Organically Alone

Friday, 22 March, 2024 - 9:25 am

The Economist magazine’s cover this week had two words on it, “Israel Alone.” I did not read the article, but the premise it posits is simple. Israel needs international support for its legitimacy. And, that support is slipping away, leaving Israel isolated. Even Jewish American politicians have raised the alarm, with Senator Chuck Schumer recently saying that Israel’s “future could well be over” without US support.

Is Israel at risk of becoming a pariah state? Should Israel kowtow to worldwide pressure, or should Israel do what is just and proper regardless of what others think?

In 1972, during one of Yitzchak Rabin’s visits to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe discussed with him the concept of Jewish aloneness.

In the Torah the Jewish people are blessed as, “A nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.”

But, how is this a blessing? Isn’t this more of a curse that has followed Jews throughout history?

The Rebbe explained that, despite the negative consequences that have all too often presented themselves, there is also benefit to the Jewish people’s uniqueness and isolation. (Here is a link to Yitzchak Rabin mentioning this encounter).

But, what could that benefit possibly be?

Perhaps a peek at the Book of Esther can shed some light. After all, the Purim story truly is the model Jewish response to antisemitism.

When Haman presents his proposal to annihilate the Jewish people, he describes them to Achashverosh as follows:

“There is one nation scattered and dispersed among the nations throughout the provinces of your kingdom, whose laws are unlike those of any other nation.” Haman goes on to slander the Jewish people and call for their obliteration.

What’s fascinating about Haman’s description is its paradoxical nature. On the one hand, he refers to the Jewish people as “scattered and dispersed.” On the other hand, he declares them to be “one nation.” If they are scattered and dispersed, how can they reasonably be called one nation?

Yet, they are one nation.

The Jewish people are "a nation that will dwell alone." The Jewish people have always been a stranger to the family of nations. Our religion is different, our views are different.  What does Haman say to King Achashverosh?  "Their laws are unlike those of any other nation."

Even if we are scattered and dispersed – due to oppression or assimilation – the world will always view us as a nation apart. And, that’s perfectly fine.

Throughout history either a stick or a carrot have been presented to the Jewish nation, to be like everyone else and enjoy all the benefits of equality. Jews of all stripes have attempted to accept that premise. And, it has never worked.

Salvation in the Purim story – and securing the future of Jews and Judaism – comes from our uniqueness. The secret of Jewish existence lies in the ability to withstand these enormous pressures and demonstrate Jewish pride.

The Megillah tells us that Mordechai, who would later become the advisor to the king, would “not kneel down or bow down.” There were plenty of Jews that did kneel and bow down – in a host of methods. Salvation did not come through them. Mordechai and Esther stood tall as Jews, and secured the Jewish future.

The tyrants of Persia, ancient Egypt and Babylonia are gone. But, they have replacements. And, the Jewish people will continue to outlast all of them. Because we have a mission – of holiness and light for the entire world.

Mordechai probably understood better than any contemporary statesman the secret of Jewish survival. Only a firm stand against oppressors, along with heartfelt prayers and a cry to the Master of the World, has the power to save the nation of Israel.

This Purim, celebrate Jewish pride. With conviction and dedication to our faith, we will merit to truly experience Am Yisrael Chai.

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