JEWS IN A GENTILE LAND
One quiet evening, just before or about twilight, a sort of mini revelation seemed to have occurred That is, it seemed to become most pleasantly quiet for the moment, something like the quiet hush that comes over the chattering animals at dusk in the forest as they prepare for the night ahead. Only, we were far from the forest primeval; somewhere near the intersections of the principal streets of Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach and neighboring similar enclaves in South Florida where many wandering Jews continued their eternal search for the goldene medina of the new world, if not only for financial opportunity, also perhaps eternal health and long life from that blissful, abundant southern sun!
But, realistically, this almost blessed quiet hush of silence was the complete cessation of the insistent, noisy background reality of our chosen diaspora existence. Which we successfully sublimated and repressed most of the time. The carols, and Christmas songs with just the tinge of supporting Christian implication which we still resented or even felt oppressed by! And supporting seemingly persistant, endless wreaths of red and green plant foliage. And the irrepressible Rudolf and his persistant, immutable reindeer! But then we all sighed collectively with the saving, nourishing realization that we had driven into a Jewish section of the town. We were not losing our minds but truly regaining a much more valid aspect of our inner being.
But sadly you really can’t go home again. Like Faust and his bargain with the devil you understand that you are not the same person. There is a price to pay which for some of us is a grim wrench with our past but hopefully can still be an ennobling episode in our eternal struggle with our inner “Jewish reality”. Many of us are in what I call the Reconservadox retreat, parents and children who are on different paths in the same vast universe that Hashem –(God) has created and seems to be causing further separation from each other. With increasing acceleration! Much as seems to be occuring, our scientists tell us, as is in our actual physical world. This, of course, is not in either the Torah, the New Testament, or the Koran. Instead, we are casting about with “string theorems” and other post Einsteinian quantum mishagas. With super sophisticated particle smashers like the Hadron Collider. Indeed, the only comfort, , that I can gain at the moment, is from the noted conservative pundit, Charles Murray, who has noted with open admiration, about how remarkable the tiny fraction that is the Jewish people has contributed to our scientific advance. And I proudly, if somewhat ashamedly, include the atom bomb and its original proponents. (Einstein, Oppenheimer, Teller, Fermi, Szilard, Bohr, Meitner, etc.) And most assuredly now tiny Israel today has the only nuclear presence to deter Iran and its avowed lethal anti Jewish middle eastern stance. Another blunt reiteration of the very non poetic “drive the Jews into the sea” fervent hope. Just as Adolf Hitler, in his prison cell in 1924 wrote in his holy book “Mein Kampf” that both the “rich money bags Jews” and the evil, conniving Jewish Soviet Bolshevik communists were undermining the pure Nordic Aryan German thousand year Reich. Pure oxymoronic disconnects that came within a hare’s breath of grim reality; and in our generation’s valiant struggles, in World Wars I and II, our country has had to bail Europe out militarily and financially.
One sad reality is that even in the United States the Jew is still mired or “trapped” in the diaspora. Even though no where else on earth in historic time has the Jew flourished as in this country this “flourishing” has fallen on negative times. In l950 the American Jewish population was about five million—and in 2010 just 60 years later that doing the good deed (the mitzvah) later had only grown to about 5,275,000. And many pundits were rejoicing over that “stability” but all other comparable religious groups still retained the same percentage growth of adherents. The total Jewish percentage, with almost minuscule growth, is quite negligible. The total world wide size of Jewry is only about 15 million, with a paltry 1.5% of adherents! And sixty years ago, in 1950, the core rate of Jews was 3.2%.of all humanity. There was almost no Jewish growth and much growth in other monotheistic religions. All of which originated after Judaism began with the dialogue of Moses and God on the crest of Mt. Sinai. Most probably the Jewish lack of growth in our modern era is the continuing emancipation of the female persona, emphasizing education and replacing motherhood as the sole goal of the female family head. “Be fruitful and multiply” is still of prime importance but calculus and thermodynamics and maybe even quantum mechanics should also be considered! (But it is also somewhat true that sometimes, in ancient times the stay at home female mother ran the retail home business most successfully, while the scholarly husband could ponder every day the sometimes almost inscrutable Talmud, Kabbalah, Gematria, and even the esoteric Appochrypha!
Also there is the inevitable devil of assimilation. All leading even to the independent money earning female now with no evident or necessary male contribution to the so called “family”. Indeed the ghost of Alexandria in the ancient world maybe haunting us today. In ancient, pre Christian times, the Jewish diaspora thrived in Alexandria, and perhaps was the most popular site of the wandering, displaced Jew in the entire diaspora. It had a world famous library, and the first translation of the Jewish Torah into Greek, the so called Septuagint, was most probably for the many of these Greek speaking Jews. However a few centuries later very few Jews were left in Alexandria, and the Jewish Saul, who became St. Paul, found likely candidates in Rome and Damascus and other dispersed diaspora sites more receptive to his message. Some of us today see a similar pattern emerging today even though New York is still the dominant Jewish site in this country.
That Christianity and Islam still far exceeds Judaism’s advocates is worthy of much thought and discussion, but is most likely because of what the wonderful nebulous question of the after life. What if anything happens beyond this mortal life?. What of the second coming of Christ who flat out stated that “My kingdom is not of this world”. The Jews believe that most certainly that we are of this world. There are 613 commandments, of which 365 are negative (thou shalt not’s) and the much revered Talmud which took the rabbis many years in exile in Babylon to complete. While the Talmud can be thought of as an extension of the Torah as the essence of the Jewish total handbook of experience both spiritually and practically for mortal life, and can be studied with great reward on even on a daily basis, it has no organized message or doctrine beyond death. One clear and powerful modern plea, however, comes from Emil Fackenheim, noted Jewish theologian and demographer, in his book, “After Aushwitz”, Stand in place, do not give Hitler any posthumous victories by leaving Judaism. There is one temptation, however, among many, that modernity has placed before the struggling but involved current Jew, by the poet William Butler Yates in his famous poem “ The Second Coming” and the return of Jesus and perhaps the rapture of that moment…..’’things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight……
What rough beast, its hour come around at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
In our lifetime we have had two very “rough beasts,” Hitler and Stalin and now must spell and conjure with Ahmadinajab; Fortunately those “wandering Jews” with their highly skilled modernity can be of vital assistance!