The Shalva Band Logo by Selimi [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikipedia
The Shalva Band, comprised of musicians with disabilities, chose to withdraw from the competition to represent Israel at the upcoming Eurovision song contest. The choice was made because participating in the contest, which is set to be held in Tel Aviv, would force them to desecrate the Sabbath.
The above item should make every Jew very proud of these idealistic youngsters. One can only imagine how hard this group of artists worked to overcome their personal disabilities and work as a team to be worthy of a shot at every aspiring artist's dream: the Eurovision.
Talk about sacrifice for a principle. On one side were fame and glory and the reward for years of toil and dreams, on the other: principle.
They chose that elusive thing called eternity over what is often called "developing their full potential." For them, eternity wins hands down.
Fast forward a few decades and imagine these young idealists having a grandfatherly talk with their grandchildren or great-grandchildren. They will tell them how once upon a time they had to make a very difficult choice between personal glory, satisfaction, and perhaps ego, or their people, history, beliefs, and the values of their family yet to come into this world.
It was actually a prominent non-observant Israeli writer who back in the 1930s coined the phrase: "More than the Jews kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept the Jews."
He himself perhaps did not choose to make the effort, but was intellectually honest enough to pronounce a basic truth. The holy Shabbat has always been the single greatest sign of the alliance between the Jews and their G-d.
When Jews came in their millions to the security and freedom of the U.S., they faced all the challenges faced by the other new arrivals. The Jews, however, had added dilemmas and challenges — the greatest of all was Shabbat.
I am not referring to those immigrants who threw their prayer books overboard as soon as the Statue of Liberty came into sight; they could not wait to jettison it all in order to be an "American," Shabbat or no. I am speaking of the many who did want to continue being devout Jews and raise Jewish families.
It would be unfair to judge. In America the six-day work week included Saturday. What to do?
During the depression years, things got really tough. Yet many made efforts both to put bread on the table and also keep the holy Sabbath. Often, workers would attend the very early service on Shabbat morning and then go to work. In the beginning, it was with a heavy heart, but eventually one gets used to things and to change, especially if you are not alone.
Many Jews strove to find employment that was Shabbat friendly, like small business owners and later the skilled professions. Both my grandfathers succeeded in doing just this — it was heroic. I have stories about both.
It is not their success in their businesses that I remember and proudly relate to my grandchildren. It is the stories of fortitude and principle that I know they will tell their grandchildren as well.
The same is true with the amazing members of the Shalva Band. They will be remembered for far more than just their musical achievement. With the choice that they made, they have won and guaranteed eternity.
How important their example is for Jews today!
From a Jewish point of view, one is very saddened when looking at the great-grandchildren of those who did not keep the Sabbath a hundred years ago in America. Most are either not Jewish anymore or quickly on their way out. Here the story ends.
The "no Shabbat" Jews clearly face ever-increasing challenges to their Jewish identity and future — assuming they care. Polls show that many have stopped identifying as Jews. Their future as Jews is not hard to project.
In Israel, it is more complicated. The renewed Jewish state was founded largely by Jews who did not choose to breach the holy day because of financial duress — they waged an ideological war against it as they did against the Torah in general.
They were rebels against their parents, their education, any trace of Jewish life that preceded their arrival to the Promised Land (promised by whom?). They were full of passion and confidence. They were going to build a Jewish state without Judaism.
For a while, it seemed that they were indeed the future. They controlled everything and were able to "educate" all the newcomers into understanding that the renewed Jewish homeland was no place for Judaism as they have always known it.
If this did not totally make sense to them, then the threat to their livelihood, their housing, and their children's education were convincing tools. The "little red passbook" was the key to material success in those days; without it, you were second class.
In Israel, as in Jewish history in general, surprise is the rule.
Today, the power and influence of the former Red communist aristocracy are increasingly rejected by the Jewish masses in Israel. Today the label "leftist" is one that politicians quickly hide from and deny. They have all become "centrists."
The bastions of the old order in the media, academia, and arts no longer receive the snap unquestioning attention of the masses. The majority of Jews want to be Jews again, Jewish Israelis — not just Israelis.
Demographics and politics increase the challenge to the old bastions of the left. The Jews are writing a whole new story.
In the 1996 Israeli elections, when Shimon Peres surprisingly lost to Binyamin Netanyahu, he was asked by a journalist: "Who lost?" Peres answered: "The Israelis."
Then he was asked: “Who won?” “The Jews,” he replied. Peres got it; he was not a stupid man.
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