Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Teves 5763 - December 25, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Jew Hatred

by Rav Alexander Zusha Friedman Hy'd

Part II


The following article was written by Rav Alexander Zusha Friedman, Hy'd, one of the foremost chareidi writers before and during World War Two, in the course of which he perished. Rav Friedman was an Agudas Yisroel leader and author of Ma'ayono Shel Torah. He analyzes the scourge of antisemitism through the ages with sharpness and clarity, down to his own day. Sadly, his ideas are just as relevant today as when he wrote them.

In the first part, Rav Friedman said that suffering is important and meaningful when we learn the message that it is trying to convey to us from Shomayim. Antisemitism defies human understanding. It seems to stem from contradictory sources: both our weakness and our strength; both our success and our failure. We suffer because we are the heart of the world, and problems show up in us first. Yaakov was given the power of words, and Eisov was given the power of hands. These two are in perpetual conflict.

Kisses of Hatred

When Eisov was on his way to meet Yaakov and attack him, Yaakov despatched messengers to convey the message to Eisov, "I have dwelt with Lovon yet I have kept all the mitzvos." He wanted to let Eisov know that he was not at all afraid of encountering him since he kept all of Hashem's commandments and this was the most effective shield he could hope to have to protect him against the provocations of Eisov and Lovon.

Yet Yaakov beseeched Hashem, "Please save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisov, for I am afraid of him, lest he come and smite me, both mothers and children" (32:12). We see that it is better to be attacked openly by Eisov while remaining an authentic Yaakov than to be received warmly by him, like a long-lost brother, while becoming transformed into another Eisov in the process.

As Eisov drew close to Yaakov, he saw the gifts that his brother had sent him and his attitude softened. He fell upon Yaakov's neck and kissed him. They both wept. Eisov, in his cunning, thought to himself, "No, I won't kill Yaakov with weapons but with my mouth. I'll plunge my teeth into his neck. I'll bite his flesh and suck his blood." But Yaakov's neck became marble and all Eisov could do was kiss him.

Yaakov was aware though, that even when Eisov kisses, his real intention is to bite and suck his blood, to drain away his life. Yaakov strengthens himself, bracing himself like a pillar of marble, so as not to let Eisov master him through the influence of his kisses of hatred. While doing so, he cries. Even Eisov sees that his false kisses have failed to achieve their end and that he has missed the mark. This annoys him and he too bursts into tears.

We must be very wary of Eisov's kisses, because all he really means to do is bite. We must harden our necks like marble so as to forestall the effects of his biting kisses.

"And Yaakov remained alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. He saw that he could not overpower him and he touched the dip of his thigh and the dip of Yaakov's thigh became dislocated when he wrestled with him" (32:25-6). Ever since Yaakov stands alone, there is an ongoing struggle between him and Eisov. Sometimes Eisov appears in the guise of a murderer or an ordinary robber, and sometimes as an enlightened scholar who wants to conduct theological debates.

Eisov learned however, that neither of these methods would enable him to triumph over Yaakov. When Eisov holds pogroms and bloodbaths, Yaakov bares his neck for slaughter and dies sanctifying Hashem. When he holds disputations, Yaakov emerges with the upper hand.

When all else fails, Eisov attempts to sabotage Yaakov's financial standing and damage the sources of his livelihood. He wants to remove Yaakov's means of support and cut down the branch which is holding Yaakov. This is truly the most difficult battle of all. Yaakov's position is indeed weakened and even becomes dangerous but this doesn't last for very long. After a moment, the sun shines and heals Yaakov's limp.

The material and social battle that Eisov wages against Yaakov is the last type of battle in our exile, prior to the sunrise of redemption.

The Enforcement of Isolation

Yaakov is compared to fire -- "and the house of Yaakov is like fire" (Ovadiah 1:18) -- while the nations of the world are compared to water. Water can only extinguish fire when the two come into direct contact, with no intervening substance. If something keeps the two apart, fire has the upper hand. The water heats up and eventually boils away, as happens when a pot is left unattended on a lit stove.

"Lo, a people that dwells alone, that shall not be considered among the nations" (Bamidbor 23:9). Here is a nation that can only survive as long as it remains isolated. When it mingles and mixes with the nations, it loses all distinction and relevance.

Yosef the tzaddik is portrayed by the prophet Ovadiah as Eisov's adversary. It was only following Yosef's birth, that Yaakov began his preparations for returning to the land of Canaan, no longer fearing Eisov (see Rashi, Bereishis 30:25). And years later, it was only when the memory of Yosef faded, when a new Egyptian king arose, "who did not know Yosef" (Shemos 1:8), that Egyptian hatred of bnei Yisroel begin to gather momentum.

Yosef is the symbol of a holy, pure and modest life. He represents a firm stand against all the trials and tribulations that must be withstood in guarding Jewish purity. His trait of holiness is the most powerful means of defense against the poisoned arrows of the varied foes that attack us in every age and period. When Yosef's trait is strong we need have no fear of Eisov, or of the hatred of the Egyptians.

If we forget Yosef's trait, chas vesholom, the Jewish family loses its holiness, the bounds of modesty are breached from all sides and Jewish youth fall prey to immoral influences. This is followed by exile. The fires of hatred flare up, as do the wicked schemes of an array of foes who declare, "Let us deal cleverly with them . . . " (1:10).

In Yosef's presence, Eisov disappears entirely. The moment Yosef is forgotten, Egyptian hatred rears its head.

When we are threatened by a plague of assimilation, when Jews mingle too freely with their gentile neighbors, Divine Providence unleashes a wave of hatred within the gentiles' hearts. This happens in order to preserve the uniqueness of the Jewish nation, so that it remains "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (19:6).

This was what happened in Egypt and this has remained the pattern throughout our long exile. A period of equality and fraternal relations which lead, both directly and indirectly, to loss of identity and assimilation, is followed by waves of fierce hatred of Jews sweeping the land. The result is that Jewish identity is firmly established once again -- "He transformed their hearts, to hate His people, to plot against His servants" (Tehillim 105:25).

This bitter hatred is not a chance occurrence. The satanic plots that are hatched against the Jews cannot be attributed to any natural reason or factor. They follow a deliberate plan that is coordinated by Divine providence, in order to turn the Jewish nation into "His people" and "His servants" once again.

The extent and duration of the persecutions depend upon the retrieval of Jewish identity and level of holiness. Will the hatred grow weaker and subside, or will it continue growing stronger? This is the only reason that Hashem Himself "transformed their hearts to hate His people."

Where we Must Improve

Gentile hatred of the Jewish nation is [also] a result of baseless hatred among Jews. This was the cause of the churban and it prevents the exile from coming to an end.

When Moshe Rabbenu first witnessed the suffering of the Jews in Egypt, he was amazed and he exclaimed, "How is this nation different from all others, that causes them to undergo such affliction?"

Later on, when he saw the conduct of Doson and Avirom, their quarrels and their rush to inform the palace about a fellow Jew who had dared to oppose them, he said, "Indeed, the matter is known!" (see Rashi, Shemos 2:14). Moshe Rabbenu justified the exile to such a degree, that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu told him to take the people out of Egypt, he asked the opposite question: "In what merit are they being redeemed?"

Only unity and bonding within the Jewish nation can save us from Eisov's hands. "When you cry out, your [being a] group will save you and the wind will bear all of them (your enemies) away" (Yeshayohu 57:13).

When Jews begin to mingle with the nations that surround them, to assimilate and copy their behavior, the gentile nations start to pick up the Jews' financial acumen to the point where they deprive the latter of their livelihoods.

In sefer Tehillim (106:35) we find, "And they mixed with the nations" -- when Jews mingle with gentiles, "And they learned their behavior" -- the gentiles learn from the ways of the Jews.

When Jews slacken their Torah study, when they lessen their work to further Torah and stop supporting Torah scholars, Amolek, the eternal nemesis, appears to fight them. However, "when Moshe raises his hands" (Shemos 17:11), when the power of Torah that Moshe Rabbenu represents, inspires the Jewish hand to rise in action, in influence and in creativity, then "Yisroel gain ascendancy" and achieve victory over the Amolekites of every generation.

The Love That Prevails

Hakodosh Boruch Hu showed Moshe Rabbenu "the bush burning with fire . . . not being consumed" (3:2). When Moshe saw how the people were suffering in the Egyptian exile, he thought to himself, "Who knows? Maybe the Egyptians in their burning hatred will manage to obliterate the weak and wretched Jewish nation?" Hashem therefore showed him how the fire burned the wood of the bush, without the bush being consumed. This was both a sign and a promise for him: just as the fire could not destroy the bush, the Egyptians would not be able to destroy the Jewish nation.

"And I will make you suffer in judgment but shall not obliterate you!" (Yirmiyohu 46:28). Because Soroh Imeinu slightly oppressed Hagar the mother of Yishmoel, we suffer in exile at the hands of Yishmoel. Because of the few tears that Eisov shed when Yaakov took the blessings from him through deceit, we have suffered so much from Eisov's descendants in the course of our exile.

Let us stop to think! If we have paid so dearly for their paltry amount of suffering and tears, how much shall they have to pay for all the dreadful suffering and affliction that they have visited upon us through thousands of years and for the oceans of our blood and tears that have been spilled as a result of the way they have treated us?

It is awesome to contemplate the dimensions of the reckoning that is in store for them on the day of "vengeance and retribution" (Devorim 32:35).

"Many waters cannot extinguish the love and rivers cannot sweep it away" (Shir Hashirim 8:7). Hakodosh Boruch Hu's love for His people is eternal and is so strong that not even the great sea of hatred that tries to drown it, or the churning rivers of enmity that try to sweep it away, can succeed.

" `I loved you', said Hashem"! (Malachi 1:2)

The day is not far off when we will see the fulfillment of the posuk (Yeshayoh 49:7), "For the disgraced soul and the despised of nations . . . kings will see [them] and stand up [for them], princes shall bow down [to them] . . . "

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.