web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Rearranging The Deck Chairs


There is an allegorical story about a luxury passenger ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean that hits an iceberg and begins to sink. On the lower decks, the crew and passengers make a valiant but unsuccessful effort to plug the hole in the ship’s hull. On the upper deck, first-class passengers rearrange the deck chairs, sun themselves and play shuffleboard, seemingly oblivious to the disaster around them. Meanwhile, the ship’s band plays on.

Of course, had more passengers on the ship attempted to plug the hole, the leak would have been sealed.

After the fact, two absurd stories emerge. Some of the upper-deck passengers say they didn’t help because they saw no seeping water and, anyway, the water rushing into the ship’s hull below had no direct impact on their well being. Other first-class passengers said they didn’t bother volunteering because they assumed that the efforts of single individuals could make no appreciable difference on the impending disaster.

Last week we celebrated Purim, which commemorates the only time in Jewish history that all Jews residing in a country were publicly sentenced to die on a certain date with no possibility of appeal.

Can anyone begin to imagine the absolute horror, anguish, hopelessness and despair suffered by the Jews of that time who knew their children, friends and extended families would be killed within one year? There was no forum for judicial appeal that could have saved the Jewish community from this monstrous verdict.

But Mordechai and Esther stood up and acted at risk to their own lives. They were unwilling to sit back and accept the immutability of the royal death sentence. Their heroic actions saved the Jewish community and transformed Purim into a day of rejoicing for Jews for generations to come.

Strangely, the Book of Esther never mentions God’s name. Purim’s emphasis is on the importance of human, not divine, action. Even when daily circumstances overwhelm us, the Purim story teaches that determined people can make a difference.

The Book of Esther is starkly true to life. It does not show Esther acting selflessly and heroically from the beginning. Her first instinct was self-preservation. Only when she understood she was as vulnerable as the rest of the Jewish community did she act.

America, as we know, is a country of individualism. The American hero is the lone, self-reliant soul who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, going from rags to riches, from poverty to the American dream. If we manage to achieve success, we deserve everything we earned and have the right to dispose of it as we wish. If we happen to provide charity to our community, that’s very nice, but it’s certainly not an obligation.

American individualism has been celebrated and analyzed as far back as in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Ralph Waldo Emerson. While individualism and self-reliance can be commendable traits, success for the sake of success alone, without a sense of obligation to the community, is not the Jewish way.

A fundamental pillar of the Jewish ethos is kol Yisrael arevin zeh bazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another and all of our fates are intertwined. We Jews should take pride in our individual achievements and how far we’ve come; we cannot, however, be weak-willed when it comes to fulfilling our communal obligations.

Most of us live in the modern equivalent of a king’s house, but we act like those first-class passengers on that allegorical ocean liner’s upper deck, ignoring the plight of all our fellow passengers.

Everyone recognizes the current existential crisis is Jewish continuity. Study after study and blue-ribbon committee after blue-ribbon committee affirm that a majority of young Jews are walking away from 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and Torah teachings. There is a consensus that Jewish illiteracy and lack of a spiritual connection with God are primary reasons for the mass exodus of our youth.

It is painfully clear that notwithstanding the extraordinary success of Jewish day schools in safeguarding Jewish continuity, high tuition prevents almost all young families from attending. The only children who can get an intensive Jewish education are those from very rich families or those from families willing to make extraordinary financial sacrifices to pay the tuitions.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Rearranging The Deck Chairs”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Car hitting people
Real-time Video of Car Running Over Jerusalem Light Rail Passengers
Latest Indepth Stories

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

More Articles from George D. Hanus

It makes no sense. It defies logic. You’ve got two reliable statistics from two reputable sources and yet they stand in utter opposition to each other, like statistical non-sequiturs.

Released in 1987, Where’s Waldo? was the first of illustrator Martin Handford’s Waldo series of books to become a sensation. Where’s Waldo? introduces readers to the eponymous hero, a distinctively dressed young man who sets off on a worldwide journey. Waldo travels to everyday places, like the beach, ski slopes and the zoo, each of which is detailed by two-page illustrated spreads filled with people and activities. Somewhere amidst the intricately crowded scene is the camouflaged Waldo, and readers are asked to scour the detailed illustration to locate the lost traveler.

Nearly 52 years ago, on October 5, 1956, a newly released movie billed itself as “the greatest event in motion picture history.”

There is an allegorical story about a luxury passenger ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean that hits an iceberg and begins to sink. On the lower decks, the crew and passengers make a valiant but unsuccessful effort to plug the hole in the ship’s hull. On the upper deck, first-class passengers rearrange the deck chairs, sun themselves and play shuffleboard, seemingly oblivious to the disaster around them. Meanwhile, the ship’s band plays on.

Every year Forbes magazine publishes a list of the highest paid individuals in the world. This year Forbes informed us that the actor Johnny Depp made $92 million while Nicole Kidman was Hollywood’s highest paid actress, commanding an estimated $16 million per movie.

Every January, in an annual rite, nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. About half of those will pledge eternal servitude to their new diet plans. Sometimes the diets work – in the short run. We drop a size or two, look younger, more svelte and bask in insincere gratuitous compliments from colleagues and friends. But two-thirds of Americans who lose weight gain it back within a year. Over 90 percent gain it back within five years.

Everyone is familiar with the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? To some, that may sound like a silly rhetorical quandary, but it actually provides a wonderful metaphor to describe a huge problem facing today’s Jewish community.

In Yiddish folklore, the real-life Polish town of Chelm was characterized as a legendary community of fools. According to this folkloric tradition, Chelm’s residents were exceedingly proud of their tradition of non-wisdom and convoluted insight into the world’s problems. They viewed themselves as brilliant.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rearranging-the-deck-chairs/2008/03/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: