October 6, 2020
A question was sparked by a student regarding my reference to Kafka's parable of the open door, in Kafka literature this is referred to as "Before the Law", or in the original German, Vor dem Gesetz. It appears as a separate story but is best known in the context of his story, The Trial or Der Prozess.
In the book The Trial Josef K. faces a cruel, faceless, evil bureaucracy; his warning of things to come, and these things have come. At one point during his adventures he meets a priest in a cathedral, Josef has never met this priest, but as Josef is about to leave the cathedral the priest calls out his name. The priest tells Josef that he is in fact a court employee and he has a message for him. The message comes from the opening section of the Law, the introductory section. The priest asks what K plans to do, K says he will seek help but he feels he can speak openly to the priest, he trusts this priest who works for the court...the priest replies that this trust is misplaced...
it will end badly...you cast about too much for outside help...don't be deluded....you are deluding yourself about the court, in the scriptures that preface the law that particular delusion is described thus:
Before the law stands a doorkeeper on guard, to this doorkeeper comes a man from the country who begs admittance to the Law, through an open doorway, the doorkeeper says that he cannot admit the man at the moment, the man, on reflection asks if he can be admitted later, it is possible answers the doorkeeper but not at this moment, Jetzt, aber nicht.
The doorkeeper gives him a stool so he can sit at the side of the door. There he sits waiting for days, years, in the first years he curses his evil fate outload, in the later years he only mutters to himself. He bribes the doorkeeper and the doorkeeper accepts the bribes but says it is only so that the man can feel he has done everything that he can, but it will not help, there are even more powerful guards inside. The man from the country grows old. Now his life is coming to an end.
Before he dies he collects his thoughts from all these years of his life, he has one question which he has never asked, he beckons the doorkeeper;
What is it you want to know now? asks the Doorkeeper. the man says; How is it that in all these years no one has come seeking admission but me?
The doorkeeper replies; no one but you can gain admittance to this door, since this door was intended for no one but you. I am now going to shut it.
Of course there is no explanation. That is up to you. What does all this mean? It means many things, to many people, and yet nothing to others. It reflects a system where the little man from the country can never seek justice and he waits in vain. It shows a cold heartless system of law that the common man cannot grasp or comprehend. It shows Josef K who trusts the priest and believes he has a chance but the priest tells him he is deluding himself, that in the end it will end badly for him, which it does. It represents an impregnable system that those without power, influence, or money cannot break through. The effort is futile.
It also shows man passively waiting for permission to enter a door, a door which is in fact open the entire time. The doorkeeper is an obstacle that the man is incapable of overcoming.
Josef K speaks of his innocence but in the parable told by the priest the issue of Right or Wrong does not exist. We do not know why the country man is there or what issue he came to address, we only know that he wastes his life stuck at a door. Guilt or innocence does not figure. We often believe that in order to succeed in life we need to be good; follow the rules and success will come, but this is not the case, we need to fight for our success. We need to remove our obstacles.
Kafka also stresses that often we feel better because we Tried, but this is foolishness. The act of trying is only to make us feel better but in the real world only Results matter. You earn your commission for a sale, not for the effort involved, that is the stark truth.
A lesson I believe is important for us is the final statement by the doorkeeper. Why has no one else attempted to enter this door? because this door was created only for you. This is a very Jewish concept, as it says in the Talmud, that which is set aside for one person can never be taken by another. Each one of us has our share in this world.
No one stole your thunder or your glory. No one took your chance, your chance is there, for you! You and you alone have this opportunity. And if you don't take it, it will be gone, the door will be shut. For what has been set aside for you is yours alone.
With Krav Maga, your achievements are your own. Never look to someone else and feel they took your moment, your glory. Your belt is your own, your rank is your own and it has nothing to do with anyone else and you should never measure yourself in comparison with anyone else. This is your door, and if you do not overcome your personal obstacles, the door will close and be shut forever. No one else can be admitted to this door, for it was created only for you.
As a student I watched many others "pass" me. Itay saw me waiting patiently and he encouraged me, he kept saying...Moshe, Your day of glory will come. "Your"; what is yours can never be taken by anyone else, it is yours. In life we each have our own door, a door created just for us, no one else can enter it. However, there will be obstacles, and "making an effort" is not enough. We need to break through, we need to take chances, we must not "wait for permission to enter". The door was open all along and the man from the country wasted his life waiting next to an open door, sitting on a hard stool. This is the message of Franz Kafka.