Thursday, September 3, 2015

Moses and the Mob - Reflections on Parashat Ki Tavo 5775

(Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8)

A Facebook friend recently posted the following:
When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind. - Jiddu Krishnamurti
Krishnamurti's sentiment is typical of the very dangerous post-enlightenment twaddle that passes for wisdom in our benighted age. 

Why do I call it dangerous? Let's engage our little grey cells and tease his idea apart a little.

Krishnamurti's Prime Axiom: All Violence is (by definition) Evil and Must Be Eliminated. It sounds so noble, doesn't it? Only, the corollary to this sentiment is that there is absolutely nothing worth fighting for, no set of values important enough to defend, even (if need be) with our lives.

For example, the world watches unmoved as ISIS rapes young infidel girls; even as they march to rape and enslave our wives. Raise no hand against the monstrous beheadings of non-believers, even as they come to behead your parents and children. After all, better to be slaves than to fight the oppressor; the Prime Axiom states that there is no evil wicked enough to justify violence, because violence itself is the supreme evil. 

Krishnamurti's Second Axiom: Distinctions are Violence. It follows, then, that the solution to the ills of society is to eliminate divisiveness and distinction; to create a society devoid of hues, of shades, of vibrant colors, of individuality. For the benefit of mankind, we must build a uniformly gray utopia, for any deviation breeds violence, and violence is the ultimate evil (refer to Prime Axiom).

Let's play a little semantic game. Try substituting "Proletariat" for "Mankind":
When you call yourself a [person of conscience or unique identity or distinction], you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of [the Proletariat]. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of [the Proletariat].
Anyone who presumes to rise above the proletariat must be ruthlessly punished for crimes against society. Have a good idea and want to start a little business? We will reward you with punitive regulations, massive bureaucracies and confiscatory tax codes. How dare you show initiative, because your comrades have none. How dare you invent or dream, because your comrades have no dreams. Your ambition is subversive; your dangerous thinking threatens the common good. 

Does that sound more familiar? It should. If not, dust off a copy of Das Kapital or Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. (Orwell was just off by a few decades.)

I urge you to think seriously about the implications of Krishnamurti's sentiment, because it is the intellectual underpinning for the social and political philosophies that guide modern Western society. 

Then contrast it with the following idea in this week's Torah Portion:
On this day, the Lcrd your Gcd commands you to do all these ordinances and statutes, that you should be careful and not just do them, but do them with all your heart and all your might. Then you can declare to the Lord that He will be your Gcd, that you will walk in His ways, and will observe His Mitzvoth (commandments) and listen to His voice; and [in return] Gcd declares today that you will be a treasured nation unto Him as He has spoken to you, precisely because you observe His Mitzvoth; and to raise you above all the other nations for praise, for fame and for splendor; that you should be a consecrated nation to the Lord your Gcd, as He has spoken. - Deuteronomy 26:17-19
 Rashi on these verses states:
It seems to me that that the Hebrew word "He'emartah" (declare) denotes a setting apart or separating: just as you (the Jews) have separated yourselves from alien gods and devoted yourselves to My service, He has set you apart from among the Nations of the Earth to be His Treasured Nation.
(BTW: Want to be part of the Treasured Nation? No problem - keep the mitzvoth.)

We Jews are all about distinctions. "In the beginning Gcd created the Heaven and the Earth."  He created distinctions between the spiritual and physical, between light and darkness, between good and evil, between life and death, between the Holy Sabbath Day and the other six days of the week, between the Jews and other Nations of the World.

In a word, He created the concept of mitzvah.

Jews are distinct precisely because we carefully observe those mitzvoth. Bilaam the Wicked is forced to concede that, because of the mitzvoth that we faithfully perform, the Jews are "a nation that dwells apart, not to be reckoned among the other nations." 

Every time we read the Torah (which is a lot), Jews stand up and proclaim in a loud voice: "Blessed Are You, O Lcrd, Our Gcd, King of the Universe, Who chose us ("Asher Bachar Banu") from among all the other Nations and gave us His Torah."

So we Jews are the poster children for the very thing which Krishnamurti explicitly condemns: we separate ourselves by belief, by nationality, and by tradition. We don't eat your food or drink your wine; we don't share your social values or priorities; we have a different rhythm to the days of the years of our lives and march to the beat of an entirely different drummer. 

We proudly preserve those distinctions that have preserved us alive for close to four thousand years. Like Rashi's quid pro quo: separation for separation.

But according to Krishnamurti and his ilk, the very distinctions which define us are violent and violence is evil. 

The implication is chilling. 

Yet again, the Jew is cast as the enemy of humanity. (Another totalitarian regime did the same thing about 80 years ago...who was it...hmmm...let me think...finger tapping chin)

This neo-totalitarianism holds that it is Israel's fault that Iran wants the bomb. It is Israel's fault Arab peasants live in squalor while their potentates live like robber barons (which they pretty much are.)

But mainly, it is the Jew's tenacity in maintaining his unique identity that is the cause of violence in the world. The Jew's principal crime against humanity is his stubborn insistence on surviving.

I hope I am wrong, but it looks like the day is quickly approaching when to openly declare "Asher Bachar Banu" is to expose oneself to criminal prosecution for hate speech and perhaps far worse.

No matter who you are or where you live, every person is going to have to take a stand in this Kulturkampf. Will you capitulate to the tyranny of conformity, or will you stand with the Jews - which is to say, take a stand for distinction, for individuality, for conscience, for objective Truth?

In the face of frank evil..."Moses stood up at the entrance to the encampment and declared, 'All Who are for Gcd, Come to Me!'" (Exodus 32:26)

As the entire world stands before the Heavenly Court this Rosh HaShanah, Gcd will undoubtedly want to know: will you stand with Moses, or with the Mob?

Shabbat Shalom.

1 comment:

  1. What I saw while using the Light rail in Jerusalem is all the different residents accepting differences and tolerating each other for a few minutes in a confined area in the holiest city on Earth.
    Mr. K. is wrong and so was John Lennon when he opined Imagine. A real Peace process is already happening on the Tram whether haters like Mr. K believe it or not.