Monday, March 24, 2014

An Israeli Ran the First Marathon, but It's Not Who You Think

כ"ג לחודש השנים עשר ב' תשע"ד

Last Friday Jerusalem hosted its annual marathon. Fortunately, I had plans to leave town Thursday night, so that I could avoid the public transportation and traffic messes, in an attempt to leave town on Friday.

I had friends and acquaintances who ran in it, not only because long-distance running is their thing, but also to use the marathon as an opportunity to raise money for charities. So, I can't knock 'em for that.

Nevertheless, I still cannot get my head around such high levels of praise of Jews and Jewish cities for their participation in Greek (ie. non-Jewish) events and activities.

The following piece was written on the eve of Tel-Aviv's annual marathon.
Ha'Aretz: The first marathon runner wasn't Greek, he was Jewish
Friday's the Tel Aviv marathon, it's time to note that a run described in the bible predated the Greek myth on which marathons are based by centuries. Plus: the Jewish Runner Hall of Fame.

Elon Gilad, February 27, 2014

Tomorrow, Friday morning, thousands of runners will be taking to the streets. Yes, it's the Tel Aviv Marathon, and the perfect time to debunk some myths about Jews and sports, specifically - running.

The first modern marathon was at the first latter-day Olympics, held in Athens in 1896. It was 40 kilometers long, from the town of Marathon to Athens, commemorating the legendary run along roughly that route by one Pheidippides (though some say the real route he ran was substantially shorter). He was a Greek soldier-messenger happily bearing the message of the Greek victory over the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. According to legend, upon arriving at Athens and delivering the message the exhausted Pheidippides, keeled over and died.

But the Bible has a similar story that predates the Greek one.

1 Samuel recounts a battle between Israelites and Philistines, that unlike the Greek victory, did not end well for the Hebrews: “And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.” (4:10)

Worse than the massive loss in life was the death of the leadership and the taking of the Ark. “And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.” (4:11)

It was up to one Hebrew, who unlike Pheidippides is unnamed, only identified by his tribe as “a man of Benjamin,” to run to the capital Shiloh and report to Eli the High Priest. Like Pheidippides he is said to have run: “And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.” (4:14)
Esser Agaroth (2¢):
Almost, but no cigar.

נַפְתָּלִי, אַיָּלָה שְׁלֻחָה--הַנֹּתֵן, אִמְרֵי-שָׁפֶר. (בראשית מט,כא)
Naphtali is a doe let loose; providing fine words. (Gen. 49:21)

You see Naftali ben Ya'aqov Avinu was actually the first to run such a distance, actually much more than the standard marathon. At the funeral of his father Ya'aqov Avinu, Ya'aqov's ever sneaky brother Esau came to dispute Ya'aqov's right to be buried in Ma'arath HaMachpelah, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, which was originally bought by their grandfather Avraham Avinu as a burial place for his wife Sarah's (Gen. 23:1-20).

In order to prove to Esau that Ya'aqov was indeed the rightful owner of this property, and not Esau, Naftali ran back to Egypt to retrieve forgotten the documents of ownership.

As arguments continued, Hushim, the deaf son of Dan gathered enough of what was going on, and cut Esau's head off.

So much for Israelis running marathons.

More importantly, assuming that Elon Gilad had knowledge of this midrash, why was it not mentioned?

Whether to take this and other midrashim literally or not, I do not believe for a second is the question here. Rather, it is lack of regard for our Oral Tradition.

"They're just stories!"

"The rabbis made them up, educational tools."

...and on and on and on. The possibility that Naftali ben Ya'aqov Avinu ran back to Egypt, even assuming that he took breaks, or that any other midrash could actually have been handed down is beyond their willingness, even to attempt to comprehend.

And so, what is "their" understanding of those events mentioned mefurash (explicitly) in the Torah, such as the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, or the splitting of the Sea of Reeds?

They didn't actually happen? They were just written down as metaphors, allegories, or literary injections of excitement?

If Elon Gilad is one of "them," I cannot say. By "them" I mean the results of the damage caused by the Haskalah movement, and all those "movements" which followed. I mean those who were raised as if by non-Jews.

Worse yet, "they" also include those who actively battle against Torah and against those who truly believe in it, and do their best to live accordingly, and that includes holding the Torah, and more importantly its author (and I don't mean any J, E, P, and D silliness), in higher authority than any man-made authority, such as the State of Israel.

And this is what "they" are afraid of. And this is why so-called news sources, like Ha'Aretz, publishes deceivingly innocuous pieces, such as the above. And this is why I prefer to call Ha'Aretz, Am Ha'Aretz.

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