Throughout world history, the Jewish people have endured severe ongoing hate, persecution, exile, violence and genocide. Although in recent decades American Jews have not experienced much anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. increased more than one-third in 2016 reflected by assaults, vandalism, and harassment with a total of 1,266 acts against Jews and Jewish institutions. In the first quarter of 2017, this figure grew 86 percent. French and even British Jews are now seriously questioning their future in Europe due to the increase in anti-Semitic acts there. Israel is subject to ongoing threats from Iran, Syria, and Arab terrorist organizations.
Anti-Semitism has become such a pervasive phenomenon, that universities are ranked in terms of how comfortable or uncomfortable Jewish students might expect to feel there.
Hatred of the Jew has been humanity’s greatest hatred. While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been as universal, as deep, or as permanent as anti-Semitism. How are the universality, depth, and permanence of anti-Semitism to be explained? Why such hatred and fear of people who never constituted more than a small minority among those who most hated and feared them? Why, nearly always and nearly everywhere, the Jews? Why the Jews, by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, 2003, pp. 17, 21-22.)
Anti-Semitism was “born” with the advent of the first Jew, Avraham Avinu and has continued unabated throughout world history, independent of geographic location. Anti-Semitism began in approximately 1763 BCE in direct response to the belief of Avraham that there is one God who created, directs and supervises the universe and gives mankind an ethical framework for living. The ruling King Nimrod, champion of that era’s ubiquitous idol worship, sentenced Avraham to death by casting him into a furnace. God intervened and Avraham miraculously escaped unscathed.
One of the archetypes of anti-Semites we find in parshas Balak, Bilaam, the greatest non-Jewish prophet. He lived at the time of Moshe Rebeinu and thus did not interact with the Avos, forefathers of the Jewish people: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. However, Bilaam’s profound jealousy of their greatness and legacy prompted a desire to curse the Jewish people. After the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they traveled in the desert for forty years, defeating the belligerent Amorite nations. Fearful of further Jewish conquest and aware that the Jews’ strength lies in their spiritual connection to God, the nearby Moabite and Midianite nations enlisted the services of Bilaam to curse the Jews. An entire section of the Torah recounts the repeated attempts by Bilaam to curse the Jewish people.
To understand the root causes of anti-Semitism, we need to examine the Torah’s explanations, including prophecies that foretell expressions of anti-Semitism itself in Jewish history. We will discover that the paradigms for all types of anti-Semitism are contained in the Torah and are further elucidated in the Talmud and by their respective commentators. We will also be introduced to the spiritually driven dynamic known as maaseh avos siman l’banim, of how episodes of anti-Semitism in the Torah, specifically as experienced by the Avos, contain the paradigms of anti-Semitism for future history.
The following three NLE Morasha shiurim addressing anti-Semitism. This first class will demonstrate how nations, religious adherents and political groups have perpetrated ongoing oppression, persecution and violence towards the Jewish people. It will further show that there is no rational sociological explanation for anti-Semitic behavior. The second class challenges proposed “popular” theories for anti-Semitism. The third shiur provides a Torah framework to understand this seemingly irrational phenomenon and then concludes by addressing whether anything can be done to eradicate it.