Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Drawing More Wrong Lessons

The New Holocaust SilencePart III
A guest post by the Refrocked Bray of Fundie

The issue: Theories as to why Kharedim seem to disdain Holocaust remembrance and studies in general and Holocaust Kinos on Tisha B’Av in particular.

Last week I opined that there are MANY Hashqafa lessons that have atrophied into, truisms, bromides and received wisdom that are at odds with many Hashqafistic planks in the Kharedi platform. Here are a few more:

Truism:-The Rabbis blew the call, stop listening to them: A historical review of interbellum eastern European Jewry will reveal Rabbinate/ Godolship that was unenthused about aliyah, emigration to America and/or armed resistance to the Nazis. Conversely many of those who ignored their counsel survived. This proves empirically that the Rabbis are not endowed with any special insight and that we are best off making our own decisions and not even seeking their input.

Kharedi response #1 :Subordination to Da’as Torah is not predicated on Rabbinic infallibility :The directive of the Torah to subordinate oneself to the authority of Torah sages does not mean that they can never make a mistake, sometimes even a fatal one. The issue is not one of “correct” vs. “incorrect”, but of emes vs. sheker. If I follow the Torah as interpreted by the khakhamim I have hewed to the emes. This may at times, and in the case of the Holocaust did,* require marching into hell for a heavenly cause, but doing so let the hearts of the holy martyrs lie peaceful and calm as they went to their rest.

Kharedi response #2: There are some fates worse than death. : In the Tisha B’Av kinos we wax rhapsodic over the suicide by drowning of boatloads of Jewish children headed to Roman brothels, of the suicide pact of Rebee Ishmaels son and daughter and about the martyred kehilos of Worms Speyer and Mainz during the first crusade where it was not uncommon for parents to kill their own children before committing suicide.

Did rabbinic advice cause more Jews to perish than survive??? Possibly, even this is debatable. But assuming for a moment the affirmative is surviving in a Monastery or as a Qofer necessarily a better “deal” from a Jewish standpoint? Is supporting uprisings when we were woefully outnumbered and outgunned, when for every German soldier or Camp Guard killed scores of other Jews were routinely tortured and executed a “heroism” worth pursuing? Once you factor in “quality of Jewish/eternal spiritual life” considerations even the mere “wrongness” of the Gedolim is no longer an open and shut case.

Truism:-Racism is THE ultimate evil: The Nazi genocide monster’s black heart was one of white “Aryan” supremacy, reducing most other races, or to use the contemporary parlance, ethnicities to untermenschen= subhumans at best and in the case of the Jews, a kind of racial antichrist that must be eliminated to the very last member lest it again metastize like an aggressive cancer. As racism was the cause of mankind’s greatest catastrophe we must be makhmir to avoid even the slightest permutation of it

Kharedi response #1: Racism is terrible but and it was the major, but not the exclusive cause of the Holocaust. A perfect storm of causes decimated Jewry. Historical hindsight allows us to see that it was the confluence of many socio-economic and geopolitical factors that created circumstances “perfect” for a Holocaust. Racism was the major one but the Holocaust as we know it could not have occurred without high-technology, Prussian military discipline and brilliance, the one sided humiliation at Versailles, the Fuhrer Prinzip that allowed for “just-following-orders” flight from personal responsibility, two millennia of X-tian anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish scores to settle in a region where as Faulkner said, the past is not dead, it is not even the past, the cowardice, fecklessness, apathy and complicity of the western democracies and the German judiciary, academia, military, Church, scientific and legal communities…. just to name a few. This doesn’t even begin to count metaphysical factors, but let’s not go there.

Kharedi response #2: G-d would never have created so powerful a force if it could not be sublimated : That racism is evil incarnate is perhaps the wrongest of the wrong lessons precisely because it contains so much truth and because it undermines the baseline Havdala Consciousness of the Jewish sensibility. Imbibing deeply of the toxic elixir of this lesson postwar Jews developed a new article of faith: If only we become universal men and battle for tolerance of “the other” and every form of diversity and against every manifestation of intolerance and racism, we will be safe and living in a world free of Nazi-like evil. Postwar Jews consider “chosen-ness” passé and feel uncomfortable in their own particularistic skins. Mention the phrase “Chosen People” in a room full of Western Liberal Jews and immediately their nostrils start twitching from the stench of Zyklon “B”. They are hypersensitive to every Zionism=Racism resolution passed in the UN or @ Durban because, having internalized this wrongest lesson these resolutions wound deeply because they doesn’t only blame the Holocaust victim but substitute him for the perpetrator.

Indubitably, racism, or at least racial pride, is an extremely powerful compelling force. Like fire it can reduce forests to ashes and choke people with toxic inhalations or, provide light warmth and better food and metals. And like nuclear energy it can lay waste to entire cities and start unpredictable chain reactions or, properly harnessed and safeguarded, it can provide cheap and efficient energy to those same cities. Kharedim believe that, as part of the free will balance HaShem created equal and opposite forces in the side of darkness, evil and impurity to those He created on the side of holiness sweetness and light. As the verse in Koeheles 7:14 states: גַּם אֶת-זֶה לְעֻמַּת-זֶה, עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים =”God hath made even the one as well as the other”.

In other words an alternative lesson that one might draw is that just as racism has proven to perhaps be the most powerful tool in the arsenal of evil so it may potentially be the most powerful tool in the arsenal of goodness. No one has demonized high-tech or “German” efficiency despite the indispensible role of these in perpetrating the Holocaust. It is self-evident that when subservient to evil these become forces for evil yet when harnessed to good they can do tremendous good that low-tech and inefficiency cannot.

Forget about Zionism. By any fair definition Judaism is racism. If we eradicate every vestige and permutation of Racism we will ,paradoxically, be advancing a Hitlerian agenda, a world without Judaism.

Next: But is it Poetry?
* lest anyone accuse me of unattribbuted plagiarism this turn of phrase is from the song "The Impossible Dream" in the Musical "The Man of La Mancha"

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