Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Monday, September 22, 2003
THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM OF ACCEPTING SUFFERING...as told to college students...
Let's face it, it ain't easy making heads or tails of, let alone understanding, the Holocaust.
A real horror movie starring real Jews related to you and me! Scary, isn't it?! Or maybe not?! Hmmm...Try "personalizing" this... Time out for a few unpleasant thoughts:
If you come from Holocaust survivors. If your mother is a survivor of Auschwitz, and still has a small tatoo on her left wrist that begins with "A" followed by some, by now, faint numbers. If your father was a survivor of the Ghettos, or even escaped from there to join the Partisans to fight the Germans.
What if three of your grandparents were murdered as part of the Final Solution; And you were very connected to of them, knowing that they were deported during the war to death camps.Some were just executed on the spot, maybe shot in the face and died in front of their children . And others, God alone knows how, when and where they perished. Then, obviously, in spite of how this may sound, you'd take this entire subject very, very seriously!
What if you were now trying to teach fellow Jews in about the Holocaust, in any college, home or club. Presumably you'd seek to speak to students in their own "idiom", which is not as simple as it may seem.
And folks, it ain't easy getting Holocaust/Kristalnacht/Painful-type messages across to those engrossed in the latest delights of rap, rave, and all the joys of life served up in "THE Great" college life young people now enjoy.
There was once a great rabbi who said that the reason most Jews have trouble with the Holocaust is that they have been "brainwashed" into believing a "sunnyside-up" brand of Judaism. In fact, in the Torah (Bible) we see that, sadly enough, pain, death and suffering are as much a part of the human situation as health, life and happiness. And that it all fits into a "grander pattern" in the "scheme of things", a massive mysterious "Master Plan" that God has for the Jews and his world as history unfolds.It takes real maturity to appreciate this dichotomy, and it can help us put the Holocaust in a more appropriate perspective.
But for us, here and now in 21st Century America, it's becoming a dim and vague, difficult to relate to, part of "ancient" Jewish history. We would rather dream other things: better, happier things. The only problem with this approach is that a quick study of history shows that sooner or later the Almighty is prone to giving the Jews a wake-up-call, with a rude awakening mechanism made up of lots of Evil Empires!
After all, we aren't prepared by our parents, teachers or by society to face up to something as scary as our own mortality. And then again, we are either too fatalistic ("Whatever happens to me, happens to me") or we're too busy distracting ourselves (by fun, work, play and attempting to reveal the secrets of our VCR control panel.)
The problem is both external and internal.
Externally: we are modern people living in the land of hope and promise... The American Dream. There is no room for the "D" word (death). Try to explain to someone why bad things happen to good people and see how far you get. Try to do this many times and the results are mixed
Internally: Judaism, for many, is nothing more than a loose collection of memories, folk tales, traditions and myths wrapped in cloaks of Jewish ethical humanism. Very nice and very happy, but not always very real. No allowances are made for the Grim Reaper.
We don't understand why suffering exists, why (according to latest scientific research) people die at the end of their lives, whether collectively (e.g. the Holocaust) or individually. We are culturally illiterate when it comes to negativity. We either freak out or block it out. Neither approach is acceptable if we are to be sophisticated Jewish adults capable of coping with tough subjects and situations.
Try to remember, there ain't nothing wrong with dreamin' about the good things in life and love. It's just that death and reality have a funny way of getting in the way.
We must remember the horrors of yesterday to appreciate the life of today.
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