There is so much tragedy, so much sham in the world, that people no longer know how to make a distinction between emes – truth, and blatant falsehood – and we Jews suffer from this plague more than others. Israel is constantly under attack, constantly demonized by a world that has become increasingly anti-Semitic, by a world that would secretly be happy to G-d forbid, see yet another Holocaust unfold.
Even a blind man has to see the brazenness with which anti-Semitism has escalated among the nations, and this despicable condition prevails in our own United States as well. From Jimmy Carter to Mel Gibson to Helen Thomas to Oliver Stone who spoke out in support of Hitler’s policies and damned the “Jews who control Washington,” anti Semitic vituperative continues unabated.
Oh yes, all these people were quick to apologize, but their apologies are empty, worthless words. The Jew-hater of today drops his venom and then hides behind those hypocritical words: “I’m sorry…I apologize…I misspoke…” And with those vacuous explanations, the Jewish community is lulled back to sleep. But what we have to remember is that the situation has become such that these hatemongers feel comfortable giving voice to their incendiary remarks.
Now it’s one thing when we, the Jewish people, have to deal with all these outside satanic forces, but it’s something else again when the decimation comes from within. Long ago, our prophets proclaimed, “Your destruction shall come from within…”
The Patriarch Jacob, whose life experience foretold our own exile, beseeched G-d, “Rescue me from the hands of my brother – from the hands of Esau…” (Genesis 32:12). Our sages comment on the apparent redundancy in the passage. After all, Jacob had only one brother, and he was Esau, Therefore, it is understood that the word brother must be a reference to him. Why then, the repetition?
But the Torah is imparting a profound, vital teaching, to help us survive the dangers that lurk in exile. Sometimes, it will be the bloody hands of Esau that will prey upon us, and that, alas, will be only too easy for us to identify. But at other times, the onslaught will be more insidious. Esau will appear in the guise of a brother and extend the hand of friendship, love and marriage. And that will spell the ultimate decimation through which, G-d forbid, entire families will silently disappear.
I recall, many years ago, when my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, was called by a local funeral chapel to officiate at the funeral service of an elderly Jewish woman. In her old age, the woman had moved to Florida, but the family plot was in a cemetery in Queens, so they brought her back to New York for burial. Since there was no family rabbi to officiate, my husband was called by the chapel.
When my husband returned home, he broke down and wept. I was at a loss to understand his total grief. After all, the woman was in her late 90s. She had lived to a ripe old age and my husband had never met her. Why the extreme reaction, I wondered. When I asked him for an explanation, he told me that she left behind three sons, and the wives of all three wore little crosses around their necks… the grandchildren, of course, were not Jewish.
“Today,” my husband said, his voice choking with tears, “I buried the last Jew in this family. Thousands of years of Torah and majesty, thousands of years of sacrifice and martyrdom have come to an end for this family with the death of this old lady. Is this not cause to weep?” my husband asked. His question hung in the air. There was no answer anyone could give.
All this occurred many years ago. In those days, there were still individuals capable of shedding tears at the thought of a Jewish family silently disappearing in the melting pot of intermarriage. Today, such events have become so commonplace that no one even takes notice. And more, in many Jewish circles, there is actual rejoicing. “As long as my children are happy, that is all that matters” parents rationalize. With over 50-90 percent intermarriage, depending upon the community, the Jewish people are silently hemorrhaging, and most often, these events are greeted with shouts of “Mazel tov!”
A case in point was this week’s wedding of Chelsea Clinton to Mark Mezvinsky, a Jewish young man. I actually heard some of our people respond to this interfaith marriage presided over by a Reform rabbi and a Christian minister with excitement and elation.
“Isn’t it wonderful,” they gushed, “that in the midst of all the dismal news in the world, we can celebrate such a joyous event! Mazel Tov! It just goes to prove that all this talk about anti-Semitism is highly exaggerated.”
There are people among us who are so far removed from their faith that they don’t even begin to comprehend the extent of the Jewish tragedy. Whether it’s Chelsea Clinton marrying Mark Mezvinsky or Caroline Kennedy sealing her marriage vows with Edwin Schlossberg, it doesn’t diminish the painful reality of yet another Jewish family silently disappearing. The fact that multitudes do not see it this way, the fact that they do not comprehend the loss compounds the sorrow and testifies to the spiritual bankruptcy of our people.
Alas, it is only too easy for some of today’s Jews to give up their faith since they do not know what they are giving up. They belong to an orphaned generation that lives without a memory, without a past.
My husband’s tears were not only for that elderly Jewish mother, but for all the mothers and fathers who have become the last on their family trees. Not only is there no one to remember their names, but there is no one to even pronounce the Kaddish for them. Just consider that tragedy, and you too will weep.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis