The FAA has just lifted its restriction on flights to Tel Aviv; it felt like a full-scale war was starting on Tuesday when it cancelled all flights from the US. I must admit that I worried a couple of times about our son Sholom in Tsfat. My mother keeps telling me she can’t wait for him and my nephew Noah to come home safely; I keep reminding her that she has to pray for G-d to take care of all Jewish people, everywhere.
I wish I didn’t have to be so blatant, so us-and-them.
But our Holy Land is under siege and there’s no time for niceties; nothing is normal anymore.
And when nothing is normal, the flames of anti-Semitism are ignited around the world. Each of us asks under our breath, yet again, “what is it with these people?”
I think the more important question, and for some Jews, the more uncomfortable one, is, “what is it with us?”
I mean, in every generation before ours, and in every place before America, the classic saying rang true, often to the sound of a death knell: it’s hard to be a Jew.
Has anything changed?
From the anti-Semite’s perspective, clearly, the answer is, no. It’s just that, at times like these, the truth comes out.
But, the good news is that the truth comes out for Jews, too. Our job is to recognize it, embrace it, and act on it. What they irrationally hate, we need to irrationally love.
Anti-Semites hate the Jewish land, the Jewish people, the Jewish G-d and His Torah, and they don’t distinguish among them. Look on the Internet or read their Facebook posts if you don’t believe me.
And there’s nothing we can do, nothing we have ever been able to do, to change that hatred. According to Torah, this hatred has been passed down through Amalek, and his descendants are hardwired to inherit it.
As a result, for generations, and with good reason, Jews have been terrified by this irrational anti-Semitism. Now, thank G-d, we have a Jewish state that offers a safe haven for anyone who, at worst, needs to make a quick exit from anywhere, no questions asked. When the security of this homeland is at risk, we are all affected.
I think the Jews who are most affected are the ones who, in normal times, claim not to care all that much about being Jewish, who feel more a part of the family of man. On some level, they have internalized the message too well: it’s hard to be a Jew.
That’s certainly understandable given Jewish history. There’s no denying that, in the post-Holocaust world, our collective souls still suffer from an Amalekite trauma on a scale that defies understanding. A shared but martyred past makes for a pretty neurotic future as a people, if “Jewish survival” is one long, purposeless game of cat and mouse. (Can it even be part of the unconscious reason why so many people are assimilating and even intermarrying, hoping on some level to spare their descendants?)
And, yet there’s a part of even the most disconnected Jew that transcends thought, a connection that only comes out when we feel that “otherness.”
Because the anti-Semite reminds us that, no matter what we think or how we live, Jews are not like everyone else and never can be. They know better than we do that underneath it all, we are one people, with one G-d, and one land. They hate that we are still here, that everything about us defies the natural order.
And they’re right. Because the Jewish soul inside all of us is a part of G-d Himself, totally beyond the natural order–just like their hatred–it’s the spiritual weapon all Jews possess, whether or not we use it in normal times.
But these are not normal times. We are in the Messianic era, awaiting “the new normal.”
And in these times, everything we do that affirms the very Oneness that our enemies despise– prayers, mitzvahs, giving tzedaka, learning Torah– should be done with passion. Kind of like the anti-Semites have, but the opposite.
Through our unapologetic and unbounded affirmations, we Jews can potentially arouse G-d’s mercy in a commensurate way; this not only ensures the protection of our homeland and our people, it also allows “the new normal” to become a reality.
That’s where the anti-Semites drop off, not a moment too soon.