Newsletter 218: The Message of Succot
Dear Friends Shalom,
40 Years the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness without a permanent place to live. They lived in temporary huts, known as Succot.
It’s not as if to say that they didn’t know where they were going or why. One doesn’t just take a whole nation of people out into the desert without knowing where one is taking them or why.
This wasn’t just an aimless walk in the park; they knew exactly where they were going and why; they were going to a place where they could practice their religion freely, such a place was known as the Promised Land.
At first Moses had told Pharaoh that he was taking them to the desert to worship their God, because the people weren’t free to worship their God in Egypt. There they were forced to worship the Egyptian gods. Moses, obviously, mistakenly thought that the desert wasn’t under Egyptian control.
According to the Egyptian religion, however, and the religious ideas of other nations, a different religion was forbidden, because only the Egyptian gods could be worshipped in the place ruled by them.
In other words the land where a god is worshipped becomes the property of whatever god is worshipped there; if the Jews prayed to their god in Egypt then the god of the Jews would then become the ruler of Egypt.
That’s why Moses at first tries to get permission to practice Judaism in the desert, but Pharaoh forbids this also, because he wants Egyptian rule over the desert as well.
This was Pharaoh’s understanding of religion. He’d never heard of a god who doesn’t own the land where He’s worshipped. He only knew that that wherever people worship the Egyptian gods there is the place that Egypt rules. Pharaoh obviously wants to rule everywhere.
Not wanting to allow the Jews to leave Egypt wasn’t a question of keeping the Jews in Egypt to be slaves, as most people understand the story; Pharaoh had plenty of slaves he didn’t need Jewish slaves. The thing that was important for him was to keep the Jews worshiping the Egyptian gods. He is so set on forcing this issue that he slaughters the Jewish male children and he undergoes the terrible sufferings of the ten plagues.
It’s obvious that religion for Pharaoh was a serious matter involving forcing others to worship Egyptian gods, even though they didn’t believe in them.
Moses doesn’t use the term “Promised Land” when speaking to Pharaoh, only we, the readers of the Bible hear about The Promised Land. Obviously the concept of a land controlled by a nation who doesn’t force their belief on others is foreign to him.
Moses’ aim was to bring the Jewish People to a land where they would not be persecuted for worshipping God or persecute others who didn’t worship their God; such a land where there was such freedom of worship was known as “The Promised Land”.
Judaism doesn’t require the land where it’s practiced to be Jewish; neither does the practice of Judaism give the people who practice it the right to force others into practicing it.
Put simply; Judaism doesn’t need to convert others to Judaism, because, according to Judaism God’s ownership of the land doesn’t depend on people in that land worshiping Him. God exists and owns the whole world irrespective of whether people worship Him or not.
Pharaoh forbade the practice of Judaism because he mistakenly thought that Judaism was like other religions which turned the land where it was practiced into property of the god that was worshipped. In the Jewish sense he is backward because he doesn’t understand the concept of a God that rules the whole world irrespective of whether people worship Him or not.
A territory doesn’t become the property of God because He is worshipped there. The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein.
The practice of Judaism demonstrates this important concept. The scattering of the Jews throughout the world, isn’t a punishment; it’s a necessary part of Judaism. That is why God tells Abraham that the Jews will be scattered throughout the world, without associating it with obedience or disobedience to God. It’s simply a fact of life which must happen to demonstrate the idea that God rules the world; even though the majority of the inhabitants worship other gods or that the Jews are a minority in lands where other gods are worshipped.
Anti-Semitism arises because all nations have the same idea as Pharaoh and when they see the Jews worshipping God they persecute the Jews out of fear that the Jews, through their God will rule their lands. This is the origin of the non-Jewish fear that the Jews are trying to form a consortium to rule the world. They cannot understand a religion that is practiced without the objective of ruling the country where it’s practiced. This is a Jewish idea, which, unfortunately most Jews don’t understand either.
The Promised Land is destined to be the example to all the world of the idea that “The earth is the Lords and all that is in it” irrespective of whether or not He’s worshipped.
Nations can practice whatever religion they choose without affecting God’s control over their countries.
The Jews had been practicing this unique religion for about 800 years before they started their journey to the Promised Land. Wherever they went they encountered nations with the mistaken belief that the land belongs only to the god that is worshipped there.
The Jews need a Promised Land, which means a land where worship of a god doesn’t make it the property of that god. Nations who practice a religion like the Egyptian religion have no place in the Promised Land, because the Promised Land is meant to be the ideal of a land owned by God of the universe, not the property of a god who is worshipped in there.
Nations with that belief must be eradicated from the Promised Land to show the world that other gods may be worshipped there but not gods who become the owners of the land because they are worshipped there.
Abraham started practicing the Jewish religion in Mesopotamia, about 800 years before they became slaves in Egypt, but he had to flee because the people of Mesopotamia had tried to prevent him from practicing his religion, to force him to practice their religion.
His aim was to reach the Promised Land because there he’d be free to practice his religion. Which he found out over several generations, was not the case. The Jews then go down to Egypt, where under Joseph they became the rulers and for a time it seemed that Egypt would be the Promised Land, but the Jews were outnumbered by people who had the idea that the land belongs to the god who is worshipped, so they have to be wanderers again, in search of a promised land.
Abraham invented the idea of a Promised Land because he was persecuted for practicing his religion and Moses continued the search.
Abraham, the founder of the religion which the Israelites who wandered in the desert followed, had already wandered and arrived at the Promised Land. He was the one who started the whole idea that God had a promised land where the Jews would demonstrate that a god doesn’t become the owner of a land simply because he is worshipped, there.
The Promised Land would become the place to demonstrate that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” and gods don’t become the owners of a land because they are worshipped there.
This idea became part of the Jewish religion; it existed before the people had become a nation. Moses followed the same religion as Abraham and just like Abraham he kept on wandering.
He became the leader of a nation that believed in the concept that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”. He wandered with a nation, not just by himself like Abraham. But the idea of wandering and yearning for a promised land had become a part of the Jewish People’s character.
The Jews are a nation united by the concept of non-coercion. They are always ready to wander if they ever face coercion again.
This concept is so important in Judaism that all its customs are geared to remind the Jew of it over and over again.
This is why all the religious customs of Judaism circulate around the idea of the sojourn to the Promised Land.
The first festival, Passover celebrates the exodus from Egypt; that started the purposeful, determined journey to reach the Promised Land. It’s sometimes called wandering, but it’s only called that because if the land doesn’t meet the requirements they will continue searching, but it’s definitely not an aimless wandering.
The second festival, Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Law of God at Mt. Sinai, in the wilderness, while they are wanderers. From that moment the nation of wanderers wanders with the Law of God. This is another example of the importance of the idea that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’.
The law can and must be kept anywhere, not just in the Promised Land. It’s not attached to any specific land.
The third and final festival, Succot celebrates the arrival and dwelling in the Promised Land. Every Succah built by a Jewish family anywhere in the world is a declaration of his faith that he is a traveler or sojourner on his way to the Promised Land.
Even in the Promised Land Jewish families build succahs because being in the Promised Land is conditional to practicing Judaism freely, without coercion and not allowing any religion that claims ownership by the number of its worshippers.
Nations that followed religions based on the this claim have conquered Israel, making it no longer The Promised Land and the Jews have been ousted because they can’t follow the most important principle of Judaism “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”.
But no matter how many times this may happen, as history shows, he will continue to aim to return to the Promised Land. He will never stop yearning for it because the belief is too deeply entrenched in Judaism. He will always follow the example of Moses and Abraham.
The Jewish religion requires the Jew always to be ready to become a wanderer who’s always aiming to return to the Promised Land, because the Jew has always found himself in a world of religious coercion.
The Arab claim to the Land of Israel is that they have lived here continuously since the 7th century, the days of their prophet Mohammed and until the Jews returned to rule over the land they were happily coercing the non Moslem population to accept Islam.
This is an utter defilement of the concept of the Promised Land and speaks thousands of words against Moslem control over Israel. Religious tolerance cannot abide with religious intolerance. Either the Jews must leave to find another land where their belief will be tolerated or the the Moslems must change their intolerant ideas.
The Jewish claim on the Land of Israel is exactly the opposite; we have longed to return here for 2000 years and we are bound by our religion not to coerce others to Judaism or to change our belief that “The earth is the Lords and all that is in it”.
Through our continued existence as the Jewish Nation outside the Land of Israel, in the face of persecution for more than 2000 years the Jews have practiced tolerance of other religions and in return have suffered religious intolerance.
This way they have earned the right to possess this land to practice religious tolerance.
The Arabs have gone to a lot of trouble to explain away the Jewishness of the physical remnants of 2000 years ago, like the stones of the Wailing Wall or the Tower of David and the hundreds of cities discovered in archaeological sites throughout Israel. Their religion is full of legends explaining away the presence of these archaeological phenomena, like: “the Wailing Wall isn’t a wall of the Jewish Temple but a wall provided miraculously for Mohammed to tie up his winged steed”.
But that is all not relevant because Judaism isn’t interested to prove its ownership of the land; the Jews want to prove that this is the Promised Land by showing tolerance and proofs of ownership contradict this idea.
This land is for any religion that does not see itself as owner.
Also the Moslem tendency to increase the number of its adherents contradicts this idea, because as I’ve pointed out before God’s ownership of the earth doesn’t have anything to do with the number of people who worship Him.
The point is that the Jewish longing to return to the land is to prove by being non coercive that God is Lord of all the earth.
Even the desire to cultivate the Promised Land isn’t done to show Jewish ownership; on the contrary it’s done to show God’s ownership. This is why for example Jews have always contributed significantly to the cultivation of whatever country they have lived in.
It’s true that the Arabs have customs but not a single one of their customs concerns the longing for the Promised Land. All their customs are to celebrate the acts of Mohammed in Mecca and Medina.
The Moslems never had a longing to come to the Holy Land to show that God is Lord of all the earth.
On the contrary, they only have a concept of conquest in the name of Islam so that the people of the conquered country will be Moslems and the god of the Moslems will rule.
The notion of conquest in the name of God does not exist in Judaism.
The Jews never conquered the Promised Land as a means to persuading the people who lived here to accept Judaism. The Jews conquered the Promised Land to establish religious freedom.
Longing to arrive at the Promised Land, forcing other nations to accept their religion was not included in the Jewish Religion. The Jews never claimed that their task as a nation was to convert others to Judaism.
That is a Moslem idea and the only reason why they want to possess this land, for that matter, is to convert its inhabitants to Islam, because that is what their religion tells them to do.
Wishing you a great no newsday