by Rav Alexander Zusha Friedman Hy'd
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
" `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] . . .
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