The skeptic and the messiah…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

November 10, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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So you want to ‘grow up’ and become a prophet?

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Over the past month I lectured in cities as diverse as Rechavia in Jerusalem, Oxford University in UK and the singles scene of the Upper West Side of New York. Everywhere I encountered the same gnawing malaise – serious doubt about the future. The sense of insecurity the result of economic volatility, anti Semitism, punctures in personal relations – all contributing to a psychologically poisonous cocktail of cynicism confronting an uncertain world.

To the Jew, the ills of the world are a repetitious existential theme. For some thousands of years Jews have been temporary residents in host societies that inevitably underwent cycles of adversity. When I met with the Dalai Lama he asked me to share with him the secret of Jewish survival in exile, because, as he put it, he and his people had now entered exile, and he believed that the Jews were the expert survivors.

So why is the contemporary world scene, including features that Jews have long experienced, taking such a toll of psychological attrition? One answer may lie with the tragic and excruciating cut of our spiritual umbilical cord via the holocaust. Another may be the inability to withstand the allure of contemporary societal infatuations. Yet another could be the pernicious and penetrating effect of media enslavement that significantly reframes sensibilities, core beliefs, and cripples our customized portable Torah culture of the past two thousand years.

Personally I think we have stopped believing in ourselves. We have lost our ‘messiah’. The once very personalized belief in the redemption of the world, the possibility of nations beating swords into ploughshares, and the recognition of Jewish contribution to the future, always provided the fuel of hope and strength to ‘tread water’ while the nations of the world ‘caught up’ and ‘finally ‘got it’.

However, as media distortion (note how sly and anti-Semitic was the pen of the world as it ‘reported’ Israel’s technologically incredible self-defence against thousands of rockets malevolently raining upon populous city centres) reflects a world in moral recession, the individual is nudging a tipping point of fear and doubt. A climate of social stress has begun to erode personal strength and conviction, introducing strains in one’s relation with the world, with each other and with meaning of life.

We live in an era when, spiritually, ‘the men are being separated from the boys’ – when strength of belief, character, and expression of personal leadership, is being called upon as never before.

Think about it: there are only two possibilities: either the world is an inexplicable accident that somehow evolved from some ‘scientismically’ hazy beginning (and, pray tell, what made a beginning?), or it is a purposefully designed, albeit unknowable, beneficent creation. As a matter of logic there is a 50-percentile possibility of either. Choose the meaninglessness option: and inevitably the ethos that governs one’s life must become ‘live now for tomorrow we die’ with its inevitable frenzy of raw survival instincts to direct humanity. Choose meaningfulness, and one inevitably seeks to be an active partner in accelerating the world towards positive outcome. You choose. If you don’t, then risk being swept along by the crosswinds of change, furtively seeking refuge under some cold and craggy dystopian rock.

Negativity and fear breed cynicism – a recipe for relational doom. Optimism draws upon man’s inspirational qualities leading to hope and happiness.

When you ‘grow up’ it is unlikely that you will become a prophet. But will you choose scepticism or the messiah?

Rabbi Laibl Wolf is the Dean of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia

Comments

One Response to “The skeptic and the messiah…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf”
  1. Bronwyn Van Dam says:

    Always choose for optimism, but not for the messiah. We all need to have a part in repairing the world – tikkun olam.

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