What Anti-Semitism Teaches Us about Jews
Two Jews, Yankel and Shmerel, were walking past a church. A sign on the church read “$20,000 to all who convert today!” Both were out of work and had been for quite some time.
Shmerel said, “Yankel, I’m going to do it. The kids need food.”
“I’ve got to, my family needs the money,” said Shmerel, and he walked into the church.
Yankel waited outside. Shmerel came out a half-hour later.
“So,” said Yankel, “did you get the $20,000?”
Shmerel looked at Yankel with disgust and said, “You people are all alike. All you think about is money.”
Assimilation Does not Matter
In the story of Purim, Mordechai kept on provoking Haman by refusing to bow down to him. Why couldn’t Mordechai simply “disappear” when Haman was passing by? Why the need to continuously drive Haman mad and evoke his ire?
The answer is that Mordechai understood that for Haman, just as for all the Haman’s of history, it makes absolutely no difference if you bow down or you don’t. They will despise you regardless. Their hate to you stems from your very essence, not from your behavior. You may stand on your head all day in front of Haman, it will mean nothing. The problem is not what you are doing, but who you are.
Haman will look for the convenient excuse by accusing Mordechai of treason; but this is only a front to the true motive of his hatred–Haman sees in every Jew the ultimate enemy to his unbridled power and arrogance. To hide one’s identity in the hope of assuaging Haman’s hatred is futile. For even in the face of the tiny Jewish infant Haman saw the face of a living moral G-d. Destroying that face would equal, in Haman’s eyes, the destruction of G-d.
Gassing the Infant
We have seen in our own times how true this is. The most sophisticated, assimilated German Jew, who was more German than the Germans, who had Goethe and Schiller flowing from his lips, who was married to a blond blue-eyed Aryan woman, who knew every symphony of Mozart and Wagner, who was an avid student of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer–this Jew was sent to the Treblinka and Dachau gas chambers with the same glee as the OustJude–the ultra religious Chassidic Jew of the East, immersed day and night in the study of the our sacred texts and complete Jewish observance.
How can we understand this? The smallest, cutest, most adorable Jewish baby, incapable of harming a soul, incapable of harboring any political, territorial, religious or scientific positions, was clubbed to death with the same passion and brutality as the most productive, accomplished, learned, and respected Rebbe?
It is because Hitler saw every single Jew as part of “Am Mordechai,” the people of Mordechai. You may be bowing down to the founding fathers of German culture and philosophy, you may be kneeling to superstars of German’s heroes, but you are all of the “nation of Mordechai,” who would never bow down to Haman! The Haman of our own times saw in the visage of every Jewish child nothing less than the visage of G-d. Clubbing that little girl to death would finally kill G-d too.
Love Like They Hate
Sometimes we must learn from the Haman’s of history, how to view a Jew in the proper light.
We often hear that some Jews are hopelessly assimilated and lost to our people; any outreach work toward them would be futile, they just don’t care. We give up on them. Sometimes we feel that a small number of Jews, a small community, does not justify the investment of money and outreach work.
But for Haman and Hitler– every single Jew, even the most secular and alienated Jew, was a living embodiment of G-d Himself, hence they would not spare any money or effort to seize that Jew and murder him. If Hitler would learn that there was a single Jewish child left behind in a Polish village, he would spare no toil to send the Gestapo and fetch that Jewish baby. Because, for him, even the presence of a single Jew, obstructed his path to happiness and fulfillment; even a single Jewish child was a living witness to G-d.
Can we, then, do any less? Can we come and say, “Some Jews are just too far out there,” or “why should I work so hard to help a single person?” If a Jew is never too insignificant to be hunted down in hate, he is never too insignificant to be embraced with love.
The Solution for Anti-Semitism
Mordechai thus understood very well that assimilation is not the real answer to Anti-Semitism. The Anti-Semite sees something in the Jew which would not disappear with assimilation. The solution to Anti-Semitism is to fight back with every possible means, with tall heads, dignified spirits, and erect souls.
And to remember that our salvation will come ultimately from one source and one source only. As long as we remain connected with that source, we will never die. For just as G-d can’t be murdered, so will His people never be destroyed.
Finally, we must recall that the world looks at the Jew and sees G-d. Humanity looks to the Jew for moral courage, leadership and inspiration. The world is disappointed with Jews who try so hard to fit in and lose their unique contribution to civilization. They want to see in us the living presence of G-d.
By Rabbi YY Jacobson