Rabbi Herschel Schachter
Unique and Isolated
How can we understand the strange phenomenon of anti-Semitism which has existed throughout the ages in all societies? In the Pesach haggadah we mention that, "Bechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloteinu," - in every generation there is some group attempting to wipe out the Jews. There can not be a sociological explanation for this phenomenon if it appears in so many different societies.
In Parshat Haazinu (32:12) we read, "Hashem badad yanchenu,"- that God guides his nation all alone with no other power assisting Him. The Rabbis of the Talmud (Chagigah 3a) understood the meaning of "Shema Yisroel..Hashem echad" to be that not only is there only one god, as opposed to any number more than one; but also that God is unique. When the Jewish people proclaim Shema, we are proclaiming God as a unique Being.
When God proclaims, "Mi keamcha yisroel, goy echad baaretz," He is proclaiming the uniqueness of the Jewish people. Each is suigenerous. Bilaam (Bamidbar 23:9) described the uniqueness of the Jewish people with the same terminology used regarding God Himself, i.e., the nation dwells "levadad", "hen am levadad yishkon.." The Torah later (Devarim 33:28) picks up on this expression first used by Bilaam, "Vayishkon yisroel betach badad eyn yaakov," that the Jewish people indeed do live in this world in a state of isolation- badad - due to their uniqueness. All human beings were created betzelem elokim, but only Benei Yisroel are referred to as Banim LeMakom. They have received the genes of uniqueness, so to speak, from God Himself.
In our prayers we mention the fact that, "Veshimcha hagadol vehakadosh aleinu karata," that Hashem has incorporated the great and holy name into ours: We are called Am Hashem- the nation of God. We also mention in our prayers "Ushmeinu karata bishmecha," that He has also incorporated our name into His. God is known as Elokei Yisroel, the God of the Jewish People. In some countries the practice was for the wife to adopt the husband's family name, while in others the practice was for the husband to take the wife's family name. (Just to cite one famous example, the Maharsha took on his wife's family name, Edles.) The relationship between the Jewish people and God is commonly compared (by the Tanach) to that of a husband and wife. The compatibility of "the couple" lies in the fact that each one is badad- unique.
All people tend to distrust others who are different, and the Jewish people are always different. Despite the fact that in recent years one of the prime ministers of medinat yisrael declared in his inaugural address that, "We shall no longer be an am levadad yishkon," this situation will never change. It is built in by God, into the nature and the character of our people. We always have a totally different perspective on everything. When Rivka Imeinu was pregnant with her twin boys the Torah tells us that they were already fighting with each other, "vayitrotzetzu habanim bekirbah." The rabbis of the Talmud had an old tradition, "Halachah beyaduah sheesav soneh leyaakov."
In recent years, many Jews have been thinking according to what is "politically correct", as opposed to thinking correctly. The angel teaches every Jewish soul Torah before being born. We all have to learn Torah to orient ourselves towards "thinking Jewishly." The Torah is "God's way of thinking." The first steps in teshuvah are to learn more Torah. We pray every day, "Hashivenu avinu letoratecha..vehachzireinu betshuvah shlemah lefanecha." Please bring us back to Torah study so that we will be able to do complete teshuvah.