- Religion and Philosophy
Wisdom of Kahana: Rediscovering the Exodus
“Choosing not to change is one’s prerogative.
You have the right not to survive.” --Allen Goldenthal (Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana) 2012
Harsh words you might protest but just remember my quote when you are looking back from some time in the future and wondering where it all went wrong. This statement is the definitive response as to why I wrote the Rediscovering the Exodus series of articles. It is the summation of every point, every statement, and every cause-effect relationship that has guided us through the past three millennia. And it is also the reason why one would suggest we are in the dilemma we find ourselves today with no hope in sight. As a people we are not reviving, thriving or conviving; we are merely surviving. That is all we seem to do and have done for quite some time now, with most of us apparently content with maintaining that existence, the so-called status-quo, but I caution you, that is merely an illusion of survival and comes with a heavy cost.
The Rabbi of Kuznice
Let me digress for the moment and tell you a story about the Rabbi of Kuznice that was told to me a long time ago. Some of you may have heard more recent versions of the same story but bear with me. Long ago the rains fell in Poland at an unprecedented rate and the Vistula rose a meter above its banks which sent a wall of water raging through the village of Kuznice. By the end of the first day the water level was well above the first floor of the old wooden synagogue and the Rabbi of Kuznice took refuge in his second storey bedroom where he lit a candle, placing it upon the sill to mark his location. He prayed to God to send him a rescuer and just as he finished his prayers, he was looked out the window where he saw a man in a rowboat quickly approaching. When the boat came closer the man shouted, “Rabbi, get in the boat and I will take you to safety.” Scrutinizing the man carefully the Rabbi shook his head. “I don’t know you. You are a Gentile, aren’t you? I am sorry, I cannot go with you.” The Rabbi was certain that God would never send a ‘Goy’ to be his salvation. Shaking his head, the man in the boat rowed off in disbelief.
The torrential rains continued to fall relentlessly and the skies were as black as coal. By the second day the water was coming through the window on the second storey and the Rabbi took refuge in the synagogue attic. Again he placed the candle in the small vent that brought air into the enclosed space and he prayed even harder to the Lord to send salvation. Amazingly, someone was still out there braving the storm and a second boat approached the narrow opening of the vent seeing that someone still trapped inside. “Rabbi, is that you?,” the man shouted. “Quick, get in my boat and I will take you to safety.” “Is that you Meir Zlotnyk?” the Rabbi inquired back. “You have not been to synagogue in years and took a Polish wife. You are a sinner. I spit upon you. Be gone before you defile me as well.” The Rabbi was certain that God would never send a sinner, and for that matter an assimilated Jew, to be his rescuer. The second boatman rowed away, both furious and ashamed by the Rabbi’s harangue.
By the third day the waves were crashing through the attic vent and the Rabbi had to climb on to the roof, holding on precariously to the chimney, while the rains poured down upon his head and the sky grew blacker with each unfurling cloud. Raising his voice above the crashes of thunder, the Rabbi prayed as he had never done before, fearing the storm was heralding the end of the world. “God, if this is truly then end of the World then it must be time for the Messiah. Please send the Messiah to rescue me.” No sooner had he finished the prayer then a rowboat once more appeared in the distance. As it came closer, he could see that it was Meir Zlotnyk once again but there was someone else in the boat with him. As the boat approached, Zlotnyk cried out, “You are right Rabbi, I have been a sinner. Let me make amends and save your life. See, I have brought the great Rabbi of Warsaw with me. He says it is all right if you get in the boat with me. Ask him yourself.” The Rabbi of Kuznice was overcome by wonder and amazement. “Truly this must be the end of the world,” he thought. “If a great man like the Chief Rabbi can climb into a boat with an eternal sinner like Zlotnyk, then God has sent me a sign that he has heard my prayer.” “Get in the boat,” the two men shouted to the Rabbi. “Go away. Don’t you see, the Messiah is coming to rescue me! Go away and leave me alone before you ruin everything!” As soon as the Rabbi of Kuznice finished his last word, the storm whipped up a wave that crashed against the chimney and shattered the bricks into dust. Losing his grip, the rabbi fell below the waters and drowned in the murky depths.
Appearing before the Lord at his Judgment, the Rabbi of Kuznice was red with rage. “God, why did you send me a false promise of salvation? You knew that I prayed for the Messiah and surely that was the end of times as you showed me. Why then did you let me drown? Did I not pray enough to you? Did I not bless your Holy name enough? Tell me! I am entitled to know!”
“Tell you!” the Lord roared. “You are a fool and an ignorant one at that. Three times, I sent boats to rescue you but you were blinded by your own self-importance that you cannot see the Hand of God when it appears to you. Three times, I gave you the tools to change your fate and you dismissed my compassion. Three times, I showed you that the Lord your God is not limited by the constraints you have made about me to do only as you think is proper. You say you need to see a miracle. I gave you a world of miracles. Every day you awoke and drew a breath was a miracle. Every time a baby looked up into its mother’s face and smiled was a miracle. Every apple that budded upon the tree was a miracle. Yet you saw them not! Now for all your blindness, you are dead and the only miracle is that with all your ignorance, you survived this long!”
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we as a people are that Rabbi of Kuznice, failing to see what has been written so clearly upon the wall or in this particular case, in Exodus. We have been that person for a very long time now. I enjoy engaging with my readers and one in particular has been trying hard to find the underlying message within this series of articles. I hope now that the message is becoming crystallized for everyone. Our purpose, role, or function (however you choose to describe it) in this world was never to be hapless victim, praying for the Lord to deliver us from the evils perpetrated against us. The so-called suffering servant imagery of Isaiah was a condemnation of what we had become even back in his time and was never intended to be viewed as a glorification of masochistic benevolence. Read Isaiah 53 in contrasting light of both 52 and 54. Only then will you appreciate his full imagery and what Isaiah was actually trying to say. God gave us the tools, the abilities to make miracles happen but we failed Him miserably, choosing instead to let the world, our environment, and other outside forces control us rather than our controlling them. As I recap the major points of each article, it should become evident that this is the true message that God delivered to us through his servant Moses. Moses made things happen. Moses had the vision to see his purpose and mission within this world. Yes, God provided the opportunities and as I previously mentioned, the tools, but it was Moses slipping it into gear and putting it into action. It was never a case of Moses floundering frantically in floodwaters praying desperately for a miracle. Instead, he took charge of the situation, using the knowledge he was given, the sense of how Universal order and progression was turned by the hand of God, and with the reassurance that the Almighty guided all of his decisions and therefore he would make the right ones. That is true faith. Not faith as we have been led to believe where you kneel and pray for God to take action on your behalf. Or you shake yourself and bend as low as possible so that everyone in the synagogue around you thinks that you must be even more righteous than they are. Those are the vanities of vanities and have nothing to do with faith. And the vanity of vanities encompasses all that we do now and pass off as faith. Instead, faith is when you know you will make the right decision because God is behind you overseeing what you do, whether anyone else sees him or not. Ultimately, you have to make the decision, make the first move so to speak or else nothing will happen. God is not a crutch nor a servitor as the Kaballah would have you believe. He is an inspiration, a motivator, a mentor and a benefactor. Very few people in our history have understood that or appreciated the instructions that were provided within the Torah. Two did, Saul of Tarsus and Mohammed, and with that knowledge they changed the world but unfortunately both distorted the Torah and the primary instructions to such a degree that they are no longer what God intended. But then again, both of these men were rejected, ostracized and banished from our communities, when they first came to us proclaiming that they understood the message and would enlighten us. Our refusal to listen forced them down alternative pathways, much to our future distress as they turned their rejection into deliberate aggression and revenge against us. It could be stated, that their overwhelming success was the result of our unwillingness to use the strategic insights they had gained to our own advantage. What they had achieved was always available to us, actually should have been us, but sadly we lacked the will, the initiative, the conviction, the strength of character, but most of all the faith, to do as God through Moses had instructed us. We had become reactive rather than proactive, victims of our own failure, fears and inhibitions, remaining that way even until today.
Changing the Paradigm
The real question that must be considered is now that I have passed on this understanding, what are you going to do with it. Choosing not to change, as I mentioned is your prerogative but not a solution. We’ve done that for a couple of millennia and can probably survive even a little longer by pulling our heads back into our shells. I suggest option ‘B’. We follow the pathway given to us by Moses and see how the lessons from the articles will bring about the future that should have been our past. The miracles have always been there; we just refuse to acknowledge them. The present state of Israel is a miracle, no different from our return granted by Cyrus of Persia to Nehemiah and Ezra. In fact probably even greater in magnitude considering that we only had to wait 70 years for a Cyrus but 1813 years for the United Nations Charter. But just like the Rabbi of Kuznice, the ultraorthodox cannot see the miracle and refuse to accept what was clearly the hand of God. As I indicated, nothing much has changed. The Messiahs have come and gone and we don’t even know when they have passed us by. Others will come but they too will be swept into the abyss of oblivion. Why, because of a people we rely on interpretations and a mythology that has been handed down to us by what can be described in no other terms as a cabal that from the time of Alexander Jannai had no other intention or focus but to seize power and divert Judaism from its true path. Most of you will not see that unless we cast off the cataracts that cloud our eyes and begin to take back control of our destiny. Just as Anan ben David preached from his prison cell, or Kirkisani from the pinnacle of Karaite literary success, the time has come to read the Torah and seek your answers directly from God. Your relationship must be one on one with the Almighty and not through the Men in Black, with their black hats and black cloaks who have come to believe that they have been granted exclusivity of God’s word. Exclusivity to such a degree that they considered themselves endowed with enough righteousness to change, alter, edit and create their own versions of the Lord’s teachings.
Reconsider Whom You Follow
We know from Moses that no men should set themselves above us, neither prophets nor kings, for as God instructed us through his servant Moses and then through Joshua, everything we need to know he has told us through the Book of the Law. And as I described in the Exodus series, some of the worst offenders were those we considered prophets and those we crowned as kings. We are empowered and entitled by God to investigate why He has instructed us do or not do a certain thing but wherever our investigation leads us we must arrive at the same destination where He intended to lead us. To provide you with an analogy that might be easier to comprehend, if we look at following the Torah, cherishing it as the definitive word of God and recognizing everything else is merely the words of men in the same context as reaching a physical destination such as New York City. How we arrive there, by plane, train, ship or car does not matter. God does not care as long as you arrive at the point he wanted you to reach. That message was pre-eminent from my Exodus series.
If for no other reason that God picked a Royal Egyptian to lead his followers out of Egypt it was to say that He and He alone determines who will be a saviour, who will be a Messiah at any given time. It has nothing to do with birth or heredity, since as was evident from our long history of Kings, the majority of them were the worst examples of being ‘servants of God.’ And those labelled as Messiahs by the Rabbis that groomed and released them on a gullible population practically sealed our extinctions several times over.
This article has already gone well over the intended length and I still haven’t taken the opportunity to recap the Exodus series. That I’m afraid will have to wait until the next article which hopefully will not be too long in coming. But heralding back to my opening remarks, if we are to move forward, if we are ever to realize our destiny and fulfil that which was ordained in the Torah then we must make the decision to change and we must do it now. L’shanah habah, has been a refrain in the lives of our people for too long. Next year will never come unless you recognize that such a belief has only served to paralyze and relegate us to a position of servitude. It is the same refrain that the Shazu and Hapiru slaves in Egypt, our ancestors, wailed until Moses came and instilled a sense of purpose and direction into their lives. We have allowed the nations of this world to walk across our backs for countless centuries and whether you choose to believe it or not, we still permit it. Just look at the recent incidents of Anti-Semitism, which once more is on the rise in Europe and America. See what’s printed and disseminated openly on the numerous rightwing websites and tell me that the world is different now. No, the world was in a hiatus, a resting face, still exhausted from its efforts of seventy years ago in its horrific attempt to eradicate us, but its strength is returning quickly. If you choose to continue to follow the blind path that has always permitted such events to take place, to not recognize the failure and faults within its teaching, the intentional distortions of the holy word for gain by a particular segment of the population, then the concern of survival will probably not be an issue for too much longer.
Avrum Aryeh-Zuk Kahana