Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press continues to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
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Last week I wrote about senseless anti-Semitism packaged as anti-Zionism. I once was naïve enough to believe that in our time something like the Holocaust would never again be tolerated; that the nations of the world would be ashamed to once again perpetrate or permit it.
I did not delude myself into believing anti-Semitism would be eradicated. But I did hope that after the death camps, the crematoria, the gas chambers, etc., there would at least be a lengthy respite from the millennia-old torment of our people.
My expectations were not built on Pollyannaish hopes. Holocaust museums were established throughout the world – even in Berlin, the city where the barbaric evil was choreographed. That being said, I always maintained that more than building museums, the non-Jewish world should have committed itself to revamping its educational systems and making Holocaust study compulsory so that a new generation would be repulsed by – and repudiate – such evil.
Things didn’t quite turn out that way. Today there are countries where Holocaust studies are not permitted and there are movements that deny the Holocaust ever occurred. But it does not stop there. Many of the same people who deny the Holocaust also unabashedly declare their plans to execute a new Holocaust, this time substituting “Israel” for “Jews.”
Despite the fact that Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East and that it extends the finest medical help to countries all over the world and even to terrorists who have killed Israelis, all too many nations have, in one way or another, signaled their support for the Arabs’ nefarious goal of annihilating Israel.
Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world – no more then a dot on the map – yet the world is always busy with it. A major part of that stems from sheer jealousy of Jews for being the Nation of the Covenant, the people who brought G-d’s teachings to all of humanity. Jealousy is intrinsic to human nature and throughout the millennia we have suffered because of it. But still there must be more.
The early Zionists were convinced that if only the Jews had their own country, anti-Semitism would cease. Theodor Herzl came to this conclusion when as a reporter he covered the Dreyfus case in France. He was baffled that Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish man of valor who gave his very best and sacrificed himself for France, was accused of betrayal. The fabricated charges against Dreyfus had no basis and yet they stood as undisputed truth. The reason was obviously anti-Semitism.
But lo and behold, we now have the Jewish state that Herzl and others were convinced would be the antidote to anti-Semitism – and that state has become the very cause of contemporary anti-Semitism!
The very first Rashi in Bereishis (Genesis) asks, “Why does the Torah commence with the creation of the heavens and the earth?” After all, the Torah is a book of commandments. So would it not have been more logical to begin with the very first commandment given to our people as they departed Egypt on their way to Sinai?
But those opening words of Bereishis are clear. “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.” Why? The answer Rashi gives is amazing. He quotes his own father. “When the Jewish people shall return to their land the nations will accuse them, saying “You are thieves, you have taken this land by force.”
At that time, Rashi’s father taught him, you must point to the Torah and respond, “G-d created the heavens and the earth and the world belongs to Him.” G-d designated this land for the Jews. It is He who gave it to us and it is He who set our boundaries.
There is no other nation that can make such a claim. No nation can find its boundaries delineated in the Bible. Israel came to its inheritance, its land, by the will of G-d. That land is called the “Promised Land” because it was promised to the Jewish people.
I am a survivor of the Holocaust who will unabashedly tell you it is wrong for us to justify our homecoming to Eretz Yisrael based on the Holocaust. The land was, is, and would be our inheritance regardless of whether the Holocaust had occurred. Indeed, the enemies surrounding Israel have protested time and again that they resent being penalized for the sins of the Europeans. The Europeans, they say, should provide a homeland for the Jews. It is they who uprooted them; it is they who unleashed the bloodbaths against them through the centuries; it is they who built the death camps, the gas chambers, and the crematoria.
Why have we been so reluctant to present our case the way the very first Rashi teaches? Could it be we are ashamed to appear so simplistic as to base our rights to our land on the Bible? Could it be that we are so alienated from our traditions, from our faith, from the Word of G-d, that we find it an embarrassment to refer to them?
Years ago we learned a simple teaching that many have yet to learn today. “Torah, Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, chad hu – Torah, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel are one and indivisible – never to be divided.” It is only when we are connected that we realize our mission and power. Divided we are maimed and weak. United we are eternal and invincible.
Until such time that we will have the courage to stand up and openly declare to the world – and better still to ourselves – who we are, from where we came, and how it is that we inherited the Land of Israel, we will be attacked and our ownership of the land will be questioned. Yes, we are the nation that stood at Sinai and it was there that G-d bequeathed to us our Promised Land. If we cannot tell this simple truth, if we are in denial of Sinai, what are we all about?
May Hashem have mercy upon us and forgive us for all our trespasses. May He have patience with us until such time that we will return to Him and to the charge He bestowed on us at Sinai. May this path to Sinai be clear to all of us and may we be worthy of seeing the coming of Mashiach soon in our day.