Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson
Looking Back at the Arab Spring

Old Magazines

The “Arab spring” has turned out to be pretty much of a bust with no real political or economic progress left in its wake. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been killed since the “Arab Spring” and almost all of them were killed by their fellow Arabs.


Rabbi Berel Wein

When I moved away from Chicago and further from my parents, my mother was ever fearful for my continued intellectual development. In order to allow me to be wise about current events she would send to me by mail the previous month’s collection of TIME magazines. I was always impressed by the fact that when I read these magazines weeks after their time sensitive publication, I invariably found that they had gotten everything all wrong.

Their predictions as to events that would occur was woefully inaccurate and their analysis of situations proved to be shallow and of little real strategic value. Yet I had to keep on reading these magazines for after all my mother sent them to me and she always inquired of me as to their welfare and cogency.

But this experience of receiving these old magazines – which went on for many years - cured me of the belief in political and economic experts and pundits. Unforeseen events always arose to mock their oracular predictions and assessments. I always thought of the verse: "He Who sits in Heaven laughs and the Lord mocks them."

So I developed the habit, nevertheless, of only reading old magazines, for in their now evident false understanding of reported events, I did find fiendish enjoyment and perverse pleasure. I imagine that since few people read old magazines except when sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, the magazines can keep on churning out their assessments, predictions and analyses without fear of being exposed as being as constantly mistaken…. as they truly are.

I recently read a March 2011 issue of a popular English language Israeli magazine. It was just gushing with articles and an editorial about the creation of a new Middle East due to the "Arab Spring" that deposed the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and would now proceed to do so in Syria, Jordan and the Gulf States as well.

Well the "Arab spring" has turned out to be pretty much of a bust with no real political or economic progress left in its wake. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been killed since the "Arab Spring" and almost all of them were killed by their fellow Arabs. The Middle East has become even more unstable and volatile than before and all of the rosy predictions about the "new" Middle East are laughable in retrospect.

And the usual tired rhetoric about the Palestinians and the solution to their plight and problems advanced in the magazine seem to be so unrealistic as to be almost preposterous. I am forced to wonder whether the political and diplomatic leaders of the world ever bother to read old magazines. I am confident that if they did then their policies, statements and goals would be much more realistic than they currently are.

There is no reason to keep on beating dead horses and to repeat past failures. Read the magazines of the Oslo era and weep. Events on the ground truly mock the past wisdom of journalistic experts.

The Torah bids us to remember the past in a meaningful fashion. By this it means not only to remember past events and personalities – and that is certainly necessary for a meaningful present Jewish life – but also to remember the inaccurate assessments that were regarded as infallible in the past.

Remember what wise men once said was impossible to occur, nevertheless did occur. Remember the fallibility of all human beings and the fact that great people often are capable of great mistakes. Remember that the race is not always to the swift or the battle to the courageous and mighty. All of this should be part of the memory bank of the Jewish people.

Remember false messiahs that led us astray and great scholars who erred in their assessment of future events that would befall the Jewish people. Remembrance of the past limits present hubris and arrogance, fanaticism and wild innovations. There were many who said that the Holocaust could never happen but it did.

There were others from diametrically opposed poles of the Jewish world that said that a Jewish state could not be created and if so created would collapse within fifteen years of its initial establishment. They have also been proven to be inaccurate in their predictions and in their understanding of God’s will. That does not diminish their greatness but it does prove their humanity and that all human beings are fallible. If you have doubts about this just find some old magazines and start reading them.
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