By Any Other Name

There’s no joy in Mao-ville.  Thousands have been rioting all over China as the economic tailspin of Western economies has left all those Chinese products with no buyers.  Protest demonstrations seem to be directed against the Communist Party which, having long been seen as a source of corruption, is now being blamed for the looming specter of widespread unemployment.  In Longnan, reported the NYT, residents said the disturbances were provoked by economic distress, rampant corruption and a lack of transparency in the local Communist Party.

The great irony, of course, is that modern China, the most aggressive capitalist economy in the world, is now suffering from the dark side of the free market, all the while laboring to preserve the illusion of its communist roots.  Naturally, such a charade cannot hold up indefinitely.

Increasingly, words and labels are not used to communicate meaning but to obscure meaning.  Political correctness has cast a fog of calculated confusion over language and expression.  The Jewish world has not escaped the effects.

It’s easy to excuse as misguided those Jews who identify themselves as adherents to Judaism, even as they simultaneously reject the Divine Word with wholesale abandon in their quest for egalitarianism, open-mindedness, and political correctness.  It’s only slightly more difficult to dismiss those dangerous and disingenuous practitioners of Torah revisionism who continue to proclaim their commitment to Orthodoxy even as they emasculate the philosophy of sincere passion and diligent observance that has preserved Jewish tradition and society for 33 centuries.  These sad but persistent creatures discredit and dishonor the movement to which they claim fealty.

But it is not these who are most responsible for prolonging and deepening our interment in exile.  It is the Jews who know better, the 100%, dyed-in-the-wool, sincere and passionately observant Torah Jews who are preventing the dawn of the messianic era.

The Torah community can genuinely boast so many examples of mesiras nefesh:  self-sacrifice for Torah study, for Torah institutions, for charity, for all kinds of community activism.  But where is the self-sacrifice for achdus — JEWISH UNITY — within the Torah observant community itself?

Where is the willingness to set aside political agendas built upon nuances in Torah philosophy that represent the 3% or 5% of differences that separate us and focus upon the 95% or 97% that we have in common?  Why must our communities stretch themselves thinner and thinner, creating new institutions that are increasingly in danger of financial collapse because we fear exposing ourselves and our children to other Torah Jews who may wear different colored yarmulkes or have different notions concerning the value of secular education or harbor different feelings about the intrinsic sanctity of the State of Israel?

How do we justify our self-destructive divisiveness when we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av mourning the Temple that was destroyed on account of senseless hatred?  To whom are we speakingIs anybody listening as we remind ourselves that any generation that does not rebuild the Temple is considered to have destroyed it — for the very same reasons it was destroyed 2000 years ago?

Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves if the current crisis of the global economy has not been engineered solely for our benefit, to force us to confront our own failure to rise above our petty differences and find the strength and courage to work together.  When will we recognize that cooperating with other Torah Jews who may differ from us in their ideological perspectives is not the equivalent of  compromising our values?  Just the opposite:  it is refocusing on the common value that should override all others.  Gadol shalom teach the sages — Great is peace.  When will enough voices cry out to make a difference?

The Master of the World called us His chosen people.  How many more lessons will we have to endure before we are willing to choose one another?  When will we finally live up to our name?

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