By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The Chazon Ish was walking with a yeshiva bochur in Lita and a few teenagers were mocking them. The bochur responded, and the Chazon Ish chastised the bochur for doing so. “You are not acting as a ben Torah,” he said. To the boy’s question of how a ben Torah would react, the Chazon Ish replied that a ben Torah would not respond at all.
Apparently, the admonition was not to pay attention to what some ruffians say. Why let it bother you enough that you feel you must respond to them?
We are insecure. Admit it. Even people who study Torah all day and are familiar with our way of thinking and how we view the world culture get excited when a secular source says something nice about religious Jews. On those rare occasions when it happens, people excitedly say to each other in conversation, “Did you see what the New York Times wrote about…?” People feel validated when the Times agrees with them. The very same publication bashes us nine times out of ten, and we pretend not to care, but when that one positive happens, people get pumped. The Times is with us. Even the Times is with us.
We really shouldn’t care. It should not make a difference to us what they say. The Torah is correct 100% of the time, regardless of what the experts say. Scientists who don’t believe in creation devise wacky theories about how the world came into existence and how the multiple forms of life came to be. They mock us, our Torah and our way of life. Yet, if one scientist somewhere says a word that can be interpreted as supportive of Torah, we get all excited. That scientist becomes a hero and everyone quotes him. “Even Joe Blow, the famous scientist, said…” Really, it shouldn’t make a difference to us what he says, whether he agrees with the Torah or not. We have our deeply-held truths and they are unchangeable, no matter what any expert says.
Can it be that our beliefs are not as strong as they need to be? Can it be that somewhere inside our psyche, we feel that maybe the scientists have a point? Why else would we pay attention to their comments and feel strengthened when there is a hint of something that can be interpreted as supportive of our beliefs?
The same phenomenon exists with media pundits in general. The talking heads are set in their ways and rarely deviate from liberal orthodoxy and political correctness. Their comments are predictable and quite often ridiculous, and we really shouldn’t be paying any attention to them or what they have to say. But when there is one who for some reason says something complimentary about Jews, Israel or religion, everyone quotes him as if he is some sort of savant. Why do we care when people who we should be ignoring say something complimentary?
The country recently went through such an experience. Former heads of the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies made a career of promising that the president was involved with the Russians. Using underhanded tactics to bring down a president, they stopped at nothing. The accusations were recurrent and wild, but who could argue with these experts? The mainstream media reported the accusations as fact and trotted out politicians and the former heads of the FBI and CIA. Pundits authoritatively said thousands of times that Trump is unworthy of being president because he is a Russian agent.
A phony document paid for by an opposition candidate campaign team was passed around and quoted as if it were true. It was used in court documents to permit spying on the Trump campaign. Never was there any evidence that Trump, or members of his campaign, colluded with Russians to steal the election, but the lie was repeated enough times that Trump’s enemies hoped it would enable them to unseat him and return to advancing their agenda.
They do not understand the Trump phenomena and did not think that the president’s supporters would stick with him. They did not believe that the president would be strong enough to withstand the constant onslaught. They were sure that one way or another, he would be gone by now.
The fact that this lie was repeated so many times, coupled with the fact that people have been conditioned to hate Trump, led at least half of the country to believe that the person who had been legitimately elected to lead this country is not only evil, but is also a Russian agent.
Anti-Semitism has always been around, at times more hidden than others. Today, it is no longer improper conduct for a gentleman to betray tendencies against Jews. While Democrat politicians mouth friendly platitudes when they appear in front of adulating Jewish groups, once they remove the yarmulke, they revert to their progressive leftist ways, which now includes a hatred of Jews and anti-Israel bigotry.
Pelosi and Hoyer appear in front of Aipac and you would think they are Israel’s biggest boosters, but they return to the swamp and empower known anti-Semites, giving them tools of power and influence.
Mega-macher Senator Charles Schumer is welcome at every religious Jewish function, where he dons a yarmulka and tells stories about being a “shomer” for Israel and the Jewish people. Yet no one calls him to task for what he does. Nobody calls him out for being the phony and liar that he is. Instead, they line up for selfies.
Our people walk down the streets of Borough Park as if we own the neighborhood. We act as if New York is a Jewish city, though if it ever was, it is becoming less and less so.
A frum councilman, Kalman Yeger, who represents Borough Park, tweeted last week that “Palestine does not exist.” No news there, you say. Everyone knows that there is no state named Palestine. This is apparently, once again, a case of not being confused with the facts when it pertains to Jews.
The councilman was immediately blasted for his “hateful” and “Islamaphobic” comment. No less an authority than the mayor demanded that “if he is not going to apologize, he shouldn’t be on [the council’s immigration] committee.” In fact, he was thrown off the committee. He said that Yeger’s statement was “destructive and divisive.”
The City Council speaker also weighed in, calling Yeger’s remark “dehumanizing.” For good measure, he joined the condemnation brigade, declaring, “I vigorously condemn his comments in no uncertain terms. They have no place in New York City.”
So much for truth and justice in the Big Apple. So much for decency and separating right from wrong. More and more often now, it seems as if there is a parallel universe, one in which the progressive, peace preachers live, and the other inhabited by Jews who thought that by now the world would recognize the silliness of their outright bigotry.
Why should we care what they say?
Just last week, Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, told a group of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semitic Labour party leader with a real chance to become prime minister of that country, that “It’s not anti-Semitic to hate the Jews of Israel.”
A motion was introduced to the German Bundestag calling on the German federal parliament to codify that the country should work in U.N. bodies “to dissociate from unilateral, primarily politically motivated initiatives and alliances of anti-Israeli Member States and protect Israel and legitimate Israeli interests from unilateral condemnation.” In other words, Germany should stop engaging in voting against Israel at the UN. Only one member of the governing coalition voted in favor of the pro-Israel bill. A lopsided 408 parliamentarians voted against the bill. So much for our European friends who have asked forgiveness so many times over the years for their murderous anti-Semitism in the last century.
Is there any reason we should take anything they say seriously? Is there any reason we should even care what they say?
They opened their country to a wave of Jew-hating Muslims. They do business with Iran, the empire that has sworn to wipe Israel off the map. They recognize Hezbollah and find constant cause to vote against Israeli interests and much more. Should we care when the German president comes to Israel, mouths some platitudes, and places a wreath at Yad Vashem?
Israeli archeologists digging in Ihr Dovid, the ancient Yerushalayim city unearthed across the street from Shaar Ha’ashpos, are making constant discoveries tying Jews to the city. The place brings history to life from the period of Dovid Hamelech, the first Bais Hamikdosh, the Jews hiding and fleeing from the Romans leading up to the churban, and much more. Most recently, a 2,600-year-old clay “bulla” seal was found. Archeologists were exultant. Yuval Gadot, who found the bulla, said, “This bulla connects to a whole context, a whole world, that we have been uncovering at this spot.”
The seal impression reads, “Nissan Melech, eved l’melech.” In Melochim II (23:11), there is a reference to Nissan Melech, a minister to the righteous king Yoshiyohu, and his service to the king in helping him rid the Land of Israel of avodah zorah.
It is interesting to note that a few pesukim after the mention of Nissan Melech, the novi says (ibid. 30) that Yoshiyohu was the greatest king of all when it came to doing complete teshuvah. The pesukim (ibid. 21-23) relate that when he thought he had finished his mission of ridding the Bnei Yisroel of the bamos and avodah zorah, the king commanded that they properly observe the mitzvah of Pesach in Yerushalayim. A proper Pesach had not been brought since the days of Shmuel Hanovi.
How appropriate that the news of a seal traced back to one of his officers was revealed now as we approach Pesach.
Getting back to the bulla, not everyone is happy. The New York Times ran an article this past Sunday complaining that this dig is taking place “in East Jerusalem, which most of the world does not regard as belonging to the state of Israel. And it is being unearthed, in part, under homes of Palestinians, from land that those Palestinians want to be incorporated in their future state.”
Facts are stubborn and nasty things, especially when they are thousands of years old and prove beyond any doubt whose land it is.
The Times reports, however, that “many legal experts, monitoring groups or the Palestinians” see things differently. A Jewish person who runs an anti-occupation group is quoted as saying, “The archeological site is the tool to delete the village that is here.” For the Arabs, the evidence is easy to ignore. Two people are quoted. One says simply, “All of it is lies. All of it is Islamic. There are no Jewish antiquities. They dig. They place stuff. And they convince the world.”
Faced with all the secrets that ancient stones are revealing, and all the known facts from Tanach, the nations of the world remain unfazed. The Jews are liars. They make it up. They have no rights, no claims, nothing. Instead, the world shamelessly proclaims that that very area of Yerushalayim, where so much of our soul and history lies, should be given to a nomadic tribe, with no local history.
Leibel Kutner, a Polish chossid, was imprisoned by the Nazis in a work camp. After working twelve hours straight in a munitions factory, the machine that powered the enterprise gave out and sputtered into silence. Everything stopped. The Nazi commandant searched around the large room, finally settling upon Leibel. “You, fix the machine.” Leibel protested, “How can I fix the machine? What do I know about machines, especially a complicated one, with many moving parts, such as this one? How can I be expected to get it in working order?”
The wicked commander barked at him, “Du bist ein Yudah. You are a Jew. Kunst du –You can figure it out.”
That night, Leibel worked feverishly on the machine, taking it apart and putting it back together, as the rest of the camp stood by nervously, unsure of what would happen if he would not be able to get the gears turning once again.
Suddenly, it gave a jerk and began roaring to life. The astounded Nazi returned to the room and was just as astounded as everyone else. It is one thing to demand from the Jew to do the impossible. It’s a whole other thing when the Jew does it.
Leibel decided to take advantage of the Nazi’s surprise and asked for a reward, something that would never have been tolerated in normal situations. The Nazi acquiesced and gave Leibel his box of cigarettes. Leibel held the box high as he passed out cigarettes to his mates and proclaimed loudly, “Du bist ein Yudah. Kunst du.”
We are Jews. No matter where we find ourselves and how dire our circumstances, we never give up and we never feel beaten. As long as we are proud bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, we can do it. We can persevere. We can right what’s wrong and repair what is broken. We can mend broken souls and trashed egos. We don’t lose our pride. We hold our heads up high.
Ich bin ein Yudah un ich ken.
May we merit the return of the melech Yoshiyohu and all the other righteous kings and leaders of Klal Yisroel. May we merit for all of Am Yisroel to repent and for Eretz Yisroel to be rid of the avodah zorah in the land. And may we merit to all join in Yerushalayim, observing Pesach as it hasn’t been observed since the days of King Yoshiyohu.
We can do it.