Estuve leyendo el libro de Daniel, está lleno de visiones extraordinarias y apocalípticas. Me sorprendió que no está incluido en la sección del Tanaj-Biblia conocida como los Profetas y es parte de las Escrituras, y el Talmud ni siquiera considera a Daniel como uno de los Profetas. ¿Cómo puedes ser?
El tema planteado es realmente desconcertante. Pero antes de explicarlo, debemos determinar si Daniel era un profeta.
Por un lado, el Talmud establece explícitamente que Daniel no era un profeta (1) . Por otro lado, cuando el Talmud determina que solamente “48 profetas y 7 profetizas profetizaron a Israel” (2) , los Sabios no están de acuerdo en si Daniel está incluido en esa lista o no. (3)
Lo que es aún más extraño es que la observación en el Talmud de que Daniel no era un profeta se hace en relación con un incidente en el que Daniel parece haber tenido una visión, cuando los tres profetas oficiales que estaban junto a él no la tuvieron:
“Y yo, Daniel, vi la visión, pero los hombres que estaban conmigo no la vieron. Pero un gran temblor cayó sobre ellos, y huyeron para esconderse”(4) . ¿Quiénes eran estos hombres? Dijo Rabi Irmia, y algunos dicen que fue Rabi Jia bar Aba: “Eran los profetas Jagai, Zejaria y Malaji. Ellos eran superiores a él (Daniel), y él era superior a ellos. Eran superiores a él, en el sentido de que eran profetas y él no. Él fue superior a ellos, porque vio la visión y ellos no la vieron”. (5)
Por lo tanto, debemos concluir que lo que distingue a alguien de ser profeta no depende de las visiones, sino de algo más profundo y fundamental.
Si bien en el lenguaje común la palabra “profecía” es utilizada para describir visiones en general, la verdad es que existen dos clases de visiones: profecía y Ruaj Hakodesh (“inspiración Divina”). Con la profecía, es casi como si uno estuviera viendo la revelación, adquiriendo una íntima familiaridad con lo Divino, mientras que el Ruaj Hakodesh es un conocimiento más separado, como será explicado.
Algunos profetas ven una visión o sueño de un ángel hablándole, otros visualizan la forma de una persona, o hasta pueden percibir que Di-s mismo le está hablando. Sin embargo, otros no ven nada, sino que solamente escuchan las palabras proféticas. (6)
Hay varios niveles y clases de profecías (7) , pero el común denominador entre ellos es la manera en el que el intelecto del profeta se fusiona con lo Divino y trasciende los poderes normales intelectuales. Por lo tanto, cuando a los profetas se les concede una íntima familiaridad con el nivel de Divinidad que se les ha revelado, sus cuerpos se debilitan y tiemblan, y sus sentidos comunes se confunden o se paralizan, o simplemente se quedan dormidos. Es por esta razón que a veces encontramos que el profeta es referido en las escrituras como alguien que está actuando irracionalmente. (8) Esto no es debido a la falta de sabiduría. Por el contrario, él o ella se encuentra conectado con la sabiduría de Di-s, que trasciende el intelecto humano. Es debido a que durante la profecía, las personas que observan al profeta sólo perciben el vacío de lo que consideran ser intelecto racional, sin embargo, no perciben cómo la mente del profeta ha trascendido el intelecto humano normal y se ha fusionado con lo Divino. (9)
Aquellos que tienen Ruaj Hakodesh, sienten como si el espíritu Divino viniera sobre ellos. Con ello, reciben un nuevo poder que los estimula a tomar determinada acción, hablar con sabiduría, componer himnos, o discutir sobre problemas políticos o teológicos. Todo esto se hace mientras el que tiene el Ruaj Hakodesh está en plena posesión de sus sentidos. (10)
Es cierto que la inspiración a veces puede aparecer en forma de sueño, como sucede con los profetas. Pero hay, sin embargo, una diferencia entre la visión experimentada por los profetas en un sueño con los que aparecen a través del Ruaj Hakodesh, como fue en el caso de Daniel.
La diferencia se puede ver en la manera en que los profetas y aquellos inspirados por el Ruaj Hakodesh hacen referencia a sus visiones y sueños. Cuando los profetas profetizan, a ellos se les informa que aquella visión fue de hecho una profecía, y al levantarse, ellos declaran decididamente que fue una experiencia profética (11) . Por ejemplo, cuando Iakov se levantó de su sueño profético de los ángeles ascendiendo y descendiendo de la escalera, no dijo que fue un sueño, sino que proclamó: “¡Qué maravilloso es este lugar! Ésta no es otra que la casa de Di-s, y ésta es la puerta del cielo” (Génesis 28:16). Y luego hizo referencia a este incidente diciendo: “Di-s Todopoderoso se me apareció en Luz, en la tierra de Canaán, y Él me bendijo” (Génesis 48:3).
Daniel, sin embargo, utilizó el lenguaje de “visiones” para describir sus experiencias, incluso luego de haber visto ángeles y recibir sabiduría a través de ellos, como podemos ver de los siguientes versículos del Libro de Daniel:
1.“El secreto fue revelado a Daniel en la visión de la noche” (2:19)
2.“En el primer año de Belshazar, el Rey de Babilonia, Daniel vio un sueño…” (7:1).
3. “…y las visiones de mi mente me aterrorizaron” (7:15).
Mientras que es cierto que Daniel tuvo visiones, éstas estaban en el nivel de Ruaj Hakodesh, inspiración Divina. Por lo tanto, el libro de Daniel es parte de la sección de Ketubim, los Escritos, y no los Neviim, Profetas. (12)
Cuando hablamos sobre la diferencia entre la profecía y el Ruaj Hakodesh, debe hacerse una distinción entre los niveles de revelación Divina (qué tan alto en la cadena de emanación entre Di-s y el hombre alcanza el individuo), y la calidad de la misma (cuán íntima y clara es la revelación para el individuo).
Mientras que la calidad de revelación es superior en la profecía, el nivel de revelación logrado a través del Ruaj Hakodesh puede ser mucho más elevado del que se puede llegar a través de la profecía. El profeta adquiere un conocimiento y una familiaridad íntima con el nivel de Divinidad que se le revela, hasta el punto que el profeta dice que “vio a Di-s”. Es muy limitado lo que el profeta puede ver, como Di-s le dijo a Moises, “Ningún hombre me puede ver y sobrevivir.”(13)
Con Ruaj Hakodesh, sin embargo, no es como si realmente se “viera” o “escuchara” algo, sino que es más similar a percibir algo con la mente. Por lo tanto, el receptor de este Ruaj Hakodesh puede tener acceso a un mayor conocimiento de la infinidad de niveles y capas de emanación Divina que incluso el profeta. Pero al final, él solo conoce el hecho de su existencia (Iediat Hametziut), pero no tiene una apreciación real de su verdadera naturaleza, porque nunca la ha “visto”.
Esto es lo que el Talmud quiere decir cuando menciona que “un Sabio es superior a un profeta” (14) . Porque el Sabio, a través del Ruaj Hakodesh, puede tener acceso a niveles de perspicacia que superan lo que los profetas son capaces de vislumbrar tangiblemente. (15)
Los niveles de revelación profética experimentados durante la vida de un profeta no son estáticos. El mismo profeta a veces puede experimentar diferentes niveles de profecía, Ruaj Hakodesh, o ambos. (16) Por lo tanto, incluso si Daniel había alcanzado el nivel de profecía en algún momento de su vida, (17) no estaba en relación con el libro de Daniel, por lo que todavía se considera parte de los Ketuvim, los Escritos.
2. Ibid., 14a. Cabe señalar que cuando el Talmud declara que solo 55 profetas “profetizaron a Israel”, no significa que sólo haya 55 profetas. De hecho, el Talmud nos dice que el número de profetas a lo largo de la historia judía fue el doble del número de personas que abandonaron Egipto. Lo que significa decir es que hubo 55 profetas que dijeron profecías que tienen relevancia para las generaciones futuras y no solo para su propia generación.
3. Ver Halajot Gedolot, cap. 76; Seder Olam Rabbah, cap. 20; comentario del rabino Shlomo Yitzjaki, de Rashi a Megilah, ibid.
7. Vea la Guía para el perplejo 2:45, donde Maimónides enumera nueve niveles de profecía. (En realidad, enumera once; sin embargo, los dos primeros no se consideran profecía. Más bien, son formas de inspiración divina que están cerca de la profecía y están en el camino a ella, pero no son profecía técnica).
9. Ver Maimónides, Mishneh Torá, Hiljot Iesodei Hatora 7: 2; comentario del rabino David Kimji (Radak) a 1 Samuel 19:24; El rabino Menajem Mendel de Lubavitch (Tzemaj Tzedek), Ohr HaTorah, Sukkot, pp. 1715–7, y Derej Mitzvoteja 172b.
10.Para aclarar, hay en general dos niveles de ruaj ha-kodesh. Uno simplemente inspira y mueve a la persona a tomar una acción específica, como rescatar a una comunidad, como es el caso de los diversos Jueces de Israel (véase, por ejemplo, Jueces 11:29, 14:19). El segundo y mayor nivel de ruaj ha-kodesh es cuando a la persona se le otorga el conocimiento divino, y también se le puede alentar a hablar o escribir sobre él. Cuando hablamos de “conocimiento fáctico”, nos referimos al nivel más alto de ruaj ha-kodesh, que trata del conocimiento (para más información sobre estos dos niveles, consulte la Guía para perplejos, ibid.).
11. Encontramos que el profeta Samuel, cuando escuchó una voz Divina por primera vez, pensó que era su mentor, el sumo sacerdote Eli, que lo llamaba. Eso se debió a que Samuel aún no sabía que Di-s se dirigió a los profetas de esta manera. Fue en el curso de ese episodio que Samuel aprendió que era una profecía. Vea la Guía para el perplejo 2:44.
GOOD MORNING! After the shooting at the Poway Synagogue in California many people have asked, “Rabbi, why do people hate the Jews?” “Why do they want to kill us?” We are seeing an ever-increasing number of anti-Semitic hate crimes. I decided to share with you a two-part article that I published 2 years ago.
Anti-Semitism is nothing new. Between the years 250 CE and 1948 CE – a period of 1,700 years – Jews have experienced more than eighty expulsions from various countries in Europe – an average of nearly one expulsion every twenty-one years. Jews were expelled from England, France, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia and seventy-one other countries.
Historians have classified six explanations as to why people hate the Jews:
Economic — “We hate Jews because they possess too much wealth and power.”
Chosen People — “We hate Jews because they arrogantly claim that they are the chosen people.”
Scapegoat — “Jews are a convenient group to single out and blame for our troubles.”
Deicide — “We hate Jews because they killed Jesus.”
Outsiders — “We hate Jews because they are different than us.” (The dislike of the unlike.)
Racial Theory — “We hate Jews because they are an inferior race.”
As we examine the explanations, we must ask: Are they the causes for anti-Semitism or excuses for Anti-Semitism? The difference? If one takes away the cause, then anti-Semitism should no longer exist. If one can show a contradiction to the explanation, it demonstrates that the “cause” is not a reason, it is just an excuse. Let’s look at some contradictions:
1) Economic — The Jews of 17th- 20th century Poland and Russia were dirt poor, had no influence and yet they were hated.
2) Chosen People — a) In the late 19th century, the Jews of Germany denied “Chosenness” and strove to assimilate. Yet, the Holocaust started there. b) Christians and Moslems profess to being the “Chosen people,” yet, the world and the anti-Semites tolerate them.
3) Scapegoat — Any group must already be hated to be an effective scapegoat. The Scapegoat Theory does not then cause anti-Semitism. Rather, anti-Semitism is what makes the Jews a convenient scapegoat target. Hitler’s rantings and ravings would not be taken seriously if he said, “It’s the bicycle riders and the marathon runners who are destroying our society.”
4) Deicide — a) The Christian Bible says the Romans killed Jesus, though Jews are mentioned as accomplices (claims that Jews killed Jesus came several hundred years later). Why are the accomplices persecuted and there isn’t an anti-Roman movement throughout history? b) Jesus himself said, “Forgive them [i.e., the Jews], for they know not what they do.” The Second Vatican Council in 1963 officially exonerated the Jews as the killers of Jesus. Neither statement of Christian belief lessened anti-Semitism.
5) Outsiders — With the Enlightenment in the late 18th century, many Jews rushed to assimilate. Anti-Semitism should have stopped. Instead, for example, with the Nazis came the cry, in essence: “We hate you, not because you’re different, but because you’re trying to become like us! We cannot allow you to infect the Aryan race with your inferior genes.”
6) Racial Theory — The overriding problem with this theory is that it is self-contradictory: Jews are not a race. Anyone can become a Jew – and members of every race, creed and color in the world have done so at one time or another.
Every other hated group is hated for a relatively defined reason. We Jews, however, are hated in paradoxes: Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race – but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. We are hated for stubbornly maintaining our separateness – and, when we do assimilate – for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. We are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex. It seems that we just can’t win.
Now we know what are NOT the reasons for anti-Semitism. Stay tuned till next week for the reasons for anti-Semitism — or, if you can’t wait, go to http://www.aish.com/sem/wtj (from which much of this material is taken) for the conclusion!
Nearly 60 years after she attended and wrote about the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt remains a controversial figure among intellectuals in Israel
“A time will come, that you will not live to see, when Jews will erect a monument to you in Israel… and they will proudly claim you as their own,” the philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote to his close friend Hannah Arendt in 1963. That monument remains unbuilt in Israel 2019. Nearly 60 years have gone by since the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and Arendt’s name continues to generate fierce criticism among many Israeli intellectuals. Although she is considered by many one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, and even though she was a Holocaust survivor and a Zionist (at least for a certain period) – she was boycotted in Israel for many years and most of her writings have only recently been translated into Hebrew.
The strong feelings that Arendt, who died in 1975, arouses in scholars, especially Israelis, spring primarily from her 1963 book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.” Based on a series of articles Arendt wrote for The New Yorker, the book is critical of the way Israel conducted the Eichmann trial and the way the defendant was portrayed. Instead of the murderous, anti-Semitic monster the prosecution sought to paint, Arendt saw something very different: a new type of mass murderer, but without malicious, necessarily lethal, motives, who neither considered the significance of his deeds or accept responsibility for them. She attributed to Eichmann what she termed “thoughtlessness,” an inability to think from the other’s point of view.
Her book immediately sparked bitter controversy that persisted throughout the 1960s. Arendt was denounced, including by some of her closest friends, as anti-Zionist and said to an example of “Jewish self-hatred.” She was accused of being favorably disposed toward Eichmann and of absolving him of guilt and responsibility for his crimes. Her good friend, the kabbala scholar Gershom Scholem, wrote to her that she lacked “love for the Jewish people.” Relations between them were severed in the wake of her response to his letter.
For long decades, Arendt was unofficially ostracized in Israel. Her books were not translated into Hebrew and her work was not discussed, in either the academic or public spheres. She was effectively subjected to political-intellectual excommunication. It was not until 2000 that “Eichmann in Jerusalem” was published here, and the Hebrew-reading public had the opportunity to judge the text for itself.
More recently, Arendt’s status in Israel has begun to change. Though trenchant criticism is still leveled at her, over the past two decades, a process has been underway that reflects new approaches to her thought. She is no longer taboo: Her writings are the subject of critical and more favorable consideration by Israeli scholars, among them Adi Ophir, Michal Ben-Naftali and Leora Bilsky.
One reason for her gradual inclusion in public discourse is the dominance of post-Zionist and postmodern discourse in academic circles beginning in the 1990s. The first international conference on Arendt to be held in Israel took place in Jerusalem in 1997, with its lectures later issued as a collection of articles (in English), written mainly by scholars from abroad, edited by historian Prof. Steven Aschheim.
A notable step in introducing Arendt into the Israeli discourse was made by historian Idith Zertal. She researched Arendt’s thought and the controversies surrounding her, and beginning in the 1990s, published articles on these subjects in Israeli journals and newspapers. Prof. Zertal also discussed Arendt extensively in her book “Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood” (published in English in 2005), which dealt with the politics of Holocaust memory. In 2004, in the wake of the first Hebrew-language conference on Arendt, held at Tel Aviv University, a first collection of essays in Hebrew also appeared. In 2010, Zertal’s Hebrew translation of Arendt’s groundbreaking work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” was published.
The Arendt renaissance continued with translations into Hebrew of additional books, among them “The Human Condition” and “The Jewish Writings.” In the past decade, local universities have offered courses on Arendt, a play about her life was staged here and she was the subject of an Israeli documentary film.
Arendt challenged, and continues to challenge, the Jewish and Zionist consensus. The conceptual revolution she fomented with the term “banality of evil” and its relevance 56 years after it first saw the light of day, remain difficult to swallow even in our world today. What is it about that concept that continues to the present to stir such deep unease among Israeli intellectuals?
Arrested by the Gestapo
Arendt was a Holocaust survivor in every sense, even if she did not define herself as such. She was born in 1906 to an assimilated Jewish family in Germany, and studied philosophy from an early age. She was Martin Heidegger’s pupil and wrote her doctoral thesis at the University of Heidelberg under the supervision of Karl Jaspers. In 1933 she was arrested by the Gestapo for engaging in Zionist activity, and was released after a week by a young officer she befriended. She succeeded in fleeing with her mother and reached Paris, where she spent eight years as a refugee. She also worked for Youth Aliyah, organizing groups of children and adolescents for immigration to Palestine. Following the occupation of France, Arendt was arrested and incarcerated in the Gurs camp in the country’s southwest, but managed to escape within a few weeks.
In 1941, Arendt and her husband, Heinrich Bluecher, fled to the United States, for which they had refugee visas, via Lisbon. She became an American citizen in 1951 and lived in the country, pursuing a distinguished academic career, until her death in 1975.
Arendt’s lengthy refugee experience went a long way toward shaping her political thought. Her Judaism and her approach to the Jewish question also played an important part in this context. Arendt espoused a strong affinity for Zionism, even though she was critical of Zionist ideology and was increasingly censorious in regard to Israel.
Why, despite her biography, did her book generate such a stormy controversy? The answer lies, in part, in her critique of the political nature of the Eichmann trial. Arendt saw it as a show trial – a political event with a specific agenda. She took issue with the fact that the majority of the testimonies were not relevant to proving the defendant’s guilt. She also objected to the prosecution’s focus on the legal category of a “crime against the Jewish people,” which was intended to promote a Zionist-historical narrative in which the Holocaust was depicted as another link in a long chain of persecution of Jews. That approach, she argued, attested to the fact that the court did not grasp fully the singularity of Auschwitz. In her conception, the Nazis’ crimes were unprecedented and constituted “crimes against humanity.”
However, the source of most of the anger against her lay elsewhere. What brought about her boycott in Israel was her interpretation of Eichmann and her characterization of the victims of the Shoah.
Arendt objected to the prosecution’s depiction of Eichmann as having been guided by a racist, murderous ideology. She offered an alternative interpretation: Eichmann as a bureaucrat engaged in advancing his career, who avoided contending with the consequences of his own deeds. Arendt contemplated the possible emergence of a “desk murderer” who perpetrates his harrowing crimes from afar, doing no actual killing himself and viewing himself as a law-abiding citizen who obeys his superiors’ orders. This was the context in which she coined her contentious and most widely misunderstood concept of the “banality of evil.”
Though Arendt’s book was subtitled “A Report on the Banality of Evil,” the term itself appears only once in the text, near the end. It has been subjected to endless interpretation. One reason for the initial bewilderment was that Arendt did not explain the term in the book’s first edition. She did so only in a postscript that appeared in a revised and expanded edition published in 1965. Her later references to the term and her personal correspondence with friends shed further light on what she meant.
Arendt explained that she had not attempted in the book to articulate a comprehensive theory of the essence of evil, but rather intended to point to a phenomenon she had noticed during the trial. By “banality of evil,” Arendt had in mind two interconnected ideas. The first is that Eichmann was not a satanic figure or, for that matter, an extreme anti-Semite. He was an ordinary person. He had no motives for his actions other than promoting his own advancement. His deeds were monstrous, but the man himself was banal.
The notion of the “banality of evil” refers to the paradox created by totalitarian society, in which an unprecedented crime is executed optimally by an ordinary bureaucratic apparatus; it suggests the disparity between the vast dimensions of the crime and the unexceptional persona of the criminal. This challenged a long theological, philosophical, moral and legal tradition, extending from Augustine to Kant, which maintained that acts of evil must necessarily be a manifestation of evil intentions, and that the degree of the evil that finds expression in crimes must be consistent with the level of malice of the motives.
The second element that Arendt perceived in Eichmann was “thoughtlessness,” a trait she defined as the “almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view.” But this did not absolve him of responsibility for his deeds. The lesson to be learned from the Eichmann trial, in her view, was that this sort of thoughtlessness, which is “by no means identical with stupidity,” can “wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together which, perhaps, are inherent in man.” Her primary argument was that in the atmosphere prevailing in Nazi Germany, Eichmann could not have distinguished between good and evil. Arendt termed him a “new type of criminal,” who commits his crimes “under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.”
What is so difficult to accept about Arendt’s hypothesis of the “banality of evil” – and what generated opposition to the book in Israel – is that she was positing here a new type of conscience. Contrary to the judgment handed down in the trial, Arendt did not believe that Eichmann needed to “close his ears to the voice of conscience,” or that he lacked a conscience altogether, but that the voice of conscience of “respectable” German society did not tell him that he should feel guilty for his deeds.
Whereas the law in enlightened states presupposes that the voice of conscience tells everyone, “You shall not kill,” the law in Hitler’s state required the voice of conscience to tell everyone, “You shall kill.” Indeed, one of Eichmann’s claims in the trial was, Arendt writes, “that there were no voices from the outside to arouse his conscience.”
An additional reason for the rancor directed at Arendt was her criticism concerning the image of the victims of the Holocaust. She objected to the prosecution’s systematic evasion of dealing with the cooperation of the leaders of the Judenräte (the Jewish councils) with the Nazis. One of the most difficult allegations to accept in the book is that if the Jews had been less well organized, and if they hadn’t had a leadership, the overall number of victims would not have reached the dimensions it did.
“To a Jew,” Arendt asserts, “this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story.” This hypothetical claim is of course unprovable speculation by Arendt.
Some of Arendt’s detractors understood the term “banality of evil” as a description of the crimes themselves. By this thinking, if the Nazis’ crimes were banal, it follows that they were not unforgivable. Others interpreted her comments about the responsibility of Jewish leaders as a classic instance of blaming the victim. Both groups saw her book as a dangerous blurring of boundaries that could lead to moral nihilism. Criticism of this sort, which was raised immediately upon the book’s publication, is still being voiced.
Israeli historian Anita Shapira, for example, maintains that Arendt’s critical approach reflects moral ambiguity, and this is what has made her a favorite of postmodernists. “‘Nothing is at seems.’ There is no truth, no lies, no victim, no murderer. No one is guilty, none are innocent, there is no hierarchy of values, no value is absolute,” Shapira wrote, in a 2004 article, “The Eichmann Trial: Changing Perspectives.”
Elhanan Yakira, former head of the philosophy department of the Hebrew University, asserted in his book “Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust” (published in English in 2009) that “Eichmann in Jerusalem” is not only Arendt’s worst book, it is also “morally scandalous” and a philosophical-moral failure. In a later article, he explained that his attempt to expose the book’s intellectual failure is part of a broad effort to expose the moral failure of today’s critics of Zionism, who cast aspersions on Israel with “the systematic use of the Holocaust as an ideological weapon.”
One of the flagrant mistakes in Yakira’s book is his claim that Arendt engaged in an “act of suppression” vis-a-vis the Nazis’ crimes. Arendt, he maintains, barely refers to the annihilation itself. It is true that Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism focused more on the concentration camps and less on the death camps, but this in no way stemmed from a “suppression” of the crimes. The atrocities of Auschwitz jolted every fiber of her being. The act of annihilation is present throughout her book on Eichmann and guides her thinking.
One author who went a lot farther is Tzvia Greenfield, a Haredi journalist (and briefly a Knesset member from Meretz). In her 2017 Hebrew-language book “Collapse: The Disintegration of the Political Left in Israel,” she repeats the same baseless accusations against Arendt that were voiced 50 years ago. Time and again she reiterates that according to Arendt, “it was precisely the Jews themselves who effectively brought about the catastrophe of the annihilation” through the cooperation of the Judenräte with the Nazis. Greenfield even maintains that Arendt asserted that “Eichmann is the true victim of the historical events.”
It’s doubtful whether Greenfield, who accuses Arendt of expressing views that “border on Holocaust denial,” no less and no more, read “Eichmann in Jerusalem” carefully. Otherwise, it’s hard to understand how she could fault Arendt for undermining the “implications of the Holocaust” in order to justify Israel’s violent treatment of the Palestinians, in a book that was published four years before the Six-Day War. Greenfield draws a direct line between Arendt’s criticism of David Ben-Gurion and Zionist ideology, and the BDS boycott movement, which she maintains is undermining Israel’s legitimacy.
Let’s set the record straight: Nowhere in the book does Arendt absolve the Nazis in general or Eichmann in particular of guilt. Arendt was vehemently opposed to the “cog in the machinery” theory, according to which Eichmann was supposedly not responsible for his actions. Functionaries are human beings, too, and as such are blameworthy and guilty. Eichmann, she argues, was accused as a human being; an individual human was on trial, not the entire Nazi regime. Nor, in contrast to many of her friends, did she object to the death penalty he received.
Furthermore, Arendt never claimed that the Jews were to blame for their own destruction. Her consideration of the role of the Judenrat is indeed an infuriating and painful part of her book, marked by a harshly judgmental approach and insensitivity. Even though her discussion of the topic covers only 12 pages, it was the issue that sparked the fiercest response and the most intense anger against her. Her views concerning the behavior of the Jewish leadership during the Holocaust were very similar to the dominant approach in Israel during its first two decades of existence. The judgmental approach toward the Jewish Police and the leaders of the Judenräte, and against everyone who was suspected of “collaboration” with the Nazis prevailed in the country. This was reflected in legislation – in particular the Law for the Punishment of Nazis and Their Collaborators (1950); in the Kapo trials in the 1950s, and in the trial of Rudolf Kastner in 1955.
At the same time, Arendt did not censure the victims themselves, who went to their death, supposedly, like “sheep to slaughter.” On the contrary: She was critical of Gideon Hausner, the chief prosecutor, for asking survivor witnesses over and over, “‘Why did you not protest?’ ‘Why did you board the train?’ … ‘Why didn’t you revolt and charge and attack?’” She argued that these were silly, cruel questions, which attested to a total misunderstanding of life under the murderous terror of the Nazi dictatorship.
Moreover, she also made a point of noting that no other non-Jewish population under German occupation behaved differently. Idith Zertal adds in her book that the prosecutor’s approach aimed less at understanding the Jewish situation under Nazi rule, than at serving the needs of the Zionist narrative and self-image.
The stand Arendt took on the side of the survivors was given symbolic expression in her choice to sit among them in the courtroom rather than in the section reserved for VIPs and journalists. The hall, Arendt wrote, “was filled with ‘survivors,’ with middle-aged and elderly people, immigrants from Europe, like myself, who knew by heart all there was to know, and who were in no mood to learn any lessons and certainly did not need this trial to draw their own conclusions.” Like many Holocaust survivors, Arendt too thought that the huge crimes committed by the Nazis could not be adequately represented through the trial, but nevertheless acknowledged that there were no other tools with which to judge them.
Arendt had little patience – neither for Hausner’s theatricalities and nor for the dozens of witnesses whose testimony was heard in the trial. Her rhetoric was at times sharply honed, perhaps excessively so. Her tone was steeped in irony and at times showed a lack of empathy toward some of the testimony, infuriating the Jewish community in Israel and abroad. As the Jewish, Turkish-American philosopher Seyla Benhabib noted, many of the terms Arendt used in her book showed an astonishing lack of perspective and judiciousness, and above all strong emotional involvement and lack of distance from the topic she was examining. She wasn’t able to find “the right public language, the right discourse through which to narrate past sorrow, suffering, and loss.”
Zertal, too, believes that Arendt’s rhetoric played a part in rendering the book controversial. “The things themselves,” she told me in an interview, “the caustic, compassionless wording, were frequently more than the people of the time and the people of this place could bear.”
But above and beyond that, she says, “What was acceptable and tolerated for the people of the Yishuv, the Zionist collective ‘we,’ was not permissible for the ‘foreign,’ Diaspora, anti-Zionist woman, as her critics termed her. She burst into the midst of the organized event of the trial and disrupted its ideological messages, which were on the brink of theology, about Zionist redemption that sprang from Jewish annihilation. The fact that she was a woman and a groundbreaking thinker, possessing a brilliant intellect, in a realm of knowledge that was completely ruled by men, did not facilitate her acceptance.”
Beyond this, it is worth dwelling on the ambivalent position that Arendt represents as a Jewish refugee, on the one hand, whose life was shaped by virtue of her Jewishness and by her ties with Zionism, and her critique of the Zionist project, on the other hand, as an outside observer. According to the writer and translator Michal Ben-Naftali, who was deeply influenced by Arendt and devoted a book to her, “It is impossible even for a moment to accuse Arendt of being alienated from her Jewishness. Not only is she occupied with the commitment and responsibility that stem from that identity, but from the 1940s onward she writes about Jewish and Zionist matters from a position of involvement and concern, though this never leads to integration or an unequivocal sense of solidarity.”
Ben-Naftali adds, “It seems to me that precisely the uncommon fusion of caring and critical distance generates suspiciousness toward her in the best case, and massive recoil in the less-than-best case.”
Saving the Jewish state
Even though Arendt didn’t see herself as belonging to any political group, and even if it’s hard to tag her as “left” or “right,” her critical writing anticipated some of the central issues that appeared years later in studies conducted by the “New Historians” and “post-Zionists.” Already in early articles from the 1940s, Arendt was critical of the Jewish nation-state, supported binational and multinational political frameworks, and warned about the threat posed to the Arab population of Palestine. In her book about Eichmann she came out against what she perceived as the Zionist project’s exploitation of the memory of the Holocaust. Arendt touched plenty of raw nerves, which continue to generate searing disputes.
In 1948, at the height of Israel’s War of Independence, and long before the Nation-State Law was promulgated and before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the plans for of Auschwitz-Birkenau at the UN General Assembly, Arendt wrote the following in an article titled “To Save the Jewish Homeland”: “And even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the unique possibilities and the unique achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed. The land that would come into being would be something quite other than the dream of world Jewry, Zionist and non-Zionist. The ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded inside ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities.
“The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy; economic development would be determined exclusively by the needs of war.”
Zertal’s 2018 book “Refusal: Conscientious Objection in Israel” (in Hebrew), which deals with the issue of political evil and the possibilities of rising up against it, examines the intellectual, political and historical background of conscientious objection to army service in Israel, particularly in relation to the occupation. “Eichmann in Jerusalem” is the book’s point of departure. Zertal shows how Arendt’s ideas, including the “banality of evil,” “which were rejected and repressed for years, are present in the thinking of young Israelis and influence their choices and their decisions” during their army service and afterward. The book contains interviews with soldiers of various ranks, from reserve officers to former Shin Bet security services director Ami Ayalon, who talk about how they became functionaries who only did their duty in operational actions, in a narrow realm that left them little room for thought.
“She is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential thinkers of the 20th century,” Zertal told me. “And she chose consciously not to be a philosopher in the sense of thinking and reflection in isolation from the world, but saw herself as a political thinker whose philosophy is nourished by life’s experiences. She experienced it all first-hand: world wars, Nazism, the Holocaust, totalitarianism, revolutions, postcolonialism, refugeehood and migration. Rare are the thinkers who have introduced into their work so many critical issues for deciphering the world, and did so with an intellectual passion and brilliance and with such uncompromising courage as Arendt.” I asked Ben-Naftali what she thinks makes Arendt unique. She replied that she was drawn to her thought “because of her nonconformist courage and because of her effort to dissolve clichés and norms of thought impartially.” According to Ben-Naftali, “Arendt’s writing is informed by tremendous complexity. It seems to me that many people cannot bear complexity in contexts that they consider to be ‘volatile.’ That tendency renders many of the debates on public issues superficial and effectively superfluous, and not only in this context.
“In a certain sense, Arendt knew that. She knew she was aiming for what was intolerable and was acting just plain tactlessly, touching on things that were not yet ripe to be touched on. There aren’t many people who are capable of doing that and paying the kind of price that she did. In a way, the book was aimed, already when it was published, at the sensibilities of a generation younger than the one Arendt herself was part of. From this point of view, Arendt’s writing still awaits us in years to come.”
Dr. Michal Aharony is a researcher of the Holocaust and political philosophy, and author of “Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Total Domination: The Holocaust, Plurality, and Resistance” (Routledge, 2015). Her website is https://michalaharony.net/.
Does Ilhan Omar not realize that Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, when Israel removed every soldier and settler from that area?
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a statement condemning Israel for “targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, including children and infants.” Irresponsibly, it never once mentioned the firing of 698 rockets by the rules of Gaza that target Israeli civilians, and it never mentioned the sad reality that Hamas and Islamic Jihad deliberately use “Palestinian civilians, including children and infants” as human shields in order to increase the number of Palestinian civilians who are inadvertently killed or injured by Israel’s legitimate efforts to protect its civilians from unlawful rocket attacks.
Israel is also celebrating its 71st year of independence. No nation has contributed so much to humankind in so short a period of time. No nation faced with threats compared to those faced by Israel has ever had a better record of human rights, compliance with the rule of law or concern with avoiding civilian casualties. The world should join Israel in celebrating its 71 years of statehood. The world should also recognize that if Israel’s enemies stopped attacking its citizens, there would be peace. But if Israel stopped defending its citizens, there would be genocide.
All decent people should be outraged at the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that fired 698 rockets at Israeli civilians, killing four, injuring 234 and traumatizing thousands of innocent children. Pictured: A house in the city of Ashkelon, Israel that was damaged by a rocket strike from the Gaza Strip on May 6, 2019. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
All decent people should be outraged at the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that fired 698 rockets at Israeli civilians, killing four, injuring 234 and traumatizing thousands of innocent children. Imagine what other countries, including the United States, would do if lethal rockets targeted their civilians. Yet, Israel has responded with restraint. To be sure, 30 Palestinians were killed and 154 injured by Israeli efforts to stop the rocket rampage. Many of these were terrorists, but some were civilians who were put in harm’s way by the terrorists.
These deaths and injuries were caused by the tactic employed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad: they deliberately place their rocket launchers in densely populated areas — near schools, hospitals and mosques — in a deliberate effort to maximize Arab civilian casualties. This has been called “the dead baby” or “CNN” strategy. The goal is to have CNN and other media show the children and other civilians that Israeli counter-measures have inadvertently killed in trying to stop the terrorist rockets from killing Israeli children and other civilians.
Tragically, this strategy works, because with the media, “if it bleeds, it leads.” The visual media loves to show dead and injured children, without explaining that they are actually encouraging such casualties by playing into the hands of the terrorists.
So, too, is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar encouraging the firing of rockets by Hamas and Islamic Jihad by blaming the Israeli victims for what she calls the “cycle of violence,” instead of blaming Hamas and Islamic Jihad for initiating terrorist violence against innocent Israeli civilians.
In a tweet following the rocket barrage, Omar justifies the double war crimes committed by terrorists who target Israeli civilians while using Palestinian civilians as human shields. She asks rhetorically, how many “rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends?” This implies that these war crimes are justified by what she calls the “occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Does Omar not realize that Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, when Israel removed every soldier and settler from that area? Gaza could have become Singapore on the Mediterranean, with its port and location. The Israelis left behind greenhouses and other facilities. Europe and Qatar poured money into the Gaza Strip. But Hamas — which forcefully took over from the Palestinian Authority — decided to turn it instead into a large-scale rocket launcher. Instead of using its newly acquired resources to provide humanitarian benefits to its residents, it used them to build terror rockets and tunnels that targeted Israeli civilians. This forced Israel to take counter-measures to protect its citizens. To use the “occupation” — there is no longer any occupation — as a justification for why “rockets must be fired” is to show both ignorance and bigotry.
Nor is Omar alone in blaming Israel for the rocket attacks on its civilians. The ADC (American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) issued a statement condemning Israel for “targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, including children and infants.” Irresponsibly, it never once mentioned the firing of 698 rockets by the rulers of Gaza that target Israeli civilians, and it never mentioned the sad reality that Hamas and Islamic Jihad deliberately use “Palestinian civilians, including children and infants” as human shields in order to increase the number of Palestinian civilians who are inadvertently killed or injured by Israel’s legitimate efforts to protect its civilians from unlawful rocket attacks.
The conflict in Gaza will only get worse if terrorism is encouraged by the lies of commission and omission told by Omar, ADC and other supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All decent people must try to discourage the targeting of civilians by terrorist rockets and tunnels. A good beginning would be to tell the truth.
I write these words from Israel, which is now commemorating the many soldiers who have fallen during its years of fighting against those who would destroy the nation state of the Jewish people. Israel is also celebrating its 71st year of independence. No nation has contributed so much to humankind in so short a period of time. No nation faced with threats compared to those faced by Israel has ever had a better record of human rights, compliance with the rule of law or concern with avoiding civilian casualties. The world should join Israeli in celebrating its 71 years of statehood. The world should also recognize that if Israel’s enemies stopped attacking its citizens, there would be peace. But if Israel stopped defending its citizens, there would be genocide.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, author of The Case Against the Democrats Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse Publishing, 2019, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
A new book sheds light on the Hollywood star’s heroic wartime activities.
Film icon Audrey Hepburn long hinted that she was active in the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis as a girl living in Nazi-occupied Holland. Now a biography of the star by Robert Matzen, called Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II has uncovered previously unknown ways that Hepburn, and her mother, aided the Allies.
Audrey Hepburn was only ten years old when World War II broke out. At the beginning of the war, she seemed like an unlikely heroine: she was born into an upper class Dutch family and some of her relatives were sympathetic to the Nazis. Six years later, her life was unrecognizable, marked by poverty and trauma and loss – and by secret work for the heroic Dutch resistance.
Hepburn was born in Belgium in 1929. Her mother Ella van Heemstra was a baroness, and her father was an Austrian-British banker. Both parents had fascist sympathies; they had met privately with Hitler in 1935, and Hepburn’s mother once wrote for a Nazi newsletter, saying, “Well may Adolf Hitler be proud of the rebirth of this great country and of the rejuvenation of the German spirit.”
Hepburn’s father walked out on the family in 1935. She and her mother moved to England for a few years, where Audrey Hepburn attended a private boarding school near Dover, but with war on the horizon the two returned home to Holland in 1939, settling in the eastern city of Arnhem. Hepburn’s mother took a job selling furniture, and for a while the Netherlands was peaceful and safe from the Nazi war machine at its borders.
That peace was shattered in May 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Soon, German troops were installed in every town and village, street signs were changed from Dutch to German, and the Nazi swastika replaced Dutch flags flying over town halls. Hepburn’s school curriculum was drastically altered: “In the schools,” Audrey Hepburn later recounted, “the children learned their lessons in arithmetic with problems like this: ‘If 1,000 English bombers attack Berlin and 900 are shot down, how many will return to England?’”
Soon, Hepburn witnessed unimaginable tragedies. She later recalled seeing a group of Jews being forced onto a train in 1941. “I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child… Then I realized what would have happened to him.”
Audrey Hepburn and her mother Ella, Baroness van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston
In 1942, the Nazis’ orgy of killing finally hit Hepburn’s family directly. Her uncle Otto van Limburg Stirum was arrested with four other men accused of anti-Nazi activities. They were driven to a forest, forced to dig their own graves, then tied to a stake and shot to death. This finally shook Hepburn’s mother’s faith in Nazism and she became a vocal opponent of Nazism and its cruelties.
Mother and daughter moved to the small town of Velp, where Hepburn’s grandfather lived, and explored ways to help the secret Dutch resistance in their fight against the Nazis.
Hepburn was only a teenager but she found ways to materially aid the resistance. She’d studied ballet for years and hoped to become a professional dancer. Now she used her dancing talents to help the resistance.
Audrey with her mother, Ella, in London in the late 1940s
In 1944, when she was 15, Hepburn began volunteering with Dr. Hendrik Visser’t Hooft, a Christian theologian who was a committed anti-fascist. Throughout World War II, Dr. Hooft organized contact and deliveries between the Dutch resistance and the Dutch Government in exile in London. With Hepburn’s aid, he organized secret dance recitals where Hepburn would perform, raising money for the resistance. They called these top-secret performances “zwarte avonden”, or “black evenings” because of their top-secret nature and the fact that they had to blacken out the windows so nobody would guess what was going on inside.
“Guards were posted outside to let us know when Germans approached,” Hepburn later described. “The best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.”
Hepburn also aided Dr. Hooft with his courier work, delivering the underground anti-Nazi newspaper the Oranjekrant throughout the area on her bicycle. Because paper was hard to get hold of in wartime Holland, the Oranjekrant was tiny, only a few inches square. “I stuffed them in my woolen socks in my wooden shoes, got on my bike and delivered them,” Hepburn later explained. A fluent English speaker, she also delivered messages from the resistance to Allied pilots who’d been shot down.
For a time, Hepburn’s family sheltered a British pilot who’d been shot down over Holland. Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti is recorded in the book explaining that this was his mother’s favorite story to tell about World War II. “My mother told me it was thrilling for her – it was risky, he was a stranger in uniform, a savior, and therefore a knight and hero. Then I learned about the German law that if you were caught hiding an enemy, the whole family would be taken away.”
By the end of the war, Hepburn and her mother were reduced to living in a cellar to avoid aerial bombings. They had very little heat, water, or food. At times Hepburn would go several days at a time without eating; by the end of the war, when she was 16, she weighed just 88 lbs.
When her town was liberated by Allied troops in 1945, Hepburn and her family rushed outside, only to find themselves surrounded by armed soldiers pointing guns at them. Hepburn spoke to the soldiers in English and the troops started cheering. “Not only have we liberated a town, we have liberated an English girl!” one of the soldiers cried.
After the war, Hepburn continued to dance and also modeled. She acted in her first movie in 1948, and later danced in a musical in London’s West End. She moved to New York in 1951 to star in the musical Gigi on Broadway.
Audrey Hepburn with Otto Frank and his second wife.
Years later, after she was established as a major star, Hepburn was asked to play Anne Frank in a movie. Anne Frank’s father Otto Frank personally asked Hepburn to play his daughter, but Hepburn felt there was no way that she could. Both girls were born the same year and grew up not far from each other in Holland. Hepburn had read Anne Frank’s diary and felt an overwhelming kinship with the murdered Jewish girl. “That child had written a complete account of what I had experienced and felt” during the war, Hepburn told her son.
“I was so destroyed by it (reading Anne’s diary) again, that I said I couldn’t deal with” playing Anne Frank in a movie, a sorrowful Hepburn explained as she turned down the role. “It’s a little bit as if this had happened to my sister,” Hepburn explained. “In a way she was my soul sister.”
Despite her fame as an actress, Hepburn was most proud of her resistance activities during World War II. “The war was very, very important to her,” Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti says in the book. “It made her who she was.”
Hermann Goering fue la mano derecha de Hitler y el fundador de la Gestapo (quiera Dios que este monstruo sufra las verdaderas y justas consecuencias por sus actos).
Albert Goering era el hermano menor de Hermann. Mientras su maníaco hermano mataba judíos, Albert trabajó incansablemente para salvarlos.
Los hermanos Goering, con sólo dos años de diferencia, crecieron en un castillo en Bavaria. Desde muy temprana edad fue obvio que eran muy diferentes. Hermann era audaz, confiaba en sí mismo y estaba obsesionado con juegos de guerra. Albert era tímido y reflexivo.
Más tarde, desde su celda en Núremberg, Hermann le dijo a un psiquiatra: “Albert siempre fue mi antítesis”.
En la década de 1930, el despiadado Hermann ascendió en los rangos del partido nazi hasta convertirse en el principal comandante militar de Hitler.
Albert se oponía por completo al nazismo y en protesta partió de Alemania. Se mudó a Viena, donde trabajó en la industria cinematográfica y había varios judíos entre sus amigos más cercanos.
A medida que se intensificó la campaña de Hermann en contra de los judíos, así también se afianzó la decisión de Albert de ayudarlos.
Una vez, en Viena, Albert se encontró con un grupo de matones nazis que habían colocado un letrero alrededor del cuello de una anciana judía proclamando: “soy una cerda judía”. Una multitud se había reunido para burlarse de la mujer.
Albert se abrió paso entre la muchedumbre y empujó a dos oficiales de la Gestapo para salvar a la mujer. Su vida podría haber terminado allí mismo, cuando la multitud se volvió en su contra. Pero los hombres de la SS exigieron ver sus documentos.
Cuando vieron su nombre, lo escoltaron a un lugar seguro, en deferencia a Hermann.
Cuando los nazis arrestaron a los amigos judíos de Albert en Viena, una vez más Albert aprovechó su singular posición para salvarlos.
Él falsificó documentos, usando el nombre de su hermano, para ayudar a su viejo amigo Jacques Benbassat a escapar a Suiza, y aprovechó su influencia para lograr que su ex jefe Oskar Pilzer, y toda la familia Pilzer, fueran liberados. Una y otra vez salvó vidas judías.
Familias enteras deben su existencia a Albert. Él salvó a muchos judíos enviando camiones a los campos de concentración pidiendo trabajadores. Una vez a bordo, los camiones los llevaban a un bosque y les permitían escapar.
Después de la guerra, Albert fue aprisionado y llevado a Núremberg, donde lo interrogaron durante 15 meses. Nadie creyó su historia hasta que 34 judíos que él había salvado emitieron declaraciones juradas en su beneficio.
Lo liberaron, pero rápidamente descubrió que su nombre lo convertía en un paria y le era imposible obtener un empleo. Albert se hundió en la depresión y el alcoholismo, sobrevivió gracias a una mínima pensión del gobierno y a los alimentos que le enviaban los judíos que él había salvado.
Murió en la oscuridad en 1966.
El heroísmo de Albert durante la guerra fue desconocido hasta que hace poco salieron a la luz documentos de los archivos británicos que muestran que él salvó a cientos de judíos. Su vida demuestra que somos nosotros —y sólo nosotros— los que definimos nuestras opciones y determinamos nuestro camino en la vida, no nuestros parientes.
El libre albedrío es el “regalo más grande” a la humanidad, un regalo que por sí mismo hace que valga la pena vivir.
La creencia en la elevación del hombre por sobre los animales está siendo atacada en occidente. La negación del libre albedrío –y con ella la posibilidad de la moralidad— es central en este ataque. Si el hombre no posee la libertad de elegir, no es más moralmente culpable de sus actos que un león por comerse a su presa. Al final de cuentas, es sólo otro animal cuyas acciones están determinadas por sus instintos.
En un artículo reciente en el periódico The New York Times, Dennis Overbye pasa de su incapacidad para resistirse a las tortas de chocolate en el menú de postres a considerar un “grupo de experimentos en años recientes que sugieren que la mente consciente es como un mono cabalgando un tigre de decisiones subconscientes… inventando frenéticamente historias sobre estar en control”.
Mark Hallet, un investigador neurológico, le informa a Overbye que el libre albedrío no es nada más que una ilusión, una sensación que tiene la gente. El profesor de filosofía Michael Silberstein señala que todos los sistemas físicos que han sido investigados resultan ser o deterministas o aleatorios. Ambas alternativas son inconsistentes con el libre albedrío.
Muchos encuentran conveniente utilizar la compulsión como defensa para evitar la censura moral de su propia consciencia o de la de los demás.
Hallet tiene razón en que nadie experimenta consistentemente la vida como una existencia carente de toda decisión – incluso Overbye podría resistir la torta de chocolate si la recompensa fuese lo suficientemente grande o el castigo lo suficientemente inmediato. Sin embargo, de vez en cuando, muchas personas encuentran conveniente utilizar la compulsión como defensa para evitar la censura moral de su propia consciencia o de la de los demás (“El corazón quiere lo que quiere”, dice Woody Allen acerca de su romance con su hija adoptiva de 17 años).
La vida sin la sensación “de que las cosas están realmente siendo decididas de un momento a otro, y que no es la tonta recitación de una cadena que fue forjada innumerables generaciones antes”, escribió William James, perdería toda su “gracia y excitación”.
La Torá identifica al acto de la elección moral con la vida misma: “He ubicado delante de ti la vida y la muerte, la bendición y la maldición, elige la vida” (Deuteronomio 30:19). La vida de verdad es poder elegir la bendición sobre la maldición. Isaac Bashevis Singer lo dijo bien cuando le dijo a un entrevistador que el libre albedrío es el “mejor regalo” de la vida, un regalo que por sí mismo hace que valga la pena vivir.
Diferente a lo Animal
Afortunadamente, aquellos que atesoran su sentido de identidad como seres electores no admiten que nuestras elecciones son ilusorias o que el hombre no es nada más que un animal dirigido por el instinto. El hombre difiere de cualquier miembro del reino animal en miles de cosas. Sólo el hombre puede imaginar una variedad de posibilidades futuras y guiar sus acciones de acuerdo a esas posibilidades.
Hans Jonas señala en Tool, Image, and Grave: On What is Beyond the Animal in Man (Herramienta, Imagen y Tumba: Las Cosas en el Hombre que están Más Allá del Animal) tres cosas con las que el hombre se distingue de los animales. Sólo el hombre diseña herramientas para alcanzar propósitos en particular. Sólo el hombre crea imágenes físicas para recordar eventos del pasado o para contemplar posibilidades futuras. Y sólo el hombre entierra a sus muertos, y es motivado por un cuerpo sin vida a contemplar algo más allá del universo físico. “La metafísica surge de las tumbas” nos informa Jonas.
Los procesos mentales no pueden ser reducidos a las reglas del universo físico, ni la mente puede ser confundida con los impulsos eléctricos del cerebro. Las leyes del universo físico, de las que habla el Profesor Silberstein, nos permiten predecir eventos futuros. Sin embargo, no puede hacerse lo mismo con la vida humana. ¿Cuál, por ejemplo, sería el paralelo en las leyes del universo físico al fenómeno de un baal-teshuvá (una persona que retorna al judaísmo)? – él ha elegido ahora una vida que va en desacuerdo a toda su educación y crianza
En sus Leyes de Arrepentimiento, Maimónides describe un acto de arrepentimiento absoluto: “Ha tenido relaciones prohibidas con una mujer, y después de un período de tiempo, se encuentra a solas con ella. Su amor por ella es constante, no ha mermado en sus capacidades físicas… sin embargo se separa y no peca”. Todo sigue igual, excepto por la elección del actor involucrado. ¿Quién no ha experimentado una lucha interna comparable y, con la ayuda de Dios, un triunfo similar?
“Ustedes niegan el libre albedrío porque en realidad son esclavos, se han esclavizado al mal de su interior”.
Esto no implica que el rango de nuestras elecciones sea ilimitado. Cada uno de nosotros es producto de su educación. Y cada uno de nosotros nace con una personalidad única (como todo padre sabe). Tampoco es el ejercicio de nuestra elección aleatoria. Si la gente no se encontrara repitiendo patrones de comportamiento familiares, nadie iría a un terapeuta.
Finalmente, la mente humana no es una tabula rasa, como demuestran el trabajo de Chomsky en estructuras lingüísticas y el de Piaget en razonamiento moral. El sicólogo de Harvard Daniel Gilbert muestra en Stumbling on Happiness (Tropezando con la Felicidad) todas las formas en las que cometemos errores sistemáticos cuando nos proyectamos hacia el futuro.
En su Discurso sobre Libre Albedrío, el rabino Eliahu Dessler describe cómo el área del libre albedrío difiere entre una persona y otra, en base a la educación y otros factores, y cómo cambia constantemente. Sólo es posible hablar del ejercicio del libre albedrío en el punto en el que la aprensión de la verdad por parte de la persona –es decir, lo que es correcto— está en perfecto balance con un deseo contrapuesto. Precisamente en ese punto, nada más allá de la persona misma determina el resultado.
El rabino Dessler emplea, para ejemplificar el proceso, la metáfora espacial de un campo de batalla. El punto en el cual la batalla es librada es el punto de libre albedrío. Detrás de la línea de batalla está el territorio capturado – el área en donde la persona no siente la tentación de hacer lo que percibe como incorrecto. Y detrás de las líneas del enemigo están todas las áreas en las que la persona todavía no tiene la capacidad de elegir.
El frente de batalla se mueve constantemente. Con cada victoria (cada elección correcta) la persona avanza. Y retrocede con cada derrota. El Faraón provee el paradigma de lo último. Por haber endurecido su corazón repetidamente, finalmente perdió la capacidad de ejercitar su libre albedrío.
En el contexto contemporáneo, el rabino Dessler remarcó que aquellos que niegan la existencia del libre albedrío lo hacen porque al fallar en desarrollar su propia voluntad, mediante el ejercicio positivo del libre albedrío, han perdido su libertad.
“Ustedes niegan el libre albedrío porque en realidad son esclavos, se han esclavizado al mal de su interior”.