What Jewish History Taught Me
I never understood Jewish history. The more I read, the less I grasped. I simply could not fathom how Jews – millions of my brothers and sisters – were so blind to the realities around them. How did a nation, so brilliant in science and medicine, let small, petty arguments between neighbors tear them apart? How did our Rabbis not see what was coming and lead the people correctly? How did we let tiny episodes escalate into major catastrophic events?
And then I found the answer to all these questions. No, I did not become an expert in history with a PHD from Harvard. I simply opened my eyes and realized that what happened years ago – is the same thing happening now. The only difference is that I am not reading about this nonsense, I am living and experiencing it.
Consider the following: The Supreme Court decides to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. As everybody knows, this decision paves the way for federal benefits to be extended to same-sex marriages. I don’t have to tell you what the Jewish reaction should have been to that (and I am sure it was proper in many circles) but please read the official statement of the AJC – the American Jewish Committee; “Full recognition of marriage equality – the right to marry the person one loves regardless of gender – is a right whose recognition is long overdue. This decision is a large, but unfortunately incomplete, step in that direction.”
A similar statement was made by the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; “Our movement recognizes and celebrates marriages, whether between partners of the same sex or the opposite sex. We celebrate the decision on gay marriage by the Supreme Court.”
Of course I realize that these groups do not speak in the name of Torah-true Judaism but still – they are our brothers! As you know, the Jewish nation is one body – like it or not! We have always had our differences of opinion and most debates are healthy but endorsing marriages of the same gender??? How are we supposed to react to that???
I may shock you, but you need to know that I personally know several Yidden who live this lifestyle and I welcome each and every one into my home. I sing with them at my Shabbat table, show them kindness and brotherly love and lend them an ear. They are my friends like anyone else. I do this because I am a firm believer in education – not coercion… acceptance – not abandonment… and tolerance – not prejudice. That having been said, my red lines are clear; no marriage, no adopting children, no becoming a family. When groups like the AJC, speaking in the name of Jews across America, go that extra step and accept not only the individual but also publicly embrace his/her “marriage” we are headed in the wrong direction.
A similar thing happened in Israel this past week, although it dealt with a completely different topic. Rabbi Shai Piron is the Minister of Education. He is the #2 man in Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” (There Is A Future) party. In an effort to bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs, Rav Piron gave his green light to a new educational program that arranges mandatory meetings between Jewish and Arab students. He approved a yearly budget for this project of 2.5 million shekels and will be insisting that every Jewish student meet with Arab students at least TWICE in their 12 year school career.
In this area, my thoughts are completely the opposite from what I stated above. Sorry folks, but for the Arabs of Israel I have no acceptance or tolerance. I am not looking to harm them but I also do not want them in my country. After having personally witnessed enormous amounts of Jewish bloodshed, I have no tolerance for them, no patience to wait 50 years for peace and I certainly – REPEAT: I certainly don’t want my children meeting their children in a friendly atmosphere where everybody is all smiles.
“Remember what Amalek did to you…” For me, this is not just about a people named “Amalek” whom we are no longer aware of. For me, this is about the modern day suicide bombers, their families, their teachers, their friends and their entire village!
To my brothers and sisters; even those who violate Shabbat, eat on Yom Kippur or snack on pork rinds – I disagree (and have my red lines as stated above) but still love you and will always extend my hand in friendship. Jewish history has taught me that while we differ, we are still one people.
On the other hand, to my cousins from Uncle Yishmael; even those who claim to be good and nice – I wish you a long and fruitful life, material success and lots of kids but I do not accept you in the Promised Land. In this case, Jewish history has taught me the complete opposite of what is considered “politically correct” (and I am not afraid to write it): Even if in many areas we agree, we are NOT one people. We are on opposite sides of the fence and I refuse to relive the bloodbath of Jewish history. I wrote above that I do not understand Jewish history yet the old cliché is clear: If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. I will not do this. I have fasted enough, sat on the floor enough, cried enough and visited MORE than enough Yad Vashems.
My message is clear. It is incumbent upon us to teach what is right and wrong and to make our positions clear. Furthermore, we must state our opposition to areas of life which attempt to tear away the strength and validity of our Torah, our family and above all – our Father in Heaven. However, while doing so, even during those difficult moments when we are tough and uncompromising, we need to accept our fellow Yidden with love and tolerance. Under no circumstances can we allow our convictions to break our nation apart. Hashem knows that we have more than enough enemies from the outside so we had better figure out a way to live in peace on the inside!