July 23, 2024
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Occupiers: Kiddushin Daf 70

After being liberated from Auschwitz, my grandfather “Poppa” Eliyahu Friedman returned home to Kosice, Czechoslovakia. Arriving at his house, he heard noises coming from inside. He rang the bell and a burly Slovak fellow answered.

“Uh, thank you for house-sitting for me while I was away, but I’m back now,” said Poppa.

“I’m sorry, there must be some mistake,” replied the Slovak, “you look confused. Those years in the camp must have shaken you up quite a bit. This is our house. We’ve always lived here. I hope you find your home.” Poppa wasn’t deterred. Seeing the writing on the wall, his father had taken all their gold, silver, jewelry and important documents, and buried them in the backyard.

“I have proof that this is my house,” Poppa responded to the Slovak, “I’m just going to the backyard, and you’ll see!” Prior to the war, Poppa had been a strong young man. He was originally chosen to represent Czechoslovakia in the 1936 Olympics in shotput and discus, until Hitler prohibited all Jews from participating. But after three years in and out of concentration camps, he was no match for the big Slovak.

Chased out of his own childhood home, he went to the police. He told them the story, and to his surprise, they were responsive. They agreed to have an officer accompany him home to assist him with entry into the backyard. But alas, by the time they arrived, all that was left was some freshly dug dirt. While Poppa was filing his claim at the station, the evil Slovak was removing all the evidence.

Poppa was devastated. Not only had he lost everyone he loved in the war, now he had also lost everything his family had ever owned. He was all alone and penniless on the streets in a hostile environment. From his upper-middle class childhood, he now found himself washing dishes and scrubbing floors in a local restaurant.

Poppa’s story was far from unique. Many Jews returned home from the camps only to find they’d been dispossessed. Unbelievably, while they were being tortured and witnessing the murder of their loved ones, the local peasants had been enjoying everything they’d worked hard to achieve and accumulate for generations.

***

Today’s daf discusses those who get married to people who are of unsuitable status or questionable lineage, such as a cohen to a divorcee, or a yisrael to a mamzer.

תָנָא: עַל כּוּלָּם אֵלִיָּהוּ כּוֹתֵב וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חוֹתֵם: אוֹי לוֹ לַפּוֹסֵל אֶת זַרְעוֹ, וְלַפּוֹגֵם אֶת מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, וְלַנּוֹשֵׂא אִשָּׁה שֶׁאֵינָהּ הוֹגֶנֶת לוֹ, אֵלִיָּהוּ כּוֹפְתוֹ וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא רוֹצְעוֹ. וְכׇל הַפּוֹסֵל—פָּסוּל. וְאֵינוֹ מְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁבָחָא לְעוֹלָם, וְאָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: בְּמוּמוֹ פּוֹסֵל

רש”י

כל הפוסל—מגדף תמיד את המשפחות הוא עצמו פסול ואינו מדבר בשבחה לעולם אין דרכו של פסול לדבר בשבח הבריות לעולם

It was taught: Concerning all of them, Eliyahu writes and the Holy One, blessed be He, seals: Oy to the one who disqualifies his offspring, and who brings a flaw to his family, and who marries a woman who is not suitable for him. Eliyahu binds him and the Holy One, Blessed be He, lashes him. And anyone who disqualifies others is of flawed lineage. Indeed, he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel says: He disqualifies himself with his own flaw.

Rashi: One who always curses other families is himself tainted, and thus never speaks favorably. For a tainted person tends never to praise other people.

Carl Jung introduced the concept of transference to the world of psychology. According to Jung, people with psychological issues will often transfer their personal misgivings onto others and accuse them of the same shortcomings. It’s clear from the Gemara, however, that Jung didn’t invent the concept. Shmuel taught it 1,500 years earlier!

As the Gemara explains, some people never have anything nice to say about anyone else. They’re forever criticizing others and will go so far as to try to completely undermine and invalidate others. Why are they so intent on ruining other people’s lives and reputations? Shmuel elucidates: It’s about transference. They take their own blemish and project it onto the other person.

According to the Kli Yakar, the Torah already recognizes this condition in its discussion of tzaraas, the skin disease caused by slander. “And the leper who has the blemish…,” says the Torah. If he’s a leper, isn’t it obvious that he has a blemish? Explains the Kli Yakar: This leper received the punishment when he slandered another person, projecting his own shortcomings. In truth, he was the one who had the blemish! The verse concludes, “… he shall call out: impure, impure!” Literally, that’s a warning to others not to come too close. But the Otzar Ephraim points out that there’s a pause in the verse. He suggests that it should be read, “The impure one calls out: impure!” implying that only people who are personally impure call others impure. After all, even when the Torah identified non-kosher animals, it called them not-pure rather than impure!

It’s hard not to get upset when someone levels unfounded accusations of impropriety against you. But if you know there’s no basis to his slander, just rise above the fray. Don’t respond. It’s how he’s dealing with his own faults and wrongdoing—consciously or unconsciously deflecting and projecting his personal shortcomings onto you. Trust me, your attacker is accusing others of nonsense as well, and it won’t be long before he sidelines himself as people see right through his hypocritical self-righteousness.

Many lament the looming passing of the last survivors of the Holocaust. Who will bear witness to the horrors of Nazi antisemitism? With no further living proof, will we experience a resurgence of Jew hatred? Mysteriously, a contrary phenomenon has been playing out beneath the radar, almost unnoticed in the eyes of the world. For many decades, whenever the State of Israel found itself under attack, you knew immediately which countries would advance Israel’s right to defend itself, and which would criticize. It made little sense why Israel could rely on allies like America, Australia, and Canada, and predictably expect self-righteous condemnation from the nations of Europe.

Strangely, European antisemites led the way in Israel-bashing, from the campuses to the parliaments. They branded Israel an “occupier,” ceaselessly screaming that Israel has stolen Palestinian land and property. But why? Europe claims to be so progressive, enlightened, and universally minded! Why was the Jewish state the exception to their liberal values of toleration? Especially after everything the Jews had experienced under their watch, it was unfathomable!

The answer is transference. When the Jews were carted off to the concentration camps, instead of standing up to the Nazis, Europeans ran as fast as they could to occupy our homes and businesses. Their financial institutions stole our bank accounts and seized our assets. When we returned, they denied us entry into our own homes, slamming the door in our faces.

And for 70 years, they lived with this burden of being accomplices and active participants in genocide and ruthless theft of material property. How do sinners alleviate their guilt? They transfer it back to the object of their scorn and resentment. And so, the Jews became the occupiers. The Jews become the thieves and murderers. Instead of being eternally contrite and remorseful, the Europeans became emboldened, shifting world focus away from their monstrous crimes and projecting them onto their victims.

The curious, unreported news is that Europe is not the critic of Israel it used to be. When Israel responded to the genocidal attacks from Hamas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared support for Israel’s right to self-defense. How do we explain this change of heart? As strange as it may sound, just as the Holocaust survivors have passed on from this world, so, too, have their monstrous adversaries—the murderers and thieves who displaced them from their abode of several centuries. (Rest assured, they’re not in the same place. Not even close.) And with the demise of those perpetrators of evil during and after the war, their children find themselves struggling to comprehend both their parents’ wickedness as well as their subsequent scorn and never-ending derision of the Jewish state.

By the grace of Heaven, Israel is now a sovereign nation. And as the generation of antisemites enter their “aircondition-less homes of eternal judgment,” we are witnessing one nation after another—from Europe to the Middle East—acknowledging God’s gift of Israel to the Jewish people and its right to protect and fight for the safety and security of its holy citizens. May we hear better news from Israel very soon.


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf book series. He battles Christian antisemitism and teaches International Relations at Landers.

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