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Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Comity of Eras

Our title may be a gentle play on words, but it conveys a notion of some depth. Antiquity and modernity are not two jarringly contradicting elements; when viewed as part of a Divine plan, they prove to be surprisingly complementary.

Wednesday's edition of The American Spectator included an article of mine, in which I argued that Mr. Ahmadinejad, who labels Israel as an aberration out of step with the history of the Middle East, is actually exposing his own weakest side.

Because there is no greater anti-historical lesion on the map of that region than his regime, which unseated a monarchy that had survived for 2500 years, the longest in human history.

Yet I kept a piece to myself, to be shared only with my fellow Reform Clubbers, who would be more disposed to take seriously the role of Biblical prophecy in the disposition of international affairs.

The question I have been pondering is: why did God allow that one monarchy to survive through all these eons of turmoil, only to fall thirty years after the State of Israel was founded?

Half the answer is that they merited to have great longevity as a kingdom because they allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple. That part is fairly straightforward. But why quite this long? And why for thirty years into Israel's existence?

My theory - a spiritual, Biblical thesis, formed in the seam where knowledge meets intuition, not a testable scientific hypothesis - is that it was their special role to testify to the claim of the Jews upon their land.

The Jews went on a long trip and came back; in those situations, it is enough to have one neighbor who can confirm the legitimacy of the faded old deed. And who better than the one who sent them back home to build their Temple 2300 years ago?

Once they fulfilled that task of bearing witness (and, indeed, Iran was Israel's only friend in the Middle East in those days), they naturally dissipated. After all, they were not of this time.


Hunter Baker said...

That is a very interesting hypothesis. I had no idea that the old Iranian monarchy was that old or that they had played any particular role with regard to Israel. Fascinating.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Yesh, the Shah and Israel worked closely together. In fact, the Arabs resented the fact that Israel helped train SAVAK, the Shah's 'special police'.

Everyone likes to demonize the SAVAK (including Russ Feingold the other day), but an old CIA agent told me that they were basically decent guys. If anything, all those Arab regimes have secret police that are truly brutal.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Oops, I mean 'Yes'. That's two days in a row that I missed a spelling mistake, very rare for me. It's attributable, I fear, to lack of sleep, with some deadlines pressing.

Barry Vanhoff said...

And why for thirty years into Israel's existence?

Why did it take so long for Israel to come into existence?

I think to compare one event (existence of Israel) to another (new gov't in Iran) requires that the timing of each event be questioned in the same way.

Jay D. Homnick said...

The Biblical prophecies foretell an extended exile for the Jews with a return at the end. Every Jew knew that for all the 1800-odd years and prayed explicitly three times a day for the return.

The prayer text has not yet been changed, since the return is a staged process. But eventually it will become necessary to make such a change.

This is not mysticism. It's right there in the prayer book: 'And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return with mercy, and dwell within it, as You have spoken. And build it soon, in our days, an eternal construction...' (I only picked one segment, but this idea is repeated in a number of forms.)

Three times a day, every day, 1800 years. Most of those years were times in which the prospect of that coming true looked like absolute idiocy.

As to why we were not given an exact date, the Talmud explained: "Since they sinned in their hearts, by needless enmity among themselves, God kept the date of redemption in His heart." (Paraphrase)

Barry Vanhoff said...

Thank you for response.