Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    A Jewish human rights organization expressed concern on Wednesday over a new song by a popular US rapper that includes lyrics promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and cites a Holocaust denier, The Algemeiner has learned. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was responding to Tuesday’s release of B.o.B’s “Flatline,” the lyrics of which include: “But before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving; Stalin was way worse than Hitler, That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a Kippa.” Irving is a historian who has questioned […]

    Read more →
  • Business Features World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    JNS.org – You’re cruising along the highway. Suddenly, your car starts to sputter, your engine grumbles, and your car comes to a screeching halt. The tow truck drags the car to a local auto mechanic. Damage: $1,000. You have no idea whether or not the mechanic is trying to do one over on you, but you will soon, thanks to a new Israeli innovation. Engie puts the car owner in the driver’s seat by providing a special malfunction reader that simply […]

    Read more →