Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chief Rabbi Hertz on Antisemitism

While looking for reading material for Tisha B'Av I came across this sermon (or short booklet, depending on how you view things) from Chief Rabbi Hertz.

It is dated "First Day of Sukkot" (though he calls it 'Tabernacles') "1922" and addresses the current increase in antisemitism. Any discussion of antisemitism today is in the context of the holocaust. It is very intersting to see what antisemitism looked like to Jews in England before the holocaust.

CR Hertz's starting point is the verse of kiddush Hashem. Jews represent G-d and religion wherever they go and whatever they do.

" Ye shall not profane My holy Name, but I will be hallowed among the Children of Israel."

He explains the importance of going beyond the letter of the law in dealings with non-Jews, citing the example of Shimon ben Shetach returning the gem which his students took from an Arab (sic.).

Thus, every Israelite holds the honour of his faith and of his entire people in his hands; and a single Jew's offence can bring slander on the whole House of Israel.

I think this message is still relevant today. As is what it can lead to:

I will not, on a festive day, dwell on the fiendish slaughter of 150,000
Jewish men, women and children in the Ukraine during the years 1919 and 1920; on the torture and murder inflicted on so many of our brethren in Hungary: on the tidal wave of hysterical intolerance that swept during these years over Western democracies even, and resulted in exhibitions of anti-Semitism that would have been absolutely unbelievable ten years ago.

Wow! If only he had known how bad things were going to get! And they were absolutely unbelievable in 1922.

We looked to the common sense and the enlightenment of the age to laugh such insane vapourings out of court. We certainly did not expect that this grotesque
myth, founded on malice and hysteria, built up of garbled history and synthetized by impudent forgery, would be taken seriously by anyone. We soon learned that in the words of the Prophetical Lesson of this Festival — our day was a day without daylight, when the heavenly luminaries contracted themselves. We found that the leaders of opinion in various lands resigned their sacred task of moral guidance. With very few exceptions, they either remained silent in the presence of all this malicious indictment of a whole race, or they shamelessly swelled the howling of the mob.

The entire pamphlet is here. It is only about 10 pages of text. It certainly put me in a depressed mood for 9 Av.

1 comment:

  1. From my blog, an entry titled "Semag – why we’re still in galus". Here is how I translated the Sema"g, asei #74 "hashavas aveidah":

    I already expounded to the exiled from Jerusalem who are in Spain and the other Roman exiles that now that the exile has gon on far too long, it is appropriate for Israel to separate from the vanities of the world and gram onto the signet of the Holy One, blessed be He, which is truth, and not to lie neither to Jew nor to gentile. Not to mislead them in any way. To sanctify themselves even in what is permitted to them, as it says, “The remnant of Israel do not commit sin, do not speak lies, and one won’t find a false tongue in their mouths.” (Tzefaniah 3:13) And when Hashem comes to save them, the nations will say, “It was done justly, for they are a people of truth and the Torah of truth is in their mouths.” But if they act with the gentiles with trickery, they will say, “See what the Holy One, blessed be He did, that chose for His portion thieves and con-men.” Also, it says, “I will plant her [the Jewish People] for myself in the land…” (Hosheia 2:25) A person doesn’t plant a kur [of seed] but to produce numerous kurim. So too the Holy One, blessed be He, planted Israel among the lands so that converts will join them (Pesachim 87b) and every time that they conduct themselves with tricker, who will attach to them?