April 15, 2024
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Jews Do Not Take Revenge, They Get Stronger: NORPAC Mission to Washington

If you are reading this article you are most likely quite disturbed by the anti-Semtic rantings of Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. You are probably even more upset at the failure of Congress to properly condemn them and remove them from positions of responsibility. What might be a proper Jewish response to this unsettling situation?

An authentically Jewish response is not to seek revenge but rather to become stronger. The more the Egyptians tried to harm us the more numerous we became. The examples in Jewish history of this phenomenon abound. Here are a few:

The Roman government sought to kill Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. As a result he hid in a cave for 12 years where he developed the core ideas of the Zohar, the foundational book of Jewish mysticism. The Eish Kodesh of the Piazetzner Rebbe, composed during the terrible suffering in the Warsaw Ghetto, is now a classic source of Torah inspiration.

Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote some of his most incisive Teshuvot during the period of 1934-1936 when placed under house arrest by the Soviet authorities. The Tosafot were written under the cloud of the anti-Jewish rampages of the Crusaders. The effervescence of Torah life in Tzfat in the 16th century emerged in the wake of the Expulsion from Spain. The list goes on and on.

A more recent and very poignant example: Rabbi Yehoshua Fass’ 14-year-old cousin was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2001. Instead of becoming angry he founded the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization that has brought nearly 60,000 English-speaking olim to Medinat Yisrael. The more they try to afflict us, the stronger we become.

We can complain and moan about Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez or we can do something constructive. Undoubtedly, the most effective response is to make aliyah and become a productive citizen of the Jewish state. Short of this, we can learn from our enemies what we specifically need to strengthen.

If our enemies are attacking pro-Israel lobbying groups, then pro-Israel lobbying groups represent an essential element of Jewish life. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 74b) teaches:

אפילו לשנויי ערקתא דמסאנא

Even to change the strap of a sandal. There was a Jewish custom with regard to sandal straps. If the gentile authorities were to decree that Jews must change their practice and wear sandal straps like those worn by the gentiles, one would be obligated to give up his life rather than veer from the accepted custom (translation and explication from Sefaria.org).

Why do we make a great issue of sandal straps, ask the commentaries. They answer that if our enemies target the sandal straps, that we wear it must be an issue of critical importance. Today’s anti-Semites teach us that NORPAC, America’s leading pro-Israel political action committee, is more important than ever for Jewish life. It is now more important than ever to join the NORPAC mission to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on Tuesday May 21.

My students at Torah Academy of Bergen County asked why the Jews of the Persian Empire failed to rise up in mass protest against Haman. The answer is quite apparent from Megillat Esther. Haman correctly diagnosed us as a divided and scattered nation incapable of offering resistance.

Thank God, we American Jews are not scattered and divided. Our resistance to the anti-Semites of our day is to follow Esther and Mordechai’s example to gather all the Jews and band together to fight back. Jews do not get upset; we become stronger. Let us strengthen the pro-Israel lobbying organizations and let us make 2019 the best-attended and most effective mission to Washington Congress has ever seen.

The NORPAC mission to Washington on May 21: It is the proper response to Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez. That which they seek to destroy must be strengthened. If not us, then who else will do it? Please visit www.norpac.net to register for the mission. The more Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez try to harm NORPAC, the stronger it must become.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic congregation of Teaneck.

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