Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Operation Protective Edge
To dedicate this lesson

Fecklessness And Unwisdom


Rabbi Berel Wein

In Winston Churchill's epic six-volume memoir of the Second World War, in the first volume entitled "The Gathering Storm," he wrote of the British foreign policy of the 1930s as follows: "[The later disaster was caused by] the English-speaking peoples, [who] through their unwisdom, carelessness and good nature, allowed the wicked to rearm." A good nature is a necessity for personal life and domestic harmony. It is however a disastrous national policy. This is especially true when a nation realizes that it is surrounded by bitter and fanatical enemies who publicly proclaim their intention to destroy it. There are many reasons and causes for the current Gaza war. But certainly one of those reasons is the good nature of Israel and its governments. The stubborn refusal to recognize the realities that we face, the inability to admit that past policies may have been terribly mistaken, combined with a generous sprinkling of unwisdom, carelessness and good nature have certainly allowed our wicked foes to rearm and threaten our very existence. Is it possible that the great Israeli intelligence system was completely unaware of the tens of tunnels being dug from Gaza to Israel? It is most probable that the governments of Israel were aware that these tunnels were being dug but our good nature and carelessness prevented our taking any strong preventive measures. Of course it is the good nature of the rest of the world – in reality, its hypocrisy and latent enmity to Jews and the Jewish state – that colored our vision and restrained our actions. Nevertheless, we have certainly been guilty of, carelessness and a surfeit of good nature.

Surveying the crisis points in the world that we inhabit, one cannot be amazed at the naïve capacity of Europe and the United States in reacting to mortal dangers that will eventually reach them as well. Putin aggressively kills, annexes and blusters, all the while the West clucks and dithers and finally does nothing. Putin is certainly not impressed by Obama warning him that he is "on the wrong side of history." And Hamas does not at all care about the fact that it is responsible for the deaths of so many innocents and thereby illustrates for us its almost genetic lack of good nature. The United Nations’ Human Rights Commission, shamed and debased by its previous Goldstone Report, continues on its merry way of finding Israel as the guilty party committing "war crimes" in Gaza. The makeup of the commission itself is a roster of the worst human rights abusers in the world. But in our unwisdom and good nature we participate in its deliberations and thereby give it a credence that it certainly does not deserve. Iran continues to enrich uranium and build its bomb while the West continues to negotiate. Somehow the world always thinks that if one continues to feed the tiger it will refrain from biting and clawing its victims. Somehow one would hope that by now the necessary lessons have been learned and that we realize that this is not how to be dealing with the tiger. But unwisdom and good nature always seen to win out temporarily until the mortal danger is brought home face-to-face. Then it is much more expensive and costly to deal with the foe. But the foe must eventually be dealt with.

There is no easy discernible solution to the situation that we currently find ourselves in. Crying over spilled milk rarely helps and the rehashing and criticism of past errors is also usually not constructive in the midst of a war. But one lesson can be learned – a lesson that is necessary for the pursuit and success of the current war itself. And that lesson is that we should restrain our good nature somewhat so that we do not fall into the trap of unwisdom and carelessness. The people of Israel has already absorbed thousands of rockets, rioting by Palestinians, worldwide protests that always border on violent anti-Semitism, the fecklessness of Western leaders and the biased reporting of much of the world media. We have withstood all of this because we must do so or otherwise, God forbid, parish. It is difficult to imagine what our fate would be if we were not so strong and resolute in the face of such evil and violence. Being strong and resolute many times does not allow us to be expansive or expressive of our innate good nature. Well then so be it, for the choices and options are starkly clear. We shall not allow our good nature to create for us the climate of carelessness and unwisdom describe for us by Churchill in the opening quote of this essay. Eventually our good nature will win out but only when it is reciprocated by the good nature of others as well.
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