Friday, October 07, 2016

Aristotle and Yom Kippur?

LITURGY: Embracing Aristotle at Yom Kippur. When we recite Unetaneh Tokef at High Holiday services, we take a lesson from the ancient Greeks about what to do when life gives us lemons (Eylon Aslan-Levy, Tablet Magazine).
What would Aristotle make of Yom Kippur? He would probably struggle with the Hebrew, and be bemused by the strange ways of the Jews. But at the holiday’s apogee, during the recitation of the haunting Unetaneh Tokef, he would experience an unnerving moment of déjà vu—for its central message is precisely that of his own moral philosophy.


In other words: We cannot stop life throwing lemons at us, but we can stop ourselves being bruised by the flying lemons, and even make lemonade. And with this empowering message, Unetaneh Tokef appeals for Jews to embrace a lesson first laid down by Aristotle, just before the conquest of ancient Israel by Alexander the Great.

Well, maybe. Read it and see what you think. And by the way, ancient Israel had already been well conquered and was a vassal of the Persians when Alexander the Great came along. Presumably the author of this essay knew this, but the phrasing could have been better.