Rosh Hashanah

Tzom Gedaliah

Today is "Tzom Gedaliah," the fast of Gedaliah.  Who was Gedaliah, and why should we fast for him?

Gedaliah was the Jewish governor of Israel in the sixth century BCE, the period immediately following Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon's conquering of Israel (and the destruction of the Temple the first time).  Jewish zealots, encouraged by the king of Ammon (as in "Amman," Jordan) assassinated Gedaliah.  No doubt they considered him a "collaborator," serving the enemy.

The Jews who were left in Israel assumed that Nebuchadnezzar would be really angry over this, and they fled to Egypt.  Israel was left desolate for 70 years, until the Persians kicked the Babylonians out.

What's the message?  It's clearly an anti-zealotry message.  Life would have been better if the people had accepted the accomodation with Nebuchadnezzar.  If we look at what happened then — and what happened again 600 years later, when we got the Romans mad at us — a pattern can be discerned.  Israel is a small country.  We can't win against the "giants" militarily.  Therefore, we need to be clever, and we need to accept that there will be some limits on our autonomy that are imposed on us by the great powers.  Instead of chafing against it. we should figure out how best to accomodate it.

The situation is the same today.  We're still a small country that is not a "world power."  We're not going to be able to militarily defeat the modern equivalents of Babylon and Rome — we have to figure out how to live in their shadow, without being completely under their thumb.  Not an easy balance to strike.  But if the mouse is quick, he can avoid getting stepped on by the elephant…

Reb Barry

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

3 thoughts on “Tzom Gedaliah

  • Robert Vincent

    Israel is not so small, Rabbi.

    Israel is one of the few countries that has an operational nuclear capability.

    Israel has – in absolute terms – the fifth most powerful air force in the world (behind the U.S., Russia, China, and India, in that order). In proportional terms, unit for unit, man for man, it is probably the best air force in the world, bar none.

    She may not be a ‘world power’, but she is clearly a major regional power, and a technical powerhouse.

    I don’t think Israel has to think like a ‘mouse’. Her neighbors are decrepit and backward. I understand Syria is on the verge of some kind of famine. The combined economies of all of Israel’s immediate neighbors do not equal that of Israel. Though Iran, for example, is larger, it is not so by a very great margin. Iran has an economy about the size of Ohio’s. 80% of that is based on oil. They have to use pictures of model airplanes to make their air force look more powerful than it is (really; I’m not making that up). Israel’s economy is about two thirds to three-quarters as large as Iran’s, depending on whose figures you believe.

    Israel’s technology is sought after by many major powers, to include the U.S.

    Israel needs to have the resolve fo stand up for herself. Under Netanyahu – whom I imagine you don’t like – Israel is doing just that. To this observer, he is clearly the right man for the times.

    I hope all is well with you over there in Israel. I hope I can join you there someday.

  • Hi Robert,

    Yes, Israel has a powerful military. HOWEVER…there are 1 billion Muslims in the world and 13 million Jews. We are outnumbered almost 100:1. They control a very high percentage of the world’s oil supply; we control almost none. If it came down to a big battle against the Muslim world, I don’t think we would have much of a chance. Who is Europe going to side with? And America is Israel’s great buddy right now, but if America ever got pissed off at Israel they would squash us like a bug. We are not now, and never will be, a “superpower.” Which means to a certain extent we have to play by other people’s rules.

    The hubris of challenging the “superpowers” of the day is what got the Temple destroyed in the past. I’m sure our Jewish fighters back then were also strong, brave, etc. But as the Chinese general Sun Tzu points out, in the long run the superior force generally wins.

    Gmar chatima tova,

    Reb Barry

    From: [mailto:]
    Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2009 1:18 AM
    Subject: [Reb Barry’s Blog …] Robert Vincent submitted a comment to ‘Tzom Gedaliah’.


    NEW! More options for replying to comments via email:

    * To reply privately to the commenter, click on the commenter’s email address below.
    * To reply publicly on your blog, reply to this email.

  • I was unsure who the ‘superpowers’ you referred to in your article were; reading your above response, it seems that you are indeed referring to ‘the muslim world’.

    Which is, well, surprising. I doubt you’ll be having a war with most of the world’s muslims. (Indonesia, Malaysia, India are a threat to you?) In the event of a ‘big battle’, the position of the US – and of, yes, Europe – would be clearly on Israel’s side, as it’s always been.

    But in any event – what is wrong with ‘accommodating’ other countries, be they larger or smaller? Isn’t that, at some level, the entire purpose of civilisation? To be able to live free of fear of a stronger beast eating you?
    Why are countries striving to be the superpower?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *