Saturday, February 21, 2015

John Lennon and The Jews, A Philosophical Rampage

John Lennon and The Jews, A Philosophical Rampage  by Ze'ev Maghen, Toby Press, is a unique book, and "rampage" is a very good word to describe it.
A chance encounter at LAX introduces Maghen to a trio of Hare Krishna missionaries who turn out to be Israeli émigrés. They insist that Judaism is archaic, irrational, immoral and just downright stupid; that affiliating with the Jewish people in our modern, globalizing day and age is pointless and passé. Their adamant universalism and “everything is everything” rejection of their Jewish identity put the author in mind of his favorite Beatle’s famous lyric, “Imagine there’s no countries…and no religion too.”
John Lennon and the Jews is Maghen’s confrontation with Lennon’s vision of one-worldism and other in vogue beliefs that threaten Jewish continuity today. This work is a journey through centuries, countries, sitcoms, and ideas that will leave no thinking, feeling person unaffected. “You have never had so much fun cogitating,” writes one reader. “It’s like sitting in a yeshiva in front of a highly erudite rabbi – on mushrooms.”

When Maghen is explaining the uniqueness and importance of Judaism and being Jews, the book is excellent. I was planning on giving it to someone I know who needs to learn these things, but then Maghen gets distracted from that philosophic lesson and goes on a rampage against Judaism, making fun of halacha, Jewish Law. The things Maghen mocks would make no sense to those in most need of the first and even some of the last section of the book. It would turn them off Judaism and distracts from the very good and necessary parts of the book. The "rampage" section may undo the good of the first and last parts for those readers who are really in need of Maghen's wisdom.

Maghen's choice of John Lennon's "Imagine" as a symbol of modern Western values, or lack of values, is perfect. He brings up points I've written about, too.  "When you have nothing to die for, you really don't have anything to live for."

From what Maghen writes about himself, there's an enigma. I would like to know how and why he ended up in Israel. I'm sure his story is very interesting.

John Lennon and The Jews, A Philosophical Rampage is a good book for those with a grounding in Judaism and Jewish Life. They'll be able to handle the mocking and take it with humor it was meant to show. For those of us who eat "gebrochts," soaked and cooked matzah on Passover can sympathize with Maghen's disappointment and shock when given "matzah bags" instead of kneidlach. And certainly those who are just "traditional" rather than strictly Torah observant do find Shatnes and shaving regulations picayune and confusing.

Some people will really like John Lennon and The Jews, A Philosophical Rampage; I have no doubt. But I'd like Maghen to use his intelligence and skills to write the book he started, without the rampage, for those Jews raised in the one-dimensional John Lennon/Hare Krishna philosophy, because they need him. As he says in the last part of the book, Jews remain Jews no matter how they live and what they believe.

No comments: