Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Every Generation

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

In this week’s parsha, we learn the positive commandment to constantly remember what Amaleik did to us when we left Mitzrayim. “Asher karchah baderech” is commonly explained to mean that Ameleik, by flaunting their contempt for the Jewish people, dispelled the “shock and awe” that suffused the world when details of the miraculous redemption of the Jews reached the surrounding nations.

Amaleik watered down that reaction by brazenly attacking the weary Jews, showing the nations of the world that there was no need to fear people who had so recently been a slave population. For all time, the Torah exhorts us, we are to keep alive the memory of the evil Amaleikim who, out of sheer wickedness, set out to destroy a fledging nation who had never done them any harm. In so doing, they encouraged other nations to treat the Jews with enmity and belligerence.

Since our earliest encounter with the degenerate Amaleikim, they and their descendants throughout the ages have sought to instigate crisis and disaster for the Jewish people. Whether through actual warmongering or outrageous scandals, they have tried to undermine the Jewish nation and to poison our image in the eyes of the world. In every generation, malicious individuals with the defining streak of cruelty that exemplifies the murderous Amaleik have exacted a tremendous human toll from our people.

Amaleik sometimes manifests a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome whereby he appears to want to co-exist benignly with us, but behind the scenes works devilishly to wreak havoc by portraying us as devious bloodsuckers who take advantage of the weak in our zeal to amass fantastic wealth and rule the world.

Thankfully, in our generation, we have been spared the most venomous and powerful manifestation of Amaleik that, in previous times, decimated the Jewish people. But we have suffered acutely in other ways at the hands of this evil nemesis. We have been humiliated and vilified in the court of public opinion. A cursory reading of the current events in today’s newspapers will give ample evidence of the damage done by the Amaleiks of our time.

Consider how the media has taken on the cause of the unions in their battle against the Rubashkins of Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.

Anyone who takes the trouble to visit the far-off plant, tour it and interview its employees will find a state-of-the art, modern, safe, clean facility we should all be proud of.

This week, charges were brought against the company for allegedly hiring under-age workers. Let us not be hasty to rush to judgment. Wait until the accused have a chance to defend themselves in a court of law. All the other charges bandied about in the media are mere allegations based on hearsay and don’t deserve to be treated as fact.

That hasn’t stopped the leading media in this country from forming a figurative lynch mob and going after Agriprocessors with the obvious intent of destroying the company. They slam it with all kinds of false allegations, as if it were a cattle- and man-killing jungle of the early 1900s.

Blatant lies are passed around as truths often enough that even many of our own people believe them. Amaleik perceives that he can’t destroy us, so he slanders us instead, telling the world that we don’t know how to treat animals or people. He says that we are mean, vicious and heartless, and he gets all the papers to print this rubbish.

He plants perverse ideas in the minds of hate-driven people who then peddle their wild allegations to mainstream media outlets which, in turn, publish them in their papers as authenticated facts.

Last week, the nation’s “newspaper of record” ran a story headlined, “Kosher Plant Accused of Inhumane Slaughter.” Who accused them? Read on and find out that it was none other than PETA, the group of misfits who parade around the world ludicrously arguing that man is no different than animal and, therefore, both species are entitled to the same rights.

It is only when you get to the fifth paragraph that you find out that the accusation is bogus. The plant, in fact, was found by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be “in full compliance with humane slaughter regulations.”

The sensational headline was intended not to inform, but to aid and abet the smear campaign against kosher slaughter.

Decency and integrity would have dictated that the story be dropped. Or, had the editors felt that there was a great need for the public to know of the allegations against an already beleaguered kosher plant, they should have at least formatted the story in a way that would leave no doubt that the USDA gave the plant a clean bill of health despite the charges of a radical left-wing vegetarian group.

But if you are doing the work of the enemies of the Jewish people, why worry over a lapse of journalistic integrity?

Amaleik appears in so many different guises. When a Jewish university maintains on its payroll a person who openly lives an immoral lifestyle and the institution’s president tells the New York Post that he is "proud of my university and all my faculty," is that not an expression of "asher karchah"? Such a person is conferring legitimacy on behavior the Torah considers abhorrent.

When its rabbinic faculty sits on the sidelines and does not act vociferously and publicly to project and protect Torah values, are they not reinforcing the moral decline which is eating away at the fabric of the Am Kadosh?

Lately, Amaleik has worn another mask - that of a Jewish reporter and a Jewish news service that continuously distribute libelous reports about Agriprocessors, displaying no sensitivity for the truth. Jewish news groups routinely dispatch articles disparaging religious Jews and halacha, and no one calls them on it.

Some have questioned why I have taken such a strong stand on behalf of the Rubashkins. I believe that the proper course of action is to defend ehrliche Yidden who have been wrongfully accused and maligned. But more than that, it is my perception that the Amaleikim hounding them are targeting not only the Rubashkins. They are targeting you and me and our ability to eat kosher meat in this country.

Equal opportunity destroyers, they fear they are running out of material with which to bash the Lubavitcher Rubashkins, and are therefore taking aim at the Satmar Alle Packing Company.

And they don’t just write against shechitah. They have other pet topics as well. Take yeshivos, for example. They never tire of proclaiming that our yeshivos are dirty, sloppy and intellectually-lacking, and foster no interest in history, community or architecture.

A recent article against the Waterbury Yeshiva in the local Connecticut paper reports: “Leaders of the Hillside Neighborhood Association say the sect has failed to bring enough Jewish families into the neighborhood, has allowed its properties to deteriorate and has failed to maintain the once-grand Benedict-Miller house… Empty buildings owned by the yeshiva pepper the neighborhood. Several are falling into disrepair.”

According to the article, religious Jews are “a sect,” an offshoot branch of Judaism marked by a goofy and unkempt appearance. Yet with all this, they still complain that there aren’t enough of us in their midst! Though the paper, the Republican American, in its September 7th article about the 300-student educational institution, tries to cast the yeshiva as a bunch of weirdoes running a decrepit school, it does quote Waterbury’s mayor as saying that, “We feel comfortable that the yeshiva has held their end of the bargain.”

And so it goes in the world of the objective media.

The same unions which turned countless American factory communities into ghost towns now seek to do to shechitah what they did to the auto manufacturers and knitting mills that used to dot this country.

On Labor Day, the New York Times published a long article on the latest major union battle taking place in New York City. It pertained to no more than 20 workers for a certain company in Brooklyn. Guess which company that was? Agriprocessors. That is the level to which they stoop to vilify religious Jews and our way of life.

Examples abound of the attempts to minimize our accomplishments and cause our neighbors and those less observant to scorn us and to deride our accomplishments in this country.

I received an op-ed called “The Three Most Important American Jews.” It piqued my interest. I thought that if it was sent to the Yated, perhaps it contained a message for me. The author was kind enough to write that the article appeared in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, but he was making it available to other newspapers.

To commemorate the 354th anniversary of the arrival of the first boatload of Jews to America, the author “surveyed several dozen leading American Jewish historians about who they think would qualify as the three most important figures in American Jewish history.”

Your answer would likely include Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, the Satmar Rebbe zt”l, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt”l, or some other men of similar caliber. According to this survey, however, you would be wrong.

The winners are:
Louis Brandeis. “He was the first Jew appointed to the Supreme Court, the personification of the American-Jewish synthesis.”
Mordecai Kaplan. “The key figure in the Americanization of Judaism.Kaplan's idea [was] that Judaism is an ‘evolving religious civilization.’ Reform Judaism adopted Kaplan's saying that halacha should have ‘a vote but not a veto.’”
Isaac Mayer Wise. “Put Reform Judaism on the map in the United States. He was one of the earliest American rabbis to push for family pews in the synagogue, a mixed choir, and counting women in the minyan. He wrote a new prayer book entitled Minhag America, with the goal of uniting all American congregations.”

So there you have it. What is the purpose of such articles if not to enshrine those who severed their connection with Torah-true Judaism in the rush to the melting pot? By implication, the article denigrates the accomplishments of Jews who have remained loyal to their traditions and built communities and infrastructure to maintain authentic Jewish life in the face of so many obstacles and roadblocks.

Mainstream media ignores us as if we don’t exist until they find an opportunity to mock us.

But we need not grow despondent. We need to remember the root of it all and why it is happening. We need to recognize the insidious wiles of Amaleik and know that Hashem will rescue us from them if we remain loyal to his commandments.

We need to greet everyone who we meet with kindness and civility. We must display proper patriotic symbols and behave honestly in all our financial interactions. That way, when our neighbors read scandalous charges about us in their local papers and hear ludicrous allegations on the local news, they will know that these charges that tar all Jews with the same brush are far from the truth. They will say, “Well, I have a religious Jewish friend and he’s dignified, upstanding, scrupulous and cordial. These accusations can’t be true.”

This is why the pesukim are there in the Torah for all time. For even when we are not able to identify precisely who Amaleik is, we are to be on the lookout for those who follow in his ways, seeking to badmouth and undermine us. We are to remain undaunted and counter their base tactics with dignity and refined conduct befitting bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.


Blogger dman said...

Have you written with the same intensity and passion on the abuse issue? See, for example, what Rabbi Horowitz has had to say, this week.

Olam Hafuch Ra'isi - A Topsy-Turvy World Gone Mad

Don't Disturb the Party - Ever Wonder What Our Children Are Thinking?

L'maan Hashem - What Will It Take?
Let's start protecting our children

Unless you have done so (or, if you have not yet, until you do), your comments on Rubashkin, YU, or other topics have neither relevance nor credibility.

6:49 PM  

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