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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.