Clash of Civilizations: Chanukah Was Just the Beginning
While Chanukah has come and gone, the ideological conflict at its core remains ever-present. In fact, it looms larger than ever before. Observant Jews need no reminder of the nature of the conflict, but the case can be made that it directly impacts all of human civilization. My favorite vehicle for presenting it to general audiences is chapter 13 of Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, which is his treatment of Hebraism and Hellenism.
A friend passed along a different approach. It is a long, deep and penetrating look at Hellenic culture, and why the Greeks have not forgiven us to this day. (It begins with a question of why the rate of anti-Semitism in Greece today is one of the highest in the world.) Authored by former atheist and now observant economist and critic David “Spengler” Goldman, it is well worth the effort to read, if only to understand in yet another way what a precious gift the Torah was not only to us, but to the world.
Thanks to Prof. David Thomas, Northwest U.
In 1942 the Jewish cemetery in Salonica, the largest in the world, upwards of 400, 000 tombs/graves were destroyed. By whom? Not the Germans, although they occupied Greece, but by the Greeks. On the site they built Aristotle University.
Great article and linked column!Another example of Maaseh Avos Siman LBanim in 2017.
In a nutshell, my understanding of the David Goldman article whose link was provided above, is that Greeks hate us Jews because Greeks insist that life has no real meaning, that life is absurd, that no real progress is possible. As one famous popular song put it a just a few decades ago, “All we are is dust in the wind.” So why would such nihilism breed antisemitism? Well, because the nihilists resent the fact that we Jews deny such a worldview, and in fact believe the very opposite of that, namely that life definitely has ultimate meaning, and that we can progress, we can improve, if only we seek to make the right choices in life.
This reminds me of what Amalek did to us in the Sinai Desert, and why we are commanded to destroy Amalek. There we were, living testimony to the Existence, Greatness, and the Just yet Compassionate nature of G-d, and there came Amalek, to knock us down, to tell the world the Jews are wrong about life having meaning after all. I would say that much of Leftist thought in general, carries this same trend today, with its multiculturalism that they insist upon, which renders all cultures of equal value, and therefore of no real value. It is the difference between the random meaninglessness of modern art, and the carefully ordered structure of a painting by Leonardo DaVinci or Rembrandt. In the beginning there was formlessness and void, but G-d made existence meaningful by establishing order to all of His Creation, other than mankind. It is up to each individual person to either live such a structured, ordered, G-dly existence, or descend into utter chaos and ruin.
i don’t believe rabbinic appreciation for Greek wisdom in any number of areas from philosophy (particularly stoic and aristotelian) to mathematics (particularly geometry and combinatorics) to astronomy (particularly the metonic cycle and the notion/calculation of an average lunation) etc. can be denied. on the other hand, unlike judaism, they did not leave us an ethical standard and certainly not one that motivates/distinguishes Jews (even many non-religious) to this day. additionally, we rather than they, are currently exemplars in the fields they had a major role in originating.
The British museum has an exhibition of the world in 100 objects. One of these objects comes from Judea just a few miles from Jerusalem and is dated to the early AD years. The Warren cup is one of the art centerpieces depicting male relationships that David goldman refers to. If it was in use so close to Jerusalem at a time when it was the centre of Jewish life, the influence of the Greco-Roman culture it came from must also have been felt in Jerusalem. One can only guess how, but the find provides a strong indication that the gay culture has been on the Jews doorstep before.
In case you didn’t know, gymnasium means the place where they exercise naked. There weren’t any women! And one was built in Jerusalem. Actually a focal point.
Point being – why the big fuss about the gay challenge being the main threat to orthodox belief – none of this is new! Shame there were no blogs 2000 years ago, but one can imagine much the same arguments being made about gay pleasures vs torah authenticity as today. As for women in leadership. . . . that’s probably a least a more original and new challenge in Jewish history.