Old Jews: “Economic and Moral Dust” (Chaim Weizmann)

“These are a rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!'” (Isaiah 30: 9-11).

The messengers were maltreated, mocked, flogged, stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They wandered in deserts and mountains and hid in caves (Hebrews 11:36-38). These were the wandering Jews of faith who did not receive what was promised.

There is another kind of wandering Jew who witnessed – unknowingly – the fulfilment of the promise. There is a legend that  a Jew taunted Yeshua as he passed on his way to Golgotha. Some say his name was Shalatiel (in Hebrew Shealtiel “I asked God”); others say his name was Malchus. The Son of God cursed him to wander the earth alone until the end of time. Blessed and cursed. “Malchus” is the Greek for the Hebrew Melech/Malluch king/counsellor. The king taunts the Messiah King. The Messiah King curses the king; and blesses him: with a living death. This mortal immortal king is the Wandering Jew.

Gustave Doré - The Wandering Jew

Gustave Doré – The Wandering Jew

In the foreground of Doré’s woodcut wanders the  archetypal Jew of Jewish history and Christian imagination. Under the shield of sudden darkness, he steals away like a thief from the piercing gaze of the dying Christ. This day he will not be in paradise.

Doré would have had no difficulty in finding a model for his figure of the wandering Jew. Here is a photo of 15 World War II rabbis: antizionist rabbis.

Moral Dust

Moral Dust

Pathetic disfigurements of humanity. Dust.  Many of these rabbis died in the concentration camps.  Chaim Weizmann, one of the key founders of Zionism, was asked before WWII: “Can you bring six million Jews to Palestine?” I replied, “No.” … From the depths of the tragedy I want to save … young people [for Palestine] “The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world … Only the branch of the young shall survive. They have to accept it.” (Chaim Weizmann reporting to the Zionist Congress in 1937 on his testimony before the Peel Commission in London).

There’s at least one other wondering Jew. This “rootless cosmopolitan” shares my cosmic anxiety over the “intractable historical fact” of Zionism.

The original photo was smaller and clearer.  In this blow-up, the figures evaporate into a puff of dust: moral – and economic – dust.

“You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favour her, yes, the set time, has come. For Your servants take pleasure in her stones, and show pity to her dust” (Psalm 102:13-14).

Who or what is Zion? Is it the land, is it the people? Surely, in God’s eyes, it is the living stones of Israel. Not so for Weizmann:  “You are dust; the dust of the Land of Israel. (Chaim Weizmann reporting to the Zionist Congress in 1937 on his testimony before the Peel Commission in London).

10 thoughts on “Old Jews: “Economic and Moral Dust” (Chaim Weizmann)

  1. Pingback: The Holocaust in Latvia « OneDaringJew
  2. Pingback: A wandering, wondering, onedaringjew « OneDaringJew
  3. I really enjoy your blog! It provides me with some real enlightment! (re Kant quote on the blog that brought me here). I am a reader of Derrida (busy with master’s UNISA – stone in 3 Afrikaans poems, battling with my rhetorics – hie-hie).

    I found the distinction made here between the different kinds (Derrida always “at least two”) of wandering Jews interesting. I will quote the following in my dissertation – love it:

    “Who or what is Zion? Is it the land, is it the people? Surely, in God’s eyes, it is the living stones of Israel.”

    My The Gift of Death and Literature in Secret (Derrida 2008) is falling apart!

    I am currently situated here in Mahikeng (parents live here) and helped out at MHS about a decade ago for 4 months!

    Your PhD sounds very interesting too – language teaching & testing … lovely aporetic topic/topos, it requires a taste for the secret (L. secernere, separation, …) – not sure if this fact is always appreciated enough.

    Will come back to the blog later to read around some more. Keep it rolling!

    • Maria, thank you for passing by. You might have discovered that my Ph.D. Is based on research at Mmabatho High school, where I taught (French) for over 6 years.

      Here is Note 9 from my http://grammargraph.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/multiculturealism-and-emi-english-as-the-medium-of-instruction/ from my academic blog Grammargraph.

      The last time I looked, more than a decade ago,it was sitting in the Applied Linguistics section of the library at Rhodes University. Since then, somebody sane, however, may have read the notes in my article, and had it removed. When I was lecturing at the university of Fort Hare, a lecturer in my English Department took a draft of my article on Derrida’s “Babel” to prove to the Dean that I was daft.

      Here’s is Note 9 in context:

      Reality construction view revisited

      In the reality-construction view, there is no direct access to the real world. Grace argues that this does not mean that the models of reality that we construct are purely random, because the outside world, he maintains, does indeed impose some constraints on the inner world (Note 9).

      Note 9. Is the smell in the mentalist’s nose or in the empiricalist’s rose? For Watts (1989[1966]), it is an illusion (“Ludere” = play) to suppose that there is an inside or an outside to our brains, that there is such a thing as our or brains, This marginal note (hors-de-texte), for instance, need not be of marginal importance; because the significance of what is said does not depend on the kind of space it occupies; in the text, or outside the text. The hors-de-texte is an escape-hatch for the divergent thinker.

      (Empiricism claims that the innate structures of the brain only contain general learning mechanisms, while the rationalist, like Chomsky, would claim that there are specific innate concepts or devices such as space-time or universal grammar – see Burks, 1979 cited in Arbib and Hesse, 1986:45).

      Watts also thinks that it is an illusion to think and talk of rose or nose as nouns. For Watts (1989) and Bohm all is “wholeness” (Bohm, 1980) and they advise that we dispose of the nouns and play the verb game instead, anosing and arosing, or rather anosing-arosing. “Why can’t we think of people as “peopling”, of brains as “braining”, of an ant as an “anting” (Watts, 1989:95). Watts’ vedantic verb games have much in common with David Bohm’s quantum physics games, where the ground of being is a fluxing of ubiquitous energy: “Is it not possible for the syntax and grammatical form [syntax is part of grammar: Bohm’s “grammatical form” is commonly called “morphology”] of language to be changed so as to give a basic role to the verb rather than the noun…for the verb describes actions and movements, which flow into each other and merge” (Bloch, 1980:29-30).

      With regard to the inside (nose) and the outside (rose), I don’t think that the ontological division between inside (whiffer) and outside (whiffed) can be resolved using traditional ways (rationalist or empiricist) of thinking. I must admit I find the Bohm-Watts descriptions very interesting, and very much in tune with literary repertoires such as deconstruction, whose major focus is translation-interpretation, not only between natural languages, but within natural languages (i.e. between people using the same natural languages) – “between Greek and Greek”, where translation (of meanings) deals with nothing less than the “problem of the very passage into philosophy” (Derrida, 1981:71-72).

      An understanding of the above problems are crucial to understanding what multiculturalism (cultural relativism) is all about, namely about multi-thinkings, multi-talkings and multi-doings, firstly and foremostly within a language, because unless we see that the problem of translation/interpretation is primarily one between “Greek and Greek” – in our case between “English and English”, we shall never be able to understand the problems of second language learning (in this country).

      There are at least three choices: 1. Type (tap) on our divergent tympanums, to the rhythm of Bohm-Derrida-Bohm-Derrida-Bohm-Derrida-Bohm; 2. “Believe” in Aunty Fodor’s convergent commonsense” (1986:xi); 3. or perhaps the best – and most natural – choice of all, regard divergence and convergence as the two sides of the drumskin. (The tympanum (eardrum) “separates” the inner and outer chambers of the ear. Fodor in his Preface monologues to “Aunty” about “commonsense belief/desire psychology”).

      • Wow,did Mmabatho High once have French as subject?
        And yes, what will be a relevant translation remains a tricky question. My present favourite Derridean thought: – there’s no reduction to meaning, only a reduction of meaning.
        So, let’s not stop trying to develop a taste for loving (this trickster translation) – “perfumed and gorgeoused by the sounding existence of happiness”! Lovely!

        • French started about 1980. I taught French from 1980 to April 1987. I think it continued for a few years after I left. Not sure when it ceased.

  4. Scripture and song:

    Channels only, blessed Master,
    But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
    Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
    Every day and every hour.

    Of course God’s chosen people were not merely channels but redeemed and recreated humanity.

    Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Rom. 3.1-2)
    They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 9.4-5)

    Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11.50-52)

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