Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your Tongue Is Twisted With Words Half Spoken ( Robert Hunter & Phil Lesh - "Box of Rain")

Like most of the world, I have been watching the news and paying particularly close attention to the current conflict going on in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Yes, the loss of civilian life has been absolutely horrible. While the news has tended to focus on the loss of Palestinian civilian life in Gaza, it has not focused upon the loss of civilian life in Syria. If anyone wanted to keep track, the average loss of life in Syria has been, on a monthly basis in the thousands! There are civilians being killed in Iraq, and Libya as well.  Yet the press and the world focus upon Gaza and the civilian loss of life. I have started to wonder why the press focuses upon Gaza as opposed to all these other places where Muslim civilians are being killed. Cynically, of course, we in the west probably don’t care so much about what one Muslim sect does to another Muslim sect. After all this internecine war between Sunni and Shii’a has been going on for approximately 1200 years.  For the non- Muslim world, fighting about who is the rightful heir and authentic interpreter of Mohammed’s words is rather tedious. However words such as “occupation”, “siege”, and “blockade” are words that are certainly pithier than words associated with some esoteric theological disagreement that probably could have been resolve at some madrassa or some university with an outstanding Islam department. Words such as “blockade” “siege” and “occupation” are words that could have applied to the British immediately prior to the American Revolution. Of course when we teach our children about the American Revolution these words are vital. These words such as “blockade”, “siege” and “occupation” were words used by the confederacy during and even after the American Civil War. These words are so powerful, that for several generations after the Civil War, and even to this day, these words enable many in the South to see the North as a threatening entity. So is it any wonder that Hamas has figured out that words such as “blockade”, “siege” and “occupation” carry so much meaning in the western press and the more frequently Hamas perverts the meaning of these words, that eventually the words lose meaning and Hamas becomes more legitimate in the eyes of some in the West as well as among some of the Palestinian people.   
This week we begin the final book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim, with Parsha Devarim. Traditionally known as Mishnah Torah – or the repetition of the Torah, Parsha Devarim is the introductory Parsha to Moshe’s formal teaching of the Torah to this new generation. Moshe Rabeinu, now only a few weeks from the moment of his death, imparts his teaching and his wisdom upon B’nai Yisroel like a dying grandparent or parent would to his/her children. Moshe begins with a history lesson, recounting B’nai Yisroel’s history. Moshe begins with leaving Mt. Horev (otherwise known as Mt. Sinai). Then Moshe shares with B’nai Yisroel his version of appointing judges, the mission of the spies and, and his punishment (that he was forbidden to enter into Eretz Canaan. Moshe then leaps ahead and reminds them of the more recent history: the avoidance of war with Edom, the war with Moab, the conquest of Og, and finally the 2 ½ tribes request to remain on the eastern shore of the Jordan River.
This fifth and final book of the Torah, makes it abundantly clear that we are hearing a recounting of history from Moshe Rabeinu’s perspective. Commandment that are re-iterated are prefaced with the reminder that “God told me (Moshe), to tell you (B’nai Yisroel). Words are vital and Moshe Rabeinu understands that it is his words that will live far longer than he will. Eilah HaDvarim Asher Diber Moshe El B’nai Yisroel B’Eiver Yarden-These are the words that Moshe Spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan…(Deut. 1:1). The words that follow are not God’s but rather Moshe’s. Some of these words, especially those that immediately follow this verse are harsh words of rebuke. They are words that remind B’nai Yisroel of some of their national shortcomings. Later, these words will become more prophetic. In either case, Moshe’s wisdom can only be passed down through words. Therefore both the speaker, Moshe, and the listener, B’nai Yisroel, must be on the “same page” in terms of the meaning of the words. There can be no confusion otherwise the message will become something different than how it was originally expressed.
Indeed words have meaning. If Hamas continues to use words like “occupation” “blockade” or “siege” frequently enough when talking about Israel, and the world doesn’t question it, then it becomes a fact. However Israel left Gaza in 2005, so Israel cannot now  “Occupy” Gaza; Israel is not in Gaza! A “blockade” suggests that  the means by bringing goods and services across a border are blocked. The only “blockade” exists at the Rafa crossing which is the border between Egypt and Gaza. Goods and services do move across the Israeli and Gaza borders, those goods include, medicine, electricity, steel and concrete (the same steel and concrete that Hamas used to build its tunnels).  When Hamas complains to anyone who will listen that Israel makes it too difficult to bring other things across the border, someone might want to remind Hamas that the checking goods and services prior to crossing a border even occurs at the Canada/US border; a border between two friendly countries! A “siege” suggest that a particular group is surrounded and will ultimately be captured, assumes that Egypt or Israel wants to capture Gaza. When in fact “siege” also means “a prolonged illness that besets an individual or a group.” Yes the Palestinian people have been under siege, but it is Hamas, a terrorist organization, an illness, a virus that has affected thought and speech, and has hurt its own people and continues to do so. Yes language matters. Language can be become perverted, twisted to such a point that it loses its meaning. Ultimately, when language becomes perverted enough, it can corrupt, poison and destroy a society.

Rav Yitz

No comments:

Post a Comment