From Cyrus to Truman
From Cyrus to Truman
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המופע התקיים בתאריך
12.8.19
20:00
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לחבר

תמלול אירוע From Cyrus to Truman שהתקיים בתאריך 12/08/2019

Goo d evening everyone. Welcome. My name is Stue Herman, what I do is bridge the Y and the U of Yeshiva university, working closely with Rabbi Soloveichik, who will be giving the lecture tonight. We bring together the great books of the west and those of the Jewish tradition, in books and events such as this one. The idea for this book was suggested by our co-editor, the idea was to bring together fundational American documents, side by side with Hebrew Bible sources which inspired them. Through the founding fathers, who were using the King James translation, we show the influence of the Jewish tradition on their thought. This book and others will be on sale after this talk. R. Soloveichik, graduated Yshiva school, he published in many widely read journals, the Wallstreet journal and beyond. He is a beloved friend and teacher. Thank you so much Stew, not only for this lovely introduction, but also for everything you do for the University. I want to thank David from Beit Avichai, this is hopefully the first of many visits. Mat Albright, who gave us the idea for the book, and he’s engaged! He said, we should take all the founding American documents and seeing how Jewish sources influenced them. I also want ot thank Matthew Silver, Matthew Miller, and everything from Koren, I hope you get the book, this is a challenge, to lay out the biblical sources, so thank you so much. Historical testament to the uniqueness of America, that uniqueness was captured by the greastest American philosopher. We will be talking about the American revolution, we will talk about July 4th, or as some of you, the British among you, call the Nakbah. That is really essentially what we are trying to express with this book, the uniqueness of the American idea, the idea of the book, is that the bond with biblical Israel is the foundation of that uniqueness. I will be investigating this through a story tat happened in 1948, a story whose significance is only superficially understood. During WWI, Truman was assigned to run the regimental canteen, he took on a partner, Sgt. Edward Jackobson. David Maccowa, wrote – the Jackobson being a Jew is a plus, the canteen paid dividends of 10 thousand dollars, the other officers make fun of Harry. The business of Truman later failed, Truman a failed haberdasher, became through a series of unlikely events the President of the US. While the UN approved the partiiotn plan, nevertheless, the American delegation in the UN, under Marshal, tried to revert away from independence to UN protectorship. Harry revered Marshal, and refused to see the American delegation. Jackobson was asked to plead on Weizman’s behalf, he immediately promised not to bring up Palestine, but he brought it up immediately. Truman complained of the abuse he had been subjected to by certain Jewish leaders. He had a statue of Andrew Johnson on horseback. Jackson made an impassioned speech, about Weizman, a sick man, he said, travelled far to make the cause of my people, you were insulted by Jewish leaders, but he has nothing to do with them. Abba wrote later, the relationship between them was far fetched. The difference between Johnson and Weizman was far fetched. Truman looked Jackobson in the eye, said the most endearing words he ever heard – I will see him. Truman went down Lefayette street, downed two Burbuns, saw Weizman, he overrode Marshal. President Weizman, came to the rose garden, gave to the president a beautiful small Torah, Truman said thanks, I always wanted one of these. When he retired from the presidency, Jackobson introduced him as the man who helped the state of Israel. Helped? I am Cyrus, he said. Cyrus, of course, or Koresh, is the one who allowed Israel to return to the holy land and build the Temple. He is the only non-Jew with the appellation Masiah Hashem. Isaha said so – I ordained you to act on a providential role for my people. Moreover, think about this, it is Koresh who is given the last words in the Tanach, so said Koresh, as if he is a Navi: (quote) God has chosen me to build his house. Whoever is with god let him go up to build it. The most sacred book of the Jewish faith ends with the words of the non-Jew. Truman, saying I am Cyrus, says something about Truman. The source of his motivations – that he said, I always wanted one of these, and the words ‘I am Cyrus’ – he overcame Marshal, even when he said he would not support him in the upcoming elction, it was a deeply American affectation of seeing the current events of America through the Hebrew bible, it is an affection, the tendency to apply Biblical imagery to current events. I will focus on what he might have meant, what the bible meant during most of American history. Zionism may have been part of the American heart and soul much earlier than may have been appreciated, we will see why Truman’s words are so deeply significant.
We begin with the beginning of the American republic, Adams writing to his wife, immediately after approving the declaration, a committee was formed to design the US seal. They suggested Moses drowining Pharao in the sea. Franklin added, rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Another seal suggested –Israel led by a pillar of fire. None of these was accepted, they had a revolution to fight, after that they were in France, and the seal is that creepy pyramid with the eye, don’t know where that is from. The committee of the founders are chosen to select a seal, and they instinctively select a Pesah image. Sacks wrote, Pesah is a story of how a group made an escape from the old world, to a free society, it defines the nation, and its commitment to the future, it is not surprising they turned to the Bible. No other text in Western literature draws these things. R. Sacks says – Israel and the US, founded in conscious pursuit of an Idea, they identify with the leaders in the Tanach. James Levi describes the refusal to pitch with the Dodgers, as it was pesah – they lost, said wish you were also Jewish. They joked about it, accepted into that society. If big D can identify as one of the chosen people that is enough, the truth is that its founders identify with the story of the chosen people, then our people as a model for America, they meant it in earnest – what occurred to our ancestors is reenacted in history. Maase Avot Siman le
Americaim. The Americans welcomed the Jews warmly. President Washington was sworn in, all the congregations came together and sent him one letter. The Jews could not agree who would write the letter, so they sent him three letters, there were a thousand Jews then. Washington penned an exquisite reponse to each one. I will be reading his response to one of them, to the synagogue of Newport. They could put up the sign Washington slept here. It closes with the prophesy of Micha – everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree. What is more amazing, his letter to the Jews of Savanah, relating the freedom of the Jews with that of America. We welcome you Washington says, not only as American but as Jews, because we see reflections of your story in our story – God saved you from tyrannay, and us too. The god who blessed you in the past, blesses us, a reflection of what occurred to you. The poet Longfellow visited Newport, he pondered the Sephardic names, he reflects on the endurance of the Jewish people, the connection of past and future. He writes, for in the background figures vague and vast, and all the great traditions of the past thye say reflected in the coming time – he captures what ‘maase avot’ means for Jews, but also how American statesmen saw Jewish history as an antecedent to them, if that story reflects the American story, if Ezra under Cyrus can go to the holy land, why can’t they go again. This occurred to American Jews, long before than it rose in Europe. Noah, a playright, delivered a speech to my congregation, the oldest congregation in America – we don’t mention it except maybe every day – he saw that it was then that the gretest opportunity arose for Jewish independence. He wrote Adams, and Adams replied – I wish you can be in the head of a hundred thousand Israelites, marshing in the Judea, I wish them to conquer that land, six decades before Herzl. Noah created a haven, Ararat, an island, he claimed that it was a prefiguring of the shelter in the holy land. The asylum is temporary, the Jews never will relinquish of retaining possession of their heritage. An invitation to seize their own destiny, coming to this colony and then to their own land. The freedom of America, could be where they escape persecution, and from there go to Israel. Eastern European leaders laughed at it. Only a plaque memorizes Ararat. Students can’t fail to wonder what might have been. Perhaps they could not have helped to be hidebound in their age, but if they only had listened history might have been otherwise. This was the Hebraic imagination of the founders, but the imagery reached its greatest expression in Lincoln, who quoted copiously from the Bible. He called the Americans the almost-chosen people, the Brit of America being that all men were born equal. He stood near independence hall, he said – may my right hand forget its cunning if even I fall false to the teachings of Freedom, of the declaration. Of course if I forget thee Philidelphia does not have the same ring to it. According to Mary Lincoln, the president on his last day, said he would like to visit the holy land, no city he so much desired to see as Jerusalem, beginning his presidency with his cleaving, could not finally see Jerusalem, but his right hand man, Surd, visited the holy land in 1871, he was entraced of seeing the enduring of the Jews, in refusing to forget the covenant. The weekly wail of the Jews, he writes, takes place on Friday, the small alley, without roof or canopy, serves as the gathering of the congregation, here they come, discordant as the diverse nations from which they come. They bring the book of Lamentations, for many hours they pour forth their complaint, it is no formal ceremony, in the hours we were there, not one act of indifference or irreverence took place. While much is changed since then, he got waylaid by a Rabbi who tried to bring them to a davening, he brings him to the Hurva, he cites a verse about Jerusalem, and also about Zion in all its glory, because he understood seeing Jerusalem through a Jewish eye, one can see it again as it was once. This is the span of time covered by our book, from America’s earliest moments to after the war. Truman’s own support for Israel’s formation was underdstood as an extension of early American affectations. Truman’s advisor who took on Marshal in his private meetings, Clifford noted that Truman’s reading of the bilbe made him a supporter of Zionism. Others spoke of Brazil. But what is noteworthy is Truman’s fascinating phrase, I am Cyrus. Let us ponder this once more, unlike Lincoln’s phrase, the comparison is with Persia, not Moshe but Koresh. There is an interview of Truman, called plain speaking, some journalist who knocked on Truman’s door, today you have to pay a hundred thousand dollars. When Israel came up, he got up – later it was revealed it was to take a libation, or maybe he was enthusiastic about the subject and that’s it. He is interested in the Bible, and in Persia – not just the part about Palestine interested, but of that whole area, is the most interesting, there has always been wars there, from the times of Darius to Ramses on, the pity of the Middle East is that the whole area is waiting to be developed, the Jews have. Why does Truman identify with Persia? Perhaps the comparison was suggested by Rabbi Herzog. The reason is profound. Let us put ourselves in Truamn’s place, he not only miraculously came to the presidency, but he saw America come from an isolated nation to the greatest power in the world. America began as a tiny nation, perhaps like Israel, but having a huge impact. That is not what America became under his presidency, if it was no longer a small nation, it needed a different model, not Israel but a superpower, one that was still Biblically inspired –what better than the man given the last word in Tanach? Today the American affinity to the story of the Hebrew bible, still out here to be found , it is reflected in Christian Zionism, I was struck by this myself when I attended the vice-president in the Knesset, both the PM and the leader of the opposition cited the words – I long to see the Jewish people independent. The vice president, one of the most Zionist speeches ever made, it was filled with more references to the bible, since the days of Begin. A cameraman turned to me and said – that was the MAsiah, or the US vice president? Today there exist thousands of American Christians, driven by their own way of looking at world event,s who are passionately concerned with the future of the Jewish state. I pondered, perhaps the last words of the Tanach, about Israel and the Return, this perhaps hints at Isaha’s prediction, that they will come to revere the God who dwells in Jerusalem, the partial realization of that – existence of multitudes of Zionists who are not Jews, but the American polity is not so biblically minded as it used to be. Jewish Ideas profoundly formed the Western world, but today American elites are ignorant of that text. At a speech at Apec Natanyahu made a reference to Moses drawing water from a rock, the press interpreted Iraq, they never heard of one of the most famous stories in the Torah, Moses was not even in Iraq. The American founders had no doubt they mus remain this way. The construction of the Mikdash was halted for a few years because people began assault the right to build the temple. During the days of Koresh ,they bribed ministers to thwart the plans of Koresh, a lobby against Zionism, in the days of Cyrus. The Cyrus that concludes the Tanach, perhaps a hint at a future when many non-Jews can revere the Tanach, but that countries can cease to be so if that culture is not sustained. Today tere is much to be glad of, and much to be concered of. Weizman gave the torah to Truman, the biographer does not say where it came from. As Weizman arrived, he asked Dr Finklestein, from the Museum, why he didn’t buy one from the Silver Shop at the airport. Finklestein said they were all bequests and they could not be taken, but he suggested – he had a Torah from his grandson’s Bar Mizvah, kings are supposed to read the bible, why not give it to the president. He wanted the presidential Torah for his collection, when he met Truman after the president’s retirement he said – Mr President if you will allow us to display the Torah, our museum will have tens of thousands who will see it. The president said – in my museum home many more will see it. He said –you must roll it every now and then. The president said – you are not getting it back. He meant he always wanted one of these. They would send a rabbi to roll the Torah, you can see the president every now and then holding one of the Ez Ha-Haim. We believe each story has significance, they all served as pole stars to the Americans – at times the Pesah story, at times Jerusalem, at times Cyrus. All this is for the good, as long as America, as Truman did, continues to hold on to the Torah and allows it to form its world-view, will it amputate its aspect of its identity from itself, as in suddenly secular Europe? The administration gave the Torah back. After the liberation, they wanted a copy of the Shaz, the army was supposed to conquer, not go into the Jewish book business, but they saw that the preservation of Jewish culture was very important to America. They took a print that used to print Nazi propaganda, and published the Army Talmud. It highlights an extraordinary link between America and the Jews. This Talmud is dedicated to the Army, it was published in a land where not long since everything Jewish was ineffable. The Torah and people are indestructible. The question facing us today – will America cling to the Bible as it once did, or will it become unconnected. We must plead the bible’s importance. That is why we at the Yeshiva University are proud to highlight the importance of the Bible for what America was. We stand today in the Jerusalem Lincoln dreamt of –we hold out this book as a beacon for what America can be. Thank you very much. Thank you all.


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