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Eternal Struggles

Leon Wieseltier writes:
There are problems and there are struggles. Problems have solutions; struggles have outcomes. Problems are technical; struggles are historical. Problems recur; struggles persist. Problems teach impatience; struggles teach patience. Problems are fixed; struggles are fought. Problems require skill; struggles require character. Problems demand knowledge; struggles demand wisdom. Problems may end; struggles may not end. A problem that does not end is a defeat or a failure; a struggle that does not end is a responsibility and a legacy.
We turn to the Book of Exodus. It details our enslavement in Egypt and then our miraculous rescue from slavery. And yet our freedom does not end the institution of slavery. In fact, the Bible’s record is mixed. Even though the injustice and cruelty of the Israelites’ slavery are remedied, slavery continues.

The Bible details laws about how one must treat slaves. Hebrew slaves are accorded more rights than others. We read, “When you acquire a Hebrew slave, that person shall serve six years—and shall go free in the seventh year, without payment.” (Exodus 21) Slavery endures. It was not eradicated with the Exodus. Its abolition remains our sacred task.

Likewise, the civil war did not end discrimination against African Americans. Racism continues. The defeat of Nazi tyranny did not eliminate the hatred of Jews and Judaism. Antisemitism gains new life in our own day.

These are struggles that span generations. Wieseltier counsels that our error is treating these as problems for which we can find practical—or technological—fixes rather than girding ourselves for life-long fights. I ponder his advice.

Does this new-found revelation lead to despair? World War II was only a battle? The Civil War a skirmish? The magnitude of these struggles can lead to a despondent spirit. Where can I discover a measure of hopefulness?

History’s timeline is long and its struggles are mighty. I recognize that I may not see the day when slavery ends. I may not witness antisemitism eradicated. I may never behold a time when war and bloodshed cease.

Their absence remains my hope. The fight against discrimination, antisemitism and violence must forever remain our struggles.

This is why patience and character are the most necessary of requirements.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr thundered:
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of .brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
Now is still the time. Now will forever be the time.

The dream continues. The struggle endures.

The responsibility is eternal.

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