Anti-Semitism & Hate: Fighting it and Educating to Prevent it

GUIDING INVESTIGATIONS

  • When people or nations are against the Jews, how are the Jewish people to respond?
  • To what extent should one go to in order to stand up for themselves or their people?

CORE SOURCES


(יז) זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ (יח) אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחַרֶ֔יךָ וְאַתָּ֖ה עָיֵ֣ף וְיָגֵ֑עַ וְלֹ֥א יָרֵ֖א אֱלֹקִֽים׃ (יט) וְהָיָ֡ה בְּהָנִ֣יחַ ה' אֱלֹקֶ֣יךָ ׀ לְ֠ךָ מִכָּל־אֹ֨יְבֶ֜יךָ מִסָּבִ֗יב בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יְהוָֽה־אֱ֠לֹקֶיךָ נֹתֵ֨ן לְךָ֤ נַחֲלָה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח׃ (פ)
(17) Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— (18) how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. (19) Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!

Comprehension:

  • What does it mean to “blot out the memory?” What does it have to do with eradicating hate?
  • How is not forgetting a part of the Jewish legacy?
  • What land is this talking about as a “hereditary portion?” Do you think it is significant that the verse connects the land to this commandment?
  • How can we at one time “blot out the memory” and “not forget?” What is this trying to tell us?

Challenges to grapple with:

  • Do you think having a homeland protects Jews from anti-Semitism? Why or why not? Is it enough?

(יג) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ (יד) כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃ (טו) וַתֹּ֥אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֖ר לְהָשִׁ֥יב אֶֽל־מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ (טז) לֵךְ֩ כְּנ֨וֹס אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים הַֽנִּמְצְאִ֣ים בְּשׁוּשָׁ֗ן וְצ֣וּמוּ עָ֠לַי וְאַל־תֹּאכְל֨וּ וְאַל־תִּשְׁתּ֜וּ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ לַ֣יְלָה וָי֔וֹם גַּם־אֲנִ֥י וְנַעֲרֹתַ֖י אָצ֣וּם כֵּ֑ן וּבְכֵ֞ן אָב֤וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־כַדָּ֔ת וְכַאֲשֶׁ֥ר אָבַ֖דְתִּי אָבָֽדְתִּי׃

(13) Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. (14) On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (15) Then Esther sent back this answer to Mordecai: (16) “Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!”

Comprehension:

  • If needed, go over together who these characters are: Haman, Mordecai, Esther and King Achashverosh and the context of the story of Purim.
  • What is Mordecai’s first message to Esther – about her own safety?
  • What is Esther’s response (note, this is her second response, it takes some convincing)?

Challenges to Grapple with:

  • At what level of risk should we take to stand up against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred? Is risking our own lives the right choice to make?
  • What do the sources tell us about the option of staying silent in the face of someone else’s wrong doing?

ושתיקה כהודאה דמיא

there is a principle that silence is considered like an admission.

Comprehension:

  • What does it mean that “silence is akin to consent?” Why would the text tell us this?

Challenges to Grapple with:

  • Do you agree that if you don’t stand up against bias and hate that you are then guilty as if you committed the hate crime/speech yourself? Why or why not?

(יז) לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃

(17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Rebuke your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.

Comprehension:

  • What does it mean to 'rebuke' (Hebrew: tochecha) someone?
  • If someone 'incurs no guilt' for rebuking another, what does that say about someone who chooses to remain silent?
  • Who is the 'kinsman'? Do you think one is required to rebuke anyone they believe to be in the wrong?

Challenges to Grapple with:

  • Other sources teach us that one should only rebuke someone if you believe s/he will truly listen - do you agree?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES


1. History of Anti-Semitism

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ. שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ, אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.

And it is this that has stood for our ancestors and for us; since it is not [only] one [person or nation] that has stood [against] us to destroy us, but rather in each generation, they stand [against] us to destroy us, but the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hand.

2. To what degree do we fight back?

(ד) צָרוֹר אֶת הַמִּדְיָנִים, לָמָּה (במדבר כה, יח): כִּי צֹרְרִים הֵם לָכֶם, מִכָּן אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים בָּא לְהָרְגֶּךָ הַשְׁכֵּם לְהָרְגוֹ.

"Assail the Midianites" -- Why? Because they assailed you. And upon this basis the Sages said, "One who comes to kill you, rise up and kill them."

הנהו בריוני דהוו בשבבותיה דרבי מאיר והוו קא מצערו ליה טובא הוה קא בעי רבי מאיר רחמי עלויהו כי היכי דלימותו אמרה ליה ברוריא דביתהו מאי דעתך משום דכתיב יתמו חטאים מי כתיב חוטאים חטאים כתיב

There were these hooligans in Rabbi Meir’s neighborhood who caused him a great deal of anguish. Rabbi Meir prayed for God to have mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Meir’s wife, Berurya, said to him: What is your thinking? On what basis do you pray for the death of these hooligans? Do you base yourself on the verse, as it is written: “Let sins cease from the land” (Psalms 104:35), which you interpret to mean that the world would be better if the wicked were destroyed? But is it written, let sinners cease?” Let sins cease, is written. One should pray for an end to their transgressions, not for the demise of the transgressors themselves.

"Does Ariel Sharon Consult His Rabbi? How Israeli Responses to Terrorism Are Justified Under Jewish Law" by David Rosen

...Rabbi Chaim Soleveitchik of Brisk...was said to have declared that the commandment to destroy Amalek extends to all who embrace the ideology of Amalek and seek to annihilate the Jewish nation. Rabbi Bleich also notes that Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague remarked that all enemies of Israel throughout the generations of dispersion are in fact genealogical descendants of Amalek....Therefore, by viewing the commandment to destroy Amalek as one that requires the Jewish people to engage in warfare against all who seek to annihilate Israel, and because biblically commanded wars are obligatory, Israel would have Halachic sanction to engage in a war against Amalek or those who hold the same views as the people of Amalek.