Rabbi Leo Dee

By Rabbi Leo Dee

In 1938, it was Germany, Poland, and Lithuania that determined the Final Solution to the “Jewish Problem.” Today, the world has once again risen up against Israel and the Jewish people. The full horror of what we are facing is becoming more obvious each day. The hatred toward us has reached genocidal proportions. Do we have a future? We have always seen ourselves as G-d’s chosen people, a light unto the nations. Where did we go wrong?

At our Seder tables we sing, “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us…” And when we look at the news today, we can see that our generation is no different from previous ones. But also, in keeping with the Seder, we find ourselves asking, “What makes our nation different from every other nation?”

Many rabbis will say that our origins as a nation differ from every other nation in that we witnessed Hashem’s presence as a group at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago. No other religion or group makes such a claim. The New Testament claims that Jesus was resurrected in front of a small number of his followers. The Koran claims that an angel appeared to Mohammed and told him that he would be the last prophet.

Moreover, both Christianity and Islam use the Hebrew Bible as the starting point for their beliefs. As Rabbi Yehuda Halevi points out in his book, “The Kuzari,” the Jewish people’s relationship with Hashem is like a family. We have an unbroken chain with Hashem going back to our first encounter, and that encounter is also the basis of verification for Christianity and Islam. Strangely, the authenticity of their religions is based on their belief that we Jews met Hashem (but He later changed His mind).

Because Jews are the people to whom Hashem chose to reveal Himself, we are His witnesses in the world, perhaps even His judges. In the words of Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, this creates a massive challenge for those who wish to be immoral today. They have two main options of how to deal with the Jews. They can either choose to emulate us and match our moral standard, or they can choose, like Hitler and Hamas, to try and destroy us and redefine their own brand of “morality.”

Historically, totalitarian regimes that wanted to subjugate the world by force opted for the latter strategy. This includes the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Nazis, and now the Jihadi Muslims. In fact, Hitler explained in “Mein Kampf” that in order to take over the world, he first had to destroy the Jews as they would be the only people who could stand in his way.

Fortunately, the modern world has mostly adopted the first approach to Judaism, that of emulating us. This is the topic of my book, “Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity.” One of the examples I give is that of Shabbat. In the ancient world, the masters would delegate work to their slaves, who were expected to work seven days a week. The Torah introduced the concept that everyone should be given a day off each week. Christians adopted the Shabbat, but chose to make it on Sunday. Muslims chose to make it on Friday. However, the origin of their Sabbaths remains enshrined in many languages. For example, in Italian, Saturday is called Sabato, not Sunday. In Arabic, Saturday is called Al-Sabt, not Friday. There are many other examples of Torah-derived innovations that transformed our world from barbarism to civilization. We introduced the ideas of compulsory education, community centers, the institution of marriage, and so much more.

So, we haven’t gone wrong. In fact, if anything, we may have over-performed. A sign of the good that we represent is the reaction from the most evil elements of society. In the wake of the October 7 pogrom, those who oppose everything we stand for chose to identify themselves by marching down the streets of London, New York, and Paris, shouting support for barbaric terrorists. If the role of the Jewish people is to spread G-d’s light in the world, then the world woke up on October 8 to see a new light shining on Zion. This light could potentially enable many countries around the world to wake up to the threat of Jihadism. This war could be the first battle in a transformational phase for mankind.

May Hashem bring our hostages and soldiers home swiftly and in good health. May He bring the redemption speedily in our days, Amen. n

 

Rabbi Leo Dee is British-born educator who lives in Efrat. His book, “Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity,” has been published in both English and Hebrew and is dedicated to the memory of his wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina, who were murdered by terrorists in April 2023.

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