Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Hobson’s Choices

 

Thomas Hobson was a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, in the late 1500s. It is told that he would offer his customers two choices in purchasing a horse. Either they could take the one he put at the stall nearest to the door or take no horse at all.

His “take it or leave it” choice helped coin a phrase known as “Hobson’s Choice” – a choice in which just one thing is offered.

We know that our enemies don’t want to give us any choices, and the choices that our so-called friends are offering us are quite akin to no choice at all. It’s tough out there and it always has been. We definitely have no say in the Israeli government’s decisions. We hope that with tefillah, we have a say in facilitating the decision of the libos shel sorim who are in the hands of Hashem to make decisions that will lead Klal Yisroel down the right path.

But in a world of turmoil, it’s important to know your enemies well and know your “friends” even better.

Klal Yisroel has been faced with many situations in which the world has been torn asunder. For most of history, while Jews were being persecuted, the world may have expressed concern, albeit tepidly, but for the most part their opinions were relegated to apathy and unobtrusive silence. During the Holocaust, expressions of rage were few and far between, and the excuse of ignorance prevailed, until the war was over and the gasps of incredulous shock were excuses for the coulda shoulda woulda that never happened.

The world is different now. There are no excuses of ignorance. The shock and horror should have moved any human being to incredulous rage. And it did. For a few hours. And then.

There are no excuses that “We did not know.” There are no answers that “We could not expend our resources in helping bomb the present-day Nazis as we needed them elsewhere.”

So there are other excuses. In fact, they are not excuses. They are outright denial. And like the propaganda minister, JG Y’mach Shmo (and thus the initials), said regarding his own propaganda machine, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

And so the words of Queen Rania of Jordan, who was interviewed on CNN, became a rallying cry for Jew-haters and massacre deniers the world over. “It hasn’t been independently verified…that Israeli children [were] found butchered in an Israeli kibbutz. There’s no proof of that.”

Of course, the rabid Jew-haters, who never have and never had a good word to say about any entity that is comprised of Jews, be it an official state, a community or an organization, will rant and rail against any action that they take. They will decry the State of Israel even if they are attempting to root out terror that one day will be thrust against them. It is futile to reason with them, and any argument will end in a non-rational response that will ultimately translate into, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” Even if they play the diplomat, senator or congressman, it will be impossible to sway the deeply rooted biases that come, I believe, from a form a genetic disposition. It is called Eisov and manifests into Yishmoel.

Then there are the uninformed, log-headed college kids. There are thousands of them, and during every era, they pick up an agenda and become totally obsessed with the cause d’etre, as vile, perverse and aberrant as it may be. Try talking to one of them.

Your conversation will be similar to the story that Rabbi Dr. Avrohom Yehoshua Twerski used to tell about the small European shtetel that heard about a marvelous new invention — the locomotive. The government was offering to put a station in the town, but taxes would have to be raised. Skeptical about the concept of a horseless carriage, the townsfolk sent an emis­sary to a nearby village that had just completed a set of tracks on which the new-fangled modern miracle was set to travel. Getzel, the emissary, had one mis­sion: to verify the existence of such a machine and explain its mechanics to the entire town. They would then vote whether or not to accept the train in their midst.

Getzel returned home in awe. He had learned the principles of the machine and was determined to con­vince the townsfolk to accept the offer. Equipped with diagrams and working models of the train, he explained the concepts of a steam engine. For hours, he explicated and demonstrated the workings of the engine, pistons, and levers. Finally, almost everyone agreed — the train was a true marvel and would be a great benefit to the town.

But one man had other ideas. He jumped from his seat. “Bah! Feh! It’s all a trick!” the man exclaimed. “How can something run without a horse? It just can’t be!”

Getzel was prepared. He began the entire presen­tation over again. He even showed the skeptic a work­ing model of a train. Then he boiled water, and as the steam rose, he fasci­nated the crowd by showing how it propelled the model train. It actually moved! Even the doubter was shaking his head in amazement.

“It’s truly amazing,” he nodded in submission. “It really does work. But tell me: Just where do you attach the horses?”

Then there are the others, the so-called compassionate ones. They want to give you aid, they want to give you solace, but the voices of world opinion stifle their thinking as well. So even the support they give you is mitigated by so many caveats, stipulations and limitations. They can support you, but then they tell you exactly what and when and where you can use their support.

Unfortunately, Israel has become like the shnorrer who went collecting one Sunday in the prestigious community shul up in a posh neighborhood pleading for funds. Though the prestigious shul had a “no solicitor” policy, the president of the congregation was somehow convinced of the beggar’s sincerity.

After the three morning minyonim, the man walked out of the shul with a smile.

A few hours later, he parked himself in the town’s most elegant restaurant and ordered a rib-eye steak. The president of the shul walked in and noticed the shnorrer, cloth napkin tucked conspicuously under his chin, with a succulent steak resting on his plate, nestled comfortably between a portion of fried potatoes and asparagus.

Hands on his hips, the flabbergasted president accosted the man.

“Is that what you do with the money you collected in our shul?”

The shnorrer shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t understand. When I don’t have money, I can’t eat steak. When I finally do have money, you say I shouldn’t eat steak. So when, may I ask, can I eat steak?”

75 years ago, there was a vote to give the Jews a state. Now it’s 75 years later. They can have a state. They can’t have a state. They can have two states. They can have a state with a state next to it that is looking to destroy it. They can have a state. But, of course, no steak. They can have Yerushalayim, but not the Kosel. Maybe yes. Maybe not. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow.

With supporters like that, we know that our existence is as shaky as a leaf and that the only surety will come with the true geulah.

 

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