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Happenstance?


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb them, another occurs. After a while, we become inured and no longer react. Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with our environment. Add to this the collapse of the giants of finance and industry. If this were not enough, we, the Jewish people have an additional menace with which to contend – the demonization of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism.

I write these lines following Parshios Behar and B’Chukosai. The words of the parshah ring loudly and clearly: “V’im b’zos lo tishma’un… If, despite all this, you will not heed Me and you will behave toward Me with “keri,” I will behave toward you with a fury of keri.”

Keri is one of those Hebrew words, which are not easy to convey in another language. It connotes an attitude of “casualness,” that everything occurs randomly and only simpletons would imagine that there are Divine messages in the events that befall us.

In addition, there is another rationalization that we apply to explain away tribulations that beset us. We have been conditioned to shift blame to others.

Our sages teach that the very word “Sinai” has a double connotation. It is related to the word “sinah” – hatred. From the moment we sealed our covenant with G-d, at Sinai, – “sinah,” the hatred of the nations descended upon us. This hatred, however, also had a positive aspect, for it served to remind us that we cannot assimilate, and our protection can only be found in the shelter of G-d under the canopy of Torah.

Often, there is truth to this rationale. Irrational hatred and evil exist, and for us, this holds true even more so. Anti-Semitism is as old as our people.

So, while from time immemorial we had to contend with those who hated us and schemed to devour us, we also learned to live by another reality… to go beyond that which the eye sees and the mind comprehends – probe our souls and look within ourselves. We learned to ask the agonizing question, “Where have we gone wrong? What is G-d trying to tell us?”

We have been adjured to shun “keri,” attributing everything to happenstance; conditioned to search our souls and accept accountability for our actions as well as our omissions. Should you ask a Jew how it was that his ancestors were exiled and destined to behold the horrific destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, it is not the Babylonians nor the Romans that he will blame, although it was they who pillaged our Holy City and set our Temple aflame.

The answer is there for all to behold and to hear. It is engraved for all eternity in our prayer book: “Mipnei chata’einu…Because of our sins [we were exiled from our land].” So on Tisha B’Av, the day of our national mourning, instead of cursing our enemies, we turn to our G-d in contrition and plead with Him to accept our penitence and rebuild our Holy Sanctuary.

Our sages taught us never to point a finger at outside sources, but to look within ourselves. It is that introspection, that willingness to accept accountability and make tikkun for ourselves, and the world, that has rendered us worthy of being G-d’s holy flock.

We of the 21st century are being challenged by events, which, at first glance, warrant outrage, the demonization of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism. Without doubt, we have the right to cry out and protest the injustice, blatant lies, and the double standard by which Israel is measured. No matter how compassionate and how just Israel may be, all the ills of the world are laid at her feet.

The evil demagogues, terrorists, and assassins, all get a pass while Israel is condemned. Yes, we have a right to cry out in protest. But that does not mean that we should shut our eyes and forget our mandate, to look within ourselves and ask, “Where did we go wrong? What happened to the Zionist dream?”

Over a century ago, the founders of secular Zionism had a vision that if the Jewish people would become a normal nation with a homeland of their own, they would be accepted as equals by the nations of the world and anti-Semitism would cease to exist. Their vision called for the creation of a secular democratic state whose roots were to be found in nationalism rather than in the Torah – the life source of the Jew.

To some extent their vision became a reality. The Jewish people have miraculously redeemed their ancient soil, and after almost 2,000 years they converted deserts, swamps, and stones into magnificent gardens. They created a mighty army, made outstanding discoveries in the sciences, technology, and medicine. Their achievements rank among the highest in the world. By all logic, this should have evoked admiration and respect – certainly, acceptance by the nations. Yet paradoxically, the opposite occurred. Instead of being accepted, Israel has been vilified…. and the very state that was supposed to render her immune to anti-Semitism has become the object of derision and hatred – the new cause of anti-Semitism.

To be sure, in our egalitarian, politically correct culture, racism and Jew baiting are no longer tolerated, so the anti-Semite of today must find a new venue to spew forth his venom and the demonization of Israel has become the cover under which he operates. This new anti-Semitism is so insidious that even some Jews have fallen into the trap and joined the chorus of demonizers.

Has not the time come for us to follow the path of our ancestors, do some soul- searching, and ask, “Where did we go wrong?”

We, the Jewish people can never be a “normal nation” if that means to be like all the people of the earth. We did not return to our ancient land after almost 2,000 years to convert her cities into New York or Paris. We are a nation only by virtue of our Torah, and it is only through that Torah that we can thrive on that land.

It is only when we come to understand that the Torah is the deed that grants us the right to dwell there, and comes from G-d Himself. When we understand this that the nations of the world will understand. Only then will anti-Semitism cease to exist.

How sad that we fail to realize this simple truth; we have failed to remember G-d in Israel’s national anthem.

How long will we walk with G-d in keri? When will we wake up? When will we understand the words of our prophet: “And that which enters your mind – that you will be like all the nations will never be…. As I live, G-d proclaims, I will rule over you with a strong Hand.”

G-d loves us eternally, and will never let us go. What will it take for us to understand this?

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