The History and Future of Judaism in 700 small words
By Ted Roberts
The new millennium. The hinge of fate as Winston Churchill would express it -
what will it bring to we sons and daughters of the covenant? As Sir Winston
would have said; look back at history before you seek the future. Or to put
it in the jargon of my Uncle Louie who spent more hours at the track than the
synagogue, “don’t bet ‘til you’ve checked the record”.
The record is all there in the Holy Book. First there was Avram, a gentleman
shepherd who signed with the flesh of his foreskin a contract with God. “Look
toward heaven and number the stars. . . so shall your seed be,” said his
contractual Partner. Naturally, Abraham’s tribe multiplied and soon there
were hundreds of Hebrews and many sheep to feed and clothe them. Life was
good. But Abraham and his kin were only a grain of sand on civilization’s beach.
Now let’s skip forward a thousand years to 1000 BC. Times are harsh. The
only dependable pastime is lust. No TV, no microwave, no competition at all
in the long distance business - a guy with great lungs and a big mouth could
charge you a fortune. The internet is still in the mind of the Creator. (No,
not Al Gore.) The David/Solomonic empire is flourishing. But Shlomo is a
tax and spend democrat. Taxes are stifling because Shlomo has a temple to
maintain and a thousand wives to feed and clothe. Can you see his Visa bill;
Liz Claiborne blouses, perfume, hair dressers. And how ‘bout meals?
Remember, these were rubinesque babes: heavyweights who knocked off an ox rib
dinner in between hair dresser appointments and their session with the Hebrew
language instructor. (You thought they were all Jewish?)
“I was SO stressed
out - I just had to have a curried goat stew,” says a recently excavated
tablet signed by Mimi the Moabite. “That Hebrew, so hard. Backwards, too. I
couldn’t face it without a snack. Well, thank Baal, the teacher’s cute as
Language instructors, cute or not, cost lots of shekels. So did the
trips for the girls back home to Syria, Yemen, and Ethiopia. Inflation was
raging like the wind over Mt. Sinai. A roasted lamb sandwich without slaw and
a thin slice of pickle was a week’s wages. But the weekly chariot races were
a pleasant diversion. Uncle Louie would have loved them!.
Sure, the Jewish empire is at its height, but it’s still only a thin sliver of
real estate on the Western shores of the Mediterranean. On the outside, Jewry
glitters and the numbers have grown immensely since Abraham’s day, just like
the celestial partner promised. But the core is mushier than in the simple
days of the patriarchs; expansion brings diversity - like cabbage soup - a
little sweet, a little sour.
Now it’s the Christian era, a millennium later. A volley of events rocks
Judaism: a Jew called Joshua (renamed Jesus) and his marketing partner, Saul
(redubbed Paul) spread a mild, diluted form of Judaism throughout the Eastern
world. Next, the temple falls, crumpled like a tent in a windstorm. Jews -
wrapped in their mystical doctrine - and with their invisible God in their
heart are dispersed to the four corners of the known universe. Our religion
escapes the stone walls of the temple and flows out to a wounded world. The
first phase of Tikuun Olam begins as Judaism goes worldwide.
Soon the second millennium will end. Whither Judaism? A tough question since
the prophets no longer roam the countryside and whisper in our willing ear.
But consider this; nobody hates us. At least they don’t announce it. The
whole world - so to speak - is eating chopped liver. The shepherd’s
descendants, just like the Covenant Partner promised, are everywhere.
I’ll bet if you convened a hotel full of experts and served them a nice kosher
corned beef lunch, you’d get a buoyant projection on Judaism - as glowing as
an Internet.com IPO - for the next millennium. Why? Because for one thing,
like Sir Winston and my Uncle Louie understood; the past prefaces the future.
The Torah is a tree of life, we’re told, to those who grasp it. Some scholars
predict it will blossom in the millennium to come. May its fruit be as
brilliant and variegated as Joseph's coat of many colors.
For the first time
our only enemy may be ourselves.
Ted Roberts is a Jewish humorist and commentator whose work
appears in the Jewish Press, as well as in Disney Magazine,
Hadassah, Wall Street Journal, and others. He lives in Huntsville,
from the January 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine