Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
The Reverse Side of the Hate Coin
by Yisroel Friedman

The Beis Halevi expands upon the messages of this parsha regarding age-old antisemitism. This hatred, he maintains, is not to be considered a punishment, for at this point in Mitzrayim, the Jews had not sinned. Rather, it was a safeguard established for the benefit of the Jewish people. The more they attempted to integrate among the Egyptians, the greater a measure of hatred Hashem planted in the latter's hearts, to prevent this assimilation.

And so has it been throughout the ages. Just like oil and water can never mix, so can Israel never completely assimilate, and every attempt to flout this rule has always borne tragic consequences. If Jews, themselves, do not create their division and separation, the nations will do so for them. Thus has it been throughout history, and so will it continue for all time.

In the margins of rabid antisemitism lies a point for reflection.

"Antisemitism," said the French philosopher, Sartre, "belongs to the category of circumstances, not to the category of attitudes. One does not argue about circumstances."

While we do not need his corroboration, we can, nevertheless, utilize his insight for its clarity of definition. Indeed, antisemitism is a fact, a constant. This was established by Hashem as a rule of nature in the universe. Indeed, it is a confirmed axiom that Eisov despises Yaakov.

But there is another form of hatred, as well, the hatred of an ignoramus towards a Torah scholar. This, too, is a state of being, a condition. And, as mentioned, one does not argue with circumstances. The gemora tells of a hired worker who, for the space of a long period, was not paid his wages. This man never complained. He always found a merit to attribute to his employer and explain his behavior, and would not stop working for him so long as he could find some justification for him. In the end, he was proven right in all of his justifications for his employer's behavior.

What nobility of character this person possessed! How lofty were his traits to be able to reach just a level of trust! What perfection! This very person, says R' Achai Gaon in Sheiltos, was Akiva, the famous R' Akiva before he began studying Torah. In the period while he was still ignorant, stresses the Maharam of Pano, he already possessed refinement of character, to be sure. But at this stage, notes the Chasam Sofer, his attitude towards Torah scholars was very outspoken, despite his nobility of character. "If I could lay my hands on a talmid chochom at that stage," confessed R' Akiva of a later period, "I would have gnashed him like a donkey."

Why? Because the hatred of a boor towards a Torah scholar is not dependent upon fine character traits. Rather, it is a condition, a fact, a state of being, a constant, a reality. And this antipathy is this selfsame contempt which the nations exhibit towards Jews, only worse.

"And in our generation, we see, due to our numerous sins, an animosity of Jewish sinners towards Torah scholars in even greater measure than that shown by the non-Jews themselves! Just like the nations are always seeking libels against Jewry, so do the wicked in our ranks always seek libels against the scholar sector. And if it happens that a Torah scholar stumbles in any single act and is found doing something below his level, they will censure not only him, alone, but they will lather with wrath against the entire sector of scholars.

"And in truth, both of these battles are one and the same, namely, the battle of evil against good, as it is written, `A war unto Hashem against Amolek, from generation to generation.' The Gra wrote: `The Amolekites are represented by the [temporal] heads of Jewry in the exile, as it is written, `Her enemies became their heads.' We see this in the flesh, that the wicked are the strongmen of the generation, and the Torah public is lowly and debased before them. Many public leaders came into power in their factions or movements, only thanks to their persecution of the Torah public . . . For even Jews attain power when they persecute other Jews.

"The Gra wrote that this is alluded to in the verse, `And he put the maidservants and their children first.' The rabble, the eirev rav, rules with might over the House of Israel, `and Leah and her children last.' This is the common mass which knuckles under the power of the rabble. `And Rochel and her children finally.' These are the Torah scholars, who are lowest of all, during the period preceding Moshiach . . . " (Maran HaRav Elchonon Wassermann zt'l, Hy'd, Kovetz Maamorim, chap. 7.)


Why has this antipathy sprung up so violently in recent times? What has caused the waves of hatred to rear up so high and come crashing down upon us? Perhaps, like the contempt of the nations, it is being divinely generated so that we will maintain our distance, our insularity? If there did not exist that abhorrence of the boor towards the scholar, we might conclude that as we are, we are not so removed from them; they can bear us. If our presence did not disturb or antagonize them, we could infer that we were not all-in- order. The gap is huge; a spirit-culture versus a gut- culture.

The distance between us is like that of the polar bear and the Sahara desert. If they can feel comfortable with us and not have their hackles rise, this is a sign that we do not exist. That we have sinned, defaulted, that the gap is narrowed. True, the high tide of the sea of hatred concerns us. We are familiar enough with their `crunching us like a donkey.' But this seems to have subsided to a chewing of a coyote, the wild dog-face of this generation which lacks minimal G-d-fear.

The terrible reality crashing down upon our shores begs thought and introspection. Perhaps we have veered off the path drawn by our sages and leaders? Perhaps we have raised our heads where we should have lain low?

Or, perhaps, we drew too near for comfort and safety? Perhaps too much of the street has infiltrated into our camp, foreign elements insinuated themselves into our cultivated fields and furrows. Vestiges of their influence felt in our lifestyle, expressions, manner of thinking, tactics of spiritual self preservation, in the mellowing of distinctions in dress.

Is it not then a kindness on the part of Hashem to establish demarcations even after the foul washwater breaks upon our shores and dissipates? Perhaps we have forgotten where we are, and in whose hands? Have we forgotten who stands on the side of the `intellectual' barricade and what this enemy is capable of doing? Without the fear of G-d in this place . . . Have we lost our sense of golus?

Points to ponder...

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