Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jew, Go Home

This is what the L-rd Almighty, the G-d of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.   Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.   Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the L-rd for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  (cf. Jeremiah 29:4-7)

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  The Jews have been sent into exile and the exile will come to an end in one of two ways: (1) when we begin to properly discharge our duties as Jews or (2) when the ancient hatred and animosity of the nations is leveled against the Jew yet once again.  In either case, there will be none to blame except ourselves and, sadly, considering the history of our people, I fear it will only be the latter which will serve to wake us from our slumber.  

For centuries men have discussed Jew-hatred and more recently, anti-Semitism, postulating as to its causes.  More often than not, the discussion lays much of the blame at the feet of of the nations as evidenced in their baseless hatred borne of ignorance, madness, and paranoia.  To a certain degree this is arguably true.  Our history is certainly filled with Amalekites and Hamans whose attacks against us were based on nothing more than the premise that "there is a certain people dispersed among the peoples . . . . who keep themselves separate.  Their customs are different from those of all other people . . . it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them." (cf. Esther 3)  

And yet, what we have so often failed to ask ourselves is when do we need to fear Amalek the most? Is it not when our hands are slack and no longer raised towards the heavens? Were those not the moments when the battle favored Amalek against Joshua?   Should we really expect that it would be any different today?  Do not our sages remind us that when Amalek comes, the Jewish people must somewhere or other have neglected their duties?  

In the Midrash Tanchuma and Talmud Arakhin 5b it reads: "The enemy comes (against the Jews) only for laxity of hands in upholding the Law."  All too often the Jewish people have called into question the divinity of its mission and expressed doubts about whether G-d was among us or not, and as a result of this doubt and mistrust, neglected their duties as Jews i.e. performing the Word of G-d.

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch comments:

So long as the Jewish people fully comprehends and carries out its duties, so long as it remains a "kingdom of priests" to its G-d and a "holy people" in its intercourse with mankind, then it matters not that, so long as there is night upon the earth, it should be "scattered" and also appear to be "different" in the eyes of the peoples; it matters not that its priestly and holy wandering should "set it apart" from the customs and ways of the peoples and that - so long as there is night upon the earth - this very separation should provide enemies like Haman a welcome excuse for persecuting the Jews for their own ends.  Above the madness of the nations, the intrigues and plots of ministers, and the weakness of princes stands G-d, Who can sway not only the waves of the ocean but also the hearts of the princes for the deliverance of His faithful ones.  (R' S.R. Hirsch, Adar I, p. 368-369)

As long as there are Jews in the world, Haman and Amalek will always find a way to justify their enmity and hatred.  That is simply the way it is in this present world.   My concern lies elsewhere. My concern primarily lies with the willing defection from Judaism and Torah-observance of my brethren which actually does much to infuse and augment the persecution of the Jews by the nations with plausibility.  

The sense of security and comfort of which many Jews in this country boast couldn't be more illusory, hollow, and false.   And the Jews who boast the loudest are often the ones who have shirked their duty as Jews with the greatest fervor, while imagining that they could buy the friendship of the nations and permanently secure that friendship by discarding everything that distinguishes them as Jews.  

So, what has happened here in America?   In no other place and in no other time have we failed to demonstrate to the nations how to live a life of Divine service more than here in America; here in America, where we have enjoyed unprecedented benefits of citizenship, we have failed to show ourselves as loyal servants of G-d.  Instead, we have obtained and fought to secure and maintain those benefits, in large part, by slackening our hands and diminishing our commitment to the Torah.

For the most part, we have not related to American society in a very positive way.  We have done very little to inspire our fellow-citizens to live righteously.   Instead, we have advanced causes which are not only contrary to the Torah, which we are supposed to represent, but we have championed policies which have worked against the peace and prosperity of this nation whose welfare was to be our chief concern during our temporary sojourn here. What opportunities we have forfeited.

What we have forgotten is that we are citizens of a territorial state and also a member of the Jewish people, a people who are rooted in the Torah and who belong to Him no matter where we have been scattered.   G-d's objective was never for us to disappear among the nations, but expressing and demonstrating loyalty to our host nations was actually a religious imperative and obligation, as detailed so clearly in the passage from Jeremiah 29 above.  And those obligations are not mere payment for the hospitality of our gracious benefactors.  We owe loyalty even to oppressive regimes.

G-d prescribed for us a duty to be loyal to every state and every country which provided for us a home, along with our wives and children, even when this hospitality grew cold and the nations became indifferent and even hostile.  We were never exhorted to seek special representation or advocate for special treatment.  Rather we were to live as inconspicuously as possible and pray to the L-rd for the prosperity of the nations with the understanding that the welfare of the nations was bound up with our own.

Our chief duty among the nations to which we have been scattered is to demonstrate to the world the highest ethical and moral standards the world has ever known.  The Chasam Sofer expressed concern that assimilation and compromising Torah principles might even serve to prolong the exile.  He compared the betterment of the Jews' position in exile to a king who built a palace for his exiled son. Instead of rejoicing, the son lamented that his improved and luxurious living conditions only indicated that the king did not intend to bring him home any time soon.  [Rabbi Shlomo Sefer, Chut HaMeshulash].

Instead we abandoned the Torah and even exchanged its "burdens" for the acceptance of our host nations and began to seek how we might satisfy, gratify, and enrich ourselves, rather than remain true and loyal to the countries who allowed us dwell in their midst.  Our desire to be rid of the burden of serving Him blinded us so that we could no longer see that the heavier the oppression the greater the opportunity we had to sanctify G-d's name by promoting the welfare of our host nation.

Somewhat ironically, perhaps, non-observance has proven to be the cause of antisemitism rather than the cure so many thought it would be.  The persecution of the Jews will not spare those who are determined to desecrate the Sabbath, eat pork, and continue living non-Jewish lives.  The hatred of the Jewish way of life is merely a disguise for hatred of the Jew.  Who knew that there would be so many antisemites among our own?  The only result that we will reap from our rejection of and deviance from the Torah will be more suffering and a deepening of the exile for our recalcitrance and rejection of Him as predicted by that same Torah for which we currently harbor so much disdain.

I am not hopeful that the Jews in America are going to awaken any time soon and return en masse to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But I am confident that Hashem is going to once again use the nations to remind the Jew who he is, who G-d called him to be, and the lives he called us to live.

Has the Emancipation, with its newly found freedom and opportunity, resulted in more joy, greater satisfaction and a still happier existence than what our forbears experienced?  Do you believe that you no longer need to remember the past?  Do you really think that somber times will never recur?   

O, you deluded ones!  Look at the society which is now freely open to you.  Look around in the marketplace of life.  Has the race of Haman died out completely with his ten sons? Could you not find someone from the Rhine to the Oder, from the Volga to the Danube who is capable of being his successor?  Be sober and observe.  Indeed, the horizon of the Jew may well become somber; sultry clouds hang in the German sky.  Even in our own Jewish circles indications for gloom are apparent.  No one is secure.

[R' S.R. Hirsch, 1858]

6 comments:

  1. I think its interesting when a member of a group criticizes the group. Often they bring insight to the conversation that an outsider isn't able to see.

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  2. Very thought provoking and heartfelt. As a total Gentile brought up in evangelical circles, I think I see at least part of both sides. Lurking at Vox's place, I find I can't can't argue with much of the Alt-Right ((())) stuff. Facts are facts, sadly. History is what it is. There is a lot of blowhard rhetoric flying around that is less hatred than pushback against long-term manipulation, but occasionally a commenter looks like he's entirely off his meds. I wish there were a way to moderate such individuals, because their anger is going nowhere good.

    From the evangelical side, I recognize the importance of the Jew in the plans and purposes of God, and while I understand the anger against Jews who have wielded power to their own advantage in the U.S., it turns my stomach to read it with increasing regularity.

    The fact is, as I understand prophecy, there must be a remnant. For there to be a remnant, there must remain a Jewish people. Today's Jews -- whether manipulative or decent, secular or spiritual -- are the fathers, or grandmothers, or great-grandparents of a people precious to my Lord, and I must either choose to love them or find myself not thinking as He does.

    And I do enough of that already.

    Thanks for a sobering, deep read.

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  3. If we are going to suffer, it is better to suffer for living righteously and for living faithfully as Mordechai, Daniel, Paul, the disciples, and countless others have. It is also poor form to use our suffering to glorify ourselves rather than G-d.

    I believe there is baseless hatred for the Jews and there is hatred that we have brought upon ourselves. What matters at the end of the day is the proper response to the hatred deserved or not. Doesn't really matter. G-d asks us to suffer well, and though He may slay us, we should yet praise Him and bring Him honor. G-d is also the One Who vindicates us at the end of the day, not the ADL or anyone else.

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  4. I realize this question is based on an assumption. The assumption is that Jews tend to be very prevalent in certain industries, like TV, Hollywood and other entertainment industries. Why is it that we see such blatantly immoral offerings in these industries, from Jews?

    When MGM was founded the Jewish ownership insisted on products that were "movies I can take my daughter to". Today the products promote the exact opposite of moral or ethical behavior.

    Forgive me for bringing this up again, but it seems that at least some modern Jews view anything anti-Christian as being pro Jewish. On a related track, what's with Jews like George Soros? How is destroying America's social constructs good for Israel or Jews in general?

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  5. I don't know if I have a satisfactory answer, but I do have a theory. I do think G-d took a stiff-necked people who were the smallest people and that He intended to make them prominent and thoroughly equipped them to advance His purposes. We also know that G-d delights in choosing the weak things of the world and the things that are not to shame and humble the things that are. This is a discernible pattern in the Scriptures.

    When the odds are stacked against us in human terms and the more impossible a situation is, the more evident it is that He is involved when we're victorious. (David and Goliath, Gideon and his small army, Abraham and Sarah, and the list goes on and on).

    And so I believe G-d instilled tremendous influence in the Jewish people generally, influence that can be used for extraordinary good, or equally extraordinary ill. I don't think your observations are without merit or misguided.

    Mordechai is probably one of my favorite examples of how we should be behaving ourselves. He demonstrates how we can remain faithful to G-d and the Torah, while at the same time remain loyal to the state and seek the welfare of the goyim.

    After all, upon hearing of plot to kill the king, Mordechai wastes no time revealing the plot and saving the king's life. A wicked, brutal and ruthless king, nonetheless. We also do not see him crowing about it later either. He simply carried out the directives as outlined in Jeremiah 29 and G-d saw to it later to reward him accordingly. Esther declared to the king that if the decree were merely to enslave her people, she would not have bothered the king with her request. They didn't try to foist their agenda upon the Persians, but remained faithful to G-d and took a stand for righteousness.

    My answer is simple, and perhaps not satisfactory, but we have by and large rejected the Torah, put G-d behind our backs and misused our giftings and influence to serve ourselves rather than others, generally speaking, and some more than others.

    When we are not living up to our calling, like some of the people you cited, our Jewishness will be highlighted and to blame. When we do live up to our calling, our Jewishness will be highlighted and G-d will be glorified.

    To cite just one example, Karl Marx, a Jew, is credited with one of the most pervasive and destructive political philosophies the world has ever experienced, a philosophy which has resulted incalculable destruction of human life, and the Scriptures remind us that when the Jewish people embrace the promised Messiah it will literally mean life from the dead.

    G-d said to Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed and that they would be a blessing to the entire world. Perhaps if his descendants did not live as Abraham did, then not so much. Though we may misuse our calling and our gifts, the gift and calling of G-d are irrevocable and the George Soroses of the world will stand before Him to give an account just as much as the Joseph's, Daniel's and Mordechai's.

    I am a simple-minded man and I think my answer, though perhaps not satisfactory, might at least be a starting point.

    Be appalled at this, you heavens,
    and shudder with great horror,”
    declares the Lord.
    13 “My people have committed two sins:
    They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
    and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

    Jeremiah 2:12-14

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  6. I think that's a pretty good answer.

    The flip side to "why are Jews so..." is "why are Christians so...". I don't know that I have a good answer to my groups problems. Sin is sin and all have fallen short.

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