By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Recently, JTA published the contents of a podcast in which Seth Rogen, an up and coming actor, essentially trashes his religion, Judaism, as well as Israel. Since the JTA article has gone viral – a response is called for.
Rogen is quoted as saying:
“To me it (referring to Israel’s existence) just seems an antiquated thought process. If it is for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it, because I think religion is silly. If it is for truly the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place — especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile, you know? “I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m gonna put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place… that’ll do it.” It doesn’t make sense to me. And I also think that as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that — oh by the way, there were people there.”
Not sure where you went to school – but, by the way, there were people in your home town of Vancouver too. The entire North America was populated before Canada and the United States were settled. The previous residents were killed by both settlers and disease. In the plains – the Blackfoot; In Káínawa – the Sarcee and Peigan. In the north – the Cree and Chipewyan. Around the Great Lakes – the Anishinaabe; Algonquin; Iroquois and Huron. The Atlantic coast? The Beothuk, Maliseet, Innu, Abenaki and Mi’kmaq. Oh, and as much as I would hate to put you in an American pickle, it was the entire USA too.
The two major differences are that in Israel – the Jews were there first. There was never a time when Jews did not reside in Israel. Not a month goes by where some remarkable link to our past is dug up or discovered. This month, evidence of the monarchy of Chizkiyah was unearthed. The second difference is that, except for in rare instances, the Jews didn’t kill the residents that were there. Rather, time after time, they were the ones who were murdered.
Seth, it is true that in your circles it is chic and fashionable to trash your heritage and your true homeland – but I do want to introduce you to one of the blessings of a Jewish wedding – the blessing of Sos Tasis. It is blessing #5 of the seven blessings of a Jewish wedding. The blessing is, “May the barren one rejoice and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, Hashem who gladdens Tzion with her children.”
Tzion, of course, is Zion. And from this blessing, we see two remarkable things.
The first thing we see is that the relationship between Zion and the Jewish people is more than just an un-severable bond. It is that of a mother and her children.
The Holy Land of Israel, of course, is not just something that is deeply important to us – to your parents, and to your grandparents. She is our mother. We will never sell her out, sell her off, or trade away our mother. It just will not happen.
Your religion – Seth, is not silly. Judaism, Torah gave the world morality. The Jerusalem Talmud states whomsoever saves one life – it is as if he has saved the entire world. Seth – we were saying Black Lives Matter and that All Lives Matter while everyone else was busy killing each other for their food, for their wives, and for anything else that caught their fancy.
Seth, Judaism laid the groundwork for all social reform – we taught the world the responsibility to stop injustice and to fight against inequality in the world.
And as far as your bit about not putting them in one place – Rome and Carthage had three wars. Carthage is gone – and has entered the dustbin of history. The Incas and the Aztecs are now gone as well. It is only the Jewish people that have survived – and that was a miracle – in a world that murdered and hated.
And as for Israel now – look at all that they do. Look at the Israeli that just saved the life of a drowning Palestinian. Look at Shaare Zedek hospital as they treat Arabs from countries that try to wipe her out, and as they send teams to help other countries time after time. Look at such organizations such as Hatzolah and Zakkah who help recover the dead of all nationalities in foreign countries. Look at Ezra LaMarpeh who recommends and arranges for life saving procedures for all peoples. And there are thousands of such organizations throughout Israel.
Seth, Seth, grab hold of your heritage! Israel was once as remote as the stars in the sky to the victims of the Crusades. To the victims of the Rindfleish massacres, and to the victims of the Chmelnieki Massacres of tach vetat. Indeed, even to the victims of the pogroms of Europe and to the victims of Auschwitz and Treblinka, Israel was unimaginable.
And now we have her. And she takes in her people – a people that were ruthlessly murdered while the world looked away in silence as all her children were being murdered.
King David said it best in Tehillim (137:5-6):
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you.
If I do not set Yerushalayim at my highest aspirations of joy.”
In these words, King David is pointing out the two tell-tale signs of a stroke. He is essentially saying that he should have a stroke if he does not remember Jerusalem.
Seth, thousands of years ago, the holy prophet Isaiah says, “Be comforted, be comforted, My people – Nachamu Nachamu Ami (Yishayayhu 40:1-2) , speak unto the heart of Jerusalem – dabru al leiv Yerushalayim.” This is the haftorah reading for this Shabbos. You remember what a haftorah is, don’t you Seth?
Why Yerushalayim – you ask?
I am glad you asked, Seth. The answer is because Yerushalayim – all of it – is intrinsically connected with the people of Israel. The prophet further states, “For Hashem has comforted His people – He has redeemed Yerushalayim (Yishayahu 52:9). And also Yishayahu (65:19), “I will rejoice in Yerushalayim and be glad in My people.”
Seth, stop your love affair with European anti-Semitism, with the United Nations, with BDS supporters – take heed and Know that Israel was always, always ours. Look at Tehillim 102:15, “Her servants desired her stones, her very dust moves them to pity.” We have never, ever, left Israel, and even when times were difficult, we always pined for her. We pined for her stones, her dust, and her spiritual nurturing.
Come back to us Seth. You are talented. You are funny. And most of all, you are Jewish. Take hold of your birthright – the birthright of Sinai. I am not asking you to join the Lakewood Yeshiva (just yet). But there must be a Chabad House somewhere near you. Come back. We need you, Seth. Come back.