Bennet and the Bible: Remove Ruth? Genesis? Samuel? What’s Left?
Naftali Bennet is the current Minister of Education of the State of Israel. No, Bennet is not an expert in education, no does he have any significant education experience. In Israel coalition politics make for essentially random parcelling out of ministries. But nonetheless, while occupying the seat of Minister of Education, Bennet is the final authority on what our children are taught and exposed to during school hours of the public educational system (or not taught, in the semi-public state sponsored ultra orthodox institutions).
Recently Bennet has taken certain decisions (or defended decisions taken by others) that caused me to ask — does he have any sense of Jewish history? Because his articulation of the Jewish present seems to be deeply lacking of any awareness of our history, of how we were formed as a nation.
This past week the controversy was over a novel that an education ministry committee decided to make off limits to use in literature classes. Of course, that attempt on a ban has been ironically great for short term sales of the book in question, but let’s focus on the sensationalist. aspects of the book — a romance between a Jew and a non-Jew. Hmmm…sounds a lot like some stories from the Bible. Take Ruth for example. We meet her as the Moabite spouse of a Jewish man living in the diaspora. Of course, in other streams of biblical lore we are told Moabite women are particularly “off-limits,” yet this relationship takes place. When Ruth’s spouse dies, she follows Naomi back to Israel and ends up settling down with a distant relative of Naomi, Boaz.
As I am sure Bennet would not want to sanction such depictions of marrying Moabite women, perhaps we remove the book of Ruth from the biblical cannon.
Two weeks ago Bennet was very concerned about representatives of IDF veterans group called “Breaking the Silence.” These are IDF veterans (mainly from combat units) who feel a need to publicly discuss their experiences. Without getting into the debate of whether this is a “good” or helpful exercise for the well being of Israel, it does remind me of a story from the book of Genesis, where we read of the actions of Shimon and Levi, two sons of Jacob, who as an act of revenge for wrongs they believe were committed to their sister slaughter much of the adult males of the nation-state of Shechem. Jacob is not satisfied with their explanations and and blessing his children lashes out at them. Yet the story is preserved in the Bible in all it’s gore. Perhaps we would be better off to redact it? Why the need to have to remind ourselves of the brutality of Shimon and Levi?
Lets take that out too — at least the parts of Genesis that relate to such an episode.
And then if we move again in the Bible we have Moses, who kills without any investigation or due process, and then flees from his home rather than face the justice of his time. Is this behavior we want to promote? Taking the law into one’s own hands?
And as long as we are talking Moses, in the desert, settles down with a Midyanite woman — one whose father is a priest, no less. Again, no criticism in the text of such a move — in fact just the reverse — when Miriam and Aaron, Mose’s biological sister and brother seem to gossip in some way about Moses’s relationship with Zipporah there is a punishment of leprosy.
Of course, Moses then was pre-Sinai. So he could be excused. But what of Kings David and Solomon? David was known for disrespecting authority (King Saul), Solomon had many non-Jewish spouses. So lets take them out too, and the books they are attributed with writing — after all, sets a bad example if we read books written by those not upholding the Bennet values.
OK, this Bible is getting pretty thin now. We could keep going but then all we would be left with are some laws regarding sacrifices, and I am a vegan so prefer not to get to that.
Minister Bennet: keep our bible the size it is, and get out of the book banning business. We will all be better for it.