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Parshas Ki Savo

Get the Merchandise

By Rabbi Label Lam

"You will become an object of horror, an example, and an abject lesson among all the nations to which HASHEM will lead you." (Devarim 28:37)

Let us pause to marvel at the miraculous properties of this prophetic statement. In order to evaluate the power of such a prediction we must first ascertain if it is clearly stated. Is it vague like a fortune cookie? “You will meet a stranger!” Secondly, we must check to see if it is improbable if not downright irrational. Calling for snow sometime in the winter is no big trick. Forecasting attitudes over thousands of years is. Thirdly we need to determine if it came to be. That’s the easiest.

Firstly, the verse could not be more open. It explicitly informs us that we, the Jewish People will be the poster child for hatred and disgust everywhere we go. Secondly, how easy would it be with only future-spec to predict that we would universally despised, even by cultures that we enriched. Who could have reasoned that Germany would turn upon us so viciously after declaring universal tolerance? As for the third point, one would have to have been asleep for two thousand years and still leaning on the snooze button to not recognize the epidemic proportion, and danger of anti-Semitism alive in the world today. The Protestants and Catholics have been fiercely fighting on the British Isles since “the reformation” and there is no word to describe the hatred they have for each other. The Sunnis and the Shiites are still brutally attacking one another and there is no word to describe that animosity. However, we would be greatly challenged to find a dictionary in the world, in whatever language that does not contain that word, anti-Semitism.

Professor Michael Curtis of Rutgers University writes, “Everybody has a people they hate; a group you do not like, that are threatening you. But the uniqueness of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that no other people in the world have been charged simultaneously with alienation from society and with cosmopolitanism; with being capitalist exploiters and also revolutionary communists; with having a materialist mentality or being a people of the book. We are accused of being both militant aggressors and cowardly pacifists; adherents to a superstitious religion and agents of modernism. We uphold a rigid law and are also morally decadent. We have a chosen people mentality and an inferior human nature; we are both- arrogant and timid; individualistic and communally adherent; we are guilty of both the crucifixion of Jesus to the Christians and to others we are held to account for inventing Christianity. Everything and its opposite becomes an excuse for anti-Semitism.”

In 1923 Lloyd George penned the following: “Of all the extreme fanaticisms that plays-havoc in man’s nature, there is none as irrational as anti- Semitism. The Jews cannot vindicate themselves in the eyes of these fanatics. If the Jews are rich they are the victims of ridicule. If they take sides in a war, it is because they wish to gain advantage from the spilling of non-Jewish blood. If they espouse peace, it is because they are scared and anxious by nature or traitors to their county. If the Jew dwells in a foreign land he is persecuted and expelled. If he wishes to return to his own land, he is prevented from doing so.”

What’s the point of observing these facts? What profit is there in this painful exercise?

An older study partner told me a story he had heard from a grandparent that came here from the “old country”. There was a man who bought a goat to get milk. The goat failed to deliver milk. Then a plague came that killed all the goats and his goat died. He cried aloud, “When it comes to giving milk, she’s not a goat! When a goat-disease shows up, suddenly she’s a goat.”

I knew of a Russian fellow whose heart was turned back to Judaism, because even in communist Russia where everyone was equal, he had “Jew” on his papers. He was blocked from many opportunities as a result. He reasoned that if, for being a Jew, he’s paying such a mighty price he might as well get the merchandise.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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