In an encore performance of their 1939–1945 hit “The Holocaust”, Europe and the rest of the world have once again shown their ugly, Jew-hating, faces. Mobs of angry protestors crowd the streets of major European cities, even as their leaders call for peace and calm. Angry young men, fuelled by a perversion of a pure religion, attack a small group of young men and women, peacefully advocating for Israel’s existence. The “Stop the War” movement ironically calls for war on Israel. Jewish shops are burned and looted, in images eerily reminiscent of that fateful November evening, seventy-five years ago. In a protest against Israel’s “occupation”, a picture is held up of a Jew eating a Christian baby, with a glass of blood beside the plate – a classic.
It seems that whilst the actors in this play may change, and the stage may morph over time, the script stays eerily the same. Somehow, an enlightened and forward-thinking world, open and liberal, accepting of all, has not found the courage to stop buying tickets to this sold-out performance. As if in a horror film, we watch the narrative unfold, hoping against hope that this time, the ending will be different, this time, the Jew won’t be slaughtered, this time the Jew won’t be hated, crucified, drawn and quartered.
Many say that this time is different. This time, we have an army capable of defending itself. This time, they say, we won’t be led like sheep to the slaughter – we will fight back, we will win.
We have fought back before, throughout our history. The Tanakh is replete with examples of Jewish military prowess, triumph over our enemies, peace in our land; and with cautionary tales of utter destruction, decimation of our forces and subjugation of our people. We fought back against the Greeks and won; against the Romans, and were devastated – over 90% of all Jews in Israel perished in the Bar Kokhba uprising. We forget that the Holocaust was only the last in a three millennia long history of persecution and suffering.
In the episode of the spies, a group of zealots, regretting their degeneration into the mob mentality which forbade them the land of Israel, are convinced of their ability to conquer the land. They go up to fight the inhabitants and drive them out, hoping to regain what God had taken away only moments before. Moses responds with a warning, one which reverberates throughout time, speaking to us as clearly today as it did three millennia ago, “Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, [so that] you will not be beaten by your enemies.”
There are common denominators amongst the Jewish victories throughout history – God, and the Jewish people, together. When the Jewish people are united as one, when we strike with one fist, when we pray with one voice, when we unite with each other so that we can unite with God, we are unstoppable. We must never forget our ultimate weapon, the Holy One, blessed be He. As has been shown to us time and time again, throughout our blood soaked past, when God is with us, and we with He, no one may stand in our way.
There is a way to change our narrative, now, before it’s too late, before the gas chambers reopen their doors, before the world remembers that it’s supposed to hate us, before we are led, with a red rope around our neck, off a cliff to hell.
This week’s parasha begins with a list of the forty-two journeys of the Israelites in the desert. Famously, Rashi quotes a midrash in his commentary to this verse and explains that the journeys are recounted to jog our memory, to remind us of the place from which we’ve come, on our journey to the promised land. It would behoove us, in this time of great upheaval, of danger, to remember where we come from, who we are, and Who it is that ultimately controls our fate. The Jewish God is a God of history, leading the world to an end which only God can conceive. Before it is too late, before God has to hear our cry from the midst of our pain, before we are in real trouble – because make no mistake about it, this is not yet real trouble – we would do well to reconnect with our Creator.
“But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you strength to be valorous, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day.”