Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Several years ago, I wrote a column in which I suggested that whenever Birkat Kohanim is recited, especially at the Kotel when there are hundreds of descendants of Aaron fulfilling their divinely given right to bless the people of Israel, that they also keep in mind the many enemies dedicated to annihilating us – and curse them with failure.

At the time buses and pizza places were being blown up with a horrific outcome of dead and maimed civilians – men, women, children and babies. As a daughter of survivors of the Shoah, I was overwhelmed with anguish and rage over the loss of innocent lives; no doubt many of them miraculous descendants of these very survivors who had rebuilt their lives, with great emunah and fortitude.

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“But we Jews don’t curse,” was some of the feedback I got. “We bless.” I pointed out that we actually do curse those bent on destroying the nation of Israel – and that there is a precedent for that. Every Pesach, when we welcome Hashem’s emissary, Eliyahu HaNavi, into our home, we ask that Hashem “pour His wrath on the nations that don’t know you…for they have devoured Yaacov, and devastated his homeland.”

When I light my Shabbat candles, I do indeed ask that our Heavenly Father thwart, overturn, and reverse the evil plots, plans and schemes of destruction, mayhem, loss and pain that the haters of the Jewish people want to inflict on us, and that they should instead be the recipients of the immeasurable grief, trauma and horror they had wanted to inflict on us.

Uttering this plea is my verbal version of going after rodfei Yisrael. In Jewish law, one can initiate pre-emptive self-defense, and “take out” someone before they do it to you. That person who threatens your life is called a rodef – a pursuer. I don’t necessarily wish their permanent removal; I pray that they experience enough personal turmoil and incapacitation as to enable them to reflect on their evil and do teshuva. I ask that Hashem save us in an obvious manner so that all will see that He is Magen David, the protector of Israel. A great motivator to back off and repent.

To that end, I include not just gentile Jew-haters , but Jewish anti-Semites as well.

Unfortunately, there are too many.

In this category I include men who refuse to give their wife a gett – a religious divorce. I have read The Jewish Press for decades, and week after week, month after month, and tragically year after year I see the same names on the seruv list, husbands who have ignored a rabbinical court’s decree to divorce his wife. Without a gett, she cannot remarry.

I consider such a man a rodef, for he is murdering unborn children. I think of my mother, the sole survivor of her family, who because she lived, was able to create ” worlds.” The oldest two of her many grandchildren recently became grandparents themselves. Five generations have come into being. He or she who saves/brings forth life creates a world.

Young women who live in a social dungeon because of their husband’s refusal to release them from their marital prison, are being prevented from more having more children, hence the decimating of the Jewish people. I understand that there may be custody or financial issues to be resolved, and that holding off a divorce may be the only weapon he might have against a potentially vindictive and unreasonable spouse, but to withhold a gett for more than a couple of years becomes ruinous .

I also include those twisted and vile pursuers who prey on innocent and naive children. Their lives are stolen from them, even though they still breathe.

Women can be pursuers also; it is not gender exclusive. There are women who have turned their children against their husband, grandparents and other relatives – even married, let alone if there is a divorce. They don’t understand that they are killing crucial relationships and often irrevocably damage their children’s ability to successfully build their own future families.

And then there are women ( and men) who willfully gossip and undermine the reputations of those who don’t deserve to be maligned. I believe the need to chronically mock and demonize others is a symptom of pathological low self-esteem; to feel better about oneself, one minimizes and look down on someone. Sometimes jealousy of the other’s accomplishments is a trigger – some feel threatened by another’s success. In school we all resented the student who got an A in physics when we barely passed. Sometimes it’s verbally bullying an individual who is perceived as being vulnerable, someone who is “different.”

Instead of raising oneself by actually doing someone noteworthy, one demeans his friend or relative, artificially elevating the self.

It’s considered murder to publicly humiliate another person. But how much more is it so, when the humiliation is done behind the victim’s back? How does one dispute what is being said when they aren’t aware of it? Once the words are released, they damage. Gossip is a spiritual form of Covid-19. Lashon hara can be likened to toxic droplets that are absorbed by listeners and can potentially corrupt their spiritual organ, the neshama.

As for the person being targeted, the potential for lifelong, soul-destroying side effects is enormous.

It is irrelevant if the words are true or not. The damage lingers.

In this era of the Coronavirus, as I light my Shabbat and Yom Tov candles – on my own, like so many others – I pray that if we have to suffer the separation from our loved ones, and inconveniences and aloneness, and the missing out of properly participating in the joyous as well as sad milestones in our lives, that there be a silver lining in all this. I daven that the rodfim, whether an individual or entire groups who with their evil words or deeds, seek to harm a ben or bat Yaacov, or erase Am Yisrael as a people, be in a matzav – a situation where they will be unable to launch further mayhem, perhaps too ill to move or speak, and thus will have much time to reflect and rethink their hatred – and let go of it.

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