Only a few years ago, Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day was a day to remember that the unthinkable actually happened, that six million men, women, and children were murdered simply because they were Jewish. Today, Holocaust Remembrance Day is no longer merely a day of mourning. Today, it is a reminder that what happened then can reoccur. It is a reminder that what happened in Germany can happen in any other country, that democracy is no vaccine against anti-Semitism, and that liberalism does not translate into tolerance toward Jews. As the warning signs we saw before World War II are reemerging throughout the world, we must not overlook them. We must employ the only remedy that has ever saved the Jews from tragedy: the unity of our people.
The alarming rise in anti-Semitism is troubling, but in and of itself, it does not pose a danger of another Holocaust. What does pose a far greater threat and acts as a catalyst that could trigger such a cataclysm is a far more sinister type of anti-Semitism: Jewish anti-Semitism.
Jew-hatred, pogroms, and murders have existed in Eastern Europe for centuries, but the most traumatic episodes in Jewish history took place in countries that were seemingly tolerant toward Jews. In these countries, Jews enjoyed such high levels of freedom and social respect that many of them began to not only abandon their heritage, but even abhor it. Midrash Rabbah (Exodus, 1:8) writes that in Egypt, Pharaoh turned against the Hebrews only when they said, “Let us be as the Egyptians.” The First Temple was ruined for three reasons, two of which—bloodshed and idolatry—concerned abandoning our heritage and turning against each other. The Greeks did not even have to fight the Jews in order to conquer Judea because Hellenized Jews fought their coreligionists for them. And finally, the Second Temple was ruined and we were exiled because of unfounded hatred among us.
Even in exile, the most tragic episodes in our history unfolded when we had so much freedom that we wanted to abandon our identity. Historian Jane Gerber writes that in 15th century Spain, Spanish Jewry considered Spain the new Jerusalem and believed that “the presence of so many Jews and Christians of Jewish ancestry in the inner circles of the court, municipalities, and even the Catholic church could provide protection and avert the decree” of expulsion. They were very wrong. In fact, the chief inquisitor, Tomás de Torquemada, was himself of recent Jewish descent.
That same pattern repeated itself in pre-Holocaust Germany. Historian Werner Eugen Mosse writes that from the middle of the 19th century, emancipated Jews began to reject their heritage. They denounced circumcision, moved the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, and replaced the Bar Mitzvah with an oral examination. Just as Spanish Jews regarded Spain as the new Jerusalem, Prof. Donald Niewyk writes that “the vast majority of [German] Jews were passionately committed to their sole Fatherland, Germany.” Even when the Nazi Party came on the scene, many Jews did not see the peril in the making. The Association of German National Jews even supported and voted for Hitler and the Nazi Party.
In today’s United States of America, Jews in droves are turning their backs on their heritage and on the Jewish state. Numerous American Jews are actively supporting the BDS movement and partake in events and discussions intended to endorse and advance the elimination of the State of Israel. The majority of Jews marry non-Jews, and Jewish millennials prefer not to be affiliated with Judaism whatsoever. Unless this trend is reversed, there is not a shred of doubt that some form of cataclysm will befall the Jewish community in America, and not in the remote future.
How Jewish Anti-Semitism Instigates Jewish Catastrophes
The Hebrew word Yehudi comes from the word yihudi, meaning united, explains the book Yaarot Devash (Part 2, 2nd Drush). Unity has been the core of Judaism since its inception at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The Midrash (Shemot 2:4) tells us that the name Sinai comes from Hebrew word sinaa, meaning hatred. The Hebrews were declared a nation only once they encircled the mountain of hatred among them and committed to unite “as one man with one heart.” King Solomon summed up the essence of Judaism with the verse, “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Prov 10:12).
As I wrote in “Why Do People Hate Jews,” throughout the lineage that began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Hebrews coped with hate by covering their hatred with love. They did not regard conflicts as crises, but rather as opportunities to increase their love for one another. The Book of Zohar (Beshalach) writes about it, “All the wars in the Torah are for peace and love.”
Immediately after committing to unite “as one man with one heart,” the Jews were commanded to be “a light unto nations.” Their unique unity—enhanced by hatred covered with love—was intended for times when the darkness of hatred fills the world and it needs the remedy of unity. This is why every time hatred prevails and war erupts, the Jews are accused of causing it. Jews may also be used as scapegoats for rulers to blame for their own failures, but the accusation of Jews as clandestine perpetrators of war works so well because it reflects people’s genuine feelings about the Jews, even when political correctness inhibits its overt expression.
Judaism is the only religion whose foundation is purely ideological. The founders of the Jewish nation were completely unaffiliated with each other and came from all over the Fertile Crescent. As I elaborated in “Who Are You People of Israel,” they joined Abraham because they subscribed to the idea that a thriving society cannot sustain itself by suppressing conflicts and hatred, but by cultivating unity that is stronger than the hatred. This is the meaning of King Solomon’s words, “Love covers all crimes,” and why The Zohar states that the wars in the Torah are about peace and love.
When Abraham realized that covering hate with love is the antidote to hatred, he shared it as much as he could with his townspeople in Ur of the Chaldeans. When he wandered toward Canaan, he continued to divulge his message and gather supporters. Moses, the Ramchal writes in his commentary on the Torah, wanted to continue in Abraham’s footsteps and free the world of hatred, but because people were as yet unable to grasp his notion and pursue it, he did not succeed. Nevertheless, he formed a nation whose task was to cultivate the method of unity above hatred until the world was willing and able to adopt it. That nation was called Yehudim (Jews), from the word yihudi (united). Accordingly, when a gentile asked Old Hillel how he could become a Jew, Hillel simply said, “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor; this is the whole of the Torah” (Talmud, Masechet Shabbat, 31a), and Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your neighbor as yourself; this is the great rule of the Torah” (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, 30b).
As long as Jews stall in carrying out their task of sharing their method of unity and thereby being “a light unto nations,” the nations will hate them. When they succumb to hatred and begin to hate themselves, the nations mercilessly push them back toward each other. We call this anti-Semitism, but it is really the nations’ anger at the Jews for abandoning the path of unity and denying their method from the world. In 1929, Dr. Kurt Fleischer, leader of the Liberals in the Berlin Jewish Community Assembly, succinctly expressed the nations’ attitude toward Jews when he said, “Anti-Semitism is the scourge that God has sent us in order to lead us together and weld us together.” If only the Jews had acted on that insight…
Time to Act
Just recently, some 575 “Jewish American college students have called on Birthright Israel to take a stand against Israel’s new law that prevents boycott supporters from entering the country.” Journalist and essayist Tuvia Tenenbom described that same anti-Israel spirit in a televised interview on Algemeiner after visiting Jewish communities all across the US. “In state after state, temple after temple, what I saw and what I witnessed was a nightmare,” Tenenbom says. “You see rabbis, or so called rabbis, leaders, or supposedly leaders, standing on the podium, and all they can tell their listeners is that Israel is an apartheid state and that Judaism is racism. That’s what they preach, over and over and over again.”
Such a spirit of internal hatred within our nation will undoubtedly instigate another cataclysm on the Jews. It will not be caused by this or that political affiliation. All political views are by definition false and wrong as long as they instigate separation among Jews.
Our only task in this world is to unite above our differences and thereby be “a light unto nations.” We are presented with disputes not so as to debate on who’s right, but so as to show the world that the solution to all frictions lies in rising above them with unity, in cultivating brotherhood that is stronger than the hatred, and thereby forging a solid and thriving society. As long as we do not set this example, the nations will hate us. The more we hate each other, the more they will want to eliminate us. As they see it, if we are not living up to our purpose, there is no purpose to our living.
If we want to prevent another Holocaust, we must rise above our differences and unite just as our ancestors did when they climbed Mt. Hatred (Sinai). Our message to the world on Yom Hashoah should be that “Never again” means that we will never again hate our own brethren.
In the portion Aharei Mot, The Book of Zohar writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, at first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … And by your merit there will be peace in the world.” If we Jews live up to the words of our sages and unite above our differences, we will not only dispel the stormy clouds gathering over our nation, but we will also oust the belligerent spirit taking over the world these days. If we want to prevent another world war and another Holocaust, we must be “a light unto nations”—unite above our differences, and become an example of brotherhood above hatred.
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