D I A S P O R A I S M
The Golus Mentality Syndrome
By Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov Jax, Florida
The renowned Chassidic psychiatrist, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky, is wont to dress in Chassidic garb – long black coat, full white beard and round black hat.
Once, in an airport, he was approached by a Jew who was obviously irritated. Before he knew it, the fellow unleashed a battery of Yiddish words upon him: Ach Vus’Ara Shandeh! Vus’Ara Bushah…! – What’s wrong with you? Must you insist on parading around in that medieval get-up, as if it were Purim? Don’t you realize how ridiculous you look? You bring nothing but scorn and embarrassment upon us Jews! If you could only dress like a Mentch – like a civilized being…
“I fail to understand what thee art saying,” Dr. Twersky responded in a perfect english accent. “Is there something bothering you? Perhaps you’re mistaking me for somebody else. You do realize that I am Amish, don’t you? This is the traditional mode of dress that we’ve preserved throughout the generations.”
“Oy vey! I beg your pardon,” pleaded the back-pedaling Jew. “I didn’t realize that you were Amish. You look so much like those Chassidic fellows. You should know that I have nothing but respect for you and your people – keeping to your ways without bowing to society’s wills and whims.”
Now it was Rabbi Twersky’s turn to speak in Yiddish: “Ahaaa! Oyb Ich Volt Geven Amish… If I were Amish, then you would have nothing but respect for me; but since I am a Jew, you are ashamed of me. Hopefully one day you will have the same respect for yourself that you have for others.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
It is said in the name of Rav Chaim Volzhiner that if a Jew doesn’t make Kiddush (the benediction on wine said on Shabbos and holidays) then the gentile makes Havdalah (the service said at the end of Shabbos, separating between Shabbos and the weekdays). If a Jew doesn’t sanctify (Kiddush) himself but rather, tries to melt into the society of the gentiles, then those gentiles will decide to exclude him, keeping him separate (Havdalah).
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Jewish anti-Semitism, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron or a Jackie Mason joke, but sadly, there is nothing funny about it.
Jewish anti-Semitism is far more sinister than we would like to believe. Western campuses are crawling with Jewish anti-Semites, many of which are tenured professors. These self-haters are at the forefront of most every smear campaign against the Jewish code and the Jewish land. They play a leading role in the campaigns to boycott and “Divest” from Israel.
It was an anti-Semitic Jewish judge (Richard Goldstone) who chaired a UN commission demonizing Israel. A Jewish member of Britain’s Parliament (Gerald Kaufman) compared Hamas terrorists to Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto and denounced Israel as a Nazi entity. This phenomenon is not just confined to the Diaspora; a surprisingly large number of Jewish anti-Semites are Israelis or ex-Israelis.
Nor is their hatred, by any stretch of the imagination, the result of innocent assimilation – having become casually alienated and indifferent towards the traditions and history of their people. On the contrary, they stake full claim to their “Roots” and use them adroitly as protective coloration.
Modern Zionists expected the very creation of a Jewish state to put an end to any neurotic self-hatred that afflicted Diaspora communities – it was expected to end not only Jewish physical insecurity but also spiritual pathology. A strong and proud Israel, in other words, was expected to shield Jews from a sense of vulnerability and empower them to shake off any self denial.
Alas, history had a surprise up its sleeve: the growth of a powerful and determined Israel committed to never again allowing Jews to become victims, has fostered some of the worst Jewish anti-Semites on the planet.
Among the most open Israeli promoters of anti-Semitic mythology is Professor Shlomo Sand, a hardcore communist on the faculty of Tel Aviv University. Sand published a book with a far-left anti-Israel publisher, claiming to prove that Jews are not and never have been a “People.”
Another anti Semitic Israeli professor; Ariel Toaff, claims to have evidence that Jews use gentile blood in religious ritual.
It is hard to imagine just what makes Jewish anti-Semites tick. Kenneth Levin, a psychiatrist at Harvard, speculates that it is in part an attempt to gain social acceptance in an environment hostile towards Jews. He also attributes it to an infantile attempt to rectify our menacing victim status through self-blame, a response seen in small children who have been abused. It may even be symptomatic of the notorious “Stockholm Syndrome,” whereby victims adopt the outlook and agenda of their victimizers.
Take as an example, University of Wisconsin’s Jennifer Lowenstein, who asserts in her book, Gaza Holocaust, that: “Israel treats Palestinians as subhuman “Untermenschen,” reminiscent of German treatment of Jews in the Holocaust. In a quote that could easily have been printed by the 1930s Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, she asserts: “The Neo-Jewish Masters and their allies in the United States… have no intention of making a just peace with the lower forms of life in their midst.”
Retired Princeton professor Richard Falk, served on the UN commission that condemned Israel for “Genocidal war crimes,” before it even began its investigation of Israel’s Gaza operations. Falk is America’s leading practitioner of the Orwellian inversion of reality in which Israel is a terrorist aggressor, while its Arab neighbors are innocent victims and peace-loving progressives.
In his 2007 book, Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust, Falk maintains: “The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty…”
Some Jewish anti-Semites engage in a bizarre form of Holocaust Denial. On the anti-Semitic “Alef” chat list, which operates under the auspices of the University of Haifa in Israel, members debated at length whether Hitler was actually guilty of anything, concluding that he was probably not.
Shraga Elam, a Swiss-based ex-Israeli and a member of the same “Alef” list, published a sycophantic letter praising Holocaust denier David Irving as a “Brilliant researcher.”
One of the most openly anti-Semitic Jews within Israel was the late Professor Israel Shahak, from Hebrew University. He insisted that the Talmud is filled with calls to murder gentiles, and that Jews regard gentiles as subhuman. He was one of the first Israelis to openly collaborate with Palestinian terrorism, long before Oslo commenced. He collaborated with Neo-Nazis all over the world.
British writer Paul Bogdanor notes: “According to Shahak, the Jews think of nothing but making money for the benefit of the Jewish State … The Jews plan to dominate much of the world through an Israeli empire … The Jews facilitate the spread of vice in order to enslave the masses …”
In other cases, prominent Jews endorse Holocaust Deniers while carefully tiptoeing around explicitly denying it themselves. MIT professor Noam Chomsky despises Israel almost as deeply as he does America. He considers both countries worse than Nazi Germany. Norman Finkelstein, of DePaul University, until he was fired, has built an entire career out of smearing Holocaust survivors as frauds and liars, and cheering on Islamofascist terrorism against Jews. After his pilgrimage to the Hezb’Allah terrorists, he was denied entry into Israel on grounds that he is a terrorist agent.
Not all Jewish self-hatred is as bold and blatant. This exile mentality comes in many shapes and forms; in a multitude of levels of intensity. The more subtle forms, however, can be equality as destructive. In some ways they are more dangerous, since they are camouflaged and not as noticeable. Given their subtle character, they are likely to be perceived as less sinister than their blatant counterparts, but that is not necessarily the case.
Some years ago I participated in a debate with a group of Conservative and Reform Rabbis on the merits of “Halachic” Judaism versus the other brands. (I subsequently learned that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was not fond of such debates).
The following is one of several points I raised: Since “Halacha” has been the sole arbiter of Judaism from its inception; three thousand years and counting, how had this Divine and immutable dynamic been substituted in the ideologies that do not uphold that standard? I sought to understand if there was another criterion by which Judaism was defined in the absence of Halacha, and if that criterion was considered Divine and immutable by its followers, or was it to be perceived to be manmade and arbitrary?
The response which I received to this basic and rather reasonable question, was not at all what I had expected and essentially begged the issue: “Rabbi,” exclaimed one of the panelists, “If Halachic Judaism was so perfect, why all the defectors? You’re certainly aware that the founders and original constituents of our movement were for the most part Halacha observant Jews.”
To this I responded: “Of course I’m aware of that, but are you aware that it took nothing less than the systematic obliteration of Judaism and Jewish life in Europe; the bastion of Torah practicing Jewry, to allow for the breakdown? Indeed, nothing short of a full blown holocaust would allow the fracture in a link in our preciously guarded, three thousand year old, chain of observance and loyal dedication to both the written and oral Torah.”
With all the problems facing us these days as a people – staggering Jewish illiteracy, unprecedented assimilation and intermarriage, the post Zionist mentality and the loss of Jewish values – it’s easy to forget who we really are. Our unique essence is completely eclipsed by all the talk about what’s wrong with us Jews. Our sterling history of devotion to our religious mandate – often to the point of self sacrifice – seems to have become diminished by the radical turmoil of the past century.
Well meaning Rabbis, who are forever harping on the bleak reality and dire outlook facing world Jewry, threaten to do more harm than good. Worst of all however, are those who have given up. Those who lost hope in the Jew and in Jewry’s ability to make it without selling our souls, or compromising our identity in the process.
Alan Dershowitz, in his book The Vanishing American Jew, for example, suggests that there is no future for Judaism unless it is ready to make radical amendments to its three thousand year old rules regarding our essential Jewish identity, i.e. matrilineal decent and the rules concerning intermarriage. The greatest affront to Jewry, past present and future, is to underestimate its true soul and resolve.
When G-d told Moshe in our Parsha, Shemos, to gather the elders of the Jewish people in order to facilitate the impending redemption, Moshe protested that they would not believe him. Our Sages explain that by questioning the faith of the Israelites, Moshe spoke improperly.
Upon his expression of skepticism regarding Israel’s willingness to listen and their ability to lift themselves up, G-d asked him, “What is that in your hand?’ And he said; a staff.” According to Rashi G-d was intimating by this that Moshe was worthy to have been beaten for ‘speaking unfavorably about My children.'” Similarly, the signs Moshe was given, his staff turning into a snake and his hand turning leprous, are interpreted as reflecting G-d’s displeasure with Moshe’s “Lashon Hara” about the Jewish people.
It is not hard to understand the source for Moshe’s skepticism; he was after all quite aware of the many decades that the Jews had spent in exile. He was cognizant of the fact that the Israelites had stooped to the forty ninth level of impurity and even worshiped idols; he hence felt that they would be slow to respond. Yet G-d was unhappy with Moshe for speaking ill of his badgered flock. “What right do you have to prejudge my people? Do you know better than I the resilient nature of their spirit, the invincible temperament of their soul?
G-d told Moshe that he failed to appreciate the character of the Jews; they are “Believers and the descendants of believers.” This is their essential nature; they are essentially in-salvable, they will therefore never adjust to the state of exile. On the contrary, they would trust that their redemption was imminent.
This idea is further reflected in the conclusion of our Parsha. After Moshe delivered G-d’s message to Pharaoh, our Parsha relates that Pharaoh responded by increasing the severity of the oppression. Upon seeing this, Moshe protested to G-d: “O Lord. . . Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has further harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people” (Exodus 5:23).
G-d responded by assuring Moshe that the redemption will sprout out and burst forth from depth of the slavery and the darkness of the exile. How can this be? Because the Jews are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, as such, they are entirely above exile and are able to go directly from its darkest state to complete redemption.
Based on the above, we can understand why the Jews are described in our Parsha as “Coming into Egypt,” in the present tense. Despite the many years which they had already been in Egypt: Because they have remained essentially unmarred – that every new day, it was as if they had entered Egypt that very day.
Since Jews are bequeathed with all the qualities of the Patriarchs, including those of Yaakov, i.e., the potential to “Strive with angels and men and prevail,” we are, in essence, above the exile. Thus, our existence within the exile is as if it were new development; a present happening – even when we are found within the exile, it does not define us.
This gives new meaning to the verse: “In each and every generation (and as the Alter Rebbe adds, in each and every day), a person is obligated to see himself as if he is leaving Egypt (that day).”
There is a relevant lesson here for our present situation. One must be extremely careful not to prejudge or speak unfavorably about the Jewish people. If G-d punished Moshe for prejudging the Children Of Israel before the giving of the Torah, and told him that they are all “Believers and the descendants of believers,” how much more so is it the case after the giving of the Torah, after they have been selected by G-d as “A nation of priests and a holy people.” It is especially true after thousands of years in which the Jews have sanctified G-d’s name through the observance of the Torah and its Mitzvos to the point of self-sacrifice – through fire and through hell.
The timely lesson of the above is that we Jews are not the products of Golus but its beneficiaries. No one has the right to render us doomed to its ill effects or prejudge our ability to rise above it. Nor does anyone have the power to predict the failure of our Divine ordained mission – His desire for creation as described in his Torah and defined in the Code of Jewish Law/ Halacha. It is only our own perception and “Diaspora” attitude that can lock us in to a Golus mentality.
By recognizing the true essence and capacity of our souls we will not only avoid becoming subjugated to Golus but actually enjoy its windfalls and reap its rich rewards as promised by G-d and reiterated by the Prophets throughout history with the coming of the righteous Moshiach.