For Millennia an existential battle for the Jewish psyche has been fought between those who seek safety by concealing their identity and others who live in accordance with the imperative that begins the Shulchan Aruch, the great compendium of conduct — Upon awakening we should Be Bold like a Leopard.
The seminal event which ignited the Maccabean rebellion was when Matityahu the Priest refused the request of Emperor Antiochus IV’s emissary that he worship Greek gods at the altar. When a fellow Jew eager to ingratiate himself stepped forward to take his place the patriarch of the clan of great warriors slew him on the spot. Then he killed the Seleucid satrap for good measure.
In light of the cataclysms that cyclically befall the Chosen People, the reflexive urge to escape from one’s destiny is readily understood. Still, this is not only violative of Divine Decree but belied by what has been borne out by history, which has consistently shown that attempts at assimilation are ultimately for naught and inevitably exasperate the peril.
The vainglorious efforts at blending in in Germany until the rise of the Third Reich should have finally vanquished the vestigial delusion that Hebrews hiding will protect their hides. Many of these Jews were adamantly optimistic that directly proportionate to how identified they were with the Kultur at large they’d be immune to the contagion that had beset the more pious. As a consequence, they did not heed the obvious omens.
The Jews are the canary in the coal mine for a civilization’s descent and the Jews in Europe are the canaries for their fellow canaries. In 2019, in a piteous response to a surge of antisemitic attacks in Germany, that indelibly stained nation’s “Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism” issued a caveat about the wearing of Kippahs in public.
In America, we have entered into an era of common calamity- daily we witness assaults on Jews, vandalism of their Synagogues and businesses, and several horrific incidents of mass murder. Predictably and now as in Europe, a cacophony of cowardice has arisen on our shores.
In a sure harbinger of things to come, Aaron Keyak, an Orthodox Jew and political insider who served as the Jewish Engagement Director for the Biden campaign, gave voice to the fomenting fecklessness. In a faint-hearted pronouncement on social media that would have been unthinkable not very long ago in America, he cautioned Jews about wearing Kippahs and Stars of David in public purportedly for their own safety.
It is fair to say that the practitioners of no other religion would be so cavalierly counseled to abandon the objects of their faith.
Keyak concluded his craven communique with the advice to his followers that ”Obviously” if they can, to ask their rabbis first. Any Rabbi worth his Kosher salt would readily know the repeated admonishments in the Torah for Jews to retain their uniqueness.
As it is written in Leviticus (20:26) “And ye shall be holy unto Me; for I the LORD am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that ye should be Mine.” Therein lays the paradox — for by their differentness and Spiritual orientation, Jews become the targets of the hateful. On the other hand, by remaining unabashedly attached to the Almighty they stay connected to the Source of all strength and protection.
The leopard is the smallest of the big cats but its strength is extraordinary. Similarly, the people of Israel number in the smallest of the Great nations but with a might all out of proportion and the means to wield a shield of infinite power.
A couple of years ago a branch of Chabad opened up just a mile and half from my rural redoubt. I thus lost the excuse to drive to Synagogue on Shabbat. Since I was now walking I felt it apt that I also cover my head during my journey. The first time on foot as I headed back near my home, I spotted a neighbor with a scrunched-up face staring at me and my yarmulke. My neighbor furiously pedaled on a bike to catch up with me. I am well-trained to handle such a situation as seemed forthcoming, but was certainly not looking forward to it. Yet when finally caught up, my neighbor turned to me only to blurt out “Gut Shabbas!”
Although the Creator may seem silent at times, I am grateful for this very loud message.
May we all Be like the Leopard!