My Question For The Modern American Jew

My Question For The Modern American Jew

These are hard times we live in. The West fights the East, and no one knows who will triumph.

On the one hand, the West. The West brings freedom to the world. The West is the civilization of philosophy and science, of democracy and tolerance. They fight because the world is benighted, enslaved, and backward. They are confident that if the world but knew the way of the West, it would benefit thousands of lives. They fight not to spread their territory but to spread their culture. This is why, when a sports stadium opens in distant lands, it warms the Western heart. Not because sports are important, but because if there’s time for sport there is little time for oppression and backwardness.

Then, there is the East. The East tires of hearing it is backward. The East is a place of unity — some would say, totalitarianism. They have one god, and  there is no room for others. And where the West would see moral weakness, they see fortitude. In the East, they know what they believe; they are who they are. There is nothing to debate. They fight for their G-d, for His kingdom on earth. They want to tear down the stadiums and build worship houses. Where there is an altar to G-d, they are certain, there is civilization.

In the West, there is no doubt that the West will prevail. This is not just because the West believes it is correct, but because they have a far superior army and better technology of war, and are not afraid of a small band of sand-encrusted hoodlums. The only reason they have not crushed the East like an insect is because they prefer to spread democracy and prevent unnecessary deaths.

In the East, for those who fight, there is no doubt the East will win. They may have the smaller army, but they have conviction, and they know they have G-d on their side. And after all, if the Creator fights with you, then of what relevance is technology or the size of your host? Just as the West can be trusted to look at the facts of the situation, the East can be trusted to look for some Truth beyond the situation.

To the West, there is no greater evil than intolerance. “You can serve your G-d in the West,” they insist. “But others can serve theirs.” It is not G-d that they take issue with, but rather theocracy, totalitarian religion, the idea that the deity is an absolute that cannot be crossed, argued with, mocked, disobeyed. In the West, the rights of man are absolute, and if G-d says to violate those rights, it is G-d who must lose.

To the East, tolerance is an affront to the truth. “We allow life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they say. “But the way G-d, creator of the world, intended.” They have no problem with secular pursuits. But they will not deify this world; they will not let men act as G-d and declare what is ultimately right. The master must be served, and if that means the worship of other gods need be outlawed, so be it.

The Western battle cry is, “Liberty and justice for all.”

The Eastern battle cry is, “In the name of G-d.”

Both East and West claim to deplore violence. Both of them will use it to further their ideals. But due to their ideals, they see violence differently.

When the West slaughters pigs on an Eastern altar, when it exercises freedom of speech and mocks the Eastern G-d, they call it peaceful. To the East, it deserves violence in kind.

When the East responds to words with violence, they believe they are legitimately defending their honor. To the West, this is the baldest savagery.

This is the conflict. There may be some third option, some middle path, but it is hard to see. East and West are East and West because there is no easy compromise.

And so, the question:

If the East miraculously wins the war, and returns home tired and bloodied, will they find hiding in the wreckage a small cruze of untainted oil? Will its light burn for eight days? Will they remember, every year, to celebrate?

Will their children and grandchildren honor their legacy forever? Will they find their voice?

If they won’t, the light unto the nations will dim, lost to the Western cacophony. Their people will be an interesting footnote in history, and their grandchildren will remember the name “Maccabi” as a Hellenistic sports tournament.

But if they find their voice, if they own who they are, they will fulfill their destiny.

If they listen to the message of the Chanukah candles, darkness will be banished from the earth.

 

 

Originally posted on Hevria.