This week we read TWO portions from the Torah: Vayakhel (Ex. 31:1 - 38:20) and Pekudei (Ex 38:21 - 40:38). Vayakhel which is Hebrew
for "and he assembled" begins with yet another call to remember the Sabbath, "On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you..." It would seem that as many times as we've heard this commandment we might start to take it seriously. However, life often gets in the way and our work overcomes us. Which is really the point. When we are so consumed with work that we fail to take time to be with family and friends...let alone worship G-d...what kind of life is that?
The answer is..."Incomplete". If it is true that G-d knows what is good for us would it not make sense that we should take some time and relax? You see, the Torah isn't simply a document that was written down for our ancestors. It is a Book of Life that resonates even today. So, perhaps, this Shabbat take some time and enjoy your family and friends...maybe start the weekend with a family dinner. Put away the electronic devices and have a conversation. It may do you...good.
May we stitch gears a bit and talk about something else that is troubling? It is the rise of anti-Jewish actions. Here in Mason City we have fallen victim to at least two issues. So, it begs the question, "Why do some people hate the Jews so much?" Let's try to answer that very important question:
First of all it is hardly anything new. During the 1,700 years between the year 250 and 1948 Jews experienced more than eighty expulsions from various countries in Europe - an average of nearly one expulsion every twenty-one years. Jews were expelled from England, France, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia and seventy-one other countries.
Historians have classified six explanations as to why people hate the Jews:
- Economic - "We hate Jews because they possess too much wealth and power.";
- Chosen People - "We hate Jews because they arrogantly claim they are the chosen people.";
- Scapegoat - "Jews are a convenient group to single out and blame for our troubles.";
- Deicide - "We hate Jews because they killed Jesus.";
- Outsiders - "We hate Jews because they are different than us.";
- Racial Theory - "We hate Jews because they are an inferior race."
If we examine the explanations, we must ask -- Are they the causes for Antisemitism or excuses for Antisemitism? The difference? If one takes away the cause, then Antisemitism should no longer exist. If one can show a contradiction to the explanation, it demonstrates that the "cause" is not a reason, it is just an excuse. Let's look at some contradictions:
1) Economic -- The Jews of 17th- 20th century Poland and Russia were dirt poor, had no influence and yet they were hated.
2) Chosen People -- a) In the late 19th century, the Jews of Germany denied "Chosenness." And then they worked on assimilation. Yet, the Holocaust started there. b) Christians and Muslims profess to being the "Chosen people," yet, the world and the Anti-Semites tolerate them.
3) Scapegoat -- Any group must already be hated to be an effective scapegoat. The Scapegoat Theory does not then cause Antisemitism. Rather, Antisemitism is what makes the Jews a convenient scapegoat target. Hitler's rantings and ravings would not be taken seriously if he said, "It's the bicycle riders who are destroying our society."
4) Deicide -- a) the Christian Bible says the Romans killed Jesus, though Jews are mentioned as accomplices (claims that Jews killed Jesus came several hundred years later). Why are the accomplices persecuted and there isn't an anti-Roman movement throughout history? b) Jesus himself said, "Forgive them [i.e., the Jews], for they know not what they do." The Second Vatican Council in 1963 officially exonerated the Jews as the killers of Jesus. Neither statement of Christian belief lessened Antisemitism.
5) Outsiders -- With the Enlightenment in the late 18th century, many Jews rushed to assimilate. Antisemitism should have stopped. Instead, for example, with the Nazis came the cry, in essence: "We hate you, not because you're different, but because you're trying to become like us! We cannot allow you to infect the Aryan race with your inferior genes."
6) Racial Theory -- The overriding problem with this theory is that it is self-contradictory: Jews are not a race. Anyone can become a Jew - and members of every race, creed and color in the world have done so at one time or another.
Every other hated group is hated for a relatively defined reason. We Jews, however, are hated in paradoxes: Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race - but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. We are hated for stubbornly maintaining our separateness - and, when we do assimilate - for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. We are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex. It seems that we just can't win.
Now that know what are NOT the reasons for Antisemitism. Stay tuned till next week for the reasons for Antisemitism.
Thank you for reading and may you have a blessed Sabbath!