Wednesday, November 17, 2004

When Will Sanity Rule?

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Jews are baffling. We are constantly amazed when confronted with the world’s double standard. With every reminder that we are in Golus, we are astonished anew. With every new instance of the world’s hypocrisy, we fume and rail as if we had expected a fair deal.

People meet each other and they say “Did you see the way the New York Times wrote about Arafat? Wasn’t it terrible? How can they do that?” Some even send letters to the editor of leading newspapers, bemoaning their coverage, thinking that they will effect some kind of change.

People hear the newscaster on the radio and they get incensed, “Did you hear that? How can they say that? What’s the matter with them?” They call the station and rant at the talk show host, thinking that this way they will accomplish something.
Permit me to let you in on a little secret: it won’t make a difference. The world hates Jews. The world has no use for us. Neither the New York Times, NPR, nor any of the newspapers of note have any allegiance to the truth.

World leaders like French President Chirac, Russia’s Putin and Britain’s Blair made a mockery of the truth in their press statements extolling the world’s arch-terrorist.

Before leaving for Washington to press President Bush into pushing Israel into a new deal with the Palestinians, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, America’s closest European ally, praised Arafat for having “led his people to an historic acceptance of the need for a two-state solution.”

French President Chirac made available the best French medical care for the murderer on his deathbed. The pompous head of state found time to visit his patient and personally ensured that he was afforded the best treatment. He even gave the terrorist a final gift: an official French ceremony befitting a head of state, after his death was finally made official.

John Kerry [remember him?] made it a pillar of his campaign to try to discredit President Bush for not ingratiating himself with Jacques Chirac, the same Chirac who gushed over a mass murderer “as a man of courage and conviction who for 40 years has incarnated the Palestinians’ fight for recognition of their national rights to nationhood.”

Not to be outdone, Russia’s Putin called Arafat “a great political leader of international significance.’’ For Chinese President Hu Jintao, “great” was not good enough. Arafat was “an outstanding leader of the Palestinian cause and ... an outstanding politician.’’

Spain rhapsodized over “Arafat’s charismatic personality, the international status that he gave to the Palestinian nation and his unrelenting fight for recognition for his people…”
At the United Nations, where Arafat once addressed the General Assembly with a pistol strapped to his waist, flags were flown at half-mast as Secretary General Kofi Annan praised him as “a symbol of national aspiration.”

I don’t want to bore you so I will stop here hoping that the point has been made. A vile murderer who made the mass killing of innocents a billion-dollar business is lionized as if he were a heroic world leader.

A joke made the rounds following bin Laden’s emergence as Public Enemy Number One after the 9/11 attacks. America threatened that they would hunt him down and capture him, dead or alive. Bin Laden met Arafat and asked him, “Tell me, Yasser, why is it that we both do the same thing. You blow up planes, I blow up planes. You kill innocents of all ages; I kill men, women and children who are guilty of no crime. Why is it that you get away with it? Why are you invited to leading capitols of the world and treated with respect? Why are you rewarded with peace prizes and international funding and I am hunted down with a price on my head?”

Arafat responds: “You fool! I only kill Jews, you kill Goyim! That’s why I get away with it and you won’t!”

The joke is supposed to make us chuckle but the truth is bitter, so the smile is a bit forced.

We would rather it weren’t so. We would all rather live in a world that is fair, where good and evil are recognized for what they are.

Once in a while, a lone voice of truth can be heard above the din. Somebody writes a column setting the record straight and it gets published on an Op-Ed page. It doesn’t matter if it is in a paper in a small media market; it doesn’t matter that it is unlikely if many people will be swayed by it. Jews find solace when they read something intelligent and correct defending their position in the secular media.
They print and reprint the article and distribute them out in shuls and through e-mails and faxes. As if to console ourselves with the thought the whole world reads our little shul pamphlets and will suddenly be enlightened to the truth about the evil in our midst.

Well, pinch yourselves. Because whoever thinks that the few lonely words of truth describing the real Arafat will gain credence on the world stage is living in dreamland. Such words ease the pain of Golus for us, but we should not lull ourselves into thinking that they carry weight on the scale of world opinion.
Whoever thinks that boycotting the New York Times or writing letters to CNN will change their opinions of Yidden has clearly forgotten last week’s parsha and the eternal rule of Esav sonai l’Yaakov.

We don’t like to be reminded that we are in Golus; we don’t like to be reminded that it is Mipnei Chatueinu that we have to contend with such wicked people and their hypocrisy. We don’t want to be prompted to realize that the way to halt this double standard is to increase our Torah learning and give more Tzedakah to deserving people and causes.

Too many people are so preoccupied with the mundane things in life that they resist the need to ponder life in a more serious way. People whose priority is shopping and traveling derive a false sense of security from hearing a single voice of sanity. Too many people, who live in neighborhoods where the price of homes seems to increase every time you turn around, think that we really belong here.

And then, every once in a while we get a painful reminder that we are still in Golus.
Does this mean that we should just ignore the travesty of anti-Semitism, without trying to counteract it? Must we simply resign ourselves to the double standard?
We have to constantly remind ourselves: Halacha hi Eisav soneih es Yaakov. Letter-writing campaigns may make us feel better but only Divine intervention can bring about a change in world opinion and media coverage.

The hypocrisy we are witness to today transcends the normal levels of social order. The outrageous turn of events and the deification of a monster is so bizarre that it can only be understood as a consequence of Golus. Hitler and Stalin after their deaths were almost immediately demystified and unveiled as the twisted barbarians they were. Not so Arafat. The post-mortem treatment of that murderous fiend is yet another reminder that we are in Golus, the Geulah has not yet come and this is part of what it means to be in Golus.

We can try to reason with the world. But we will be scornfully dismissed. In the world of Golus, justice is stood on its head and all one’s efforts to set things right are ridiculed.

At a very advanced age the Chofetz Chaim decided that he wanted to move to Eretz Yisroel. He went to the local Polish government office to apply for a passport. He was asked his age. When he responded, the clerk then asked him for proof.

The Chofetz Chaim calmly explained to the gentleman that when he was born, there were no birthing hospitals or birth certificates. “I was born at home in a small town. There are no papers nor are there documents,” he said.

The clerk would not be put off. “The rules are that you have to bring two people who can verify your birth date.” The Chofetz Chaim tried again. “Do you realize that I am over 90 years old? How can I find two people from my small shtetel who are still alive and would remember when I was born? It is impossible.”

The apparatchik stuck to his guns, saying, “The rules are the rules.” The elderly sage tried to reason with him. “Do you really think that there are 2 people alive from my little town who would remember when I was born? They’d have to be over 100 years old!”

It didn’t matter. As absurd as they were, the rules were the rules. The Chofetz Chaim had to leave the office without any hope of getting a passport.

As the Chofetz Chaim left the passport office he commented to the person accompanying him that the incident epitomized the essence of Golus.

He added that this began when our grandfather Yaakov Avinu was accused by Lavan of stealing from him, Yaakov Avinu went into a long emotional answer justifying his actions. He explained how he worked in the freezing cold and with the sun beating on him. In twenty years he never missing a day of work and never lost any of Lavan’s sheep. He explained how it was he who increased Lavan’s flock to astounding numbers. Yaakov delineated the progression of Lavan’s rags to riches, proving that it was Yaakov’s sweat and tears that were the true catalyst to Lavan’s success.

But Yaakov might have been talking to the wall, for all the impact his words had. Lavan was unfazed. The explanations were a waste of his precious words. Lavan responded “Habanim banai, habanos benosai…The sons are my sons and the daughters are my daughters and everything you have is mine! It is all mine!”

Lavan has set the standard for how we are dealt with by the nations of the world until Moshiach comes: “I have no interest in what you have to say. It’s all mine. You are a Jew in Golus; you have no rights! Your villains are my heroes, your security is impingement, your land is my land, your wealth is my wealth!”

And though certainly we know that in terms of oppression, this Golus is better than any Klal Yisroel has endured and we are very appreciative of that; But Golus it is. And since it is so comfortable here, we may have forgotten that we are in exile. If anything good can come out of the present situation it is that we recognize that we are far from our home.

In order to work our way out of Golus, first we have to recognize that we are in Golus.

What more has to change for us to wake up and realize the true state of affairs? Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that anyone really cares about the justice of our cause. Let’s think about the causes of Golus and recognize that it is a Halacha that Eisav Sonei LeYaakov.

We recently learned Parshas Vayeirah which tells of the birth of Yishmael, “Vehoo yihiyeh pereh adam, yado bakol veyad kol boh.” The Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer explains the name Yishmael to hint that “Yishma Keil.” Hashem will listen to the prayers of the Jewish people in the period leading up to the coming of Moshiach, when they will cry out from the pain Yishmael’s offspring inflicts upon them.

In the same parsha, Hakadosh Boruch Hu promises Avrohom Avinu that if he and his children keep His bris and follows the mitzvos, they will return to Eretz Yisroel.
“Ahl Tir’ee Tolaas Yaakov, have no fear you lowly children of Yaakov,” who, like a lowly worm, have no physical strength. “Your only true strength is with your mouths, with Tefillah…. “Vegoaleich Kedosh Yisroel,” your redeemer is Hakadosh Boruch Hu.

The road to salvation is through utilizing the Kol Yaakov to pray that Hakadosh Boruch Hu has rachmanus on us and sees fit to send us Moshiach to return us to Yerushalayim. The way to see justice done is by having serious kavana when we say three times a day in Shemonah Esrei: “Veleyerushalayim Ircha Berachamim Toshuv.”
May we be zoche to see the realization of the prayer “Vechol Harisha K’rega Tovaid. Vechol Oyvei Amchah Meheirah Yikoreisu.”

And perhaps, that bracha will come true for us when we come to the realization that our hope lies not in the Malshinim, those who deliver the warped lies called “news.” When we realize that we can place no tikva in the words of the Malshinim, we will merit to see the krisas oiyvim and the humbling of all our enemies.

The reporting will only change when we realize it is up to us to change the perception of the world through our actions that bring the Geulah. The Chiracs of the world will only change their tune when we change ours, when we pray with thought, introspection and serious Kavanah for the redemption to finally arrive, and bring an end to the Golus with all its injustice.

So instead of writing a letter to the editor of the New York Times and instead of calling up talk shows, let us better use our writing and speaking skills to help others. Let us use our energy to help prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach.

On that long-awaited day of reckoning when true justice will finally be meted out, all wrongs will be righted, the guilty will suffer retribution, and true independence will be ushered in for the Jewish people.


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