Chag Sameach, and A Thought or Two Deferred

Happy Chanukah. Happy Hannukah, too.

An interesting time to be a Jew. An Israeli Jew, especially. So much going on. So much going wrong. But it’s Chanukah and a week ago I decided that I didn’t want to rain on anybody’s latkes, so I’ll be back again next Tuesday. Not that this blog is an intrinsically important part of the universe, or anything else. It isn’t. But courtesy requires that some subjects be discussed some other time.

Meanwhile . . .

Last week, I made a statement and asked a question.

The statement: I do not know what Jewish values are.

A ridiculous statement. After all, we’ve hundreds of millions of words written down, words purporting to explain, define and prescribe Jewish values. Hundreds of millions of words these last two or three millennia. Tanakh, Midrash,Talmud, Halakha, philosophy, speculation, commentary, commentary on commentary, therapy, self-help, fiction, and on and on and on. People of The Book? Absolutely. But People also of Hundreds of Millions of Written Words. Billions, many billions if you include the spoken words.

I say not “People of The Word.” That’s for another time, and it won’t be about Christianity. They didn’t invent The Word. For now let’s leave it at, well, to borrow McDonald’s slogan: Billions and Billions Served.

I also posed a question. Is it possible to create a 21st century Jewish civilization that partakes fully of and contributes fully to the world of the 21st century, as that world evolves before us and within us? Once there was a coherent Jewish civilization, self-obsessed and self-regarding. Then it fractured and diffused, victim of freedom, geographical mobility, volatile issues both religious and political. Victim also of the ardor, the sometimes murderous ardor, of the minority of advocates and the zealots and of the growing indifference of many millions more.

Perhaps there can be such a civilization. But if you want to understand how hard it’s going to be to create and sustain it . . . consider Chanukah.

And also Berl Katznelson’s wise observation that sometimes it’s not enough to rebel against the past. You have to rebel against some of the rebellions of the past.

Next Tuesday, then. Chag Sameach.

About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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