Rabbi Berel Wein

JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2000 /4 Shevat, 5760

Hope and good sense: A Jewish recipe for survival

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT'S HARD TO BUILD a Jewish state and society without hope for a better tomorrow, but we must temper hope with good sense.

The saying is that hope springs eternal. It is part of the human makeup to hope always for better times and more positive results.

It's hard to live in our world of difficulties, violence, and pettiness without the strength that hope provides. We are willing to suffer pain and sacrifice in the hope that these will lead to improved health, greater wealth, a stronger national compact, and a more harmonious society.

These types of hope have always been part of the mental makeup of the Jew. Without such hope, it is impossible to imagine how the Jewish people could have survived the long millennia of turmoil, exile, and persecution.

Econophone Often, Jewish hope has proven unfounded and unrealistic (Hitler doesn't really mean what he says; our situation will be better under the Communists than under the Czar, and so on). But it has never been extinguished. Judaism teaches that we must hope and strive for a better tomorrow, for a glorious "end of days."

When I was in the United States recently, I met an old friend from Chicago. As loyal Chicagoans, our conversation eventually drifted to that most important of all Chicago topics, the status of the Chicago Bulls basketball team in the National Basketball Association standings.

The Bulls are perfectly awful this year. They're the worst team in the league, having won only two of nearly 30 games as of this writing. In fact, they might be the worst professional sports team in the civilized world.

Yet their attendance rating has not flagged even in comparison with their salad days in the 1990s, when they won six NBA championships. They still sell out their arena for every home game, with more than 20,000 fans always in attendance, suffering loudly and mightily over the ineptitude of their team.

I told my friend I didn't understand why the Chicago fans would continue to patronize a bunch of losers. My friend then revealed that he still had reserved season tickets for all the Bulls' games and used them himself.

He explained that all the permanent ticket holders were afraid to relinquish their reserved seats because they were all hoping the Bulls would soon regain their championship form and that then their tickets would be at a premium. Trakdata

"I will suffer through a few lousy seasons because I hope that they will eventually make the playoffs again and my reserved seats will then be justifiably valuable," he explained.

His statement proved the truism that all professional sports (especially in Chicago) is built on the undying hope of the average fan that eventually his team will triumph. "Wait till next year" is the motto of all sports fans. Hope is the emotion that fuels this multibillion-dollar industry.

Here in Israel we are undergoing a severe attack of hope. Our negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians are founded upon this very natural emotion. We desperately desire peace with our neighbors, even a cold peace. So we hope that all the tangible and painful sacrifices of territory and position will somehow be worth the gain that the peace process dangles before our eyes.

Yet, hope, to be positive, cannot be blind. We cannot merely hope our way out of health problems or poverty. At the same time, it is obvious that embarking upon medical treatment or career training without a sense of hope is also self-defeating. Thus, hope has to be tempered and fashioned by the realities of life and common sense.

There are those in Israel who have little or no faith or hope in peace negotiations with the Arabs. They have a great deal of history and realism on their side. But it is difficult to build a Jewish state and society if there is no hope for a better tomorrow. The absence of hope will lead to social and economic stagnation, if not to a continuing cycle of violence and armed combat.

There are others who have too much hope. Shimon Peres's dream of the "new Middle East" proved to be an obstacle instead of a force for peace. The "peace" groups and much of the Israeli media are riding for a fall with their exuberant statements of hope. Statements that promote grandiose promises of cooperation with Saudi Arabia and trade with the Moslem world as a result of peace treaties with the Palestinians and Syrians overlook fundamental Moslem beliefs and geopolitical realities. Too much hope can be a dangerous elixir, drugging us into dangerous concessions and unrealistic beliefs regarding our future.

So it's clear that we must achieve the ancient Jewish blend of hope and good sense. We all certainly hope the peace process will bring positive results. But our expectations should not be exaggerated, lest we be sorely disappointed.

Neither can the cost and sacrifice be expected to be minimal. But we have to pray that this traditional Jewish combination of hope and realism will influence our leaders and bring about a situation in which the sacrifice will in the long run not have been in vain.

The words of the Bible here, as always, stand us in good stead: "Hope in the L-rd. Strengthen and fortify your hearts and hope in the L-rd!"

JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He resides in Jerusalem. You may contact Rabbi Wein by by clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


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© 2000, Rabbi Berel Wein