Blog: May 2016

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A little cognitive dissonance

Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust remembrance day). I don't know what is done elsewhere, but my Conservative morning minyan adds a short service after the torah service. It consists of some psalms and some modern writings, and ends with an unusual Kaddish. The Kaddish text is the usual text, but it's interspersed with the names of camps -- Aushwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and so on through the entire list. The reader reads the Kaddish; the congregation reads the names.

I led the service today, but someone else, someone who is old enough to remember first-hand, always leads this special service. So after he finished he turned to me to continue and it was time for...Aleinu. Aleinu is the prayer where we look forward to the day when the whole world will follow God.

I stumbled, tripped up by the cognitive dissonance.

I know that, even in the light of outrageous suffering at the hands of monsters, individuals can retain faith in God. People did, then and in earlier times (the Nazis were far from the first). People do today when murderous Nazis have been replaced with murderous Arabs. People will in the future too. Not all people, but some. This I believe.

This morning I found it a little harder to believe that at some time in the future the whole world will come around. I realize that Aleinu is looking ahead to messianic times, but the messiah will come only after we have done the groundwork. God won't send the messiah when we've sunk into the depths and all hope is lost; rather, God will send the messiah when we collectively deserve it. I hope that day will come. This morning I found it a bit harder to know that it will.