Rabbi Berel Wein

JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review May 4, 2000 /29 Nissan, 5760

The message of spring

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE HEBREW MONTH of Nissan is the month of aviv --- of spring. The matchless poetry of Shir Hashirim, Song of Songs, which was recently read in the synagogue, describes in wonder the end of the winter and the coming of springtime.

The renewal of nature in spring hints at our ability to renew ourselves.

I stare in amazement at the plants in my flower box on the balcony. All winter long, they were modest, even puny. The plants did not have flowers and in general they looked pretty drab.

Now, the plants have sprouted flowers of orange and red, and the flower boxes are a riot of color, pleasing to the eye and soothing and inspiring to the spirit. I am refreshed and renewed by the response of nature to the arrival of spring. I would like to renew myself as well.

The Jewish people and the State of Israel, in particular, have been in a long winter for the past three decades.

The Yom Kippur War and its aftermath, the intifada, the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan, the disappointing results of the Oslo agreements, the Rabin assassination and its bitter recriminations, the lack of heroic figures on our political scene, all have combined to dampen our spirits and raise doubts about our future.

The continuing wave of assimilation and intermarriage that has lessened our numbers and influence in the Western World shows no sign of abating. And the mood here in Israel is one of discontent --- with our government, with each other, with ourselves.

We need to rally our spirits, to renew our idealism, to believe again in ourselves and our future. Otherwise, springtime will never really come for us.

The source of much of the malaise that affects us is the slavish worship of a false humanism that destroys our spirit and pride. In being humanistic, we are undermining our belief in self and our unique role.

The IDF admits that the morale of its troops is not what it once was. The main goal of Israelis, apparently, is not to be considered a freier (sucker).

Just listen to the radio ads for different services being offered -- they all contain the implicit, if not explicit, message not to be a freier. Never do a favor, never let anyone in ahead of you in line or in traffic, never accept discipline from anyone else.

Now, if that is the attitude of general society, then why should anyone ever volunteer to help others or to be idealistic in public service or the army? Extreme humanism is so "me"-centered that it negates the broader picture of our society and its future in favor of a narrow piety of current correctness.

This attitude has brought only war and destruction to the western world over the past centuries. It is the attitude that underlies the doctors' strike and the civil service strike and all of the other acts of petty selfishness that mar our self respect.

Trakdata The arrogance of humanism is frightening. It is this arrogance that allows it to ignore all past experience and be so smugly confident in imposing its dictates on everyone else. By slavishly following its precepts, we guarantee that we will still have a long winter ahead of us.

Abraham Lincoln, at a terrible moment in American history, prayed for a rebirth of freedom in that country. Though that rebirth has as yet not been completed, Lincoln's words set a tone that has propelled America forward ever since.

We also need a rebirth of freedom, of compassion, of gentility and idealism. We should stop fooling ourselves as to the realities of our lives and national existence.

The hope for a more unified and tolerant society is dashed by the single-issue fanatics that abound. The faith and traditions of Israel that have sustained us through the long winter of our exile are ridiculed and derided. We truly need a rebirth of hope and idealism, faith and freedom --- and we need it immediately.

I am heartened by the blooming flowers in my balcony flower boxes. They tell me that the winter is over and spring is here. They boost my spirits and allow me to believe that the rebirth of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel is also as certain as spring following winter.

It is inconceivable to me that having come such a long and painful way in the last century, we should now falter. Somehow, someone will arise to say the right words to us, to point us in the right direction and to allow us to believe again.

What is now dull and barely green will yet bloom with bright flowers.

We need only take our cues from spring.

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 clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


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03/09/00: The hubris trap
02/28/00: Denial
02/17/00: The individual and the state
02/04/00: Going it alone
01/27/00: Hang together or hang alone
01/11/00: Hope and good sense: A Jewish recipe for survival
12/06/99: Trendy vs. tenacious
11/15/99: Legacies and remembrances
11/08/99: The joy -- and responsibility -- of being a grandparent
10/28/99: Imperfect solutions
10/21/99: 'Holy loafers'
10/07/99: Earthquakes --- 'natural' and otherwise
09/28/99: Beauty
09/17/99: Blessing the children
09/10/99: A good year

© 2000, Rabbi Berel Wein