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
"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
"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-
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
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...