Weekly Sermon

Weekly Sermon

 VAYEYTZEY 5780

Why Do They Hate Us?

I begin with a question that Jews have been asking since for millennium. Why do they hate us? This year we saw a surprising rise in anti-Semitic attacks in America—attacks that never happened before on American soil. Rav Moshe Feinstein—the prime decisor of Jewish Law of the 20th century—called America a medina shel chesed (a country of kindness) for the Jews. But now…we’ve all had to up our security because of the hatred. As I said on Rosh Hashanah, “I used to wonder how our synagogue could be more open and welcoming. We used to think, ‘What safer place is there than in shul?’ Now I wonder how our shul can be more locked and secure.”

Jewish organizations are turning themselves inside out trying to figure out and understand why is this happening? How can we better educate people and get them to like us? Let me tell you: Gornisht helfin, it’s a waste of time! We know the cause of the problem; they tell us: it’s because we are capitalists or communists, too liberal or too racist…because we own the banks or poison the wells…because we’re too pushy or too ghettoized...because we’re the chosen people or an inferior race! Anti-Semitism is, in a sense, incomprehensible, but it finds its roots in the Torah portions about Jacob and Esav. 

In this week’s Torah portion Jacob flees his home because his mother Rivka informs him that his brother Esav vowed to kill him after Jacob stole their father’s blessing. She reassures him that she’ll let him know when the coast is clear and he can return home. But in this week’s Torah portion we see that Jacob never hears from his mother because the coast is never clear! And, in next week’s Torah portion we have the inevitable confrontation between the brothers. On that text Rashi quotes a Midrash: Halacha hi b’yodua, sh’Esav soney l’Yaakov (It is a well-known dictum that Esav hates Jacob).

It’s almost an ontological condition throughout history: the non-Jew hates the Jew. The same Moshe Feinstein that referred to America as a “country of kindness” for the Jews …when asked whether Jews in Britain should sue the government because of some ruling they made regarding day schools…responded that they should be careful: “For we have to realize that hatred of the Jews by all nations is actually great—even in nations that behave well toward Jews. As Rashi explained: It is a well-known dictum that Esav hates Jacob.” 

What was the root cause of Esav’s hatred of his brother? It couldn’t be because Jacob received Isaac’s blessing…because they were fighting since they were twins in the womb. Esav hated what he and his twin brother were destined to be: Esav, the hunter and Jacob, the scholar. The hunter usually envies the scholar. Rarely does the scholar wish he were the hunter. During the middle Ages, when Popes were illiterate, 7-year-old Jewish children were reading Torah and Rashi, counting and doing math. The hatred is not because Jews are inferior—but because they excel! 

The infamous anti-Semitic protestors in Charlottesville… what did they chant? “The Jews will not replace us!” Why should they think we Jews are going to replace them? We’re less than 6 million in this country of 350 million! We’re going to replace them? In a world of 8 billion people, only 14 million are Jews—less than 0.2%! And we’re going to replace them? Why should they think that? I’ll tell you why! Because wherever you look, Jews stand out. 

Look at the Trump impeachment inquiry. It centers on the question of whether President Donald Trump used the threat of withholding military aid and a visit to the White House unless Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky would conduct an investigation that might provide ammunition against Joe Biden. Clearly, there’s no Jewish link to all this. It all focuses on a phone call between Trump and the President of the Ukraine. And yet, wherever you look, there’s a Jew involved:

- Rep. Adam Schiff was in charge of the 1st House hearings—a Jew.

- The Chief Counsel for the Democrats is Daniel Goldman—a Jew.

- Among the 6 House Committee Chairmen playing a role in the impeachment hearings, there is Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Elliot Engel—all Jews.

- Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer—no, he’s not a Jew. But he had 2 foreign-born associates involved with Ukraine who were arrested before they could leave our country: Lev Parnes and Igor Fruman—both Jews.

- Another foreign-born American, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman—who raised alarms about the Trump/Zelensky phone call—is Jewish.

- A central character in all this, a supporter of Trump, Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union, dropped bombshells at the impeachment inquiry—Jewish.

- And this week Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee called 4 constitutional scholars—3 of whom are Jews: Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt.

All this prompted Pastor Rick Wiles of Florida to call the Trump Impeachment proceedings a “Jew Coup.”

Have you heard enough? Well, let me give you one more: Volodymir Zelensky, the President of the Ukraine is Jewish! Did you hear that? The President of the Ukraine is a Jew! If I could tell my grandparents—may they rest in peace—who were from the Ukraine and endured much discrimination and persecution, that the President of the Ukraine is now a Jew, they would call me meshuga (crazy)! 

If a Jew can be the President of the Ukraine—a country whose soil is soaked with Jewish blood—then anything and everything is possible! Little wonder that 72% of Ukrainians, 71% of Hungarians and 56% of the Poles agree that Jews are too powerful. They hate us because wherever you look it seems as if the Jews are taking over!

But on the other hand, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to let our enemies think that we’re all-powerful. Perhaps this can be our strength! As Akiva Eldar once wrote in the Haaretz newspaper: The Arab belief that the Jews rule the world has become one of Israel’s most important deterrent factors, no less than its military strength. The lunatic idea that 6 million Jews dictate the policies of a superpower with 350 million inhabitants has contributed greatly to the decisions by Arab and Palestinian leaders, and even to that of the Arab League, to accept—albeit with gritted teeth—the existence of the Jewish state. When Anwar Sadat and King Hussein came to Jerusalem, they had at least one eye fixed on Washington. Yes, let the world think that we’re all-powerful. It might be the only way they’ll realize that—like it or not—the Jews and Israel are here to stay!

Talk about Israel! This week’s Time Magazine features the 100 best inventions of 2019. 9 out of 10 come from little Israel! Believe me when I tell you this does not win us any friends!

I once shared with you a list of Nobel Prize winners from Muslims and Jews. Among the Muslims, there have been 12 Nobel Prize winners from a population of 1.2 billion. There have been 55 Jewish Nobel Prize winners—just IN PHYSICS! Overall Jews have had more than 250—more than 1 in 5 of all the prizes! And we wonder why they don’t like us…

Which leaves us with one last question. Who are the “they” who don’t like us? All I can tell you is that there are plenty of them—but not all of them! As Moshe Feinstein said, “We live in a country that is a medinah shel chesed (a country of kindness) for Jews.” A new report tells us that 25% of Europeans are anti-Semites. But that means 75% are not! You might not believe this, but according to the latest Pew Center Research, Americans like Jews—92% look favorably at Jews. Not every non-Jew is an Esav; but non-Jews are challenged by Jews. Do they resent what Jews contribute, or are they admired?

My friends, we have a choice to make. We Jews stand out—no way around it! Each of us must choose. Do we stand out because we’re a Jeffrey Epstein or a Harvey Weinstein…or do we stand out for being a Nobel Prize winner or a noble person? The choice is one that each of us has to make, because Gd has already made His choice when He promised Abraham: “I’ll make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing…and through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” May we all choose to be a blessing. Amen.

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