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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 3, 2003 / 7 Tishrei, 5764

Yom Kippur and Arthur Schopenhauer

By Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo


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What history's all-time greatest pessimist can teach us about the Day of Atonement. An essay on Truth — capital 'T' — that will alter the way you perceive reality.


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Without any doubt all religions and philosophies are confronted with the question how to relate to "existence." Should one oppose "existence" and ideally opt for "non-existence" or should one see "being" as good and "non- being" as the opposite.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), one of Germany's major philosophers and author of "The World as Will and Idea" could perhaps be seen as Europe's greatest pessimist. In his works, Schopenhauer has no good word for "existence." From his youngest days on, he sees the world as an ongoing disaster, and Shopenhauer therefore lives in constant fear that things will only get worse. Danger is everywhere, and therefore he decides to sleep with a weapon under his pillow and refuses to have the barber shave him with a knife, lest he cut his throat. The only one he trusts is his dog, but as for man, there is no one to have faith in. Life is an ongoing deceit, harsh and cruel.

Why, then, are there optimists in this world? How, then, is it that some people live in joy and see everything in a sanguine light? How is it that these people deny the truth and ignore the fact that this life is really a catastrophe? Why will they not see the truth? Well, argues Schopenhauer, the aggressively optimistic philosophers of the Western World have fallen victim to a vulgar buoyancy which is rooted in the Jewish Tradition!

Jewish traditional optimism reflects "a self-congratulatory human egoism, which is blind to all except our (own) all too frail human goals and aspirations." ("Works" translated R.B. Haldane and J Kemp, London, Kegan Paul, Trench: Trubner and Co., 1909, vol. 111, pp. 305ff, 446ff)

Yes, believe it or not: Jews are guilty of bringing some optimism into the world. Is it indeed true that Judaism is blind to the tragic? Nobody will deny that Judaism teaches an optimistic view of life, but does that mean that its optimism is vulgar and self destructive, because it is shortsighted and, therefore, unable to cope when confronted with disaster?

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"Rabbi Shimon said: In the hour that G-d was about to create Adam, the angels of service were divided. Some said: 'Let him not be created.' Others said, 'Let him be created.' Love said, 'Let him be created, for he will do loving deeds." But, Truth said, 'Let him not be created, for he will be all falsity.' Righteousness said, 'Let him be created, for he will do righteous deeds.' Peace said, 'Let him not be created, because he will be full of strife.' What, then, did the Holy One Blessed be He do? He seized hold of the truth and cast it to the earth [where it broke into pieces] as it says, 'You cast truth to the ground' (Daniel 8:12)." (Bereshis Rabbah, 18:5)

Nearly no Midrash wants to be taken literally. Every Midrash wants to be taken seriously. When it speaks about the origin of man, it is trying to tell us something about the human condition.

This midrash is clearly "disturbing" because it makes the point that truth needs to be thrown to the ground before the creation of man can take place. At first blush, it appears that not even the Divine can create man unless there is a compromise made in which truth pays the price. There is no "all is well" attitude when man appears. To create man one has to remove all romantically "optimistic" views about human existence. Not even the good Lord, it seems to be saying, has the power to indiscriminately silence all opposition: To create man is taking a risk, and the pessimists have a point.

Meshech Chochma (Genesis 1.31) explains that while all creatures were blessed with: "And G-d saw that it was good," this is not so with man. Only man is endowed with free will. He is the great unknown, and hence the absolute truth, reflected in the existence of G-d, will have to be compromised, since man's very purpose is to be a free agent with the ability to deny or ignore G-d.

So pessimism is born: Man may go wrong and indeed he may become a "Schopenhauer disaster." The Midrash knows that truth is cast to the ground, and so all devout Jews know that truth is difficult to bear. But what is the effect of this knowledge? Can it be anything other than despair, as the German philosopher would have it?

There is only one response possible. It is as if the earlier mentioned midrash has anticipated Schopenhauer: "Then the angels of service said to G-d, 'L-rd of the Universe, how can Thou despise Your seal (the truth?)' And G-d responded, 'Let Truth arise from the earth, as it says: "Truth springs from the earth." (Psalms: 85:12)'" True, the truth will have to rise from the earth in "broken pieces," but there is a purpose; so that man will be able to labor to rediscover it, fragment by fragment, without ever seeing the full picture. The truth will not be truth for man unless he discovers it by way of his own effort. Paradoxically, it is man's potential to go wrong that creates a realistic optimism: The Jew clings to life, despite Schopenhauer, because he knows that since G-d was prepared to cast the truth to the ground, there must be a divine plan beyond man's comprehension. That is the foundation of balanced optimism as taught by Jewish Tradition.

This is the underlying motive of Yom Kippur. It is a protest against Schopenhauer and all dedicated pessimists. It gives testimony and is a warning not to yield to death as long as the truth springs from the ground. It is an admonition to endure truth and to choose life. Yom Kippur, more than any other day of the Jewish year, would seem to carry the seed for Schopenhauer's approach, yet it is a festival of joyous life: It is a plea to endure, for it is only defiant endurance which reveals the fact that truth, however broken, remains the seal of G-d: "Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, our King), seal us in the book of life."

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JWR contributor Rabbi Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a world-renowned lecturer and ambassador for Judaism, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Sephardic Heritage. Comment by clicking here.

© 2003, Rabbi Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo