July/August 2019


The summer months of Tammuz & Av introduced a period of mourning (July 3- Aug. 12) to ancient Israel; a time of pathos, grief, fasting & tragedy. Initiating the story of a wandering, stateless remnant that must carry on in spite of loss & utter devastation--often as a mass of enslaved, exiled captives-- this is Tammuz & Av's summertime theme. However, with the culmination of our deepest grief & most inconsolable wretchedness (9th of Av), we still stubbornly yearn for redemption, joy and the power to transcend gloom. We cling tenaciously to Hatikva--our collective hope and we swear the most solemn pledge to God & to the 180 generations which preceded us. We take this most grave & momentous oath to Zion; If I ever forget Thee... may I lose my right hand and my power of speech! Tiny, ancient Israel's encounters with history's most powerful empires imposed upon the Jews a system in which might equals right. Regarding this development, J. Faur remarked: "Heroic thinking, where might is right, is the arche of Greek culture and Western civilization. G. Vico (the founder of Humanism born 1668) wrote of the "arrogance of the gentiles" and the ways in which strong men caused themselves to be worshipped as gods. The heroic man was so arrogant that he would not let a fly pass the end of his nose. A hero would avenge a personal offense, even at the cost of the ruin of his entire nation. The plebs, of lower status, were sworn enemies of the King and the state. Anyone attempting to relieve their lot with some legislation, was accused of treason and sent to their death. Another consequence of heroic thinking was the enslavement of the vanquished, who were regarded as godless men so that along with civil liberty they also lost natural liberty. For them, slaves were non persons and had no right even to bear a name. Moreover, it was believed that among gods as among mortals, the king can do no wrong and the conquered no right. In Hebrew thought, however, the Law (Torah) -- a covenant made with God, and therefore requiring no promulgation and admitting no abrogation-- established the principle that right is might. This idea constituted a direct challenge to heroic thought. It is particularly keen with the concept of Galut or exile. Although militarily vanquished, the Jewish people regard themselves as an autonomous nation in exile, with the right to their own administration of civil and criminal law. Accordingly, national and individual rights were to be neither effaced nor affected by military might: heroic thinking is groundless and unlawful. Power provides a strong temptation for the enactment of oedipal hatred against a scapegoat, particularly a group (a progenitor) that directly challenges the philosophy and ethics of the mighty..."