I wanted to retire from writing. This is my 203rd article for The Times of Israel. There are also 55 published articles in an overseas Jewish Journal, plus 120 published opinion columns in a local newspaper, and so many more over 52 years of being an academician that frankly, I’ve lost count. My estimated guess is that 450 of my articles have been published in various media.
When I sent in my 55th article to the Journal and announced my intention to retire, my editor wrote back “I will not allow you to retire. Keep on writing.”
But I think I am developing writer’s cramp. What more can I say that I have not said before?
My dear friend Simcha Ben-Zvi concurs with the Journal’s editor. He has collected every one of the 202 published articles in The Times of Israel and constantly praises my writing skill. I tell him that I am not Shakespeare and that I cannot write like a Shakespeare. He replies that Shakespeare could not write like me. He tells me that I have a special way with words that my readers enjoy and therefore, according to Simcha, I cannot retire but must keep on writing.
Needless to say, these words from editors and readers touch me deeply and I am grateful for their faith in my ability to continue writing. It is not an easy thing to do. The mind wanders, scraping up memories of more than 65 years. I remember the past more than I can recall the present.
I remember what cake I ate at my wedding in Tel-Aviv in 1960 but I cannot remember if I ate matza brie this morning or yesterday and when it came time to open the door for the prophet Elijah, I looked around and asked, “Nu? Where is he?” So today I sit down and continue writing.
Moses our lawgiver brought a band of 600,000 slaves out of Egyptian bondage, revealed to them God’s Torah at Mt. Sinai, taught them the laws which God had given to His chosen nation, and prepared them for entry into Canaan under the leadership of his servant and successor, Joshua ben Nun.
But the children of Israel erred in their ways, fell back to the worship of idols, and forsook the teachings of Moses and failed to observe God’s laws. They did not heed the words of judges and prophets.
The king who reigned the longest period either in Israel or Judea, was Manasseh. He ruled for fifty-five years (692-638 BCE) ascending the throne at the age of twelve. He did evil in the sight of God. He built altars for Baal, made an Asherah as did Ahab, worshipped the sun, moon and stars and built altars in the courtyard of the holy temple in Jerusalem.
He hired magicians and soothsayers, passed his son through fire, a ritual of Molech worship, and abandoned the laws of Moses. He shed innocent blood until the streets of Jerusalem ran red from one end to the other.
After his death, he was succeeded to the throne of Judea by his twenty-two year old son, Amon,(638-637 BCE) who was more evil than his father. He built idols everywhere and worshipped them and disregarded the laws of the Torah which Moses had given to the Hebrew people.
After a brief reign of only two years, King Amon was assassinated by his servants in the royal palace and they made his eight year old son, Josiah, king in his father’s place.
Josiah’s reign lasted thirty-one years and he was a great king, loyal to our One God and obedient of His laws.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, restorations were made in the holy temple and Hilkiah, the High Priest, discovered hidden away a copy of the book of the Law (probably Deuteronomy), and gave it to Shafan the scribe who brought it and read it aloud to King Josiah.
When the king heard the words, he wept and tore his clothing as a sign of mourning. He instructed Shafan the scribe to write copies of the book of the Law and teach the laws to all of the people.
This great religious reformation was Josiah’s triumph. He caused all the idols and altars to be torn down and burned and idolatry was abolished in the kingdom.
When Josiah read the laws of Passover which had not been observed by the people in almost seventy years, he re-instituted its observance and commanded all the people of his kingdom, saying to them “Keep the Passover unto the Lord your God As it is written in this book of the covenant.”
Thanks to the diligent efforts of Josiah, the Torah was once again supreme and the laws of Moses, revealed by God, were once again diligently followed.
Shafan the scribe made several copies of the book of the Law, writing with dark ink on parchment scrolls. I wonder if he experienced writers cramp as I do.
But my dear friend Simcha Ben-Zvi “commands” me to keep on writing. I only promised that I would try.