Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Psychology of Jewish Desertion
- And Its Therapy

Before Jews made their premiere entry into the Holy Land, they had to dwell in a desert for several decades. This prerequisite served to remedy their deficient mentality, after which they could dwell in the Land of Israel with a proper spiritual disposition. Today too, before Jews will enter, with a befitting attitude, into the utopic Era of the Third Temple, they must shed some soiled psychic garments in their state of exile, the counterpart of the physical desert.

The desert represents a place where settlement is innately unnatural for the Jew, as opposed to Israel, where Jewish settlement is wonderfully natural. Similarly, the state of exile is an unnatural time for the Jewish people. But it necessarily precedes the Era of Redemption, the perfect time for the Jew, in order to purify the Jewish spirit, by bringing to eventual rejection the "exile mentality", which many Jews still cling to today for lack of final refinement.

Just which "exile mentality" must we abandon? By describing the uninhabitable desert, the Torah draws a parallel to its exile counterpart. The desert, says the Torah (Deut. 8, 15), is: "… vast, awesome, with snakes, serpents and scorpions; It renders thirst and lacks water …."

Each descriptive represents a further stage of the neurosis.

The very first problem comes from seeing the world-at-large as being "vast". This Jew's mind is roused by the largeness of the world (his unnatural area for settlement), and therefore sees his own natural place for settlement (divine worship) as puny in comparison. He is impressed by the expansive horizons beyound his own Judaism. As if the large world "out there" has so much to offer him that otherwise he'd be deprived of.

This typifies the Jew who is the "child kidnapped from birth", in the sense that he never got exposure to a solid Torah education and Jewish way of life. This also typifies the Jew who subscribes to any form of "reformed" Judaism, under the illusion that an "ancient" style of worship would rob him of many "modern" conveniences or advantages. This typifies, too, the Jew who thinks the "college routine" is much more important than anything Torah study can offer him.

Actually, it typifies the mindset of the Jew who lacks full pride in being a Jew. The majority of humanity impresses him more than his own Jewish minority. He doubts G-d's supremacy as sole master of the universe, and His people, because "other things" he deems much more important.

This "calculation" of the world's vastness is the first step in falling into his "exile neurosis".

As long as this Jew remains removed from the world's elements that are "bigger than him", he can still operate adequately, whether it's at home, school or shul. But once he grants these majority elements greater control, to the extent that even within his 4 walls they exert a fear, he reaches the lower lever of "awesome". For example, he feels their power and broods, "What will they think of me?".

A further degradation leads to the "snake" level. A snake's poison yields a hot sensation. This suggests the Jew now becomes hotly preoccupied with wordly affairs, while decreasing his preoccupation with Jewish observances. The next descent takes him to the "serpent" level. Serpent in Hebrew means to burn. At this point, whatever little holiness he practiced - he burnt. No observance is left.

The next level down is "scorpion". The scorpion's poison delivers its victim a cold sensation. As long as he was at the "snake" or "serpent" level, some warmth remained so he could use that warmth to revert back to religious practice. But as soon as a coldness to Torah sets in, no energy remains to backpeddle.

The final descent is the "thirst and lack of water". Here, even if he becomes wise to his disillusions in life, he's too far gone from Torah (compared to water for coming down from on high) to realize what he's missing. His soul-searching will not readily bring him to his natural source for holiness and meaningfulness.

How did this series of descents begin? The first step was to consider the impact of the greater world beyond. He got there by forgetting that which we pray on holidays, "You chose us from among the nations ... and raised us up ...". This first "vast" blunder lead him to reach the rock bottom, "thirst and lack of water". Just knowing the illness is already half the cure. The final cure can come when he corrects that first thought process and realizes everything that's great emanates from his own minority's domain.

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