Visiting Greece: from tweets to a blog

August 5, 2015

I’m an inveterate tweeter!
Occasionally, someone follows through and looks at my blog, which is blotchy: bits and pieces, incoherent, poorly edited. I am not proud of it – almost ashamed, in fact, which may be why, for two years or so, nothing has appeared.
I need to work at my editing capacity, for sure. I should like to make my blog look more attractive. 
But equally important is the content. What do I want to say?
I have just been in Greece. or several weeks my tweets were dominated – obsessively (and I am not yet entirely sure why) with the economic and political situation between Greece and Europe and my journey (the first time I had ever been) was to learn more as well as to enjoy a little of what Greece has to offer.
But since I knew so little I wanted a Guide Book. Not exactly the usual travel guide and I certainly could not manage a History of Greece. Where, also, did the legends fit in, the myths of the Gods? I needed something that would help bring it together.
And ‘miracle of miracles’ (as Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ would say) I came across Adam Nicholson’s ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’, just out in paperback, which was exactly what I needed. It is personally based, beginning on a boat trip that Nicholson made from Falmouth to Scotland while reading the Odyssey. Suddenly, gradually, he began to understand and more and more Homer’s two books not only provoked a search into who Homer was and why he mattered but also began to become a life-guide for the journey we all have to make between birth and death.
But why all the bloodshed, the gory detail, the obsession with violence and the hero? What of the role of the gods? When were the books written? Nicholson’s writing transports us into such questions in a poetic prose which, though it may occasionally be over-written, is far from a dry academic research, though drawing upon it. 
Over these next few weeks, I hope to blog more, even much more. The content is there and perhaps I will also learn to edit – and add pictures!

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Going on…a personal response to climate change doom

August 5, 2015

Initially, I was both shocked and admiring: you were saying explicitly something that maybe I thought I believed.But I also noticed, as I read, your time-frame: humanity will be wiped out after thirty more generations, that is, 2500 AD and ‘there is no key’ which will enable people to ‘wake up’. I agree with your second point to the extent that there are many, many keys – maybe as many as there are individuals: each of us needs to find our own? After all, there is a paradoxical craziness (I’m sure you’ll agree) in the vigour with which you are pushing your (brilliant) creative #CliFi idea and your conclusion that we are all doomed anyway. In any case, those of us working to break the intransigence of those who pay no heed to our plight need to collaborate. The thing is: we’re not ‘doomed’. On the whole, though I did not much enjoy Daniel Quinn’s Ishamel (the Wikipedia article is quite good https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_(novel)), it was worth reading for the conclusion: the apes need human beings in order to survive! One of the most important influences on me has been Hannah Arendt. I believe she lived through, fully faced and articulated the horrors of WW2 and, in particular, the almost unbelievable deliberate destruction of millions of human beings that we call the holocaust. The destruction of millions upon millions more human beings (some of this is already happening) in the chaos of climate change is, it seems to me, the terrifying repetition that future generations will live through. Some, however, – I think James Lovelock estimates it at one billion – will survive (the story of ‘the remnant’ is basic in the Bible). I think that. What will they have learnt? Will they know and understand more than we do about the meaning and purpose of life? What sort of ‘civilization’ with what sort of animals, birds, fishes, insects, machines? Maybe that is not my/our concern, though I believe it is one that science fiction may deal with (‘Canticle for Leibowitz’?) I also believe that much current learning, e.g. bio-mimicry, is of life-changing importance. Hannah Arendt’s conclusion, messianic according to a superb recent book, https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/mln/v118/118.5bernstein02.html was ‘We must go on’ and the book concludes that W.H.Auden saw things similarly.
IMG_1172

Is that not what the three of us, and Aubrey, are doing, as best we can? But Peter begins with reference to my time in Greece, which was truly life-changing, because to help me there, I happened upon a book, which only came out in 2014, by Adam Nicholson called ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’. Who was Homer? Did he exist? The book, though well referenced, is alive, based mainly on sailing and on our own individual journey from life to death. It spans many more lifetimes and generations than merely 500 years as it moves from the Bronze Age and across continents. If, I think, we want to have a sense of the future, we need a deep understanding of the past. All that, Dan, was stimulated by your response to Peter. Thank you for provoking it. I’m cc to Aubrey, who knows all this better than I and illustrates it beautifully in music and words at the Eden Project Eden Project.mov which has just won an award for Britain’s 21st Century landmark (http://highlife.ba.com/articles/21-landmarks-for-the-21st-century/ – some strange questions about that, but never mind). The Golden Mean: Pythagoras – watch & listen, spell-bound Earth Venus Tango round the Sun

Barclays responds to criticism on financing ‘mountain top removal’

May 20, 2014

Dear Stakeholder

Thank you for your email to Antony Jenkins raising concerns about Barclays’ reported financing of companies that practise mountain top removal coal mining. We are in the process of establishing the background to these allegations and the details of the transactions involved – which were not made clear in the reports provided.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight that Barclays has a longstanding commitment to understanding the environmental and social risks associated with our lending activities: these are supported by stringent environmental and social impact assessment policies and practices together with risk escalation procedures.

These standards are applied across the business and are an integral component for decisions with potential for material social and environmental impacts. We always aim to take a responsible approach and give careful consideration to such impacts before decisions are approved. When we are asked to finance a specific development project, we apply the Equator Principles – detailed environmental and social criteria applicable to project finance transactions covering issues including local community consultation, the impact on indigenous peoples and cultural heritage sites, relocation of communities and related compensation. This approach to responsible lending applies equally to clients in the coal mining sector as to other industrial sectors.

We will continue to investigate this matter thoroughly and address appropriately should we find that Barclays has not acted in accordance with these standards.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Philippa Birtwell
Group Citizenship

_______________________________________________

Contraction and Convergence

January 26, 2014

See Earth Charter Principles 4, 4a; 5, 5a; 6, 6a, 6b, 6c; 7; 8, 8a, 8c; 10a; 13a; 14, 14c; 16a, 16b. These selected Principles and sub-principles are only indicative; those highlighted are clearly especially relevant. Discussion on this selection would be entirely relevant and helpful.

Since 1995, Aubrey Meyer, a musician and mathematician, has promoted a scientifically based policy approach, Contraction and Convergence. A very helpful series of intros can be found on Laurie Barlow’s http://greenswardcivitas.blogspot.co.uk.

It is now (January 2014) clear that, as the short and powerful video, (published by IPCC & UNFCC ‘Climate Change: The State of the Science’ that the State of Climate Science) shows http://bit.ly/1hZIxCD current estimates of the remaining Carbon Budget are far too optimistic if we are to avoid irreversible or runaway climate change.

The purpose of this discussion forum, one amongst many, is to strengthen those of us who believe that this issue is the most urgent facing the planet and that Contraction and Convergence provides the only credible and equitable way forward.

We are not alone. There is overwhelming support for Aubrey’s proposal of a per capita Carbon Budget for every individual based upon the scientific assessment of what is available [currently between 194gT, 250gT and the UK Climate Committee at 395gT – a gigaT=1billion tonnes of Carbon. There are other related gases and issues of feedback but for most of us, this is already becoming too complex!]

It is worth glancing through the (approximately 500 illustrated pages) from Ban Ki Moon, and UN agencies 2000 – 2014, http://bit.ly/1aAh4VX, from the Vatican, Rowan Williams and extensive inter-faith supporting the C&C principle of ‘Climate Justice without Vengeance’ http://bit.ly/M0hfOG (this principle is in opposition to those, mainly NGOs, who unrealistically maintain that the developed world has historically ’caused’ the problems and should be ‘punished’). There are 250 pages of political support from the UK http://bit.ly/KYg41u, and extensive support from Medical Professionals around the world: http://bit.ly/MfDVvc

Aubrey has won numerous awards and been nominated for a Nobel Prize – but still there has been no breakthrough, though many believe C&C is ‘the only game in town’.

To conclude more personally, I became involved when, as a Jew – and a rabbi, that is, a teacher – I realised that 6 million of my people had been deliberately killed in World War Two and we Jews were, rightly, deeply critical of those who stood by, knowing what was happening. They were criticised as bystanders, though acting would have taken great moral courage.

What is our excuse as we see increasing extreme weather conditions condemning millions, or even ‘hundreds of millions’ (Lord Stern) of families to hardship or death?

What can we do? I believe that those who take part in this discussion are doing much but that we can all do more, by knowing of one another’s projects, by supporting one another and by publicising as widely as possible C&C. Our mission is to think, discuss, reflect and ACT.

Recently I wrote an article on Bystanders, which stimulated Aubrey’s imagination, particularly one part, based upon a quote:

Susan Neiman looks at why Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem caused such a furore and shows that without directly invoking God, Arendt’s phrase that ‘in a world that produced the death camps, the impossible came true’, effectively put the world itself on trial. The world could no longer be accepted as it had been, and this effectively indicts Creation itself.

Aubrey sees clearly how evidently we are still ‘on trial’, though we may believe, more or less, ‘that we have never had it so good’ (Harold Macmillan 1957)

John Lewis and its cleaners

July 23, 2012

Dear Mr Moys,

I know you will not want to prolong a communication and I am grateful for your response. However,
‘we recognise that contracted cleaners in London feel strongly about their level of pay’

is hardly adequate.

In the circumstances, it is John Lewis store that needs to feel strongly and urgently to conclude its  discussions with MML both for customers and Partners.

With thanks for your speedy reply,

Jeffrey Newman

On 23 Jul 2012, at 09:14, Andrew_Moys@JohnLewis.co.uk wrote:

Dear Mr Newman

Thank you for your email.

Please be assured that the John Lewis Partnership is very concerned about the cleaners dispute at John Lewis Oxford Street and we recognise that contracted cleaners in London feel strongly about their level of pay.

Although we do not currently have any contractual link with the sub contractor, ICM, which employs the cleaners concerned, we are in discussions with MML, the managing contractor which subcontracts ICM, to help resolve this dispute.

As I’m sure you will appreciate, I cannot go in to the detail of these discussions, but our urgent aim is to ensure that the cleaners dispute at John Lewis Oxford Street is brought to a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible.

Thank you again for your email.

Best regards,
Andrew
Andrew Moys, DL 020 7592 6292
Director of Communications, John Lewis Partnership

From: Jeffrey Newman To: andrew_moys@johnlewis.co.uk> Date: 21/07/2012 07:24
Dear Mr Moys,
I am saddened that John Lewis, a Partnership that I love and where I once worked, is not paying its cleaners a Living Wage.
Undoubtedly you will – the sooner the better. Partners, surely, will forego a small drop in the share of profit to make this happen.
Until then, we shall have to forego JLP.
Yours,
Jeffrey Newman
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Websites: http://www.johnlewis.com
http://www.waitrose.com
http://www.johnlewis.com/insurance
http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk

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Nuclear Power and Democracy: Questions to be answered

March 14, 2012

From the Report A Corruption of Governance by Unlock Democracy (Charter 88) and the Association for the 

Box 1: Questions that need to be answered1. Why did the previous Government take two decisions – to reverse previous policy and decide that new nuclear power is needed, and then decide that 10 nuclear power stations are needed – without assessing the long term demand for electricity?2. Why did the original EN-1 and EN-6 documents, prepared for the previous Government, claim that Redpoint’s analysis showed the need for medium term capacity to increase, when it did nothing of the sort?3. Why didn’t the previous Government carry out an assessment of the full potential of energy efficiency (even though they declared it was the most cost-effective way of meeting energy policy objectives), before deciding how much electricity we needed to generate?4. Why is the current Government ignoring the evidence in its own Pathways to 2050 work, and insisting that nuclear power is necessary to keep the lights on and reduce CO2, when the analysis shows the opposite?5. Why have numerous Government documents misrepresented evidence from Government analysis by saying that electricity demand may double, when in fact the analysis and the modelling shows something different?6. Why has the EN-1 document, prepared for this Government, ignored the results of their modelling, the National Grid modelling, and the Fourth Carbon Budget Assessment regarding electricity needs up until 2025?7. Why has the EN-1 document misled Parliament by falsifying the results of the modelling regarding the alleged need for extra capacity up to 2025?8. Why has the Government wasted time, effort and money on its deliberative discussion on the various pathways to 2050, when in fact the decision to use nuclear power has already been made?9. Why did the Government repeatedly refused to carry out an assessment of the full potential for the policy that it regards as the most cost-effective (energy efficiency) before making the decision to support new nuclear power stations, despite the fact that the Chief Scientific Adviser described the assessment as crucial?10. Why did the 2011 White Paper on Energy Market Reform not include a full assessment of energy efficiency despite the fact that one of its principle objectives was to minimise costs to the consumer?11. Why did Charles Hendry’s answer to Madeleine Moon’s Parliamentary Question omit information about low-carbon technologies that are cheaper than nuclear power?12. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the expected lifetime of new nuclear power stations?13. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the load factor of new nuclear power stations?14. Why do the Government’s official statistics on the price of nuclear power not include the transmission and distribution costs?15. Why does the EN-1 document quote a study that doesn’t include a comparison with all low carbon technologies, as evidence that nuclear is the cheapest source of electricity?

Me and my iPad

March 12, 2012

OK – so it’s a “2” not a “3” and it’s not even working properly (or, at least, the SIM card isn’t  and that makes it no better than a “1”) but I love it and wouldn’t be without it. In fact,  even my ancient analyst who hates much web life because it’s so unaesthetic, has fallen in love with his iPad (I haven’t asked for its specifications; that sounds much too personal.)

And now, better and better,  I’ve found WordPress on it and saved its icon to my Home Page!

However, there’s much more still to learn, though it’s an encouraging start.

Uri Avnery: Why no-one is going to attack Iran

March 12, 2012

Uri Avnery  
 
Published in Hebrew in Haaretz
March 11, 2011
Israel will not attack

Israel will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack. Not this year, nor in years to come. For a reason far more important than electoral considerations or military limitations. The United States will not attack, because an attack would spell a national disaster for itself and a sweeping disaster for the whole world.

“If you want to understand the policy of a country, take a look at the map,” said Napoleon. Minutes after an attack is launched, Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes almost all the oil exported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Iran – 40% of the world’s sea-borne oil passes through the strait. A few minutes after that, oil prices will rise, will double, triple or quadruple – and the U.S. and global economy will collapse.

Such small issues do not cross the minds of generals, military commentators and other wise guys who look at the world between narrow “security” blinkers.

Closing the Strait would be the most easy of military operations. A few missiles, launched from either the sea or the land, would do it. To reopen it, it would not be enough to send the US Navy’s mighty aircraft carriers on show cruises. The United States would have to conquer large parts of Iran, so as to put the Strait out of range of the Iranian missiles. Iran is larger than Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined. It would be a long war, something on the scale of the Vietnam War.

For Iran, there is no difference between an Israeli attack and an American attack. They would be treated as one and the same. In both cases, the consequence will be the blocking of the Strait and a large scale war.

All of which is more than enough for the United States not to attack, and to forbid Israel from attacking.

It’s 56 years since Israel went to war without giving notice to the Americans and getting their consent. When Israel did this in 1956, President Eisenhower took away all the achievements of victory, to the last millimeter. Before the Six Day War and on the eve of the First Lebanon War, the government of Israel sent special envoys to Washington to ensure unequivocal consent. If this time it did attack against the Americans’ will, who would restock the IDF armories? Who would protect the cities of Israel, which would be exposed to many tens of thousands of missiles from Iran and its proxies? Not to mention the wave of anti-Semitism which can be expected to burst out once the American public finds out that it was Israel, and Israel alone, which brought upon them a national disaster.

American diplomatic and economic pressure might be sufficient to stop the ayatollahs’ gallop towards the Bomb. It worked in Gaddafi’s Libya and is now happening in the North Korea of ​​Kim. The Persians are a nation of merchants, and it might be possible to formulate a deal which would be worth their while.

This is questionable, because a few years ago the Neo-Conservatives in Washington engaged in glib talk about how easy it would be to occupy Iran – which surely convinced the Iranians that they must acquire the ultimate weapon of deterrence. What would we have done in their place? Or rather, what did we actually do (according to foreign reports, etc.) when we were in their position?  

So what is going to happen? If no deal is reached, Iran will develop nuclear weapons.  That’s not the end of the world. As has been pointed out by some of our more courageous security chiefs, this is not an existential threat. We’ll live in a situation of a balance of terror. Like America and Russia during the Cold War. Like India and Pakistan now. Not pleasant, but not too terrible, either.

Iran has not attacked any other country in a thousand years. Ahmadinejad talks like a wild demagogue, but the Iranian leadership actually treads very carefully. Israel does not threaten any Iranian interest. Joint national suicide is not an option.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar boasted, and rightly, that Netanyahu had managed to distract the whole world’s attention, away from the Palestinians and to the Iranian problem. A fantastic success, indeed. Obama in effect tells him: OK, go and play with settlements as much as you want, but please leave Iran for the adults.
 

Letter to my MP on the NHS Bill

March 1, 2012

Dear Mike,

 

What do we, the public, really want and need as far as healthcare is concerned?

 

Doctors who are able to treat their patients within financial constraints to the utmost of their professional ability.

 

Will this be helped if the doctors, to be managed in large consortia with differing standards throughout the country, are theoretically ‘in charge of commissioning’ but actually having to choose whether to become wealthy owners of services or remain as the practioners they trained to be?

 

Dr Lawrence Buckman’s letter http://bit.ly/A2QqmN makes very clear the concerns of the GPs themselves. This letter deserves very careful analysis and reading. If you do so, you will find, I am sure, that the concerns he raises are not ‘political’ but flow from an understanding of the Bill, as it stands.

 

The revelations in  the Daily Telegraph  that Andrew Lansley’s office has been supported by private health care providers http://bit.ly/zKSxx2 are also deeply damaging.

 

This wholesale, top-down reorganisation of the NHS –  precisely what we were promised by Mr Lansley before the election he would not do – is not wanted by the public and will lead to inequalities of service, cause huge expense and lead to vast profits being made by private companies.

 

I do hope you and your colleagues are talking seriously about these issues as well as whether it will be more damaging to the Government and the Conservative Party to go forward or to recognise that the present Bill is ill-formed and withdraw it.

 

Please do use your strengths to get this Bill halted.

 

Yours,

 

Jeffrey Newman

 

 

Witnesses to the Future: Radical Hope

January 23, 2012

Shoah or Churban?

Reflections occasioned by Pierre Bouretz Witnesses for the Future[i]

The popular Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, provides a clue to the entrancing plot of his Kafka on the Shore with a particularly apt quote – placed for the reader at a somewhat unexpected moment – from Henri Bergson:

The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth all sensation is already memory. [ii]

Murakami’s work is built upon the Second World War, particularly the devastations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the effect of collective trauma upon the individual and society.  The Anglo-Jewish community has similarly struggled through a period of apparent consolidation and normalisation following the Holocaust and the birth pangs of the State of Israel.  It is perhaps not surprising that, on the whole, the Jewish world appears largely oblivious of wider global concerns. Though rabbis certainly give topical sermons and may make references, for example, to miracles at Chanukah in relationship to world oil shortages, there is little mainstream Jewish involvement in the critical issues which are likely to effect the future for our children and our children’s children – whether climate change, shortage of resources, over-population or biodiversity and the disappearance of species.

But Judaism is nothing if it does not dream of the future and find ways to realise those dreams. The task laid upon Abraham ‘to be a blessing to humanity’[iii] remains the central call of the Jewish people and this is not a dream in the sense of some vague, vacuous hope – Torah, oral and written, is filled with the details as to how the present can be repaired. Such is tikkun olam and we lose sight of it at our peril. But there is a promise: ‘The doctrine of the Messiah who will be sent by God to redeem Israel and usher in a new era in which all mankind will worship the true God is one of Judaism’s most distinctive teachings.’[iv]

To help us, Pierre Bouretz has written an extraordinary book Witnesses for the Future, a rich kol bo of nine twentieth century, originally German, Jewish thinkers. Bouretz (1958 – ) is Director of a French Higher Education Social Sciences Academy and a Jewish scholar of repute. The book is beautifully translated and easy to read and his comment upon Scholem is true of his own work: its strength is that ‘it manages at one and the same time to block out vast structures in broad outline and to fill in miniatures’. [v]

Leo Strauss once suggested, perhaps optimistically: ‘No one can be both a philosopher and a theologian…but every one of us can and should be either one or the other, the philosopher open to the challenge of theology, or a theologian open to the challenge of philosophy.’[vi]  Bouretz provides us with both the materials and pointers to find our own way through the thickets but there is no avoiding the complexities. Understanding here demands struggle but the work is lightened by fascinating details. An example occurs in the Introduction and gives a taste of what follows:

There is a page in Kafka’s journals that reveals, even better than the “Letter to His Father,” the private feelings shaping a historical consciousness. He has just heard the prayer that ends the meal after a circumcision, and notices that, with the exception of two grandfathers, no one understands the meaning of the words. “I saw Western European Judaism before me in a transition whose end is clearly unpredictable and about which those most closely affected are unconcerned.” That note is dated 24 December 1911. In reading Scholem’s autobiography, we discover that he, on the very same day, attended a family Christmas ritual for the last time, a ceremony that for him had become a palinode: thereafter he would leave his parents’ home for that evening. For him it was the fact that a portrait of Theodore Herzl had been placed at the foot of the Christmas tree that brought on the crisis.[vii]

The confusions of Jewish life and thought and the events of the century that were to unfold form the background context which shapes the writers. They, Bouretz explains, are:

Jewish thinkers, born during the time of the disenchantment of the world, of the “death of God,” and the destruction of reason [who] in a sense, saved German idealism…chiefly because they remained metaphysicians. It is true that each expressed this in his own fashion: classical in Cohen, and reflected in the history of philosophy in Strauss; reconstructed for Rosenzweig, Levinas and Jonas; wrenched apart for a Benjamin who would find in Bloch a kind of surviving brother who had revived hope; gracefully by way of Buber’s empathy with his mystical object; austere in Scholem, who at times pretends to be no more than a detached historian.[viii]

These are the nine writers and the liveliness of the book lies partly in the richness of their conversations and interchanges. In fact, the relationships and the details of their lives are so evocative – the fact that Heschel taught Buber modern Hebrew,[ix] for example, or how moved Scholem was by finding Kafka’s picture on S.H. Bergman’s piano on his arrival in Jerusalem[x] – that we may be tempted to relegate their ideas to secondary consideration.  Bouretz does not do this. Instead, he scrutinizes, through close examination of one or more areas of each writer’s work:

…an idea sometimes perceived as the only one to survive the decline of the Tradition, but sufficiently malleable to be interpreted for different ends: that of a messianism that delineates, on the horizon, a consummation of history, or announces its apocalyptic interruption, suggesting a continuous perfection of the world or at least its progressive repair.[xi]

How do we think of the time of the Messiah? This is a central question and the past is made present here as the writers look back in order to make sense of their own times. The way of looking is pivotal:

Know that there is a twofold way of looking at all worlds. The one reveals their exteriority, that is to say, general laws of the world in terms of their external form. The other reveals the inner being of the worlds, that is to say the essence of human souls.[xii]

The key issues turn out to be ‘language,’ ‘time’ and ‘evil’ (as well as ‘Zionism and Israel’.) As early as 1918,  (that is, well before Heidegger’s major 1927 work on Being and Time,) Scholem wrote in his Diary some Remarks on Judaism and Time, first quoting Hermann Cohen, in words that echo those of Bergson but without the passion and entirely missing the key Jewish component of memory:

Being is not immobilised in the present, but it is in suspense beyond the present. Present and future are united in that Being that is God.

Scholem then, probably influenced by his discussions with Benjamin, refers to Exodus 3:14,

The true Name of God is also the I of time. This means that the basis, but also the complement, of all empirical time is the divine, the eternal present; thus God will be what he was in all the generations.’  He continues, What does the biblical expression “in all the days” mean? The fact that the kingdom of God that “will be” is already present and that the messianic kingdom is the “present of history.”[xiii]

Scholem appears to suggest here that the germ of messianic times is present at every moment. But how does this concept survive the destruction of European Jewry? Bloch’s work is unexpectedly helpful. He, too, breaks with the tradition (begun by Calvin and continued by Mendelssohn,) of translating the Name of God as, ‘I am the Being who is eternal,’ and chooses instead the words of Buber and Rosenzweig,: ‘“I shall be who I shall be” – that is, not a substance identical with itself but ‘the solidarity of God with the human experience of time, against the backdrop of an unpredictability of the future.’[xiv]  This enables Bloch to re-read Job in an original way. Basing his interpretation on Job 19: 25-27, initially on the phrase ‘I know that my redeemer lives,’ Bloch points out that Job and God do not speak the same language: the God of the Creation is answering one who calls in the name of the God of the Covenant. Bloch points to the derivation of ‘redeemer’ from the root meaning of goel: blood avenger! Bouretz comments,

‘[Bloch] solemnly calls upon God…against God… Messianism is here made manifest, in all the strength of its antithesis to the given world.’[xv]

In the idea of a world born of a divine contraction (tzimtzum), Bloch sees the indication that messianism is older than belief in the Messiah:

Instead of the glory of the alpha or morning of creation, the wishful space of the end or day of deliverance presses forward….no religion has passed through so many layers of sublimation, even of utopianization of its god.’xvi]

Bloch here rejects “theodicies of non-responsibility” – the multiplicity of figures elaborated to explain the experience of evil – by finding, at one and the same time, “a language in which to accuse” and “a light to nourish his rebellious hope.”[xvii]

This sensitive reading of goel demonstrates the importance of examining language in detail. The meaning of ‘messianism’ and associated words and concepts changes through history, which leads directly to the sharp warning that Scholem gave on the use of Hebrew in Palestine as the vernacular and the potential descent to the abyss:

If we…resuscitate the language of the ancient books so that it can reveal itself anew to [the Volapuks], must then not the religious violence of this language one day break out against those who speak it? [xviii]

Of course, at another level entirely, mystics like Abulafia penetrating below the level of words, listen to the individual letters and their combinations so that the ‘plucking of each  ‘is compared to a finely tuned string and becomes music.’[xix]

Jews, of course, are great music lovers, not least amongst them Rabbi Tony Bayfield, who has found in it sustaining energies and would probably agree with Schopenhauer’s observation of ‘its unrivaled capacity for listening to being’. Bloch, too, hears hints in music of the coming of the Messiah and Bouretz, drawing upon him, writes:

To Nietzsche, music was of all forms of culture the one that comes last, bringing to one epoch the language of the one preceding it before disappearing. Handel, bringing to the ear the best of Luther, Mozart musically evoking the courtly style of Lous XIV, or Beethoven externalizing an eighteenth century “of vague elation, ruined ideals and fleeting joys”: so many indications in [Bloch’s] view that music “comes too late” when it frees what the world of yore contained in a muted mode.[xx]

Bloch even suggests:

clairvoyance is long extinguished but should not, however, a clairaudience, a new kind of seeing from within, be imminent, which, now that the visible world has become too weak to hold the spirit, will call forth the audible world, the refuge of the light, the primacy of the inner flame instead of the former primacy of seeing, if ever the hour to speak in music comes?’ [xxi]

Clearly we have in Bouretz almost limitless resources to study how twentieth century Jewish thinkers both dealt with the issues they confronted and were able to think towards a future, philosophically and theologically.

Now, the divine unity upon which Jewish thinking is dependent, which it exemplifies and out of which the messianic strain arises, calls us as we look towards the future, to act in righteousness and justice in meeting the needs of our times and so bring about the coming of the Messiah. So are we taught by the Prophets, who passed judgment on their times, criticising false values in the Name of the oneness of the true God.  If part of Rabbi Tony Bayfield’s unique contribution has been educational as the way to enhance Judaism’s self-understanding,  another has been inter-faith work, both learning from other traditions, and teaching our understanding and experience, so that, as Rosenzweig explained, the Star can radiate outwards. Murakami’s work, for example, won The Jerusalem Prize in 2009 and Steven Johnson chooses to use Benjamin’s Angel of History as the prologue to his tale of how a doctor and a clergyman, working together, discovered in the 1840’s that cholera was a water-borne disease, leading to its potential eradication.[xxii] The Angel hovers, looking back but irresistibly blown forward by the storm from Paradise. ‘Where a chain of events appears to us, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet… What we call progress is this storm.’[xxiii]

Each of the nine teachers was in continual dialogue with the great philosophers and theologians of the age: Kant and Hegel in particular, but also Nietzsche and, of course, Heidegger. In the ‘global village’ in which we now live where the speed, the ubiquity of communication and developing paradigms of thought, (including the necessity to hear the voice of women, [xxiv]) forces us to recognise the unity of humanity and all life, we, too must engage with great teachers from other traditions who will challenge us to make sense of the situation in which we find ourselves and respond adequately.

We may turn, for example, to the Latin American ‘liberation’ theologian, Leonardo Boff, who drawing on new understanding that has emerged in our time,[xxv] writes:

A sustainable way of life is humankind’s new ethical and cultural dream. It entails another way of conceiving the common feature of Earth and humankind and, accordingly, it demands a true revolution in hearts and minds, values and habits, forms of production and relationship with nature. It entails understanding that “Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe” and that “Earth, our home, is alive”; it also entails living “the spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life,” and assuming responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world,” taking care to use the scarce goods of nature rationally so as not to do harm to natural capital or to future generations who also have a right to a good quality of life and minimally just institutions, “being more, not having more” and living “with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life and humility regarding the human place in nature.”[xxvi]

In 1981, Rabbi Bayfield chose to entitle his guide for young people, Churban,[xxvii] basing himself on the teaching of Rabbi Maybaum that ‘the churban has the messianic power of achieving progress.’[xxviii]  Maybaum’s messianism did not include a return to Israel, while Scholem and Buber thought that it was only ‘over there’ that the Jewish people could ‘revive,’[xxix]  (though Buber himself quickly became critical of Zionist leadership.) The current apparently intransigent situation of Israel will, no doubt, be just one area which Tony will consider as he continues his work to realise the vision: ‘Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.’[xxx]


[i]   Published by John Hopkins Baltimore 2010) The title is taken from a letter from Benjamin to Scholem, page 7

[ii]  H. Bergson Matter and Memory quoted by Murakami, H. Kafka on the Shore (publ. Penguin 2005) page 294

[iii] Genesis 12:3

[iv] Jacobs, L. A Jewish Theology (DLT, London 1973) page 292

[v]  Bouretz page 350.The text is fully referenced and citations can be found on notes to the page.

[vi] ibid.page 14

[vii]  ibid page 3

[viii] ibid page 6

[ix] ibid page 359

[x]  ibid page 225. Kafka’s influence is constantly present.

[xi] ibid page 6

[xii] ibid page 429, probably from Safed kabbalists.

[xiii]  ibid page 238

[xiv]  ibid page 469. On page 864 note 169, Bouretz comments: This translation could claim the authority of Rashi, who draws on the Talmud (Berakhot 9b) to explain: ‘I will be with them in that trial as I will be with them in their subjugation to other empires.’

[xv]  ibid page 466 The passage from Bloch that Bouretz quotes is, he notes, missing from the English translation

[xvi] ibid page 468. Pages 469-70 deal with the conflict between responsibility and hope exemplified by Jonas and Bloch. Bouretz quotes Levinas, ‘Monotheism surpasses and subsumes atheism, but it is impossible for those who have not reached the age of doubt, loneliness and revolt,’ and suggests this could not be better illustrated than by Bloch page 475

[xvii]  Levinas comments (Bouretz op. cit. pages 472-3) that Bloch’s exceptional daring here resides in the effort to place the presentiment of a victory over death at the exact point where philosophy begins: astonishment. This follows Plato who suggests that philosophy begins in wonder.

[xviii]  ibid page 344 in a 1926 letter from Palestine to Rosenzweig.  The Volapuks speak an artificially constructed language.

[xix]ibid page 262

[xx] ibid page 450. Schopenhauer, Bouretz notes, hears it the other way round: music heralds or ushers in the age.

[xxi] ibid page 451

[xxii] Johnson, S. The Ghost Map (publ Penguin 2007) Johnson is a systems thinker, a specialist on internet development.

[xxiii] Bouretz op. cit. page 215

[xxiv] Bouretz comments Arendt was excluded as being “marginal as a ‘witness for the future,’ though exemplary from the point of view of a thinking of ‘dark days’ (a phrase she borrowed from Brecht).” Note 15 page 722. Perhaps, however, her thought remains too challenging.

[xxv] Particularly that of James Lovelock, the Gaia theory, that Earth is a living system.

[xxvi] Boff, L. The Ethics of Care in Corcoran, P.B. and Wohlpart, A.J. A Voice for Earth (Georgia UP, Athens and London 2008.) Quotes are from the Earth Charter www.earthcharter.org

[xxvii] Bayfield, A. Churban (publ Michael Goulston Educational Foundation, London 1981)

[xxviii] Maybaum, I. The Face of God after Auschwitz (publ. Polak and van Gennep, Amsterdam, 1965) In contrast to churban, shoah suggests destruction without hope.

[xxix] Bouretz op. cit. Page 163 Rosenzweig says that Scholem wrote him the Judaism of the Diaspora ‘was in a state of the clinically dead’

[xxx] The sentence that completes the Earth Charter, contributed by Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp.