I’m afraid. When I say these words, most people do not understand, and they attribute my fears to the fact that I am a survivor and live in the shadow of my Holocaust experiences. Still others attribute my fears to “overreaction” and assure themselves there is nothing to worry about. Fear, they rationalize, is a Jewish neurosis, identified with past generations, when our people lived in the darkness of the ghetto.
But today, things are different. Today we live in the United States, a free, democratic country, in which all people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And more – for the first time in nearly two thousand years we have our own state and because of that, there is nothing to fear.
I wish I could be as confident as they claim to be, but I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, and so I write and speak wherever I can.
It is not Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic State that I fear. Nor do I fear the United Nations, an institution notorious for its hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias. I do not fear the sophisticated intellectuals who camouflage their hatred of Jews behind politically correct pseudonyms that mislead all too willing ears.
What I do fear is our own people – yes, our own people who have forgotten who we are, who no longer remember that we Jews stood at Sinai, that we heard the voice of G-d, that we belong to a priestly kingdom, a holy nation, and that everything that befalls us is choreographed by Hashem and is a reflection of our own deeds, our own hands.
To be sure, there is nothing new about all this. It is a Truth that is a very pillar of our faith and is inscribed for all eternity in the Torah. The warning screams out to us from almost every portion, yet we refuse to heed it. How can it be that we are so blind? How can it be that after thousands of years we still fail to understand?
Our history is constant replay – again and again tragedies befall us, yet we refuse to comprehend. If only we were willing to understand. But no matter how unbearable our pain, how agonizing our suffering, we continue to reject it. Every day a Bas Kol, a Heavenly Voice, calls us, but we choose to remain deaf. We have shed our priestly garments and no longer recognize ourselves.
Time and again G-d sends His prophets to remind us that our destiny is different from that of other nations, that our very existence is directly linked to our adherence to G-d’s commandments. Hashem has guaranteed our eternity, for we, the Jewish people, have been chosen to be His witnesses. Tragically, though, we fail to see the glory of our calling, and that is the painful reality of our long, tormented exile. We have seen mighty nations rise – only to fall even as we have endured and triumphed. Still we remain obdurate.
Even as a young child in Bergen-Belsen I was aware of this Truth. My saintly father, HaRav Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, embedded it in my heart and soul.
Despite our enemies’ attempts to make us disappear, by the grace of G-d not only are we here, but we have reinvented ourselves. We have given new life to the great academies of Torah that once shone so brightly throughout the shtetlach of Europe, and we have returned to and rebuilt our ancient land. We have brought new life to the barren wasteland. We have planted gardens and forests, despite the constant barrage of missiles and rockets. Yes, miraculously we did it all and yet we still fail to see G-d’s guiding Hand.
As I said, I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Hitler Europe. Once again the nations are bent on swallowing us, and, as always, there is no one to come to our aid, no one to even raise a voice on our behalf. Once again, we are reminded of the eternal words of our Torah: “They are a people that dwells alone and not reckoned among the nations.” We are like “one lamb surrounded by seventy wolves,” all to remind us that our salvation can come from only One source – our Heavenly Father.
Time and again G-d has impressed this Truth upon us. Not only did He engrave these words in our holy writ, not only did He send His prophets to remind us, but He constantly speaks to us loud and clear. And yet we fail to heed His messages, and that is what I fear. Our generation has seen darkness and light. We have seen the most painful, the most tragic, and also the most spectacular, the most miraculous.
I am referring not only to the Holocaust but also to the brutal designs of Israel’s neighbors, who are united by one purpose – the destruction of our people. They surround the tiny state and encamp on its borders. Miraculously, we have survived in this sea of murderers. But still we fail to see the Hand of G-d; we refuse to hear His voice calling us.
When will we wake up? When will we don our priestly garments and fulfill our G-d-given destiny and be “a light unto all mankind”?