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The Lord of the Manor & The Dog

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

We all wonder what will be the outcome of the political deadlock in Israel? Will Gantz and the Blue & White party manage to form a coalition where Bibi failed? Or will there be another election? These are questions that only the Jews themselves hold the answers to. In light of the current state of affairs, there is an old Yiddish proverb worth considering that factors predominantly in Jewish culture. It’s regarding the Lord of the Manor in Russia’s medieval Pale - and his dog.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the “Lord” (landowner) calls “his Jew” (indentured labourer) and demands that he teach his dog Yiddish! As bad as that was, his demand was accompanied with the caveat; “…and if you don’t - I will kill you!”

The lesson in this parable describes a trait refined through history as Jews were subjected to the atrocities of tyrannical hosts. What can or does a person do in an impossible situation like this? Have faith, trust God…and stall for time. And so the Jewish peasant’s response was; “I accept. I will train your dog to speak Yiddish…but give me five years!”

The peasant’s hysterical wife of course was unimpressed and lamented; “How could you promise that? Are you crazy? You’ve just made me a widow!” It was his witty response that indelibly seared the Jewish psyche with the coping mechanism for impossible situations; “So you’ll kill me with worry? It’s five years, something will happen…either the Landlord will die – or the dog!”

Though many Jews may be waiting for that proverbial “something” to happen with regards to the election stalemate, the conditions are not at all the same. The Jews are finally home! Now they are the Landlord and their “dog” merely the circumstances of which they must take control.

Jews were returned to Eretz Yisrael with a responsibility – not just to drink lattes on the beach - but to rebuild a bold new world. The family of exiles today, like the first exiles departing Egypt - were miraculously snatched from the jaws of death for a purpose. The Sages record that when they gathered at the foot of Sinai, they did so in the context of an unparalleled unity to which God descended to Moshe Rabbeinu with His Word. That crowning moment stands as a beacon for what the modern family of exiles today can become.

No doubt Ben Gurion, the founding father of the modern, reconstituted nation of Israel was conscious of this. Though he personally was an avowed secularist and atheist - he lived for over 40 years in Eretz Yisrael before ever stepping foot in a Shul, yet as a true visionary, Ben Gurion saw the bigger picture and importance of unity in the Jewish family.

He not only sacrificed his own personal preferences, but he made sure that when the newly minted Knesset would convene, it would represent all Jews. He ensured that the religious Jews too would have their place at the table because allowing division to fester between a secular State and the Jewish faith - would ultimately destroy the fledgling new nation he was trying to build. The welcome mat was set out for all Jews – both at home and abroad because this was the only homeland to which they could return to become the people of God they were destined to be.

Ironically, the political stalemate of 2019 hearkens back to the seeds of discrepancy of the 1940’s where the secular “left” faced off against a religious “right”. What’s needed today - as then - is to follow Ben Gurion’s example and trump the divisions. After 70+ years it’s time for Israel to stand and embrace the greater purpose of her existence in the unity of a sovereign Jewish family. No Jew can hide from the truth that Jewishness isn’t just an ethnicity or a certain gene pool. The inescapable heart and soul of Jewishness is about faith and adhering to God’s Word.

The threat by the Lord of the Manor was only possible because of the peasant family’s insecurities. Passivity is passé. After 70 years, God has made the Nation of Israel a force to be reckoned with. Now is the time for action and difficult – but mature decisions that have the best interests of the “family” at heart. Since a family’s unity rests in the security of knowing the boundaries and “borders” of a home, may God grant the people of Israel the ability to build a “unity government” that seeks to establish this precedent of Sovereignty as one that is a testament to Israel’s Jewishness.

Anthony Abma

Return O' Israel

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