This last week has been a lot for a lot of us. I want you to know that I'm devastated to learn about the loss of Bryan Specht, one of the best advocates, dudes, and humans I've ever been honored to know. My heart goes out to his family, the numerous colleagues whose lives he touched, and all the people who won't get to benefit from his brilliance and generosity.
I want to remind you we lost my father Michael Tanzer 23 years ago this month and I want it to not to be overlooked among the grief, nor the small flashes of joy that somehow emerge despite.
And among all of this, the grief and confusion, I also feel outrage about the massacre in Israel, about Hamas, what's happening now in Gaza, and for much of the last week I looked for the right words to say, to somehow capture what I felt. Because the right words are important. Not more important then peace and light, but still a means for making sense of the senseless and finding a path forward. These words from Ori Hanan Weisberg in a post titled "A Decent Liberal Israeli’s Perspective on Gaza" say what I wish could say, would I have the ability to do so. I'm sharing some of it below, though I also hope you will take a look at the longer piece here, which is beautiful, moving, frustrating, and full of the anger so many of us have felt this last week.
"Those of you who know me personally, or even at length virtually, know that I struggle to restrict my responses to such a question to generalities and formalities. On the other hand, I’ve been working over the past year, in the wake of radical upheavals in my personal life, to restrain my openness. Some see that openness as oversharing that overburdens them.
"So, responding to this question is challenging.
"Yes, it would be correct to say that I’m fine. Because in many senses I am. Especially if we contextualize this with how others are doing. And even in this situation, I try to remember that context, and I try to remember both the morality and usefulness of gratitude. But I don’t always find the strength.
"So, for those who want more detail, here it is.
"I’m angry. This is of course to be expected. Joe Strummer (because you knew I’d quote him somewhere here) once wrote “let fury have the hour / anger can be power / you know that you can use it.” He was talking about a rather simple situation of resistance. When anger is directed in one clear direction, and it’s righteous, then outrage, literally directing one’s rage outward, can be an antidote to despair and fear. And if directed effectively, can be a powerful force for change, or at least survival. But that’s not where I am. Because I’m angry in so many directions I struggle to find a center on which to stand. In some senses, all of my angers are pulling me apart.
"Given this predicament, I want to add a caveat before I particularize them. I am conscious of being in extremis. I may change my view on many of the things I lay out here. I may repudiate them. I may be embarrassed by them. I may be very wrong about some of these things, though explaining to me how I am wrong, even if done with good will, likely won’t help either of us. At any rate, the question “how are you?” is in the present. This is how I am now. A snapshot of the moment.
"Yes, I am answering because I know some of you are personally interested, and yes, I am answering because I need to speak, and I live alone, and because I am Ori. But I also know that some have found value (because they’ve told me so) in my openness in sharing my views and experience.
"Nonetheless, I’d like you to keep in mind the most important line in the Book of Job. After Job loses everything and is subjected to intense physical and emotional trauma, he cries out to God, demanding an explanation. Three friends gather to discuss how he might continue to believe in a just and good God and the possibility of a just and good world. And they all mean well.
"The friend who speaks last, Eliphaz the Temani, holds he most correct position. He’s really smart, even wise. He isn’t simply an orthodox (small ‘o’) apologist for religious dogma demanding fidelity. He probes the problem deeply and calls for a complex subject position and view of God and the world. God then speaks to Job from out of the whirlwind, before pivoting to the friends, not addressing all three, but speaking directly to Eliphaz. וַיְהִי אַחַר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל אִיּוֹב וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל אֱלִיפַז הַתֵּימָנִי חָרָה אַפִּי בְךָ וּבִשְׁנֵי רֵעֶיךָ כִּי לֹא דִבַּרְתֶּם אֵלַי נְכוֹנָה כְּעַבְדִּי אִיּוֹב. And after Hashem spoke these words to Job, Hashem said to Eliphaz the Temani, ‘I am incensed with you and your two friends, because you didn’t speak to me appropriately like my servant Job.’”
"God doesn’t commend Eliphaz’s powerful theodicy, one that has provided many later rabbinic theologians – the Rambam (Maimonides) foremost among them (see the discussion of Providence in Part III of the Guide of the Perplexed) – with great intellectual inspiration. He doesn’t say ‘yep, well done Elushkeh, you got it right my brilliant child and your benighted brother Job just needs to listen to you.’ Rather, as the Rambam emphasizes, God rebukes him for being too invested in his own argument and correctness. The great Jewish historian Amos Funkenstein read Job as teaching that we don’t always deserve answers, but we have the right, and even obligation, to demand a hearing. Especially in extremis. Even if we are wrong or lost or broken or. . .angry.
"With that in mind, my answer to the question “how are you?”, that I’m angry includes a list of things I’m angry about. In no special order and certainly no hierarchical ranking.
"I’m angry at Hamas about the vicious slaughter and widespread trauma they inflicted, gleefully, on so many people.
"I’m angry at Israel’s vaunted security and intelligence communities and institutions, whose often appalling moral decisions and violations of rights have been justified with recourse to the necessity for security, for nonetheless failing to keep us safe.
"I’m angry at this absurd government led by a man who has time and again placed his own interests and power above duty to country, while posing as a superlative patriot. And has never paid a political price.
"I’m angry at his party for clinging to him despite his amorality (or immorality) because doing so has served their own interests.
I’m angry that for years he funneled cash from Qatar to Hamas while posing as the only one who can keep Jews safe.
"And I’m angry that so many people bought into this. And angry that so many still do. I’m angry that more than 2% of the population somehow doesn’t want him to resign immediately.
"I’m angry at everyone who voted for any party in this government who hasn’t apologized for empowering such a group of corrupt and irresponsible chauvinists and zealots.
"I’m angry at Hamas for undercutting the struggle for Palestinian rights and lending credence to the caricatures of Palestinians as bloodthirsty savages who just want to kill Jews, which is far from the truth. This will not only cost Palestinian lives in the immediate, but it will also set back their pursuit of justice and dignity by decades. They have alienated hard-won support in the international community. And they have made it harder to stand for their recognition, rights, and justice. Here, in Israel, it makes answering the refrain that ‘they don’t really want freedom, they just want us all dead and gone’ exponentially more difficult. And they have reinforced the flawed attitude that any failure of brutality to subjugate others is evidence of the need for more brutality.
"I’m angry at the harm that this will perpetuate for Israel and Israelis, now and in future generations, on so many levels. Dehumanizing themselves and us, dehumanizing us all, plunging us ever deeper into a morass of hatred and violence. There is no security and dignity for Israeli Jews if there is no security and dignity for Palestinian Arabs."