Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Implications of Saying" Who Has Not Made Me a Gentile" or " Who Made Me an Israelite".

The Implications of Saying" Who Has Not Made Me a Gentile" or " Who Made Me an Israelite".

After the previous discussion on the free vs. slave blessing and its relation to the American political heritage , I turn now to the next two controversial blessings upon awakening. These are the affirmations, or rather, negations:“ “ sh’lo asani goi”, and  “shelo asnai Isha”.

The traditional texts of the prayer book have it formulated as” shelo asani goy (alternate version:nochri or “a”kum”),shelo asani aved, shelo asani isha (alternate version, for women: sheasani kiretzono).

Blessed are you… who has not made me a gentile (or alien or idolator),who has not made me a slave, who has not made me a woman ( or, for women, who has made me according to his will).

The liberal Jewish movements have, for ideologically sound reasons, reformulated these as affirmations, positive rather than negative statements.  This is the common  formulation: she’asani b’tzalmo, , she’asani yisra’eil, , she’asani ben-horin ( masc.) bat-horin ( fem.).

Blessed are You… who has made me in His image, who has made me an Israelite, who has made me a free man/woman.)

The Gentile/Israelite blessing

Whether I say, “Who has not made me an alien or gentile”, or , in the positive, “who had made me an  Israelite,” we are declaring the immutability of our existence as a people. It rubs everyone the wrong way but it reflects the reality of our existence.

Now that the US Government has decided to consider Jews as an ethnic entity, in regard to protections offered to other minority groups in the US from harassment or hate crimes, the New York Times and other pundits have suddenly decided that Jews are just members of a religion.

This would be fine if it didn’t go in the face of League of Nations and later, United Nations, decisions regarding the Jews as an ethnic entity, nor the statements of many of Americas founders regarding Jews as a people, or the countless and endless statements and declarations etched in Jewish law and dicta defining Jews as a people, or ethnicity.

If a Jew then, makes a declaration,” who has not made me a Gentile” ( meaning, someone of any other nation) is that, therefore, a claim of superiority in and of itself? (Note: One who has converted to Judaism and thereby is accepted into the general community of the Jewish people is considered reborn a Jew). 

It is most definitely not a claim of Jewish political obedience to one central political authority. That position is overridden by the Rabbinic edict,” Dina d’ Malchuta Dina”,” The law of the land of your residence is the law” .

But what did the Jew who lived in the years following the destruction of the Temple until the dawn of 18th and 19th century, or indeed, any Jew in central and East Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s , or in the Middle East with the rise of Arab nationalism, feel about being a Jew?

Persecution? Discrimination? Forced impoverishment? Economic restrictions? Legal restrictions? Danger to life and limb? Even today, in a kosher market in New Jersey?

So, rather than give praise, a Jew should have said, with the poet Heinrich  Heine, "Judaism is not a religion; it is a misfortune.”(Heine, although himself formally baptized, never gave up on his Jewish identity).

Yet despite that, and despite the fact that a drop of water at the baptismal font, or a declaration of the shahadah in Islam would have meant the end of these troubles, the Jew remained a Jew, and continued to declare “ shelo asani goy”.  

The Jew was always stubborn and stiff-necked in remaining a Jew. In his and her travails, the Jew felt  nobility, greater than that of the Kings and Sultans. 

Why was the existence of the Jew, as a people, not just as a faith, a problem for the two great Abrahamic religions?

In Christianity, the faith in Jesus as Savior made possible the elimination of all barriers between Jew and Gentile- therefore, the Jew, as Jew, had no value, except as a proof of his sin ( Wandering Jew).

In  Islam, the revelations to Mohammed are for the entire world; therefore, the Jew, as a nation, has no function. This is a core argument in modern Moslem polemics against the rights of Jews to an State- the Jew, as a people , have no existence. They exist only as a religious precursor to Islam, and are thereby tolerated, as members of an inferior  faith.

How has modern world dealt with the Jew as a people? The “ Judenfrage”, the Jewish Question, obsessed European political thinkers.

On the left, read  Karl Marx’ ” On the Jewish Question,” a rebuttal to statements by Bruno Bauer that Jews can not be granted equal rights.

Marx, baptized descendent of great Rabbis, responds that the emancipation of the Jew is on the condition that the Jew cease being a Jew, but not by virtue of religion:

“For the present-day Jew’s capacity for emancipation is the relation of Judaism to the emancipation of the modern world. This relation necessarily results from the special position of Judaism in the contemporary enslaved world.. . .Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.

What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. [ Note: this is undoubtedly one of the greatest libels of Jews in modern times up until Hitler]

Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time. An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.

We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.

In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.

( referring to Bruno Bauer’s claim that Jews had inordinate financial power)

This is no isolated fact. The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.”

A century later, this analysis of Judaism would reappear in different iterations, from the capitalists on the right, with Henry Ford’s “ The international Jew”, or on the Communist left, as an official, government sanctioned academic text in the Soviet Union, in the 1960’s, under title” Judaism without Embellishment.” ( Note that Ford, the father of mass production and the  American automobile industry, was a major source of inspiration to Adolph Hitler).

That is from the father of the left.

Then, from  Friedrich Nietzsche, who inspired the contemporary avant garde with his assault on bourgeoise morality , and also inspired the rantings of Nazism with his concept of the great figure, a Ubermensch (  Superman) who is beyond good and evil.  on   slave morality:

This is from a summary of the concept:

“According to Nietzsche, masters are creators of morality; slaves respond to master morality with their slave morality. Unlike master morality, which is sentiment, slave morality is based on re-sentiment—devaluing that which the master values and the slave does not have. . . .

Biblical principles of humility, charity, and pity are the result of universalizing the plight of the slave onto all humankind, and thus enslaving the masters as well. "The democratic movement is the heir to Christianity”,the political manifestation of slave morality because of its obsession with freedom and equality. (–slave_morality#CITEREFNietzsche1973)

And who is to blame for this?

“...the Jews achieved that miracle of inversion of values thanks to which life on earth has for a couple millennia acquired a new and dangerous fascination - their prophets fused "rich", "godless", "evil", "violent", "sensual" into one, and were the first to coin the word "world" as a term of infamy. It is this inversion of values (with which is involved the employment of the word for "poor" as a synonym for "holy" and "friend") that the significance of the Jewish people resides: With them, there begins the slave revolt in morals".( Beyond Good and Evil)

In other words, because we have been the source of the moral system of the west, which   insists on the rights of the weak and the oppressed and therefore we are the cause of the disorder and decay in the world.

Jews have been a conundrum, to far left and far right. 

We don’t need to apologize for it.

For that reason, the present version, which is in the Conservative liturgy, is a braver statement:

She asani Yisrael.

Who has made me an Israelite.

That is where we stand, with no apologies.

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