Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading History

Over the weekend in the Shabbat shul pamphlet "Olam Katan" (sorry no link) one of their writers was speculating about the upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt. His basic premise was "History has proven that all evil empires are doomed to fall" he even called it "A law of history".

One problem. All empires fall. No empire has yet survived – regardless of whether they have been good or bad. Angelic or demonic they all seem to fall in the end. Searching for a moral reading of history is plainly not viable.

Jews are encouraged to try and see master plans in history. Our own uniqueness in history compels us to try and see a global meta history – or to read history as a collection of moral rules. This is undeniably the emphasis of some of the later books of the bible – and a regular Jewish theological topic. Searching for God in history is hard wired into our collective subconscious. However I've found that when you enter the realm of the micro in history, you simply can't create a meta narrative that will stand up to scrutiny.

I'll add to this, that finding God's plan in history is a hobby best pursued with some distance to unfolding events. It is way too early for anyone to speculate on the outcome of the unrest in Tunisia and in Egypt. We may yet find that we will look back on Mubarak's Egypt with great longing. The same is probably true of Tunisia as well.

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