The Loss of Reality from the Distant Lights

On the fourth day of creation God set the Sun and Moon in the sky. Placed millions of miles from the Earth, the Sun did more than allow life to exist on the planet; it allowed time to be measured in seconds and seasons.

The distance between Earth and Sun changes throughout the year bringing warmer and colder weather, and the rotation of the Earth produces evolving shadows from the sunlight which enables people to tell time. As the seasons and time of day change, our views of the world around us also change. One minute the item before us may be almost black. The next it could be purple, followed by blue and red then brown. Our senses take in the natural world, and its constant evolution.

The mountains of Las Vegas at 6:16, 6:20, 6:23, 6:29 and 6:45am
(photos: First.One.Through)

The moon and stars also enable mankind to chart its path during the night. The various natural sources of light enable people know where they stand in time and place.

Man’s Ever-Encroaching Light and Lit Content

Man was able to harness and control some of nature’s light in developing and using torches and lanterns over thousands of years. However, it was in 1878 with the creation of the first light bulb that mankind began to change the essence of how we see the natural world.

It its first decades of existence, light bulbs illuminated its immediate surroundings. The light bulb first lit up a circumference of several feet and then, as the power grew, it illuminated even larger areas. But in 1927, the very nature of man’s light changed, as it also became the focus of attention with the creation of the television. No longer was man’s light used only to appreciate the natural world; it was used as a replacement to the natural world. Man’s light became embedded with its own truth.

For decades, that source of light and content remained roughly eight to ten feet from our eyes. That abridged space still afforded our eyes the ability to incorporate some other items in our peripheral vision. But the distance would continue to shrink over time, as would our incorporation of the natural world.

The first computers came to corporations in the 1960’s and individuals began to acquire them in the 1980’s and 1990’s, bringing the lit screens just two to four feet from our eyes. The distance would shrink again in the 21st century, as smartphones with luminous screens were welcomed into the hands of the masses, shrinking the space between our eyes and the screens to just one to two feet. Now, with the advent of virtual reality goggles, all space has disappeared.

AT&T’s vision for new virtual reality games based on its DC characters

The distance which had afforded us the space to see God’s creations has been eliminated. The natural world is shut out in favor of man-made reality.

Man’s Reality: The Destruction of Time and of Man

For centuries, mankind did not only use the sunlight to tell the time of day, it understood the nature of how the world changed based on the sunlight.

In the 1890’s French artist Claude Monet painted a series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral at different times of day. While the subject of the church’s facade remained constant, Monet changed the color scheme based on the lighting of the sun. In doing so, each work of art was inherently time-stamped. A viewer understood whether the painting of the church was from the morning, during the day or at sunset, based on the palette of colors.

In the 1960’s, pop artist Roy Lichtenstein recreated the Monet series in his own style.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Rouen Cathedral series at The Broad
(photo: First.One.Through)

The various colors used by Monet designed to show the cathedral under different lighting conditions in moments of time was replaced by Lichtenstein into uniform sets of color. Lichtenstein’s yellow Rouen no longer conveyed daytime, his red was not sunset and his navy could not be considered night. The pop artist eliminated the element of time, as color was just meant as color, available in any and all shades.

Lichtenstein’s style also replaced Monet’s varied and emotional brushstrokes with machine-like circles. While he painted the artworks by hand, Lichtenstein gave his artwork a poster-like, mass produced cold feeling.

In just 70 years, man migrated from personal, emotional expressions of how sunlight influenced the world around us, to art which minimized both time and man’s own unique creativity.

The “Triumph” of Man’s/ Computer’s Virtual Reality

Until roughly 2008, the use of the internet ran roughly along working hours as people logged into their computers at work. However, with the ubiquity of connected cellphones and tablets, data consumption during the morning and evening hours – all of the way until 11:00pm – has now matched, and in some cases surpassed, data usage at work. People are consuming video content during all of their waking hours, and doing it at closer and closer distances to their eyes.

Technology is eliminating the physical space which enables us to absorb God’s natural world, as we allow ourselves to be ensnared by man’s manufactured reality. While the circling sun let us know that time moved on, the digital lights blind us of those same lost moments.

The sad loss of reality afforded by God’s distant lights will be rapped in the future by an avatar during a cinematic sequence in a virtual reality game. And alas, the masses will never understand the reference, as they parry the poetry to pursue additional precious points.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Hidden Side of the Moon

The Relationship of Man and Beast

The Descendants of Noah

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

The Jewish Holy Land

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The Descendants of Noah

After God destroyed most of the world in the flood, He promised that He would never use water to destroy all living things again. After that covenant, the three sons of Noah – Shem, Cham and Japheth – embarked on settling the world anew:

שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה אֵ֖לֶּה בְּנֵי־נֹ֑חַ וּמֵאֵ֖לֶּה נָֽפְצָ֥ה כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole world branched out. (Genesis 9:19)

Genesis 10 relayed the descendants of the three sons and early bibles sought to educate people where each of those children settled by including maps inside the bound volumes. The most famous of these was one completed by a Benedectine Monk named Arias Montanus in the 16th century.

Benedict Arias Montanus Sacrae Geographiae Tabulam ex Antiquissimorum Cultor (1571)

Benito Arias Montanus (1527-1598) was born in Spain and entered the priesthood around 1559 where he gained a reputation as an important biblical scholar. In 1568, he was commissioned by King Phillip II to supervise a new polygot (multi-language) bible which would become part of the king’s scholarly volumes on the bible. This work was to replace the first “Royal Bible” completed by the Escorial Library in 1514.

Written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Syriac, and printed in Antwerp between 1569 and 1573, the polygot bible caused a stir. Montanus was reported to the Spanish Inquisition for purportedly giving preference to the Jewish rabbinic reading of the scriptures. His trial lasted several years and the Inquisition was finally convinced by the biblical scholar Juan de Mariane that Montanus’s interpretation of the text did not contradict Catholic dogma, acquitting him in 1580.

Montanus’s world map above shows the descendants of Shem, Cham and Japheth in Hebrew and Latin. Japeth’s sons are listed in the center of the map in Roman numerals; Shem’s sons are listed on the right side and indexed with numbers, while Cham’s sons are indexed with letters.

Japhet’s sons are portrayed as covering Europe. Sepharad is located in modern Spain, Sarphat is placed in France and Yavan in Greece – just like the modern Hebrew names for those countries. The lone exception is Madai who is placed in modern Iran. Biblical scholars consider Madai to be connected to the ancient Persian people of Medes.

Cham’s sons are placed throughout the Middle East and Africa, stretching from modern Iran to Morocco and Kenya. Mizrayim and Pelishtim are both located in northern Egypt, while Canaan is found in modern Jordan.

The children of Shem, from whom Abraham and the Jewish people are descended, were placed on the map from eastern Europe, Iraq and Kuwait eastward over China and Russia with a land bridge to the Americas. In a fascinating placement, Montanus placed Ophir both in modern-day California and Peru. It is a curious placement because Ophir was the city from which King Solomon imported gold to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:11). While it was known at this time that the Aztecs in Mexico had considerable gold, gold was not discovered in California for another 275 years.


The descendants of Noah scattered over the planet as described in Genesis 11:31, “according to their families, their languages, their lands and their nations.” They are part of the opening of the bible, before the text narrows its focus to the foundation of the Jewish people relocating from modern Iraq to modern Israel in the story of the Jewish patriarch, Abraham. Much like the nations of the world, the Jews would establish their nation in their land with their own language as descendants of their families’ ancestors of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Relationship of Man and Beast

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

Abraham’s Hospitality: Lessons for Jews and Arabs

The Jewish Holy Land

Ruth, The Completed Jew

Kohelet, An Ode to Abel

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Kohelet, An Ode to Abel

The book of Kohelet, Ecclesisates, always struck me as a peculiar portion to read on the holiday of Sukkot. The Sukkot holiday is described in Jewish prayers as “Zman Simchateynu,”‘ meaning the “time of our happiness.” Yet the book of Kohelet does not inspire such emotions.

From its opening sentences, the author appears intent on giving us full warning about the dark philosophical lesson to be shared over twelve chapters:

דִּבְרֵי֙ קֹהֶ֣לֶת בֶּן־דָּוִ֔ד מֶ֖לֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃

Utter futility!—said Koheleth— Utter futility! All is futile!

King Solomon, the wisest man in the world who built the holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, declared that “everything is futile and without meaning.” Quite a jarring and alarming sentiment. If someone of his intellect, who ruled the united kingdom of Israel at its peak can state that everything is pointless, what should an average person believe? How is such a sentiment to be read and internalized on the happy holiday?

In chapter after chapter, Solomon laid out that every human effort and emotion is for naught. Labor (1:3), beauty (1:8), wisdom (1:13-16), laughter (2:1-2), building projects (2:4-6), amassing wealth (2:7-11) are fleeting and without substance or longevity:

“10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

A man with all the wisdom, power and wealth a person could ever imagine had reached the conclusion that his efforts amounted to nothing. His existence was but a whiff of air.

So a reader is left empty. Sitting in synagogue seats on a Sabbath morning during Sukkot, a person squirms and pivots from Zman Simchateynu, a time of happiness, to depression. Is the true message of the season less about surviving the Day of Judgement at Yom Kippur the week before, to internalizing the temporary nature of life, like the huts Jews live in today during the holiday to commemorate the tents which Jews lived in during their forty years wandering from Egypt to Israel, and the pillar of cloud which God placed to protect them (Exodus 13:20-22)? Hooray, we live! But so what?

Such thoughts are depressing and stand at odds with the sentiment of the holiday. One must imagine that the rabbis who advocated reading Kohelet on Sukkot may have had another message for people to extract from Solomon’s words.

Solomon’s Intent

It is possible that the wise king was simply being modest in Kohelet or did not want to be the focus of the world’s envy regarding his status and accomplishments. It is also conceivable that Solomon was so wise that he was able to see into the future and saw that the kingdom which he ruled would soon be torn apart and that the Temple which he built would one day be destroyed.

“הֲבֵ֧ל הֲבָלִ֛ים אָמַ֥ר הַקּוֹהֶ֖לֶת הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃

Utter futility—said Koheleth— All is futile!” (12:8)

But there is another point worth considering.

The Jewish calendar is arranged so that Kohelet is always read publicly a few days before the Torah is finished and restarted on Simchat Torah. The Torah concludes with the end of Jewish wandering and entering the promised land of their forefathers, paired with the opening stories of the bible relaying the creation of the world and mankind.

Finishing the bible and restarting it has been a cycle which Jews have continued for thousands of years, rereading the first thousands of years of Jewish history over and again.

That history had ups and downs with heroes and villains. In restarting the Torah, Jews have a moment to connect to the stories of their favorite characters. Perhaps it was Noah who saved mankind from the destruction of the flood, or Abraham, the original monotheist, or Joseph who saved the world from starvation or Moses who took the Jewish people out of bondage.

The bible is replete with people who helped form the Jewish people into the nation which would enter their holy land by the end of the Torah. Each had a hand in crafting the character of the people.

That excitement about retelling the stories of the biblical forefathers who charted the history of the Jews is seemingly directly counter to Solomon’s Kohelet message. Solomon wrote that everything is meaningless, but we read the bible and conclude otherwise: people make a big difference.

King Solomon’s message may be more nuanced than our plain reading of Kohelet.

Consider that King Solomon had a different hero than most of us who are pulled by the classic narratives of champions and leaders. His hero was seemingly a more simple person whose only mark was worshiping God wholeheartedly. That person’s name covers the entire book of Kohelet: Abel.

Much is lost in the translation from Hebrew, as “הֶ֙בֶל֙” in Genesis is not transliterated as Hevel but translated as “Abel”, and in Ecclesiates it is translated as “futile” or “meaningless.” However, in Hebrew, the words are identical.

We know little of  הֶ֙בֶל֙/Abel other than he was a shepherd and offered the best of his flock to God for an offering (Genesis 4:4). God accepted the offering and Abel was killed by his brother shortly thereafter. Unlike King Solomon, הֶ֙בֶל֙/Abel had no wife or children, no riches or possessions. We never even learn about any of Abel’s emotions like his family members who were embarrassed (Adam and Eve) or angry (Cain). הֶ֙בֶל֙/Abel simply watched sheep and made an offering to God.

And that was the totality of his life.

For Solomon, הֶ֙בֶל֙/Abel’s name will forever live in its purest form, while his murderer will forever be marked as a villain who could not escape his secret crime.

ט֥וֹב שֵׁ֖ם מִשֶּׁ֣מֶן ט֑וֹב וְי֣וֹם הַמָּ֔וֶת מִיּ֖וֹם הִוָּלְדֽוֹ׃

A good name is better than fragrant oil, and the day of death than the day of birth.” (Kohelet 7:1)

Solomon ended Kohelet with a clear message:

וְיֹתֵ֥ר מֵהֵ֖מָּה בְּנִ֣י הִזָּהֵ֑ר עֲשׂ֨וֹת סְפָרִ֤ים הַרְבֵּה֙ אֵ֣ין קֵ֔ץ וְלַ֥הַג הַרְבֵּ֖ה יְגִעַ֥ת בָּשָֽׂר׃

A further word: Against them, my son, be warned! The making of many books is without limit And much study is a wearying of the flesh.

ס֥וֹף דָּבָ֖ר הַכֹּ֣ל נִשְׁמָ֑ע אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֤ים יְרָא֙ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתָ֣יו שְׁמ֔וֹר כִּי־זֶ֖ה כָּל־הָאָדָֽם׃

The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind:

כִּ֤י אֶת־כָּל־מַֽעֲשֶׂ֔ה הָאֱלֹהִ֛ים יָבִ֥א בְמִשְׁפָּ֖ט עַ֣ל כָּל־נֶעְלָ֑ם אִם־ט֖וֹב וְאִם־רָֽע׃

[סוף דבר הכל נשמע את־האלהים ירא ואת־מצותיו שמור כי־זה כל־האדם]

that God will call every creature to account for everything unknown, be it good or bad. The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind.” (12:12-14)

Solomon wrote many books during his lifetime and his father, King David, wrote many psalms. But for Solomon, those don’t really matter. At this time of year, the Jewish people are once again about to read together about their foundation story: the central canon of Judaism, the Five Books of Moses. It is the nation’s time to connect to its ancestors.

Kohelet is not read on Sukkot as a way of adding to the happiness of the holiday; it is the preamble to the Torah to consider the way our ancestors lived and how to model our lives. For the rabbis concerned that people will be drawn to the biblical kings and warriors, leaders and builders, the call to read the text through a prism of connecting to God was captured best in Solomon’s Kohelet.

Solomon’s wisdom is summed up with a simple solitary suggestion: to revere God. Every other action or emotion is inconsequential.

A good name lives forever in a story which is read forever. For King Solomon, the purest person who focused solely on God and nothing else was הֶ֙בֶל֙.


Related First.Oe.Through articles:

“Cast thy bread upon the waters”

The Relationship of Man and Beast

Ruth, The Completed Jew

Taking the Active Steps Towards Salvation

A Sofer at the Kotel

The Jewish Holy Land

Abraham’s Hospitality: Lessons for Jews and Arabs

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Not Remembering, Forgetting and Never Knowing

While the Bible is one of the oldest texts in history, it contains important lessons about memory and history within its own stories.

One of the great episodes in the book of Genesis was about Joseph interpreting dreams for a baker and cup-bearer while they all sat in prison. Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of both people, with the baker ultimately being killed while the cup-bearer was returned to his position in court. In exchange for his services, Joseph only asked that the cup-bearer remember him so that he could also gain his freedom: “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.” (Genesis 40:14)

But the cup-bearer did not do as Joseph asked: “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23)

The text above is seemingly redundant. Why state that the cupbearer both “did not remember” Joseph and then again “forgot him”?

Was this dynamic a precursor for the story of Joseph played out years later, when Joseph was forgotten again after he died? “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8)

Not Remembering versus Forgetting

Not remembering someone is seemingly not a malicious act. A person could not be remembered because of other activities which gathered more attention or because the person was simply not present.

As opposed to not remembering which is a passive act, forgetting is an active verb. It suggests a willful desire to not recall a person or action.

In the world of social media, not remembering could be akin to not thinking of someone because they didn’t post anything for some time. Forgetting someone would be closer to unfriending the person. The former is a momentary occasion that comes from a lack of stimuli, whereas the latter comes from deliberate dismissal.

In the Bible story, the cupbearer may have not remembered Joseph because he was busy attending to Pharaoh. However, the forgetting of Joseph may have been a deliberate disregard for Joseph because he had nothing to offer anymore. Only when the cupbearer heard of Pharaoh’s dreams and had a chance to gain his master’s good graces, was Joseph actively recalled. Forgetting was tied to self-absorption and selfishness.

Not Knowing

One could perhaps forgive the new king of Egypt for not knowing Joseph as relayed in the beginning of Exodus. If two people never met – perhaps because they lived in different generations – there was obviously no ill will, just circumstances.

But the introduction of Exodus tells us not to be so casual in the reading of the new king not knowing Joseph.

Exodus 1:1 “These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family.” The bible had just ended Genesis with a full accounting of the children of Jacob; why list them here?

Rashi states that it was because the children of Jacob were dear to God and therefore worth remembering, even when deceased. Other commentators say that the extra word “names” in the sentence conveys that their reputations continued to live on.

If that is so, how could it be that Joseph – more famous than any of Jacob’s sons – who had saved Egypt and the entire Middle East from famine a generation earlier, could not have been remembered by the new Egyptian king? Did the prior generation passively not remember and actively forget the efforts of Joseph just like the cupbearer? It seems unfathomable that such events and good deeds could have been easily forgotten. The “not knowing” seemingly was connected to active disinformation to disassociate Joseph from Egypt’s success through the famine. Perhaps the new Egyptian king sought to elevate the reputation of himself and his family by rewriting history.

The Bible tells us right after the new king’s unfamiliarity with Joseph, that the Israelites were viewed with suspicion and then enslaved. Historic allies became enemies. People who had lived together side-by-side were suddenly in a hierarchical ecosystem.

When the cupbearer forgot Joseph, a single person forgot a single person’s actions, and the repercussion was that Joseph remained in prison. However, when the actions of Joseph saving all of Egypt were wiped from memory, the entirety of the Jewish people became enslaved.

The situation of denying history with horrible consequences continues today.

Jews in Israel Today

The history of Jews in Israel is not only being forgotten, it is being rewritten.

Over the past few decades, the Arab and Muslim world have been very active in denying and recasting Jewish history.

  • Holocaust denial. The leaders of Iran and the Palestinian Authority have taken a variety of approaches in denying the deliberate slaughter of 6 million Jews in Europe, ranging from denying that the event happened to arguing that Zionists plotted with the Nazis to enable the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine (yes, that was the essence of Mahmoud Abbas’ doctoral thesis).
  • The Jewish State was founded in reaction to the Holocaust. In a curious bit of mind-bending, the same people that deny the Holocaust existed, argue that the world gave Palestine to the Jews out of guilt. The 3,500 years of Jewish history is ignored as are the modern international laws of 1920 and 1922 (which predate the Holocaust), explicitly laying out the history of Jews in Palestine and reestablishing their homeland.
  • No Jews lived in Israel. The Arab and Muslim world deny that Jews have any history in Israel. They have gone to such lengths as to hold up the United Nations from putting on a display showcasing Jews’ 3,500 year history in Israel.
  • There was Never a Temple in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat and various members of the Arab and Muslim world have denied the existence of the two Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  • Jerusalem is a Muslim city. The city of Jerusalem (both eastern and western) has had a Jewish majority since the 1860s. You’d have a hard time knowing that from the consistent lies that Jerusalem is losing its “Arab character.”
  • Palestinians are Canaanites. Beyond denying Jewish history, Palestinian leaders have tried to rewrite their own history, stating that Palestinians are descendants of Canaanites who predate Abraham’s arrival in Israel, even though Arabs only arrived en masse to Israel in the 7th century (the descendants of ancient Canaanites are actually Lebanese). More “Palestinian” Arabs arrived during the British Mandate 1922-1948, than Jews, from countries including Iraq and Egypt.

These are not examples of “not remembering” or forgetting, but much more aggressive deliberate denials of history. And the aim of the Jew-haters is clear: cement the position that Jews are interlopers and foreign colonialists in Arab land. That is the revised history which they want people to know.

The Arab and Muslim countries use their vast numbers – over 1.6 billion people and over 50 countries – to change Jewish history at the United Nations and in school textbooks where they are in power.

  • UN resolutions refer to the Jewish Temple Mount by an Arabic name
  • UN agency resolutions claim that Israel is changing the Arab character of Jerusalem
  • UN resolutions condemn Israel for changing the Muslim character of Jewish sites such as the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem

As the eradication of Jewish heritage and history takes root, the next generation of millennials have begun to look at Jews in Israel with disgust. Why are all of these Jews in Arab land? Like Pharaoh in ancient times, they do not know the long and deep history of Jews in the holy land. For the millennials and progressives, those “facts” are stories of fantasy only believed by Evangelical Christians and far-right Orthodox Jews. The only history they know and accept is presented by AJ+ and those backed by Arab and Muslim money funneled into their universities.

Corrective Course

For those who care about history – and remembering actual history – there are a number of actions to take:

  • Insert the word “Jewish” into the Sites. Whether it’s on road signs or maps, whether it’s the Cave of the JEWISH Patriarchs or the JEWISH Temple Mount, reinforce history, be clear that these have always been Jewish sites.
  • Mark HISTORIC dates of Israel’s cities, not just modern ones. It is wonderful to celebrate Jerusalem Day in June on the anniversary of Jerusalem being reunited. But why not celebrate the day that King David took the city 3,000 years ago; mark Hebron Day when Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah to bury his wife Sarah.; Jericho Day, for when Joshua conquered the first city when the Jews came back to their Promised Land; etc.
  • Teach Tanakh in schools. Jewish Day Schools barely teach the stories of the prophets. Only 18 of the 54 parshas in the Torah have a haftorah which includes a section from the historical accounts described in Joshua, Judges, Samuel I & II and Kings I & II. And these short sections are often ignored by people when read on Sabbath. Young and old Jews need to better understand their own history and should read the stories together with maps laying out where the events took place.
  • Endow Israel Studies programs at universities. Iran and Saudi Arabia are funding universities throughout the United States. It is no surprise that the schools getting multi-million dollar gifts for Persian studies like UC Berkeley and Princeton, also have many anti-Israel professors. It is time to have more than three American universities with strong Israel studies programs.
  • Observe Judaism in Israel. The Bible commands Jews – at a minimum a Jewish king – to write a sefer Torah, so have a permanent sofer, a Torah scribe, at the Kotel or at the City of David just south of the Jewish Temple Mount where Kings David and Solomon had their palaces. Replace the siren that marks the entry of Sabbath and Jewish holidays with the sound of a shofar from the same loudspeakers. Mark every field that observes shmita with a large sign, including the verses from the bible declaring such law. etc.

The United States and other countries can also take actions:

Reject any UN Resolution out of hand that does not:

  • mention the “Jewish Temple Mount” when referencing the “Al Aqsa Compound”
  • note that Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since the 1860s whenever it discusses the “Arab character of Jerusalem”
  • Refer to the region as “Judea and Samaria” whenever it refers to the “West Bank”
  • Comment that the Jordanians and Palestinians ethnically cleansed Judea and Samaria and the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1949, in any resolution which accuses Israel of committing “ethnic cleansing”

Arab and Muslim nations have waged an assault on Jewish history, and the alt-left have become willing disciples. People who care about truth, Jews and Zionism must counter this affront with a comparable campaign to remember and not forget the long and remarkable history of Jews in the Jewish holy land.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Cave of the Jewish Matriarch and Arab Cultural Appropriation

The Countries that Acknowledge the Jewish Temple May Surprise You

Squeezing Zionism

Iran’s New Favorite Jewish Scholars

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

The New York Times Inverts the History of Jerusalem

The New York Times will Keep on Telling You: Jews are not Native to Israel

Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

In Defense of Foundation Principles

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The Nation of Israel Prevails

The weekly Torah portion of Vayishlach, describes a famous story in the life of Jacob.  It is a message that Israeli Jews continue to hold dear.

 

Jacob had left his parent’s home fearing for his life, as his brother Esau had threatened to kill him.  After many years away, Jacob prepared to return with his new large family, only to discover that Esau had a welcoming party for him of 400 men, an army.

Assuming a battle, Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esau by separating his family into two groups, hoping that one group could escape while the other fought Esau’s army.  Jacob did not anticipate that there would be another fight before he even encountered Esau.

Genesis 32:24-30 relays the story of Jacob being left alone after readying his family. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He  said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Jacob-Struggle-With-Angel
Jacob Struggles with an Angel
Gustav Dore (1832-1883)

Sages relayed that the man with whom Jacob wrestled was an angel, both a physical man and divinely creature.  This angel was both a symbol and a messenger: Jacob had fought with men such as Esau and his father-in-law Lavan, but also in his relationship with God.  The angel let Jacob know that as he had prevailed in the past, he would again prevail when he encounters his brother.  As such, the angel renamed Jacob “Yisrael” which is a combination of Hebrew words conveying both the struggle and the success.

Yisrael Today

The Jews of today were originally called “the Sons of Israel” in the bible, not the sons of Jacob.  They carried Jacob’s new name and the knowledge that while they continued to struggle with both man and God, they would ultimately prevail.

Jewish history is full of difficult encounters with men, whether in the holy land or around the world.  Jews lost many more battles than they won which often led them to question their belief in God.  Sages debated whether that cause-and-effect was actually reversed, and considered whether Jews lost so many fights because they failed in their relationship with God.

The Holocaust is an example of the terrible struggle Jews had with man and God. The very government to which Jews remained loyal, turned on them and butchered them.  Holocaust Survivors were left to question both the morality of men as well as the role of God. Was “surviving” really prevailing? On a broader basis, was the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel after the slaughter of one-third of the global Jewish population, really “prevailing?”  Is the definition of “prevailing” staying alive, a tangible victory of a self-governing homeland, or simply maintaining faith?

Today, Jews continue to grapple with those relationships and questions.  In November 2015, an Israeli woman preparing for her wedding was informed that a Palestinian Arab terrorist killed her father and brother.  She delayed the wedding so she could bury her family members and sit shiva, seven days of mourning.  As she ended her mourning, she invited the entire country to join in the wedding celebration.  Her invitation carried a message from the prophet Micah:

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will rise”

The heavenly promise of overcoming battles was matched by human determination.  The bride said precisely from the pain in the month of courage before Hanukkah we will, together with all the nation of Israel, spread a great light of joy, giving and love that the nation of Israel has inundated upon us.

Her voice was echoed by thousands of Jews who came to the wedding in Jerusalem waving Israeli flags singing “The Nation of Israel Lives!”

The children of Israel continue to wrestle with God and man, but prevail. They prevail in being alive, in the Jewish State with complete faith in God.

Am Yisrael Chai.


Related First.One.Through article and video:

From Promised Land to Promised Home

The 2011 Massacre of the Fogels in Itamar (Gorecki)

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The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

One of the most famous cartographers in the world was Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Appointed as cartographer to King Phillip II of Spain, the religious Christian Flemish cartographer is credited with creating the first world atlas called “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” or “Theatre of the World.” The atlas was originally printed in 1570 and became one of the most popular books of its time and resulted in a few printings. In total, there were 178 plates amounting to approximately 730,000 printed copies of the various maps.

In addition to the maps printed in the atlas, Ortelius also produced “Parergon” maps of interesting places. These “classical” maps were produced by Ortelius himself, as opposed to some maps in “Theatrum” which were adopted from other cartographers. The 56 such plates produced roughly 143,000 printed maps.

One of the maps of the Parergon was called “Abrahami Patriarchae” which chronicled the life of the biblical patriarch Abraham. The first map was printed between 1590 and 1595 (975 copies made) with a second plate produced 1592-1624 (2925 copies made). The map shows the journey and life of Abraham with an inset map of his journey from Ur to Canaan, as well as 22 medallions of significant life events. The map highlights Ortelius’s gift as cartographer, artist and historian.

Ortelius
Abrahami Patriarchae Peregrinatio et vitae, 1592

Some notable medallions in the map are detailed below which underscore the belief that God gave Jews the holy land:

  • Medallion 6. Genesis 13: 14-15 “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”
  • Medallion 10. Genesis 15: 17-21 “17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
  • Medallion 12. Genesis 17:3-8 “Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.
  • Medallion 18. Genesis 21: 27-31 (ownership of Beersheba) “27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?” 30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.” 31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.
  • Medallion 20. Genesis 23: 19-20 (ownership of Hebron) 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.”

This map was made by a religious Christian, not a Jew. Many evangelical Christians and others that believe in the Old Testament firmly hold that while the holy land may be holy to all of the monotheistic faiths, the land itself is God’s gift to Jews. Indeed, God is the original Zionist.

The Relationship of Man and Beast

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”  (Genesis 2:18-20)

 

Biblical Review:
Man’s Superiority over Animals

Humans believe they are the smartest animals on Earth. While our three pound brain is not the largest in the animal kingdom (sperm whales have 17 pound brains), we humans tend to commend ourselves for our ability to walk upright, develop sophisticated machines, consider things beyond our senses and create the selfie stick.

Religion has cemented this bias. The Old Testament unveiled the story of the creation of the world with plants and animals arriving first and then man – Adam – being the final ultimate act of creation.  Man’s creation was preceded with a statement:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

Man was the only creature “made in God’s image” and the only creation which was specifically tasked with “ruling” over other species. The superiority of Man over animals could not be more clearly laid out.

The Quran similarly detailed man’s dominion over beasts: “And the cattle, He has created them for you.  You have in them warm clothing and (other) advantages, and of them you eat.  And therein is beauty for you, when you drive them back (home) and when you send them out (to pasture).  And they carry your heavy loads to regions which you could not reach but with great distress to yourselves.  Surely your Lord is Compassionate, Merciful.  And (He made) horses and mules and asses that you might ride upon them and as an ornament.  And He creates what you know not.” (Quran 16:5-8)

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Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Wenzel Peter

Man’s Relationship with Animals

Interestingly, the story in the Old Testament quickly moved past man’s supremacy over beasts. We soon read about a lonely man needing companionship so God brings the animals to man to ease the pain of solitude.  While the Quran relayed some benefits of ruling over animals (food, clothing, beasts of burden), the Old Testament relayed that animals could be a source of company and intimacy.

The bible pivots from man’s dominant position quickly.  When a snake tricked man into eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (maybe it was mad at being passed over by Adam?), man lost his place in paradise. Suddenly, man understood that he was not only naked, but had reason to fear animals as well.

Despite this more complicated relationship between man and beast, during the story of Noah and the flood, man was given the responsibility for saving all of the animals.  God could have instructed Noah to build a small boat to save only himself and his family, but instead tasked man with helping animals as well. Superiority and fear yielded to responsibility and care.

Later generations in the bible would principally treat animals as inferior life forms for man to enjoy, whether by eating them, dressing with their skin, using them to work the fields, and offering them for sacrifices.  The bible principally describes helping animals only to keep the animals alive for future service; there was no discussion of them as companions.

Overall, the Pentateuch discussed plant life in a much more gentle fashion than animals.  Consider Deuteronomy 20 which discussed going to war:  All living things – including animals – were to be killed when fighting people with detestable belief systems.  The animals belonging to those people were considered corrupted by the actions of the people and therefore worthy of annihilation.  However, the fruit trees that belonged to those same people were spared.

All items from the ground are kosher and permissible to eat, but animals are more complicated: they are innately kosher or non-kosher. But even kosher animals can become corrupted.

Pets Today:
Companions Again

Americans have grown very close to their pets and have begun to “humanize” them. People are now more inclined to give their pets human names (Bo) versus “pet names” like “Rover” a generation ago. Approximately 76% of pet owners consider their pets to be full members of the family and they treat their pets accordingly.

Pet ownership in the United States rises every year. There are an estimated 78 million dogs and 86 million cats in the US in 2015 (APPA). That figure compares to 74 million children under the age of 18 in the country. Yes, there are more cats and dogs than kids. Consider further that the US pet industry is about $60 billion. That is more than the entire planet spends on babies.

Entirely new industries have sprung up around pets over the past several years: pet insurance; pet day care, pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. There is even a special TV channel, DogTV, just for dogs to watch.

We have taken animals from the fields into our homes and call them members of the family.


The biblical story of superiority over animals evolved over time. The power of creation imbued man with power over animals. Stories of destruction were coupled with man’s responsibilities.  But the biblical discussion of animal companionship was very fleeting. Man rejected animals right at the beginning of history, so God created woman to be his partner.  Thereafter, the role of animals became utilitarian.

Today, animals give us comfort.  We have added pets to our families in even greater numbers than children. We read stories of the flood to our children and skim the vileness of man and their annihilation, and celebrate the many animals in the world’s first zoo.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is that all living things had a common ancestor. Beyond considering man’s physical evolution, it is worth noting mankind’s emotional evolution in its relationship with his fellow creations.

Related First One Through article:

Israel, Mother Nature’s Son

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Gimme that Old-Time Religion

Two of the three main monotheistic faiths had amazing historical revelations in July 2015. If you read the New York Times, you only learned about one of them.

Quran

On a front page story with a large accompanying color picture, the New York Times relayed an incredible discovery: an old Quran that had been sitting on the shelves of the University of Birmingham, England for a century, was dated to around the year 600CE plus or minus 50 years.  That would make this version of the Quran the oldest manuscript in Islam.

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New York Times Front Page Story on Quran,
July 23, 2015

According to Islamic tradition, their prophet Mohammed received divine revelations and compiled the Quran sometime between 610 to 632CE. Religious scholars had debated whether the Quran was passed down in oral form for many generations after Mohammed’s death before ultimately being written down. If the text indeed was written down on the parchment when it was prepared (sometimes parchments were washed and reused, and carbon-dating only relates to the parchment but not the actual ink and text), it would answer that outstanding question.

The Hebrew Bible

Three days before the world heard about the dating of the oldest Quran, researchers uncovered one of the oldest texts of the Hebrew Bible, dating from around 500CE.

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Charred scroll from synagogue in Ein Gedi
(photo: Shay Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority)

In the 1970s, the piece of a charred scroll was discovered in Ein Gedi in the Judean Desert. Only in July 2015 were researchers able to use the latest technology to decipher the damaged text to reveal sentences from the book of Leviticus. While older documents (by 500+ years) of the Hebrew Bible had been discovered not far from Ein Gedi, those documents were found hidden in jars within caves.  This scroll was found in the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi, revealing the earliest discovery of a Torah scroll housed in a synagogue.

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Text from the Ein Gedi scrolls
(photo: University of Kentucky)

Both of these stories are amazing in terms of history, religion and science.  It brings to mind an old gospel song: “Give Me that Old Time Religion!”

Yet the part “that’s NOT good enough for me” (to paraphrase the song) is the nagging question why the New York Times never misses an opportunity to slight Israel.  The discovery of one old religious treasure received front page attention (for Islam) but a text from 100 years earlier didn’t even get a passing mention (for Judaism).  Was it because the scrolls were found in the Judean Desert which further underscores the long history of Jews in the contentious Jordan Valley?

Why do you think the NYT mentioned only one of these stories?


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

When were Jews barred from living in Judea & Samaria?

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

The Subtle Discoloration of History: Shuafat

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From Promised Land to Promised Home

Summary: God is the original Zionist.

Judaism is a unique religion in many respects:

  • Every other religion is based primarily on faith. Judaism is based primarily on lineage.
  • Every other religion is based on belief. Judaism is based on action.
  • Every other religion is not geographically-bound. Judaism is tied to the land of Israel.

The Old Testament has 613 commandments for Jews to observe. Many of those can only be kept inside the land of Israel. Those commandments relate to the sanctity of the land, as God promised the land to Abraham and the generations after him.

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Observing “Shmita” only in Israel
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

Promised Land

The Bible has three sets of promises of the land of Israel for the Jewish people. The first set is God’s original promise to Abraham:

  • “The Lord appeared to Abram and said ‘To your descendants I will give this land’” (Genesis 12:7)

The book of Genesis repeats the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob several times where the land is presented as “an everlasting possession” for the generations to come. (Genesis 17:8).

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The Western Galilee
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

Promised Return to the Land

The second set of promises related to the return to Israel from slavery in Egypt. That promise is slightly different than the original promise to the Jewish forefathers:

  • The land is described as being a good land “flowing with milk and honey
  • The land is occupied by others, by the “Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.” (Genesis 3:8)

Hundreds of years earlier, God just told Abraham to go “to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1) without any description of the location or nature of the land.  At the point of the exodus from Egypt, God promised not only freedom from slavery, but to a land of great quality.  Presumably, the land was so good, that others had now moved there while the Jews were trapped in Egypt.  However, God promised to “drive them [the others] out” (Exodus 23:30) and that the Jews will ultimately possess it.

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Cows in the Golan
 
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

 Promised Home

The Old Testament ends with yet a third promise: a return from the diaspora to the land of Israel, to their home.

  • The promise includes an ingathering of exiles from “the four quarters of the Earth” (Isaiah 11:12)
  • Israel is no longer only described as simply being a good land, an inhabited land or the land of the Jewish forebears. The land is described as belonging to the people of Israel. The prophets repeatedly describe that God will “bring you home again to your own land” (Jeremiah 29:14)

Home. A place that is established and well-known. That doesn’t require a list of directions of how to get there, nor many adjectives.

It is a place where a people grows up and lives. It is a place of life events, both happy and sad. Where families celebrate, quarrel and mourn. A place with family history and history to be made.

Home is where “house rules” apply; where the house decides what is allowed and denied. It decides what is in the best interest of its inhabitants. It is the safe space where a family comes to find sanctuary from the world at large.

Home is always home, even when people have been away. But especially when they come back.

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Jerusalem’s Old City
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

A music video about God’s promises of the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to become a home for the Jewish people.