Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of reported anti-semitic incidents in the United States was 57% higher in 2017 than in 2016.
The data for 2018 are not yet in. Unfortunately, the massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh last month, in which 11 Jewish victims were killed by a lone gunman, suggests that 2018 will also show a dramatic increase.
Jerusalem-based author and Torah educator Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf connects the uptick in antisemitism with qeula (the End of Days).
He told Breaking Israel News, “What is unique about anti-semitism is that it is eventually about the desire to exterminate the Jewish people. It’s not just prejudice or racism. It comes down to extermination.
“The guy in Pittsburgh said it really clearly. I don’t know if anyone ever said it more clearly. ‘All Jews must die.’ That’s what he said. He nailed it.”
If the message of antisemitism is that all Jews must die, Apisdorf asks, “What is it about Jewish life and the existence of the Jewish people that is vital? What is the meaning of our existence? That’s the mirror being held up by anti-semitism.”
If anti-semitism is, as Apisdorf expressed, a tool to help Jewish people find deeper significance in their role, he also sees a positive message about the End of Days in the aftermath of the synagogue massacre.
“It’s coming about through an incredibly horrific event, but a real thing that’s coming about is that tons of non-Jews are coming to identify with a Jewish message,” Apisdorf told Breaking Israel News.
According to Apisdorf, one of the messages of geula is that “Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) is a doorway to HaKadosh Baruch Hu (God) for all mankind. The vision of Isaiah is a universal message.”
According to Apisdorf, the rise in anti-semitism in general, and the Pittsburgh massacre specifically, “has brought out a connection of human beings to one another, despite our differences. It is a core Jewish message to the world. We all need to see one another as b’tzelem elokim (created in the image of God).”
Apidorf referenced a recent headline of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that published the first four words of the Mourner’s Kaddish in Hebrew. “Pittsburgh[‘s paper of record] is saying the Kaddish, which doesn’t say anything about Jews or death. It’s about the recognition of God,” he emphasized.
The same day that headline appeared, NBC’s Nightly News host Lester Holt invited Cantor Azi Schwartz of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York to recite the full Mourner’s Kaddish prayer on network television.
Apidorf also referenced the video of CNN journalist Anderson Cooper who spoke, not about the murderer, but paid tribute to each of the 11 victims. Apisdorf pointed out that, by explicitly not naming the murderer, Cooper echoed the mitzvah (commandment) of blotting out the memory of Amalek and the Jewish curse of yemach shemo v’zichro – May his name and remembrance be obliterated.
In addition, many times, at the end of his brief profile of a victim, Cooper repeated their name and said, “We will remember.” This concept of remembering the deceased is very much a part of Jewish culture. In Hebrew, nizkor means we will remember. A related word, Yizkor, is a Jewish memorial service.
What Anderson Cooper’s video illuminated, said Apisdorf, was a “deeper recognition of the meaningfulness of life. All of the killer’s background pales next to who the victims were. [Cooper’s remembrance] touches on what’s common to all of us.”
Apisdorf offered one more lesson about the spiritual significance of anti-semitism. He quotes the well-known statement from the ancient text of Passover Haggadah. In that text, the rabbis emphasize that, in every generation, the Jewish people have faced anti-semitism.
And it is this which stood by our ancestors and by us, for not just one has risen up against us to destroy us, but in every single generation they rise up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their hand.
Apisdorf explained that the Hebrew word for this, as in “it is this which has stood by our ancestors” is the word v’hee. In Hebrew, v’hee is spelled vav, hey, yud, aleph. The numerical value of these letters, according to Apisdorf, are “an allusion to the source of our national endurance. How so?
As Apisdorf explained, the numerical value of the Hebrew letter vav is 6, which represents the six sections of the Talmud. The numerical value of the Hebrew letter hey is 5, which represents
the Five Books of Moses. The numerical value of the Hebrew letter yud is 10, which represents the Ten Commandments. And the numerical value of the Hebrew letter aleph is 1, which represents the central Jewish idea of the Oneness of God.
Jewish national endurance in the face of anti-semitism, according to Apisdorf’s teaching, comes from Torah and belief in God.
Jerusalem and Tzfat (Safed) Chaim David Targan, student of Torah and international speaker on topics related to geula, told Breaking Israel News that anti-semitism has deep, mystically spiritual roots.
“To properly understand anti-semitism from a Kabbalistic (mystical Jewish) perspective, one needs to be able to understand the multiplicity in creation – that things can happen for multiple reasons simultaneously, and in what often seems to be contradictory ways.
“We all need to truly understand that everything is from Hashem, including anti-semitism, which occurs for both known reasons and unknown reasons. However – and this is a big however – even though what happened has been deemed to have come from Hashem, it does not lessen the guilt or mitigate the punishment coming to the perpetrators.”
To illustrate this point, Targan cited the example of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt.
“Historically, Pharaoh was given the role of persecuting the Jews in Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian Emperor was given the role of destroying the Beit HaMikdash. [Ultimately] both of them were deemed horribly evil because they went way beyond the minimum that had to be done. They enjoyed and basked in the persecution of the Jews.”
Targan also connected anti-semitism to the End of Days, naming it “a wake-up call”.
“Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people), and most of the world, are still sleeping and need to be woken up that the geula, the Final Redemption, is here. Every tzaddik (saint) and every mekubal (Kabbalistic mystic) are in complete agreement on this.
“The only problem is that the vast majority are totally blind to what is happening in the world. There are several people speaking about this, and many of us focus on bringing emuna (faith) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem, achdut (unity), and the value of v’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha (loving one another) into the world.
“But most people are still sleeping and go through their everyday lives, like nothing is changing.
“The key here is that, at first, the wake-up calls were soft and sweet. But as people don’t respond, the wake-up calls will get much tougher and tougher.”
Targan concluded on a positive note, “Nonetheless, even with all of this, at the end, I believe very strongly, b’ezrat Hashem (with God’s help) that the geula will close off b’rachamim (with mercy and with sweetness).”