Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Staying Awake

Here’s how it feels to be me.

There’s an underlying disquiet that never really leaves me. I am, at all times, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It could be imminent. It could be years from now. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen to my family in particular, but that something will happen on a global scale that will affect my family. And my biggest concern now is staying awake, staying alert, making sure I do what I can to keep my family safe.

I have been teaching a Jewish history course for several months now. When you look at Jewish history globally, from Biblical times to the present, you have to be struck by how certain themes prevail.

There really are, perpetually, enemies that want to annihilate us. Jewish history truly does keep repeating itself.

And we never learn.

We cozy up, time and again, to our hosts in the Diaspora, and promptly experience group amnesia.

There’s a shul around the corner from my home that has tripled its building size in the last year. Building and building as if the next several decades of Orthodox life in America will be much like the previous ones. That’s group amnesia.

The feeling that something big is coming won’t leave me. So I wake up every day expecting it.

I often think of the Jews in Germany in the 1930s. Of the ones who said, “Something bad is coming,” and of the people in their lives who said, “Don’t be silly. This will all blow over.”

It’s not like I think another physical annihilation is headed our way, Gd-forbid. This time, I think it could come in another realm – an economic annihilation would be particularly fitting for the Jews of America. But if I tell people that I worry that I will awaken one day holding dollars that are worth 10% of what they were worth the night before, they look at me like I’m cracked. When I consider, despite the tax implications, that I should liquidate some of our retirement savings and pay off our Israeli mortgage, even I question whether I’ve taken this currency devaluation worry a bit too far.

But what if I’m right.

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