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First Covenant

Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 12

August 2007....... Elul 5767

Apocalypse Now


• Apocalypse Now

Rosh Hashana, Birthday of the World

• A Tale of Time & Money, by Andrea M. Chester

• Polygamy & Suicide Bombing

More Hamas TV

Blog: Free Syria



"Circumcise the foreskin of your heart," says Moses (Deuteronomy 10:16). That is, remove the hard covering that makes you impervious to God's influence. As one of Israel's great sages explains this passage, "Your heart shall be open for recognizing the truth."

Truth is everything. The great conflict of our age isn't between faith and reason but between truth and its opposite. The truth that HASHEM God of Israel is a living God has gotten a bad rap.

Supposedly, accepting religion means accepting intellectual absurdities. Is the religion of Moses absurd?

God creates the Universe out of nothing. Over time and many stages, He makes human beings, a unique combination of animal and higher being. Unlike angels, humans have the power to accept or reject Him. Surely He prefers to be served by creatures who choose to, not just by angels who have to.

HASHEM tries, like a father, to help His children make something of themselves. He makes a great covenant with them, to guide them. He hopes that someday, necessarily at least partly through their own efforts, they will become even better beings - not just better servants but more holy servants, children to be proud of.

He Who created everything maintains every particle and atom in existence. How would human beings react to apocalypse now, if He were to suddenly reveal Himself to us? (Some people think that he did reveal Himself to human beings by appearing, in Roman times, as a Jewish carpenter. But the Torah teaches that a physical, corporeal God is a contradiction in terms - that HASHEM is by His very nature One, a perfect Unity, Whose essence fills the universe, not a Being Who splits Himself into separate beings.) How would we take it if He let us somehow "see" Him? Would it make us better beings or would it shock us into passivity, into total dependence or - perhaps - rebellion? How would we take apocalypse now?

Take a look at our website and the late Aryeh Kaplan's "If You Were God" essay on this subject. How can God influence His children for the better? By making many prophets? What about the problem of false prophets? What about unholy prophets - Bala'am, for instance (Numbers 22-25)? Or perhaps God could take a few people, starting with an Abraham, and turn them into the cadre or inner circle of an exemplary progressive movement?

They would serve as a sacred society as well as a nation - joined not just by language, culture and a holy Teaching but by the power of family and nation. Add hostility and persecution from outside - Scripture often speaks of Israel's future "enemies," as if making enemies is part of the job - and you get . . . an extremely tightly wound "people of priests." You get a nation whose blood comes from every nation, thanks to converts and non-Jewish fathers, a nation that "belongs," uniquely, to all humankind. You get a people who often stray and make mistakes but who also serve to incarnate and draw attention to the Higher Teachings that sustain them as a nation. You get a people who serve as a catalyst in human history, a mighty force for holiness in the world: you get, in Isaiah's words, "a light to the nations."

Is that absurd? If you look into the matter deeply, it's the only way to make sense of human history. That is, unless you disbelieve in human progress - if you, like Edward Gibbon (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), consider history to be "no more than the record of human folly." But then how can you explain such phenomena as Gibbon himself living only to 57 (1737-1794), a fine old age by the standards of his time, which we today would regard as a life tragically cut short?

We at this foundation believe in human progress. We believe in the truth of the Bible and Torah. We believe in HASHEM.

In the last issue, we called the Holocaust a theological project - a deliberate effort to destroy human belief in HASHEM. The Nazis' taunt - "Where is your God now, O Israel?" - got results. In the words of the late Rabbi Sherwin Wine, quoted in the last issue, "The message of the Holocaust is that there isn't any magic power."

When Christians speak publicly of God as if He's their best friend, as if they can carry him around in their pockets, Jews and Noahides generally recoil. Where was this God during the Holocaust? The Nazis murdered many Christians as well as Jews - what did their Best Friend do for them then? Not only that, they claim to believe in the Bible. But the Bible itself teaches, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." (Psalm 146:3).

Allah, the Supreme Being of the Muslims, is just impossible. Represented in the Koran/Quran as the God of Israel, He's utterly unlike HASHEM. His followers have a record of turning forests into deserts. The contributions made by Muslims to human progress, compared to either Christians or Jews, have been miniscule. And look how horribly they treat their fellow men, including even their fellow Muslims. Their countries are a mess. . . Judged by their fruits and not just their theology (why bother discussing something which, disgracefully, is so likely to provoke Muslims to commit murder?) this Being isn't too attractive either.

Then there's atheism, and what Sherwin Wine called "Humanistic Judaism." A good friend who was also a congregant and supporter of Wine called after reading the last issue. "You don't get it," he said. "It's not that we don't believe in God, it's that we believe that God is irrelevant."

Someone - possibly Daniel Webster - once said, "If God doesn't exist, nothing matters. If God does exist, nothing else matters." But the Torah teaches that HASHEM Himself, Who certainly exists, insists that what people do and think does matter.

"You shall have no elokim before Me," commands HASHEM. Elokim, usually translated gods, also means "rulers," or "powers." You shall believe in no power greater than HASHEM, in other words; you shall fear - really, "lovingly fear," "revere and loyally, respectfully serve and follow" - Him (Deuteronomy 10:20). You shall not direct that reverence, fear and loyalty to any other power. HASHEM alone, no other god or power, is your saviour. "I am HASHEM your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour." (Isaiah 43:3)

If "God is irrelevant," then one believes in an elokim, a "power," before and supposedly higher than HASHEM. Sherwin Wine believed, so he said, in the goodness of humankind. That was his elokim before or instead of HASHEM.

How, one may ask, can one turn human goodness into an absolute value? What is goodness? Who defines it? The Nazis thought that they were doing good by murdering Jews and millions of others. Did that make it good?

This foundation is all about belief in HASHEM. Without Him, there is no good and nothing matters - and everything that does matter matters only in relation to Him. The Seven Universal Laws don't require belief in HASHEM, as we've insisted before, but they come from HASHEM and they lead back to HASHEM.

Every society needs a central animating purpose. Quoting from the Hertz Torah, "Wherever national life no longer permeates and elevates the masses, these sink into the mire of sensuality, superstition, and animalism." (Hertz, p. 727, quoting Dr. Berhard Duhm.)

Does that sound like our mainstream Western society, sunk "in the mire of sensuality, superstition and animalism"? Practically the only cause that animates our young people is "the environment." They want life on Earth to continue. But that's only a crusade by default. They can't get together on anything more complicated than wishing the planet well.

People have soured on God. Speaking soon after the Babylonian holocaust, following the Assyrian holocaust and then the Babylonians' destruction of most of the rest of Israel, Isaiah spoke to the same issue as Sherwin Wine. The people had soured on the Lord. How can a holy, loving, omnipotent God allow His faithful servants to suffer so much? (Isaiah 50:7). He can, Isaiah answers, for His own reasons; it is His will. But know this: HASHEM will vindicate the righteous, and no enemy of Israel will prosper (Isaiah 50,54).

In my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:22

Nobody can make HASHEM look bad like those who claim to follow Him; His followers, being human, often discredit Him. Add to that the after-effects of the Holocaust. Add to that - for instance - the often silly dogmas of the world's Professorate, teaching doctrine as science when it's often mere doctrine.

For all the good that Doctors of Philosophy have done, in teaching and discovery, our modern Professorate's sins against truth are too many to count. Just to mention two:

1) the rigid doctrine that the Five Books of Moses and most of the Bible's other books were sloppily put together from different scraps of paper over centuries by a host of unknown writers, editors and "redactors" is easily disproved. One should like to issue a challenge - we can meet here in print - to anyone who thinks otherwise.

2) the pervasive dogma that biological evolution is always random, that any theory of "intelligent design" threatens the scientific method, isn't supportable either. Parenthetically:

If just two changes - mutations, or major molecular innovations - in the biology of any organism are needed simultaneously to make a mutation successful, there is strong evidence of design. Mutations don't happen often and few do any good. Experimenters have induced countless mutations in countless generations of fruitflies without once producing a beneficial mutation. To get not one but two beneficial mutations to occur simultaneously would literally take an act of God. . . Just in the last few years, cellular machinery, the way that biological cells work, has turned out to be much more complex than science recognized. Most dogmatists haven't yet caught on. Not evolution but the theory or doctrine of random evolution has fatal flaws.]

Add to all that the Christian churches' inherited disdain for Jewish teachings. Add to that the constant ignorant mischaracterization of the Torah as a crude, harsh, primitive legal system, particularly when doing so is helpful to "gay" causes. Add to that Muslim extremism, which threatens the world in the name of religion. . . These forces, along with the technologically juiced "animalism" that distracts people from even thinking soberly, all weigh on the wrong side of the balance. People like "spirituality," but religion, they think, is for rubes - for half-educated dolts - and extremists.

"My people perish from a lack of knowledge," the prophet says (Hosea 4:6). Truth is the issue here. The truth about HASHEM needs telling. Our society's central animating purpose should come from HASHEM. We want apocalypse now, not through suffering or violence, but from the calm exchange of information. We want the world to live, not perish; we want the world to come to HASHEM sooner, not later. If the truth prevails, if knowledge prevails, HASHEM prevails. So will humankind. So will the Earth. In fact, it's the only way to save the Earth. If the truth about HASHEM doesn't prevail - uh oh. (Apocalypse delayed won't be pretty.)




Rosh HaShana, the Birthday of the World

The birthday of the world - Adam's birthday, actually - is coming up. People who live by Torah get two new years a year: 1) the secular new year, following the winter solstice, when the days begin getting longer. This is the solar new year. The early Christian church used the calendar of the Roman Empire. December 25th was already the feast day of a pagan god and the Church decided that the 25th - really, the night of the 24th -was the birthday of Jesus. He would have been circumcised, or entered into the covenant of Abraham, eight days later. January 1st is that day. The secular, solar New Year, in other words, is the anniversary of Jesus' circumcision. So it is marked on many Christian calendars, "the Feast Day of the Circumcision of our Lord." But then we have 2) HASHEM's New Year, besides the solar new year: Rosh HaShana, the Head of the Year. It comes at summer's end, when people are feeling stale and need a new beginning. God doesn't want His servants stale but spiritually alert and sensitive.

This year Rosh HaShana, which is always the first day of the seventh month in the Torah calendar, the month of Tishrei, begins at sundown on September 12th. See Leviticus 23:24: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns (ram's horns), a holy convocation." So begins the New Year, and the season of holidays that follow. The holiday season this year lasts through October 6th.

Happy New Year! Rosh HaShana isn't like the secular or Christian New Year: it's a day of celebration but also a day of judgment. God judges each of us individually and all the world on Rosh HaShana.

This new year is 5768: the anniversary of HASHEM's creation of Adam, the first true human, 5,768 years ago.


A Tale of Time & Money

By Andrea M. Chester

I'd like to tell you about something that happened to a close friend of mine recently. He came into several thousand dollars when an uncle died.

Like many people, this friend and his wife were deeply in debt, through no fault of their own. His vehicle had broken down, and he had to replace it. He lost his job, because of a medical problem, and he owed a lot of money to the doctor and the hospital, too. He needed to repair the roof of his house, and his property taxes were coming due.. Well, you get the picture.

They carefully budgeted, realizing that the unexpected money was the only way they could ever get the debt monkey off their backs. They gave a portion of the inheritance to tzedakah (charity), and took great joy in giving a small monetary gift to each of their kids.

After a couple of weeks, they mailed off the last check. His wife told me how panicky she felt when she realized that it was all gone. They had paid all their debts off and they had felt so rich, for a few weeks. But now it was over.

Then something else happened, and the debts started again. The couple wondered whether they should have just put all the money into the bank, in case of emergency. Now they were struggling again.

They second-guessed themselves. Was it necessary to pay off the credit cards in full? Maybe they should have put the money that they gave to the kids into the bank instead. Perhaps they could have gone without that new roof on the house'..

They had prayed over each expense, but it was all gone so quickly. They had done the best they could, and they didn't regret a single expenditure. They could look back, with satisfaction, instead of the sickening feeling that they SHOULD HAVE done better.

What does all this have to do with time? Well, like money, time is gone once you spend it. You can torture yourself over whether you spent wisely, you can wish you had more of it, but, once it's gone, it's gone. And, like money, there's never quite enough time to do everything you need to do, no matter how carefully and prayerfully you use the gift.

Now we stand on the brink of a new year. The Torah says that God judges each person and decides whether we merit prosperity, life, and health for the next year.

When you review your year, may both you and God feel deep satisfaction with how you spent your time, your money and your energy. And may you make happy plans of how you will spend the next blessings God gives you!

L'Shana tova - have a good New Year - and may your name be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.



Polygamy & Suicide Bombing

Keeping down the size of each Covenant Connection isn't easy. A (spiritually) alert reader submitted this, which establishes a fascinating connection between sex, Islam, suicide bombing, and the phenomenon of multiple wives. Also, please see the lead article in our May issue, Jihad E. Coyote http://1stcovenant.com/pages/news/Archives/May_07.html  which also connected sex and suicide bombing (based on the work of documentary filmmaker Pierre Rehov).

Click here: Polygamy and Suicide Bombing http://1stcovenant.com/pages/polygamyandjihadism.htm

More Hamas TV

Fun Kicking Cats

Hamas TV had a black Jewish secret service agent murder the lovable "Farfur" - the "Let's kill the Jews, kids!" Mickey Mouse look-alike. (Remember Bad Mouse in the May Covenant Connection?) Farfur refused to sell Jews "Arab land" and died a martyr's death. But take heart! In Farfur's place, the new teaching character, a man in a bumblebee suit, goes to the Gaza Zoo to torture animals a little. It's supposedly a lesson in not mistreating animals, but it's the cruelty that gets all the laughs. Click here: YouTube - Hamas TV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ExZVimjST8&NR=1 This is more than just a stupid, amateurish TV production. The producers were adults: Hamas adults. This is a look into the soul of a deeply nasty enemy.

Free Syria Blog

A Syrian political reformer hopes that Israel will not do anything stupid, like give up land, or make any other weird accomodation to Syria's rulers.

Click here: Reform Party of Syria Blog http://www.reformsyria.org/blog/

He admires Israel; he wishes Syria were a lot more like Israel; the last thing Israel should do is something that might strengthen Syria's rotten kleptocratic government, he says. He estimates that Syria's ruling family, the Assads, have stolen the equivalent of about a billion dollars a year every year that they've been in power. They have been in power now for 40 years. Enough, he says. He wishes that the world would stop enabling the Arabs' worst leaders and most self-destructive tendencies.


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.Questions? Comments?

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