Virtual Talmud

Walter Benjamin, in his essay “Critique of Violence,” discuses the idea of divine biblical justice. Benjamin points out that in the Bible everyone gets what he or she deserves (though it does not seem so commensurate to us; even Job gets paid back for all his suffering).

“An eye for an eye” works with a worldview that has the good guys winning, the bad guys losing, and all those who are deserving of having the land of Israel ultimately triumphing. Those who worship idols and commit sin are struck down and those who worship God and behave in an ethical manner are praised and exalted. But, says Benjamin, the world no longer works in such a manner. The world is corrupted. Justice alludes us, and we are forced to settle on that which is ultimately unfair and unjust.

Benjamin, in his essay, goes so far as to dabble with the idea of a divine form of messianic violence that could knock out injustice in one swoop. For the last month, that’s exactly what Israel tried to do: It attempted to send one quick, powerful blow to Hezbollah, hoping that the good guys would win and the bad guys would lose. What they found out was that we are not living in an ideal messianic age. The world in its current state is unjust. Politics are unjust. Hezbollah not only has not been totally annihilated but speaks with greater authority than it did two months ago.

In the Bible and in our messianic dreams, there is no such thing as a cease-fire. There is only good and bad, death and life. In agreeing to the cease-fire, Israel recognizes that it is time to figure out how to neutralize, manage, and control evil.

Politics are not messianic, and to think otherwise is to live in a delusional world. Israel, and for that matter America, need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to live in a corrupted world. Evil can not be eradicated in the blink of an eye.

The questions Israel must now ask itself are: How do I live an enjoyable, productive, and fruitful life knowing all too well that evil and terror will continue to exist and will not be destroyed any time in the near or distant future? Is it possible to continue to be the great ethical and democratic force being surrounded by idolatry?

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