I have a lot of ideas pending for this blog. I think I will write them all down only next week, once I am already out of the Yeshiva. Now I want to share one experience I had yesterday at a wedding. I sat next to a man who is one of the best younger teachers here, I think he is approximately my age. He is very devoted to Judaism and is almost like a “walking library”, so to speak, and a very interesting person to talk to. Call him “Shlomo” for the sake of this post (fake name).
During the wedding we all got quite tipsy and as it sometimes happens, Shlomo got very emotional and existential (in a very Jewish way, see below). You know, this situation where you drink a little too much alcohol in a company of close friends, emotions may start become overwhelming. Shlomo cried. His eyes were in tears and his voice trembled. I could feel his pain. I was touched by his emotion very deeply. Shlomo is a first-generation American. His parents and grandparents were holocaust survivors. The pain of war echoed in his tears. The bottom line of his existential suffering was: Where is Meshiah? We want Meshiah now! We will never stop believing in God. We will never stop studying Torah! But we want Meshiah to come now! Haven’t we suffered enough while waiting for Meshiah for 3000 years? We haven’t forgotten God!
I don’t really know what to make of it. On the one hand I am deeply impressed at the eternal belief in a paradise-like future promised by the coming of Meshiah. I am myself quite optimistic of the future, my version of the Meshiah being a successful AGI or something along these lines. In Judaism the promise of Meshiah is intertwined with all the suffering that our ancestors have experienced throughout history. Meshiah is viewed as the final redemption of the Jews (and not only Jews). Once Meshiah comes all will change for the better. However, the belief in Meshiah contains so many surrealistic elements to it that I can’t wrap my head around the fact that there indeed exist smart, intelligent and even wise people (a lot of them!) who take the prospect of Meshiah with total seriousness. After feeling Shlomo’s emotion I no longer can doubt the sincerity of this belief. It is totally 100% sincere. His words still echo in my brain. “I will not die before Meshiah comes!” screamed Shlomo and bursted into tears.
Normally I would take this as delusional. But Shlomo isn’t delusional. That would be a wrong conclusion. He has a conceptual framework to understand the world. A conceptual framework to deal with suffering. An optimistic one and an encouraging one. It is not an existential crisis of the form “The end of the world is coming tomorrow”, instead it is an existential crisis of the form “The world will be a paradise in a matter of minutes as soon as Meshiah comes. Why hasn’t it happened yet?”. I am all for having this kind of existential crisis (a “positive” one) myself, but NOT at the expense of a truthful picture of the world. Truthful for me.
The contradiction I experienced was that on the one hand I totally understood the pain of Shlomo and I felt it with him. I also have relatives who were killed by Nazis. I also want everything to turn out well in the future and I do believe that it is possible. On the other hand part of my brain went “The day I will take the promise of Meshiah as literally and as wholeheartedly as Shlomo, in the eyes of the present-day-me I will be a delusional fanatic, and I am committed to do everything in my power to stay away from that”.
That’s all I can say. I will leave it to my readers to see what to make of this (“paradox”?).