They hate us. Not for anything we do or did. They just hate us. The past month saw a near-daily rash of attacks against Jews. These weren’t isolated attacks by right-wing radicals and white supremacists. These were attacks by ordinary members of the black community against Jews in New York. It is happening right in the United States in an area that holds the largest concentration of Jews.
Why do they hate us, you ask? This time, the excuse is that Jews have all the money and refuse to share it. But is this really the reason? It seems that every hater has his own reason, and some have more than one. Over the years, we have been hated for our poverty and for our prosperity, for being capitalists and for being socialists, for being useless immigrants and for plotting to take over the world.
So, which is it? The answer is none of the above. They don’t hate us for our Jewish dress, and they don’t hate us for our Jewish nose. They hate us for our Jewish G-d.
I Don’t Know G-d
When Pharaoh enslaved our ancestors in Egypt, he alleged that Jews were a fast-growing group of foreigners with no allegiance to Egypt. He claimed to be worried that in the event of an attack against Egypt, Jews would form a fifth column and unseat him. Fair enough. Up to this point, I can follow the rationale. There are many nationalist movements that rage against immigrants. They don’t usually want to enslave them, they are happy simply to expel them, but who are we to judge, right?
However, the savage and sadistic cruelty to which Pharaoh subjected the Jews was indicative of something deeper. He didn’t need to slaughter Jewish babies and bathe in their blood to curb their ability to rebel. He didn’t need to force men to perform women’s tasks and women to perform men’s tasks to curb their ability to rebel. He didn’t need to throw their infants into the Nile and beat them mercilessly.
It is only toward the end of the saga that we discover the real reason behind Pharaoh’s hatred. Moses arrived with a demand from the G-d of Israel saying, “let my people go so that they might serve me.” Pharaoh replied, “I don’t recognize this G-d and the Israelites I shall not dispatch.”
Read carefully between the lines and you will see that Pharaoh inadvertently revealed why he hated us. “I don’t recognize this G-d,” therefore, “I will not dispatch the Israelites.” I don’t have a problem with the Jewish people, I have a problem with the Jewish G-d. When I look at them, they remind me of Him. I don’t want to think of Him, so I must get rid of them. Rashi the famed biblical commentator put it thusly: “Those who hate Israel hate the One Who spoke, and the world came into being.”
We have finally exposed the true reason they hate us. We were given a mandate at Sinai to live at the intersection between heaven and earth. To live in an earthly body, but to function as a heavenly soul. We represent heaven on earth. Earthly beings don’t want to be bothered with heaven and its ecclesiastic demands. They would rather live and enjoy.
How do you get rid of the nagging reminder that you ought to live to a higher standard and answer to a higher authority? Pharaoh figured it out a long time ago. If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger. Pharaoh was followed by Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Haman, Titus, Torquemada, Stalin and, Hitler. They couldn’t say so openly because it was unbecoming, so they made up excuses as haters are want to do.
Pharaoh accused us of nationalism. Nebuchadnezzar and Titus, of colonialism, Haman accused us of social and cultural differences. Torquemada, of Christ killing. Stalin accused us of capitalism. Hitler, of Marxism. And, in the most ironic twist of all, the Arabs and the political left today accuse us of Nazism.
Like everyone who hates, they twist themselves into pretzels to find excuses for their hatred because it unbecoming to tell the truth. They hate us because our very existence reminds them of G-d and pricks their moral conscience. As Hitler purportedly said, “Conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish like circumcision.” Arrayed against Hitler was a young defenseless Jewish girl by the name of Ann Frank, who said it like it is. On April 11, 1944, she wrote, “Who knows ― it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason, and that reason, alone do we now suffer.”
What then is the solution, should we divest ourselves of every vestige of Judaism so that our presence won’t raise the ire of the nations? If we remove our Kippah and Tzitzit, will they stop hating us?
That won’t help. They don’t hate us because we look like Jews. They hate us because we are Jewish. Whether we display it or hide it, our very being is attached to G-d. And when they see us, they know it. Besides, the Jews of Western Europe tried that in the 18th and 19th centuries and that didn’t save them in the 20th century. Ann Frank, despite her youth, understood this well. In that same entry, she wrote, “We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any other country for that matter. We will always remain Jews.”
And if we will always remain Jews, we ought to embrace it. From all the nations that were extant 3331 years ago when we stood at Sinai, only we survived. And what did we do differently from the others? We kept the Torah. Throughout this entire span, there is only one common denominator that was present in each generation of Jews. Namely, that Jews kept the Torah. There were many breakaway streams of Jews throughout our history, but none survived. The only thing that survived for three millennia was our observance of the Torah. To think that abandoning the Torah is our path to survival, is sheer folly.
Our mandate at Sinai was not only to live a heavenly life on earth, but also to serve as a living example for the whole of the world. To be a light unto the nations. The whole of humanity is like a team. A team is composed of many players, each suited to their unique task. Similarly, humanity is comprised of many peoples, each suited to make the world a little holier, and a little better, each in their own special way.
Each member of the team has a unique role consistent with their unique strengths. The Jewish people were assigned the role of captain. The captain moves the team forward and leads the team past the traps and stumbling blocks set up by the opposition. It is natural for certain members of the team to be upset with the captain. The captain prods and pushes the team to do more, to do their best. This is not always appreciated.
Nevertheless, the worst thing a captain can do is abdicate the leadership position. The team needs us to lead. Even if they resent our leadership, we must step up to the plate and lead. We must check our style and ensure that our words and actions are consistent with our values. As our sages said, “be beautiful to people and beautiful to G-d.” But we can’t stop leading. The team needs us. The world needs us.
And we can’t stop believing in the future. Those who hate us and attack us today are really our teammates even if they deny it and decry it. We must continue to lead, to be a good example for all people, and to be a light unto the nations. One day, the nations will come around and embrace the team. On that day, “G-d will be one and His name will be one.” Standing shoulder to shoulder, we will serve Him in unison.