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11/29/2022 10:31:35 AM

Nov29

Judaism lives to fight another day

In our journey through Jewish history, we have focused on the centrality of Jerusalem in the spiritual life of the people. We reach a point, however, where Jerusalem must be abandoned if the Jewish people and Judaism are to continue. The city is under Roman siege. No Jews are allowed to leave because the Jewish zealots want every Jew to die in Jerusalem. Yochanan ben Zakkai must pretend to be dead to be carried out of the city. Once outside the gates he goes to the Roman general and predicts that the general, Vespasian, will be the next emperor of Rome. He asks that as emperor he grants the Jews a small place to continue their studies, a little haven by the sea. “Give me Yavne and its sages.” Vespasian agrees, and Judaism lives to fight another day.
 
It is popular these days to visit Masada, the site of the last holdout in the war against Rome, but the real heroic story is not about people forced to commit collective suicide. It is about the small revolution in Judaism that enabled it to continue without Jerusalem and in a brave new world.

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Sh'vat 5783