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The Mixed Multitude and the Messianic Mavericks

Protesters hold a sign reading 'Resistance is Justified' (Paul Becker/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read fascinating articles speculating over what motivates a certain brand of authoritarian leftists, often pejoratively labelled ‘Tankies’, towards support for violent and counter-progressive measures when expressing their anti-Zionism. Two such articles were penned by Tomer Persico and Tamara Yeshurun respectively. Whilst both authors offer mixes of articulate personal and historical anecdotes to justify their analyses, I strongly believe that biblical analysis is the most ‘Godly’ way of understanding every topic and I wish to offer my own insights from that medium.

In my dvar torah for Parashath Wayigash, I noted four fundamental shifts in society which occurs throughout the broad Exodus narrative. First is Yosef’s establishment of a feudal society (Bereishith 47:20-26), second is Paro’s establishment of a fascist society (Shemoth 1:7-14), third is the move to a materialistic-focused society in the Sinai desert (Bamidbar 11:1-6), and the final shift is the one to the Torah-based society of the Land of Israel. I further noted how these mirror societal shifts which we have witnessed in the lengthy exile we have endured, from the feudalism of medieval Eurasia to the fascism of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, to present-day capitalistic America and Israel; what remains to be fulfilled is a Messianic deliverance to a Torah-based society. (One who is interested in the full analysis may email me on my contact page).

In his monumental political article, ‘Writings of the Last Generation,’ the Baal HaSulam, Rav Yehuda Ashlag zy”a, opens with the metaphor of a bulk of friends lost in a desert, compared with a privileged few enjoying the riches of an oasis. The corresponding reality to the metaphor is that of the majority of humanity stuck within the desert of a morally corrupt Capitalistic society, as opposed to Kabbalists, which, to Rav Ashlag, are pioneers for a Messianic “Altruistic Communist” society (ע״ש). And, indeed, the parallels between the Biblical desert and our situation within Capitalistic society are many, but most notably in that there are two ways to escape: regression or progression. The ‘Mixed Multitude’ amongst Bnei Yisrael frequently argue for regression: “What have you done, taking us out of Egypt?” (Shemoth 14:11), “If only we had died by the hand of the Hashem in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, when we ate our fill of bread!” (ibid. 16:3), “We remember the fish that we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic [and] now our stomachs are shrivelled.”(Bamidbar 11:5-6). Despite the incredible brutality of Egyptian slavery, the difficulties of the desert lead many in Bnei Yisrael to conclude that it indeed may be preferable to the society within which they were operating! This is the same notion under which Foucault operates, as quoted by Persico, when advocating for a fascist, repressive, fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iran, because capitalism is, to Foucault: “the harshest, most savage, most selfish, most dishonest, oppressive society one could possibly imagine.” The protesters mentioned by Yeshurun advocating for a fundamentalist or Hamas-led Palestine are also of the same breed.

Yet, amongst those who care for Palestinians and Israelis, exists a second type of advocate: those who wish to progress into the land, those who believe in the values of the Torah, those who believe God when He says “Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Yishaya 56:7) and believe Him when He says “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (Yishaya 2:4), those that know that Jewish settlement of the land is conditional on the perusal of justice (Dvarim 16:20), who see a population on the land who have been thoroughly mistreated, and wish for an improvement in their condition. Yeshurun, in her article, expresses perplexion over how “the defender of the marginalized” and the “bitter enemy of fundamentalist religion” might ally with Islamic fundamentalists and regressionists. The contradiction is solved when one realises that “the defender of the marginalized” and the “bitter enemy of fundamentalist religion” are wholly different people to the allies of Hamas; both may wish to escape the desert, yet the manner in which they wish to do so differs vastly. Thankfully, the data shows, that even amongst the left-wing, those in the camp of allies of Hamas are few and far between.

There also exists a third type of desert dweller: that of the spy. He who sees what the future which Hashem has planned for us holds, and deeply fears it, favouring the comforts of the status quo, no matter how difficult such a situation is. Unfortunately, many Zionists today embody such characters. Instead of imagining what peace with Gaza, and with Palestinians broadly might look like, they favour the forever wars against Gaza and the forever operations in Yehuda and Shomron. The notion of the beginning of a meaningful peace process frightens these people because they lack simple faith in God; they would rather see the Palestinians as great Anaqim (see Bamidbar 13:33) than as human beings who are similarly subservient to the whims and desires of the plan as set out by the Almighty. Bnei Yisrael rathered stay in the comfort of the desert protected by the lack of enemy threat, than venture towards the future, which contained a frightful notion of war with the Canaanites. Similarly, many amongst Bnei Yisrael today would rather stay in the comfort of the current structure of Medinath Yisrael protected by constant quelling of the Palestinian population, than venture towards the messianic future of peace which God promised to the prophets. God forbid should such people suffer the fate of their forefathers: doomed to wander around in the status quo for the rest of their lives, for fear of what change might bring, that only their children might see salvation. Instead, we must pray that we all take the path taken by the holy Pinhas and Yehoshua, to counter both the mixed multitude who desire regression, and those too afraid to face the future, to walk proudly and strongly into the coming times which have been promised to us by God. May we see it speedily in our days.

About the Author
Ya'aqov Shenkin is a British-Israeli Jew residing in Jerusalem with a passion for Jewish history, Jewish politics and Torah knowledge.
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