El Fantasmita Juan



Let's start by looking into the Palestinian Authority. Back in 1993 (That's twenty years ago!) they promised to work with Israel to curb terrorist activities and violence in the territories of Judea Samaria and Gaza. An Intifada, a civil war and the ongoing rise of anarchy later, the Palestinian leadership insists that it is all Israel's fault! They were also supposed, according to the Oslo agreements, to stop anti Israel incitement in their schools...but they didn't do it. Who is a fault? Israel, of course!. Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad managed during his time in office to begin buildign a Palestinian economy and the institutions of a free Palestine. Under Hamas' pressure, Abbas sacrificed him on the altar of “Palestinian Unity” (a misnomer if I ever heard one)...and the blame, of course, went to Israel!


What applies to the world stage also applies at home. How many times organizations blame other organizations for their own failures and incompetence? It is easier to attack others than to have a serious look an our own actions. Organizations are supposed to function to fulfill their mission, and a measure of how well they are doing it is the number of people supporting them. Institutions must focus on their actions and goals rather than on attacking or judging others. Over the last five years, the Federation has done that and the result has been a more than 20% growth in the number of people contributing to the Federation Annual Campaign.


What applies to relations between organizations also applies to relationships within organizations. Organizations are prone to find scapegoats for their failed policies rather than confronting their failures. Why do they do that? Because using a scapegoat is a way to deposit our responsibilities on others – exactly what the original scapegoat of Biblical times was supposed to achieve. It also allows for the rewriting of History, reassigning not only failures but also successes to best justify the use of the scapegoat. The Greek had a tradition similar to the biblical scapegoat, and they called it “Pharmakos”, from where our modern “Pharmacy” comes from. The ritual was, indeed, a way of curing the ills of the collective by sacrificing a propitiatory victim (Human in this case).


But while Jewish tradition accepts the symbolic use of the scapegoat to cleanse the community's mistakes, it also emphasizes that the responsibility for those mistakes does not shift nor does ti disappear. We continue to be responsible for our own actions throughout our lives; the scapegoat ritual is only intended to purify us so as to enable us to participate in the Temple ritual. The cleansing is symbolic and not factual (a great difference with the Greek ritual)


The true cleansing in Jewish tradition begins with the acceptance of responsibility, the repair of the damage our actions caused, and finally the change in our behavior so as not to repeat the actions in question. Without this complete cycle of acceptance and renewal, our actions are not cleansed in actuality.


As we continue to go through life and making mistakes (for we are human) let us strive to become better than we are by accepting our faults and correcting them...neither the Pharmakos nor the Azazel (scapegoat) will improve our future...only we ourselves, through thoughtful action, will.


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