Each generation of Jewish parents seems to face the same dilemma. We teach our children that all humans are created in the image of G-d; to respect and assist others; that love of G-d means love of G-d’s creations. This week’s Torah reading teaches tzedek tzedek tirdof, pursue justice. Repetition of the word tzedek emphasizes that justice is not easily attained; it requires vigilance, clear thinking, honest and fair treatment of others.
Yet these teachings are challenged by the realities our children witness with their own eyes. They see missiles shot at Israel by Hamas terrorists with the aim of killing as many Jews as possible. They see throngs of Palestinians cheering. They hear the President of Iran call for the annihilation of Israel. They read anti-Semitic diatribes throughout the world. They hear white supremacists chant anti-Jewish canards. They see the United Nations voting against Israel, siding with those who would destroy it. They know of the so-called humanitarian groups and journalists who seem to find fault only with Israel, but rarely, if ever, with its vicious enemies.
We Jewish parents teach our youth about love of G-d, love of humanity, the sanctity of human life. Yet millions of fellow human beings are saturated with hatred and engage in murderous activities against us. And millions of others are complicit by their silence.
How can we teach love in a world filled with hatred? How can we teach that all humans are created in the image of G-d when so many are trying to murder us? How can we preach the goodness of humankind, when so much of humankind is engaged in violence?
For thousands of years, our people have weathered the storms. In spite of the senseless hatred and violence perpetrated against us, the Jewish people are still here to tell our story. Our enemies always disappear; we always survive. That is an iron law. And that bothers anti-Semites.
Why do people who do not even know us express hatred toward us? Why do Israel’s enemies persist in demonizing the Jewish State, rather than finding a way to coexist?
Our enemies are troubled by the fact that such a tiny people has accomplished so much. We gave the world Moses, King David, Isaiah and Queen Esther. Our Bible is venerated by Christianity and Islam and has been a major influence for human civilization. Our sages have produced an unmatched legacy of literature dedicated to righteousness, ethics and law. For thousands of years, our communities have striven to maintain the highest ideals of our tradition.
Jews have distinguished themselves far out of proportion to our numbers. Our enemies resent our persistent commitment to excellence: generations of Jewish doctors and teachers, social workers and scientists, artists and philanthropists, business people and diplomats. They resent the incredibly high proportion of Jewish Nobel Prize winners and other world-class intellectuals.
We are an annoying paradigm. The enemies of Israel do not understand how a tiny Jewish State has become a world leader in science and technology, agriculture and industry. How can such a small state, constantly embattled and boycotted, be so amazingly successful? How is it that only Israel of all countries in the Middle East has been able to maintain a vibrant and dynamic democracy?
Our enemies solve their dilemma by denying Jewish virtues, or by blaming us for their shortcomings. If anything, their anti-Semitism is a blatant admission of their own failings and weaknesses. Those who devote themselves to hatred undermine their own humanity.
The Jewish people are persistent in believing in the ultimate goodness of humanity. In spite of our enemies and their hatred, we remain optimistic. We work to make society better and to alleviate suffering. We believe that even wicked human beings can be redeemed through love and compassion.
When we come under fire, we call on our collective memory to give us strength. We have survived the millennia due to the incredible courage and fortitude of our forebears. We are the children of the prophets who taught justice, righteousness and love. The world simply hasn’t absorbed our teachings yet.
How can we teach of love in a world filled with hatred? How can we teach that all humans are created in the image of God? How can we preach the goodness of humankind?
We teach these things because they are true, and because they are the ideals that can best bring fulfillment to humanity. In spite of so much hatred and evil in the world, the Jews teach love and righteousness.
The day will come when hatred and bigotry will disappear. In the meanwhile, we must stay strong, courageous and faithful to our tradition, and to our collective Jewish memory.