Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct 6, 2011 / 8 Tishrei, 5772

David Horowitz's search for meaning in mortality

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | David Horowitz aches to believe that life has meaning and that there is a purpose to this world. The prolific writer, a former Marxist radical who became a leading conservative activist, has spent his (so far) 72 years as if how we live matters deeply. Still, he cannot shake the bleak intellectual conviction that in the long run nothing we do will endure or make a difference — that life on earth is ultimately meaningless and history is heading nowhere.

Yet Horowitz's own journey suggests something more hopeful and optimistic.

He was a militant leftist who opposed the Vietnam War and supported the Black Panther Party, but broke with his radical allies over the bloody repression that followed the communist victories in South Vietnam and Cambodia. By the 1990s he had become one of the most vocal opponents of political correctness in academia, and he emerged after 9/11 as an outspoken critic of radical Islam.

In his brief and affecting new book, A Point in Time, Horowitz wrestles with even deeper concerns (Buy it at a 34% discount by clicking here. Buy it in Kindle form for $9.18 by clicking here.).

Horowitz writes admiringly of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher whose "practical wisdom" was that life's torments -- and tormentors -- should be faced with equanimity, since oblivion is the common fate of all. "Be not troubled," advised the emperor, "for all things are according to nature, and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere." It is a passage Horowitz quotes several times. He is at peace with the prospect of dying, he says, "comfortable with the idea that soon I will be no one and nowhere, and comforted in a stoic way by the knowledge that it doesn't add up."

Is he, though? As Horowitz notes, even Marcus Aurelius was "haunted" by the implications of a world without transcendent meaning. If the universe is nothing but "a confused mass of dispersing elements," the great Stoic wrote -- if there is no G0d, no perfection, no possibility of redemption -- why do we hunger to live? Why do we have such hopes for the future?


FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


In the end Marcus Aurelius decides that "there are certainly gods, and they take care of the world." But that is a step too far for Horowitz. Though Jewish, he is an agnostic, unable to bring himself to belief in G0d or in an afterlife where justice finally prevails. "I wish I could place my trust in the hands of a Creator," he writes forlornly at one point. "I wish I could look on my life and the lives of my children and all I have loved and see them as preludes to a better world. But, try as I might, I cannot."

As it happens, I read A Point in Time during the High Holidays, the 10 days of repentance that extend from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. One of the great themes of this solemn interval is that life on earth is fleeting, and so we must make the most of it. In the evocative words of "U'Nesaneh Tokef," an emotional high point of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy, man is "like a broken shard, like grass dried up, like a faded flower . . . like a dream that slips away."

Contrary to the Stoics, however, Judaism regards human mortality not as a reflection of the world's meaninglessness, but as G0d's greatest gift to the men and women He creates in His image. A lifetime — that brief window between dust and dust — is the opportunity He grants each of us to become His partners in creation by making the world a better, kinder, more hopeful place. Our job is not to accept the world as it is, nor to make our peace with the idea that eventually we "will be no one and nowhere." Judaism believes in life after death, but it is only in life before death that human achievement is possible.

And there is no achievement greater than self-improvement.

"If the world is to be redeemed it will be one individual at a time," Horowitz writes at the end of his book. The religion of his fathers teaches not just that individuals have the power to improve themselves ethically, but that their ability to do so is a divine endowment.

"Judaism is the religion of the free human being freely responding to the G0d of freedom," observes Sir Jonathan Sacks, the British chief rabbi, in his introduction to a new edition of the Rosh Hashana prayerbook. "The very fact that we can . . . act differently tomorrow than we did yesterday tells us we are free. We are not in the grip of sin. We are not determined by economic forces or psychological drives or genetically encoded impulses that we are powerless to resist. Philosophers have found this idea difficult. So have scientists. But Judaism insists on it."

David Horowitz may not believe in the Creator from whom this freedom comes. But his life -- and A Point in Time -- attest eloquently to the meaning and moral progress that are possible when that freedom is cherished, and used wisely.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2010, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles