The History and Future of Judaism in 700 small words
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 pie.”
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.