Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adar 25: New Year's Greetings, and the Father of Zionism

I  What is the Anniversary of the Creation of the World?

Today, the 25th of Adar, is the anniversary of the creation of the world.  Happy Birthday, world.

Rosh Hashanna 11a:
ר' יהושע אומר בניסן נברא העולם בניסן נולדו אבות בניסן מתו אבות בפסח נולד יצחק בר"ה נפקדה שרה רחל וחנה בר"ה יצא יוסף מבית האסורין בר"ה בטלה עבודה מאבותינו במצרים בניסן נגאלו בניסן עתידין ליגאל
Rebbi Yehoshua says: in Nissan the world was created; in Nissan the Forefathers were born: in Nissan they died..... in Nissan they were redeemed from Egypt; in Nissan they will be redeemed.

Rebbi Yehoshua's opinion is countered by that of Rebbi Eliezer, who says that the world was created in Tishrei.  The Rishonim explain that Rebbi Eliezer didn't mean that the world itself was created in Tishrei;  rather, Adam was created on the first day of Tishrei.  Since Adam was created on the sixth day, i.e., the world was created six days before, then according to Rebbi Eliezer, the real day of the world's creation was the twenty fifth of Ellul.  Correspondingly, according to Rebbi Yehoshua, who says "the world" was created in Nissan, we can assume that he means that Adam was created on the first of Nissan, and so the world was created on the sixth day previous, the twenty fifth of Adar, today.

II  Who Was the Father of Zionism in the Modern Era?

Another interesting fact about today, found at an OU site:
(On Thursday, the 25th of Adar I, 5651, Torah reading Parshas VaYakhel, corresponding to March 5, 1891) U.S. President Harrison was petitioned...  to aid in the reestablishment of Palestine as a sovereign Jewish state. The petition was signed by Cyrus McCormick, J. P. Morgan, William McKinley, John D. Rockefeller, Russel Sage, and Cardinal James Gibbons, among others. It was a spontaneous expression of American sympathy for Zionism, totally independent of Jewish Zionist activities. The petition was motivated by Biblical influences and by intense indignation aroused by Russian pogroms.

The motive force that brought about this petition was one William Eugene Blackstone.  For more information, the bio by Wikipedia is here, and an interesting paper about the man and his beliefs here.  The paper cited ends with these paragraphs:
Most Jews recoiled from Blackstone once they realized his underlying agenda was evangelical, their response immediately crystallized by the age-old revulsion of Christian proselytizers. However, Blackstone's eschatological objectification also entails other obvious, dangerous elements that most Jewish writers of the time did not address publicly: in his vision, Blackstone sees the wholesale death of Jews, speculates that Satanic leadership may rise from the Jews, and insists that the restored Israel would follow the devil. Despite his vision of the ultimate salvation of the Jews, Blackstone's insistence on restoration is one fraught with the manipulation of Jews into "othered" objects of anti-Semitism. Underlying the eschatology is not only the cry that "the Jews must go," but also that "the Jews must die." 

The fact that Jews were reified into "God's sun-dial" casts them into the role of unalterable, metaphysical machines in someone else's design rather than distinct, human subjects capable of telling their own time. Jews are placed in their divinely ordained place by the Christian; any Jewish self-assertion, any tinkering with their own time piece, as the Reform movement did, is rejected by Blackstone with scorn, his sense of superiority allowing him even to intervene within Jewish communal debate.
Addressing a Zionist mass meeting in Los Angeles in 1918, Blackstone told his audience that he had been a Zionist for over thirty years because "true Zionism is founded on the plan, purpose, and fiat of the everlasting and omnipotent God, as prophetically recorded in His Holy Word, the Bible." He then explained that there were only three options open to every Jew. The first was to become a true Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and thereby "escap[ing] from the unequaled time of tribulation which is coming upon all the earth," an option he realistically felt few would accept. The second choice was to become a "true" Zionist "and thus hold fast to the hopes of the fathers, and the assured deliverance of Israel, through the coming of their Messiah, and complete national restoration and permanent settlement in the land which God has given them." The third option was to become an "assimilant," those "Jews who will not be either Christians or Zionists. They wish to remain in various nations enjoying their social, political and commercial advantages." Blackstone ignored the option taken by those orthodox Jews who rejected secularized, political Zionism in favor of traditional observance, while he viciously attacked Reform and non-Zionist, secular Jews for seeking to "enjoy...advantages" in the United States. The anti-Semitic overtones to Blackstone's three-option taxonomy are palpable. Again, the alliance between Zionism and fundamentalism was able to accommodate the anti-Semitic characterization: his audience accepted him, and Rabbi Wise, to whom Blackstone sent a copy of his address, thanked him as "one of our warm friends," despite the fact that Wise rejected the theological basis of his support

Louis Brandeis recognized Blackstone as the first in our modern era to make a serious attempt to resettle the Jews in Eretz Yisrael.  From an article by Jerry Klinger (President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation) about Blackstone:

May 8, 1916, Brandeis had Nathan Straus contact Reverend Blackstone.“Mr. Brandeis is perfectly infatuated with the work that you have done along the lines of Zionism. It would have done your heart good to have heard him assert what a valuable contribution to the cause your document is. In fact he agrees with me that you are the Father of Zionism, as your work antedates Herzl”.
Brandeis was a not a sycophant.  He recognized what was truthful and accurate and had that information conveyed to Blackstone in the initial contact by Nathan Straus.  What was incredible was that Brandeis, the head of the American Zionist movement acknowledged that Reverend William E. Blackstone, a dispensationalist Christian, was the father of Zionism. He said as his (Blackstone’s) work and ideas predated Theodor Herzl by nearly six years. 
Blackstone responded enthusiastically, immediately.  It was the opportunity he was waiting for. He had deliberately returned from China where for years (1909-1914) he had been engaged in missionary work.  Blackstone sensed that with the outbreak of World War I, Ottoman rule over the Holy Land was nearing an end, prophecy was unfolding.  He wanted to be back in America, to be present to support in any way possible the Biblical future he envisioned – the Restoration of the Jews. 


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