them and me


Went to synagogue for Shabbat. It had been a good week so a bit of thanks-giving seemed a good idea - and it's an old shule nearly opposite my building which I have never entered I went. Annoyingly, I was reminded of why I spent many years filled with self-loathing around being Jewish. The synagogue doesn't have a rabbi coz it's so small and only barely makes a minyan to have any kind of service, so there are reasons why the guy who lead it had that insular mentality I ran away from. He's no rabbi.

The experience reminded me that it's all in the telling. It's like personal psychology - the stories we tell ourselves which keep us feeling bad or like victims or whatever... I was brought up with an emphasis on Jacob and Esau - us being the descendents of Jacob and people who want us dead are descendents of Esau (and also Hamman). That's the emphasis I grew up with. That's the emphasis they said on Saturday. But yesterday I also spent time looking at the commentaries because I was angry with that emphasis and it didn't seem necessary. The 11th and 12th century guys like Rashi - and that's not their emphasis. They were open to the writings of Arabic and Greek philosophy. And they are the real precedent. They're the scholars we're meant to follow, to take into account.

I wonder whether it's a peculiarly Ashkenazy thing: Northern European Jewery who have been systematically persecuted throughout the centuries. I don't know, but if you're looking for patterns in the text, there are other patterns to find. It doesn't have to be all about persecution and victimization. For me - that's the wrong emphasis.

And any emphasis which frames experience in terms of only being a victim is problematic on all levels - as individuals and as a people. We are all capable of being both victim and perpetrator.

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