Some have argued that Jews are optimists and others that Jews are pessimists. I think Jews are struggelists.
From the outset the Torah teaches that the world is not paradise. One afternoon in Eden is all we get and then we leave the womb to wail and walk. This is the eternal story; the very name of the Jewish people, Israel, means to struggle with God. Each generation is beset with challenges and both overcomes and succumbs.
Judaism has never been captured by fatalism, never thrown up its collective hands and given in. At the same time it has not been seduced by an easy optimism, as though everything will magically work out. Rather we enshrine the notion of struggle — which means we have the chance to make things better but never perfect. We will never finish the job, but as Rabbi Tarfon reminds us in Pirke Avot, we cannot abandon the struggle either.
It only makes sense to struggle if there is a victory to be claimed. Each victory is partial but a worthy life is composed of serious struggles and partial triumphs. The world yields its sweetness, but not easily. Struggelists of the world, unite.
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