God-fearing seculars is a new phenomenon in Judaism, and hence new tools are needed. Einstein’s song, as interpreted, provides such a tool today at the onset of Judaism 3.0,
REPRINTS FROM THE JERUSALEM POST; BY GOL KALEV, September 11, 2020
As the nation of Israel gets ready to spread its wings, Moses prepares them for life without him, providing them with some tools.
No doubt, internalizing the five books of Torah, its 613 commandments, and underlying philosophy is difficult – especially as centuries progress and Jewish circumstances change. Therefore, simpler supplemental instilling methods of the Torah might be needed: Songs, midrashs, even one-liners.
And so, right before his departure, Moses writes a song per God’s instructions: “when many evils and troubles are come upon them, that this song shall testify before them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed”.
About 1,500 years later, Hillel the Elder composes a sound-bite to capture the essence of the Torah “on one foot”: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah”.
Today, 2,000 years later, such “one foot” capture could be conveyed through the popular Israeli song of Arik Einstein “Fly, my little bird” (Oof Gozal), universally known and loved by Israelis.
The song, about a chick leaving the nest, is commonly viewed as an analogy for parents’ emotions as their child leaves home, but can it also be read on a deeper level? As a subconscious Midrash that delivers the essence of the book of Deuteronomy?
“Fly my little bird, cut through the sky, fly wherever you want to, just do not forget – there is an eagle in the sky – be fearful.”
Moses understands that it is time for the nation to proceed without him. They received the Torah, and spent 40 years with him in the desert at “Torah University”. Indeed, the Hebrews are now ready to “cut through the sky” and unleash their ambition: conquer Canaan, be a lights-upon-the-nations, spread monotheism.
But “cutting through the sky” comes with embedded dangers. Success could lead to confusion and arrogance as Moses warns: “Then thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt.” Such heart can be lifted-up due to military might, economic success, wealth accumulation, and other newly-acquired powers. Indeed, Theodor Herzl explained that Zionism is “an ideal that is infinite, that forever grows, in such a way that with every step forward that we take, our horizon expands in front of us.”
With such heart-lifting success, Einstein’s song delivers a reminder of Moses’ messages in a contemporary cultural packaging: “Do not forget that there is an Eagle in the sky”
Eagle in the Torah is used as a metaphor to God’s actions: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself.” Also, in Moses’s own song: “As an eagle awakens its nest, hovering over its fledglings”.
Einstein did not consciously write his song as a Midrash for Deuteronomy (as far as we know), but could contemporary Midrashs even be conscious? Herzl himself, astounded by his own writing, speculated that Zionism has developed in his subconscious.
Indeed, journeying line-by-line through Einstein’s song unveils a more detailed midrashic depiction of Deuteronomy: “My little birds have left the nest, spread their wings and flew away; and I, an old bird, remain in the nest. I hope that all will be okay.” Indeed, Moses is consumed with what will happen to the nation after they leave the nest – much of the book of Deuteronomy is dedicated to his hope that all will be okay. “I always knew the day will come that we will need to say goodbye”. Moses was told years ago that he will not cross the Jordan, and yet: “But now that it comes to me suddenly, no wonder that I am a bit worried”. Moses begs God to reverse his verdict, arguing the people need a shepherd. But suddenly, God ends Moses’s hope, telling him unequivocally: “Do not continue to speak to me about this matter”.
Left alone with God on Mount Nebo, Einstein’s song-midrash depicts the eternity of Moses’s advocacy for the people of Israel:: “Now we were left alone in the nest, but we are together, hug me tight, say yes, do not worry – together, it is fun to get old”. The song concludes: “I know that this is how it is in nature, and I myself have left a nest, but now that the moment arrived, there is a lump in the thought”
There are times we know we need to say goodbye: A departure, a breakup, a divorce. Moses knows that this is how it is in nature, and indeed, he himself has left a nest. But when that moment to depart arrives – something astonishing happens to Moses – some form of Separation Anxiety. 80 years prior, Moses killed an Egyptian, which should have led him to immediately flee the nest before getting arrested. But he lingered, at least for another day, hoping that somehow the killing would not be known.
Similarly when it was time to leave Midian, his nest for the next 40 years, Moses’s stalls again – he gets activated by God who ordered him to head to Egypt to save the Hebrews, but Moses pushes-back on God’s order drawing God’s anger. Moses then asks Yitro for permission to leave Midian (perhaps hoping for a “stay of exit”?), Even after Yitro grants Moses’ request, Moses seems to linger in the nest until God explicitly orders him to go, assuring him those who sought to kill him in Egypt are dead by now. And then 40 years later, at the conclusion of Deuteronomy, even though Moses knows that his departure will enable the nation of Israel to spread their wings and “cut through the sky”, he seems to stall, perhaps letting the “lump in the throat” get to him.
Einstein’s song-midrash’s final words are: “Be fearful!” (Gur Lecha). Indeed Moses instilled the Hebrews with the fear of God. Up until 150 years ago, such God-fearing was obvious as nearly all Jews were observant – keeping Shabbat and following Jewish law. Today however, it is estimated that less than 10% of Jews are observant. But unlike European seculars who are anti-religious, most Israeli seculars are indeed God-fearing. For example, the vast majority of Israeli seculars observe Yom Kippur, and about a quarter of them fully-fast for the entire day.
God-fearing seculars is a new phenomenon in Judaism, and hence new tools are needed. Einstein’s song, as interpreted, provides such a tool today at the onset of Judaism 3.0, just like Hillel’s sound-bite did 2,000 years ago at the onset of Judaism 2.0, and Moses’ song did 3,500 years ago at the onset of Judaism 1.0.
The little birds of Israel are just beginning to cut through the sky; with every span of their wings, their horizon expands in front of them, having the confidence and gratitude that there is an eagle in the sky.
The writer is the author of upcoming book Judaism 3.0 – how Judaism transformed into Zionism. For comments: comments@Jewishtransformation.com. For more of his biblical commentary: ParashaAndHerzl.com. For his geopolitical articles: EuropeandJerusalem.com
Related Jerusalem Post articles by Gol Kalev:
To Egypt or to Israel? – Both Herzl and Joshua & Caleb understood what establishment Israelite leadership of their respective time did not – the exodus from Egypt/Europe is the return to Judaism even before it is the return to the land of the Jews.
The inauguration of Judaism 1.0 – The Temple was the point-of-orientation for Judaism When the Romans destroyed the Temple, they destroyed Judaism’s anchor. Yet, Judaism did not evaporate. Instead it transformed, adopting a new anchor – Rabbinical Judaism, centered around Halacha (Jewish Law), the canonization of the Oral Torah and the yearning to return.
Jewish transformation – Judaism 3.0 – For 2,000 years of exiles Judaism was bound by internal glue of religiosity and external one of insularity. With the radical decline in religious observance and elimination of outer walls, once again, Judaism has lost its anchor. But at the same time a new one emerged – Zionism, which is now turning into the organizing principle of Judaism.
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