Chapter 5: Pariahs
The Roots of Anti-Semitism
The World’s Medics
Imagine you have found a series of exercises that heal cancer and prevent it from ever returning. Imagine you had told the world about it, as did Abraham in Babylon, but you were rejected because the exercises were monotonous and tiring, and no one really felt unwell.
Now imagine that years later, billions of people around the world have cancer. They vaguely remember that you said you had a cure, and in their desperation they turn to you, begging you to save their lives. But you have forgotten all about it. You know the cure exists, you know that many people said it was a powerful remedy (Segula), but since you feel strong and healthy, you see no reason why you should relearn those exercises, much less teach them to billions of people. Can you imagine how the world would feel about you, what people would think, and what they would do?
This is precisely where we Jews stand in relation to the world. The world is beginning to feel unwell, and people are beginning to search for a way out of their plight. They know we are the chosen people, and that we are the ones meant to bring redemption. People may not know that redemption entails changing their nature to bestowal, but they know that redemption is desirable.
Such verses from the New Testament as “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews,”[i] and “What advantage has the Jew? …Great in every way. First of all, they were entrusted with the oracles of God,”[ii] are only two of countless mentions of the Jews’ unique position and role, as depicted in Christian writings. When we do not carry out our mission, we inadvertently draw toward us anger and hatred, which translate into what we now regard as anti-Semitism.
That we are different and unique is documented in history, in the pages of our scriptures, in those of Christianity and Islam, and in the writings of myriad scholars and statespersons. Below are a few of the countless excerpts from well-known individuals expressing their views on the uniqueness of Jews:
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the UK during World War II: “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”[iii]
Lyman Abbott, an American Congregationalist theologian, editor, and author: “When sometimes our own unchristian prejudices flame out against the Jewish people, let us remember that all that we have and all that we are we owe, under God, to what Judaism gave us.”[iv]
Huston Smith, a religious studies professor in the United States, author of The World’s Religions, which has sold more than two million copies: “There is a striking point that runs through Jewish history as a whole. Western civilization was born in the Middle East, and the Jews were at its crossroads. In the heyday of Rome, the Jews were close to the Empire’s center. When power shifted eastward, the Jewish center was in Babylon; when it skipped to Spain, there again were the Jews. When in the Middle Ages the center of civilization moved into Central Europe, the Jews were waiting for it in Germany and Poland. The rise of the United States to the leading world power found Judaism focused there. And now, today, when the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward the Old World and the East rises to renewed importance, there again are the Jews in Israel…”[v]
Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, author of Anna Karenina: “What is the Jew?…What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed, persecuted, burned, and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?!
“The Jew is the symbol of eternity. …He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”[vi]
Indeed we are the symbol of eternity, as Tolstoy said, because the Creator’s quality of benevolence is in our “spiritual genes.” And yet, we will not be left in peace until, as in the example with the cancer and the healing exercise, we consciously elevate ourselves to the spiritual level and raise the whole of humanity immediately thereafter.
As has been stated and quoted above, now is the time of the general correction. At such a time, events become inclusive, global. Such was the case with World War I, and even more so with World War II, the atrocities of which are embedded in our collective memory to remind us who we are, and what we are meant to accomplish.
To avoid such cataclysms in the future, we need to take a closer look at some suggestions and statements given prior to, and following the Holocaust. The next chapter will highlight those statements and their pertinence to our lives today. Once we know what has been said, we will be able to appreciate what we need to do to help ourselves and help the world.
[i] New Testament, John 4:22
[ii] New Testament, Romans 3:1-2
[iii] Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews (UK, Simon & Schuster, 2007), 38.
[iv] A Book of Jewish Thoughts, ed. J. H. Hertz (Oxford University Press, 1920), 131
[v] Professor Huston Smith, The Religions of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 1989).
[vi] Leo Tolstoy, “What is the Jew?” quoted in The Final Resolution, p 189, printed in Jewish World periodical, 1908.