Self Hating Jew?!

Lately we’ve been hearing the term “self-hating Jew” employed to describe the various critics of Jews, Judaism and Israel. I must confess that occasionally I am tempted to use this pejorative and painful appellation for a select—but growing—list of Jewish academicians, media people, politicians, Hollywood stars, et al. who have expressed their anger and hatred of all that is dear to us as Jews.  How many times have we heard ourselves saying, “We are our greatest enemy?”

One can even find Biblical support for such a designation. Just recently we read the Haftara from Isaiah, “Your destroyers and came from you.”

The truth be told, there is no such creature as a self-hating Jew. A Jew by definition is a creature who as the prophet declares “Israel in who I take pride.” Or in the verse, “and your nation are all righteous.” Maimonides in his classic work, the Mishneh Torah declares that by his nature every Jew wants nothing less than to fulfill the will of the Creator.

How then can we account for the number of recalcitrant Jews? How do we explain the phenomenon of Jews siding with the enemy that wants nothing les than the total annihilation of the Jewish people?

The answer is provided by Maimonides himself: This refusal to follow the dictates of Judaism, Maimonides writes, is not intrinsic to the Jewish condition. It is the superimposed evil impulse that G-d has given us to provide for free choice that turns the Jew away from his natural proclivity for G-d and the Torah. All one has to do, Maimonides explains, is to remove the impediment that is surface deep. When that is done it releases the Jew’s natural inclination to conform to G-d’s will even when it appears to go against his own personal interests and comforts.

But even this analysis doesn’t explain the phenomenon of Jews unleashing unprecedented hostility against their own brethren. How could this negative impulse—which is a part of our personality—be so blind to the reality of the harm that one wreaks by collaborating with the worst of our enemies?

The answer to this vexing question has already been given by our Sages. And it is fascinating that modern psychology has discovered this phenomenon recently, a phenomenon known as the Stockholm Syndrome.

This phenomenon has been succinctly described by our Sages as the Galut Syndrome. In the words of our Sages who stated metaphorically, “Jewish daughters are all naturally beautiful, it is the degrading nature of the exile that has made them ugly.” This is taken to mean that all of the Jewish people are naturally beautiful. It is the suffocating, debilitating and humiliating phenomenon of exile that has covered up that natural beauty and given us the indifference, hostility and even the grotesque of phenomenon of Jews hating Jews.

So when we see the likes of a Noam Chomsky or other vitriolic critics of Jews, Israel and  things Jewish, it is futile to direct our anger against the victim. These individuals are the victims of centuries, nay millennia, of anti-Jewish oppression. The unparalleled hatred of Jews and the deplorable conditions, to which Jews were subjected, is the culprit.  When the defender of terrorism against Jews cites the Jews who support this outrage, we shouldn’t state, “Well, he’s a self-hating Jew anyhow.” Rather our response should be, look how awful anti-Semitism has been. We have been so injured by the effects of intolerance, hatred, persecution—and yes, the temptation to assimilate and throw away our Jewishness—that we can see the victims of this scourge scattered throughout the Jewish landscape. 

When a Jew rejects his or her Jewishness, it is not the Jew speaking but the force of exile that has twisted the minds of otherwise normal people.

If we have to vent our anger, let us get direct it against the hostage takers not the hostages. Let us get angry at the phenomenon called Galut-exile, and let us implore G-d—as we do many times each day in our prayers—to Bring an end to this scourge called exile and send us the Moshiach who will usher in an age of universal peace and harmony.

 Moreover, while Judaism considers the idea of expressing outrage concerning the suffering of others commendable and a sign of a sensitive soul, we can’t just live by anger alone. And while Judaism demands of us to defend ourselves against any physical threat to our well-being, defensive actions do not suffice. We must be on the offensive and tear down the walls of exile.

For every assault on our Jewishness, let us resolve to do one more Jewish act, one more Mitzvah. 

For every anti-Semitic and hateful act directed against a Jew let us rededicate ourselves to doing at least one more act of kindness and expression of love for another Jew, in addition to our other acts of kindness directed to all. 

For every attempt of the forces of exile to dampen our faith, spirit and joy, let us invest even more enthusiasm, life and ecstasy in the pursuit of our Jewish activities such as Torah study and performance of the Mitzvot.

Every time the exile syndrome attempts to take us hostage by instilling the galut mindset into our consciousness let us resist. Let our mindsets be positive, optimistic, expansive and liberating.  The cumulative good and positive energy will be the strongest force to rid the super imposed hatred from the Jew and non-Jew alike.

Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

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