Women Remain the Best Jewish LeadersBy Fishel Jacobs
By this point in time, the entire world has heard of the fight exploding all around us. In our own country, it's been labeled a fight between the constitutional right to freedom of speech and what perhaps hundreds of millions around the globe see as typical American bigotry.
Millions of Europeans, considered by many to have already lost their battle, wait anxiously to see if American can muster the fortitude to win theirs.
Finally, in the Middle East, hundreds of millions pray for the American spirit to fail. Many of them are willing to die for that happen.
We're speaking about the unprecedentedly courageous public information campaign flashing across our nation's billboards, blogs, websites, news reports, and dinner tables.
Short, sweet, punchy, pointed. And who's behind this public awareness campaign? Ms. Pamela Geller -- a woman. A Jewess.
One learns that Ms. Geller not only faces mortal dangers from Islamic zealots -- i.e., from the outside. She also faces fire from all kinds from lobbying groups on the inside -- for example, the "1,800 member strong" Rabbis For Human Rights.
These reform and conservative rabbis would benefit from remembering that, throughout Jewish history, it has consistently been intelligent and proud females who've made critical difference, specifically in the most hopeless times. Here are but a very small few examples.
Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac. Abraham also had a previous son, Ishmael, through their Egyptian slave-girl, Hagar. (Monogamy was introduced only through later rabbinic legislation.)
A violent argument erupted around who would continue the Abrahamic tradition. After all, Abraham had been promised that "[t]o you and your offspring I will give the land you are now living in as a sojourner."
Sarah claimed that Isaac was the rightful heir. Hagar demanded that it be Ishmael.
That debate was interrupted by a Voice which came to Abraham, saying, "Do not be troubled by this boy [Ishmael] and your slave-girl. Do everything that Sarah tells you" (Genesis 21:11).
(As a light aside, many of us in the orthodox Jewish community paraphrase that verse when we tell our friends to listen to their own wives' opinions.)
Fast-forward four hundred years (circa 1393 BCE). The nation is toward the end of the worst enslavement of an entire people in the history of mankind. Four hundred years in Egyptian captivity.
Pharoah's horrible decrees "to break their bodies" are piling up. Men, women, the elderly, the ill, and children were working day and night to build the pyramids and cities, through mortar and brick. Bitter slavery in fields under the burning sun, all designed for one thing: to "break them."
Finally came the back-breaker of all of Pharoah's proclamations -- specifically, that when any Hebrew child was born, "if it is a boy[,] it shall be thrown to death in the Nile."
The husbands decided to divorce their wives, as a cautionary measure to preclude procreation. They reasoned, Why bring children into this world when they are only going to be murdered?
One headstrong woman, though, thought otherwise. She had hope. And she inspired a successful counter-movement.
"Pharoah has decreed," she declared, "against our newborn sons only. But your decree will stop all childbearing!" Her advice was taken by her husband, followed by the other men.
This woman's name was Yochebed (according to Talmudic tradition). Her husband's name was Amram.
They fathered Moses, the man who would, eighty years later, broadcast perhaps the most famous exclamation of freedom ever: "Let my people go!"
The rest is history.
Fast-forward again. It's circa 355 BCE. The Persian King Ahasuerus (perhaps Xerxes I of Persia) rules over the entire known world: 127 nations. The Temple, in Jerusalem, had been destroyed almost 70 years earlier. The Jews are in exile.
Haman, the King's vizier, has convinced Ahasuerus that the only trouble in the entire kingdom is the Jews. (Some things never change.) A decree goes out to annihilate the entire people -- "men, women, and children where ever they may be (Book of Esther).
The story has a protagonist, Mordechai, and a heroine, Esther. Mordechai has secretly positioned Esther into the palace.
You guessed it. At the risk of her own life, Esther pulled off the salvation of her entire people. That's the story of Purim.
Now fast-forward to today. Particularly these last few decades have brought us an implacable, evil tsunami of Islamic expansionism swelling up all around the world. It's intentional and international, and they're up-front and vocal about their intentions. They're battling to spread the domination of sharia law. Anyone who even questions them is an infidel. The movement is called jihad.
It's all there in the Quran. Different authorized English versions are freely downloadable. It is required reading today.
But we in the Jewish and Christian cultures are doing what psychology labels "projection." It's understandable and an almost inevitable human tendency to view everything through one's own worldview.
So, accordingly, our initial reaction is to turn the other cheek when injured. We try to see the good in other people, to appease, to be inclusive. All this when the relentless aggressors consistently and vigorously declare vehement disdain for all accepted Western values and, supported in full by the societies from which they grow, express their determined intent on our demise.
Anyone who raises a voice in warning against these incessant attacks on innocent men, women, and children, from the Middle East to Europe to the U.S., is labeled an insensitive, polarizing bigot.
It is in times like this that the sane mind asks, Where are the voices of reason, of maturity? The voices of courage?
I thank G-d that there are still people of clarity, moral fiber, and dignity left. But I'm not sure how many such men there are. Like I got thinking earlier, it's pretty clear to me that women do remain the best Jewish leaders.
Rabbi Major (ret.) Fishel Jacobs: born in NY, raised in Vermont, graduated University of VT. Eighth-degree karate master instructor and title-holder, moved to Israel to study in rabbinical school. Worked as an officer (major) for Israeli Prison Service. Published numerous non-fiction books, including one on Talmudic law and Israel Behind Bars - US Karate Champ Turns Israeli Prison Officer, a memoir presently being adapted to a feature Hollywood movie. Married to Miriam with seven children and, as of this writing, eight grandchildren.
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