Aug 30th, 2006 · Categories: Christianity · 1 Comment

Christianity: In defense of Rabbi Weiss

I occasionally look in on CNN’s token conservative, Glenn Beck. A few weeks ago, he briefly interviewed Rabbi Yisroel Weiss of Jews United Against Zionism. Weiss had gained some notoriety for his criticism of Zionism in the face of Israel’s war with Hezbollah. Beck’s manhandling of his guest led me to the conclusion that he didn’t really grasp what the Rabbi was saying, perhaps because Weiss was basing his remarks on Torah, not on conventional political wisdom.

As a Christian who has spent a fair amount of time in the Old Testament, I think I understood what Weiss was saying. His criticism of Zionism proceeded in parallel with an argument I have often had with other Christians – that the modern state of Israel is not the ancient Israel of the Torah or the Christian Bible.

Consider the differences: Ancient Israel was created by God, while the modern state of Israel was created by the U.N. The original boundaries of ancient Israel were established by God, while the original boundaries of the modern state of Israel were established by diplomacy. Ancient Israel had a king – first God himself, then a succession of human kings – while the modern state of Israel has a parliament and a Prime Minister. Ancient Israel was ruled by the Mosaic Law given by God, while in the modern state of Israel is ruled by civil law promulgated by the Knesset. There’s a pattern here.

It seems to me that ancient Israel, the geographical and political entity, is gone. Its territory was conquered by a succession of neighboring countries, its priestly government was swept away, its last holy temple was destroyed by the Romans. Ancient Israel now lives on in the same form in which God originally created it – as a spiritual and ethnic entity, a nation without borders, God’s Chosen People, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The result of these earthly events and others was the Diaspora, the scattering of the Jewish people from the Promised Land. But the disappearance of ancient Israel was not just the product of stronger neighbors and an expanding Roman empire. It was – as Rabbi Weiss reminded me – the very will of God, prophesied by Moses as the people of Israel prepared to enter the land of Israel:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, emphasis added)

Conquest and Diaspora, the beginning and the end of ancient Israel – the Scriptures reveal the history and meaning of these events to Jews and Christians alike. Rabbi Weiss and I would probably disagree on what a new Israel will look like, but I think we agree that its construction will not be the work of human hands obedient to human will. What God has given and taken away can be restored only by God.

I am not presuming to judge a theological debate among Jews. The Talmud is a mystery to me. No doubt there are different Jewish theological perspectives that run counter to that expressed by Rabbi Weiss. But his comments lifted my own doubts about the Biblical (not political) legitimacy of the modern state of Israel out of the realm of theology and into the realm of current world events. Viewing these events – past and current – as a Christian, his observations ring true to me. And they raise uncomfortable questions about a faithful Christian response to the ongoing violence in the Holy Land.

No, I am not in any way defending the Arab states’ unwavering hatred of the modern state of Israel. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is still a raging lunatic. There is no justification for suicide bombers or any other brand of terrorism. Contemporary Islamic fascism is easily the equal of the last century’s German fascism. The people of Israel deserve the opportunity to live in peace and security. So do Palestinians who renounce the terrorist tactics of the government they chose.

I don’t believe that Islam’s war against Jews is God’s will. But I do know that it’s not a good idea to mess with God. He alone will choose the time and means for the restoration of his nation of Israel. I question whether God chose the U.N. in 1948 to do the job. David Ben-Gurion certainly didn’t look much like the humble servants God had chosen in the past – the fugitive shepherd Moses or the Persian cup-bearer Nehemiah, for example. And, so far, the fruits don’t look the same either.

I have no answers, no suggestions to the world’s leaders. All I have – thanks to Rabbi Weiss – is a new-found conviction that I need to view the Mideast conflict in a new way and seek God’s will as I do so.

[Rabbi Weiss’ views are summed up in this speech.]

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006 at 10:03 am and is filed under Christianity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Christianity: In defense of Rabbi Weiss”

  1. Featured post | The Curmudgeon's Progress Says:

    April 27th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    […] Featured post from the past: Christianity: In defense of Rabbi Weiss […]

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