A group of British aristos was sitting around in the mid-Thirties, and one asked, “Where was Hitler born?” Nancy Mitford answered, “Versailles.” A pretty good bon mot. Woodrow Wilson bulldozed the Peace Conference at the end of World War I, created new countries, and imposed reparations on Germany, which allowed the rise of Hitler. Hitler, thus, was born at Versailles and Reform Judaism at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Modern Reform, the child of Enlightenment, was the confection of German Jews, trying to (pick one or all) modernize/assimilate/pass. Their desire to remove the irrational (religious) from religion is cautioned against continually in the Torah. It’s known as whoring after one’s heart — the heart understood, in the Torah, as the root of evil.
We see the cost of disregarding the warning around us in the wreck that “good works” and “compassion” have made of the West.
A woke reformer might opine that when we throw out the baby with the bathwater, at least we’ve gotten rid of the baby. The baby, in the above instances, is Judaism defined as obedience to God’s Law as expressed in the Torah. Hillel’s “Torah on one foot” is “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”
Its refashioning into the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” reveals a foundational difference between Judaism and Christianity. The latter an invitation to a necessarily intrusive benevolence; the former, a stricture about self-restraint.
To reduce Judaism to “good works” (the current reductio ad nihilo of Reform) is to denature it not only to an identity with Christianity; but, beyond, into po-faced agnosticism. It is no doubt challenging to retain one’s self-esteem in the face of horrors wrought by one’s good-willed actions, but it need not be intellectually taxing, given an ever-handy villain.
After 2,000 years of persecution and exile, the Shoah, and mounting contemporary antisemitism (see critical race theory), why are we Jews still here?
I was studying with a Chabad rabbi, we broke for tea, and discussed antisemitism. I said the most vicious comment I’d ever heard came from a supposed friend (non-Jewish) some years back. He said, “If you Jews are being persecuted down through the ages, isn’t it possible you’re doing something to bring it about?” I was looking for an endorsement of my umbrage, but the rabbi said, “He’s right.”
And I spent an afternoon with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. I brought up the absurdity of the canard that Jews rule the world; he said that the Christians loathed us, because believing that we did, they did not understand why we’d let them down, the world being in such a state.
It’s never been the case that Jews ruled the world — if so, why suffer under Egypt, Babylon, Rome and Greece, the Turks, Italy and Spain, the Nazis, the Soviets, Hamas and Hezbollah, and so on.
We’ve never ruled the world (that position, having been previously filled), but, under untold tyrannies and oppressions, we ruled ourselves.
Those who assimilated sought acceptance in a wider world, while maintaining something of their Jewishness, if not their Judaism.
I grew up with something called “Jewish Guilt.” This, it was supposed, by us Episcopalian-Reform, was some indwelling sense of shame over something or other. As, indeed, it was. But the something was never named, nor did the afflicted dare to name it, for it was not actually shame, but anxiety at having fallen away.
We did not know where we belonged. We were living the lie that, rationally, we were “just like anyone else,” and needed only to redefine our Jewishness as the Desire to Do Good, and all our enemies would accept us. This “good” was never defined, but understood, by said Jews, as, finally, devotion to the teachings of Christ — see Ethical Culture, Rational Judaism, and so on. We were living a lie, which always extracts a price. (In Proverbs, we find a prostitute takes only your money but an adulteress will take your life.)
For, as in the affair with the adulteress, we not only sought sin (in apostasy), but sin-with-the-promise-of-love (as near-Christians, and, so, entitled to His love) — a bargain we dared not perceive, let alone name.
The Ostjuden have always been despised by their more acculturated Western brethren. The Polish Maskelim hated the Chassids, the German Jews loathed the “Contagion” of Polish Jewry, American Reform sided largely with the New York Times in ignoring the Holocaust; and the (largely) Jewish Left loves toying with the perfidies of the Jewish state — a proof of their even-handedness. It was always those farther East who were “giving us some trouble.”
The trouble, for the Jews, is the necessity of choice: In or out. Are you, that is, siding with your people, or betting that, uniquely in human history, the host culture in which you live will not, eventually, revert to destroying you, should you attract its notice, awakening envy by your success and savagery by your differences? How do the frightened propitiate their opponents? What could be a greater proof of sincerity than indictment of one’s own kind?
One might stand with his people from a sense of joy, or responsibility, or gratitude, or even obligation. Or one might do so from the most practical consideration: Who is likely to defend me when the general population loses its mind?
“Who is a Jew?” I always held that if it’s good enough for Hitler, it’s good enough for me. A contemporary application: All of my neighborhood Jews shovel their offspring into schools teaching the racial inferiority of their kind. When the fit hits the shan, they’re likely to search for a home displaying not the various woke sanctimonies, but the American flag.
That would be my house.
Similarly, they (and I), in the shirt-that-we-stood-up-in, might one day have to fight our way to LAX to queue up and plead to be taken on a flight to Israel, which, alone in the world, we knew, would protect us. Which of us, on that bad day, would stay and be killed, giving our lives in martyr testimony to the antisemitic proclamations of the UN?
Our society, now sick, which enshrined free speech as the first of the freedoms, was founded on the principles of Torah.
As those principles are forgotten or derided, the biblically illiterate Jew is left with nothing save the chimera of his good works — these never mentioned in the Constitution, and, time and again, warned against in the Jewish Law.
Dissent, including the invitation to discussion — in the dark night of social justice and CRT — is treated like the offense of the architect in Schindler’s List.
She was a young Jewish woman, an architect, part of an intake at Auschwitz ordered to build a shelter for themselves. They were given lumber and plans. The young woman goes to the SS Guard and explains that the building desired can’t be built from those plans. He shoots her.
Security comes only from strength.
The thug or burglar will not pass over the house displaying the LOVE IS LOVE, or NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL, sign. He, being rational, with only so much time in the day, will be attracted to that house as a low-risk endeavor.
What might dissuade the burglar? An American flag, a sign announcing membership in the NRA, an Armed Services license plate.
We all know of Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” on the Statue of Liberty. The invitation to the world’s tired and poor is on its base.
The poem was written as a cri de coeur for the Russian Jews massacred in the pogroms of 1881, six years before the statue’s placement.
Miss Lazarus wrote largely about the plight of the Jews. See another of her poems, “The World’s Justice”:
The poem concludes:
The State of Israel remains free because it has an army.
For the first time in 2,000 years, the Jewish People have proclaimed their God-given right to live, independent of the sufferance of others.
Who would deny it? The United Nations, and all the woke Left screaming “How dare you?” We might rehearse Israel’s right to exist, citing the British Mandate, unbroken millennial Jewish presence, the sanctity of our holy places, UN resolution 181, continued martial victories, 75 years of statehood, and so on. But one does not ask a victim, “Would you tell me again, please, what precisely are your arguments against rape . . . ?” What the good-willed antisemites seek is the destruction of the Jews. Those who question Israel’s “right to exist” are on the continuum of the Black Hundreds, the Cossacks and the SS: They want to murder a people.
Is this unclear to the do-gooders? I don’t think so, but, rather, hold that they consider it (consciously or not) a grand idea. What is the non-Jewish world’s insane preoccupation with Jews? They, as Rabbi Steinsaltz said, are infuriated by the idea (right or wrong) that some group might actually be committed to moral behavior.
Zionism is the defended assertion that a people has the right to live in peace in its own home — a right endorsed by the UN and all human-rights councils; their endorsement withheld from but one group. We know from the Torah that Hashem says of Israel, Those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed.
Normalizing the indictment of Israel is antisemitism. Historically, it is an entry-level step to chaos. See the election to Congress of antisemites, riots regularized as protest, and various thefts and assaults decriminalized.
The miner’s canary may be fed for singing or die as a disposable safety tool in the mine.
Those creatures who will not perceive the second possibility are unlikely to fly free, should they discover the cage door open —as it was at the first Passover. And in 1948.