Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s. They do not observe even the King’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the King to tolerate them. If it pleases the King, let it be recorded that they be destroyed. …” The King and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Sushan was—na’vo’cha…bewildered
Then Mordechai said to Esther, “Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!”
Throughout our wanderings, Jews have all too often faced difficult encounters with a king, a prime minister or a president, and have had to confront the reoccurring prejudices of the day, in lands not ours. These conflicts, although discomforting, in the greater scheme of things, have been merely tests by our G-d…tests of our fortitude, devotion, respect and love for those who struggled before us, and as role models for those who would follow us. Perhaps a test, to see if our people would remember the commitment they made, amid thunder and lightning, at a place called Sinai. Words of an eternal covenant to again be repeated, ”na’a’se vi’nish’ma.” There were many times when it could have been much easier to cower, bend a knee, and convert. There were other times when our people believed they had comfortably assimilated into the societies where they lived. For it was, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we had the time of our lives.” But there has always come a day when history knocked on our door, and asked us to step out into the real world we had too conveniently closed our eyes to. And “it was after these things” (Gen. 22:1) that our people were again to be tested. Confronted again, they were… na’vo’cha, perplexed.
Reflecting on our history often leads me to my old sage Ben Hecht, and his Guide for the Bedeviled for in his words of reflection:
…When I had finished the last of Graetz’ five heavy volumes, I felt a little stirring of sympathy for Europe, Christendom, and the lands of Islam. To have fought tirelessly and with so many ingenious and powerful weapons, and to have fought so small a foe as the Jew, and to have lost always – impressed me, fleetingly, as a debacle calling for some sympathy. It must be confusing to anti-Semitism to have planted victoriously a thousand standards over the heads of Jews – usually through their skulls – and to see these heads rise constantly higher in the world…Jewish deeds, however valiant and talented on behalf of foster lands, are fineries quickly stripped of him. Loaded with medals and diplomas, he is sent packing into ghettos, exile or death, and if he is not a Jew in the eyes of G-d or the rabbis, he is always a Jew in good standing in the eyes of misfortune.” And for the Jews of Europe, loyal souls that they were, they were often…na’vo’cha, perplexed.
Yet it was in 1948, after two thousand years of some really difficult tests that good old Ezekiel popped back into our history and having seen our people’s humiliation, shame and blood-shed, he summoned the Master of the Universe and demanded enough was enough. It was time to remember a promise made must be a promise kept. “If G-d will be with me, will guard me on this way, and give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and return me to my father’s house, you will be my G-d!” Jacob was to once again become Israel:
For the hand of Hashem was upon me; it took me out by the spirit of Hashem… and set me down in the valley, which was full of bones …and behold, they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Ben Adam, can these bones live?”
And I said, “Hashem/Elohim, You know!” And He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the words of Hashem. ..’ Then I looked, and behold, sinews were upon them and flesh had come up and skin had been drawn over them; but the spirit was not in them.
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the spirit and say: ‘From the four directions come, O spirit, and blow into these slain ones that they may live.’ “I prophesied as I had been commanded; the spirit entered them …and they stood upon their feet – a very, very vast multitude.
And He said to me, “Ben Adam, these bones – they are the whole family of Israel; … Say to them, ‘Behold, I am opening your graves and raising you up… My people, and I shall bring you to the Land of (Jacob) Israel …and set you on your soil. Then you will know that I, Hashem, have spoken…’ “(Ezekiel 37:1-14)
But that which has followed our people, and continues to follow our people to this day has been the constancy of anti-Semitism. Whether in the palace of Shushan, the auto-de-fete in Zaragotha, or in the beer halls of Munich, today anti-Semitism is once again very much alive all over Europe, and Adolph must be smiling. Yet here too, in the United States, or as Democrats would have it, the dis-United States, the incidents of anti-Semitism, according to the ADL, have sky-rocketed. On college campuses and in our hallowed halls of Congress, irony of ironies, some have said, anti-Semitism seems to have infected the liberal Jews beloved Democratic party. And today I know it’s only a few of the newly elected, but as at other times in our history, the Jew, who votes blindly Democratic, and wildly throwing in all those “benjamins,” which have always been taken for granted, is again sadly perplexed, whining they don’t know how “hurtful” their words are, (yes they do). And demanding that they must give another vacuous robo-apology, until the next insult. How about those wonderous words from the Mayor of New York. “There is plenty of money in New York City. It’s just in the wrong hands!” Whose hands might those be, but I digress. I say let them all speak. Let them have their freedom of expression under our First Amendment. Isn’t truth better than wallowing in delusion?
And dusting off an old file from back in the 60’s, yes I am that old, I remember a wonderful Jewish author named Harry Golden, famous for his many insightful writings on the unique Jewish world view, For Two Cents Plain, and Only in America, who wrote an article titled, G-d Bless the Gentile, which might be titled in a less P C world, G-d Bless the Anti-Semite. As he expressed in yiddish of anti-Semitism, Es vet Gornisht helfen…Nothing helps.
Now Harry, being a clever guy, came up with an ingenious idea for the ultimate cure: “I offered the Golden Plan to End Anti-Semitism to the Anti-Defamation League some years ago. I urged them to insert a full page ad in every morning and evening newspaper, and every weekly and monthly magazine in America. The ad would declare in effect that the next time we hear any anti-Semitism; we would all become Christians immediately. Most of us, I am sure, would head for the High Episcopal Church; and the prospect of several million Jews entering such Fifth Avenue institutions as the Church of the Heavenly Rest or St. Thomas’ would make Episcopalians plenty nervous. They might even volunteer to support the Anti-Defamation League and establish a truly influential phalanx against the anti-Semites. The Anti-Defamation League did not take me up on this plan, but that’s because they thought I was kidding.”
Not so tongue in cheek, Golden believed that anti-Semitism was given to the world by G-d as a blessing for our stiff-necked people to keep them in line. It was to remind our people of who took them out of Egypt, and performed all those miracles, including the big one, splitting the sea, which was no easy thing.
And most importantly it reminded Jews of who they were. In a perverse way, it kept Jews Jewish. And it reminded Jews of G-d’s love for His most treasured people. One might even reflect Biblically, for as it is written in the Torah, “You shall be a people who shall dwell alone, and not be reckoned amongst the nations.” How else can you explain we’re still around.
In the 60’s, inter-marriage was almost unheard of, and if, ”G-d forbid it happened a mother’s head went right into the oven.” But the times have changed, and so as anti-Semitism begins to infect the left of the political spectrum, and the Democrats support of Israel is on the wane, who are those inbred Democratic Jews of America going to vote for? They may be perplexed, but maybe Israel isn’t such a big deal for them after all. The last poll I saw had Democratic support for Israel at around 23%, while Republican support was around 78%. Zionist Christians/Evangelicals are a miracle unto themselves.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his book, Anti-Semite and Jew,” His dispersion implies the breaking up of common traditions, and it was remarked …that twenty centuries of dispersion and political impotence forbid its having an historic past. If this is true…that a community is historical to the degree it remembers its history, then the Jewish community is the least historical of all, for it keeps a memory of nothing but a long martyrdom, that is, of a long passivity(p.66)…the Jew is perfectly assimilable by modern nations, but he is defined as one whom these nations do not wish to assimilate…The Jew has a marked inclination to believe that the worst difficulties may be resolved by reason: he does not see the irrational.”(p.125) Gotta love the clarity and consistency of the French.
Sartre concludes that there are two types of Jews in France. The authentic Jew, who “makes himself a Jew in spite of it all, and against all…[who] the anti-Semite deprived of his weapons…can no longer touch him (the Jew with self-respect)…and the inauthentic Jew, the Jew who is fleeing from his self…who wants to be on the other side of the social barrier—with the others; he caresses the impossible dream of being suddenly rescued from universal suspicion by real affection…caught in this perpetual obligation to prove that he is French puts the Jew in a situation of guilt…since the Jew is dependent upon opinion for his profession, his rights, and his life, his situation is completely unstable.(p.130)
And so in the year of 5779, or 2019, an edict has gone out to a certain people in America…“there’s a clarion call for activism,” said Mr. Fiske, who is the chairman of the political action committee (of Aipac) that backs pro-Israel candidates. “It really hit a nerve…” (NYT, 3/4/19). It seems that one Ms. Omar, a Democrat, proudly wearing her hijab, from a Somali family who made aliyah to Minnesota, has said a few things that have upset many in our community, and border, some believe, on being anti-Semitic. The bible of liberal Americanized Jews a k a the New York Times asks, “has Aipac (and its access to benjamins) warped the policy debate over Israel so drastically that dissenting voices are not even allowed to be heard?”(Ibid). She was elected, as all representatives of Congress, to represent the views of her constituents. So she has.
“This split between Republicans and Democrats on Israel is real, and is mirrored in a split between the government of Israel and the American Jewish community,” said the diplomat Martin Indyk, who worked for Aipac…”And since the American Jewish community is a pillar of the Democratic Party and is Aipac’s base, you’ve got kind of a perfect storm.”(Ibid). And so the liberal Americanized Jews of America are na’vocha—or maybe not! HAPPY PURIM!
Shabbat Shalom, 03/15/19 Jack “Yehoshua” Berger