Monday, June 05, 2006

No Nation Shall Lift Sword Against Any Other Nation

In the name of G-d, it is the religious duty of a Jew to undertake the eradication of human suffering. The Torah alludes to this in many places, both the Written and the Oral (Tanakh and Talmud), such as the call of the Prophet Isaiah for Jews to be "a light unto the nations." It is for the Jews to act in the most G-dly manner in the world so that the world may be illuminated by His Kingship. Jews might mistake this to mean that it is upon Jews to search out every single nook and cranny in the world to expose social injustice, but that is not entirely the case. The truth be told, upon seeing it, Jews are responsible for attempting to eradicate human suffering, but the goal is an abstract one. What this means is that attacking social injustice head on usually does not do the trick of eradicating it; usually there are underlying human faults responsible for the existence of the ailment, and the Jews' adherence to the commandments fills the world with the knowledge of G-d, and therefore it is this act, observance of the Torah, which begins to chizzle away at human evil and error at its root, at its nerves.

However, it is not upon the Jew alone to stand up against the suffering of humans where it is found; it is the task of all nations, for if all humanity was made in G-d's image, then it is the task of all humanity to enforce and establish that humanity. G-d made the entirity of humanity in His image, and even though many people and peoples have yet to realize this, the full onslaught and slaughter of a peoples needs to be addressed imminently for this reason, and this reason alone. How do we treat the oppressors, who themselves are made in G-d's image? I do not have an answer to this question at the moment, but I will try to find it. Every observant Jew understands that the mitzvahs of the Torah are split into two categories; mitzvahs between G-d and man, and mitzvahs between man and man. The former consist of, for example, Shabbat, holidays, and kashrut, and the latter consists of honoring the parents, not stealing, sexual morality, and loving the neighbor as the self. All, however, fall into the category of G-d to man mitzvahs, which means that to fulfill a commandment between man and man IS to fulfill a commandment between G-d and man, because none other than G-d gave that commandment. Perhaps if we try, we can also see how fulfilling a G-d to man commandment is a man to man commandment (aids humanity), but that is another topic.

The job of the Jews, through Abraham's merit, is to bring the knowledge of G-dliness to the nations of the world, whom resist it vociferously and worst, apathetically. In that sense, we are like Abraham. In the physical sense, however, literally speaking, we ARE Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we are their offspring and the bearers of the revelations brought to humanity through them, their genetic and spiritual heirs, simultaneously.

Generations of being oppressed by the nations has, in the 19th Century (and earlier) culiminated in a deeply internalized cultural and social Jewish identity of standing up for those who suffer. This love of man has its root in the very Torah commanded by G-d, but a repeating fault of the Jewish people is to become distanced and led away from the Torah, a phenomenon which exists in every generation. It is then, through assimilation and forced alienation from our Torah, the only thing which really makes us Jews, that the religious value of eradicating suffering becomes a social, cultural, and identity-based value, and yes, moves into the realm of secularism. It is then that this wonderful commandment becomes horribly disfigured and can no longer operate as it was designed to; the Jews' break from the religiousity of his or her parents is the culprit in the discoloration of the true intent of the mitzvah of repairing the world, Tikkun Olam. The mitzvah, removed from its Source, can add good to the world, but it can never fully eliminate evil because it is being done for its sake alone and not for the sake of bringing G-dliness to the world. Its selection and isolation from the rest of the Torah's callings to the Jews becomes a social norm. Societies change drastically over time, and as they do, then so do the values associated with them, and therefore we see the deterioration of commandments designed to function as one and not as individualized and compartmentalized items. This kind of application of the commandments brings temporary peace, but the human tendencies that cause violence rise up again and again, a testament to the utter failure of compartmentalized commandments in functioning properly. When the world does not know G-d, there is violence.

The culturalization of mitzvahs, the process which transforms them into cultural and social values entirely void of their place in Divinity, turns them each into a cult of their own, if not a religion, whose primary goal is the continued manifestation of itself and gives no ear to the larger and more complete picture. The religiously-distanced Jew sees the world in a state of bloodshed and turmoil and erroeneously concludes that the application of the mitzvahs is apparently not functioning as it is supposed to; this is the false allure of pantheism. However, understanding dictates that it might be his OWN decision not to keep the mitzvahs that indeed is one cause of the world's bloodshed and turmoil. The whole time he is genuinely and frantically searching for the answer and does not realize that the answer lies directly beneath his nose. He then becomes deeply dedicated to the improvement of the world through "natural" means and in doing so creates a religious type of movement but that which ignores the existence of G-d. The object of worship here becomes the aggrandizment of humanity, a sophisiticated and heartfelt idol, beckoning the well-to-do Jew to concede to its every whim. Yet, the idol evades him and eludes him, filling his eyes with stars of the triumph of humanity through such values, but never delivering.

In the name of G-d, it is a religious duty of a Jew to undertake the eradication of human suffering, but is his RELIGIOUS duty, one out of many, and each one props up the other and moves humanity closer to reaching an holistic, internalized, and solid peace.