Today is the first of September, 2017.
It is morning in my Jerusalem neighborhood. As I make my way to prayers at a nearby synagogue, I find myself repeatedly bumped off the narrow sidewalk, into the street. Moms, kids, and strollers – some single, some double – block my way. The mothers sport colorful headscarves, towing toddlers in the hand that they aren’t using to push their carriages.
The gaggles of children walking with them come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share one thing: they are dressed up, scrubbed and brushed, making their way to one of the neighborhood schools for the first day of the new school year. When you add them up all across the country, you get two million, two hundred and seventy-two thousand kids – all excited, some with butterflies in their stomachs, getting ready to meet new friends and teachers.
These children are the future of this little country, the State of Israel. Arabs and Jews; black, brown, yellow and white; Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and more; they are the children who live in the Jewish National Homeland.
All of sudden, my mind stretched back to another first of September; September 1, 1939.
Seventy-eight years ago, the leadership of Nazi Germany dropped a feigned mask of neutrality and revealed to the world their true intentions. Adolph Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich and absolute ruler of the German nation, launched a powerful and devastating invasion of neighboring Poland, beginning World War II. The world has never been the same.
Nazi Germany had two overarching objectives: Absolute world domination through military conquest, and the complete annihilation of the Jewish Nation. Much has been written about Hitler’s motives, but few have asked what these two goals had in common.
Bringing the world under one nation’s control is theoretically comprehensible; many world powers have had similar goals over the centuries. But why spend the time, energy and resources needed to exterminate a “single people, scattered among yet set apart from the peoples … and their religion is different from every people”, in the words of the biblical Book of Esther?
Towards the end of the war, as Germany’s defeat appeared certain, Hitler’s generals begged him to redirect troops and equipment being used to annihilate the Jews in death camps throughout Europe and redeploy them for use in the desperate war effort against the allied forces. Hitler responded by claiming that only HE knew what the real purpose of the war was – and this was destroying the Jews.
Similarly, in Hitler’s last radio speech to the German nation on January 30, 1945, he challenged the nation to continue its relentless resistance to the “Jewish international world plot” by “steel[ing] ourselves in the holy determination to wield the sword, no-matter where and under what circumstances.”
What exactly was Hitler’s problem?
The answer is amazing, if not easy: Hitler saw the little Jewish People as the only real competition for the role of: the Master Race.
Yes, that’s right. Hitler’s concept of the Master Race was shamelessly lifted from the pages of the Hebrew Bible, given to the Jewish Nation thousands of years ago. One example from Deuteronomy: “Because you are a Holy People to HaShem your Lord; and HaShem chose you to be a treasured people for Him, from all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
When these words were written, there were no Germans, and certainly no Nazis. The Bible is talking about the Nation of Israel, the Jewish People: Hitler’s eternal competitor.
The famous Hebrew Prophet Isaiah puts the same idea differently: “I am HaShem: I have called you in righteousness, and I will strengthen your hand, and I will shape you, and make with you a people-covenant, as a light of the goyim [nations].
So, will the Jews turn out to be a master race, crushing everyone who gets in our way and is not to our liking, as Hitler so much wanted his beloved nation, to do? Not exactly.
In modern Hebrew, the term for ‘master race’ is: ‘geza elyon’, which can be translated as: ‘the highest trunk’. That already gives you a clue.
The Jewish People is certainly a special people, unlike no other on the globe. But HaShem did not intend us to be ‘masters’ of anyone. We have already made it clear over thousands of years that we are barely masters of ourselves.
So if we are not to be masters over other human beings – then what is it that we are we supposed to be?
Well – how about masters of technology? The modern, resurrected country of the Jews, Israel, is not even 70 years old, and we have already become world leaders in developing the technology that underlies many of the world’s computers and communications devices.
What about health? Israel is quietly helping several African nations improve their irrigation and agricultural systems, enabling them to produce larger amounts of healthy food. The Jewish State has made huge strides in Africa in the fight against AIDS. And our emergency teams are world-renowned for arriving on the scene of disasters and helping save lives.
There are many ways that Israel makes its presence felt in the world. It just may be that we are to lead the way by helping each nation reach its greatest physical and spiritual potential. In this way, we will bring peace to the world – just as HaShem said we would do someday.
It’s as if we’ve been participating in a global training program for the past 4,000 years. Our experience in Egypt; later, in our own Promised Land of Israel; and then, still later on, throughout centuries of a painful exile – have prepared us for the role that we must assume.
When this role is understood by the Jewish People – and by the nations of the world who have for so long been forcing us to run the gauntlet – then we can get down to fulfilling our true destiny as the light of the nations.
In such a world, with the Jewish Nation firmly situated in their Land of Israel and busy doing what we are supposed to be doing – there will no longer be any need for anti-Semitism. Precisely the opposite: the nations of the world will see fit to help us with our tasks in every way possible.