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First Covenant Foundation

Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 4

December 2006.......Tevet 5767

What's the Jewish People's Secret?  


• What's the Jewish People's Secret?

Commandments, Statutes, Circumcision

Gifts of the Muslims

Clustered Conferences

Nullifying the Bible

New Knicknack

Just Solutions

Don't Buy Iranian Lightbulbs

Jimmy Carter and Alan Dershowitz

On the Eighth Day He was Circumcised

Xmas with Irving Berlin


According to best estimates, the United States of America now has more than 300 million people. Only about 1.34% of them are Jewish.

The Jews' numbers have dwindled considerably over the last few generations, in absolute as well as relative terms. The figure was up at almost 3% in 1960.

Despite these low numbers, Jewish people make up 50% of what one Harvard study (quoted in Rainbow Covenant) called America's top 200 intellectuals, about 40% of her Nobel Prize-winners in science and economics, 40% of the partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, and almost 60% of the directors, writers and producers of two or more primetime television series (like CSI, Law and Order, and The Simpsons, for instance).

Jews are news, thanks to their Torah. Consider the "atonement phone" that Stephen Colbert kept on his desk between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur this year. Colbert has a funny show on cable tv's Comedy Central where he plays a pompous news commentator. The ten days immediately before the Day of Atonement are a propitious time for people to make special efforts to reconcile themselves with God and man. Colbert, a gentile, used it to encourage his Jewish friends to call him on the phone to beg him for forgiveness on the air.

How is it that this "peculiar people," as the Bible calls the Jews, this "fewest of all peoples," has such fantastically outsized influence? What's their secret?

Nothing that is so plainly set out in the world's most popular book, the Bible, can really be called secret. You could say that Israel's secret, which is, of course, God and Torah, is hidden in plain sight.

In the Bible, after entreating Israel yet again to cleave to the Lord (HaShem) their God, to carefully keep the Torah in all respects, Moses elaborates:

for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the gentile nations, that shall hear all thse statutes and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, that has God so close to them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for? And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments as righteous as all this Torah? (Deuteronomy 4:1-8)



Commandments, Statutes, Circumcision

"Statutes" in Torah are Commandments whose reasons for being aren't completely clear to us. We don't know exactly why God commands the people of Israel not to eat pork, for instance. We don't know exactly why He wants Israel to eat matzah on Pesach/Passover.

On the other hand, the reasoning behind His laws, such as the Noahide laws, is fairly plain. The Noahide laws against murder and stealing all make perfect sense to us, for instance. Similarly, everyone should know better than to eat flesh which has been torn from a warm blooded living animal. As for the Noahide laws against sexual immorality - against acts like adultery, incest, bestiality, or male homosexual practices - the Torah itself tells us why they're forbidden. In fact, the Torah provides a value: such acts are all abominable; they are perverse, they are abominations. (Leviticus 18)

In other words, the Noahide laws all make sense to us, or at least they should. So do the Torah's many "judgments," the prophecies and all the obviously wise laws of gentleness and justice. But it's different with the Torah's statutes. Nothing about them is obvious. Nevertheless, the Torah promises, the time will come when the nations of the world come to appreciate the goodness even of the statutes. And, in fact, something very like that just happened recently. Scientific studies produced a major policy change in Africa last month.

Ever since the time of Abraham, the performance of male circumcision - the cutting of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ - has been denounced as a kind of grotesque "male genital mutilation." You can Google those words on the Internet if you want to see people still at it. Their term for it is MGM. How they hate it! A cruel, degraded, superstitious Jewish practice, they call it.

Now science shows that circumcision drastically reduces the chances of a man receiving or transmitting venereal diseases - HIV in particular, the virus that causes AIDS. To the great discomfiture of the anti-circumcision crusaders - the "male genital mutilation" MGM crusaders - women all across Africa are telling their husbands and boyfriends to get circumcised. And clinics all across the continent, which used to refuse to do them, are earnestly performing the procedure on men who have been lining up to get it.

That's the way it is with all the Torah's statutes. People will attack them with everything they've got; enemies, often in the name of "higher ideals," may - and often do, in Israel's long history - try to remove them completely from the world. It doesn't matter. Sooner or later, the righteousness in all of them comes out.



Gifts of the Muslims

Time Magazine recently ran a cover story about the Pope and Islam. It invited a well-regarded Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, to respond to the Pope's gentle criticism of Islam. Ramadan accused the Pope of ignoring "the critical role that Muslims played in the development of Western thought." He listed the following names, and nothing else, as proof of Islam's many contributions, these being "rationalist Muslim thinkers like al-Farabi (10th century), Avicenna (11th century), Averroes (12th century), al-Ghazali (12th century), Ash-Shatibi (13th century), and Ibn Khaldun (14th century). [Time Magazine, November 27, 2006, p. 49].

With this list, Tariq Ramadan has suggested a nice little thought experiment. Imagine if we did what Ramadan has done with Muslims and tried it with another group. Ramadan's list filled up less than half a paragraph. Suppose we tried to list the contributions to civilization of the Jewish people?

(One item for that list: all the thinkers that Ramadan mentioned lived in a culture relatively hospitable to Jews, where Jewish people made up a good part of the intelligentsia.)



Clustered Conferences

This has been a season filled with interesting conferences. People who deny God in the name of science staged one which denounced belief in God. Holocaust-deniers held a conference in Teheran, hosted by the president of Iran. And the American Jewish Conservative Movement had a conference in New York City, which has opened the way to homosexual "commitment ceremonies" and the hiring of actively homosexual men and women as Conservative Movement rabbis.

One of the more ironic things at the scientists' conference, which included several Nobel Prize-winners: an inordinate number of the people who organized and attended it were Jewish. That is, in a group of mostly fairly prominent scientists, Jews didn't make up 1.34% but more like 40 to 60% of the group. But that fact, which actual truth-seekers would recognize as being strongly supportive, at least, of God's reality, probably never even reached the stage of being seriously considered. The God Who brought all those Jews there never really had a chance.

What about the Bible? If you had asked the people at that conference about it, you would have found that they didn't know much about it, and that they considered the Torah at its core, the Five Books of Moses, to be a fake.



Nullifying the Bible

That's the holding of the Documentary Hypothesis, the currently prevailing dogma in the world's universities. It holds that the Torah, perhaps the world's most carefully written text, was written over many centuries by many different people, and then fairly casually slapped together by later editors, or redactors. The chief "proof" of this is that the Torah uses different names for God in different places.


Future generations will find it hard to believe that anything as fantastically stupid as this could have convinced otherwise intelligent people to dismiss the Bible as they have.



The Few, the Weird, the Hairy

The Holocaust deniers' conference probably had the fewest Jews. Not that the people of Israel were completely absent. Four rabbis with black hats, long coats, sidecurls and beards made an appearance. They wanted to show, even though they recognize that the Holocaust deniers are - basically - crazy, that they support eliminating the State of Israel.




New Knicknack     

We mentioned in an earlier newsletter that the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, recently re-gilded, had become the universal symbol of Arab and Muslim grievance. Now, not only are pictures of it everywhere, people are giving each other little gilt replicas of the Dome of the Rock as knicknacks, and collecting them by the dozen.

Most of them, naturally, are made in China.




Just Solutions  

The Baker-Hamilton Study Group has released its report on the current mess in the Middle East. According to them, and to most of the world's Muslims, the most important thing is to "find a just solution to the question of Palestine."

How forcefully or often does the Torah have to tell this truth? It ought to be obvious, even without the help of prophecy, to anyone with a regional topographic map: the relatively small amount of real estate between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea cannot be divided between two sovereign nations. Someone should write this on a blackboard several hundred times, if that's what it takes before the truth sinks in.

All of the problems of the Arabs and Muslims in regard to Israel could have been resolved more than half a century ago. They could all be resolved in the next few months, if the Arabs' leaders were willing to treat their own fellow Arabs - who share with them the same customs, religion, language, and blood - with a modicum of decency. The solution, of course, is settlement: helping their brothers make new homes in - please don't gasp at the novelty or audacity of this idea  - another place. If Muslims had the will to actually help their brothers, instead of just using them as pawns against Israel, they could give them all more than they can ever get even by - God forbid - destroying Jewish Israel.

There's plenty of land in the Arab world. There's even plenty of water, if it's collected, stored and transported carefully. Land and water are not the problem. To the Arab world, and now most of the Muslim world as well, it's the existence of Israel that's the problem.



Don't Buy Iranian Lightbulbs 

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust denier who hosted the recent conference in Teheran, is not Iran's supreme leader. The supreme leader in Iran's theocracy is Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran's army, the judiciary and police, and the government-run media all report to him.

No one thought of Iran's last president, Ayatollah Khatami, as the supreme leader either. Western diplomats regarded talking to him as just a waste of time. Even though he was considered to be relatively moderate, they dismissed him as a mere figurehead. The man to talk to, the one who held all the important levers of power, was then and is now the same supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Nothing much has changed.

The irrelevance of Ahmadinejad is one fact to take into account when thinking about Iran. Another is that Iran is a third-world power. According to its own people, it can't produce reliable matches, or lightbulbs that last more than a week. A major oil producer, it has such limited refining capacity that it has to import almost 40% of its gasoline!

Iran isn't the country that it was decades ago, under the Shah. It got rid of almost all its Jews, along with most of its most talented people. It kills and tortures dissidents and worries about the Kurds in the north. With its almost unbelievable oil wealth, it supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons. But it's still a corrupt, inefficient country.

If anything unites the people of Iran, according to Iranians, it's their feeling for the "Palestinians." They cry out for "a just solution to the question of Palestine."

With Iran's vast oil wealth, huge territory, and water supply, Iran ought to be able to solve the "question of Palestine" all on its own. It could easily absorb two, five, or even ten million of its brother Muslims. If Iran cares so much about solving the "Palestinians'" problems, let it.



Jimmy Carter and Alan Dershowitz

In the last newsletter, we called former president Jimmy Carter the Democratic Party's greatest gift to the Republican party. We believe that, even after giving the Republicans such other calamities as Andrew Johnson and Woodrow Wilson (who both ushered in prolonged periods of Republican ascendancy), Carter still takes the top spot.

Jimmy Carter has recently added to his legacy with a new book,  Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid, In it, the former president sets out to solve "the central issue of the Middle East." How? By rescuing the suffering "Palestinians" from Jewish perfidy. The chief problem of the Middle East, according to Carter, is the Jews' cruelty to Arabs. 

Alan Dershowitz, a brilliant scholar who has written extensively about the Middle East, found Carter's book disgusting. Dershowitz, who is Jewish, is probably Harvard Law School's most famous living professor. He is certainly a celebrity, a case-winning lawyer. A debate between Carter and Dershowitz about Carter's book would get it tremendous free publicity. Any normal author would jump at the chance. But Carter refused to debate with Dershowitz. Why? Because Carter feared that Dershowitz would hand his head back to him on a platter? No, that wasn't it at all, according to Carter. He refused to debate the professor only because - this is an exact quote - Dershowitz "knows absolutely nothing about the situtation." End of story.



On the Eighth Day He was Circumcised

We ran the following article in these pages last year. It's still good, we still mean everything we say here, and some readers may not have seen it the first time, so we will run it again.

This is, of course, the start of the new solar year. Billions of people all over the globe will be celebrating the events connected to the birthday anniversary of a Jewish boy in the land of Israel, more than two thousand years ago. Eight days later, as Israel reckons the days (each evening starts the new day), the world's common calendar will change and we will be in 2007.

Besides being the anniversary of Jesus' bris or b'rit - or circumcision ("the Anniversary of the Circumcision of the Lord," as it's marked on many Christian calendars) - January 1st is, of course, the New Year. B'rit means "covenant" in Hebrew. (When Israel speaks of a newborn boy's bris or b'rit, it's referring to the covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17). By undergoing a proper circumcision, the boy enters the covenant of Abraham.) So even in our neon and diode-lit busy world today, our very calendar begins with a commandment of Torah and a covenant between God and mankind.

Of course, as we who read this know, God's covenant with Abraham isn't the First Covenant. Long before Abraham, there was the Noahide or Rainbow Covenant.



Xmas with Irving Berlin

Did you know?  Besides contributing the birthday boy himself, the people of Israel have made considerable contributions to Christmas:

Christmas Songs By Way of Israel

White Christmas - Irving Berlin

Christmas Song - Mel Torme

O Holy Night - Adophe Adam

The Grinch that Stole Christmas - Albert Hague

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow - Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne

Silver Bells - Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Johnny Marks

Come visit the Foundation website. We are constantly changing, and improving, we hope. We have been hosting an electronic scholarly symposium on what it means to keep the Noahide Law - Go to Symposium (*New*) in Articles. We have lots of new stuff. Come see!


We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name. Amen

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