I presume that I am to feel honored that a Jew, one Roger Cohen, during the break from synagogue services in London on Yom Kippur this year, penned, without breaking his fast, an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “Jews as Far as Possible” the whole point of which was to focus on my residency in Shiloh and to defame me as a “Messianic Jewish settler”.
His title originates in a phrase of Maimonides he quotes:
“We have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs, and removed them from us as far as possible.”
The phrase is from Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed”, Book Three, Chapter 46 in discussing the sacrificial goat to be sent off to Azazel:these ceremonies are of a symbolic character, and serve to impress men with a certain idea, and to induce them to repent; as if to say, we have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs, and removed them from us as far as possible.
Cohen may have seen it in Rabbi Sacks’ April article. Cohen’s conclusion is that
Jews, as I said, are a practical people. Their interest is in the feasible not in magic wands.Possibly short of words, he again quotes, this time Stefan Zweig, who defined Jews as“the ever-recurring — since Egypt — community of expulsion,”
So short of words was Cohen we know because his op-ed of last October carries the same theme and the same title, The Community of Expulsion. At that High Holiday season he was upset that his Rabbi had not mentioned the Gaza hostilities of last summer. Zweig’s quotation is found in his memoir sent to his publisher a few months before doing what, presumably, Cohen perhaps thinks as practical: he and his wife committed suicide. His Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday, in which you can read this: “The real determination of the Jew is to rise to a higher cultural plane in the intellectual world.”) reflects at one point on the situation the Jews of Austria found themselves during the Hitler ascendancy and the persecution that followed and it readsonly now, for the first time in hundreds of years, the Jews were forced into a community of interest to which they had long ceased to be sensitive, the ever-recurring — since Egypt — community of expulsion. But why this fate for them and always for them alone? What was the reason, the sense, the aim of this senseless persecution? They were driven out of lands but without a land to go to.”