Thursday, November 22, 2007
A Stranger In Us All
A few days ago I came across an interesting post on Ben Chorin’s website. In short, the post quotes an article about Israeli football fans who booed during the moment of silence in honor of Rabin’s memory. In his analysis, he claims they did so to protest against their humiliation, i.e. the moment of silence is really meant force them to “…affirm the virtuousness of the secular Ashkenazi left and the barbarism of everyone else, first and foremost, people like themselves. Their reaction was a sign of healthy self-esteem combined with a certain, um, lack of inhibition.” An angry commenter there remarked -in typical leftist conceit- that those barbarians are indeed incapable of such deep analysis, and were just acting as, well, barbarians.
In the last few years I have been working around non-intellectuals, to say the least. They come from many backgrounds: WASPs, Jamaican Blacks, Hispanics, American Blacks, Africans – what not. I can affirm you with the greatest certainty that even primitve and uneducated people are not necessarily stupid, and they most certainly aren’t oblivious to their feelings. The Ego is an extremely powerful part of us, and is extremely sensitive. He loves himself more than anything and anyone else, and woe to the one who’d dare insult him.
Such people are probably not conscious or analytic of the world exactly in the way we are – perhaps their brains analyze reality differently. Those Beitar fans probably didn’t analyze reality in the same way Ben Chorin did. But they certainly felt it, to the deepest of their souls. This beside the prevalent Sepharadic complex of inferiority and resentment of the elitist Polish intelligentsia of Israel.
The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is one of the greatest masterpieces of English poetry. The epic poem tells the story of a mariner who kills an Albatross –a bird of good omen- for no apparent reason. The rest of the crew are angry at him, but later justify him. Then a terrible curse, a thirst and draught begins as vengeance. In the end all the crew dies except the Mariner, who is doomed to live and tell his horrible tale wherever he goes.
Literary critics have written entire libraries of analyses about the poem. A point many ponder about - what exactly the morale of the story is? One lesson I believe we can learn from here is that idle bystanders who know a wrong has been done may be guiltier than the actual criminal. For we cannot know what posessed him in the momoent he carried out his act – but the others understand it is evil, yet later they justify the criminal. (Or just don’t denounce him.)
Yesterday I saw something that literally made me sick. Someone made the most odious, repulsive, puke-inducing and repugnant comments about our saints of saints, Yaakov Avinu and Leah Imeinu. I can’t even repeat what the putrid coward hiding behind the blog D.B. said. Go see for yourself if your stomach is strong enough.
Quite often we witness people outraged at their Rabbis being denigrated, or even not addressed with proper respect. Sometimes numerous articles are written against this or that journalist or blogger if they “mistakenly” ommit a rabbi's due title, or if one chas veshalom dares questioning this or that decision of one’s Gadol. A flurry of angry comments flood the site after such a snafu, and the war of words rages for days on end. The fierce defenders of Torah stand up with fire in their eyes to protest the disrespect showed to their Leader by that nasty individual, who must immediately apologize… or hang.
Yet… yet here… total silence. Not one protest. Not one condemnation, not an iota of outrage showed. I know, I know. There are a million excuses. He wants the attention, it’s better to ignore him, etc.
Are we really that shallow? What are we standing up for when we protest a Rav’s humiliation? Are we really standing up for Torah or that rabbi or gadol? Or are we standing up for our own little narcissitic ego? How come a little carelessness about a contemporary rabbi generates such emotions, yet when Yaakov Avinu is dragged through the mud, called a swindler, when Leah Imenu is compared to a Playboy bunny no one has anything to say? How can we not go crazy when we hear such utter defamation taken directly from ageless, classic anti-semitic propaganda? How can everyone keep quiet when one who proclaims to be an observant Jew quotes from Third Reich textbooks and pub-mob?
I think this is precisely our problem. Our idiotic sectarianism isn’t about truths anymore. It’s not about principles. It’s about me and myself and I and my. When a rav is insulted, it is not the insult of Torah or righteousness we protest. It’s our own insult we stand up against. That’s how low we got. Yaakov Avinu doesn’t matter anymore. Apparently, he’s not a treasured figure in our History. Apparently, he’s not a fundamental part of Yiddishkeit.
Well, he wasn’t in our club.
© Joseph Izrael 2007