Thursday, September 28, 2006

Of the blogging of many books there is no end

Am Echad has tagged me with the book meme. What could be more appropriate for Jewish bloggers?

(I know, it peaked in mid-August and he tagged me a month ago. So I'm late. Again. So what?)

There's only one problem: How can I name just one? On the assumption that no one reads long blog posts anyway (since they're all busy reading books!), I'll limit myself to the "one book" requested, even though most of the questions have many possible answers. No added commentary, either. If you have questions, just ask!

1. Name one book that changed your life:

Horeb, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

2. One book you've read more than once:

The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea, by John 'Lofty' Wiseman

4. One book that made you laugh:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

5. One book that made you cry:

Probably Cyrano De Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand. Made me laugh, too.

6. One book you wish you'd written:

The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther, by Yoram Hazony.

7. One book you wish had never been written:

The Invention of Ancient Israel, by Keith Whitelam

8. One book you're currently reading:

Education and the State: A Study in Political Economy, by E. G. West

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Whom to tag? Everyone else has probably already done it. So if you're reading this and you blog, consider this an invitation. A personal, warm and sincere one.

Oh, and gmar hatima tova.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Government by the brambles, for the brambles

Writes Hillel Halkin (hat tip: Am Echad):
For years now, fewer talented young Israelis have been going into both politics and military life as the attraction and glamour have declined along with the ideal of public service in general.

The Israeli political system has been increasingly dominated by self-serving careerists. A new, up-and-coming generation of capable future leaders with a true sense of national responsibility is hard to discern.

Etcetera, etcetera. "For years now"? Try "For thousands of years now". The People of the Book need to open it more often. In particular, Judges 9:7-20, commonly known as the Parable of Yotam (Jotham):
The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree: Reign thou over us. But the olive-tree said unto them: Should I leave my fatness, seeing that by me they honour God and man, and go to hold sway over the trees?

And the trees said to the fig-tree: Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig-tree said unto them: Should I leave my sweetness, and my good fruitage, and go to hold sway over the trees?

And the trees said unto the vine: Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them: Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to hold sway over the trees?

Then said all the trees unto the bramble: Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees: If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

The eternal truth: People with genuine skills, talents, creativity and productive ability generally don't go into politics. They have better things to do with their lives. This leaves the political realm dominated by unclever, self-important, self-serving seekers of power and glory. (Hence the overrepresentation of military careerists in Israeli politics.)

This is the way of the world. In Yotam's terms, most politicians have been, are now, and will be brambles. Fortunately, most of them don't do too much damage beyond scratching your ankles. The good ones even manage to provide a bit of shade. Unfortunately, some of them catch on fire and "devour the cedars of Lebanon". Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Any plan to save Israel which depends on the arrival of a selfless, capable and responsible generation of leaders is not a plan, it's a prayer. The appearance of such a leader is a supernatural event, in the sense that it contravenes the way the world normally works.

That's why we pray for the arrival of Mashiach - because it's not possible to plan it and we can't realistically expect it.

Until then, we'll have to manage with the leaders we have to choose from in the real world. However brambly they may be. (Though I agree that our current crop is even more brambly than usual.)

Heads up - new cheesemaking comment

A thoughtful new comment has appeared to my two-year-old post on making cheese from non-kosher animals.