by Rav Alexander Zusha Friedman, Hy'd
Again it's happening -- blood, fire and smoke rising
heavenward. Jews burning alive in the city streets
Rachmono litzlan, al kiddush Hashem. Nobody has any
solution. Nobody knows what the morrow will bring. The
leaders of the State have nothing left to say, except to
deliver the same old cliche responses about our power and
strength. As believing Jews, we must once again go in search
of the roots of the hatred that the whole world bears towards
our ancient nation.
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.
Introduction: Learning from our Suffering
At the present time, the Jewish nation is drowning in an
ocean of hatred. It seems as though all the waves in this
stormy sea of hatred are acting together to wipe us out.
Chazal's forecast of a time "when each day's curse exceeds
the previous day's" (Sotah) has come true. Our tragedy
is compounded several fold however, when we fail to ponder
and reflect upon what is happening and to ask ourselves,
"What is this, that Hashem has done to us?" (Bereishis
We identify all kinds of factors and causes, both political
and racial, for this hatred. We even try applying ordinary
remedies, such as political and diplomatic measures, in order
to cure the malady. However, we don't look deeply into
events, understanding them in the light of our Sages'
truthful and eternal outlook, so as to divine the one and
only message that they contain for us and derive the lessons
that we are supposed to derive from them.
Our misfortunes therefore remain meaningless and they defy
understanding. They have not achieved their aim and thus fill
the hearts and minds of our youth with poisonous feelings of
defeat and hopelessness, that leave no room for anything
Troubles are indeed evil, but they become joyful when one
learns a lesson from them -- "Happy is the man whom You make
suffer, Hashem and teach him Your Torah" [Tehillim 94:12].
Their tragedy is compounded when nothing is learned from
them, when people do not take the trouble to understand them
and their objective. This pains Hakodosh Boruch Hu
It is therefore important to clarify to our youth the
opinions and outlook of our Torah authorities, our holy
Sages, the tannaim and amoroim and of the great
men of later periods, our righteous and pious leaders, about
the deeper meaning and implications of the gentiles' hatred
of the Jews. In the lines that follow, I shall try to outline
several of these ideas and maxims, which are truly only a
drop in the ocean of what can be said on the subject.
Without Rhyme or Reason
The nations' hatred of Klal Yisroel is beyond human
comprehension. It has no logical explanation; it is
impossible to make a convincing case for it.
At times it seems to us that our isolation and separation are
to blame for it, while at other times, we think that it is
because of our strong desire to penetrate their society.
Sometimes it appears that our being unusually talented is the
cause, and at other times it looks as though it's the fault
of our own clumsy mismanagement. On occasion, we imagine
their hatred to be aroused by our strength and wealth, but at
other times it seems to be because of our weakness and
poverty and our obscure conditions.
Sometimes we seem to be suffering on account of the faith to
which we are so attached while at other times, it seems
ascribable to the conduct of our youth who have thrown off
the yoke of Judaism. At times, it is clear that our excessive
submission and our exaggerated feelings of inferiority are
the cause of their hatred, while at other times, it is
aroused precisely because we shout too loudly. At times the
hatred has its root in their jealousy of our sublime and
exalted moral level, while at others, it is because we are
portrayed as purveyors of demoralization and connivance.
One way or another, every nation, in every period, finds a
different reason for hating the Jews; no matter that the
reasons are contradictory.
The truth is though, that there is no natural or human cause
whatsoever. It is the working of Divine Providence, as a
means of punishing us, testing us and teaching us . . . "It
is a well known halochoh that Eisov hates Yaakov!"
Without rhyme or reason, in precisely the same way that
Hashem chose Yisroel as His nation, without any explanation,
save the simple one that that is His wish, immutable as
Heart of the World
Why does the Jewish nation suffer more than any other?
Because we are the heart of the world, the axis upon which
everything revolves and the purpose and goal of the entire
creation. The heart is the most important organ in the body;
if illness strikes, its signs are recognizable in the
functioning of the heart.
In the same way, the Jewish people are the choicest among the
nations. When the world is ailing, it is the Jews -- the
world's heart -- who suffer the malady and exhibit the first
signs of suffering.
Many years ago, when King Achashverosh held his great feast
for his people, there were good angels who said to
Hakodosh Boruch Hu, "Ribono Shel Olom! Your
Mikdosh is ruined and desolate. Shall that wicked one
Hakodosh Boruch Hu replied, "These days of festivity
are instead of the days when Shabbos was desecrated and work
was done in Yehuda."
Shabbos was given to us for rest and enjoyment. Therefore,
when Jews profane it, its rest and enjoyment are taken from
them and given to their enemies, who hold lavish feasts and
arrange various forms of entertainment and pleasures. They
come and pick up the [opportunity for] enjoyment that Yisroel
cast aside and take it for themselves.
If then, you see antisemites living in peace and enjoyment at
a time when the Jewish street is in ruins and suffering
anguish, you know that this has befallen us because of
The Two Adversaries
Right from the outset, with the very first struggle between
Yaakov and Eisov, it became apparent that the latter's power
lies in his hands and his brute strength, while the strength
of the former is in his mouth, in the form of Torah study and
prayer to Hashem.
These two powers are so diametrically opposed that they
cannot coexist. When "the voice is Yaakov's voice," ascending
from botei knessios and botei medroshos,
Eisov's hands are powerless. Therefore, when Yitzchok
felt Yaakov and perceived that his hands were like Eisov's,
he cried out in amazement, "Can it be the voice of Yaakov and
the hands of Eisov?!" It's an utter contradiction! It can't
Since then, these two characteristics have passed down the
generations. Eisov inherited the hands with the power of the
sword, while Yaakov inherited the voice [to be used for]
Torah and prayer. If Yaakov guards his inheritance, Eisov is
powerless to use his own inheritance against him.
Yaakov Ovinu told his son Yosef, "I have given you a portion
. . . that I took from the Emori with my sword and with my
bow" (Bereishis 48:22). The Targum translates the
words "with my sword and my bow" as, "with my prayer and
supplication," for Yaakov possesses no other weapon, besides
prayer and supplication. These are his tools for fighting and
for defending himself against his enemies.
Yitzchok Ovinu trembled on two occasions. The first was when
he lay tied up on the altar, on Har Hamoriyoh at the
Akeidoh. The second was when Eisov came in and cried
bitterly that Yaakov had tricked him and taken the blessings.
The trembling in the second incident outdid that of the
first; the posuk (Bereishis 27:33) calls it, "very
Yitzchok foresaw the terrible persecutions that would befall
the Jews. He saw how Jews would be forced to deny their faith
and how they would respond, by baring their necks for the
slaughter or giving up their lives on the pyres and going up
in flames, sacrificing themselves on the altar of faith.
Yitzchok Ovinu saw these altars and he trembled from fear. He
was, however, secure in the knowledge that despite all the
terrible trials of persecution and torture, his descendants
would remain secure in their faith in their G-d and His
The second time, Yitzchok trembled far more than the first,
for he saw the waves of oppression that would befall the Jews
that would be justified by invoking various political and
social arguments. He saw them portrayed as tricksters and
criminals. He saw how all the Eisovs of the ages attack with
the cry that Yaakov had taken what is rightly his. That
struggle is a far more difficult one. That is why the second
time, Yitzchok experienced "very great trembling."
End of Part I
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