Sunday, March 19, 2006

On Expecting more from Others

I am embarrassed that I have to write this:

How should bright, morally aware, modern* Orthodox Jews respond to the unjust suffering of non-Jews? On the plane of ethics and values, how do we relate to their tragedy? For example, let's say that a mass genocide was taking place against innocent, unarmed civilians who want nothing more than to seek peace and be left alone- heck, lets say that it was happening next door and that if you wanted you could at least partially stop it . . . what should your neshama say?

(I was very particular in employing the terms "bright," "morally-aware," and "modern Orthodox Jews-" I want very badly to include the kind of talmid that HaKotel caters to. However, if you are not bright, or not morally aware, or not a modern Orthodox Jew, please don't read this. It won't speak to you.)

Today, a boy at HaKotel's lunch table said, and I quote, "who cares?" in response to the current situation in Darfur. After realizing that slapping him- like a concerned mother potching her spoiled toddler- probably would not help, I resorted to an angry rampage followed by quiet resentment. Funny how that didn't work so well either.

This is the point: Jewish apathy for other people's suffering makes me want to puke tears.

I wonder how it came to be that words like "who cares?" follow after news of unjust death, torture, and rape. Is there such logic implicit in anything whatsoever Jewish? Did Avraham say "whatever" when he heard about Sodom? Maybe G-d commanded
שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ כִּי בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֶת הָאָדָם:
as a joke- get it "dam" and "adam" sound alike! What the gehinom, go ahead and kill!

In truth, the real problem is not the individual's twisted value system- who am I to complain if somebody's laziness, teivas, or lack of education leads them astray. Rather, the issue is falsifying Judaism's holy value system and forging it into an egel hazahav of mediocrity and amorality, or as I like to call it: "they're just goyim." G-d forbid that I should rape, but I won't protest the Muslim governments that pay militias to do it! In fact- I refuse to.

Where come this filthy thing? I have my guess. We've bastardized the concept of "the poor of this city come first,"** or in the language of the people: "so many Jews also need our help." The notion of focusing on ourselves first does not come to completely exclude others. Giving five hours of your time to Jews does not make five minutes of "goy love" assur. Similarly, but far more disturbing in nature, a practical focus on Jews does not mean a religious ideology of ignoring others. A preference for helping Jews is an added responsibility, not a philosophy of "G-d also does not care." Every kid who said that we have to give to Jews first (and I remember who you are) should have been saying: "I sympathize to the utmost with the cause you represent. When I hear of the tragedies taking place in our world I shudder, or at least wish that I stood on the level that I could. However, I think that a more effective way of combating Evil in this world is helping the Jewish people. In fact, the thirty shekel that you request have already been earmarked for Jews in need. If I had a free seven bucks that I would otherwise spend on a lafah I didn't really need or a cab ride I didn't really want- well, then of course I would give it to you. I am so so so very sorry I don't have any extra money on me. I wish that I could help you."

Anything less than this is sick. Next time you dwell on the fact that America did not stop the Holocaust in its tracks, when you feel the hate and the moral indignance surge through your bones, when you scream "WRONG!" at the world that sipped its tea and stood by- ask yourself if you are making the same Evil decision.

*The "m" in lower case is no mistake. Call me crazy, but I think it leads to achdut.
**I don't know enough Torah to discuss this on a Halakhic, legal level. Any help is welcome.


Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Furthermore, it is implied from Tosafos (Pesachim 4a) that it was even a mitzvah for Avraham to have prayed for the Sodomites.

Ezzie said...

Good post.