Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hope Springs Eternal

There's been a lot of existential issues going around the J-sphere lately, so I thought to introduce people to a most excellent poet: Alexander Pope, who like so many of us, struggled with these same issues.

Excert from "An Essay on Man: Epistle I"

"Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher death, and God adore.
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come

.....

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the soul;
That, chang'd thro' all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth, as in th' aethereal frame,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives thro' all life, extends thro' all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent;
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns:
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.

Cease then, nor order imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit. In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing pow'r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good.
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, 'Whatever is, is right.'

-Alexander Pope

I posted this little bit on ex-Godol Hador, who has lately been completely wracked by existential issues, but I guess it need no comment there.

3 comments:

alex said...

That was indeed a wonderful poem. Just one question: We know Pope dealt with existential issues, but how do we know he 'struggled' with them?

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

To be honest, I don't know very much about his life's story, but if he wrote this kind of stuff he had to be very familiar with the issues. And these kinds of issues don't typically just flow off your back.

Anonymous said...

I feel it necessary to bring up the issue of Daat Emet as he is a menace to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Below is what I posted at http://rebeljew.blogspot.com/2006/01/daat-emet.html

"http://rebeljew.blogspot.com/2006/01/daatemets-zoo.html

By Anonymous, at 2:59 PM

Daat Emet is no William Shakespeare or Isaac Bashevis Singer. His characters are lifeless and bland and not well drawn out, a lot like him. Here's his fictional masterpiece. It should leave no doubt that he is an assimilationist with no place for a Jewish State though he fits in his role like an elephant in a hospital room. Notice he has the conversion having to be for the Jewish character and also has to have it finished in Israel. This is done to make his central character involve indeed represent Israel rather than have the scene stay in the Diaspora. I forwarded it to Chabad with my comments on the bottom:"On the AntiSemitic Daat Emet site it
said:”http://www.daatemet.org.il/questions/index.cfm?MESSAGEID=2840
Question: Publication date: 23-10-2006 Title: The story of Tappuz, who lost his love because of conversion Content: Dear Daat Emet,

First of all, I want to thank you for your wonderful site, which without a doubt has given me new information of which I was unaware. You are doing holy work.

I wanted to share with you a personal story (in short, the connection between "the wonders of religion" and Israeli society):
A few years ago I met a pretty young lady, who was about a month younger than I, during a trip abroad. She and I quickly came to speak the same language and sparks started to fly. But wonder of wonders, the girl wasn't Jewish at all. But I come from a secular household, value freedom, and accept each person as he is.
I don't believe in the ignorances of religion, so I did not feel my love was something wrong or a crime. Over the course of time this woman and I spoke of a
wedding and a marriage ceremony (civil, of course). After we married my family began to fear that the woman would not be accepted in Israeli society because she is not Jewish. My father (an atheist) and my mother (a secular person who believes in G-d) pressured me to have a religious marriage ceremony. That meant that they also wanted me to convert her. I, as an atheist, felt like I was betraying my faith, but even so, my wife began conversion on her own. After a
short while I discovered that I, too, had to be present during the process of conversion. I had to undergo a "conversion" like my
wife was. This upset and astonished me. I showed up at one lesson and as far as I was concerned that ended the issue of conversion. After my son was born my parents, worried that my son would grow up a gentile in the Jewish state and feel out of place, increased the pressure. My parents feared society would scheme against my wife and son. I let the matter lie and did not let it disturb me. But the issue kept coming up, even from my best friend, who worried about my son. My best friend knew my thought processes, but claimed that they are not realistic in today's society. That which I did not allow to bother those around me (secular people) started to bother me about. After a period in Israel my wife and I found ourselves once again abroad, in my wife's country, because she missed her family. While we were abroad I tried to take the initiative and take care of the conversion far from the Israeli swamp. During the process of conversion I tried (as an atheist) with all my might to
connect with religion and the "divine" emotion. Keeping the Sabbath, holiday, tzitzit, kippah, and all the commandments. For months I kept the laws, truly
attempting to draw close. My wife, who had to walk around completely covered during the height of summer heat, accepted all the strange laws (and there are a
lot of those in the Shulchan Aruch and Halacha) without complaining too much. I always asked myself if I would have done the same for her. I have to admit, in all honesty, that I highly doubt I would have been willing to be put through this hell by people who saw me as no better than an animal. I would sit with the rabbi (incidentally, a nice Chabadnik) and flood him with questions which were mainly about the racism and inequality in the Jewish religion. The rabbi's face would pale each time anew when I addressed my questions to him. I felt like I
was betraying myself, my wife, and my "gentile" son (who was circumcised at eight days old). Everything in which I believe does not exist in this racist and unequal religion. The rabbi even, to bring us closer, was willing to study the Tania (a book which Chabad studies) with my wife. But
this didn't change a thing about the inequality and racism which was inherent in the entire community. The community (aside from the rabbi) saw my wife as
something beyond the bounds, to the extent that I was very close to hitting one person who opened his mouth and made a face towards my "gentile" wife on the Seder night -- an uncharacteristic reaction on my part. I reacted by screaming, while the rabbi tried to calm me down by explaining that this person wasn't worth more than spittle. All of this did not convince me about the rabbi, who
deep within his heart believed in the laws which state that a gentile is no more than an animal but with amazing hypocrisy announced that some of his best
friends are gentiles. What was sad is that deep within he thought that he was better than them. Before we finished the conversion we decided to return to Israel (part of the reason was that my job there was finished). To finish the conversion we had to continue in Israel. What happened was that in Israel I simply was not willing to continue the hypocrisy, certainly not in front of my friends and family. I tried to explain to my wife, who had suffered with all the degradations of religion for months, that I could find no excuse for continuing on a path in which I do not believe. I told her that it felt to me like betraying myself. Our relationship simply began to fall apart. My wife got upset and rightly so. I had caused her to go through hell for so many months while not believing in my own actions. I had bowed to social and familial pressure. It got to the point that we separated (after a while) and we now live on opposite ends of the earth. She, of course, lives with my son. Even now after
time has passed, she is not prepared to forgive me for her suffering, the degradation and humiliation she was subjected to by those rabbis. She does not understand why I acted against my conscience. She does not understand my decision to stop the conversion after the suffering she
had already endured for my sake. (I have to state that my wife is an educated and talented woman.)

I blame myself for destroying my marriage because I gave in to the Israeli public (religious and secular) and betrayed my principles. But how was I, one
man alone, supposed to manage against all the social pressure placed upon me by the secular (not religious) public which surrounded me? I barely have any religious people in my surroundings.

I ask myself why people have to go through this in a democratic country whose declaration of independence proclaims the equality of all men.

I ask myself why the secular society has given in to it and become subjugated to it to the same extent as the religious society.

I ask myself whether the average man knows what the process of conversion is and the torture it involves.

But the story does not end. After the great crisis I underwent following the break up of my family, I continued to devote myself to my work (hi-tech) in
order to distract myself. After a while the crisis deepened (I won't get into the whole story), and all in the name of "religion."

Today I'm OK, but of course I'm still without my wife and child. I don't see my son on a steady basis because of the distance, and the relationship between me and my wife is very bad. I have gone out with two other girls since the break up (one is a "kosher" Jew and the other, according to religion, is not Jewish -- her father is Jewish, not that it matters, it just is a fact) but I felt that neither was anything near as good as my wife, both personally and intellectually.
I'm afraid that I lost an amazing person who loved me very much (of course, I loved her, too) and who grew with me over the most important years of my life (we were married relatively young). My respect for religion was completely wiped out and its influence on the Israeli society worries me a lot. I lost a woman
who is beautiful, smart, intelligent, gifted, educated, and talented, one who taught me a lot over the course of years. And most important, I lost my precious son because of society's ignorant religiosity which I could not stand up to.

Thanks in advance,

Tappuz”

Here was my response:
"That's a stupidly made up story. Why would this supposed person's supposed wife
have to dress and act Jewish if everyone knew she wasn't. Further I'm sure
Chabad could investigate your story if it wanted to. It has Rabbis organized
around the world. Also if the Chabad really do not allow women to learn Tanya
even more than in this story then your story is already proven false. Also
another suspicious thing is that this person supposedly suddenly keeps
everything and his wife too and is so learned he is questioning the Rabbi then
what in the world caused him to have any questions and be so learned so fast.
Why should he have been learning with the Rabbi then and what was the Rabbi
bothering to compromise even so far as having that man's wife learn Tanya if
they are already keeping everything. I will report all his to Chabad."

Sincerely
Yisrael Asper"
Yisrael Asper again

By Anonymous, at 10:31 PM

Well what I said about Daat Emet's view on the Jewish State he puts openly below quoting that “letter” that he “received.” Interestingly you see an example of how unhistorical this guy is in that we see sensitivity for the stranger being based on knowing the feelings of a stranger having been in Egypt. Daat Emet as ever uninterested in human thought and emotion isn't interested in Jewish thought except if it is involving anything he feels he can attack. He first separates Jewish belief and Halacha to quickly dispose of anything positive to say brought up outside of halacha. He then as a typical stunt tries to argue against Judaism by arguing that a NonHalachik topic of his choice has something to do with Halacha and so it represents Judaism after all. Of course he has his own versions of both. Any personal stories of the supposed other questioner "Maya" and the supposed replier himself have to be thought highly likely to be made up. History also is not Daat Emet's strong suit to use British understatement. Another striking thing I have noticed is his apparent lack of understanding how a psak halacha is made. I suspect it is because nowadays someone can be a Rabbi for teaching which means you don't need expertise in paskening just hopefully at least in not paskening. He was a Rosh Kollel which means that it appears unlikely he needed to know how to actually pasken, however he feels he can do anything so if he doesn't understand how rulings are made it is just made up somehow. This is definitely how he feels saying for instance that many rabbis still pasken by looking to the Talmud for research. The only ones he considers to be Rabbis are the Orthodox ones. Of course they look to the Talmud for research on the edges. He exhibits his ignorance further by saying what in American law would sound like "Cars didn't exist when the American constitution was made therefore the Constitution doesn't have any rules for their manufacture.” Of course he doesn't exhibit consistency either as he is interested in destroying Judaism and he doesn’t have the head or heart for consistency here.
Yisrael Asper (again)

http://www.daatemet.org.il/questions/index.cfm?MESSAGEID=2848
"Questions and Answers
Question: Publication date: 02-11-2006
Title: Why do you battle the Charedi?
Content: Dear Daat Emet,

First let me clarify something about my question: I belong to the left side of the political spectrum. I am an atheist since childhood and a feminist.
I read with great interest your words and your goals on your site, but one question bothered me in the course of my reading.
It is true that the religious text, the Holy Writ, the Mishnah and the Talmud, are based on the ancient norms of inequality, a lack of empathy for the stranger and the different, but these are only de jure laws and the Charedi (and certainly the religious) do not put them into actual practice. I live in Jerusalem and I do not see them acting like xenophobes. Quite the opposite: always (to be precise, almost always) they are open, smiling, and pleasant. I have read, for example, the halacha which permits pedophilia, but this is only theory. I have not heard of Charedi who marry little girls in our day and age.
That is why your choice to battle the Charedi specifically bothers me, when there are so many more serious injustices being perpetrated: the murder of men, women, and children in the name of pure hooliganism. (I refer to the "Zionist" capture and occupation of territories which don't belong to them.)
Why don't you focus your battle on Israeli de facto crimes instead of on theoretical religious crimes?

Maya



Answer: Publication date: 02-11-2006
Title: Why do you battle the Charedi?
Content: Dear Maya,

Your question, which is really political, challenges us to clarify our stand on this issue and answer a bit at length. If we express your question in our own words, it would come out as "What is the best method for creating an Israeli nation based on values of equality, freedom, and harmony with no distinction as to sex, race, or religion?"
In this formulation of the question we have hinted that the occupation and the treatment of Israeli Arabs are the fruit of sick vines.
Identifying the source of the problem (in the Jewish state) will solve the problem which bothers you (the injustice and crimes against the Palestinian Arabs).

What is this source of gall and wormwood which increases and augments evil and injustice amongst us? Religion!!!

Let us begin with a history of the rise of the "Jewish democratic" state and we will continue our answer down to the villainous practical actions (de facto)of the Charedi.

There is no debate amongst historians of Zionism that the glue which unified (be it true or imagined) the Jews until the establishment of the Zionist movement had been religion, without entering the issue of whether Judaism is a religion only or a nation. From this position -- a religion which unified a group of people -- arose a movement which wished to retain the unity without the glue (religion).
How does one implement this painful paradox? One replaces the unifying element. In place of religion one puts territory. This territory, the innocents thought, would lead both to unity and to the implementation of the values of the enlightened world (the rejection of religion). But in practice the Zionist movement did not want to cut the umbilical cord of religion nor of the religious culture and remained with a diaspora/religious outlook here in Israel. Israeli Jews are still subjugated to the diaspora/religious outlook which posits that "in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us" (anti-Semitism) and we need the help of the powerful gentile nations (the US). We have remained the same people in different clothes. We switched the scattered Jewish ghettos for a single ghetto (the land of Israel) and the Czar and the Kaiser who safeguarded the welfare of the Jews has been replaced by America.
I mean to say that the Jews still believe that they are the center of the world, and because of their past suffering all have to be considerate of them and help them. Therefore any who stand in their way are traitors and any who block them are back-stabbers. This basic outlook, which is seen as an obvious background by most Jews, is based on religion. Therefore the Jews' reaction to external critique, be it justified or not, will always begin with dismayed cries that the critic is an anti-Semite. The problem of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs is not viewed from a place of equality and freedom but from the point of preserving the Jewish tribe.
To illustrate the Jewish egocentricity, even amongst those who call themselves secular, we will bring an example from a letter we have received.
A few years ago I met a pretty young lady, who was about a month younger than I, during a trip abroad. She and I quickly came to speak the same language and sparks started to fly. But wonder of wonders, the girl wasn't Jewish at all. But I come from a secular household, value freedom, and accept each person as he is. I don't believe in the ignorances of religion, so I did not feel my love was something wrong or a crime. Over the course of time this woman and I spoke of a wedding and a marriage ceremony (civil, of course). After we married my family began to fear that the woman would not be accepted in Israeli society because she is not Jewish. My father (an atheist) and my mother (a secular person who believes in G-d) pressured me to have a religious marriage ceremony. After my son was born my parents, worried that my son would grow up a gentile in the Jewish state and feel out of place, increased the pressure. My parents feared society would scheme against my wife and son. I let the matter lie and did not let it disturb me. But the issue kept coming up, even from my best friends who worried about my son. My best friend knew my thought processes, but claimed that they are not realistic in today's society. That which I did not allow to bother those around me (secular people) started to bother me about… My wife, who had to walk around completely covered during the height of summer heat, accepted all the strange laws (and there are a lot of those in the Shulchan Aruch and Halacha) without complaining too much. I always asked myself if I would have done the same for her? I have to admit, in all honesty, that I highly doubt I would have been willing to be put through this hell by people who saw me as no better than an animal.

See how far matters go. So easily, as though it were obvious, they ask others to convert, but if a gentile met a Jewish girl and asked her to convert, they would shake and tremble and cry out against his daring to ask her to change her identity.

If we summarize our opening remarks we could say that the source of the problem is a self-evident view. People tend to judge, to discuss, and at the end of the day to stick by their original views, because nothing touched their moral axioms. Most of the Jewish public which discusses the issues of Arabs and Palestinians does so from a self-evident view that preserving the Jewish tribe is more important than human rights and liberalism. They do not discuss the Arab/Israeli conflict as a conflict between human beings, but as one between Jews and Arabs. This axiom stems from a historical past rooted in the Jewish religion. So you can see that the political dispute between what we call right and left is a debate between the deaf and will not be productive until we completely uproot Jewish egocentrism from within ourselves. We can begin this by uprooting religion and thus turning ourselves into people and not merely Jews, lambs amongst the wolves.
In other words, were people's moral outlook like that of infants who still cannot be categorized as belonging to any specific culture, then the emotional and experiential base and background would be people as people only, with culture only external dressing. This is in contrast with religion which sets its stamp, literally in the flesh, only eight days after birth, before the infant has learned language, seen colors, smelled scents…
This answer would have been enough to explain why we present religion (note that we focus more on religion than on the Charedi) in all its nakedness -- its racism, discrimination, and its emphasis on itself as a "chosen nation." This outlook is still well rooted within even the sector which does not observe the commandments -- they place their identity as Jews before their identity as human beings. Even the liberals amongst us are not ashamed to admit that the border of their liberalism extends until harm is caused to the Jewish tribe, and no farther.
But to strengthen our battle, a fight which seems to us necessary if we wish to continue to exist, we will explain why the Charedi and even the religious sector actively cause a retreat and distance from the values of the enlightened world and advance us, with giant steps, to an existential disaster.

But before we bring practical examples we should draw a distinction which many do not recognize, the distinction between the individual and the collective, between the lone person separated from the masses and the lone person in the midst of the masses. It is an interesting behavioral phenomenon: when a person is part of and feels himself to be part of a mob he renounces personal responsibility and becomes part of the collective. It is very possible, and is very common, that a Charedi who meets a homosexual will be nice and pleasant and will wish him al the best, but as soon as he participates in a demonstration against the Pride Parade (and he feels part of a collective) he will immediately change his pleasant behavior (renounce personal responsibility) and will act as he is expected to and is required to as part of that society and that collective (hit, scream, and get excited). Therefore, when we discuss Charedi society, we are discussing it as a society and as a collective. We are looking at the ideology of the group, its goals and wishes, not the behavior of this or that private individual when he is alone and not part of the collective. I suppose that every person knows and has experienced this distinction through personal experience, yet I will give an example from my own experience. I knew a pleasant Charedi man who had even shared with me his lack of satisfaction about the violent Charedi reaction to Daat Emet, but once, when Daat Emet activists were handing out material in Haifa and he was present with a large group of Charedi, he was vocally and physically violent to the activists. I went over to him, in my innocence, to ask why he was acting that way. He answered, in a loud and angry voice, "You're a heretic and I am forbidden to look at you or to speak to you. Go to Germany."

After this introduction. Let us discuss the collective views of the Charedi:

Let us take Jerusalem as a details showing the overall picture. Today in Jerusalem (5767-2006) 71% of children learn in Charedi kindergartens and only 15% in state-run kindergartens (secular) and 14% in state-run religious schools (from the Jerusalem municipality website). These 71% will go on to learn in, for boys, cheider, and for girls, Beis Yaakov. The common feature is that they will learn to hate the stranger, to discriminate against women, and to mock enlightenment, all in the name of G-d as an absolute truth which may not be questioned.
On Independence Day they teach the tender young that the secular state is a misstep and an act of the devil on the way to the complete redemption. In yeshivot they discuss the ox of a Jew who gores the ox of a gentile and whose owner is exempt from paying reparations, while the gentile owner of an ox which gores the ox of a Jew is liable. It is a "good deed" to rob the national coffers, and in their gall they call it "return of stolen goods."
They do not recognize (de jure) the State of Israel, only de facto -- only to "save" the world of yeshivot, to take the money of the laborers and give it to those who study Torah. As Rabbi Shaul Karelitz said, "Our representatives in the Knesset are our lobbyists [and despite being Members of Knesset] this does not imply any recognition of the existence of an institution such as a legislature" (Yated Neeman, May 31, 2000). The electorate is taught to obey their leaders absolutely; they vote for parties with no female representatives, parties which oppose pluralism, oppose other streams of Judaism (Reform and Conservative), take lightly the lives of those who are not Jewish, and many more well-known examples. Anyone looking at this depressing reality --- the demographic growth of a sector which opposes the state and enlightenment -- becomes dejected and disheartened. As a Daat Emet reader put it, "In short, it's a lost case. We are like a train rushing to the end of the line." Political parties are not theories; they are practical applications of religious ideology.

The very existence of an institution like a Chief Rabbinate in the State of Israel with legal authority to pass rulings on personal law based on religious law serves as testimony to the acceptance, by "the Jews," of Jewish law in a legal, actual, and practical sense.
Let us recall some of the rulings which have revolting practical implications:
1. The ceremonies of halitza and yibum.
2. A deaf widow must marry her brother-in-law.
3. Delays in organ transplants and autopsies.
4. Agunot and mamzerim…etc., etc.

Another practical implication which should concern you, given your concern over the injustices and crimes committed against our neighbors, is the influence of Charedi and religious education on the political stands of those communities. According to statistical findings, 100% of the Charedi community and over 90% of the National Religious community champions the policies of occupation, the crimes against those occupied. This influence leads directly to action.
It is clear that to end the influence of this education we must, in practice, stop the budgets which are given to religious education. To stop them, the secular public must understand and internalize what this religion, to which they give such huge budgets, is.

We have shown you how the issue of the Arabs is one of the diseased branches of a view so deep-seated, emotional, and self-evident that people tend to ignore it and refrain from analyzing it: their religious Judaism, to which they give the same status as their humanism.

It is this view which we, Daat Emet, seek to uproot and destroy completely, so that we may emotionally and experientially internalize that we were created first as humans, as infants and children who only later took on culture as dressing for our humanity.

Sincerely,

Daat Emet"

By Anonymous, at 10:26 AM"