Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Jew Hatred

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.

Part I

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 42:28)

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 else.

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 Himself.

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 halochoh.

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 hold feasts?"

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 Shabbos desecration.

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 possibly be!

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 great trembling."

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 Torah.

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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