Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Running on Chutzpah

On Thursday, September 14, 2006 the Jewish people reached a new milestone in their millennia old contest with fate: three new rabbis will be ordained in Dresden, Germany, the first ordinations in Germany since the Nazi slaughter of Jews beginning 60 years ago.

By all accounts there should be no Jews left on this planet (leaving open of course the possibility of Jews on other planets: see “Wandering Stars Volumes 1 & 2”). Exiles, expulsions, genocide—any other people would have simply called it quits. But not the Jews. Instead we are ordaining new rabbis in the shadow of Hitler. What chutzpah!

In fact I think Jewish survival is based almost solely on chutzpah. We run on audacity, we survive by spitting in the eye of logic and refusing to go the way of the Hittites. And if you don’t know who the Hittites were, you are simply proving my point.

We like to think that it is our educational system that protects us from disappearing in to history, or our devotion to God, or God’s devotion to us, but I think it is sheer chutzpah. We simply refuse to die.

Now I would like to say that we refuse to die because we believe we have some purpose or destiny to fulfill, but most Jews have no idea of what Jews or Judaism is about. They just refuse to stop being Jews. And I can’t even say what “being Jews” means to most Jews since most Jews opt out of behaviors that are traditionally linked with “being Jews”— eating kosher, making Shabbos, marrying Jews, etc.

The best I can come up with is this: being Jewish is a state of mind that refuses to surrender to history.

I am sure I could go on about this, but the real purpose of this blog is to simply wish our three new rabbis— Daniel Alter, Tomas Kucera, and Malcom Matitiani— good luck. I felt a real sense of pride when I learned of their ordination.

I felt something similar in the 1980’s when I visited the Egyptian art exhibit on display at a museum in Dallas, TX. As I wandered among the artifacts I suddenly came upon a huge statue of Ramses, the Pharaoh of Moses’ time. All of a sudden it struck me: he and his people and his people’s religion were long dead (contemporary Egyptians are not the same people as those of ancient Egypt), while me, and my people, and our religion were doing quite well. I thumbed my nose at old Ramses, and gave a thumbs up to Moses.

Well today we can thumb our noses at Hitler and give a thumbs up to those Jewish men and women who just refuse to give up. I hope the Dalai Lama read the article and takes heart.

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