Frankly, My Dear, It’s Lying in My Left Earlock

Oct. 20 2014

A Yiddish expression that translates literally as “I have it in my left earlock,” and figuratively as “I don’t give a damn,” is not one known to most American Jews. That may be because the custom of growing long sidecurls (pe’ot; singular pe’ah) has been relegated to Hasidim. The origins of the phrase, however, may lie not with hairstyles but with the misinterpretation of a kabbalistic phrase. Philologos explains:

The terms pe’ah smolit and pe’ah yemanit, “left side” and “right side” . . . designate in kabbalistic literature the two fundamental aspects of Creation, God’s rigor and God’s mercy. The “left side” represents the realm of law, justice, and retribution, the “right side” that of love, compassion, and forgiveness. God is equally composed of both, but human souls have their roots in one or the other. . . . Ultimately, the “left side” of Creation, while an intrinsic part of it, is less sublime, as far as the kabbalists were concerned, than the “right side.” Although both are needed to keep the cosmos in balance, love is a higher attribute than law.

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More about: Kabbalah, Language, Pe'ot, Yiddish

 

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror