I’m sorry in advance for this article. I write daily about the Torah’s teachings and values, amongst which simcha/joy and positivity are paramount. Particularly as the month of Adar has just begun, regarding which the Sages teach “when Adar enters, we increase in joy,” I am sorry to bring attention to a current event which is difficult to greet with joy.
News outlets across the country are reporting that tomorrow, shabbos, has been designated as a “National Day of Hate” against Jews by a number of white supremacist groups around the country. Police departments in major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami are treating the situation as a credible threat and preparing to assign forces to protect Jewish institutions on Saturday.
In the realm of pragmatics and safety, there are appropriate responses to this National Day of Hate. Thankfully, the authorities and security professionals are attending to that type of response.
But how do we react on an emotional and spiritual level? What is the appropriate personal and communal response to this hatred and intimidation?
Fear perhaps? Maybe anger? Sadness and a sense of despair as we wonder whether we will ever be free from antisemitism and all forms of hatred and human cruelty. All of these feelings are reasonable in a moment like this. It would be wrong to ignore them or deny them. We can feel them and admit them. We are human, like everybody, and we can hurt and cry and rage and admit that we are sensitive and fallible and vulnerable. We can gather in our synagogues tomorrow and commiserate, console one another, and take comfort in community.
And as we process these valid emotions, we can pray. We can ask God for His protection. We can implore Him for the wisdom to understand His ways and the insight to know how to best respond to the challenges we face. We can invoke His mercy on our people and all people. We can pray for peace in America, in Israel and the entire world. We can even request His compassion for those who are organizing this day of hate – hurt people hurt people, we know, and if they would hurt less, perhaps they would hate less.
As we protect ourselves, and as we process our emotions, and as we pray for a better day ahead, we should learn. We should open our Torah and remind ourselves how God has provided us miraculous salvations throughout the millennia, how He has sustained us against all odds in the midst of perennial threats and attacks. We should speak the words of Torah with the consciousness that God created the world with His words, and that we help Him to recreate the world at every moment with the words of Torah that we pronounce. The letters of Torah purify the atmosphere, and as we study we are literally infusing light into the darkness with every holy sound we utter.
And we should act. We should perform additional mitzvos with the knowledge that every single deed tips the scales of history. For every act of hatred and violence, we should add dozens of acts of kindness and charity. We should recommit ourselves to the charitable work both within our Jewish communities and the broader communities around us. In response to a National Day of Hate, we should establish a National YEAR of Chesed and love. In response to this public effort to provoke disunity and tear us apart, we should work ever more fervently and openly to bridge our differences and publicize the fundamental unity that is the core of our faith: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!
The Oneness that we pronounce twice daily in the Shema prayer is the ultimate response to the National Day of Hate. We can prepare, process, pray, study, and act in all of the ways discussed above. These are the ways we Jews have responded to the world throughout history. And amidst all of these responses, we have paused every morning and evening to close our eyes and remind ourselves that God is One – He is the one and only true reality and existence. Underlying all of the chaos and conflict, there is oneness. This is so hard to see and so hard to understand, but this is our task and our life’s purpose: to remind ourselves of this reality, to teach it to our neighbors, and to reveal this consciousness throughout the creation.
You can hate me if you like, but we are one. You can fight me if you like, but you are only fighting yourself. When we truly internalize this truth, and when we do our job of spreading this light throughout the nations, then there will be no more National Days of Hate.