by Rabbi Berel Wein
Apparently we are now once again back in the historical norm of Jews being killed every day simply because they are Jews. Israeli Arabs are also being killed by the rockets of their co-religionists but they also deserve to be killed because they are living in a Jewish state. Jews in Seattle were shot at and one was killed because she somehow was also Jewish. Tens of thousands of idiotic Europeans march carrying pictures of Nasralla and extolling the rights of the Moslem terrorists to keep on killing Jews. The head of Iran promises a new Holocaust and is actively preparing for it.
For Jews who thought that the Holocaust had finally brought the world to its senses and that "never again" was a certainty and not just a slogan, our current world is a rude and most unpleasant awakening. From Mel Gibson to Ken Livingstone to almost the entire Moslem world, our planet reeks of open and aggressive anti-Semitism. And there does not seem that there is much that we can do about it.
In the past, when Jews lived in the Diaspora, subject to official persecution by the Church and governments, Jews adopted a two-fold attitude towards their torment. One part of Jewish attitude was almost fatalistic. The non-Jewish world hates the Jews. It is an irrational, unjustified, inexplicable hatred and there is not much that the Jews can do except to attempt to survive and be successful in spite of that hatred. Heaven has its reasons for so treating the Jews but the Jews tenaciously will never reject Heaven because of this.
This attitude is reflected in the kinnot – the prayers of lamentation that were recently recited on Tisha B'av. This attitude, which was always part of the makeup of the mindset of religious Jewry, persists and even thrives in the Jewish world today. The major difference in our time being, and it is really a major difference, that Jews possess a state and armed might to fight back against those who wish to destroy us. But basically, deep down in the Jewish heart, there is recognition that no matter what, the basic inimical attitude towards Jews will always persist.
It is an axiom of life that "Esau hates Jacob." Jews should therefore not constantly look inward with feelings of guilt as though the fault for this hatred against them lies with them. There are not sufficient resources or abilities present in the world to disprove all of the wild conspiracy theories about Jews that abound. And that is just a sad fact of Jewish life, one that we have lived with for millennia.
The other concurrent attitude that has always existed within the Jewish people is the demand that the Torah placed upon us to be a special people, a "treasure amongst the nations, a kingdom of priests, a holy people." We are bidden to be "a light unto the nations," a force for goodness and morality.
We are charged with the task of advancing civilization, providing moral hope for others, influencing somehow the general world for good. And we are supposed to be doing all of this while Jews are dying daily simply because they are Jews. But this has been our role in all of human history. We have always been the canary in the coal mine, the litmus paper test that defines good and evil in our world.
That the people who are always most threatened with extinction should somehow at the same time be the driving force for the advancement of humanity in thought, technology, commerce, faith and the arts is a mind boggling paradox. And yet that is the way it is and it has been for many millennia. Apparently, even when Jews are dying simply because they are Jews, the holy burden of being a special people has not departed from our shoulders.
In the midst of our painful and most necessary struggle to defeat our enemies by force of arms and by killing them before they are able to destroy us, we are yet reminded that the given enmity of the world towards us in no way mitigates our God given task of being that special people in the world that bears God's mission of goodness and righteousness as part of its national charter.
We all look forward to the time when Jews will stop dying needlessly because of blind hatred and when we also will no longer be required to do any killing. However, tragically, that time has not yet arrived. Therefore, the twin attitudes of acceptance of the reality of the hatred mounted against us and fighting for our survival, coupled with our never ending service to the cause of humankind and our hopes and plans for a better future for all, should continue to guide and inform us. Jewish history validates these ideas and therefore we should not despair even though Jews are dying every day.
Reprinted with permission from rabbiwein.com