Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beloved Gentiles - Glenn Beck and King Agrippas

I was away with the family on vacation when tv news commentator Glenn Beck held his Courage rallies in Israel. I missed the hullabaloo.
"Beck is providing a sense of pride and support for Israelis in a sea of hate." Thus said one columnist Tabitha Korol in an Israel National News op-Ed. What Tabitha said was true. And thank you, Glenn Beck.
Still ...the entire Beck story reminds me of the tale of Agrippas the King (grandson of Herod). Agrippas was a truly good and noble king. He helped the Jewish people in many ways in their relationship to the Caesars and Rome. He was careful to observe Jewish precepts. The Virtual Jewish library said that he married his
daughters to Jewish notables, and was very close to the Torah-true rabbis of the Pharisees.
“Apparently, it is Agrippas I who is referred to in the Mishnah which points out that when celebrating the festival of the first fruits, ‘even King Agrippas carried the basket [of fruits] on his shoulder’
(Bik. 3:4).”
But the most famous Agrippas story took place when King Agrippas was reading from the Torah before the Jewish nation at the end of the shmitta year (Sotah 41:B). “When he reached the passage, ‘one from among your brethren shall you set as a king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you," his eyes filled with tears, since he was not of pure Jewish descent.” He was so well-loved that the sages, however, called out, “Agrippa, you are our brother! You are our brother!’”
The end of the story is not so great – Agrippas was killed apparently by the Romans, who feared his popularity. And the Gemara sees this episode unfavorably as well. It states that the Jewish people were deserving of the death sentence for flattery of the king.
So, why does this story remind me of Glenn Beck?
Glenn is a beloved media personality that speaks out for the Jewish people without fear. He has embraced rabbis and lovers of Eretz Yisrael. Tens of thousands of Jews (and non-Jews) stood shoulder to the shoulder, breaking into applause every few moments from Glenn’s inspiring words. He said all the right things – love, belief, faith, courage, pride. He believes all the right thoughts, and he tells it to the world. It is great to have a friend like that in the world.
Like Agrippas, Beck is not Jewish. He is a devoted friend of Israel, but he is not Jewish. And hopefully the folks falling all over him were not doing so for flattery, because Jews have a tendency to crave the love of the non-Jew.
But, I have a question. If there was a Jewish speaker, Chaim Whatever, who was just as fiery and exciting as Beck, would anyone have come out to hear him? Would folks have gotten on buses from all over the country to attend the speeches of a Jewish lover of Israel? And furthermore, where is the Jewish speaker who can electrify an audience and bring them to their feet in praise of G-d and His people? Does he even exist?
I wish the answer was yes, but the truth is that a Jew speaking out for Israel is a yawn. It seems if we want to attract the world (and Jews alike) to a positive message about Israel, we need an Agrippas to talk up for the Jewish people. So sad, and it's our own fault.

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