I apologize in advance for the slight deviation in this posting from my standard writing style, in terms of form and content. However, I have a few thoughts which I need to get off my chest, so I hope you’ll indulge me.
The recent demise of the infamous ‘Atheist’, Christopher Hitchens, who partied hard and died harder, has engendered some interesting feedback from a certain segment within the (Orthodox) Jewish World.
To some of our brothers and sisters who continue to struggle with the issue of Faith and Religion, Hitchens was like a beacon of light in a world of darkness. For these people, Hitchens’ death provides yet another assertion – indeed an affirmation, that there is no life beyond death and that the silent grave is the culmination of our life’s effort.
The social networking sites are rife with postings from some of the more vocal of our Jewish brothers and sisters who have strayed from Torah true Judaism (or any other “form” of it for that matter), lauding the ‘accomplishments’ of this “giant intellectual”, whose oversized ego was only rivaled by his unrestrained self-indulgence.
Using terms like “visionary” and “intellectual”, they make a transparently misguided attempt to attribute plan and purpose to a man whose very life’s work is the quintessential expression of such an extreme and reckless form of Existentialism, to make Kierkegaard seem mellow by comparison!
For even within the spheres where the primacy of self is promoted with ‘no strings attached’, Hitchens was almost singular in his unabashed pursuit of all forms of self gratification as the Sine qua non of our existence.
To be sure, the Hitchen devotees will argue that the perceived lack of plan and purpose was in fact the plan and purpose of his life. They will make the case that his approach stemmed from a pro-active desire to live life to the fullest; ergo the dissolute intemperance with which he conducted himself.
To these people I say, you are all cowards!
To engage in a philosophical debate on Religion is beyond the scope of this article.
I can invoke Harav Shimshon Pincus, Harav Avigdor Miller and other great Tzaddikim who simply encouraged us to open our eyes and look around at the beauty of Hashems’ creation and ask “Mi Bara Eileh” – Who created all of this beauty”? Can it be said that the human body with its myriad components, all of it intrinsically and infinitely complex – simply evolved?!!
Yet, you will disingenuously demand that I “prove that God created it”, as you choose to hide behind the façade of our inherent human limitations. The confluence of your questions and concerns have already been fermented and transformed into concrete ‘beliefs’. You are no longer concerned with the higher calling of destiny and have settled on the convenience of indifference cloaked in ‘belief’.
No, I shall not attempt to argue with you.
Instead, I shall call you a coward for taking the easy way out!
None of you are true Atheists! Indeed, it’s not in your DNA.
You are my beloved Brothers and Sisters – Acheinu B’nai Yisroel, who have been ensnared in the net of your oversized passions, plain and simple!
You are all tremendous Balei Nefesh with potential to reach great heights and blessed with incredible God given talents. Yet, you find that you desire with unbridled passion, all forms of self gratification and you lust after it. These stirrings cause you no peace and drive you away from all which you hold dear until you ultimately throw away your lives, family, children and faith!
You try and convince yourselves that you have found that elusive “sense of self”…that you are finally free, emboldened and “progressive”.
You begin to “live” this illusion – indeed vicariously, through your provocative facebook updates and between your newfound ‘liberated’ “friends” and support group.
Yet, in your heart of hearts, you are more miserable than ever!
There is no day and no night and lonely sleep only provides you with a temporary respite before your misery confronts you full force in the morning.
You function not as an Atheist, but equally subservient to the “God” of your lust.
Instead of looking for answers and striving for personal growth and fulfillment (in this world, let alone the next), you opt for the classic cop out; let me try and convince everyone (including me) that I’m an Atheist and then I can do whatever I want.
Your indifference is your asylum…except it really isn’t so and it doesn’t work.
They say that we Jews are a “guilt ridden” people. We are often mocked for constantly being consumed by feelings of guilt.
I would like to posit that the “guilt” which we often experience, is the stirrings of our souls calling out to us to crawl out from our self imposed exile, begging us to re-create ourselves and encouraging us to always reach higher!
Feelings of guilt is often the impetus for change in a positive direction.
The struggle for personal growth and achievement is as old as creation and the purpose of our creation!
We are alive and vibrant when we navigate the vicissitudes of life with an eye on immortality. We may fall – and perhaps even frequently, but we always get up, brush off the dirt and carry on.
This is our mandate and this is the lesson we received from our parents and grandparents who came out of the hell of Hitlers Holocaust and rebuilt their lives from the ashes and embers of the crematoria.
Chazak Chazak and A Freilichen Chanukka!