Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Man is an Island

Why should we care what happens to others in Klal? Why should it be our job to see to it that they remain as a member of Klal? Aren't we better off without pieces of our whole that don't want to be a part of that whole and which don't seem to add anything to the whole, at least in our valuation? Are we not strengthened when the weaker elements fall away? I don't happen to be blessed with nevius, and I surely would not want to be the one to have to decide which of my fellow Jews the world can do without.

The problem of caring about others is not limited to Jews alone but seems to be universal. Perhaps we should listen to the words of the poet John Donne.

From “Meditation XVII”
“No Man is an Island”
John Donne

No man is an Island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the Continent,
a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friends
Or of thine own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know
For whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The diminishing of Klal by even one neshomah dimishes us all. And Donne is right--when that death bell tolls, it tolls for all of us. Keeping Klal whole is a job for all of us, or it spells doom for all of us as well. Losing members of Klal is not "their" problem--it's "our" problem.


G said...

Devil's Advocate-

That all sounded real nice but neither you or the poem ever provided a reason why/how.

ProfK said...

Er, G, perhaps because "we hold these truths to be self evident"? Because we are not blessed with nevius and do not know which person from today will be the ancestor of someone who will be necessary to Klal down the road, only that person today needs to remain as a member of Klal? Because either united we stand or divided we fall? Because we are supposed to be a "Klal"--a whole--and missing parts means we aren't or won't be. Because we are told that "pikuay nefesh" is something we all have to be involved in. Or perhaps that when we go to give our final "cheshbon ha'nefesh" answering "it was the other guy's job to save Klal Yisroel" just might not meet with favor. Because it is enlightened self interest to see that Klal remains whole.

There is the figure floating around that 10% of singles won't get married, because there is no one for them to marry. And what, I wonder, would that figure be if we had not already lost so many members of Klal?

G said...

See, that wasn't so hard.

Some better, some worse...but at least it's better than simply stating a question and then providing an assumptive answer.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Donne would have said if he had read the comments thread on New York as the center of the world. Doesn't seem like most people consider themselves a part of all mankind, only some mankind.

Anonymous said...

It's human nature that nobody likes to admit that they don't know the answers to things. They don't like to admit that they are clueless about what to do about a problem. So they hide that through indifference. At least in some cases I don't think that it's that we don't care about other Jews in different circumstances or that we wish them evil. We just don't have any idea about how to solve what we see as a real problem. We know what the word kiruv means but don't know where to begin to apply it. Maybe the first step needs to be admitting our ignorance and then working to gain the knowledge we need.

Anonymous said...

"No Man is an Island"

How about this ? No island is an island (esp. nowadays - especially if there is a bridge connecting it to Brooklyn) !

Okay, maybe the Falklands and some other remote ones. Not all islands are the same. We have to perhaps separate islands into different categories.

When John Dunne wrote those words, islands were generally more remote than today.