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Friday, October 3, 2014

We Have Met the Enemy, And He Is Us! - Four Sons Walked Into Paradise part 9

Impollutable Pogo by Walt Kelly, 1970


It is now the eve of Yom Kippur and I have evil on my mind.

I return now to our Evil Son. I say 'our' because despite the fact that the midrash comes to exclude the Evil Son from the community, he is paradoxically included by the mere fact that he is recognized and discussed. No matter how many times we read the haggadah, the Evil Son is always present if only to be dismissed.

Why do Chazal go out of their way to bring the Evil Son to the seder table?

I raised several questions regarding the Evil Son in an earlier post. We can make more sense of possible answers by first addressing this fundamental question of the inclusion of this son at the table if only to tell him to pack it up and leave.

We noted earlier that the Evil Son comes to contrast mainly with the Wise Son. Whereas the Wise Son wants to know in depth about the rituals being performed, both the how and the why, the Evil Son dismisses what is going on as being personally irrelevant.

The Evil Son is, in some essential way, the dark side of the Wise Son. In Jungian terms we can say that he represents the 'shadow' of the Wise Son-- perhaps of all the other Sons.

In other words: We are all the Evil Son, just as we are all the Wise Son, The Tam and the One Who Doesn't Know How to Ask.

The more we try to push the Evil Son away, to claim that he has ousted himself, that he doesn't belong, the more he stays.

The Evil Son is the part of us that we find so distasteful, so far away from our idealized selves that the only way we can relate to this dark shadow is to find it in and project it onto others.

The liberals and the conservatives who decry each other, the Jews who hate the Arabs, the xenophobes who despise the aliens, all of these recognize in the 'other' that which is within themselves which they cannot access, cannot touch.

The world that allowed Jews, the Eternal Other, to be slaughtered in the Shoah and those who would delight at the destruction of the State of Israel project upon us that which they despise in themselves.

All of us have a shadow. All of us cannot easily touch it much less be aware of it. But when we begin to comprehend what we so hate about the other, we have a clue to what is darkest inside of us.

Erich Neumann, a Jewish student of Jung, elucidated this notion of the shadow in his book DepthPsychology and a New Ethic. I will bring up more of the substance of the book in later posts.

Neumann himself quotes the Talmud:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף נד עמוד א ואהבת את ה' אלהיך בכל לבבך וגו'. בכל לבבך - בשני יצריך, ביצר טוב וביצר הרע

Babylonian Talmud Tractate B'rachot 54a: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart...” with all your heart: With both of your inclinations, with the good inclination and with the evil inclination.

Chazal recognized that we are comprised of both good and evil. Part of our personal struggle is not to repress the evil, but to bring it into the picture; to use it along with the good and in this way truly love ourselves, mankind and thereby God.

We will delve into this more next time.

So we find the Evil Son at the seder table every year because he is always part of us. We can try to distance ourselves from him, say that we are different, exclude him from the redemption while blaming him for the exclusion. But he is an inextricable part of our being.

May we merit on this day of Atonement to be truly at-one with ourselves, our fellow humans, all of creation and with the Lord.