Uriel Vigler

How Should We React to the Horrifying Calls for Our Extermination?

The calls for the mass extermination of Jews that we’ve seen across college campuses this week are nothing short of horrifying. The similarities to 1930s Germany are bone-chilling.
To think that these Ivy League universities are supposed to educate and mold the brightest minds, and yet here they are siding with terrorists, murderers, and monsters. What has happened? Where is the critical thinking? How do the smartest students side with Hamas?
And in the face of this existential threat, how do we react? Well, as they say, “two Jews, three opinions,” and we’re seeing that in real time. Some people feel compelled to go out and protest; others prefer to stay safe at home. Some consume every scrap of media and video content; others avoid it entirely. We’re all reacting differently.
By Divine Providence, we are about to celebrate the miracle of the Splitting of the Sea—an existential crisis facing the Jewish nation at the time. In front of them, the Red Sea blocked their path, and on their heels the Egyptian army was chasing them with deadly intent. What did they do? They splintered into four groups, each pushing a different approach.
The first group wanted to fight. Why give up easily? they argued. These are the people who today say, “Let’s counter-protest. Let’s march, let’s demonstrate and stand up for our rights. Let’s call every senator and congressman. We will fight our enemies head on!”
The second group proposed surrender. They were willing to return to Egypt, to their old familiar life. That’s the group who this week advised students to leave Columbia and wait for things to get better.
The third group wanted to jump into the Red Sea. Mass suicide, cutting all ties with the world. These are the ones who say “Let’s ignore the protests, hide our Judaism, and quietly go about our lives without antagonizing anyone. Eventually, the protestors will move along and forget about us.
The final group insisted on praying to G-d for salvation. “We don’t need to do anything, G-d will resolve all our problems,” they said—the equivalent of today’s people who say, “Let’s just pray to G-d. The end!”
And yet, to all four groups G-d  said “The way forward is to forge ahead.” Only one Jew jumped in: Nachshon ben Aminadav. He said, “G-d gave us our clear orders. He told us to go to Mount Sinai and receive the Torah. There’s a sea in the way? Never mind! I have my marching orders.” And indeed, when he pressed onwards, G-d split the sea allowing safe passage for the entire nation.
With the current campus crisis, we’re once again divided, but we can look to the past to inform the present. Like Nachson, we should follow G-d’s instruction: march forward as proud Jews. We have our mandate, given to us at Mount Sinai. Keep Shabbat. Give charity. Study Torah. Eat only kosher food. Go to synagogue. Wrap tefillin. Say a blessing when you eat. Light Shabbat and holiday candles. That’s the call of the hour.
And while in today’s climate we probably need a combination of all four groups nonetheless the call of the hour is our marching orders. To forge ahead prouder than ever displaying our Judaism with love.
When we stand tall and proud as Jews, the protests will dissipate and Moshiach will come, heralding in the Ultimate Redemption.
Chag Sameach!!
About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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