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Ehud Banai and Heschel in Tel Aviv

Recently the Israeli singer Ehud Banai was interviewed in the Israeli newspaper Maariv. It was a long interview that touched upon culture, politics, and religion. One of Banai’s comments that caught my eye was when he justified his approach towards the holiness of territory by saying that Judaism is a religion of time and not of space. I thought to my myself, how Heschelian of Banai to say such a thing. I’ll admit that I was surprised when he then went on to quote Heschel by name, citing him as the source for his believing in the Judaism of Time versus the Judaism of Space.

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Q: There is no holiness to the Land of Israel?

A: There is a holiness of space.  But in Judaism, the holiness of time is superior.  I have a fantasy that the Third Temple will be a place in time, and not a concrete place. It will be built from stones of the spirit, and not of material.  Heschel (Abraham Joshua Heschel, an American Jewish thinker) claimed that what holds us together is the Holiness of Time because that is impossible to destroy.  The Nazis could burns synagogues, the Romans could destroy the Temple, but no one can destroy the time of the Sabbath.  It is impossible to touch it.  In my eyes, the Holiness of Time is the peak of Judaism.

So today they say, “The Land of Israel, the Land of Israel!” OK. But what do we have today?  A Palestinian people, and we must confront this fact.  Something got messed up with us in the desire to establish the Third Temple.  The State of Israel needed to be established after the Shoah, of course, but it was incorrect to make the establishment of the state, and especially not the Six Day War, “the Beginning of Redemption,” to say “Now I rule here and through power.”  No! “Not by might, nor by strength, but through [my] spirit,” as the prophet Zechariah said.  The way must be moral and ethical.

As I have mentioned before, there is a renewed interest in the teachings of Heschel in Israel. A number of books about his work have recently been published, in addition to updated translations of some works that have already been translated, or translations of writings that have yet to be translated into Hebrew. This Friday there is going to be a discussion about the new edition of his book the Sabbath in Tel Aviv.

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2 Responses to “Ehud Banai and Heschel in Tel Aviv”

  1. 1
    7azon Yesha3ya:

    beautiful!
    yasher keuyech!

  2. 2
    DF:

    I love seeing articles like this in secular hebrew papers like Maariv. First, its a constant reaffirmation of the essential Jewishness, even of avowed chilonim who read and write these articles. Second, anything written in neo-classical modern hebrew (ie, not rabbinic or biblical hebrew, yet not hyper jargonized and slang infected hebrew) is a beautiful thing.

    Having said that, Banai’s comments are hogwash. He repeats the same ssilly (and dangerous) mistake of Obama last year, in linking the establishment of the state to the Holocaust. Altogether now, the process of building the state began in the 19th century, generations before the Holocaust. The Holocaust sped up the process, but the foundation of Israel does not rest on that alone. maybe taht’s all Banait meant to say, hard to tell.

    Likewise hogwash [and I know plenty of rabbis and rosh yeshivahs say the same thing] is criticizing Israel for ruling through might, or in the orthodox parlance, kochi viotzem yodi. He says the state ought to have been established by ethics and morals, not by military might. Well, I personally dont see the two as mutually exclusive, nor do I think anyone on the knesset does either. Besides, no one I know ever conquered attacking armies by waving to them copies of Messilas Yesharim. Its telling that this guy goes around quoting Heshel, the epitome of the ivory tower professor. Not to say he wasnt a brilliant thinker, but his feel were firmly planted in fantasy. As Orwell once noted, there is nothing so stupid or silly that some intellectual somewhere hasnt said it.

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