Saturday, March 04, 2006

Inability to Distinguish Truth from False

When I was younger and I would take "true false" quizzes, my teacher told us not to deliberately write the "T" or the "F" so that it would be hard to distinguish between them. She told us not to do this because she thought that some kids would to do this in order to force her from marking it wrong due to inability to tell what it actually said. They would do this by writing a "T," erasing it, writing an "F," erasing it, and continuing the process until the "T" and the "F" looked indiscernable.

Today we live in a world where we cannot tell the difference between many "T's" and "F's," sometimes what we see is ambiguous and hard to discern. Furthermore, many human minds are caught in this cloud of illusion, which still allows them to see truth, but only through this smokescreen; one of these smokescreens is "romanticism."

Take the following paragraph in the book titled, "Arab and Jew" by David Shipler. I've only gotten through a part of the book, but I can already tell that the author views the nature of the conflict between the "Arab and Jew" as a romanticized nightmare of mutual ongoing vengeance and hatred; this is incredibly inaccurate. The paragraph was not written by Shipler himself, but Alexander Finkelshtein, the author of this quote, said, regarding "the fighting in Lebanon unfold,"

"I felt myself like a split personality. I was running with the soldiers and cleaning up the area, and I felt myself standing with the civilian population, without water, without shelter. I had my flashbacks. And please understand me: I know the difference between what was done to Jews and to Palestinians. But there are two pictures in my mind, one of Palestinian children advancing with their hands up. You have seen the picture of the children advancing with their hands up. You have seen the picture of the children in the Warsaw Ghetto. Another, of an Arab woman in shell shock, holding the hand of a soldier. The Israeli soldier gave her water. She wouldn't let go of his hand. Take this soldier. He will never return the same man he was. And this Arab man. He could be my father. And I can't look at him like my enemy. You will enter a vicious circle, blood for blood, and at the end you cannot remember where was the beginning. And you are not more just than the other side. We now look like every other nation."

What a tragic paragraph full of fallacies; where do I even start in pointing them out?!

A picture is worth one thousand words, but it can also be worth a thousand misunderstandings; this is the problem with viewing without thinking. The context of the Warsaw Ghetto, as he explains himself, was different from what "was happening to the Palestinians," and he knew that, but his own emotions obstructed him from seeing this difference. This is not entirely bad in itself, for terror is terror, but in the case of an unnecessarily troubled Jewish psyche, it causes a Jew to humanize his enemy, who is really trying to kill him, by dehumanizing himself to the point where he parallels himself with the demonic memory of he who tried to annihilate him, Hitler. This is an unhealthy emotional and psychological response, a response to intense trauma, and perhaps some idealistic wishful thinking about a fanciful Messianic age between Arabs who want us gone and Jews who want to stay.

True, in war, it is of utmost important to regard the humanity of your enemy, and especially of those who are not involved in combat. Therefore, it was right of him to view the Arab man and woman non-combatants as people (his parents), but at the same time, it is not unrelated to his fanciful romantic notion of peace, which won't achieve peace, but will achieve his destruction by allowing him to view the real enemy, the Arabs with the guns and false peace treaties, as "his brothers." The vicious circle he refers exists not in the combat with these killers, but in his own confused psyche and emotional inambiguity, going back and forth between "T" and "F" and not allowing him to see the difference.

The Torah says that Adam, before he ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge between Good and Evil, did not judge things as either "good" or "evil," but rather, between "true" and "false." He who erases the "T" and "F" over and over again until they are indiscernable is the "yetzer harah," the evil inclination, or Satan. Just like the students did not want to be marked wrong, so too does he not want us to mark him wrong, so he meddles with the clarity of truth and falsehood until the two begin to resemble each other, and it is our job of utmost importance to distinguish between the two.
I'm going to start a new Jew-is-beautiful tradition, I'm going to write down a short dvar Torah that I heard this Shabbat.

This one was made by my friend Tom with regards to something that this high school track coach made back in the day. You see, Tom used to be a runner in high school, and one day Tom ran a race without his proper running clothes, and the coach got on his case about the importance of wearing the right clothing for the purpose that they have the needed positive effect on the attitude of the runner. He tied this in to the precise measurements that G-d gave Moses to make the Mishkan, Aron, and all of the other constructions necessary; everything had to appear a certain way, which was a testament that each arrangement in the Mishkan had a specific meaning. Yasher ko'ach, Tom!