Chapter 5: Pariahs
The Roots of Anti-Semitism
Throughout history, never has a nation been more persecuted than the Jews. Throughout history, never has a nation survived every single persecution and emerged stronger every time.
The apparent indestructibility of the Jews raised many questions, albeit more among non-Jews than among Jews, as the Jews were too preoccupied with survival. Renowned German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, expressed his bewilderment over the Jews’ tenacity in his book, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre [Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship]: “Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal… It is the most perpetual people on earth.”[i]
Similar to Goethe, Cambridge professor, T.R. Glover, underlines the conundrum of Jewish existence in The Ancient World: “No ancient people have had a stranger history than the Jews. …The history of no ancient people should be so valuable, if we could only recover it and understand it. …Stranger still, the ancient religion of the Jews survives when all the religions of every ancient race of the pre-Christian world have disappeared … The great matter is not ‘What happened?’ but ‘Why did it happen?’ Why does Judaism live?”[ii]
Likewise, Ernest van den Haag, professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy at Fordham University, wrote, “In a world where Jews are only a tiny percentage of the population, what is the secret of the disproportionate importance the Jews have had in the history of Western culture?”[iii]
The French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, was fascinated with the Jewish people’s antiquity. In his book, Pensees, he wrote, “This people are not eminent solely by their antiquity, but are also singular by their duration, which has always continued from their origin till now. For, whereas the nations of Greece and of Italy, of Lacedaemon, of Athens and of Rome, and others who came long after, have long since perished, these ever remain, and in spite of the endeavors of many powerful kings who have a hundred times tried to destroy them, …they have nevertheless been preserved.”[iv]
Indeed, as countless renowned individuals throughout the ages have noted, the Jews cannot be annihilated. The Jews have a mission to fulfill, and until they do, Nature, God, the Creator, Yahweh, or however you may choose to call Him, will not let it happen. And yet, as long as Jews continue to avoid assuming their intended task, they certainly can, have been, and will be tortured and slaughtered almost to extinction. To unearth the roots of the Jewish Via Dolorosa through history, we need to journey back in time to the onset of Creation.
In Chapter 2 we noted that the Creator has but one desire—to do good to His creations, namely us humans. But because we currently have no perception of Him, we cannot receive from Him.
When we want to give a present to a friend, we approach that friend and give it. There must be contact between the giver and the receiver. Just so, for Him to give to us, the Creator and Creation must connect. And upon connection, as we quoted Baal HaSulam, “One feels the wonderful benefit contained in the Thought of Creation, which is to delight His creatures with His full, good, and generous hand. Because of the abundance of benefit that one attains, wondrous love appears between a person and the Creator, incessantly pouring upon one by the very routes and channels through which natural love appears. However, all this comes to a person from the moment one attains and onwards.”[v]
This, we said in Chapter 2, arouses the need for “equivalence of form,” that is, to be like the Creator, having a nature of giving. Regrettably, the vast majority of us have no desire for it; we vehemently resent giving unless we have some underlying profit, an ulterior motive to do so. RASHI, the great commentator on the Bible, wrote that the verse, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21), means that “As soon as one is shaken out of his mother’s womb, He [the Creator] plants in him the evil inclination,” which, as said in Chapter 3, is egotism, the desire to receive for ourselves.
Therefore, considering that the Creator is benevolent and that we are the opposite, the clash between man and God seems inevitable. How can we ever attain Him if He has made us inherently opposite from Him? The remedy to egotism lies in what we described earlier as “the point in the heart.” That thirst to understand what life is about, and what makes the world go around (and it is not money), is the yearning that enabled Adam, Abraham and his progeny, Moses, and the entire nation that arose out of the pariahs from Babylon, to develop a correction method that turns the evil inclination into goodness.
[i] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Berlin (Germany), Johann Friedrich Unger, 1795-1796), 359.
[ii] Glover, The Ancient World, 184-191.
[iii] Ernest van den Haag, The Jewish Mystique (US, Stein & Day, 1977), 13.
[iv] Blaise Pascal, Pensees, trans. W.F. Trotter, Introduction by T.S. Eliot (Benediction Books, 2011), 205.
[v] Ashlag, Talmud Eser Sefirot (The Study of the Ten Sefirot), Part 1, “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sephirot,” 31.