The absurd life within a world devoid of truth
By Tal Spinrad:
Without truth, even love is delusional.
– Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk
I have three beautiful kids. Eli, aged a tad short of seven, and a set of twins, Gavi and Reuvi, aged five and a half. Sometimes my girls get into tiny border disputes. When Gavi wants to win she has a habit of turning to Eli and calmly stating, “You have five noses… and you are a boy.”
At this point Eli usually loses it, and who wouldn’t? What the hell do you say to that? Oh yeah, sure, you might try the truth, “I have only one nose AND I am a girl.” It has the virtues of being to the point, and true. Gavi just restates her reality: “You have five noses and you are a boy.” And Eli responds with the truth… and on and on, until Eli – out of frustration – is reduced to tears.
The last time I witnessed this tiny conflict between my offspring I sat Eli down, and resisting my natural impulse to advise her to respond to Gavi with one of my quaint Jersey phrases, I asked her if indeed she had five noses and was a boy? Negative was her answer. I told her the next time Gavi or anyone says anything that is that far away from a true statement, just look them in the eye, and firmly and calmly say “ABSURD” and walk away.
For close to two thousand years we have contributed to every society, tried to educate and explain ourselves, and apologized for countless things we never did. We were hated. We tried to find the reasons behind the lies and hatred, and still we were hunted and murdered. Because of our world view we did not want to consider that these folks hated us for no reason.
We did not believe that the “rich world-controlling Jew” or the “Devil Christ-Killing Jew” was indeed a post-facto rationalization of an already existing hatred. George Will, American political expert stated that in a debate, “If you start to explain, you have lost.” The more we explain or deny, the more the lie is believed. It is these lies that a significant number of Christian Europeans wished to believe… so they did and, and it appears still do.
So here we stand, in the midst of another nightmare. Explaining, extending a hand, educating… apologizing for protecting our people, while doing more to safeguard others than their own leaders, hoping the world will see the truth. However, they will see us as evil, because it justifies their reality.
There is a story:
Once there was a prophet who entered a city in order to save it. He went to the main square and day after day he would speak to the people, try to convince them to become more humane towards each other. At first people would stop and listen. Then they would stop and laugh at the man. Lastly they even weren’t interested enough to stop and laugh at him.
One day a small boy came up to the man and asked, “Why do you keep yelling, shouting for people to improve, become more humane? Can’t you see that no one is listening?” The man replied, “If at first I screamed and yelled it was because I believed I could change man. If now I continue to scream and yell it is so man will not change me.”
So why do we still attempt to explain, to educate?
Are speaking to other Jews?
Or are we petitioning G-d?
Or is it that we refuse to believe our communal worst fear? That our purpose, as a People, is and has always been to change the world for the better. To repair the world. And we have failed.