Shabbat Talmud Study: When Ideas Enter History – Lower Our Expectations for Redemption


Shabbat – April 8, 2017, 8:30 am – 9:30 am

Perhaps the Jewish people are disserved by our high ideals. Perhaps our Haggadah does us no favors when it trains us to think in terms of a trajectory of progress that leads to ultimate redemption, followed by singing Halleluyah. Pesachim 10:5 lays out that trajectory:

from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to festivity, and from darkness to a great light, and from servitude to redemption. So let us say before God, Halleluyah.

Faithful to this aspiration for redemption, the Haggadah ends with the words: la’shanah haba’ah birushalayim habenuyah, next year in Jerusalem that is rebuilt, redeemed, made more perfect.

It this helpful thinking?

Tomorrow we will read excerpts from a hot new book — Micah Goodman’s Catch 67, number two on Israel’s best sellers list. In a few utterly brilliant pages, Micah will show us how Israeli history itself, the founding of the Jewish state that we all deeply love, argues against insisting on high ideals. Argues against pursuing one’s vision of redemption. To the contrary, Israeli history shows us that progress does not come from pursuing high ideals, but from seriously compromising on our high ideals. Time and again, David Ben Gurion’s leadership move was to give up on the pure ideal and grab the half loaf.

Micah will argue that Ben Gurion’s sober and somber realism, his penchant for accepting messy, ugly compromise on three important occasions, should inform how we approach the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The high ideals of the seder’s end will not happen in our lifetime. Redemption is off the menu.

The two-state solution? Not happening.

Building up the West Bank to make it truly a part of Israel? Not happening.

Instead of a solution to a problem that brings us redemption, Micah invites us to lower our expectations. Instead of the language of redemption, Micah invites us to consider the language of managing chronic illness. We don’t cure it. We don’t solve it. We manage it. We live with it. We can live very rich lives with it.

On this Shabbat Hagadol, a few days before our first seder, what do we think about the move from the flowery language of redemption in the Haggadah to the sober language of chronic pain management? Definitely less inspiring. But better because it is more realistic? What do you think?

Chag kasher v’sameakh,

Wes