Wednesday, August 15, 2018

On being wrong and turning outwards with hope

The Work is never Done

I was wrong to close my previous blog Trainee Golem Builder. It was a turn inwards, away from the world online and instead focus on my immediate circle of contacts.

The person responsible for making me aware of this mistake was, curiously enough, my wife. She encouraged me to to re-read the last chapter of “Future Tense” by Rabbi Lord Sacks. In it he writes (pp259):

“...Jews must join with others, in what will be the twenty-first century, as it was in the twentieth, the defining struggle of our time: on the side of the will to life against the will to power.
That will mean engaging with the world, not disengaging from it. Wherever I see string commitment in Jewry today – in Israel, in orthodoxy, in religious Zionism – I see an inward turn. Wherever I see an outward turn – among secular or non-orthodox Jews – I see a weakening of identity and an abandonment of the of classic terms of Jewish faith and life. I see, in other words, a continuation of the rift that began two centuries ago, between the particularists and the universalists. It weakened Jewry then and is no less dysfunctional now...”

I have for many years lived on the fringes of Jewish life in the UK. This meant that I interacted with many outside of the Jewish community, with many wonderful people from many faiths and none. My studies of mysticism brought me to places that led to many interesting and enriching interactions but it also highlighted that my position was on the periphery.

In recent years I saw the gap between the observant and secular Jews widening with the middle ground disappearing. And I did what many others have done and that was turn inwards. Moving away and closer to the community meant that some connections to the outside were unfortunately lost. I realize now that this is exactly the mistake that Rabbi Lord Sacks warned against.

So this is my attempt at a new start. I’m still not convinced that Facebook offers any meaningful avenues for dialogue. That media platform appears to encourage the turning inwards to form ever smaller echo chambers. Which leaves blogging as the better option in terms of exchange of ideas.

Rabbi Lord Sacks finishes his book by making two important points. That we are counted not by our numbers but rather by our contributions to humanity. The other point being that we have been on the losing side of history for a long time, but that we have outlived all the supposed victors and conquerors.

“...And though it has  fought a losing battle for four thousand years, it still lives and breathes and sings, refuses to despair, still bearing witness, without always knowing it, to the power of God within the human heart to lift us to achievements we could not have reached alone or without the faith of our ancestors. Jews are a small people. Every one of them counts. And the Jewish task remains: to be the voice of hope in an age of fear, the countervoice in the conversation of humankind...”

There is hope for a better world, I just need to figure out how to achieve that with the help of some golems and friends.