On Wanting and Needing

I have recently received an invitation from the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany to be his guest for lunch at the Consulate General. He wrote in his letter that he was impressed with my interest in politics of the German government, in particular to its relationship to Israel and its efforts to counter anti-Semitism within Germany.

He had read with interest a recent article which I had published in the TIMES OF ISRAEL pertaining to Benjamin Strasser, a young Catholic member of the Bundestag (Parliament) in Berlin.

Strasser has constantly supported the Jewish community in Germany and the State of Israel. His most recent bill declaring Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization was passed into law by the Bundestag.

With regard to my visit in 45 countries of the world which excluded Germany, I explained that either I want to visit Germany but have no need to do so, or I need to visit Germany but do not want to do so.

A very difficult situation which only the greatest Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, the German-born Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Martin Buber could answer.

He dealt with dualisms.. “I and Thou” (2) “Two Types of Faith” (2) “Good and Evil” (2), and “God and Man (2).

Trying unsuccessfully to understand Buber (I wonder how many can) I am beginning my next writing “On Wanting and Needing” to be delivered at a lecture which I may give before a student body at a German university if my prospective visit to Berlin is realized.

The Hebrew title shall be “Bain Ratzon u’Vain Tzorech”… Between a Want and a Need”.

I want to devour the last thick slice of chocolate cake, chocolate fondue dripping from all sides, but my doctor and my better sense tells me that I don’t need it. I may, at age 87, need to add some sexual passion into my life but my body tells me it doesn’t want it. (It lied !) Thus, I am betwixt and between.

My three children certainly want me but fortunately for them they have excellent professions and high salaries. They don’t need me. And, lastly, my deeply hidden inner self has now revealed its ugly head to me demanding that only I can reveal the true answer.

“But I am being true”, I shout at my deeply hidden inner self. “Why am I the only one who sees and knows the truth? If others do see it as they perceive it to be, why do they remain silent”?

More frustration. No answers. And Buber is long dead. I cannot turn to him. I saw him only once in 1951 when I sat as a student in a lecture hall in Jerusalem
But then, if he knew the answer, I did not have the question.

We all want things that we really do not need. And we all need others to refrain from giving us what we do not want. How would Martin Buber respond?

Well, for one thing, I believe I can hear him telling me. “you may want to visit in Berlin but you don’t need to. At your age it’s best not to over-exert yourself in extensive travel. Relax. Breathe. Enjoy life.”

Why do I need what I don’t really need? Why do I want what I don’t necessarily want? Why don’t I follow the sage advice of a world-renowned scholar and philosopher like Martin Buber?

Maybe because I don’t want to or don’t need to. It is both difficult and painful for me to decide.

Thus, on the difficult issue of wanting and/or needing, I place the matter into your wiser hands.

You can reply if you NEED to but only if you WANT to. I NEED to read a reply and I honestly think that I WANT to read one.

Berlin JA oder Berlin NEIN? Was denken Sie?

Ahhhhh… kaffee mit schlagsahne und apfel strudel? Warum nicht?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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