Passover in the Shadow of a Gunman

4/14/14 This post first appeared in Haaretz

The article I planned on writing revolved around the Golden Age of television we are now experiencing. I was going to write specifically about how Simon Schama’s Story of the Jews and Neil DeGrass Tyson’s Cosmos have had huge emotional effects on me.

I was going to comment on how Schama’s show is a work of staggering achievement that manages to make the Jewish experience accessible to everyone. My plan was to contrast this with the universal majesty of Cosmos, a series that depicts the history of our universe. The tension between the particularism of the story of the Jews and the grandeur of the Cosmos is a theme baked into the Passover Seder, as we struggle between these different concepts.

I was going to finish the article by comparing this tension to that found within the writings of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, whose work “The Lonely Man of Faith” speaks to the tension of the Jewish condition as one between majestic man and covenantal man. This tension between the awesomeness of being created in the image of G-d and simultaneously being created from the dust of the earth.

I was going to remark that there is no synthesis between the particularism of Jewish Peoplehood and our Universalist values. That we have to expect to continue to struggle through the challenge of what it means to be Jewish today.

Yet as I sat down to write this blog, three people were killed in a shooting at the Jewish Community Center and a Jewish assisted living center in Kansas City. Here in the most integrated, comfortable and successful Jewish community in the history of the world, peoplewere targeted and killed because they were Jews.

This is not supposed to happen. Yet it still does. Hate finds a way forth and Jews are killed because they are Jews.Kids and pensioners both targeted and killed. Young and old gunned down due to this hate.

One can look at Jewish history and know that the line from the Haggadah “In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us,” is true.

Yet what should our response to this be? We are within our rights to be hostile to the outside world, to close ourselves off and be suspicious of all those around us. Yet by doing so we would be failing in our duty to be an or l’goyim (a light onto nations.)

Being Jewish is not easy. We need to be able to deal with the tensions that our traditions demand from us. We need to understand our own particularism while being open to the universalism of the world around us. Sadly, even today, there are those who rise up to destroy us, but we cannot allow them to destroy our way of life.

Our resilience is shown by not withdrawing from the world and enclosing ourselves in the comfort of our particularism. Nor is it found in assimilating into the universalism of all of that around us. Rather, our quest to demonstrate what it means to live as a happy and free people, celebrating our traditions and impacting those around us, is found in balancing the wonder of the cosmos and the glory of our rich history together.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s