Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Obama and Bush - Two Peas In A Pod

It would appear that although Obama and members of his party like to blame his predecessor for everything from a failed economy to the common cold there is one thing they both have in common -- they believe in rehashing failed housing and banking policies.

The Washington Post is reporting that President Obama and his administration are pushing to put some kind of government arm-twisting to the banking community to once again put into practice the failed Bush policy granting home loans to people with a weak or poor credit history. I suppose that is one way for Obama and his cronies like Pelosi and Reid to continue blaming Bush for the near collapse of the housing market, just bring back the failure and come 2016 the Democrats can blame those evil Republicans and Mr. Bush (who will have been out of office for eight years) for the terrible state of the banking and housing economy.

According the the Post article Obama’s “economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.” That is surprisingly nearly word for word the same reason given by President Bush’s economic advisors when they pushed bankers and other lending institutions to offer loans for homes to those everyone knew would never be paid off causing one of the biggest housing crashes in American history. I suppose the adage is true - if you don’t succeed at destroying America’s banks and economy “try, try again!”

The Obama administration is taking on an approach not fostered by Mr. Bush when he ruled the roost. They have urged the Justice Department to “provide assurances to banks...that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.” The first thing that came to mind was how this reeks of another violation of separation of powers, secondly, just how can the executive branch of the government “urge” Justice to set aside a citizen’s right to due process? After the abject failure of the similar Bush housing-lending venture it is understandable why banks are reluctant to once again fall into the sink-hole of lending to people they know cannot afford to pay back even the principal on a mortgage much less the interest.

Bankers and lending institutions are wary, as they should be and I agree with Ed Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute, “If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from.”

How serious is Mr. Obama about getting this economy under control? His current policies, along with a Congress still unwilling to respond to the reality of the U.S. economic slide will increase the debt to ever increasing unfathomable levels of spending and now with the President’s call to rehash a past failed housing-lending policy he is guaranteeing this nation’s fast track to becoming just another Greece and Spain. This can’t be an accident. He surely isn’t that ignorant of the economic facts? If he is then he needs to step down. If it is intentional then he needs to be impeached. Either way he is untrustworthy and no longer the person best suited to lead this nation out of its current economic woes. That isn’t Obama-bashing. It is simple common sense.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mashiach/Messiah Part 2 - Personality and Character

In Part 1 I gave a very brief background or possible scenario that would be in play on the world’s stage before and after the arrival of this mysterious individual called the mashiach (messiah). His entry into the political, military and spiritual arena would be preceded by much tumult and end with an Earth that has at last found itself in an acceptable level of peace and harmony that would even extend to the lesser species on the planet. In Part 2 I want to address what the personality and character of this person will be like.

Before I do this however, I think it’s important to clear something up that may have appeared a bit misleading in Part 1. In Judaism a prophet that gives a prophecy is not primarily a foreteller of future events, even though that is a small part of what a prophet does. The Hebrew word for a prophet is navi. It literally means a spokesperson, one who has been chosen to be the mouthpiece of G-d. The main job of a navi is not telling the future. A famous 12th Century Talmudic tosafot named Rashbam stated the main job of the navi, or prophet, is to make themselves open to the wisdom of G-d and to “speak to the people all that I shall command them.” Therefore, while prophecy has the element of foretelling in its prerogative its main focus is forth-telling the commands of G-d. With that key point in mind almost all prophecy concerning the mashiach falls into the foretelling category of prophetic utterance.

Down through the eons of time there have been many so-called mashiachs. In fact, if one were to use the description of a mashiach loosely this person would not be restricted to creed, color, gender, religion nor would they even need to be Jewish. The most basic identifying characteristic of a mashiach is one who has been anointed by G-d to perform a specific task that is centered around the physical and spiritual protection or deliverance of the Jewish people or the Nation of Israel. The centuries have seen many such mashiachs come and go beginning most profoundly with the most important to date, Moses himself. He had one goal to perform - deliver the Jews out of the hands of Egyptian slavery and into the borders of the land of their ancient fathers, The Land of Israel. He accomplished that feat. It may have taken him 40 years but he saw it to completion. Another famous mashiach was a woman named D’vorah (Deborah). She was a mighty military warrior during a renegade time in Israel’s history when it was ruled by one local called to rise up and protect the land when it was being threatened by external or internal forces. She led as a judge of Israel. Another very important female mashiach was a young Jewish girl named Esther who rose to the status as Queen of Persia. She used her influence to ensure the safety and deliverance of her people during the first great pogrom organized by a Hitler-like Persian of political status named Haman. She was reminded that it was for this very cause that she was placed into her prominent position with the King and was her only purpose for existence at the time. To this day she is celebrated as a great deliverer of the Jewish people with the holiday of Purim.

The title of a mashiach is not limited to a Jew. The prophets and ancient Jewish scribes and sages proclaimed a Gentile king by the name of Cyrus to be a mashiach when he issued the edict which ended Israel’s 70 years of captivity among the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their Temple. There has even been an American Jew that has filled the role of a mashiach. He was Colonel David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus. The Colonel was instrumental in the very early days of the new State of Israel in ensuring the delivery of valuable and much needed supplies and munitions when the fledgling nation came under immediate attack from its Arab neighbors after proclaiming its independence as the Jewish State. He was given command of the Jerusalem front just two weeks after independence. He was also instrumental in getting a cease fire implemented and was mortally wounded by accidental friendly fire upon his return to camp just hours before his cease fire was to be engaged.

Some other modern day mashiachs are Theodor Herzl, the 19th Century man who founded the Zionist movement that began the push for Israeli statehood. David ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and leader in nearly two thousand years and was the main thrust behind Israel’s independence and Statehood. Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister who saw Israel victorious during one of its most troubling times, the 1973 Yom Kippur War. She had that rare quality of feminine dignity, strong will and a driven sense of purpose. She may have looked like everyone’s grandmother but those who had to come up against her knew her as the first Iron Lady, a title she held before Britain’s famed Margaret Thatcher.

I would also likely include three other modern day mashiachs to the list though they would humbly disagree. The late Simon Wiesenthal, the great humanitarian and Nazi hunter and Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and political activist. The third is a humble orthodox rabbi named Chaim Richman. His name may be unfamiliar to many but his sole purpose for existence in life is eternally memorable. Rebbe Richman is the man behind the work of and the International Director for the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Israel. G-d has raised up this mashiach and anointed him for one divine purpose - to take over the task first assigned to Rabbi Ariel in the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the reviving of the Jewish judicial system known as the Sanhedrin, the training of the levites and cohens (priests) in Temple service and the authentic reproduction according to Torah instruction of all the implements and tools necessary to perform their duties within the third Temple. All his work and that of those who have been named before him in this article serve one purpose, to prepare the world and the Jewish people for the appearance of the mashiach.

So, while there have been many mashiachs (small m) over these past centuries, the Mashiach (capital M) has yet to make an appearance on the world scene. When such a person is born to a Jewish couple and grows up, likely anonymously until the proper time for revealing, what will he be like? What will his personality reveal about his character? Once again to find this out we have to look to the expert on the subject of the mashiach, the prophet Isaiah:

But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Jesse (Judah’s lineage), a shoot will grow from his roots. The spirit of G-d will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and reverential respect for G-d. He will be inspired by fearing the L-rd. He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear, but he will judge the impoverished justly; he will decide fairly for the humble of the land. He will strike the land with a rod from his mouth and slay the wicked with a breath from his lips. Justice will be the belt around his waist, faithfulness the sash around his hips.

Aside from the liturgical flourish our Jewish prophets like to envelope their words with the description of the character and personality of the mashiach is quite profound. To date I would have a very hard time finding anyone who has held the reigns of political, military and spiritual power that has matched this description. The mashiach will be infused with the spirit of G-d. That, of course, can and has been interpreted a zillion different ways over the centuries. But basically most can agree that it means that the finest qualities that can be exhibited by a human being, those that include an understanding of humanity and the godly, as well as, how things really are, could and should work properly for the beneficence of all along with the wisdom to make it come about. Someone who is fair yet judicial, prudent while forgiving; and a person who is not easily fooled by the games and tricks people play. His wisdom and inspiration are directed by his sense of respect for the G-d who created him and the rest of humanity. He will be a person that can be counted on to not act rashly or out of a need to maintain his power but will serve in humility with a strength of purpose that outweighs his own personal desires.

Sounds almost too good to be true but as the saying goes, “stranger things than these have happened.” This man, the mashiach, will rule justly and with honesty during the length of his lifetime which the prophets and oral law (Talmud) have indicated will resemble lifetimes before the days of the deluge. Is that even possible? In our own time we have seen the average lifetime of a human rise 20 or more years. The motto today on many billboards is “70 is the new 50.” Just 85 years ago when government officials were trying to determine the best age to begin social security in America it was decided 65 was the proper age to begin the program for retirees. Why did they pick 65? Because statistics showed that most would be dead by that age and the payout wouldn’t exceed the revenue. My how times have changed in less than a hundred years. Imagine how different it can be after the mashiach is here.

After such a perfect human; and he will be a flesh and blood human that is born, grows up, grows old and eventually dies, is buried and his body remains in the grave until it is turned to dust; what will be the results seen in the world around us. How will his governing of the Earth change things? Will this mashiach be the initiator of the long spoken of but never seen age of Aquarius? Again, we look to Isaiah for answers:

The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard lie down with the kid; calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them. Cow and bear will feed together, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. A human infant will play on a cobra's hole, a human toddler put his hand in a viper's nest. They will not be hurt or destroyed anywhere on my holy mountain (the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of G-d as water covering the sea. On that day this root of Jesse, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim (Gentiles - all those in the world not Jewish) will seek him out, and the place where he rests (his feet) will be glorious. On that day the L-rd will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people who remain from Ashur, Egypt, Patros, Ethiopia, Eilam, Shinar, (modern day Iraq) Hamat and the islands in the sea (all Jews still in diaspora). He will hoist a banner for the Goyim, assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Efrayim's jealousy will cease - those who harass Judah (reference to the once divided Kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon) will be cut off, Efrayim will stop envying Judah, and Judah will stop provoking Efrayim.

I wish all would be peaceful at first when the mashiach is revealed to the world but of course there will always be the hold outs for the old ways of war, fear, terror, tyranny and animosity. However, it will be short-lived as the mashiach in justice is also a mighty military warrior when necessary and those who wish to continue old blood feuds will be dealt with swiftly and harshly as needed. Here is how Isaiah describes those too stubborn to accept the inevitable peace:

They (the mashiach’s army) will swoop down on the flank of the Palestinians to the west. Together they will pillage the people to the east - they will put out their hand over Edom and Moab, and the people of Ammon will obey them. G-d will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian Sea. He will shake his hand over the Euphrates River to bring a scorching wind, dividing it into seven streams and enabling people to cross dryshod. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who are still left from Ashur (parts of Iran and Syria), just as there was for Israel when he came out from the land of Egypt.

Sadly, those wishing to hold out and continue their blood feud with Israel and the mashiach are those that have held the front page of newspapers for the last 65 years. Egypt, Gaza, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan, Syria, Eastern Iraq, as well as Iran. However, this will be their last hurrah and once they are either completely defeated or allowed to see the error of their nearly 4000 year old vendetta then the world will reap the description of peace and unity a person like the mashiach can guarantee. It is then that the State of Israel and the nations of the whole world will at last be able to say:

On that day we will say, “We thank you G-d, because, although you had been angry with us, your anger is now turned away; and you are comforting us.” Look and see how G-d is our deliverance. As a result we are now confident and unafraid; for the L-rd is our strength and our song, our triumph, our deliverer.

“Stranger things than these have happened.”

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mashiach/Messiah Part 1 - Why We Need To Know This Stuff

Everyone is always curious about the future; their personal future, that of loved ones and the future of their beloved home or country. Millions of dollars are spent annually throughout many cultures utilizing a myriad of divination methods, new age approaches, gurus, soothsayers, palm and tarot card readers and so on. Most of these avenues are as old as humanity itself. Another source for prognostication is religious zealots and those commonly called prophets. All religions have them and at times their accuracies can be quite uncanny, depending of course on how they are interpreted by those hearing or reading their musings. Not all prophets are religiously-oriented, strictly speaking. Examples of these would be people like Nostradamus, a 16th century French physician. A modern day prophet would be the likes of Edgar Cayce, an American seer who could barely read but whose predictions and healing sessions proved quite remarkable. Cayce died in 1945.

What all these prognosticators had in common was their ability, whether real or manufactured, to gaze into a future. Most prophets, if they are wise, never try to explain that future they envision but simply tell what they saw and leave it up to the future itself to either prove them a false prophet or the genuine article.

My concern over the next several articles I will be addressing has to do mainly with a certain type of prophetic utterance that relates to a specific political and spiritual individual who is expected by billions of people on planet Earth. This person has been called by many different names but the most common title attributed to him is the Jewish term mashiach (messiah), which literally means “one who is anointed” for a special mission. The whole concept of a mashiach was created by and is grounded in Jewish thought. Over time it has also filtered into the thinking of Christians, Muslims and the secular world as well. However, there is a deep chasm in the understanding of the role of this mashiach between these divergent groups and since the whole idea sprang from the Jewish mind then this is where I will focus my attention in the following articles.

In order to give an accurate description of this mashiach we will need to go to the source of the information about him which is the prophetic writings of the Jewish people. One of the most prolific Jewish prophets who spoke about a mashiach and his special role to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the rest of the world population was a priest named Isaiah. He lived in Judah (the Southern portion of the Land of Israel) during the 8th Century BCE (Before the Common Era). This series of articles will look at several of Israel’s prophets as they gave their ideas of the mashiach but we will start with Isaiah, considered the supreme expert on the subject. I will be using several different translations of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh (mistakenly referred to as the Old Testament), including the 2nd Edition of the Jewish Publication Society-JPS, the Complete Jewish Bible by David Stern, limited Haftorah portions from The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, and my own translation of Hebrew texts.

May you find the unfolding revelation of the mashiach as enlightening and exciting to your life as I have over the last 50 years of my own.

This is the word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Y'hudah (Judah) and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem):

In the days yet to come the mountain of G-d's house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the Goyim (Gentiles - the non-Jewish population of the world) will stream there. Many peoples will go and say, "Come, let's go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Ya'akov (Jacob)! He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths." For out of Tziyon (Zion) will go forth Torah, the word of G-d from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. Then they will hammer their swords into plow-blades and their spears into pruning-knives; nations will not raise swords at each other, and they will no longer learn war.

Descendants of Jacob, come! Let's live in the light of G-d! For you have abandoned your people the house of Jacob. Now they are filled from the east, full of sorcerers, like the Philistines; even the children of foreigners are enough for them! Their land is full of silver and gold; they have no end of treasures. Their land is full of horses; they have no end of chariots. Their land is full of idols; everyone worships the work of his hands, what his own fingers have made. A person bows down, a man lowers himself - don't forgive them! Come into the rock, hide in the dust to escape the terror of G-d and the glory of his majesty. The proud looks of man will be humiliated; the arrogance of men will be bowed down; and when that day comes, G-d alone will be exalted. Yes, Adonai-Tzva'ot (L-rd of Hosts) has a day in store for all who are proud and lofty, for all who are lifted high to be humiliated; for all cedars of the Lebanon that are high and lifted up, for all the oaks of the Bashan; for all the high mountains, for all the hills that are lifted up; for every high tower, for every fortified wall; for every Tarshishian ship, for every luxurious vessel. The pride of man will be bowed down, the arrogance of men will be humiliated, and when that day comes, G-d alone will be exalted. The idols will be completely abolished. People will enter cracks in the rocks and holes in the ground to escape the terror of G-d and his glorious majesty, when he sets out to convulse the earth. On that day a man will take hold of his idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, and fling them away to the moles and bats! Then they will enter the cracks in the rocks and the crevices in the cliffs to escape the terror of the L-rd and his glorious majesty, when he sets out to convulse the earth. Stop relying on man, in whose nostrils is a mere breath - after all, he doesn't count for much, does he?

This is the first really detailed outline from a prophetic source that gives an opening account of the kind of times the world will be experiencing before and after the mashiach comes into his own. First, to better understand what Isaiah is talking about it might be good to have a Jewish understanding of just what or who this expected mashiach is and what his duties will be.

Unlike the Christian and Muslim ideology of a messiah, the original Jewish concept, was an outcropping, or byproduct of a long ago blessing given by Jacob to his son Judah. That blessing, can be found in Bereshit (Genesis) Chapter 49: “You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; your father’s sons shall bow low to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; on prey, my son, have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, like the king of beasts, who dare rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; so that tribute shall come to him and the homage of peoples be his. He tethers his ass to a vine, his ass’s foal to a choice vine; he washes his garment in wine, his robe in blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine; his teeth are whiter than milk.”

This entire death bed speech from Jacob to his son Judah has a huge mix of Jewish idiom and imagery in it but basically it was a promise from the patriarch to his son that the Jewish royal line of kingship and princely anointing would always be the main part of Judah’s bloodline and would never be cut off or depart from that line. Which meant that from King David (who was the first king of the line of Judah) onward, the mashiach would come from that particular ancestry. It would strictly be a human lineage, not a god, a superman, a demigod or some kind of supernatural being, but simply and purely a human being born from the coupling of a human man and human woman for the task of being a great political and military leader that would lead the Jewish people, first back to its spiritual temple-worship roots and then politically unite the entire world under the banner of the one true creator G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his torah teaching.

It is obvious from some of the things that Isaiah said that prior to the days of the mashiach’s rule over Israel and the nations there will be a time of war and great suffering. So much so that people will literally be trying to wedge themselves into cracks or clefts of rock sides to avoid the disaster(s). This is also reflected by another prophet named Ezekiel (Chapters 37-39). He lived during a time of great sorrow for the Jewish people. In the 6th Century BCE he saw the fall of the southern kingdom (Judah) at the hands of the Babylonians. He and many thousands of others were led off into captivity while many other thousands of his countrymen and women lay dead in the now vacated streets of the cities and towns of Israel. As he was led off he watched the flames and smoke rise above the ruins of one of the wonders of the world, Solomon’s Temple. Yet, in the midst of all this great tragedy he foresaw a time of great joy, as well as even greater calamity for his people and the rest of the world. In one of his foretelling visions he saw a great and mighty army of Israelites rise up out of the ashes of their despair. He literally saw a valley of dried, dead bones come to life, become reanimated with flesh and muscle and sinew and stand once again in what is now known as the Land of Israel. What he saw came to fruition on May 14, 1948 with the rebirth of the State of Israel. However, his moment of joy was quickly averted to a time of anguish as he witness this newly formed State come under some future attack. He sees a great military force led by someone called Gog. This will take place in a period of time referred to as taking place in Ezekiel’s far distant future, a period beyond the prophet's comprehension. Yet it is after this same time of great calamity that the mashiach would be revealed. “From that time on, the House of Israel shall know that I the L-rd am their G-d...I will never again hide My face from them, for I will pour out My spirit upon the House of Israel...” “I will manifest my glory among the nations of the Earth and they shall see the judgment that I executed and the power I wielded against them.”

In Part 2 of these articles about the mashiach I will take a closer look at the character and personality of this human being that will one day rule the entire Earth from his headquarters located in Jerusalem.