The capricious nature of existence has been the lot of humanity for most of human history and for much of humanity the Rosh Hashanah Prayer still describes the unpredictable nature of our fate. And in the West we are returning to a period of fear and uncertainly from which we thought we had finally escaped.
Jews were first referred to as ‘The People of the Book’ 3,000 years ago. Physically as well as intellectually the “Wandering Jew” has been a conflict drenched part of Jewish history for most of that time. Why do so many of the Jewish common folk complicate their lives needlessly when it would be so easy to blend into the great mass of society? We can differentiate between right and wrong but too often we look for the space in between that signifies the doubt. We are the eternal loud mouthed outsider, restlessly questioning while others dissolve wordlessly into the background. It is too easy to blame it on race. Jews are the perpetual minority so they have been raped too often to be racially ‘pure’ so what is left? Philosophy, theology? Perhaps cultural interaction as an element of the religious response can explain why Jews are eternal nudniks, unable to answer a question without another question. Judaism has encouraged the thinking individual for 4,000 years and that is our legacy. No wonder the Europeans and the Arabs hate Jews so. They are neat and tidy while normative Judaism represents the epitome of the question left unanswered, the never empty trash can inevitably half full.
In ‘The Rebel’ by Albert Camus we are told that Revolution has nothing to do with liberation, justice and inspiration: It is “the death of freedom, the triumph of violence, and the enslavement of the mind.” In fact fascism is an act of contempt. Inversely, every form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, fascism.
We should all of us be wary of the altruist. His or her compassion overflows with conceit, the arrogance of certainty that breeds contempt.