Monday, July 24, 2006


My becoming an observant Jew was an answer to the question that asked, “What and who are you?” I eventually answered with “I am a Jewish.”

It’s ironic that it took for me to live in America as a relative “outsider” to find out that being Jewish was the foundational basis of my existence and identity. I was born in Israel and moved here at the age of five with my family. My being an outsider was not just from the Gentile community, many of whom were Christian, but from the American Jewish community as well. Subsequently, I found myself in a state of “outsiderness” that lasted my whole life, even into high school and college.

Shakespeare asks the question, “To be or not to be?” The way I see it, and I think this is the way he intends the question, is it better to live life by defining yourself as something and being a part of that thing, or is it better to live your life negating other things and making negation the source of your identity? If you find something good in life, something worth being a part of, then logically you will want to identify yourself by that thing. But if you can’t find anything in life worth being a part of then it is logical to say that it makes more sense to be a part of nothing. If you find something good, the answer to Shakespeare’s question is “to be.” If you can’t find anything good in life worthy of association, then the answer to Shakespeare’s question is “not to be.”

It is like if you ask a dog, assuming that it can speak, “What animal are you?” If the dog says, “Well, I am not a cat, I am not a bird, I am not a giraffe, and I am not a camel,” then we can begin to understand that the dog does not have a real understanding of what it is. But if the dog says, “I am a dog,” then we can understand that the dog understands its identity and existence.

I believe that “to be” is the best answer to the question, no matter what. It is better to be a wrong thing than to be nothing. You can find a plethora of things in the world not worthy of being, but what self-value can you find by negating each and every one of those things? Basically none. The question that I have asked myself is, if I strongly believe that “to be” is the best answer to that question, then why did I have to be Jewish? Why couldn’t I have been a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Buddhist? Why a Jew?

And if we look at the dog analogy again, the dog is already a dog; if that animal is looking for its identity, it would have an easier time being a dog than trying to be a cat, or a bird, or a giraffe, or a camel. In reality, it was raised with dogs, so being a dog would be much easier for it. If the dog feels that it has to go through a change in order to be something, becoming a dog also requires a change. I reasoned, “I am a Jew, and while I am capable of trying to find an identity as something else, maybe the things I am looking for can be found in Judaism.” It turned out being the first and last place I looked. If I was going to be something, why not be the thing that I already was? If I was looking for an identity, and identity is arbitrary, then why not simply choose the thing with which I already identify? I concluded then that Judaism was the first place that I would look for what I needed, but I also had the feeling that Judaism was the place where I would find them, and I was right.

It seems that my search for a fixed identity was based in my feeling of being without a real or fixed identity. This is not something that everybody experiences, and I know that my feeling of having that lack of an identity is a result of coming to America at such a young age and never fully integrating. I later realized that my apprehension in full integration was that I didn’t want to lose what I felt was very close to my heart and my being, which was Israel. Therefore, I resisted almost everything in my life, every kind of group belonging or association, which ironically, also meant resisting my own Judaism, an organized religion and my own people. I got so used to resisting everything in the name of maintaining my identity that my identity eventually became a collection of things that I wasn’t. I knew that I wasn’t a cat, or a bird, or a giraffe, or a camel, but by the time I had it figured to all the things that I was not, my identity had slipped away; what was I? I had eventually identified myself as something so unique and unable to fit anywhere that there was nothing I could say I belonged to.

Further, I had begun to associate Judaism as a non-Israeli thing – it was an American thing because I never saw Judaism in Israel (having left at the age of five). Therefore, to be true to what I believed I was, Israeli, I had to be distanced from Judaism. I had come to believe that to be Israeli, which it was debatable if I was or not, was to be the opposite of what it was to be Jewish. The validity, or lack thereof, of that statement is also debatable and does not fit into the scope of this essay.

The realizations that led me to become an observant Jew had a few layers. First, I realized that I needed an identity. Second, I realized that my identity was largely Jewish already. Three, I felt that my identity had to reflect truth. And four, I already believed in G-d. If I was going to choose an identity I wanted to choose something which with I already identified but also with something that reflected truth, hence, I started to read about Judaism. This would fill in the first three “prerequisites” that I had of Judaism; identity, personal identification, and truth. I had already believed in G-d, and I finally reasoned that if He existed then identifying, recognizing, and living with the truth was of utmost importance – if G-d did not exist then these things didn’t matter. My personal identification with Judaism would then make sense beyond my love for it; my personal love for Judaism would then be attached to truth. This would do the job of giving me a sense of identity. This search, which ended with a successful find, thank G-d, started internally and bumped into an external truth. It was that external truth, which is G-d, which made the continued internal and external search possible.

I would often lie in bed, restless and with my mind full of thoughts, trying to understand the phenomena of existence. It was an esoteric and painful and unhappy thing to do but I wasn’t content without doing it and it troubled me because I was in high school and it put me at odds with much of the people and things happening around me. Eventually I ran into an external Source, a product of my ideas and observations. It was as if I drew a bunch of lines on a piece of paper, one at a time and at different angles, and they eventually each stopped in a place where if I looked at the product at once it was a circle. I had not drawn the circle, the lines that I drew stopped in a place that created a circle, and it was then I realized that there even was a circle. How could my thoughts exist in a vacuum? If thoughts are the products of free will, how it is that my thoughts, when carried to logical conclusions, led to a specific location, and when viewed as a whole in a unified state, created a shape? It is as if the desire to know the truth, if left unhindered and obstructed by what the human assumes he knows, to flow forwards, it will channel in a certain direction. Some say that it’s the subconscious mind at work, but are we really ready to say that the subconscious mind knows things that the conscious does not? If so, and if the subconscious mind is a part of the conscious mind, the human mind, which is finite and has finite knowledge, from where does the subconscious mind receive its knowledge? If we say that the subconscious mind draws and absorbs truth from the world, we are really saying is that there is a real and discernable truth that exists in the world and that the subconscious mind is able to suck it in and digest it. When it becomes digested it seeps into the conscious mind and this results in knowledge. Truth is an object then and not a product of the subjective mind, and to understand the truth is to be objective, i.e., to pursue the truth. There is a set of rules in which the human mind functions and it is the biggest fallacy to believe that the rules freeze the mind; nay, it is the rules which allow the mind to function and then to function strongly and healthily. Have you ever tried to run in water? There is less gravity in water and therefore it is harder to run. It is this very force that pulls one down which allows one to move though space at high speeds. Similarly, an object with mass can be thrown farther than one without much mass. A feather cannot be thrown as can a rock.

But the really important thing to realize is that humans cannot really discern the truth in this way in a lasting manner or in a way perfectly reflective of the truth; the world is too much of a cluttered place for that. The truth is that somebody before us had already discerned the truth in this way, and perfectly, and his name is Abraham. It was through him that the first contact with G-d was established and to his descendants that the Laws expressing that truth were delivered. Those Laws are the (six hundred and thirteen) commandments, or mitzvot, of the Torah.
What is the right way to fight a war?

This short article about Israeli and American war tactics with Hezba-llah and its associates was written by Yehezkel Dror of the Jerusalem Post.

The main jist is, "should the war with Hezba-llah be approached as a strategic game (tit for tat?) or should it be approached as a conflict in which life or death is the matter?" He goes into the respective views of America and Europe in facing conflicts.