Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I am a conservative Jew, politically, not religiously, and I see that as being perfectly in-line with justice-pursuing, peace-wanting, humanity-loving values, which I hold.

With me at least, but it seems with many Jews in the past couple of years that political conservativism has become more and more of a sensible political ideology, at least with regards to particular arenas. For me, it could have been the maturity that (supposedly) comes with age, but it could also have been the only proper response to a growingly Israel-hostile university climate, which I saw falling all around me like stink bombs. Yes, that was it, the hypocrisy I saw gleaming like bad rays from the intellegentsia liberalidad universitad which, once I Sherlocked my way into what was going on and had given them ample benefit of the doubt, the nonsense sent me flying from them with tracks of fire. It was unfortunate really, I used to be tight with the views of liberalism and to a large degree I think that I still am, it’s just that I saw that field of people begin to take up arms for causes that were associated with hate. In short, the way I saw it, hate was a dragon that the knights of the liberal round table and its disciples vowed to sleigh, but the more I saw them carrying anti-Israel signs, chanting venom, and planting seeds of hate, I realized that they had efficiently set the borders of that room in a way that just left me out of it. There was no more room for me to be a liberal and to join in that scheme as a Jew; my love for and alliance with Israel was an unacceptable firearm in the military of the liberal, and so I switched units.

Of course, just because the liberals whom I saw on campus, a territory like the West Bank where extremists make the most noise, were fools, it doesn’t mean that liberalism as an holistic ideology is wrong or even inherently flawed, it’s just that those people decided to stash Israel away in the “evil” file. This was liberal dogma, a mirage in the dunes where American was an evil empire and Israel was the bloody jewel in the crown. My views were my views and I would not shift them because some fools had mental issues. If I had liberal views they would remain, but if Israel could be filed and categorized away as an evil entity in the way that it was, knowing what I do about Israel, I cognized that there must be a problem with the functioning method of liberal thought. This caused in me a significant right shift and eventually lead me to rethinking the entire structure of the political spectrum.

One commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." If we try to understand the significance of this commandment, we get an instruction that tells us to include others in our purview of ourselves. Since we have the tendency to go out of our way (or is it in our way?) to make our lives easier and to care for ourselves, at least theoretically, the Torah is telling us, not asking us, to put others in the same place as we put ourselves. We are not to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, we are to put others in OUR shoes. Contemporary liberal politics has adopted this value as their own.

Another commandment is not to have sex before marriage. Nowadays, this life value is taken to be a more conservative value, indicative of traditional and puritanical views. However, it is from the same set of commandments and the same G-d Whom gives both commandments; it is out of the same Mouth from which we hear both. How do we reconcile the two? Apparently G-d wants us to do both of them, that's how we reconcile them. G-d has created a system in which both social and sexual values are primary, unlike the world view most people have today where either social justice or sexual morality are key, but not both simultaneously. Social justice is about fixing the world around you, sexual morality is about fixing your personal world. The two bleed into each other because how can you begin to nurture the world around you without nurturing your personal world? When you are able to do both you can begin to see how your personal world and the world around are one world, and this explains the unity that is expressed throughout the entire Torah, not to mention the very nature of G-d's existence, which is characterized by complete unity.

Life is too complex to isolate yourself into any one man-made ideological category such as taking a solely liberal or conservative stance on issues. The heart of any matter has to be understood and cognized and only then can a person try to reason how he/she should respond to the issue. If we do this, the result is that we usually get some amalgamation ideology that contains parts of each line of thought. If we take this further, it seems that each line of thought is actually part of a larger "ideology," a comprehensive stance of life, which tends to bend and finally transcend existing political lines of thought. But the key is not to destroy existing political ideologies, it is to understand how the values contained within each camp are actually part of a more coherent world view than each holds on its own. If we try to reach it from a human perspective it begins to look like a fanciful and idealistic illusion of an idea. But if we look at it from the perspective that there is a Being, G-d, Whom has a better understanding of things than we do and rationalize that He is the Source of these commandments, then our limited human understanding becomes less and less of an obstacle because we understand that His wisdom calls for this unity. It then becomes something that we can grasp and understand, not at all far-fetched or enigmatic.

Let us imagine a person who is as devoted to sexual morality as he is to bringing down oppressive regimes, or let us imagine a person who is as devoted to loving his neighbor as himself as he is to running a corporation; neither of these are inherent opposites. Often times people tie a set of values together just because they occur in the same person, but this is a fallacy. Each value has to be understood as an item on its own, for what it is, and then that value can be understood as one value in a larger set. Once this is done, values complement each other and then begin to form a bigger picture. For a Jew, that picture is the Torah and the 613 commandments in it. This is the "ideology of G-d," and can probably only be struck in a theocracy, which is a loaded word for a spiritual, legal, and institutionalized return to that holistic understanding of reality. i.e., Messianic Redemption.

The value of the human is compromised until it has a soul or until one believes that it has a soul – whichever comes first.

It is the soul that allows for the fusion of “liberal” and “conservative” politics, for if the human has a soul, then all human beings are equal; a liberal maxim, but if the human has a soul, then it has to adhere to a number of behaviors that indicate and maintain its endless value, of which sexual morality is just one. If souls exist as the core of the being called the “human being,” then indeed a set of both “liberal” and “conservative” values exist as part of a seamless expression of truth.

But if souls exist then G-d exists, because a soul cannot be the function of anything else other than G-d. It makes sense that G-d created all of this in a chronological manner, perhaps human souls, earth, human body, and then joined the soul with the body, but that Abraham discovered the existence of all this in the opposite order; that he was both soul and body, had a body that was separate from the soul, that the body was part of the earth, and since the soul is self that it had to be made first with the intent of putting it in a vessel. Since the soul exists, it must be that G-d exists.
Slice of Redemption ---------------------------------------------

I consider myself fortunate and blessed to be alive; this is an on-going blessing from G-d. However, every once in a while I catch a glimpse of something truly amazing, genuinely G-dly, (as if being alive isn’t), something that sets things into perspective.

We all know that the Torah is full of laws and commandments, telling us how to live and so forth. We sometimes want to be free from those laws, but occasionally something happens when we see their usefulness. Let us take simple traffic lights for example, which basically provide drivers and pedestrians with safe passage through otherwise dangerous intersections. It is a simple red light, an arbitrary law, that when observed creates a stronger force than can a tangible wall. The proof is that most people would feel horribly ashamed if they ran a red light; they would feel bad for endangering themselves and others, and further, they would receive the ostracizement of the driving community, a powerful force unto itself. This enough is to make the majority of people willfully stop driving when approaching a red light. It’s a law that we want to keep, it’s a line that we don’t want to cross over, and when we overshoot it we usually find ourselves backing up.

But this isn’t a story about shame, it’s a story about redemption.

One hot day I was driving home from a class at the University when I noticed that none the traffic lights of the entire intersection ahead of me were functioning. I inched my way up to the white lines and when I was a few cars back, I realized that there were no police officers there to regulate the flow of the traffic. It was as if neither the traffic lights nor the guidance-police existed, and we were left alone to get through the random forces on our own. The drivers had taken it into their own hands to get through the intersection, and I realized just how insanely dangerous this was; my turn was coming up and I became attentive.

However, as I approached the white line an amazing spectacle unfolded before my eyes; the drivers were getting through the intersection in peace and safety. For some odd reason, without the regulation of any police, the drivers had resorted to alternating between east-west and north-south traffic. About twenty or so cars heading north and south would drive through, and a few moments later the flow of traffic slowed to a halt and then the east-west flow would pick up, live for a few moments, then stop, and then alternate again. The catalyst in the process was usually one or two sole drivers whom would stop at the intersection’s line rather than drive through it. This would cause a chain reaction leading drivers on either side to stop, which would then lead drivers coming the opposite direction to stop, and open up the opportunity for the perpendicular flow of traffic. This was all carried out in a rather intuitive manner.

That day I caught a short and intense glimpse of the best in human behavior; I saw the G-dly side of humanity triumph over the hurriedness and ego that accompanies a large section of the human being; the Image of G-d shone through. The streets are usually breeding grounds for some of the worst in human behavior; greed, impatience, and ignorance of the rules. But this was almost surreal; human beings were functioning in harmony with each other as they needed without the aid of any regulative system – they had understood the rules and taken to applying them on their own, and succeeding – a wonderful display of the internalization of the rules. The most amazing thing about it was that I was not reading about or imagining it; it was happening in real time in the most mundane of settings; an intersection. This marvel led directly to harmony, to peace; the Shechina, G-d’s Presence, rested there potently, if only for a few slow moments. Occasionally a car would careen through the intersection, the one person that tried to make it, but most cars had already begun stopping by then, creating a few second lapse from the time that the next stream began and allowing him/her safe passage. This is precisely why both lights remain red simultaneously for a few moments, in case a rebel careens through the intersection. Somehow “we” had achieved this on our own.

I had felt, for a moment, that this was a tear in the normal “space-time continuum” of galut, exile, and that the time of the Meshiach would surely be like this, except always. For those that who don’t believe that the time of the Meshiach can happen or find the redemptive promises in the Torah hard to fathom and imagine, you are not alone, I too find myself trying to find new and creative ways to grasp it. However, that day, for a few extended moments, I and everybody who passed through that intersection, some hundreds of cars or more, all simultaneously experienced the same thing, something that I can only explain as a slice of ge’ulah, Redemption. It was nothing short of a pure miracle, and it happened in front of everybody’s eyes. Considering the drawn out nature of the occurrence, I am quite sure that there is nobody who drove through that intersection in those moments without being shocked into a state of curiosity.

When my turn came to go through the intersection, I didn’t want to; I wanted to stay back and to experience the wonder of that spectacle for a while longer, this “natural” phenomenon, but I could not fathom putting a break into the flow of events that was occurring. Once through, I considered turning around and going back, like a gleeful child to a water slide, but time constraints pushed me onward to my destination. When the time of the Meshiach comes, and may Hashem will it to be soon, I won’t have to make a U-turn to experience those few moments again; they won’t end.