Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Predictions of a Worldwide Diaspora

It has often been said by Christian scholars that the dispersal of the Jews was God’s final judgment against us and that in so doing he has withdrawn his love and protection for his chosen people. It is a fallacious argument for many reasons that will be discussed in the body of this article, but nonetheless, these scholars persist in their argument based on what they claim is scriptural absence. But as a word of caution, Christian scholars should have never undertaken the debate with a Karaite, as Karaism's understanding of the Torah and Tanach has always been far more astute than our Rabbanite brethren that rely more often on Talmudic lore. Scriptural absence is a unique argument that goes as follows; If it is not recorded as such, then any statement that I make subsequently cannot be argued against since there is no scriptural record by which to dispute my statement. To quickly demonstrate the error of such an argument one merely has to point out that even though in the Decalogue there is no statement of “Thou shall not maim or torture,” a reasonable man would understand that just because God pointed out the extreme case to Moses of murder did not mean that He had no concern for the lesser acts of man’s inhumanity. But by these scholars’ argument, they have claimed that since the prophetic books of the Tanach speak only of the conquest by the Babylonians and Persians but say nothing of the Romans, then there could be no continuation of Jewish history following the Persian period without acknowledging that it was the end of the pre-Messianic era and that meant the Messiah had definitely come during the Roman occupation as all the works of the prophets had been fulfilled at the time of the second Temple. To support their argument they quote Matthew 11:13 where he states, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

Isaac ben Abraham of Troki dealt with this argument quite thoroughly and there’s very little I can add to his statements which are quite extensive and therefore for purposes of reader’s attention spans I will paraphrase to a large degree.

The Universal Disperal is Predicted

Troki’s first salvo in return was to quote Psalm 147:19-20 in order to demonstrate that God’s intentions to the end of time were not to be fully disclosed in scripture or by prophecy, where it say that, “He declareth his word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any other nation, nor has He made known His judgments unto them.” Clearly God is forewarning all of us not to heed the words of Christian scholars because he has not provided them with any insight nor does He even recognize them.

But Troki was not prepared to accept the statement that the scriptures did not discuss the dispersal following the Roman occupation. He cited Deuteronomy 28:64 as his proof that God did foresee the event but since it was not in the books of prophecy, the Christian scholars had overlooked its presence. It reads, “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all the people, from the one end of the earth unto the other.” Until the advent of the Roman Empire, no other civilization could lay claim to conquering the known world. And since today’s modern society is an extension of the Roman Empire, having adopted much of its legal systems, language, alphabet, etc. then the scattering across the globe was only possible following this particular empire. Similarly, Troki uses Deuteronomy 3:3 to support his claim that the Roman dispersal was predicted. “That then the Lord they God will turn thy captivity…and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord they God has scattered thee.” Clearly this line would not apply to the Babylonian captivity since the Jews had only been exiled to Babylon and not scattered about the world. The reference had to clearly be made in regards to an ingathering from a worldwide Diaspora and not a singular Mesopotamian one.

The Temporary Exile

Upon hearing his argument, the Christian scholars challenged that Leviticus 26:38 outweighed all of his prior arguments and comments. In this verse we read, “And ye shall be lost among the gentiles and the land of your enemies shall consume you.” But this was neither a total loss nor an irrevocable one. Troki explained that the Hebrew word used for loss, ABAD, was purposely intended to infer a temporary state of despair. Similar to its use in Isaiah 27:13 where the ‘lost’ ones of Assyria and Egypt will also return. Furthermore he argued it would make no sense that six sentences later in Leviticus 26:44 God says, “And even this, when they shall be in the land of their enemies, I shall not reject them nor abhor them so as to consume them and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.” So as Troki clearly points out, the act of being lost was not permanent and God wished to clearly point this out within the same chapter and paragraph. But more importantly I would suggest that we pay attention to the use of the word ‘consume’. What is meant by the particular use of this word? When one consumes food it is metabolized and absorbed. It becomes part of the host which ate it and therefore continues on but in a new form. The reference therefore was not to a cessation but assimilation. And clearly in the second verse from Leviticus it is evident that God does not wish the term consumption to be viewed as a finality. For even those that have become assimilated will not be abhorred or rejected. Like the wayward child, God as parent will not break his word to them and continues to love them.

An Everlasting Promise
Troki quotes Deuteronomy 4:30-31 which states, “When thou art in tribulation and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, thou shalt turn to the Lord they God and be obedient unto His voice. For the Lord they God is a merciful God and He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He swore unto them.” That being the case then the promise of the Lord was designed to outlast the exiles, no matter how many, how often or how distant the dispersals may have been. There was no expiry date as the Christian scholars tried to argue, nor was the promise ever to be withdrawn. As for the prophets, Isaiah does speak of the present time dispersal in 43:5-6 where the prophet says, “Fear not for I am with thee; I will bring they seed from the East, and gather thee from the West. I will say unto the North give up and to the South keep not back. Bring my sons from far and my daughters from the end of the earth.” Since the distribution of Jews to the four corners of the world did not take place until long after the prophets death, and more appropriately, not until long after the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans, his statement had to do with events long after Jesus as well. We could not be any further dispersed than we are now, pockets of us living in practically every country on the globe.

Once again, it was a Karaite that made the most successful arguments against these Christian Scholars in the sixteent century and once again it is a Karaite that reminds you that was true in Troki's time is even truer now.

Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Karaite rejection of 'The Rejection of the Jews'

I have been watching an amazing phenomenum take place since I began this series of related articles. Though primarily a polemic highlighting the mistaken path taken by Messianic Jews, I now find that the series is in fact being linked to a number of Messianic and Christian sites that have focused on the issues raised in my articles regarding the Rabbinic philosophies and practices that led to the development of Christianity as justification for their own beliefs. How the interpretation of Messianic support can be misconstrued or distilled from such a polemic is beyond my comprehension. The polarization 180 degrees from the actual message is in itself a testimony to the human mind of how it can twist black and white into shades of grey as long as the blurring of the lines suits their purpose. Let me make it perfectly clear that as a Karaite my perspective is the antithesis of the Rabbanite view on such matters and therefore far from advocating their early distortions of messianic myth and legend that eventually realized as Christianity, I am in fact negating their arguments and therefore proposing that Christianity was the result of error and misinterpretation. This view is far from supporting the validity of beliefs in Jesus as messiah. I would hope that those linking or quotiing from my site would express the viewpoint that although early Pharisaic beliefs and the resultant Rabbanite faith would appear to support the advent of Christianity, it was in fact these early rabbinic Jewish beliefs that were nothing more than creative fabrications from which stemmed the later religion. Now that I hope that point is clear, we will examine Isaac ben Abraham of Troki's rational arguments of why Jesus was not the Messiah.

Rejection of Israel

One of the primary arguments made by Christian theologians is that God rejected Israel and then provided his love and protection to the Gentiles that held their faith in Jesus. The reason for His rejection of Israel was that the Jews refused to listen to the teachings of Jesus but went even further by executing judgment upon the Christian Messiah. These arguments would only hold water if one was to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus was the Messiah in the first place and since that is not the case, then how can there be any rejection for that which was not proven? But Isaac ben Abraham of Troki adopted a different approach. His was to look at who really rejected Jesus and a such he wrote:

Troki argued in the Hazuk Amunah that the concept of rejection of Israel never existed in the early Church. In fact, their argument of proof that necessitated that the Gentiles accepted Jesus as the messiah and that they acknowledge and put their faith in him for he suffered martyrdom for their sake did not occur until almost 300 years after his death when Constantine adopted the Christian faith for the Roman Empire. Prior to that, it was the Gentiles that persecuted and killed many of those proposing the Christian faith. So in fact he argued it was the Gentiles whom rejected Jesus until such time a political-theological alliance was created that had little to do with the teachings that they claimed the Jews rejected. Following Constantine's death, his son Constantine even rejected the established Christian articles of faith and adopted the Arian views, as did Julian that followed him. This refutation of Jesus's teachings was continuous throughout time by many that professed to be true adherants. Therefore Troki concludes, "How can they boast to be he preferred nation, selected in reward of their homage to Jesus, or how can they assume the name of Christians, since there exists among them no longer any observer of the Mosaical precepts which Jesus himself declared inviolable? Besides they deviate from his statutes by adding to and diminishing from the dictates of the Gospel, while he pronounced severe maledictions against those who should venture to add or to diminish from his word."

In addition to Troki's rebuttal, I would like to add my own comments regarding the 'Rejection of the Jewish Nation.' Firstly, as you will notice, I do use the term nation and will argue that the Jewish people are far more than a population of religious practitioners. The nation had its origin three thousand years ago and in spite of its dispersion, persecution, and partial extermination it has held together without disappearing from the annals of history. Since its orgin was unique to a particular set of people, and it generated its numbers through procreation within that same populace, then not only has it developed a distinct genetic profile but also cultural, historical, and legal subsets that are distinct from other populations, therefore meeting the defined requirements for a national heritage. Yes, over time converts have adopted Judaism and entered the population but they were of a such minute number their dilution effect would be equivalent to that of adding a glass of water to the ocean.

So as a distinct entity or nation as I have argued, we must examine the historical facts. Over the three thousand years of its existence, it has survived and outlived the dominations, persecutions, subjugations, assimilations and exterminations of the Egyptians, Hittites, Hurians, Canaanites, Philistines, Akkadians, Scythians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Sassanids, Caliphates, Byzantians, Ottomans and Europeans. Empires and nations of far greater size, worldly significance and influence. Whereas all other nations fell and were crushed under their heels, even these world dominating empires all faded over time until even their historical memories were practically lost from mankind, one small and insignificant nation survived. Once perhaps luck, twice possibly strategic intelligence, but to survive time and time again against impossible odds and never suffer extinction through natural attrition defies the human spirit. The probability to outlast the historical, socialogical and theological impacts of all these far greater powers would be a mathematical impossibility or conundrum to calcualate. Only through the hand of God could it have been possible and God's hand is only extended to those that he never rejected.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Earthquake in Chile

The following letter was received today from an old schoolmate that lives in Chile. Being concerned for his welfare I made contact to see how he was. He's doing okay but the country is in a mess and the way he describes it, it would appear that it's only going to get worse. Here's his letter:

"Thanks for thinking of me. Yes, it was the "big one". The electric power is still out in my neighborhood, and in many other areas of Santiago there is no water either. The people are still in a daze, which is understandable, but the government is in even more of a daze, which is inexcusable. There is no coordination of reconstruction, no repair work going on, no aid, no information, and no law-and-order.

Even when things are normal, crime is out of control. So now in the south of Chile, where the tsunami struck, there is total anarchy, the law of the jungle. Even though President Bachelet declared a curfew in Concepción, they didn't send in any military forces to enforce it. In fact, the local authorities (ex-communists) opposed the curfew order saying that it "reminded them of the military dictatorship." This morning the Navy send in 150 soldiers -- in an area as large as southern Ontario and where nearly 2 million people live -- and the Army said it will send 1 battalion. But the local authorities are opposed to even that, so there will be yet another "coordination meeting" today to decide what to do while the insane violence rages out of control.

Practically all of the supermarkets and stores in the 2 affected regions have been looted and vandalized, and untold numbers of people have been killed or wounded in robberies and assaults. What is most enfuriating is that the very same poor families whose houses were destroyed or damaged are the ones that are being robbed of whatever little they managed to save -- while the police and military cannot intervene because they all know that if they use their firearms they will be the ones who will be imprisoned and the criminals will go free.

The official death toll (711) is way behind the actual count. Most of the cadavers have not yet been identified -- even in normal times, the coroner's offices are slow and understaffed, so with this disaster they have been completely overwhelmed. And since there is absolutely no central registry of missing persons, the number of missing can only be guessed at this point.

As soon as the earthquake struck on Saturday, the authorities "categorically ruled out" a tsunami, and they advised everybody to stay in their homes and not to flee the coastal areas because there was supposedly no risk of a tsunami. But the tsunamis did strike hundreds of kilometers of coastline and killed hundreds of people who would have fled had they been warned. Therefore the usual Chilean governmental policy of "lowering the profile" of problems and minimizing risks, in this case was not only a public relations disaster, it also caused hundreds of needless deaths.

This was the worst time for a disaster -- the gov't has only 10 more days left before Sebastián Piñera takes over on Mar. 11, and the bureaucracies were just going through the motions this summer anyway. The gov't wants to dump this whole problem on Piñera and then blame him for all the problems in disaster relief. But the people can't wait 10 more days for help.

And forget about foreign aid; the problem is not money or technology, it is primarily a problem of chronic ineptitude in the public sector. Even in the best of times in Chile, the public health system is a disgrace, the public education system is woefully inferior to private education, and the judicial system doesn't work. Therefore it is no surprise that the public sector is incapable of providing disaster relief now. Over the last 15 years there were several other examples of ineptitude in the face of minor earthquakes, floods and a volcano. Those fiascos should have served as a warning that if the "big one" were to hit, the country would be prostrated for a long time to come.

Many people in the street have commented that when a major earthquake struck in 1985, the military immediately deployed over 20,000 combat troops to crack down on looters and violence, and they also put a swift end to profiteering by ordering store owners at gunpoint to reduce their prices to their normal levels. This time, however, greedy merchants have quintupled the price of bread and other foodstuffs in the affected areas thus causing further hunger and desperation, which in turn leads to more violence and chaos.

Sadly, there is no spirit of solidarity this time as there always was in the past in the face of natural disasters. Chilean social groups, charities and news media had always responded heroically, as did the average person whenever they could help their neighbor. This time, however, the ugly side of human nature has prevailed. In large measure it is because there is no leadership from the top."