His title originates in a phrase of Maimonides he quotes:
“We have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs, and removed them from us as far as possible.”
The phrase is from Maimonides' "Guide for the Perplexed", Book Three, Chapter 46 in discussing the sacrificial goat to be sent off to Azazel:
these ceremonies are of a symbolic character, and serve to impress men with a certain idea, and to induce them to repent; as if to say, we have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs, and removed them from us as far as possible.
Cohen may have seen it in Rabbi Sacks' April article. Cohen's conclusion is that
Jews, as I said, are a practical people. Their interest is in the feasible not in magic wands.
Possibly short of words, he again quotes, this time Stefan Zweig, who defined Jews as
“the ever-recurring — since Egypt — community of expulsion,”
So short of words was Cohen we know because his op-ed of last October carries the same theme and the same title, The Community of Expulsion. At that High Holiday season he was upset that his Rabbi had not mentioned the Gaza hostilities of last summer. Zweig's quotation is found in his memoir sent to his publisher a few months before doing what, presumably, Cohen perhaps thinks as practical: he and his wife committed suicide. His Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday, in which you can read this: "The real determination of the Jew is to rise to a higher cultural plane in the intellectual world.") reflects at one point on the situation the Jews of Austria found themselves during the Hitler ascendancy and the persecution that followed and it reads
only now, for the first time in hundreds of years, the Jews were forced into a community of interest to which they had long ceased to be sensitive, the ever-recurring — since Egypt — community of expulsion. But why this fate for them and always for them alone? What was the reason, the sense, the aim of this senseless persecution? They were driven out of lands but without a land to go to.”
"Only now"? Zweig (and Cohen) knows not of Jewish history and the constant incidences of expulsions and persecutions and slaughters? And were Jews insensitive before 1933 to others who were in unfortunate situations?
Cohen continues displaying either ignorance or willful distortion and asserts that
Jews came up with the idea of a faceless God with whom they had a covenant, and that covenant — binding over thousands of years of uprooted wandering — was in essence a covenant of ethics...(while) For a long time it was a covenant of the powerless.It was not solely a covenant of ethics but of commandments and law and ritual and of having the Jewish people reside in it national homeland, the Land of Israel. Cohen should read Harel Fisch's 1978 "Zionist Revolution: A New Perspective" and in particular its second chapter, The Covenant, where he writes
Israel becomes the covenant people par excellence, summoned to bear witness to the purposes of creation, to endure the messianic tensions of history, to undertake the task of building a sanctuary out of the materials of this world...the covenant is not one possible interpretation of reality: it is reality itself as Israel experiences it. There are millions of Jews who try to escape it...it is here that the bond between the Jewish people and the land of Israel is located...the Jew is driven by a force s old as history itself to reunite himself with his land...the Covenant, in fact, rests on a triad of relationships: God, land and people.
If he does read it, he will realize that he is the weak link in Jewish history, the one who seeks to escape. Not wishing to be seen as fleeing his Judaism, he redefines it to suit his own needs. And his need is to portray me and my family, friends and fellow residents of Judea and Samaria as "the Messianic Jewish settler". We are the Jews who acquiesce "to the injustice of dominion over another displaced people, the Palestinians" who think "justice and peace are incompatible with the status quo in the Holy Land."
He knows that those ideas are odd (the "Holy Land"?) and adds in complete inversion
Perhaps such ideas are Jew-ish, the delusions of which “real Jews” in their absolutist certainties have rid themselves. But I will take the “as far as possible” of the Jewish philosopher over the all-or-nothing conviction of the Messianic Jewish settler.
I write "in inversion" as in his pursuit of his self-defined liberalism, progressivism and humanism, it is he and other Jews-against-themselves, "intellectuals sympathizing with their country’s enemies and perversely apologizing for their own existence", a Finkler (When Finkler says he doesn’t have anti-Semitic friends, Libor answers: “Yes, you do. The Jewish ones.”), who seek to rid themselves of authentic Judaism. In his last year's piece, he would have it that the
Palestinians have joined the ever-recurring “community of expulsion.”
The historical reality is that in the 20th century, during 1929-1948, thousands of Jews whose families had, in many cases, been living for centuries in the Land of Israel under several foreign occupation regimes, were expelled from their homes - in Hebron, Gaza, Gush Etzion, Jerusalem's Old City - by Arabs after being terrorized, killed, raped and pillaged. Israel returned to Judea, Samaria and Gaza as a result of yet another attempt at expulsion and eradication.
None of this, it would seem, makes or leaves an impression on Mr. Cohen. He is an ASHamed Jew. He has a target - the "settler", and he will not be redirected no matter how wrong he is about Zionist values, about Arab behavior or interpretations of law. He is determined to assist the establishment of a political entity that, besides having no true national identity, has but one goal: the denial of a national identity for the Jews. For him, the most practical act, is to remove, as far as possible, genuine Jewish beliefs and philosophical outlooks from any dialogue, and also to redefine the course of recent history that will thus permit his narrative to be accepted.
I, and some 600,000 more Jews who reside in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem's post-67 neighborhoods, east, north and south of the former Green Line armistice delineation, are 'Messianic' and are not 'practical'.
I cannot attribute his illogical and shallow nonsensical thoughts, his chyme, to his empty stomach or its hyperresonant borborygmus as, since I have pointed out that he has repeated previously this thinking (and not only at the High Holiday season). He points the finger at us in typical ostJuden fashion, highlighting:
the moral dilemmas of the modern Israeli condition with its power and precariousness, its prosperity and violence, its uncertainty and contaminating dominion. The terrible thing about the Holy Land today is the denial of this humanity to the stranger.
What is truly terrible is not Cohen's outlook. We Jews have always had to tolerate those who seek to usurp the right to define Judaism as they would have it be, not due to any internal deliberations among Jews and their traditions and legacy and legal and moral literary frameworks but in reaction to real or mostly perceived external views from either non-Jews or Jews who seek an 'out' in adopting what they hope will be a more comfortable political, social and cultural environment for themselves.
What really bothers me is the utter willingness of Cohen & Co. to fly in the face of Zionism's experience and Arab actions and create their own false messianic construct and then use that non-practical abstract to flay their fellow Jews. And on Yom Kippur, in Cohen's recent case of rumbling ruminations.