The German word “weltanshauung” is defined as “a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it.” Weltanshauung is the term used by “intellectuals” when describing the total concept of an individual’s view of life, or “worldview.” We all have a weltanshauung even though we may not be aware of it. Our worldview is derived from our individual experiences, cultural surroundings, traditions, beliefs and the myriad other factors that comprise the sum total of our individual selves. The weltanshauung of an ancient Greek was different from that of an ancient Roman, which was different from that of an ancient Judean, ad infinitum. Similarly, the weltanshauung of an American is different from that of a Russian or a German.
For centuries, these different worldviews have been treated as incompatible. The thought was that if one was “right” then the other, by definition, was “wrong.” But “different” does not have to connote right or wrong; sometimes it can just mean an alternative way of approaching life.
The Jewish approach to life is unique and often our way of thinking is very different from the approach of our Christian neighbors. One example is the way adherents of each faith deal with the apparent anomalies and contradictions among portions of the scriptures. Based on my discussions with various pastors and other Christian believers, it is my understanding that when an observant Christian studies the scriptures, he accepts these anomalies and accepts the contradictions as part of the “mystery” of G-d. The Jewish belief is that G-d’s deep truth is only revealed when these apparent contradictions are reconciled. Jews typically study Torah in pairs and the study process consists of the pair asking each other question after question, trying to reconcile the contradictions, at times bending like pretzels in the attempt to find the (necessary) reconciliation. I am of the firm belief that the incessant questions that Jews are so fond of asking originate from this process.
If you have been reading my columns, you have undoubtedly perceived a meme running throughout: I approach life from a particularly Jewish viewpoint. There are several reasons for this approach. One is that I am particularly Jewish and I view life through my Jewish eyes. It is who I proudly am. However, there is a second reason why my themes stress a Jewish viewpoint: I view Judaism as the keystone upon which Western civilization is built. It is an essential part of the Judeo-Christian ethic to which we subscribe.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat in Israel, believes that to “reset” the calculus that for years has driven incompatibility among our various weltanshauungs, we need to go back to the basics. In furtherance of that purpose, he has established The Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation (the “CJUC”) in Israel, to which Christians can come to study the Hebrew Bible with Orthodox rabbis. Rabbi Riskin is a firm believer that in teaching Christians about Judaism, he helps them to better understand their own faith, thereby facilitating mutual respect. I have spoken to a number of pastors who have studied at the CJUC and — without exception — they have expressed profound gratitude for the fact that their understanding of their own Christianity was incalculably deepened by their experience in studying the basics of Judaism.
I had a discussion the other day with a very close friend of mine, a non-Jew, who is insatiably curious and constantly questioning issues of faith and G-d. We were discussing the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates a time when the king of ancient Persia, at the instigation of his chief counselor, Haman, had designated a particular day on which all the Jews in his kingdom were to be murdered. In the end, because of the intercession of the queen, Esther (who had revealed herself as a Jewess), the Jews were permitted to arm themselves and fight back against the murderous mob, killing and wiping out the Persian rabble.
I brought up the fact that unlike Christians, we Jews have no obligation to turn the other cheek. We are not required to love our enemies or forgive those who do us harm. Jewish law and tradition teaches that anyone who loves his enemies is a damned fool. The Talmud (the book of Jewish laws) specifically says: “If a man comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” We are told that we should not be the initial aggressors, but that if someone comes to kill us, we must rise up and kill him first. I have always been intrigued that such a different viewpoint could stem from the same source.
In the Torah (the Jewish bible), we read of the evil nation of Amalek, mortal enemies of the Jews and how G-d commanded King Saul to do battle against and destroy the Amalekites, including their women, children and even their cattle and erase even their memory, so that they could not ever again rise up to kill the Jews. King Saul lost his throne because out of pity he disobeyed that commandment and didn’t wipe out every last Amalekite, but let the King and some of the women and children live. As a result, we are told that a descendant of Amalek rises in every generation, seeking to destroy us. Our laws teach us that we not only have the right to defend ourselves, it is our positive obligation. We don’t “love” our enemies; we destroy them.
That is one of the primary contradictions of Jewish life. We must, according to the prophet Micah, do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with G-d. By the same token, we must destroy Amalek, to include their women and children and their cattle. This is a contradiction that can be reconciled. It is the Jewish worldview that we must do all that we can to live peacefully with our neighbors. But, if they come against us, we must defend ourselves completely and, with overwhelming force, neutralize whatever threat is presented. No half measures. No tiptoeing. No precious gavottes. Shock and awe. That is the appropriate response.
I am well aware that this is inconsonant with the political correctness of our times and it is unbearably dissonant to many Christian (and Jewish) ears. But this worldview represents the experience of thousands of years. “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”
What does that mean today? No two-state solutions. No extortion payoffs masquerading as “aid.” No handshakes in the Rose Garden. The so-called “palestinian” people — modern Amalekites — were invented in the 1960s by the murderous public relations genius, the terrorist Arafat. Today’s Amalekites have been given multiple opportunities to stand down. They have refused (far more times than they should have been permitted). Now, it should be ended. Do not misunderstand me. I do not now advocate that we should “wipe them out.” But they must be completely neutralized. No expectation of Israeli land; no welfare from the United Nations. No quarter from the Israelis.
This is true of all of our enemies. North Korea is close to developing the means to send nuclear missiles against the United States and proclaims they will destroy multitudes of us. Why don’t we believe them? Iran tells the world it is close to developing the nuclear missiles to destroy Israel and that its missiles will be capable of reaching Europe. Why don’t we believe them? Sharia-adherent Muslims threaten the lives of non-believers on a daily basis. Why don’t we believe them?
I am praying that our new president will exhibit the strength, leadership and courage that our previous leader lacked. Our enemies must be convinced that if they come to kill us, we will, without hesitation, kill them first. I used to believe the propaganda about the Iranian mullahs wanting to end the world to bring about the coming of the Mahdi, the Muslim messiah. But I no longer believe that. I am now convinced that they are self-involved, power hungry kleptocrats who are not interested in dying. They are interested in sending others to die.
There can be only one appropriate response. Frighten the crap out of them and if that won’t stop them, wipe them out.
I will not go so far as to say that that is the Jewish weltanshauung. But it certainly is mine.
Stuart Kaufman is a retired lawyer, investment banker and businessman. He relocated from New York to Mount Pleasant in 2012. A friend recently told him that he has been a South Carolinian all of his life ... but he just didn’t know it.