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Beshalach 5769

Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! The story is told of a Jewish man who applied for a job as a radio announcer and was turned down. When asked why, he angrily stuttered, "Be-be-cause they-they are anti-Semites!" Someone once said that one of the good things about being Jewish is that you can blame your problems on anti-Semitism. But, just as paranoids also have enemies, the Jews also have anti-Semites ... and it seems there are a lot of them around lately.

Over the past few weeks there has been a tremendous outcry across the world against Israel - nations, the UN, the media. One would think that nothing more urgent, more violent, more destructive was going on anywhere. Not surprisingly, during this same time you have hundreds of Taliban militants pouring in from Afghanistan attacking a paramilitary base in Pakistan, as well as Sunnis and Shiites killing each other in the Hangu district 60 miles south - and this does not count the massacres in Darfur, Rwanda, the Sudan ... It makes one wonder why the seemingly single focus of the world is in bashing Israel. If you take the historical view, one is not surprised by anti-Semitism. However, it does make you wonder at the cause(s) of anti-Semitism.

Between the years 250 CE and 1948 CE – a period of 1,700 years – Jews have experienced more than eighty expulsions from various countries in Europe – an average of nearly one expulsion every twenty-one years. Jews were expelled from England, France, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia and seventy-one other countries.

Historians have classified six explanations as to why people hate the Jews:

1) Economic - "We hate Jews because they possess too much wealth and power."

2) Chosen People - "We hate Jews because they arrogantly claim that they are the chosen people."

3) Scapegoat - "Jews are a convenient group to single out and blame for our troubles."

4) Deicide - "We hate Jews because they killed Jesus."

5) Outsiders - "We hate Jews because they are different than us." (The dislike of the unlike.)

6) Racial Theory - "We hate Jews because they are an inferior race."

As we examine the explanations, we must ask - Are they the causes for anti-Semitism or excuses for Anti-Semitism? The difference? If one takes away the cause, then anti-Semitism should no longer exist. If one can show a contradiction to the explanation, it demonstrates that the "cause" is not a reason, it is just an excuse. Let's look at some contradictions:

1) Economic - The Jews of 17th- 20th century Poland and Russia were dirt poor, had no influence and yet they were hated.

2) Chosen People - a) In the late 19th century, the Jews of Germany denied "Chosenness." And then they worked on assimilation. Yet, the holocaust started there. b) Christians and Moslems profess to being the "Chosen people," yet, the world and the anti-Semites tolerate them.

3) Scapegoat - Any group must already be hated to be an effective scapegoat. The Scapegoat Theory does not then cause anti-Semitism. Rather, anti-Semitism is what makes the Jews a convenient scapegoat target. Hitler's rantings and ravings would not be taken seriously if he said, "It's the bicycle riders and the midgets who are destroying our society."

4) Deicide - a) the Christian Bible says the Romans killed Jesus, though Jews are mentioned as accomplices (claims that Jews killed Jesus came several hundred years later). Why are the accomplices persecuted and there isn't an anti-Roman movement throughout history? b) Jesus himself said, "Forgive them [i.e., the Jews], for they know not what they do." The Second Vatican Council in 1963 officially exonerated the Jews as the killers of Jesus. Neither statement of Christian belief lessened anti-Semitism.

5) Outsiders - With the Enlightenment in the late 18th century, many Jews rushed to assimilate. Anti-Semitism should have stopped. Instead, for example, with the Nazis came the cry, in essence: "We hate you, not because you're different, but because you're trying to become like us! We cannot allow you to infect the Aryan race with your inferior genes."

6) Racial Theory - The overriding problem with this theory is that it is self-contradictory: Jews are not a race. Anyone can become a Jew – and members of every race, creed and color in the world have done so at one time or another.

Every other hated group is hated for a relatively defined reason. We Jews, however, are hated in paradoxes: Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race – but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. We are hated for stubbornly maintaining our separateness – and, when we do assimilate – for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. We are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex. It seems that we just can't win.

Now we know what are NOT the reasons for anti-Semitism. Stay tuned till next week for the reasons for anti-Semitism - or, if you can't wait, go to (from which much of this material is taken) for the conclusion!

For more on "Anti-Semitism" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women - each separately - sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.

They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt - the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)

Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah God tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

After the miraculous crossing of the Reed Sea (Red Sea) and the destruction of their enemies, the Children of Israel sang a song of praise to the Almighty. They sang:

"This is my God and I will glorify Him" (Exodus 15:2).

How does one glorify the Almighty?

Abba Shaul commented on this verse, "Emulate Him. Just as God is compassionate and merciful, so too you should be compassionate and merciful" (Talmud Bavli, Shabbos 133b). The Rambam writes, "When you give food to a hungry person, give him your best and sweetest food. When you give a needy person clothes, give him your best clothes" (Hilchos Isurei Mizbaiach 7:11).

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In Honor of

Jeff & Lyuba Weiss

with love and appreciation

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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