Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hypnotic Hypocrisy

One of the hardest arguments to defeat is one based on hypocrisy. The lie is so blatantly obvious yet it's hypnotic siren song captivates the minds and hearts of many well-intentioned people.

Take Mark Twain for example. Twain was an educated and astute person who besides writing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, also wrote about his 1867 trip to Eretz Yisrael in his book "Innocents Abroad" He writes that biblical Yosef was "one of the truly great men of the Old Testament." We learn from Yosef of his nobility for not killing his brothers when he reveals to them that he is second in command in Egypt. So far, so good. Curiously he also writes:

Joseph is one of the truly great men of the Old Testament. And he was the noblest and the manliest, save Esau. Why shall we not say a good word for the princely Bedouin? The only crime that can be brought against him is that he was unfortunate. Why must every body praise Joseph's great-hearted generosity to his cruel brethren, without stint of fervent language, and fling only a reluctant bone of praise to Esau for his still sublimer generosity to the brother who had wronged him? Jacob took advantage of Esau's consuming hunger to rob him of his birthright and the great honor and consideration that belonged to the position; by treachery and falsehood he robbed him of his father's blessing; he made of him a stranger in his home, and a wanderer. Yet after twenty years had passed away and Jacob met Esau and fell at his feet quaking with fear and begging piteously to be spared the punishment he knew he deserved, what did that magnificent savage do? He fell upon his neck and embraced him!

How can it be that Mark Twain falls into the hypnotic trap of Esav, when its totally clear to Chazal of Esav's hypocrisy and evil? The Gemara in Bava Batra has some choice words for Esav:
אמר רבי יוחנן: חמש עבירות עבר אותו רשע באותו היום
בא על נערה מאורסה, והרג את הנפש, וכפר בעיקר, וכפר בתחיית המתים, ושט את הבכורה

Yet how is it that Twain and so many others bend over backwards to find a defense for this truly wicked person?

The hypnotic effect of hypocrisy causes good, decent people, with the best of intentions of tikun olam to mistakenly view the venom of our enemies as honey. Just as Esav was defended by Twain, many Jews today demand moral justice for the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael before compassion towards the Jews of Eretz Yisrael. Tikkun Olam is not about self flagellation and national suicide.

When Jewish bloggers write

The problem, I think, is this: Zionists of a certain age and generation think of the Arabs as cartoon villains, with greased mustaches and diabolical plans. To them, Palestinians are symbols, not people. And this tendency to simplify, to rob people of their humanity, cuts both ways: The IDF and Mossad, in their eyes, are flawless, and faultless, the just and glorious warriors.

...they are falling into the trap.

When upwards of 80% of a "people" can justify suicide bombing attacks against Jewish civilians it automatically robs a "people" of their humanity. To even suggest that they are cartooned villains shows a basic lack of understanding of what Israel faces today. The IDF is statistical model of the Jewish people in Israel -- and for the most part, they really are just and glorious warriors.

15 comments:

daat y said...

You are sooo correct.I will name this-blogger 'Dov Bear.'
He is so radical left and 'openminded' that all his brains have fallen out.He also has admitted easy way to increase his 'numbers.'
He may call himself 'dov' jewish sounding but he may be the real palestinian.

daat y said...

Ihope my comment is 'letoelet.'

Joe Settler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Settler said...

Mark Twain would often make interesting, radical, humerous, blasphemous, and provocative remarks about the bible in his writings (just read “The Bible According to Mark Twain” if you weren’t sure).

Some were tongue-in-cheek, some quite cynical, and some were valid questions.

It would be difficult to say if he really believed that about Eisav or if he was simply trying to get someone’s goat.

But imagine that, nearly 150 years after he wrote it, he managed to get Jameel’s goat (or camel).

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Twain didn't get my camel at all - rather he apparently became the basis for DB's blog.

Note the similarities:

Interesting, radical, humerous, blasphemous, and provocative remarks about the bible in his writings. Some were tongue-in-cheek, some quite cynical, and some were valid questions.

Twain didn't use his real name on his Blog either...

Twain was Christian though. Hmmm.

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Muqata,

Some very interesting remarks here, but I do have some comments:

The criticism that Clemens fell into the hypnotic trap of Eisav when Chazal ... seems to me rather inappropriate as I doubt that Clemens-though indisputably a widely read man of letters-was learned in the literature of Our Sages of Blessed Memory; it simply is an inapplicable measure that his views be gauged by an authority with which he probably had little or no familiarity.

Secondly, I do not think that Eisav was so clearly absolutely evil as you seem to suggest ... given that he was ben Yitzhak; see the posting in http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2005/12/guest-posting-from-chabakuk-elisha_15.html

Lastly, it is well-known that Clemens was a friend and defender of the Jewish people ... the literature on this point is abundant. Woulds't that we had more friends of his caliber! See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1898twain-jews.html ... for starters.

In any case, I enjoyed your post and plan to visit regularly. I am ...

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch c/o

TheBookofBen.blogspot.com

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shalom Alan -

Thanks for dropping in. Please Allow me to comment;

1. Clemen's falling into the trap does nothing to diminish his stature or his knowledge. My point was that it's easy to fall into the trap, which has ensnared many good people.

2. Eisav's stature as an evil person was decided on by the Gemara. Where he weighed in on a scale of 1 to 10, I can't say. If he's hashkafically related to the suicide bombers of today, I'd consider him pretty evil.

3. Clemens' being a good friend of Israel has nothing to do with making a mistake of thinking Eisav was the most noble character in Tanach.

Soccer Dad said...

In defense of Mark Twain, try reading the Torah without the knowledge of the Midrashim. Is it that hard to see where he's coming from? Eisav was tricked out of his birthright and though angry enough to kill his brother later reconciled with him. Any intimation of his evil in the p'shat would be missed by someone reading the story in a translation (or translation of a translation.)

I realize that that's not your main point. And your criticism of that blogger is something I had wanted to address, maybe now I won't.

Of course DB isn't Mark Twain, I already uncovered his true identity.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

David:

Its not obvious from the word, ויבז, that Eisav denegrated his birthrite? That's plain pshat.

ויאכל וישת ויקם וילך, ויבז עשו את הבכורה

What Yaakov did afterwards was simply ensuring he got his end of the sale, instead of being ripped off (which is what Eisav was planning to do to him).

BTW - amazing research you did on DB. They should teach that at Rabbi Carmy's YU course: Introduction to Bloggable Exegesis.

Soccer Dad said...

Well Biur Chametz's research is even more impressive! I had planned my post for awhile and once BC did his exegetical column, I piggybacked mine onto his. (Of course it raises the question as to whether we all just have too much time on our hands :-)

There's that one sentence that concludes that Eisav rejected his birthright. Most of the rest of the story could be read by someone unaware of the Midrashim as showing Eisav as having changed and being forgiving.

We've never had the opportunity to learn the parsha without being aware of the Midrashim.

DovBear said...

It's a little stupid to fault Twain for being unaware of the midrashin, and its even stupider to act like the midrash's view of Eisav is self-evident from the text. It's not.

Twain didn't get my camel at all - rather he apparently became the basis for DB's blog.

I'm flattered that you think me and Twain have something in common.

What Yaakov did afterwards was simply ensuring he got his end of the sale, instead of being ripped off (which is what Eisav was planning to do to him).


That's wrong per the Ramban and others. Eisav sold the right to take twice his father's wealth; he didn't sell the blessing.

And moreover, there are strands of rabininc literature which suggest Eisav wasn't too horrible. One wag has suggested that if it weren't for Rashi, we wouldn't think Eisav was bad. There is something to that.

(Oh, and finally, Muslim terrorists are yishmoel, not eisav)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

DB:

It's a little stupid to fault Twain for being unaware of the midrashin, and its even stupider to act like the midrash's view of Eisav is self-evident from the text. It's not.

As I already wrote in the comments to SoccerDad;

Its not obvious from the word, ויבז, that Eisav denegrated his birthrite? That's plain pshat.


Twain didn't get my camel at all - rather he apparently became the basis for DB's blog.

I'm flattered that you think me and Twain have something in common.


A little flattery never hurt anyone.


What Yaakov did afterwards was simply ensuring he got his end of the sale, instead of being ripped off (which is what Eisav was planning to do to him).

That's wrong per the Ramban and others. Eisav sold the right to take twice his father's wealth; he didn't sell the blessing.


First you say that Twain can't know pshat according to meforshim, then you bring the meforshim as proof?


And moreover, there are strands of rabininc literature which suggest Eisav wasn't too horrible. One wag has suggested that if it weren't for Rashi, we wouldn't think Eisav was bad. There is something to that.


Yes, there is something to that, and it comes to teach us a minor point compared to the wickedness of Eisav brought down in the Gemara.


(Oh, and finally, Muslim terrorists are yishmoel, not eisav)


Hello? Didn't you read what I wrote? Its all about falling for hypocrisy. Its totally irrelavent whether its Eisav, Yishmael or Hamas.
Yes, there could possibly be minor issues ascribed to the Palestinian Arabs. Yet to turn those into the major issue based on lies, while totally ignoring major Jewish issues (like Jewish civilians getting blown to bits) is hypocrisy.

DovBear said...

Its not obvious from the word, ויבז, that Eisav denegrated his birthrite? That's plain pshat.

Not the blessing, the right to inherit, and as the RIshonim say, he denigrated that because he thought he would die before Eisav. No where, per the rishonim does it say he denigrated the blessing.

cylon said...

Many people try to achieve goals. Most fail. Some strive, work hard and plan for all the details yet they achieve little or nothing at all. Others strive, work hard, plan and achieve huge success. Yet there are a few individuals who do little else than take small steps and seem to achieve a great deal with what seems like effortlessness. What is the difference between these people and which one would you like to be?
Most members of the human race fall into two categories - those who live in the past and those who live in the future. Most live in the past. Many of these are the people who achieve very little in their lives and are so fearful of the future that they dare not strike out to get anything. They are the under-achievers who hang onto bad episodes in their lives and either relive them time and again or look at new situations as similar potentialities. They say things like "all men are deceivers" or "all women are interested in is money" or "I can't do it. I tried before and it didn't work so why bother!". Due to bad experiences in the past they believe that all future events will turn out the same way if they dare to go after what they want.
The other type of person lives in the future. This type tends to create more of the things they want in life. They have a vision of where they want to go and exactly how they are going to get there. They work diligently at making concrete plans and they pursue those plans with a persistent ferocious appetite for success. These people are the high achievers - The Richard Branson and Bill Gates of the world. These people have much to teach us about setting and achieving goals.
However, there is a third type of person who almost goes unnoticed. They are the person who takes life in its stride and yet achieve most of what they want. I am sure you know of such a person in your life that just seems to saunter through life and yet they always come out on top. Or a person who you hear of that has decided to open a shop. You meet them a few months later and they have three shops all doing well! So what makes these people so successful and if they aren't living in the past and aren't living in the future where are they living?
I suppose you guessed it! Whether they are consciously aware of it or not they are living in the present. It is in the 'living' present that we have our greatest power. Everything happens in the present. You live your entire life there - even if your mind does not!

By becoming more aware of the present and by 'accepting' it as it is we are much more in control of our emotions and focus. When we live in the past we are fearful of making bad choices and/or getting hurt. We do not wish to recreate the past again! When we live in the future we can also be fearful of what might happen. But even if your future vision is full of power and worthy of working towards many people can, and often do, get stuck there. By constantly reaching for bigger and better goals they fail to enjoy what they have in the moment.
If you wish to start living a life that is almost effortless begin first by living in the present. Accept your situation the way it is and then you can enjoy what you have. Your focus changes from a memory of what was or a vision of what might be to a realization of what is. You become much more empowered to then see the beauty of life and also look at where you wish to make changes. But to make changes you must first accept the situation as it is. Trying to escape from your present only increases your focus on your problems by creating resistance to what is. Accept your life as it is now. Make no judgement, just accept it and then you will be free of doubt, worry, pain and fear. For you only experience these things when you live outside the 'moment'. subliminal

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