Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Nissan 5762 - April 11, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
We Have Been Killed For You All Day

by Yisroel Spiegel

Just for Being a Jew

Something moved in the hearts of many Jews here and across the world, upon hearing about the last words of Daniel Pearl Hy"d, the American journalist murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, who declared himself to be a Jew, born of Jewish parents.

Daniel Pearl was no conqueror of territories, nor was he a settler. Neither did he belong to any extremist Jewish national group. In fact, he was far more American than Jewish, having realized the dream of many of the Jewish refugees who made their way over the years to the American melting pot, where ethnic identity is blurred and becomes submerged among the unaffiliated masses. Yet Daniel Pearl was executed in the most barbarous manner, not only as a Jew but because he was a Jew.

His Pakistani terrorist murderers have no particular reason for hating Jews, even allowing for the war that they are currently pursuing, or are being engaged in. If they have complaints, if they feel thwarted or bitter, or if they crave vengeance, their only address should be the Americans, their mortal enemies, who have resolved to fight them until they are utterly vanquished. Yet when they kidnap a journalist who writes not for a Jewish paper but for as well-known and prestigious an American paper as The Wall Street Journal, that inflames their passion for striking at America's vast economic strength, they murder that journalist because he is a Jew.

Pan-Arab propaganda in general and Palestinian propaganda in particular have succeeded in legitimizing the murder of Jewish soldiers and settlers (which is just one step away from legitimizing the murder of Jewish civilians anywhere in the country) in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to ignore the support that they get from Israeli leftists, the most extreme of whom are not even discouraged from expressing themselves in terms that justify these diabolical murders, but Daniel Pearl had nothing to do with any of this.

Born in America, he had neither served in the Israeli army, nor was he an Israeli civilian. Yet before they killed him, his murderers forced him to say that he was a Jew. They meant to make it quite clear that they were not killing him because he was a citizen of a country at war with them, or because he represented a publication that supports that war, but because of the Judaism to which his lips confessed in his last moments.

A Jew Remains a Jew

The chord that this struck in the hearts of so many Jews instantly dispelled many of the rationales that have been advanced over the years to explain the causes of antisemitism. In particular, it completely does away with the foolish claim of the maskilim that if only Jews keep their distinguishing characteristics private while outwardly resembling everybody else, they will remove the cause of antisemitism.

Daniel Pearl fulfilled all those requirements, including the best known one: Be a Jew at home and a man in the street. He was certainly "a man in the street." He had an all-American upbringing and education and worked as a professional journalist, roaming the world from one trouble spot to another in the service of his prestigious paper. Yet his last moments brought him back to his true roots as he uttered the words, "I am a Jew and my father and mother are Jews."

In doing so he also reestablished his connection to his great- grandfather, who was among the founders of Bnei Brak.

Those heroic words, "I am a Jew," in whatever circumstances they have been uttered, reverberate with ancient and eternal Jewish truth.

"[Even] if we have forgotten the Name of our G-d and spread our hands in prayer to a foreign G-d, Hashem will investigate this, for He knows the heart's secrets. For it is for Your sake that we have been killed all day long and regarded as sheep ready for slaughter" (Tehillim 44:21-3). The Malbim zt"l, comments, "Even the conversos [of Medieval Spain] who converted during persecutions, were later killed and wiped out. They [the Inquisitors] researched and investigated their lives and discovered that they observed the Jewish religion secretly."

In the same vein, another great commentator writes, "In every age and in every place where a hopeless situation has resulted in faith being lost, even if only outwardly, in order to preserve our lives; whenever we have spread out our hands in prayer to a foreign G-d, under duress -- though force does not mitigate sin and a lapse is a lapse (let us recall the conversos of Spain) -- in our hearts we remained Jews and even there, we did not forget our G-d's Name. `Hashem will investigate this, for He knows the secrets of the heart. For it is for Your sake' for even these instances of lack of independence and unfulfilled obligations were few and far between and exceptions to the rule. In general, we were prepared to die happily for Hashem and to be slaughtered like sheep, so as not to betray Him," (HaRav S. R. Hirsch zt"l, Tehillim).

They Seek the Jew

The fearsome and glorious truth of, "for Your sake we have been killed all day long," has been reaffirmed on every front where Jewish blood has recently been spilled like water -- in the settlements, in the cities and in Yerushalayim's Beis Yisroel neighborhood, in a hotel Seder in Netanya, which were soaked with Jewish blood last month. There were no conquerors or settlers there. Most of the victims were innocent citizens, babies or pure, innocent young children. But they too, became part of the awesome scheme of "martyrs, cast into the flames," the reckoning of which is one of Hashem's secrets, yet in whose merit we beseech Him to "Save us, please!"

The distorted idea of being "a man" -- not a Jew -- "in the street," that sadly led many Jews to forget their Yiddishkeit and swiftly become "a man at home" as well, has been completely shattered by recent events. Even with the State looking the way it does, flying the flag of the High Court with one judge who thinks that Shabbos begins at midnight not sunset, and others who want to transform gentiles into Jews with a wave of their pens -- our enemies continue to spill our blood. Nowadays, it is not happening in dark ghettos but "on the soil of our birthplace," supposedly a "safe haven."

If the advocates of being "a man in the street" still stubbornly insist on advancing "logical" explanations for the Arabs' hatred of us -- because of the "conquest," because of the settlements etc. etc. -- Daniel Pearl's tragic death in far off Pakistan came and proved that even without any grievances, all they look for is the Jew, no matter what his color, stripe or principles. It is as the Malbim writes: "Even the conversos [of Medieval Spain] who converted during persecutions, were later killed and wiped out." It is true that "they" discovered that they observed the Jewish religion secretly but what was their great sin in that? Outwardly they were unrecognizable as Jews and disturbed nobody. Nevertheless, since they were discovered to be Jews in their hearts, their tragic fate was sealed.

The same thing happened in recent times to the assimilated and apostate Jews of Germany. The Nazis researched their lineage until many generations back and if Jewish blood was found, the descendant was despatched to the camps, just like the bearded and sidelocked Ostjuden.

Obscuring the Truth

Indeed, it is only "for Your sake," that "we have been killed all day long." However, there are still those will not see this, for example, an historian at one of the country's universities. Out of all the horrendous crimes being perpetrated these days, this lady found nothing more worthy of protest than the Israeli government's having published a mourning notice about the deaths of an officer and a soldier which refers to their having been "murdered by villains in a criminal terrorist attack."

She argues that this is not correct. "They weren't murdered," she says. "They fell in the line of duty." This is not merely a question of semantics. It goes to the very heart of our having been "killed for Your sake." Her protest amounts to saying that they were not killed because they were Jews. They simply "fell," in the "normal" course of mutual hostilities between enemies.

Her approach helps us understand much of the frustration that many irreligious Jews feel today at the conditions under which we are living. The pretense of having solved the problem of antisemitism has burst like a bubble. This historian is unable to look a little deeper and see the pattern of over three thousand years of Jewish history, from which it is apparent that there are no logical explanations for hatred of Jews. What we have instead is, "a well known halochoh that Eisov hates Yaakov," and Yishmoel is included in this, as we say in selichos, "destroy Se'ir and his father-in-law." We do not pray to be the ones to exact this vengeance. We pray to the One who has promised to be avenged from all those who have spilt our blood throughout the long exile.

She writes, "Seventy years ago, the Jewish yishuv in Eretz Yisroel debated which terms of reference to use for the disturbances of Av 5689 (1929), whether `pogrom' or `uprising.' The Hebrew press at the time spoke of `pogrom,' of `slaughter' and of `massacre' but there were those who objected to this phrasing. If it had been a pogrom, what could Zionism boast of having achieved? It had been supposed to free Jews from the fear of pogroms that hovered over them in the diaspora. But behold! In Eretz Yisroel too, they were exposed to the rampage of the goyim. In Eretz Yisroel too, Jews lived in fear of the threat of outbreaks of violence. What kind of safe refuge was it that Zionism was offering the Jewish people? One could ask a similar question [today]. What purpose has the State of Israel with all its power and might served if, more than fifty years after its establishment, Jewish soldiers are being murdered in their own country?"

There you have it. Zionism fostered a delusion, as though it had the power to negate our golus existence by "taking our fate into our own hands." Jewish suffering, according to this specious theory, was ascribable to the Jews' failure to rise up and throw off the yoke of servitude. They preferred living in the dingy ghetto alleys to living upright, under their own sovereignty. If only they would "arise and go up," everything would be solved.

With this outrageous lie, they poured scorn upon the millions of martyrs of the Holocaust, for "not having hearkened" to the Zionist soothsayers and rushing to the "safe haven" and who therefore had themselves to blame for their bitter fate in the death camps. Instead of reaching the conclusion that reality has disproved the Zionist lie, the writer prefers to change the terminology from "murdered" to "fell," so long as the rectitude and justice of Zionism remain unchallenged.

Clarifying Roles

The tragic fates of both Daniel Pearl and the innocent victims of the Beis Yisroel bombing, were theirs because they were Jews. They are testimony to the cry that, "we have been killed for Your sake all day long," in Yerushalayim, in Netanya, at the border intersections in Yehudah and Shomron, in Gaza, in the teeming cities in the heart of the country, among those who have a connection to conquest and suppression and among those who do not.

It is the same everywhere. We are still in exile, by Divine decree, and our deliverance is in the hands of HaKodosh Boruch Hu, the Cause of all that happens. He has promised to visit us with salvation and mercy when He sees fit. There is no way that we can break out of our exile by force. All we can do to hasten our redemption is pursue the spiritual goals that are incumbent upon us: strengthening and spreading Torah study, increasing the holiness of life in Eretz Yisroel upon which our entire existence here depends, adding to the acts of kindness that we perform, intensifying the love of Jews for each other and drawing our estranged brethren towards faith in Hashem and observance of His Torah and mitzvos.

The greatest distortion of a pure world outlook lies in the confusion of roles. The task of our redemption, which HaKodosh Boruch Hu has promised us He will bring about - - "`Redeem us, Hashem' is His Name, holy One of Yisroel" (Yeshayoh 47:4), which the Malbim stresses as meaning that, "He will fight on His people's behalf, not a mortal" -- is vainly assumed by men. On the other hand, people are prepared to leave our spiritual mission, whose pursuit has the power to hasten our redemption -- "today, if you listen to His voice" (Tehillim 95:7) -- up to Heaven.

This is in keeping with an explanation advanced by great men, of the mishnah at the end of Sotah, "and we have no one to lean on, save our Father in heaven." Strangely, this is listed with the travails of ikvese deMeshicha, the period just before Moshiach's arrival, though reliance upon Hashem would seem to be a good and a desirable thing. The problem is though, that we leave the spiritual tasks, that are our duty to pursue, up to "our Father in heaven," instead of taking the initiative and working for the honor of Hashem and His Torah. [This too, is one of the crises of the present period.]

During these difficult times we, who have been fortunate enough to absorb a correct outlook from our teachers, the righteous leaders of past and recent generations, have to devote ourselves to healing broken hearts. We ought to try and open the eyes of confused innocents who, from lack of knowledge, are liable to lose hope altogether, chas vesholom. We ought to learn from the numerous tests that many generations of Am Yisroel have withstood, that despite things looking the way they do, Hashem's salvation can arrive "in the blink of a eye."

When bnei Yisroel stood by the sea, with the Egyptian army behind them and the desert on either side, the sea split for them and they were saved. It is now the month of Nisan, "the month in which there are comprehensive rescues."

May we swiftly witness the fulfillment of the prophecy, "As in the days when you left Egypt, I will show him miracles. Nations will see and all their might will wither away; they will put their hand on their mouth [in astonishment], their ears will grow heavy" [from hearing about Yisroel's successes] (Michah 7:15- 16). The Radak explains that, "the nations that gathered in Yerushalayim with Gog and Magog will see that the wonders and the might upon which they relied to go rise against Yerushalayim will wither away."

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