Tragic Events and a Timely Response

There must be something upon which all must agree. 


For  all the unforeseen and ever widening reach of technology,  together with the unprecedented exponential progress in so many areas of life, the world is in a state of deep unrest and agitation. And  for the Jewish people  it’s the same but naturally even more so.

Yes,  the crucial and most concerning factor is the chronic and ever rising  anti-semitism and through recent  generations,  spiced with racial hatred  and anti-Zionism but  clearly  with a  very fine veil .

The world has a problem. A big problem. But the challenge for the Jewish people is equally formidable and maybe more so.

For  all the statistician’s  extrapolation accompanied with endless reports of gloom from think-tanks, who  together with the men of letters compete for superlatives of genuine righteous indignation, very few have  truly homed or  honed in on the innate cause and deeper malaise together with its resolution . More than  incidentally, it would be wise to recognise that the  ultimate resolution lies in the fulfilment of the Prophetic Messianic era. 

So as Agnes Allen,  Children’s Books author, would say ”When all else fails, read the instructions !“Maybe , just maybe , we should seek the wisdom of the ancients.

Yes, the Talmud . The  very same copies of the Talmud which in 1242 AD were collected from all over France in 24 wagons and burned by the very same anti-semites of today in the courtyard of the Notre Dame Church in Paris.

Commenting on the “Scroll of Esther”, part of  Biblical Canon,
the   Talmud offers an enigmatic parable interpreting the dramatic and fateful meeting  between  the King of the Persian Empire and his Chief Minister and arch anti-semite Haman. 


 The Chief Minister approaches the King , slandering the Jews in all 127 provinces of Ancient Persia and Media and offering an enormous sum  to “ Buy the Jews and slaughter them”! 
“ Keep your money and do whatever you like with them!” is the King’s  eager reply . And  so onto the first planned Holocaust in Jewish history.

The parable ?

Two neighbouring land owners shared a problem.
One had a massive pit whilst the other, a huge hill.

Said the pit owner to his neighbour,” Please sell me 

your hill”.   Said the hill owner to his neighbour, “ Sell it? The hill is in my way.Its yours  for nothing! “

In a seminal  discourse on Purim 1965, the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered a radical interpretation with an insight which was to bend and stretch conventional wisdom. 

Indeed, he explained ,both the King and Haman are two sides of the same coin  with only  slight variation. Haman’s objection carried a profoundly psychological dimension.  “ A pit, a void,  and a gnawing emptiness “.  Leading psychiatrists over the past hundred years would have a field day with Haman on the couch!  The King however was bluntly   prosaic to the anti semitic agitation.” They’re everywhere .  Get  them out of my way!”


The Rebbe’ s interpretation  went to the very heart of the human psyche. He traced the source of hate back to what is universally recognised as  envy ,and envy is forever latent in humankind .


 This particular envy was ignited through the historic Sinai experience which highlighted the collective Jewish submissive response in accepting the Torah .For historic and circumstantial  reasons Gentiles were not the recipients of the Torah. The elevated level of Jewish society was on all occasions pronounced. There was serious ground for envy.


The Rebbe however went even  further by revealing that along with  this dimension of envy with it’s concomitant hate, all humans  are indigenously endowed  with yet an even deeper emotional motivation named”  Emulation “ . Namely the innate desire to emulate the very  highest level of moral human purpose attainable  , thereby obviating the need to hate. 



 All humans at all times during their long history have been  and are acutely conscious of being created in the Divine image. All Humanity is  equally aware of being mandated with  the Divine obligation for observing the seven basic laws of humanity. This is equally recognised as a supreme privilege.


In reaching for one’s  own  inner peace and wellbeing  the Rebbe was urging the adoption of “Emulation”  as the third behavioural  stage for overcoming envy and hate as the key to achieving inner content .


Interestingly it was the Jewish American psychologist of the past century,  Abraham Maslow , himself a target of anti-semitism , who proposed   the  Theory  named , “Hierarchy of Needs  . “ He spoke of “Self -Actualisation”, which was only possible after the preceding level of “ self esteem” ,   as being the highest level of the pyramid he used to illustrate  his hierarchy.  


 As of all sound ideas, it’s origin lies  2000 years earlier when Aristotle posited in  in his “Rhetoric the the virtue of Emulation. 

Explaining why only a minority adopted this practice he wrote,  “ Emulation is felt most keenly of all,  by those with an honourable or noble disposition “


The  Rebbe was always urging his wide and varied audience to live by his own coined  adage , “ Action is Supreme “   .  In fact he was asking us to reach out to our non-Jewish neighbours both persuading them and helping them  in every possible way to observe the Seven Basic    Laws for Humanity.


Leading from the front , he was the very first one to challenge 

the Supreme Court Ruling in 1963, who by a majority of 5-4

upheld a challenge to the standard practice of all State school children saying a daily prayer, declaring it was an infringement of the Separation of State and Religion. His pleadings and warnings  of the bitter consequences which would ensue, went unheard but today,  some 56 years later his words are beginning to resonate.


In the wake of the recent tragic slaughters taking place indiscriminately in all houses of worship, the Rebbe’s   call for a “Moment of Silence” in all state schools  has gained ground in numerous States . It’s benefits have been demonstrated effectively lowering the overall crime rate .

Can we all respond to his call?

As usual and inevitably, the choice is ours.


Rabbi Faivish Vogel


Centre For Jewish Life



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