The Winter of Our Discontent

February 17, 2014 2:51 pm 4 comments

Snow in Jerusalem.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

This is the winter of our discontent. Morbid, morose, awful weather in the US (yes, I know, I know. I should be living in Israel). So much snow that I’m convinced that my New Jersey town is an alpine ski village. Walking home from Synagogue with my kids is like a dangerous obstacle course, climbing snow drifts that easily reach to about 5 feet. Waking up every day to the same, dreary, bleak sky that inevitably drops another foot of snow on us. Coughing constantly. Always feeling sick.

The weather is the biggest story on the news. Sochi looks like the Caribbean compared to New York and New Jersey. Did you ever imagine that Russia would look tropical compared to the United States? Atlanta, which is the deep South for crying out loud, has been turned into Siberia. Everyone I know is going stir crazy from being cooped up inside. What else would explain why they have become experts in luge?

Last week I passed what was arguably the least productive week of my life. I felt lethargic, unfocused, easily distracted, and miserable. I had terrible writer’s block and struggled to scrape together a few tweets.

My kids tell me that, from Poland, I brought back a sinister Polish virus of some sort. I had gone for the Knesset’s historic visit to Auschwitz. Visiting the death camp in the dead of winter was bleak enough. But then I traveled on my own to see the last vestiges of the Warsaw ghetto. I ran around in bone-chilling cold witnessing the most depressing places on earth, where my people were frozen, starved, and gassed to death. Covered in so many layers I still shivered and shuddered. I wondered how anyone could have survived wearing rags and no shoes.

I came back not even realizing how psychologically and emotionally distressed I was. And it took a toll on me physically. My body became a walking pharmacy as I ingested every prescription drug known to man that can stop a cough, reduce a fever, and generally keep you alive when you don’t feel like living.

The sicker I became and the less productive I was, the more miserable I felt. We have a huge dinner coming up, presenting our annual Champions of Jewish Values Awards to, among others, Ambassador Ron Dermer, John Prendergast, Senator Cory Booker, Sean Penn, and Bret Stephens, hosted by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and Michael and Judy Steinhardt. Aside from my other responsibilities, the dinner is a colossal undertaking, with hundreds of guests expected at Cipriani in midtown. Our staff toiled at the undertaking and their effort helped me in overcoming my gloom.

But for me the weather was an external manifestation of the current state of the world, which is unexpectedly gloomy. We live in morally archaic times that can really drag you down. The world seems to have erased the line separating right from wrong. Yes, I know. We don’t live during the Second World War, where civilization itself was imperiled. We don’t live during the Civil War when America was cut to pieces between the warring North and South.

And yet…

In those times there was a clear delineation between good and evil. Germany was evil. To the core. Slavery was evil. To the bone.

But the bad things happening in the world today seem to just arise spontaneously with noone bearing any responsibility. There is no evil party. One hundred and fifty thousand people have died in Syria. But noone is to blame. Assad is not a murderer. Rather, there is a civil war.

Iran celebrates the 35th anniversary of its Islamist revolution. It’s not “Long Live Iran” which is the slogan of choice but “Death to America.” But that’s OK because Iran, we’re told, has become moderate.

Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, comes in for international condemnation for a factory that makes fizzy drinks! A soda factory that employs more Palestinians and Arabs than Jews has become the focal point of renewed international condemnation of the Jewish state.

And the American Secretary of State, who we are told we cannot criticize because he has been an amazing friend to Israel (which he has, but what does that have to do with the current, unbalanced pressure he is placing on Israel or the more general right to criticize a public official?) warns that if Israel doesn’t sign a deal with Mahmoud Abbas, whose terms as President ended in January 2009 but has been extended indefinitely without an election, boycotts against the Jewish state will only increase. And why Israel specifically when other nations have human rights records that compared to Israel are positively appalling?

It’s all a little depressing. And it’s so much worse when you frame the never-ending assault on Israel within the context of the holocaust.

What’s the world’s problem with the Jews? What is this strange, eternal obsession? The Arab states together are 649 times larger than Israel. What abnormal world fixation could there be with Israel’s puny 21k square kilometers compared to the Arabs’ combined 13.5 million?

In the end, of course, winter will pass, the snow will melt, the sun will once again shine, and parents will fly kites and throw balls with their children in the park.

We can only hope that Israel and the Jewish people will similarly experience a bright summer after this winter of discontent.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” has just published “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

4 Comments

  • You really want to get depressed, Rebbe?

    This winter will, in a few years, end up as another winter – a nuclear one. Iran gets the bomb, nukes Israel, Israel launches widespread retaliation via the Samson Option, and things quickly spiral out of control into a global nuclear war. Civilization comes to end, billions die.

    Pleasant dreams, Rebbe.

    • Dr Colin Walker

      Ridiculous. The Lord will never let Israel end despite traumas and troubles ,will ransom him from those stronger –Jer31:11,36-37

      • Are you familiar with Rabbi Greenberg’s thoughts on the subject?

        From here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0008_0_07841.html

        “Greenberg writes of the shattering of the covenant in the Holocaust. Following Elie Wiesel and Jacob Gladstein, he suggests a deep theological humility: ‘No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children.’ He states that the authority of the covenant was broken in the Holocaust, but the Jewish people, released from its obligations, chose voluntarily to renew it again. Greenberg writes, ‘We are in the age of the renewal of the covenant. God is no longer in a position to command, but the Jewish people are so in love with the dream of redemption that it volunteered to carry out the mission.’

        ~~~

        Like Rabbi Herschel asked of the Holocaust, to whom he lost his family — not where was God during all of this, as the B’nai Yisrael’s naysayers asked — but “Where was man?”

        ~~~

        Israel can’t in good counsel rely on miracles; they — we all — can only hope for the help of our friends in this world. Humanity has its obligations. As God intended.

        • ###

          s/read:

          “Like Rabbi Herschel asked of the Holocaust, to [which] he lost his family — not where was God during all of this, as [] B’nai Yisrael’s naysayers asked — but “Where was man?”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.