When the end provides a new lease on life


There is of course a lengthy explanation for each one of the crises and each and every one of those explanations make perfect sense in the context of the “here and now”. There is, however, a shorter and more inclusive answer behind all the ones we are normally presented with; and that explanation has to do with the lack of long term vision.


When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, our ancestors had limited choices; among them they could either rebuild the Temple and go back to do business as usual, or they could find other ways to provide Judaism with a hub, a “gravity center” of sorts to replace the Temple which did not require political sovereignty to be able to defend it. Some chose to fight to try again and again to rebuild the Temple...they have faded out of History. Others chose to take the Torah as some form of “portable Temple”...we are their descendants.


Game changers in Jewish history have not been few: expulsions, pogroms, forced conversions, genocide, are all unfortunately well known to our people; so how come so few Jews think in the long term? How come so few Jewish organizations lay out long term visions? After all, it was a Jew (Albert Einstein) who said that the best definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result. In other words, one of the most important (and harshest) lessons of Jewish history is that when history present us with lemons, we need to learn how to make lemonade.


Let me tell you a (old and very Jewish) joke...It is said that one day God got tired of how humanity kept killing each other, so God decided to bring about another flood. He calls the leaders of the main world religions and tells them that they have four weeks to prepare their people for this final judgment. The leaders are then sent back to Earth. The Pope addresses the crowd assembled in St Peter's square and tells them “My fellow Catholics, rejoice, for soon we will be united with the Lord. I have been told that the world as we know it is to end in four weeks. Prepare yourself, accept your sins, and you will join our Lord at his table”. The Muslim leader tells the assembly at Mecca “We have failed to bring the true Faith to the unbelievers, and therefore Allah will bring a flood to wash out our failures, so that Islam can restart anew”. The Rabbi faces his congregation and tells them: “My friends, I have seen God and based on what he told me, we have four weeks to learn how to breathe under water”.


Learning how to breathe under water is what we do. As a people we adapted to unspeakable conditions to retain a sense of who we are. Yet when it comes to our Jewish institutions we seem to believe that the world doesn't change, and that “if only people will support us, everything would be fine”. It is said that Jewish institutions are like weed...they never die!. And there is some truth to it. Many times we fail to recognize when the usefulness of an organization ended, or needs to be redefined; we fail to recognize that there are times when we need to give up what we have in order to preserve what we are.


When we fail to recognize the changes in our environment and refuse to adapt, sooner or later we are put against the wall by the very circumstances we created by denying reality. And once we are against the wall, change is no longer easy or sometimes not even possible. At that point it is time to pull down the curtain and close the store. It is painful, it is harsh, but there comes a time when it is the only road open.


Let us learn the lessons of our history so we don't end up against the wall; let us listen to people and let us look at the changes around us. Let us trust in the people around us, and together, let us forge the future; a future in which people are important and brick and mortar just a way to bring them together.


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