Life is based on perceptions, and perceptions are based on assumptions. As human beings, our reactions to the world around us are based upon what we perceive we are seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting.
That is why two people can share the exact same experience yet have different perceptions and reactions. That's why we can be so shocked by another person's behavior (or shock others by ours) in response to a situation that we perceive differently. The problem with assumptions is that they are not absolute realities but conclusions that have been drawn for one or more practical reasons.
Assumptions are not absolute realities, but conclusions that have been drawn for practical reasons.
The wonderful thing about being a prophet was that you knew that the Creator of all Reality was communicating to you, and that what He told you was not an assumption but an absolute axiom of truth. The hard part about being a prophet -- especially if you were charged by God to deliver a warning of impending doom if people did not improve -- was convincing others who did not share such absolute clarity, but rather who ran their lives by perceptions and assumptions, and often mistaken ones.
Indeed, the conflict in the Mideast and world reaction is just a bunch of varied assumptions coming at each other from different directions. Thus all the very different perceptions that seem to be floating around these days of just what exactly needs to be done to bring peace, if in fact peace is possible.
Judaism recognizes the assumption paradigm. Hence a primary purpose of the 'Sinai Experience' was to make sure that the acceptance of Torah, at least at the beginning of Jewish history, was not a function of assumption but rather the result of a historical reality.
This is why only God could give the Torah to the Jewish people, and not some angel or human messenger -- because believing them would have entailed basing such acceptance on some level of assumption. The 'Kuzari' and other important rabbinic works explain this issue superbly, and show how this point is the basis to assume that belief in Torah is, in fact, not rooted in assumption but in incontrovertible evidence.
Torah is an objective standard to check your assumptions, allowing you to build upon the correct ones while discarding those which are not.
In fact, that is why God gave the Torah in the first place. Mankind has a tendency to be intellectually lazy, and will assume just about anything to make life more pleasant. Torah is an objective standard by which to check your assumptions for their validity, allowing you to build upon the correct ones while discarding those which are not.
To be a 'light unto nations,' as the Jewish people have been charged by God to be, means to share this process with the rest of the world. Global peace can and will only exist when there is a shared perception of the purpose of life, which can only be based upon a common assumption. In this case, this perception is not based upon assumption, but based on fact, from God Himself.
If we do not function in this capacity, then people make their own assumptions about the purpose of creation and develop their own perceptions about life. There is bound to be conflict when this happens, and depending upon factors such as timing in history, geographical location, resources, etc., the size and intensity of the conflict will vary.
Thus, the Christians went on Crusades and killed millions over centuries. The Islamic world has often hunted down 'infidels' with a similar vengeance. The religion of the West has become business and the pursuit of pleasure, with its own dire consequences. And, over 3000 years of history and including the present time, the Jewish people have fragmented into more interpretations of Judaism than there are colors in the rainbow, resulting in vast assimilation.
How is the Mideast conflict perceived by the various concerned parties?
To the radical Muslim, it is a holy war, period. The assumption is that the Koran reigns supreme, Muhammad was God's latest prophet, and that the world is destined to one day be completely Islamic. Hence, the war against Israel is not just about territorial rights; it is about the greater goals of Islam, and compromise with Israel is out of the question, or at least only a stepping stone to fulfillment of the 'final solution.'
To the Westerner, the Mideast conflict is about politics and diplomacy.
To the Westerner, the Mideast conflict is about politics and diplomacy. The assumption is that everyone wants to live a materially fulfilling life and the Islamic people are no different. All the Arabs want in general, and the Palestinians in particular, is place to call home, where they can set up shop and make a comfortable life for themselves. The assumption is that the Israelis, for reasons of insecurity at best and hatred of Arabs at least, are holding them back from this national goal and therefore are the reason why peace has yet to be achieved.
True, there are many questions that poke holes in such assumptions, such as, why did Jordanians massacre and eject Palestinians in the 1970s when they lived with them? Or, if the Arabs are so rich and have so much land, why don't they simply give a large portion to the Palestinian population, enough cash to make a go of it, and leave them to their own fate?
Furthermore, why have the Arabs never accepted Israel's right to nationhood, and why have they started all the wars? More recently, why did Arafat reject the terms of Camp David that would have clearly put him on track to physical prosperity and nationhood? And, why did Palestinians dance in the streets on September 11 after terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers?
Loose ends that have to be tied up, it is assumed. To assume otherwise would force the West to check its own assumptions for accuracy, embroiling them in a rather scary process.
LEFT, RIGHT & CENTER
In Israel, the Left assumes that religion is dead, and is deadly for the State of Israel. This is why they often compare the charedi Jews (orthodox) to Islamic fundamentalists, and accuse them of undermining society. They assume that the Arabs only want land and liberation, and that peace is just around the political corner if only Israel would turn it.
The so-called Middle has more or less disintegrated over the last year or so, as the world moves in the direction of polarization. Moderates have either gone to the Left or to the Right, as suicide bombings and world reaction to Israeli incursions in the West Bank either prove that we must yield -- or that we cannot yield -- to their demands. Which direction a moderate goes will depend upon his perception and assumptions about life in general and in the Land of Israel in particular.
The Right in Israel assumes that it is an ideological conflict. After all, if the main antagonist is telling you that it is, then who are we to argue? Thus, the Right is not interested in making compromises or peace because it is assumed that peace is not possible, not with an Arab population ideologically bent upon wiping out every Jew.
Europeans assume that if all of the assumptions prove false, the world can survive without the Jews.
Just read the Arab newspapers or watch their television and promotional films. There isn't a hint of reciprocity in their messages, especially on the level of child education. Just the opposite! The message is one of hatred for the Jew and of a mission to expel them from the 'Land of Palestine' at the first possible chance. (And they certainly have tried that over the years.)
The British and Europeans have assumed that all of that will change once we give the Palestinians their homeland. At least they assume it's worth a try. They assume that if the Arabs prove to be liars, somehow Israel will be able to survive anyhow in spite of the tremendous weakening of strategic strength. And finally, they assume that even if all of the above assumptions prove false, the world can survive without the Jews.
END OF DAYS?
There is another group involved in all of this, quietly tucked away from the political fray. They are Torah-observant, and even though others may label them 'Ultra-Orthodox,' they are far from fanatical. They are simply loyal to God, Torah, and Jewish history.
What is their assumption? In truth, they have none in this regard. They know that Torah is true even if others assume that it is not. That includes the books of the Prophets and Writings as well. It also includes the words of the Talmud and the many Midrashim, all of which speak about the End of Days. And some amongst them even possess Kabbalistic knowledge that puts the events of the day into Divine perspective.
They see how the events of today really have no logic to them, and how various attempts to better the situation actually end up making it worse.
They see how the events of today really have no logic to them, and how various attempts to better the situation actually end up making it worse, just as the prophets of old predicted it would. They see how people in positions of power can believe and say things that are incredibly distant from plain reality, just as the Talmud predicted they would. And, they see time speeding up and history changing in quantum leaps, with events taking on a kind of 'biblical' quality to them.
They see the miracles, as negative as many of them may be at this stage, and they see the hand of God. They see it becoming more overt with every passing day, and they wonder, is something big happening? "Big" as in bigger than the Palestinian people. "Big" as in bigger than the dilemma of the Israeli government. "Big" as in bigger than the UN, the Red Cross, the EU, and even the White House.
"Big" as in the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose of creation.
If so, then the conflict is supernatural, not natural. If so, then its resolution must be, by definition, supernatural. This would explain the 'no-win' situation that has developed, and the increased anti-Semitism around the world. This would explain a lot of things that all of the world's assumptions just can't make heads or tails of.
We may actually be witnessing the end of the period of history which has been ruled by assumption. The Mideast conflict is not just about resolving the dispute between Jews and Arabs and appeasing the nations of the world. It is about eradicating false assumptions and joining forces with truth, with the Ultimate Truth.
Torah is an objective standard by which to check your assumptions for their validity. Global peace can and will only exist when there is a shared perception of the purpose of life, based upon a common understanding of God's revealed truth.
Therefore those who truly yearn for peace must reach beyond the limitations of human assumption, and more in the direction of the only known source of Godly truth, the Torah itself. Then, and only then, can mankind build a perfected society upon a foundation of common perception about the role of man and the purpose of creation. May it happen soon in our time.