GOOD MORNING! Last week we explored the excuses for anti-Semitism; this week we'll look at the reason. Anti-Semitism is unique amongst the hatreds in the world in a combination of four aspects:
- Longevity -- it's been around a long time
- Universality -- virtually everywhere in the world
- Intensity -- it's expressed in a particularly virulent manner
- Confusion -- there is surprisingly little agreement on why people hate the Jews.
Historians offer many "reasons" to explain why people are anti-Semitic: Jews are too powerful or too lazy; too separate or a threat to "racial purity" through assimilation; pacifistic or warmongers; capitalist exploiters or revolutionary communists; the "killers" of Jesus or the progenitors of Jesus; possessors of a Chosen People mentality or an inferiority complex. These reasons have one thing in common -- they have nothing to do with our being Jewish. One might think that we are just the victims of bad luck -- always possessing the needed quality to be hated wherever we are in the world at exactly that time in history.
Do you know who disagrees with the historians? Anne Frank. Writes Anne Frank on April 11, 1944 in her diary: "Who knows -- it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we now suffer. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any other country for that matter. We will always remain Jews."
Anne Frank made a point of stressing that Jews have something of special value to give to the world, and that is precisely what the world has resented, and that is why people have persecuted Jews. Anne Frank identifies anti-Semitism as a hatred of Jewishness, a loathing altogether different from the bigotry or racism that other peoples experience.
The Talmud (Tractate Shabbos 69) cites the source of anti-Semitism using a play on words: The Torah – the source of the Jewish system of laws, values and moral standards – was received at Mount Sinai. The Hebrew pronunciation of "Sinai" is almost identical to the Hebrew word for "hatred" – sinah. "Why was the Torah given on a mountain called Sinai?" asks the Talmud. "Because the great sinah – the tremendous hatred aimed at the Jew – emanates from Sinai."
At Sinai Jews were told that there is one God, Who makes moral demands on all of humanity. Consequently, at Sinai the Jewish nation became the target for the hatred of those whose strongest drive is to liberate mankind from the shackles of conscience and morality.
At Sinai the Jewish nation was appointed to be "a light unto the nations." There are those who embrace Jews and the Jewish faith because of that light; but there are also those who want the world to be a place of spiritual darkness. They object to morality. Those would-be harbingers of darkness attack the Jews as the lightning rod for their hatred. This "call to Sinai" – the message entrusted to and borne by the Jews – ultimately transforms the world. Yet, it is this very message that draws forth the wrath of those who would give their last ounce of strength to resist it.
A great many people simply can't cope with the burden of being good. However, when they act in ways that are bad, they can't cope with the resultant feelings of guilt. Try as they may, they can never cut themselves loose from the standards of absolute morality dictated by the Torah. Stuck in this "Catch-22" situation, people turn with their mounting frustrations against the Jews, whom they perceive as personifying humanity’s collective conscience.
When the Jews entered the theological arena, they showed people all the mistakes they had been making: Pagan gods are nonsense – there is only one God for all of mankind, Who is invisible, infinite and perfect. Infanticide and human sacrifice are unacceptable. Every human being is born with specific rights. No one can live as he pleases, for everyone must surrender his will to a higher Authority.
On a certain conscious level, people recognize the Jews’ message as truth. Those unwilling to embrace the truth have found that the only way to rid themselves of it is to destroy the messengers – for the message itself is too potent to be dismissed.
That is what is so irksome about the Jews, and that is why, for some people, nothing less than total destruction of the Jews will do. If Judaism were just another ideology, people could laugh it off and continue on their merry way. But deep in his soul, every human being recognizes the essential truths of morality – people can’t just laugh it off.
For the last 2,000 years the Jewish people have gone through enormous amounts of persecution, hatred - ultimately leading to genocide. And through it all, the Jewish people always held onto being Jewish. And the reason why is that they really understood that it was worth it. They understood what the meaning of being Jewish was, and they were willing to pay the price.
The pain that is part and parcel of being Jewish is obvious; if people cannot see any meaning to that pain, it is unlikely that they will be willing to stand by their Jewish identity. That is why we find such widespread assimilation today – Jews do not see why they should "lose out" on life and set themselves apart from their host societies.
If we can come to understand why Jews are so hated, we can understand who Jews are and, more important, who Jews can be. A powerful effort has been made to remove the Jewish element anti-Semitism teaches about the uniqueness and preciousness of the Jew. This alone is a compelling reason for Jews to learn about anti-Semitism and what it means to be a Jew. (drawn from "Why the Jews?" seminar: http://aish.com/seminars/whythejews )
Portion of the Week
The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary -- oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim, the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "Make a forehead plate of pure gold, and engrave on it the same manner as a signet ring, (the words), Holy to G-d. Attach a twist of sky-blue wool to it, so that it can be (worn) right near the front of the turban." What lesson for life can we learn?
Each of the garments of the Cohanim, the Priests who served in the Mishkan, had a spiritual correspondence and influence. The turban, which is on top of the head, atoned for arrogance and conceit. There is, however, a time for pride -- when a person is proud to do the will of the Almighty. The Ksav Sofer, a great rabbi, commented that this is alluded to in our verse. "When pride is 'holy to the Almighty' then it can be on top of a person's head."
Arrogance is a trait that is detrimental to one's spiritual development and causes many difficulties when dealing with other people. When you are proud of fulfilling the Torah commandments, you will continue to do so even if others will mock or insult you.
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 18:
Jerusalem 4:50 Miami 5:58 New York 5:16
L.A. 5:22 Hong Kong 6:04 Singapore 6:59
Guatemala 5:49 Honolulu 6:13 J'Burg 6:30
Melbourne 7:57 Moscow 5:21 London 5:02
Atlanta 6:07 Toronto 5:33
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
We don't grow old,
we become old when we stop growing.
-- Carl Henry
Mazal Tov on Marriage of
Steven & Elizabeth
and to the
to the Resnick & Schwartz Families