For the week ending 5 August 2006 / 11 Av 5766

Answering Krauthammer's Question

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Mr. Charles Krauthammer posed the following questions in an editorial published in the Washington Post on Friday, July 28 2006 titled 'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe?

What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?

What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities -- every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians -- and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?

A good question deserves a good answer!

Let us recall a question that was asked some 65 years ago in order to answer Mr. Krauthammer’s question.

“Why do the Germans hate you so?”

This question, with life and death implications for the Jewish community in Japanese-controlled Shanghai, was posed to two representatives of that community who had been summoned to the Admiralty in Japan.

Preceding this question put to Rabbi Shatzkes, the Rav of Lomz and the Admor of Amshinov, who had been chosen by the community to represent them in what was anticipated as a fateful confrontation, was an explanation of the summons to this meeting.

Our German allies, explained the chief Admiral through an interpreter, have been steadily urging us to annihilate the Jews living in Shanghai just as they are doing to Jews in Europe. We are not really familiar with the “Jewish Problem”, he went on, but the Nazis’ insistence has prompted us to call you here to ask why they hate you so.

The Rav of Lomz turned to the Admor of Amshinov and asked him to offer a reply.

“They hate us,” he answered this great Chassidic leader in a flash of inspiration, “because we, like you, are Orientals, and when they finish with us they will turn against you!”

This bit of diplomatic brilliance succeeded in saving the day for the Jewish community in Shanghai, which included hundreds of Mirrer Yeshiva students who had miraculously escaped Europe, and enabled its members to survive the war in a territory under Axis control.

But is that the real answer as to why Jews have been hated by others throughout a history replete with pogroms, crusades, inquisition and holocaust – and the vilification of the Jewish State defending its right to exist in peace?

Perhaps the real answer lies in the name of the mountain upon which G-d revealed Himself to the people He chose to be a special nation and receive the Torah which would guide them in serving as a “light unto the nations”.

Our Talmudic Sages note that the name Sinai corresponds to the Hebrew word sinah, which means hatred. When Jews agreed to receive the Torah they were reminded that there was no way of copping out of their responsibility to be the moral pacesetter for the entire universe. Should they attempt to shirk their responsibility and assimilate as a “nation among nations”, they would not succeed because the sinah of the nations would remind them of their special nature and unique role.

“Jews have failed to be accepted as just another nation despite their efforts to abandon their religion,” a wise fellow once put it, “because you can change your Moses but you can’t change your noses.”

It has always been our hope that Jews would not require the reminder of sinah and would follow the path of Sinai so that there would be no reason for hatred and the entire world would live in peace.

This message is particularly appropriate with the approach of the Fast of the Ninth of Av (August 3) commemorating the tragedy of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which was a monumental expression of the sinah towards the people of Sinai.

Let us hope that the present problem facing Israel from the sinah of Arab terrorists and a collaborating world will inspire Jews to return to the path of Sinai – and bring closer the day when Israel will live in peace and security and merit the rebuilding of the Temple in our days.

Rabbi Mendel Weinbach, who resides in Jerusalem with his family, is a founder and Dean of Ohr Somayach Institutions. He is the author of the critically acclaimed “Love of the Land,” book on Israel and Judaism (Targum/Feldheim) and other works. He is a world-renowned speaker and educator.

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