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Man Cannot Create a Utopia

by Rabbi Yoel Kahn

www.moshiach.com

  

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Contemporary Jewish society treats the concept of the Messiah with much apprehension. Mainstream Jewish life, it seems, has progressed beyond the belief in a Messiah and it appears that only "fringe" Jewish religious groups still take it seriously.

It appears that the more communally active a Jew is in Jewish communal affairs, the more he shuns the concept of the Messiah. But this in itself is not surprising.

On the contrary, it seems only proper that those people who work hard for the social, financial, or educational benefit of the Jewish people should feel alienated by messianism and its promises of a better world to be miraculously brought about by a mythical, righteous redeemer. If this Messiah is the one who will bring about positive transformation of the world, why should one work for the betterment of mankind today?

The belief in the Messiah thus seems at odds with the belief that man is capable of making a better world. Thus, a fundamental understanding of why, indeed, the world requires the Messiah, amid all the great energy being exerted by sincere activists the world over, is necessary.

If one were to succeed at ridding oneself of all conceit, desire, vanity, arrogance, aspiration, pretension, and if one were to supplant it with contentment, satisfaction, lethargy, and indolence, what one would be left with is a very nice but a very pathetic human being
This question is particularly pertinent in modern-day society, where one sees unmistakably how Judaism, with its vision of a better world, has influenced, even brought into being, many movements and "ism's" that can be referred to as secular messianic Utopias.

But, what happened to secular Jewish intellectuals like Marx was that they said, "Why should we wait for this Messiah? Let's do it today! By joining together we are wholly capable of creating a utopia ourselves." And why was he wrong? Why was Karl Marx, or any other secular messiah, wrong? Why was the vision of John F. Kennedy inadequate when he started the Peace Corps in the 1960s, promising to cure the world's ills by focusing the world's attentions and the effort of the younger generation on a solution to the problem. So many people have been influenced by a Jewish concept of a Utopia, of a messiah. Yet, Judaism itself rejects their notion of transforming the world into a perfect place, without the aid of a heavenly redeemer who has been awaited for three millennia.

Killing the machinery that makes us tick

According to Chassidic thought the answer is this: Man will never be able to perfect the world on his own. The moment man says, "Let us vanquish our evil traits. Let us rid ourselves of them. Let us declare war on jealousy, contention, ambition, discord, arrogance, strife, and intuition. Let us cease from all those causes that make us hate each other and act indecently toward one another," he will simultaneously be killing part of himself. He will be annihilating a part of himself that makes him tick, that makes him human, that makes him successful, that makes him a winner.

If one were to succeed at ridding oneself of all conceit, desire, vanity, arrogance, aspiration, pretension, and if one were to supplant it with contentment, satisfaction, lethargy, and indolence, what one would be left with is a very nice but a very pathetic human being. That is the curse of Adam. And that is why one needs a messianic redeemer.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Philosophy » Messiah
Philosophy » Character

Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.