind your proxies," she tells Hillary. "Join the race directly."

It is hard to exaggerate the evil that is Hillary "Corruption" Clinton. This woman is literally willing to destroy lives to further her own career -- of that of her allies. Note that I didn't write "friends," but "allies." A person with as rotten a heart as Hillary doesn't have friends.

Other politicians, who have at least something resembling a heart, often attack opponents for being weak or the exact opposite (an aggressive, out-of-control bugaboo). Such lines of attack don't go nearly far enough for The Queen of Darkness, however. Oh no, when she sets her eye on a prey, she goes in for the kill by accusing the victim of literally betraying America. She doesn't care one bit if that victim happens to be a retired soldier who saw her friends die on the battlefields of the Middle East. They stand in her way. That is enough for them to warrant destruction.

Thankfully, Tulsi is a veteran, which means that she's not exactly afraid to fight. She's right to point out the incredible corruption that is Hillary Clinton, and the American Empire-ideology she has been pushing through Americans' throats for so long. Sure, this is unlikely to make her more popular among her party's leaders, but it will almost certainly do wonders for her popularity among millennials and Gen Z. After all, if those two generations hate one thing, it's Clintonite politics.




ABC'S FAKE NEWS: "ABC News aired footage claiming to show a Turkish attack on a Syrian border town that was actually from a 2017 video of an American shooting range," The Washington Free Beacon reveals. Regardless of anyone's position on Trump's Syria policy, engineering a crisis is way beyond the pale.

WHO'D A THUNK IT? Target cuts workers' hours after vowing to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2020 (National Review)

HELPING THE LITTLE GUY: Blue-collar employment thriving under Trump — hits 50-year high (The New American)

SWING AND A MISS: Tribal chiefs urge Atlanta Braves to end the "tomahawk chop" (New York Post)

MORE DALLAS-AREA FALLOUT: Ex-Fort Worth police officer charged with murder after shooting black woman in her home; occurred less than two weeks after Amber Guyger's sentencing (USA Today)

SCHUMER THWARTED: Chuck Schumer's bid to rebuke Trump over Syria fails in Senate (The Washington Times)

FREE SPEECH: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he fears "erosion of truth" but defends allowing politicians to lie in ads (The Washington Post)

SNUBBING NEARLY HALF THE UNION: San Francisco blacklists 22 states over pro-life laws (National Review)

TARIFF FALLOUT: China's GDP growth grinds to near 30-year low as tariffs hit production (Reuters)

"ABSURD, IMMORAL, AND OFFENSIVE": UN member states hand Venezuela's brutal Maduro regime a seat on the Human Rights Council (

POLICY: Why Mexico is cooperating with us on immigration (National Review)

SATIRE: Congress votes to protect Syria's border but not the U.S. border (Genesius Times) Satire or reality?


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C. S. P. Schofield said...

Those of us who are not Jewish owe the Jews a great debt, simply for their veneration of the Law and their history of holding their God to his Word. It is from them that we get the idea of a Deity that is not an arrogant menace, unbound even by Its own Law. And that, in turn, informs our ideas of States bound by Law, rather than ruling buy whim.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone who believes that Tulsi Gabbard is a "Russian asset"--anyone at all? Hillary has made sure no one ever asks follow-up questions, so she feels free to say any crazy thing.