Overcoming The Exile Mentality

By Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov Jax, Florida


“Just because our enemies want to annihilate us does not mean that they are wrong and that we are right!” (Unknown)

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“Millions of Jews are dust on the wheels of history that will have to be blown away. They must accept their fate. We do not want them crowding into our Tel Aviv, turning it into a low-grade ghetto,” first president of Israel Chaim Weizmann, told to the New Judea magazine (fall 1937 issue).

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It is said in the name of Rav Chaim Volzhiner: “If the Jew doesn’t make Kiddush (the benediction proclaiming the onset and sanctification of Shabbos and holidays) the gentile makes Havdalah (the closing benediction demarking the separation between the Shabbos sanctity and weekday mundanity).” If a Jew doesn’t sanctify (Kiddush) himself but rather, tries to melt into the great gentile melting pot, then the very gentiles will decide to exclude him, keeping him separate (Havdalah).

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Jewish anti-semitism, it sounds like a contradiction in terms; an oxymoron or a Jackie Mason joke, but sadly, there is nothing funny about it.

Jewish anti-semitism is far more sinister than we would like to believe. Western campuses are crawling with Jewish anti-semites, many of which are tenured professors. These self-haters are at the forefront of most every smear campaign against the Jewish creed and the Jewish land. They play a leading role in the campaigns to boycott and “Divest” from Israel.

It was an anti-semitic Jewish judge (Richard Goldstone) who chaired a UN commission demonizing Israel. A Jewish member of Britain’s Parliament (Gerald Kaufman) compared Hamas terrorists to Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto and denounced Israel as a Nazi entity. This phenomenon is not just confined to the Diaspora; a surprisingly large number of Jewish anti-semites are Israelis or ex-Israelis.

Nor is their hatred, by any stretch of the imagination, the result of innocent assimilation – having casually drifted from the traditions and history of our people. On the contrary, they stake full claim to their “Roots” and use it adroitly as protective coloration.

Modern Zionists expected the very creation of a Jewish state to put an end to any neurotic self-hatred that afflicted Diaspora communities – it was expected to end not only Jewish physical insecurity but also psychological pathology. A strong and proud Israel, in other words, was expected to shield Jews from a sense of vulnerability and empower them to shake off any self insecurity and shame.

Alas, history had a surprise up its sleeve: the growth of a powerful and determined Israel committed to never again allow Jews to be the victims of anti-semitism, has fostered some of the worst Jewish anti-semites on the planet.

Among the most ardent promoters of anti-semitic mythology is Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand, a hardcore communist on the faculty of Tel Aviv University. Sand published a book with a far-left anti-Israel publisher, claiming to prove that Jews are not and never have been a “People.” Ariel Toaff, another anti-semitic Israeli professor, claims to have evidence that Jews use gentile blood in religious ritual.

It is hard to imagine just what makes Jewish anti-Semites tick. Kenneth Levin, a psychiatrist at Harvard, speculates that it is in part an attempt to gain social acceptance in an environment hostile towards Jews. He also attributes it to an infantile attempt to rectify our menacing victim status through self-blame; a response seen in small children who have been abused. It may even be symptomatic of the notorious “Stockholm Syndrome,” whereby victims adopt the outlook and agenda of their victimizers.

Take as an example, University of Wisconsin’s Jennifer Lowenstein, who asserts in her book, Gaza Holocaust, that: “Israel treats Palestinians as subhuman “Untermenschen,” reminiscent of German treatment of Jews in the Holocaust. In a quote that could easily have been printed by the 1930s Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, she asserts: “The Neo-Jewish Masters and their allies in the United States… have no intention of making a just peace with the lower forms of life in their midst.”

Retired Princeton professor Richard Falk, served on the UN commission that condemned Israel for “Genocidal war crimes,” before it even began its investigation of Israel’s Gaza operations. Falk is America’s leading practitioner of the Orwellian inversion of reality in which Israel is a terrorist aggressor, while its Arab neighbors are innocent victims and peace-loving progressives. 

In his 2007 book, Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust, Falk maintains: “The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty…”

Some Jewish anti-semites engage in a bizarre form of Holocaust Denial. On the anti-semitic “Alef” chat list, which operates under the auspices of the University of Haifa in Israel, members debated at length whether Hitler was actually guilty of anything, concluding that he was probably not. 

Shraga Elam, a Swiss-based ex-Israeli and a member of the same “Alef” list, published a sycophantic letter praising Holocaust denier David Irving as a “Brilliant researcher.”

One of the most openly anti-semitic Jews within Israel was the late Professor Israel Shahak, from Hebrew University. He insisted that the Talmud is filled with calls to murder gentiles, and that Jews regard gentiles as subhuman. He was one of the first Israelis to openly collaborate with Palestinian terrorism, long before Oslo commenced. He collaborated with Neo-Nazis all over the world.

British writer Paul Bogdanor notes: “According to Shahak, the Jews think of nothing but making money for the benefit of the Jewish State … The Jews plan to dominate much of the world through an Israeli empire … The Jews facilitate the spread of vice in order to enslave the masses ...”

In other cases, prominent Jews endorse Holocaust Deniers while carefully tiptoeing around explicitly denying it themselves. MIT professor Chomsky despises Israel almost as deeply as he does America. He considers both countries worse than Nazi Germany. Norman Finkelstein, of DePaul University, until he was fired, has built an entire career on smearing Holocaust survivors as frauds and liars, and cheering-on Islamofascist terrorism against Jews. After his pilgrimage to the Hezb’Allah terrorists, he was denied entry into Israel on grounds that he is a terrorist agent. 

Not all Jewish self-hatred is as bold and blatant; the syndrome is manifest in diverse form and intensity. The more subtle types, however, can be equality as dangerous. In some ways they are more destructive. Given their subtle character, they are likely to be perceived as less sinister than their blatant counterparts, but that is not necessarily the case.

Add to the growing penchant of Jewish self-hatred the array of other challenges facing us as a people – staggering Jewish illiteracy, unprecedented assimilation and intermarriage, the post Zionist mentality and the loss of Jewish values – it’s hard to know who and what we really are. Our true identity is completely eclipsed by all the talk about what’s wrong with us.

Our gift of monotheism and morality to the world, not to mention our untold and disproportionate array of other contributions in all areas of the arts and sciences, seem to have become diminished by the chaos and impudence of the past century. Most importantly our long historic record of love and devotion to our spiritual purpose and Divine mandate – often to the point of self sacrifice – is completely overshadowed and lost in the shuffle, as a result of our recent failures as a nation in the realm of religious observance.

It is not within the purview of mankind to discuss the justification or non-justification of the current circumstances vis-à-vis our level of piety and religious observance as a nation. Suffice it to say that there are a range of mitigating circumstances that come in to play in pondering this delicate question, not the least of which is centuries of inconceivable oppression culminating in the infamous holocaust. G‑d is well aware of His share of credit regarding our present national conditions and is surely capable of the duly deserved understanding and compassion.

The fact of the matter is, however, that whatever fault one can find with the Jewish nation as a whole is entirely dwarfed and nullified by comparison to its historic righteousness and accomplishment as a people, both with regards to man and G‑d. It is hence not the job of any mortal being to judge the nation of Israel for the state of affairs in which it finds itself today, by way of religious piety.

Even the most well meaning Rabbis, who are forever harping on the bleak reality and dire outlook facing world Jewry, threaten to do more harm than good. Worst of all however, are those who have given up. Those who lost hope in the Jew and in Jewry’s ability to make it without selling out, or compromising our true identity in the process.

Allen Dershowitz, in his book The Vanishing American Jew, for example, suggests that there is no future for Judaism unless it is ready to make radical amendments to its three thousand year old creed and essential designation, i.e. matrilineal decent and the laws concerning intermarriage.

The greatest affront to Jewry, past present and future, is to underestimate its true soul and “Stiff-necked” resolve.

When G‑d told Moshe in our Parsha, Shemos, to gather the elders of the Jewish people in order to facilitate the impending redemption, Moshe argued that they would not believe him. Our Sages explain that by questioning the faith of the Israelites, Moshe spoke improperly.

Upon his expression of skepticism regarding Israel’s willingness to listen and their ability to raise themselves up, G‑d asked him: “What is that in your hand,” and he said a staff. According to Rashi G‑d was intimating by this that Moshe was worthy to have been beaten for “Speaking unfavorably about My children.” Similarly, the signs Moshe was given; his staff turning into a snake and his hand turning leprous, are interpreted as reflecting G‑d's displeasure with Moshe's “Lashon Hara” about the Jewish people.

It is not hard to understand the basis for Moshe's skepticism; he was after all quite aware of the many decades that the Jews had spent in exile. He was cognizant of the fact that the Israelites had stooped to the forty ninth level of impurity and even worshiped idols; he hence felt that they would be slow to respond. Yet G‑d was displeased with Moshe for speaking ill of his badgered flock. “What right do you have to prejudge my people? Do you know better than I their resilient nature and true spirit; the invincible temperament of their soul? Can you really grasp the nature and effect of their suffering and destitution?”

G‑d told Moshe that he failed to appreciate the character of the Jews; they are “Believers, the descendants of believers” at their very core and hence essentially in-salvable. They will therefore never adjust to the state of exile. On the contrary, they will cleave to the tiding that their redemption is upon them.

This idea is further reflected in the conclusion of our Parsha. After Moshe delivered G‑d's message to Pharaoh, our Parsha relates that Pharaoh responded by increasing the severity of the oppression. Upon observing this, Moshe protested to G‑d: "O Lord. . . Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has further harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people” (Exodus 5:23).

G‑d responds by assuring Moshe that the redemption will spring forth from depth of the slavery and the darkness of the exile. How can this be you wonder, the answer is because the Jews are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, as such, they are entirely above exile and are able to leap directly from its darkest state to a state of complete redemption.

Based on the above, we can understand why the Jews are described in our Parsha as “Coming into Egypt,” in the present tense, despite the many years which they had already been in Egypt: Because they have remained essentially unmarred – that every new day, it was as if they had entered Egypt that very day.

Since Jews are bequeathed with all the qualities of the Patriarchs, including those of Yaakov, i.e., the potential to “Strive with angels and men and prevail,” we are, in essence, above the exile. Thus, our existence within the exile is as if it were a new development; a present happening – even when we are found within the exile, it does not define us.

This gives new meaning to the verse: “In each and every generation (and as the Alter Rebbe ads, in each and every day), a person is obligated to see himself as if he is leaving Egypt (that day)."

There is a relevant lesson here for our present situation. One must be extremely careful not to prejudge or speak unfavorably about the Jewish people. If G‑d punished Moshe for prejudging the Children Of Israel before the giving of the Torah, and told him that they are all “Believers and the descendants of believers," how much more so is it the case after the giving of the Torah, after they have been selected by G‑d as “A nation of priests and a holy people.” It is especially true after thousands of years in which the Jews have sanctified G‑d's name through the observance of the Torah and its Mitzvos to the point of self-sacrifice – through fire and through hell.

The timely lesson of the above is that we Jews are not the products of Golus but its beneficiaries. No one has the right to render us doomed to its ill effects or prejudge our ability to rise above it. Nor does anyone have the power to predict the failure of our Divine ordained mission and desire for creation; the creation of a dwelling place for Him in this world. It is only our own perception and exile mentality that can cause us to fail (heaven forbid).

By recognizing the true essence and capacity of our souls, we will not only avoid becoming subjugated to Golus but actually reap its deep windfalls and rich rewards as promised by G‑d and reiterated throughout the Prophets, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.