Tag Archives: God

God’s Disproportionate Response to Egypt

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Despite the fact that many consider the Old Testament to be a man-made fabrication, billions of people worldwide do indeed believe it to be an authentic accounting of what took place thousands of years ago.  With so much of the world’s violence revolving around religious belief and doctrine, the lessons learned from the Bible are indeed relevant today, if for no other reason than the fact that people believe it to be true.  As the Jewish holiday of Passover approaches, the story of the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt is front and center.  In a time when Israel’s response to violence is once again being challenged by those who either wish her destruction, feel passivity will lead to peace, or look to appease the enemy, the story of Passover has become even more relevant.  When the statement is made that Israel’s retaliation to violence is a Disproportionate Response, the question one has to ask, especially this time of year is, was God’s reaction to Egypt subsequently a Disproportionate Response as well?

To get a better idea of whether or not this is the case one needs to know a little bit about the history as it is appears in the Bible.  The story starts with the Jewish people being seen as a threat to Egypt by the country’s new  King or “Pharoah”. His concern was that the Jews were multiplying too quickly and becoming too strong, therefore posing a threat to Egyptian society.  Despite the fact that they had done nothing to warrant these suspicions, the Jews were felt to be such a growing danger that they were enslaved, forced to do hard labor, and made to build ostentatious and glorious cities for Egypt’s Pharoah. When their number continued to increase, the Pharoah decreed that all newborn Jewish males should be thrown into the Nile River.  Moses, a child that would survive this systematic murder of Jewish male children, would ultimately be the man who would lead the Jews out of slavery. However, not before the Egyptians would go through tremendous suffering of their own.

When Moses ascended to his leadership role of the Jewish people he ultimately stood before the Egyptian leader and in the name of God implored him to “Let my people Go!”  When the Pharoah refused, God decided to punish the Egyptians with a variety of plagues.  The water turned to blood, the land would be infested with swarms of locusts, there would be a debilitating darkness, and the people and cattle would be cursed with boils and lice, just to name a few of the hardships God brought upon the Egyptian people. Was this fair?  Was it right for the Egyptians to suffer so tremendously merely because the Pharoah wanted to maintain his labor force? After all, the Jews who were allowed to live were  given enough food and shelter to survive.  Their social structure was kept in tact enough that men and women were able to get together and multiply to the point where they were deemed a threat.  Was it really fair for God to come down so hard on the Egyptians?  Did they deserve to suffer on such a high level merely because they would not let the Jewish people break out of their generations of bondage and suffering?  By today’s standards certainly not.  Today every level of injustice is measured with some sort of bias, often in favor of those committing the injustice.  But if you believe the story of Passover, the injustices committed by the Egyptians against the Children of Israel were not going to go unpunished by the most powerful being of all, God.

When Pharoah still refused to let the Jewish people go, the suffering would reach it’s pinnacle.  All of Egypts first born sons would be killed unless the Jews were freed. Pharoah in his arrogance and stubbornness refused to capitulate, causing the death of countless numbers of Egyptians sons, the most notable of which would be the son of the Pharoah himself.  Was all this necessary merely because the Jewish people were living as slaves?  Seeing as there was no United Nations back then there was certainly no governing body to condemn what was happening, but even if there had been, what were they going to do, condemn God?  Maybe, you never know.

When the Pharoah finally gave in, for a large part due to his own immense suffering at the loss of his child, he actually had second thoughts and sent his army after the Jews as they fled Egypt.  Up to the last moment, as the Jews were escaping Egypt, God would still cause suffering on the Egyptian people, causing multitudes of soldiers to be engulfed and washed away to their death in the Red Sea.  All this just so the Jews would live as free people.  All this suffering that befell the Egyptians truly must be seen as a Disproportionate Response on the part of the Almighty, should it not?

Of course the truth is a simple one.  If this did indeed happen as it is portrayed in the Old Testament, these harsh “Disproportionate Responses” were actions by God in defense and protection of the Jewish people.  But regardless of whether it was the Jews or anyone else, the message it sends is that taking away the freedom of an entire nation is indeed a crime punishable by great suffering.  If a people are being attacked or enslaved by another group of people, attacks against those that enslave them, persecute them, or murder them are not only acceptable, they are warranted.  Attacks against those who threaten a people’s sovereignty are warranted, regardless of whether or not the United Nations, the European community, or the likes of a Bernie Sanders find it to be acceptable behavior.

If man is truly created in God’s image, then there is no such thing as Disproportionate Response against those that wish to wipe out a nation.  If no other lesson is to be learned from Passover, this is one that should be, especially in the world in which we live today.

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Thank God!

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I’ve never been shy when it comes to showing my support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau.  I’m also not considered to be someone who is ever at a loss for words.  That being said, after Netanyahu’s victory in today’s election, with all that was at stake for Israel, the Jewish people, the region and the entire world, the only thing that needs to said is this.  Thank God!  Let’s pray that Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to be blessed with the wisdom and strength to do what needs to be done.

 

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My Plea for Unity

Jewish-unityWhen I got into this activism mode a few months back, I did so to fight the enemies of the Jewish people. As I feel more and more like the debate is turning into Jew against Jew it becomes increasingly exhausting for me.  I am by no means afraid to confront ANYONE, but I reserve the right to show more tolerance for Jews than I do for others sharing opinions I feel incorrect or even damaging to the Jewish people. We speak of 6 million dying at the hands of the Nazis. What would happen if we found out that 1.5 millions were so liberal and overly tolerant that they wanted to try to negotiate with Hitler. We know they’re wrong, but do we alter our discussion? Do we only truly mourn 4.5 million slaughtered Jews once we know this? As I love to do I quote these wonderful words by my father Rabbi Nardus Groen of Blessed Memory:

“We may in the course of it meet people who, for whatever it’s worth, may be portrayed as heroes, while others are cowards, pacifists, or activists.They are all the products of mankind. For them, there will always be a place under the sun (with the exception of the traitor). But being as we are a homogenous society, no one can ever be left out. And as it is by the very
inclination of the human race, the dark shadow of the wicked will play an overpowering role in leaving behind the marks in the way of scars brought upon them by society.

If the worst could ever be turned into good, the only lesson to be learned of that is, never ever forget. For in the past lay the present, and in the present the future. Without that, we will be repeating our mistakes and shortcomings, and as a result the world will not be the place it was created to be.

In order to live, you still have to be able to somehow believe in the goodness of mankind.”

 

Whenever we pray to God for forgiveness we hope our worst actions will be understood as being a result of weakness or stupidity.  We turn to God and hope he will accept the failings that coincide with our humanity.  I am not saying we tolerate someone who puts us in clear and present danger, I am merely saying we allow the same courtesy to decent albeit misguided or weak people that we ourselves beg from God.

And as my father, a man who lived a good life till the age of 87, a man who worked against the Nazis in the Dutch resistance, saved the lives of innocent people, fought in the Dutch Marines and then served the Jewish community as a Rabbi for decades and was anything but naive once said, “In order to live, you still have to be able to somehow believe in the goodness of mankind.”

I’m all for standing up for one’s principles, but my first priority is to fight against those that want to do harm to the innocent and harm my people.  I am not here to fight Jews.  There are enough people who want to do that.  I refuse to be one of them.

 

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Open Letter to Shia Labeouf from a Proud Jew

shiaDear Shia,

Thank you.  You helped crystallize an opinion I’ve had for quite some time. In leaving, or I should say believing you’ve left the Jewish faith, you made the statement that you just couldn’t cut it.  It’s important that I make something very clear.  If someone’s faith makes them a better person I respect them for the religion they are following.  However, as a Jew, and  I know I am not alone in this sentiment, someone who says they are leaving the faith I feel is at least to some degree a bit of a traitor.  Proud Jews believe we have something special going here, and when you Shia Labeouf choose to take your manifestation of faith elsewhere, you are, in the eyes of many, saying it’s not good enough of for you.  But I see it differently. I believe you are saying it is too difficult for you.

It is somewhat ironic that I write this letter.  You see, I am not such a great Jew.   Of course when I say this I am referring to my level of observance.  How good or bad I am is something left for God to judge, but there is no debating that my religious practice leaves a lot to be desired.  So when I seemingly go after someone for running from Judaism’s challenges, the irony is that I do that every day.  There’s one difference.  I don’t go elsewhere because I think it is easier.

You might say that I am out of line.  I’m sure I will even hear that from some fellow Jews who read this letter.  After all how can I make the assumption that you left the religion of your birth because it was too tough for you.  I make this assumption because I know that to many of those lost souls wandering around aimlessly,  it is a lot easier to choose a system where they believe that all they need to do is declare their faith. Being a Christian by your perception in what you so spiritually referred to as a not in a  F-ing Bulls*t type of way, doesn’t involve all the restrictions and daily commitment being a Jew in a not F-ing Bulls*t type of way does.  I’ll even go along with your premise and admit that I often behave in ways that makes it seem like I believe in Judaism in a F-ing Bulls*t type of way.  I rather admit my flaws and practice poorly than run to something else where I can appear religious without really doing anything.

I have Christian friends.  I respect them and admire them.  I don’t believe in all the same concepts that they do, but since they respect what I believe in as well our differences don’t matter.  And to be very honest, I have no issue with anyone who chooses Christianity over the faith of their birth unless it was Judaism.  You see Shia, I have a great fondness and pride for what I am.  I know it is tough being Jewish.  There are lots of restrictions, many responsibilities, what sometimes feels like unfair expectations, and with the amount of people who have wanted to kill us over the years and still do to this day, what often feels like a big target on our backs.

There are some who believe that Judaism makes it too hard for people to join the faith.  They believe that conversion should be made easier.  The opinion you helped crystallize by your declaration of conversion is that one of the reasons for anti-Semitism is the way we Jews who are even marginally traditional Jews feel we’re an exclusive group which people have to show real dedication to if they wish to join.  I think it causes many to subconsciously feel, if you can’t join em, beat em.  I myself have struggled with this very question, Does Judaism make it too difficult for converts?  Maybe so.  But I guess it’s because we rather not have someone claim to be Jewish and then be a Jew in a F-ing Bullsh*t kind of way.  It’s usually required that they believe in it in the kind of way that goes beyond just saying in an interview to a magazine that they’ve been saved.

Despite the perceived tone of this letter, I do wish you spiritual peace.  I also want you to know I still consider you Jewish whether you do or not.  You see, I was raised to believe it’s a lifetime membership whether you feel you can handle it or not.  And if I am right you’ll have to answer to God big time.  Then again so will I.  But at least I accepted what he gave me from birth.  You felt you knew better, or found an easier answer.  Good luck with that.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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It’s Not God’s Fault

Blaming-GodAs hard to believe as it might be, this is my second attempt at writing this article.  Since I started this blog approximately 2 1/2 years ago,  I have made 457 posts. It was not till today, after I wrote an article titled “It’s Not God’s Fault”, did I actually have an instance where an article vanished in between my writing it and posting it.  As much as I would like to say that this incident is actually God’s fault, and how chillingly coincidental it is that this of all posts is the one that vanished, chances are I just hit a wrong button.  But who knows? It certainly is food for fault.

When I originally wrote this piece, the point I started with was that potentially the two most dangerous people are the ones that believe in God too little and the ones that believe in God too much.   I know many people who either do not believe in God or have serious doubts that God exists.  They are some of the best people I know.  They are kind, considerate, function well in society and have good families.  It’s irrelevant that I feel their inherent values come from guidelines given to us by God.  What’s relevant is that they believe or highly doubt there is an all-powerful or almighty force controlling events or monitoring behavior.  However, for anyone who has blatant criminal or harmful tendencies, if they do not believe in God, they are not at all inhibited by fear of God’s wrath.  Often the only thing standing in the way of their committing criminal or heinous acts is avoiding human detection. On a larger scale, the most dictatorial of Communist regimes, controlled by people who did not believe in God, pushed the idea that all the control rested in the hands of the citizens, and that there was no higher mystical power in control, even if the citizens actually had very little control themselves.

Then there are those whose religion makes them fanatical. Many people use religion as a moral guide and subsequently are very good people.  However, there are some so-called religious leaders that use religion as a means to motivate the masses behind them to commit acts of violence and evil.  I am of the belief that these leaders are people motivated far more by personal gain and power than they are by anything genuinely religious or Godly.  What they do is gather support under the guise of something holy, claiming it will make people’s lives better.  They preach a fanaticism that tells people that any action they take is permissible if it is in the name of God and that God wants them to do whatever it takes to spread his word.  They convince them that these actions regardless of how heinous they may be, are God’s will and will make their life or death something better than it otherwise would be.  Using this premise the most unimaginable atrocities can and sometimes do take place.  We’ve seen it on a relatively small-scale till now.  As the numbers grow, so too will the frequency.

Extremism on any level is dangerous.  I believe this entire discussion in itself is proof that it really has nothing to do with God.  Decent people who believe in God use that belief as a means of improving their lives and the lives of those around them.  Decent people who do not believe in God live their lives in pursuit of the same things that will improve their lives and the lives of others. They just don’t believe an all-powerful entity is involved in the process.

As one who believes in God it is impossible for me to comprehend how one can manipulate that belief to do evil.  What causes people to do bad, be it environment, genetics or unfortunate circumstances is something I’m not smart enough to determine, certainly not on a mass scale, although it often has to do with something as basic as economics.  One thing I know for sure. It’s not God’s fault.

 

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An Anchorman Tells the World he is Dying

dave_benton2007-01-25-1169779168It’s one thing to talk the talk, and yet another to walk the walk.  Anchorman Dave Benton does both.  In a stunning announcement on air, Benton told his audience that his brain cancer had returned and that the doctors have told him he has 4-6 months to providing inspiration and strength to us all at a challenging time .  A man of faith, he also said the following statement:

“I am at peace and I know he’s going to take care of the days ahead and that the goal here is to have the best ones possible,” he said.

CLICK HERE TO SEE HIS MOVING ON AIR STATEMENT

The 51-year-old Benton of WICA-TV in Illinois clearly does walk the walk as much as he talks the talk.  It is hard not to be moved by this video of a man telling the world he is dying, and doing it with what is clearly a total faith and trust in God’s decision.  When Dave Benton says on air he hopes he can help other people, you know it’s not self-promoting.  You know it is genuine.  I wish him and his family strength, pray his experimental treatment works, but most of all hope his days ahead are meaningful and blessed.

 

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A Prayer for Safety and Peace

ground zero, 9/11, Tribute in Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we get ready to remember the 9/11 attacks that took place 13 years ago, I would like to express my hope that everyone will be safe tomorrow and in all the days to come.  We live in troubling times and with many concerns for the future.  I pray to God that we will all be fortunate to realize a genuine peace in our lifetime and that very soon, good will win the battle over evil.

Maybe the best way to honor the people we remember on 9/11 is with an optimism that the world can become the place we hope it can be, and to continue to thank God for that in the world that is indeed good and right.

Let us never lose out hope, our love , and our faith in a bright future.

 

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