The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Messiah Delayed – Moschiach Can’t Get Through

with 2 comments

1.  When the Rabbis wrote, basing themselves on the verse in Psalms 95 “… today if you would listen to his voice”, that the Messiah sets out every day to travel on his donkey to the Western Wall they were, of course, speaking allegorically.  Nowadays he goes by bus.

2.  He starts every day at the bus-stop just outside one of the non-religious kibbutzim in the North of Israel.  He waits patiently among a crowd of Israeli youths who stand around talking and joking with each other.  Many of them are smoking, none of them is dressed particularly modestly, and the nature of their language is not always of the cleanest.  “But, after all”, thinks Moschiach, “they don’t know any better – they come from a non-religious culture, and if they’re no better than any other group of humans at least they’re no worse.”  He struggles onto the bus trying not to feel too disheartened, and stands because the seats are all taken: then one of the girls notices an elderly man or woman standing and abruptly motions one of her companions to make way.  Moschiach sits down feeling slightly reassured.

3.  Moschiach changes buses at the central bus station in Tel Aviv.  He waits among a crowd of businessmen and businesswomen on their way to Jerusalem for mid-morning meetings; some men wearing kippot and some not, some married women covering their hair and others not.  They ignore each other and jabber into their mobiles or poke away at little keyboards.  When the bus comes they all shove on treating each other with entirely passive hostility.  “But, after all,” thinks Moschiach, “they’re busy, thinking about making money to look after their families, and if they’re no better than any other group of humans at least they’re no worse.”  Then one of the businesswomen happens to glance up and see an elderly woman or man standing, and abruptly motions a businessman she’s never met to make way.  Moschiach sits down feeling distinctly hopeful.

4.  Moschiach changes buses again at the central bus station in Jerusalem.  He waits among a crowd of soldiers going to the Old City.  They stand around smoking and talking morosely.  When the bus comes they use their kit-bags as battering rams to make their way through the crowds and fling themselves down in the seats, eyeing the other passengers struggling on after them with disinterest or mild animosity.  “But, after all,” thinks Moschiach, “they’re nervous and preoccupied, and they’re little more than children with adult responsibilities thrust on them, and if they’re no better than any other crowd of soldiers at least they’re no worse.”  Then one of them sees an elderly man or woman crushed against the mountain of kit-bags and without much grace gets up and motions at his seat.  Moschiach sits down feeling rather excited.

5.  The final change of bus is in Meah Shearim, just outside the Toldos Aharon courtyard.  Moschiach looks around: the placards on the wall proclaim that only the modestly dressed may walk through this holy neighbourhood; everywhere the signs of Torah learning and Torah observance meet the eye; shops piled high with holy books, men and boys on their way to or from learning sessions talking animatedly of their studies, women shepherding their young families along the narrow pavements; walls placarded with pronouncements of the great rabbis of the generation; the air buzzes with the “chareidi” Torah atmosphere.  Moschiach is elated.

6.  Then the bus comes.  The crowd of chareidim charge at it without a thought for who came before or after whom.  Men push women aside with unthinking violence.  The elderly are shoved away unless they show an aggression that ill befits their years.  Children are separated from their parents and dragged or pushed back impatiently.  The rabbi who was preaching kindness and the unity of the Jewish nation just a few minutes ago is squeezing himself into the front of the queue although he only just got there.  Moschiach sighs, and turns away.  As the bus pulls out the rabbi thinks he saw an elderly woman standing on the pavement: he looks back, but he was mistaken – there is nobody there.

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

April 29, 2011 at 5:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. I was at Norrice Lea this shabbat and very much enjoyed your talk.

    Could you explain why the Rabbis said the word Gaer means either Gaer Tzadek or Gaer Toshav. Where do they derive this from ? Why when the Torah says “You shall have one law for yourself and for the Gaer because you were…..” do the Rabbis say this refers to the Gaer Tzadek.

    Thanks for your time.

    Robert Goldstein (father of Richard of Holders Park)

    robert goldstein

    June 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    • The answer is that there is no differentiation in the chumash between ger tzedek and ger toshav. The question of when and how the concept of ger tzedek developed is open to considerable debate. If you want to discuss this further feel free to email me at dgreenberg@hotmail.co.uk. Thanks, Daniel.

      Daniel Greenberg

      June 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm


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