It is Chanukah. And while there are many legends associated with it, including
the most popular, and most believed-fact, that there was some kind of magical eight day
supply of oil for the Temple (There was not, according to the account in Maccabees, which
the rabbis did not include in our canon, because it was a bit too Greek), there is
I think, a FACT far more inspiring.
Greek custom had become “all the rage” in Judea, especially amongst the upper echelon
priests. All things Greek meant, truly, “cosmopolitan” in the original meaning of the word.
We were part of the world-cult of Greek culture, with its fashion, its budding philosophies,
and its delights— including the gymnasium, with its naked wrestling.
Greek culture became so biologized—or at least it was attempted so— that in order to wrestle
in the gymnasium, and not be glaringly Hebrew, because of that absence of a foreskin, a
little piece (pun intended) of cosmetic surgery was invented called an epispasm, which, quite
painfully, reconstructed the circumcised penis so that it appeared uncircumcised to the Greek eye.
These days, there are many foreign fads and foreign cults which are invading the world-consciousness.
Jews, who are now open to the world, with far less prejudice than any of our ancestors, are now
bombarded with this World Cult. The many potent and powerful and real Truths in the world culture,
are assimilating themselves into Jewish thinking— just as they have throughout the centuries when we imbibed Arabic, Christian, and other cultures. Indeed, our original Hebrew written characters,
paleo-Hebrew, is indistinguishable from Phoenician.
But, there are many true violations of the Hebrew consciousness. One of them, is that the
Cult of Humankind is not the same as the covenant, nor is it the same as the One God.
Now each, in a sense, is a “unity”, a unified humanity, a unity-of-humanity-with-God. But, our One God, is not merely the Redeemer of Israel and the world, but, more importantly, more foundationally,
more critically, THE CREATOR: The Creator is beyond the Cult. Beyond the covenant, in and of itself.
That which HAS PRIORITY (in the dual sense of importance, and possibly succession, depending on your view of “the big bang”) over any scale identifiable by our senses and mind. THAT is GOD- And even
if you do not believe in God (and I’m not certain what a “belief” is)—minimally, such a “placeholder”
for Something Beyond Us, must be held, logically and rationally, or we forfeit humility.
Now epispasm, per se, is not fundamentally different than wearing clothing that is “gentle inspired”,
and Jews are quite prominent in the clothing industry. It is no different than wearing a Turban if you
are one of the prominent Jewish advisors living in Moslem territories in the 9th century.
But— the question is, what is the value of the UNIQUE CULTURE which is Hebrew or Jewish?. Is there a
language it speaks which is different, even defiant when necessary, over the mainstream culture, and which is sacred:. an instrument by which knowledge of the One God is communicated, so that it
be known by cultures over the world, a Cosmic Entity beyond the cosmopolitan, truly beyond any
known universe, and culture which defines it for human beings, concretely!
The retention of the foreskin, when properly linked in devotion to THIS God, so that it becomes
an identity, through which the devotion of men to this God is anchored in the flesh, in their very manhood, — becomes a magnificent cultural language which communicates the unique enduring value of the Jew.
Now, you may know from other articles I’ve written, and from the “brand” of Universal Judaism,
that we do not REQUIRE circumcision. After all, so may circumcisions are just mere artifacts, and
have lost their devotional aspect or significance. To me, to allow the MERE rituals to be the SINE QUA NON of the Jew, so that we lose people, and potential new adherents (Yes, I’m not afraid of being open to converts), is an overstatement of meaning, at best. The circumcision, per se, is not the covenant.
So, as contemporary Jews, wearing our contemporary clothing, screaming with ecstasy at Hockey,
Basketball or Cricket games— we must ask the question: What is the LIMIT TO OUR FADS?
WHAT IS THE LIMIT TO THE CULTURAL AFFECTATIONS WE BORROW FROM OUR SURROUNDING
Universal Judaism adheres to the following perspective:
When there is a direct violation to the living purpose of the Jewish people by the ignoring of
a cultural ritual such as circumcision, or, because the cultural ritual, becoming lost in its significance, has become itself a violation to the living purpose of the Jewish people— we must ACT.
We must act like the Maccabees to overthrow the pig blood on our Temple Altar— not because it is
a pig. We must, like the Maccabees, reinstate circumcision, not because circumcision per se,
is an absolute-edict by our ancestral God.
We must act– whether by retaining circumicision or by finding other mechanisms– to restore the
TRUE PATH of the Jew.
I myself was recently called upon by a Russian Jewish family to provide a non-surgical circumcision.
The parents, though totally devoted Judaism, were not happy with the idea of “desecrating” the
baby’s body. Ironically, half their family, because of Soviet persecution, were uncircumcisized.
So, I created a BRIT SHABBAT, and used the other “sine qua non” of the Jew, that the rabbis
conceived of— and indeed, there is a debate which is more “Jewish”, circumicision or Shabbat.
I did not make the foreskin the criterion of the Jew, because then, I might lose the Jew,
and perhaps later on, a child who retains their foreskin. I acted with an eye for the future, not
short-sightedly, though not without significant criticism from many.
Any act, whether circumicizing, epismasm-ing, or uncircumcizing, can be SACRAMENTALIZED.
It is the consciousness of the Jew that needs to be built.
The ideal is of course that the ritual act and the purity of its meaning, should be bio-ontologized
AS the ritual that has properly distinguished us. But, that ideal is not necessary, and there are other
approaches that are sufficient to help build-up our people from the devastating effect of the World
Cult. In our era, it is not so much Greek, as Greco-Roman-Secular-Capitalist-Modern.
This Chanukah look at your life. Where have you taken the fads too far? When have you body pierced,
not for mere adornment, but as a desecration of the Holy Vessel, you were given? When have
you dressed merely to manipulate, sexually, another person, to satisfy your desires, without any
cognizance of their living souls, their sacredness as creations of God, Nature or “the universe”.
Look at your fads with the eye of Maccabee. ACT!
Light one candle, towards the reclaiming of your Jewish self.
Blessings and Light to everyone this Chanukah 5778.
Blessings and light.