A talmid shared a disturbing report of a history professor’s bizarre behavior. The professor devoted 45 minutes of the first day of her course on American history to an anti-Israel tirade. Students were left wondering about the relevance of enduring her hate speech to American history. Strangely, the professor focused on the one student in the classroom wearing a kippah during the entire 45 minute diatribe. Such anti-Semitic verbal attacks — thinly veiled as anti-Zionism — are not unexpected on numerous American campuses. However, it is surprising that the harangue occurred at a campus not renowned for anti-Semitism.
Can we find something positive about this outburst? I think we can... First, the Torah predicts the enemy’s obsession with us. Devarim 28:37 warns that if we are exiled as a result of sin, “You will be a source of astonishment, a parable and a conversation piece (following the explanation of Onkelos, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam and Rav Saadia Gaon), among all the peoples where Hashem will lead us.” The fulfillment of a Torah prediction adds to our growing list of reasons to believe in the divine origin of the Torah.
Second, the Torah (Devarim 28:65 and Eicha 1:3) also predicts that we will be uncomfortable in exile, “you will not find peace among nations.” The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 33:6) poignantly notes the positive of our discomfort outside Eretz Yisrael, in that אילו מצאה מנוח לא היתה חוזרת had we found it comfortable outside our land, we would never return. Indeed, the current anti-Semitic climate has recently triggered record-high aliyah. (https://www.thejc.com/news/israel/20-year-aliyah-record-smashed-as-israel-set-to-welcome-64000-immigrants-in-2022-4Z9oerC9CgWFkTsZrnR9Zc).
Similarly, the Arab murderous oppression of the Jews residing in their lands in the wake of Israel’s establishment led to the aliyah of hundreds of thousands of Sephardic and Yemenite Jews. The Arabs’ severe anti-Jewish rioting, eventually, strengthened the Jewish state immeasurably.
On a similar note, Jew-hatred is also fueling the spectacular growth at Yeshiva University and other Jew-friendly campuses.
These sources show that the professor and all those like her are Hashem’s puppets carrying out His vision from the tochacha portion of parshat Ki Tavo. We are not excusing the professors since, “megalgelim chov al yedei chayav — Hashem chooses poor quality people to bring about bad things” (Shabbat 32a).
Jews as Hashem’s Representatives
In our case, the professor did not hide her anti-Jewish animosity, as she stared unceasingly at the kippah-wearing student during her diatribe. From where does such hatred stem? An explanation emerges from Rashi. In his Torah commentary (Shemot 15:7 and Bamidbar 10:35), he states that those who attack the Jews hate Hashem. They cannot attack Hashem, so they attack His representatives. Interestingly, we may view the professor’s behavior as a subtle compliment. Her irrational Jew-hatred reflects a subliminal recognition that the Jewish people (especially observant Jews) are Hashem’s ambassadors.
Shabbat 89a teaches that the name “Har Sinai” reflects “sina yeyareda laolam — the hatred that descended on the world,” when Hashem bestowed the Torah to the Jewish people. Jew-hatred stems not only from hatred of the divine, but also from subconscious envy of our devotion to the Torah.
Humanity, on a very basic level, feels the need to elevate itself spiritually. However, many do not actualize this inner drive and displace their self-loathing for this failure with Jew-hatred. The Talmud recognizes displaced anger as the psychological root of the unprovoked anti-Israel attack.
We must not tolerate Jew-hatred. We must fight and eliminate it, as any other evil. However, we find some silver linings when processing the rising tide of academic bullying.
One thing is certain... Sefer Shemot (1:12) relates that the more the Egyptians harmed us, the greater we became. This story repeats itself throughout the generations. While the professor and those like her intend to harm us, in the end, they strengthen us.
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.