Friday, May 27, 2011

The Rage of War

Before this week, it was a mystery to me how the book of Numbers got its names. As I started to read Parshat Bamidbar, it all started to make sense. This less popularized book of the Torah starts with a census. God called on Moses to count the number of Israeli men who could bear arms. Hence, it was named Numbers. In addition to counting the number of these men, God commands Moses to do a census of the Levites above the age of one month, and then specifically the Kohanim. The Levites are known as the priestly tribe of ancient Israel, which is probably why there was a specific census dedicated to them. However, why did God demand Moses back track to the age of one month or above? How can a one month old child even be recognized in the priestly class? Anyways, Numbers so far is ironically about Numbers.

Parshat Bamidbar becomes very repetitive as one reads along. According to the portion, each tribe's chieftain created a census which lists name by name, the men who are both above twenty and able to bear arms.Why is it important to bear arms? At this point in the Torah, the Israelites are not far into the wilderness. I believe God is preparing them for their departure. In fact, God is creating the first Israeli Defense Force. If any foreign tribe attacks these travelers, God wants them to be ready to retaliate. I found it interesting how God abruptly changes the census tasks from one of a future army to the counting of the Levites. It is almost as if religion and war are closely related in the eyes of God. Perhaps, I am reading into to it too much. On the other, I may not be. Who knows how God thinks or expresses said thoughts?

I definitely believe God is in favor of peace over war. The only reason I could see that God would need to count those who could bear arms is one involving foreign attackers. God is omnipotent to a point. In my opinion, God can not control free will. Therefore, God can only help protect the Israelites. God can not stop their foes.At every Friday night service, my synagogue recites Shalom Rav, the prayer for peace in Israel and the the world. Contrary to what we pray for, Israel is still in a state of danger. Will there ever be a time when Israelis are not forced into the army or need an army at all. Of course, the Middle East is a hotbed of religious tension nowadays. Jews believe Israel was stolen from them when they were exiled by ancient Rome. Some but not all Muslims feel the creation of Israel is an extension of the Medieval Crusades by the West. I am not quite sure if either side can justify its argument. I know that religions preach peace for the most part. I just do not experience their lessons in action as I turn on the evening news. Since God can not bend the powers of free will. Hopefully, the true teachers of peace can bring us out of the darkness of war.

What are my thoughts on war? I can say that for the most part nobody approves of war. In my eyes, even the "bad guys" in a conflict are against ruthless fighting. What about Momar Gadafi? Even he does not want war, he just uses war as an outlet for his desire for power. It may seem far fetched, but I feel war is getting less brutal overtime. For instance, neighbors rarely fight against each other anymore. Back in the Dark Ages, life was about surviving. If one did not starve to death, invaders were always a thought in the back of one's mind. Nowadays, people live in communities and defend each other. Then again, can war get any better? Mass amounts of fighting and killing are despicable no matter how war develops. Maybe war is increasing in its disgust. Imagine the difference between Medieval sword-fighting knights and the armed forces of the United States. Religion is not at fault for the conflicts of today. I believe it is merely an excuse. For example, a person may not like me. That is perfectly okay because I know the entire world is not going to love me. It bothers me when that person is asked, "Why do you not like Adam anymore?" and their response brings up my Judaism. The person in this example is hiding their true reasons by the blinders of hate. I will conclude with a thought on war. Today, the United States is spending billions or maybe trillions of dollars on their military. If the cost of war is so high, why are we wasting our money on it? Why not use that money for NASA anymore? War not only inhibits our ability to come together as a society, but it prevents our ability to advance as one.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It was early on a Monday morning. I was just waking up after I crashed on the couch. A combination of just finishing my production of "West Side Story" and allergies caused me to be in a somewhat dazed state. My dad says that I will never believe what happened. He told me that Osama Bin Laden was killed. At first, the news did not quite resonate. It was impossible. Was he just trying to jolt me awake with an outrageous story? I turned on the television, and there it was. That is my "Where I Heard Osama was Killed" Story.

Does this rank with moments such as John Kennedy's assignation or Pearl Harbor? Most likely, it does not even come close. I know, I l know, "Adam, the subject is too sensitive". As a writer who believes the work of the pen is an art form, I feel it is my duty to provoke thoughts on this situation. The sensitivity of Osama bin Laden's death makes it hard for an opinion on either side to be shared. I hope that you will respect what I have to say as I will listen to what you say. Somehow this news felt big. A wave of patriotism felt like it was sweeping the nation. Later Monday morning, someone was vigorously waving the American flag. Since 2008, times have been tough. The economy is just starting to recover. We are fighting two wars, and some say we are on the verge of a third. Snap shots of good news slivered into the news reel, like the Royal Wedding and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Generally, Americans were not given any reason to skip and cheer as a nation. To me, Monday felt like Americans were back on top. As China ascended its way to becoming a superpower, the United States was put into denial. Osama and his gang of terrorists threw us into a dark place. Just like a bully teases on the playground, our country felt cornered and embarrassed. We needed something to jolt us awake, as did I on that Monday morning, and we got it.

Was our national prowess too overbearing? Yitzhak Rabin said, "We do not celebrate the death of our enemies." Being former prime minister of Israel, a nation with many enemies, makes this all the more dignified. In my opinion, the first wave of national pride was a way of covering up the original shock of the event. I could not have written this piece of Monday evening. The news was too fresh, too unbelievable. When that wore down, Americans began to realize that an actual man died. It feels somewhat strange to dance about the streets when others are grieving. Did people feel this same bittersweet sensation when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945?

What is hate if it is love in another's eyes? Yitzhak Rabin was hated by the man who shot him 1995. An entire group filled with delight the day Rabin was shot. Another weeped rivers of tears. Folks who agreed with bin Laden have just as much a right to grieve as Rabin enthusiasts.

Osama bin Laden is perhaps a little different. He was not just a contradiction to the United States. He killed 3,000 civilians and damaged a nation's moral completely. The navy seals went after Osama on Yom Hashoah, which remembers a separate massacre of innocent people. Just like the casualties of the Holocaust, each man, woman, and child who died on 9/11 has a name, a story, and a family. President Obama made a bold choice to do what he did and then share his opinion of it on the television. Leaders have to make tough choices sometimes. The key is choosing the right time.