Motti Wilhelm

Are anti-anti-Semitism & pro-mitzvah the same?

A University of Washington student proudly wrapping Tefillin while protestors chant “from the river…” in the background. (Chabad UW)
A University of Washington student proudly wrapping Tefillin while protestors chant “from the river…” in the background. (Chabad UW)

The typhoon of bias and prejudice anti-Israel resolutions makes us appreciate the organizations whose mission it is to combat antisemitism. As unions, civic boards, and committees, which can barely govern themselves, find it necessary to condemn Israel, they are working overtime, advocating and educating on behalf of Israel and our people.

As a Chabad Rabbi, my role is not to combat antisemitism; it’s to promote Judaism; to create spaces of joyful Jewish education, make Mitzvot accessible, and share the message that every act of kindness brings redemptive energy to our world.

Thus, I’ve been thinking: how aligned are the anti-antisemitism and pro-mitzvah movements with each other? In what ways are we the same, and how do we differ?

Clearly, we all want a world that is free of prejudice and hate speech and one in which Jewish students feel safe on campus.

But safety and acceptance are not goals unto themselves; they are foundations upon which one can truly be productive. As Maslow explained, safety and belonging are the steps towards self-actualization.

That’s where our Shuls, schools, Chabad Houses, and all those in the pro-Mitzvah movement come in; to guide us towards our why and to living our lives with the purpose we were created for.

In the discourse considered his ethical will, the Rebbe focuses on an oft-overlooked aspect of the Purim story:

The Talmud extrapolates from the text “the Jews established and accepted upon themselves” that after Haman and his ten sons are hanged and the Jewish threat is defeated, there was a national re-acceptance of Sinai and unprecedented deepening of commitment to Torah.

The fact that the Jews fasted for three days and turned towards God in light of Haman’s decree of annihilation is not surprising, the Rebbe explains. Persecution has a way of deepening our Jewish connection. The fact that when they are fully emancipated with Esther as queen and Mordechai as a royal advisor, they recommit to Sinai, that can be seen as a novelty. How often are we given our freedoms, only to forget what we fought for?

We need the anti-antisemitism groups to fight for our freedoms. The pro-mitzvah groups remind us how to use it.

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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