Jon Taub

Needless Weeping and Overdone Goodness

אתם בכיתם בכיה של חנם ואני קובע לכם בכיה לדורות

You wept needlessly; I will establish for you weeping for generations (TB Taanit 29a)

Virulent international condemnation emanates from all corners in reaction to the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the IDF defending the Gaza border from a mass terrorist incursion described in true Orwellian fashion as a “protest”.

Not at all surprising.

Slightly more surprising might be reaction from Jewish quarters, and the depths to which these critics will go to make their criticism look like the more genuinely “Jewish” approach.  The handwringing is theoretically as endless as the weeping has been needless.

Two particular lamentations stand out.

In the first, a prominent journo finds her “Jewish” and “American values” having been “challenged” policies that seek to “[i]gnore, belittle and starve the Palestinians[; h]umiliate, denigrate and strangle the Iranians.”  Given the explicit Judeocidal raison d’etre of both of those regimes, must one lament the possibility that one’s declared genocidal enemies might be painfully “bullied” into submission?  Is this lament less about “American”/“Jewish” values, and more about not being able to adopt them to universalist notions as dictated by intersectional tenets?

Furthermore, the author bungles a basic historical analog: “The Allies bullied and humiliated Germany after World War 1 and look what that got us.”  Maybe the Allies didn’t “bully” them enough: while everyone was arguing about how to apply the economic penalties, Germany was already rearming under the world’s nose even during the Weimar years, with help from the fledgling Soviet Union.  In fact, the failure of Versailles would indicate for a more intrusive “bullying”, maybe more akin to a post-World War II-type “humiliation” that would provide the needed civilizational makeover (e.g., regime change).

In another lamentation, a prominent member of the culturati was moved to ask “Are we a ‘good people’?”. Ostensibly a response to Azealia Banks’ foray into stereotroping after performing in Israel, it became as examination of a debilitating dilemma: “by celebrating Donald Trump and his temporal accomplishments we inadvertently celebrate Donald Trump”, and therefore maintaining the “fraught position on a moral high ground” might then become more difficult.

One doesn’t even have to employ the Maimonidean “accept the truth from whatever source” to simply point out that: if one’s claim to a moral high ground is dependent upon whether one finds oneself “inadvertently” occupying the same space as the President despite one’s vigorous attempts at dissociation; or, if the “morals” which make up said ground are determined by more progressive axioms rather than core Jewish values one claims to uphold—the altitude of said high ground is likely negligible.

A giveaway is the author’s conflation of Hillel’s “דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד”, “[t]hat which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor” (TB Shabbat 31a), with his own rather catechistic “all deserve equal dignity”.  Even without deigning to parse the multicultural implications of “all”, the fact is that “neighbor” makes rather a poor translation of “חברך”; the Hebrew term likely indicates for a more familiar and reciprocal relationship rather than a simply “neighborly” one; if one allows for the “neighborly” translation, it might follow that neighborly status is contingent upon acting neighborly.  Considering the attempted mass terrorist incursion at the Gaza border, repeated provocations from Syria, and the proven undaunted nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, no translation of “חברך” would be applicable in any of those cases.

A “Jewish value” from Kohelet Rabbah 7:16–“[o]ne who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate”  is contextualized in reference to King Saul’s lenient treatment of our genocidal enemies during a battle with Amalek, noting that the verse “אַל־תְּהִ֤י צַדִּיק֙ הַרְבֵּ֔ה”/“don’t overdo goodness” is directed specifically at Saul’s theoretically “good” but ultimately severely misguided policy.  It is further noted that Saul later mercilessly carries out the massacre of Nob, displaying “cruel[ty] to the compassionate” among his own that ensues from his misguided “goodness” toward his genocidal adversaries.

(If one really wants to temper the “celebrations” surrounding the Embassy move, this piece by Daniel Pipes is highly recommended.  Otherwise, most of the tears being shed simply serve as talking points for those invariably hostile to Jewish interests and their media cheerleaders.)

To paraphrase the Talmud, one can only hope that the if the lamentations continue, the crying is always over nothing.  And “good people” who “overdo good” may oftentimes find that “too good” is ultimately no good.  

About the Author
Jon Taub is an ex-Upper West Sider, now-married Riverdalean who has two MA's, plays three instruments, and consults for biostartups.
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