web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When Hope Is But An Illusion


Words come and words go. Some disappear completely, while others vanish into the jargon of our vocabulary. Few succeed in capturing center stage in our consciousness. One that has succeeded is a four-letter word that embellishes countless monuments, organizations, billboards and publications. Its sound enlivens the soul, its melody softens the heart.

The word?  H-O-P-E.

“Hope is a waking dream,” Aristotle famously said. Indeed, hope can pull a person from the agonies of despair. Yet its essential meaning remains unclear. Is hope a realistic thought or a mere fantasy? Is it a pragmatic idea or a wishful illusion?

Our sages instruct us in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) that one should comport himself with much humility for “the hope of man is deceptive.” Similarly, the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche characterized hope as “the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torments.”

But hope can also be positive and redeeming. Consider an ill man who never gives up the hope that he will find healing. Statistics indicate he has a better chance to heal than an ill man who has lost all hope of recovery.

Interestingly, hope has played an integral part in the history of our people. It has kept Jews alive and thriving during the Jewish nation’s most difficult moments. But it has also been abused all too often.

Just a few days ago, Israel signed an agreement to exchange terrorists for hostages. Why? Because Israel’s political leaders succumbed to emotion – they hoped to reach a fair deal and see our dear soldiers returned alive and well.

Kassam rockets continue to fall on the city of Sderot, but Israel refuses to retaliate appropriately. Why? Because Israel’s political leaders hope the world will rally around an Israel that shows “restraint” and Hamas will miraculously change its ways.

The infamous “peace process” continues to dominate Israel’s politics despite the fact that negotiations from a position of weakness and fear rather than strength and conviction have proved disastrous in all arenas. Why? Because Israel’s political leaders hope peace will ultimately prevail.

But what Israel’s political leaders seem to misunderstand is that hope unaccompanied by realism – by facts on the ground – is doomed to fail. We cannot communicate with our enemies and reach decisions on vague hope alone. Such an approach will only strengthen them and weaken us. Terrorists love to terrorize. And terrorists thrive when their intended victims radiate ambiguity.

Hope is never enough, especially in this realm. It is like marrying a woman blindly, hoping she possesses all the finest human attributes – and is beautiful, too. How can one expect to lead a life of meaning and success with hope alone?

A student of Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli once asked him why God allowed atheism to flourish in the world.

“Atheism,” answered Rabbi Zusha, “is one of the most important doctrines in the world. Imagine if a believer sees a hungry man in the street. He would say, ‘I hope God will help him.’ But when an atheist sees him, he runs to help because he thinks he is the only one who can assist him!”

Rabbi Zusha, the great believer, was certainly not suggesting that his student become an atheist. He was merely teaching his student that positive change can come only when we provide a real basis for our hope.

“Hope,” as my dear teacher Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz once told me, “rests on a narrow frontier between two opposite worlds; one world descends, and the other ascends. One world is conquered by misery and pain, and the other is liberated by happiness and enjoyment.”

And here lies hope’s delicate potential. If hope stems from real actions, its fruits are sure to be sweet and promising. Conversely, if hope stands alone, then Nietzsche’s words are accurate; it will then become “the most evil of evils.”

Israel cannot afford to base political decisions solely on hope. These decisions must be based on a rededication to the uncompromising vision enunciated by Israel’s founders who vowed, in the words of the country’s declaration of independence, to “create an independent Jewish state…based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.”

That vision includes a pronounced commitment on the part of the state to fully protect its people – which means, among other things, renouncing any negotiations with terrorists.

About the Author: Rabbi Pinchas Allouche is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, AZ. He is a popular educator, lecturer and author of many essays and writings on the Judaism and social analysis.


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 “When Hope Is But An Illusion”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Graffiti found on a building in the village of Duma.
Arab Infant Killed in Arson ‘Price Tag’ Attack
Latest Indepth Stories
Silhouette of "hilltop settler."

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

More Articles from Rabbi Pinchas Allouche
twitter faceless

On Facebook, young and old alike fool themselves into believing they are better than the person they see in the mirror.

F100804AS08

Why would our tradition fill our fun-filled summers with such restricting limitations?

As the dust settles and the fog lifts from this tumultuous year of political campaigning, we are left to wonder how our country will evolve. Will the economy bounce back? Will our schools make progress? And how about U.S. relations with Israel? Will they grow weaker or stronger? Will the administration support an Israeli strike on Iran?

It was not a necessary part of our busy itinerary. It was not even a noble errand. But the craving for a tasty lunch led our group to experience a moment never to be forgotten.

Our blinding attraction to drama has captivated so many of us. We love to live it, watch it, or even worse, create it.

“It’s not easy being labeled religious these days,” a friend confessed to me a few weeks ago.

My friend may be right – so-called religious people have committed some of humanity’s most horrific crimes, casting a dark shadow on religion – but what is religion? What is the definition of a “religious person”? What was he referring to? Can religion and evil really co-exist?

Winds of uncertainty are blowing across the globe. The future remains unsure. Will the sun shine again? Will stability reemerge after the storm dies down?

Let’s face it: it’s unusual and even somewhat bizarre nowadays to encounter a family with more than two children. It is almost as if a war is launched against the unborn after a “red line” of two or three children has been reached.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-hope-is-but-an-illusion/2008/07/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: