Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nobody Left to Hate

I've been thinking about a comment I read on someone else's blog, a comment that really disturbs me. I've been weighing the pros and cons of discussing this specific comment on my blog, and have decided that it is worth it for me to mention it.

This is what the comment said:

    The very worst people in America are the ones who are most attracted to Hollywood, the writers, directors, actors, the ruthlessly ambitious, the most narcissistic, the most contemptuous of religion, the self-absorbed, the biggest know-it-alls, the least susceptible to any appeal to reason or decency.
    Email me if you need the source.

The reason I am so disturbed by this comment is not necessarily because of the statement (although I do disagree) but by the gross generalization, and moreover, by the hatred I see in this person's words. The vitriolic, angry, venomous response of someone who does not only disagree with the values of the aforementioned "writers, directors, actors" but who blames them all, and categorizes them as "the very worst people in America."

The very worst people in America?!

I confess I am shocked.

There are people in America who burn down synagogues. Who create white supremacist websites, or act in a racist fashion, who are anti-semitic and anti-Zionistic. There are terrorists in America, people ranging from the Unabomber to undercover groups we the public know little about. There are people who deny the Holocaust in America. There are people who beat up homosexuals in America. There are abusive husbands in America. There are murderers in America.

And yet, it is the "writers, directors, actors" who are the worst people in America. And why? Because they are "contemptuous of religion." Because they want to make "gobs of money." Because they are "self-absorbed."

Are these reasons to categorize them as the worst people in America?

Look at these people. Look at what they do. They are involved in movies that change people's lives, movies that make people think; they support various causes and they use their fame to start and become involved in charities.

Can we criticize them? Certainly we can! Can we find fault with them? Definitely! Can we come up with myriads of ways that what they are doing is wrong/ suggest ulterior motives for their actions, like claiming that they act or direct simply for the money and not for the cause? Of course. But does this accomplish anything? And moreover, are we in their position? Who are we to judge?

I am sure there will be those of you who will say, "Chana, you know that's not what the commenter meant. S/he used the word 'worst' in order to denounce them; it was a strong form of the word, but s/he didn't really mean these people are the worst people in America."

And all I will ask you is- if s/he didn't mean it, why did s/he write it?

Words are important.

Words can kill.

The phrasing of a sentence, the tone of a statement, the delivery of a remark- everything revolves around words. Our voice is our most powerful instrument. The way we speak, the words that come to mind, the language we use- all of this reflects not only upon us, but upon our message. And it's easy to say "that wasn't what I meant." But if you didn't mean it, why did you say it? Why did you write it?

In my opinion, the way we write reflects on us. The way we speak reflects on us. And our words reflect upon ourselves as people. And what these words seem to say- what this comment seems to say- is that the writer is dismissive of these people. The commenter believes these people are worthless, of if they have worth, it is only because they object to the truth, and hence are an obstacle in the commenter's drive to enforce his/her own views.

This post is not meant to denounce the commenter. I don't want this to be turned into a bashing-this-person lovefest. I do, however, want to draw a lesson from this.

I've picked what I view as an extreme example- somebody making a large generalization, and reacting to a body of people with what I think most would agree is undeserved anger and hatred.

But we all do this. I have done it. I've been caught up in the moment and I've been angry, and when my opponent or fellow classmate persists in disagreeing with me, I'm upset. But I'm not upset with myself, rather, I'm upset with that classmate. Inwardly I'll call the person lots of names, and maybe I'll pat myself on the back because I know I'm so much smarter than that person. Or maybe because I know I'm right.

And when somebody calls me on this behavior, I'll become defensive, and ask questions like, "What are you talking about?" or say that I was fully justified in answering/ acting as I did, because after all, I was right. Most times, however, the fact that I'm becoming defensive is based upon my own feelings of guilt. Because I know- somewhere, within me, even though I don't want to admit it- that this person is right. That I have been unkind. But I won't admit it because I have a lot of pride, and I don't want to have to say that my behavior was wrong.

And the hardest thing of all is to realize that you are right (especially if this is about something unquestionable, i.e. the correct answer to a math problem), firmly believe that you are right, and still act in a kind fashion towards the person who is confronting you/ refusing to listen to you/ doesn't care for your opinion. Because you are frustrated.

I should clarify now that there is a difference between someone who simply does agree with you, and someone who verbally abuses you. There are times when one is fully justified in feeling angry towards another person and even hating another person. This is when one has been provoked by verbal, emotional, sexual or any other form of abuse. When someone else belittles you, bullies you, puts you down and mocks you- you must defend yourself. And if you cannot succeed in changing the situation, there are times when you must remove yourself from that situation. This is not cowardly and this is not an escape. It is self-defense.

But that is not the same as feeling anger and hatred toward somebody because they don't agree with your point of view. That is a human reaction, but it is also a reaction that I believe we- or I- can learn to control, or at the very least, restrain. I can refrain from acting upon this, and as I grow, I can try to learn to listen.

It's difficult for me to listen. Or rather, it's difficult for me to listen when someone is dashing all my ideas to the ground, disagreeing with me in a loud and articulate fashion, or telling me that my opinion/ my ideas are wrong. There are times that I've mastered the impulse to respond angrily, and I'm proud of that. There are also times that I've sulked and grumbled and gone home and mulled over the conversation, and felt slightly ashamed of myself. But I didn't know how to fix it, and I still don't entirely know.

There is, however, an idea that is central to Jewish law and to the Torah, an idea that is prevalent in many cultures and could even be perceived as an innate moral value/feeling- or perhaps in a scientific manner, as the best bargain or tradeoff one could make:

On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.' Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand.12 When he went before Hillel, he said to him, 'What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour:13 that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.'

Shabbat 31a

    and also:

      יז לֹא-תִשְׂנָא אֶת-אָחִיךָ, בִּלְבָבֶךָ; הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת-עֲמִיתֶךָ, וְלֹא-תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא.
      17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.

      יח לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה.
      18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

      Leviticus 19: 17-18

    I have formerly mentioned that there are certain situations where one has been hurt (in the Torah we see it by the go'el hadam, rape, incest, and nowadays physical/verbal/emotional abuse) where this ideal/ law would not apply. But I do not refer to those situations.

    The Torah states this law in the positive: "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

    Hillel states it in the negative: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor."

    There are many commentaries and sources that deal with these verses, and each explains them differently. I will not deal with them in their complexity, so feel free to look at some other explanations here.

    I would like to suggest that the Torah states the ideal, while Hillel deals with the practicality. The ideal is for Jews to actually feel a sensation of love towards other Jews, but if one cannot fulfill this, then at the very least there should be an absence of hate, and if that is impossible, then at least one should not act upon that hatred, namely not to "do" what is hateful to you to your neighbor.

    And yet so many Jews hate other Jews.

    Oh, perhaps they wouldn't call it hatred- many people hide their anger and hatred behind shields of observance, claiming that they must give "rebuke," or that certain people are past all forgiveness, even considered "open sinners" who lead others astray and therefore must be stopped through any means possible; others simply state that certain people in and of Judaism are misguided, but it is their tone of voice when they say this word that makes it into an epithet rather than an observation.

    I would not call this hatred "si'nas chinam," because oftentimes it does not feel like chinam. Oftentimes people hate their fellow Jews because they believe they should and ought to hate them. Maybe it is because they feel these Jews are leading others astray, or perhaps it is because they are projecting their own faults and blemishes upon them. This is not hatred based on nothing; this is hatred based on incorrect analysis and understanding of the law.

    There's a brilliant book by Stanford professor and psychologist Elliot Aronson called Nobody Left to Hate. The idea behind the book is to deal with the aftermath of Columbine, not merely through proposing "quick-fix" solutions but through thinking about the long-term causes of the problem, and attempting to fix those as well. Aronson gives an example at the beginning of his book to demonstrate the way in which one should fix a problem. This is a quote from the review:

    "Aronson invites us to consider the steps that British epidemiologists took in the mid 19th century when confronted with a cholera epidemic. Upon determining that the cases clustered around a particular contaminated well, they first removed the pump-handle, so that no more water could be drawn from it. They did not stop with this measure, however; they then addressed the root cause of the epidemic, that is, the contamination itself, which arose from the proximity of latrines to the water supply. In analogous fashion, Aronson acknowledges the need to curb media violence, enact more stringent gun-control measures, and in some schools perhaps even resort to the use of metal detectors (although, in the latter case he is quick to note that doing so increases rather than decreases the oppressiveness of the learning environment). But he insists that we must address the root causes as well and transform our schools in a more fundamental fashion. That is, we must take steps to curb taunting and ostracism, to develop empathetic skills and values in students, and to create learning environments that actively encourage cooperation and tolerance. "

    This approach is one to be valued and encouraged. Not only is there a "quick-fix" solution, but one takes into account the long-ranging factors, terms and causes of a problem. Blame is only used as an avenue towards constructive criticism and not as a way to escape from the effects of a problem or situation.

    From Chapter 1 of his book:

      The need to blame is fully understandable. But if we truly want to address the problem, if we truly want to prevent future tragedies of this kind, then it is vital to make a clear distinction between two kinds of blaming: 1) The blaming that is aimed at finding the cause of the disaster so that we might come up with a workable intervention; 2) The blaming that is mere condemnation. Condemnation is a great indoor sport. It somehow makes us feel less helpless if we can unmask a culprit who we can then proceed to vilify. If we decide that the culprit is a school administration that was asleep at the switch, then we can demand that the school principal be fired. But firing a principal will not solve the problem. If we decide the culprit was lax parenting, then perhaps we can humiliate or sue the parents of the killers. But humiliating and suing the killers' parents will not solve the problem either. This kind of blaming is a simple knee-jerk response. It won't do us much good in the long run.

    Aronson is discussing Columbine, but his strategies can impact and affect our lives and situations as well. Most times, people assign blame as "mere condemnation." The comment that I addressed in this post, namely that referring to the "worst" people in America, simply assigns blame in a condemnatory fashion. The commenter does not discuss a plan in which to reform the aforementioned people, does not demonstrate ways in which we could attempt to fix [what the commenter views as] the problem. The comment is made in anger, lashing out at Hollywood and its morals/ values without considering the grand scheme of things, the good that Hollywood has done for us and the world, and the fact that there are far worse people in the world.

    What intrigues me most about Aronson's book, however, is his concept. It's extremely radical, and yet it is the same concept that exists within Judaism. As he put it,

      ...this book is about creating an atmosphere in which there is nobody left to hate. It is intended to provide parents and teachers with the tools to make schools more humane and more compassionate places, without sacrificing the basic academic material students are supposed to learn. There is nothing mutually exclusive about learning biology, literature, and calculus while also learning important human values. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the one will enhance the other.

    This is an incredibly radical concept. The idea that there could be a world where there would be "nobody left to hate."

    I do not believe that practically speaking, we will ever achieve a world where we all agree. I do not even think we will achieve a world where we will all listen to one another. And I do not really think that hatred can be eradicated from our world, at least not so long as existence continues in the form and manner that it always has.

    But I think this concept is worth thinking about. The concept of this book is that we could work to create- even within our small, limited or confined space, within our home or workplace or school- a place where there would be "nobody left to hate."

    Where people would be more "humane and more compassionate."

    I don't want to apply this concept to the entire world. But I would like to try to apply it to the Jewish community.

    I think that we can disagree with one another, even think that there are some people who are completely mad out there, and still not hate one another. Or at least, not hate one another because one person is Reform and one person is Orthodox. Because one person is homosexual and the other is a Hollywood actor. Because one person is an Atheist and the other Reconstructionist. Instead of trying to come up with labels to divide us all and separate us, instead of trying to compile and create lists of our differences, we should be focusing on the thing that unites us all.

    We are all of us Jews.

    And in the broader sense and scheme of things, we are all human.

    And there is a way, yes there is a way, that we could love each other even if we disagree. That you could be an atheist and think everything I do is foolish and outdated, or an agnostic and consider believing in God backward, you could be a fervent religious adherent, or you could feel reverence toward the beauty of our world but see it in ways different than I do. The name-calling, labels, distinctions and differences do not help us. We are all the same where it truly matters.

    We are all Jews.

    And since we share that common identity, since we share that fact, there must be a way to disagree with somebody's ideas without devaluing the person. Certainly, you might say that the person's ideas define the person. But I think that in a rational, well-mannered discussion or conversation, we should be able to distinguish between what somebody writes and the person himself. We should be able to say, "I disagree with your philosophy/ belief system/ values, but that does not mean I think you are worthless."

    We challenge the ideas without challenging the worth of the person.

    Have I always done this? No, I have not. And as I've said, I think there are certain situations that are exceptions to this rule- places where a person's actions define them insomuch as I can understand hatred of them. But I am speaking of smaller matters, like the way we converse. The way we use our words, both on the blogosphere and at home. The difference between being correct and generalizing.

    And I am also speaking about compassion.

    If we truly felt compassion and love for human beings, if we could mentally put ourselves in their shoes, there would be no way we could or would ever allow words that blame them, that categorize them as the "worst" people in America, to come out of our mouths. We couldn't say those words, because we would choke on them.

    Because we wouldn't be calling someone else- somebody detached from us and therefore unimportant- names. We wouldn't be calling outsiders, people who are different from us, unlike us, names. We would be calling ourselves names. We would be labelling ourselves, categorizing ourselves as the "worst people in America."

    We are supposed to judge people favorably. It is the hardest thing in the world to do. When I am frustrated, I have difficulty viewing people in a good light. I have difficulty excusing their actions, and I find that I am quick to categorize them as being a certain type of person. And then, one day, I see them perform some action/ do something amazing that makes me rethink my judgement of them, and realize that they are not necessarily who I thought they were.

    I want us to try. I want us- all of, at the very least those of us in the Jewish community- to try this. To try to love other people with a form of unconditional love in addition to conditional love. Love them unconditionally simply because they are Jews, love them despite the fact that they irritate you, they seem to be practicing the wrong philosophy, they don't agree with your ideas, they think you're foolish or any other seemingly petty reasons.

    Take the case of a murderer or idol-worshiper.

    He is not simply condemned to death. No! There is a trial, and there are many situations where he is set free. Even more remarkable and more interesting, it's almost as though we really want him to live. Look what happens:


      Sanhedrin 42b

    But not only is a man deliberately stationed outside the door to instantly ride back and tell the court they must judge him again because he may yet save his life, the community is involved in this man's death as well.

      A MAN WAS STATIONED. R. Huna said: It is obvious to me that the stone with which one is stoned, the gallows on which one is hanged, the sword with which one is decapitated, and the cloth with which one is strangled, are all provided by the Community. And why so? Because we could not tell a man to go and fetch his own property to kill himself. But, asked R. Huna, who provides the flag for signalling and the horse on which one rides to stop them?18 Seeing that they are for his protection, must they be provided by him, or rather, since the court is bound to endeavour to save him, by them? Again, what of R. Hiyya b. Ashi's dictum in R. Hisda's name; When one is led out to execution, he is given a goblet of wine containing a grain of frankincense, in order to benumb his senses, for it is written, Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul.19 And it has also been taught; The noble women in Jerusalem used to donate and bring it. If these did not donate it, who provided it? As for that, it is certainly logical that it should be provided out of the public [funds]: Since it is written. 'Give', [the implication is] of what is theirs.

      Sanhedrin 43a

    I think the ideas expressed in this section are amazing.

    Because you would think nobody would care about the death of someone who broke the law. You might think we would consider him a sinner, deserving of death. You might think we would hate him, yell "Good riddance," once he dies.

    But no. Look at how we treat him.

    1. The Community provides the instruments of death, "Because we could not tell a man to go and fetch his own property to kill himself. "

    2. And because we do not want him to suffer so much, "he is given a goblet of wine containing a grain of frankincense, in order to benumb his senses, for it is written, Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul.19 "

    This is the man we might consider most deserving of our hatred- a sinner, an idol-worshipper or murderer who is to be executed! and yet look at the law.

    It would be a beautiful thing indeed if Jews would love other Jews- if we had a community where we cared about the death of the sinners as well.

    If we could ever reach the time where there was "nobody left to hate."


    MUST Gum Addict said...

    One of the hardest things to do is to be non-judgemental of others. Sure, we like to be right all the time, and likewise, we hate being wrong. But we often don't have enough information or details to tell others that they are wrong.

    In today's fast paced world, it's often too easy to pass judgement on others, and that makes it all the more difficult to deal with.

    As always Chana, a great post, that reminds us to keep an open (though not naive) mind.

    Jewish Atheist said...

    People hate because they don't know how to empathize. If you can't imagine yourself in someone else's shoes, you have no hope of understanding them.

    See the touchy issue of stories or movies that depict terrorists as human beings. People get up in arms about this phenomenon, but who can deny that terrorists are in fact people? We have much more to gain from understanding them than we do from blind hatred.

    To understand is not to condone, but too many people have trouble understanding this.

    This is an area where I think the Eastern religions are far ahead of the Western ones, as they are practiced. Rabbi Hillel (and Jesus, too) spoke wise words, but they aren't focused on enough. Buddhists, however, routinely meditate on compassion, and nonviolence is a key Buddhist teaching.

    Tobie said...

    Incredible post, Chana, and I agree with everything that you've said except for the following:

    >I would not call this hatred "si'nas chinam," because oftentimes it does not feel like chinam. Oftentimes people hate their fellow Jews because they believe they should and ought to hate them

    In my opinion, that's exactly what Sinat Chinam is. Nobody ever in the history of mankind has thought, "Oh, I'm hating this person for no reason whatsoever. Just for kicks!" There is always an excuse to hate. And the sinat chinam that brought down the beit hamikdash was exactly the same thing. I mean, those people had as much reason to hate as anyone alive today. Zealots burning down your grain storehouses and getting your whole city killed? Moderates who are willing to sell out to Romans to save their own skins? Both sides using some less than noble means of attacking one another?

    But that doesn't make it less chinam. There is no reason to hate, even your enemy. It's not easy, but the ideal attitude is to love everyone. Even the evil, in a way. I mean, I don't think I could pull it off in all cases, but there should be some level of love even for those we execute. Even in the act of execution. Because very, very few people have forfeited their humanity and humanity is the image of G-d.
    Hatred is a denial of that beauty that is humanity, and as such it harms, not your enemy, but yourself. For any cause.

    Okay, now I'm just re-stating your beautifully put point. Sorry, I just...very strongly agree.

    Fern Sidman said...



    Columbia University students including the College Conservatives and campus Democrats plan to protest a speech Wednesday by a professor who has written that Jewish organizations exploit the Holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and to extort European banks and governments for compensation.

    Norman Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago, wrote in his 2000 book "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that some Jews have used the Holocaust as an "extortion racket" to get compensation payments, and he has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as the "resident clown" of the "Holocaust circus."

    His most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on lawyer Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it he argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a bully weapon to stifle criticism.

    In an editorial in Columbia University's student newspaper, The Columbia Spectator, Columbia sophomores, Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky write the following: "Those who assume that Finkelstein is just another "controversial" speaker, one of many in Columbia's recent past, fail to grasp the absurdity that is Finkelstein. Taking a job at DePaul University after being fired by New York University for his ludicrous and factually inaccurate book, The Holocaust Industry, this "scholar" makes his living off of absurd statements that garner comfortable speaking engagements. At a recent speech delivered at Yale University, Finkelstein equated the Jewish concern over Holocaust denial with a "level of mental hysteria." Clearly, we must first question his very "professorship." Anyone who so blatantly disregards facts and vehemently supports the murder of innocent children is worthy neither of academia nor of the title of professor.

    Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein's crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, "Frankly, part of me says—even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare—'You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'"

    It is this sentiment that forces students to take a stand against Finkelstein's unique blend of pure idiocy and potent evil. Columbia attempts to teach its students to respect all opinions, listen to all viewpoints, and embrace the free exchange of ideas. We will listen, but we will not let a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil go unnoticed."

    In defense of Professor Finkelstein, the Columbia Spectator also published the views of Arab students. Maryum Saifee and Athar Abdul-Quader who write, "Finkelstein's critics, most notably Alan Dershowitz, charge Finkelstein with anti-Semitism precisely because of his criticism of Zionism, i.e. criticism of the Israeli occupation and Israeli state-sponsored human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. This isn't the first time that a reputable scholar has been typecast as anti-Semitic for critical views against Israeli policies (see David Horowitz's The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America). Undoubtedly, anti-Semitism is an ugly, appalling form of bigotry that deserves universal condemnation. However, Zionism is a political ideology and must never be confused with the Jewish religion, culture, or population. Contrary to the anti-American label commonly placed on Finkelstein, his critique of political Zionism is precisely the type of controversial political discourse that is characteristically American and is analogous to the College Democrats' stimulating debate on the Bush administration.

    Finkelstein is often met with accusations of Holocaust revisionism, generally associated with Holocaust denial. Finkelstein's book The Holocaust Industry is actually a critique of Holocaust revisionist arguments that privilege the Holocaust as exceptional in the historiography of genocide. Far from the Anti-Defamation League's claims that Finkelstein is a Holocaust denier, his proof is an unambiguous affirmation that the Holocaust did occur -- his parents are living proof of its horrors! -- noting that the tragedy of the Holocaust has since been ruthlessly exploited and commercialized into what Finkelstein outlines as an industry to promote Zionist interests."

    In Norman Finkelstein's own words, he states, "The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they're still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me," and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world."

    There is no question that Professor Norman G. Finkelstein is a self hating, viciously anti-Semitic Jew. One of his biggest supporters is David Irving, the Holocaust denier who was recently sentenced to three years in prison by an Austrian court for statements he made denying the veracity of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that Finkelstein in the son of Holocaust survivors, his vituperative and twisted and patently distorted logic is being embraced the world over by legions of devoted Jew haters.

    We are told that a person can be honest, decent, moral and ethical without belief in G-d. We know that at the beginning of the 20th century, the false gods of education and culture began to replace the One true G-d of Israel. Jews began to believe that a moral and ethical person was one who was highly educated, one who attended the best of most prestigious universities and institutions of higher learning. We believed that an educated and cultured person was a moral person, who would never even entertain the notion of murder, of dishonesty and engaging in unethical practices.

    At the beginning of World War II, that fallacy fell apart at the seams. For it was highly educated and extremely cultured German scientists who invented the gas chambers, who invented techniques to transform Jewish fat into soap and who discovered ways of making Jewish skin into lampshades. It was highly educated and cultured lawyers who devised and created laws that developed a society predicated on racism, fascism and xenophobia.

    Let us never be fooled. "Reishis Chochma Yiras AdoShem". The beginning of wisdom is the fear and knowledge of G-d. Without that we have nothing. Without that, even highly educated and cultured people can and do engage in immorality, unethical conduct and become purveyors of lies, hatred, distortions, bigotry and Jew hatred. Professor Finkelstein is the personification of such evil.

    Chana said...

    Professor Finkelstein is the personification of such evil.


    First, I do not think that Professor Finkelstein is evil. What he thinks may be wrong and/or biased in our point of view. We may not believe the Holocaust is a racketeering money-grubbing industry. But if this man believes this, does that instantaneously make him a Jew hater? If he thinks that the Jews cannot rationally make a claim to the land of Israel, is he really an Anti-Semite? I think not- perhaps we might see him as assimilated, but I do not think (based on your article) he hates Jews so much as his conception of Jews- people who are, according to him, uninfluenced by logic and reason and who proudly wear a badge of victimization on their sleeve when they should (according to him) feel ashamed of their past. But does this mean we say this man is evil?

    He may be wrong, his logic may be twisted, and he may be (according to some) a sinner, but do we hate him because of this? Do we lash out at him?

    I say no.

    Because he's still a Jew, and we are to love Jews.

    From Berachos 10a:

    There were once some highwaymen3 in the neighbourhood of R. Meir who caused him a great deal of trouble. R. Meir accordingly prayed that they should die. His wife Beruria4 said to him: How do you make out [that such a prayer should be permitted]? Because it is written Let hatta'im cease? Is it written hot'im?5 It is written hatta'im!6 Further, look at the end of the verse: and let the wicked men be no more. Since the sins will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should repent, and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they repented.


    This is how we are to deal with people like Professor Finkelstein. We believe him to be misguided. Then let us pray for them to repent/ attempt to influence them with rational arguments/ reasonable claims.

    There should be nobody left to hate- nobody in the world, even the "self-hating Jews."

    So can we feel love for Professor Finkelstein? Maybe, maybe not. But at the very least- we should not (and to clarify, I don't think you were advocating this) hate him.

    B. Spinoza said...

    why is it more important to love Jews over non-Jews? Instead of dividing the world between Jews and everyone else, we should emphasize the things which we all have in common, i.e. our humanity and the one reality which we all live in.

    Doesn't the focus on Jewish people take away from the broader goal of loving everyone?

    Chana said...

    b. spinoza-

    Definitely. Definitely we should love everyone because of our common humanity. But we have to start somewhere, and my example was that we could start within the Jewish community, because there is so much divisiveness between the sections and factions. That would be a springboard to including and loving everyone.

    So as a long-term goal, your point is very well taken. I just want to start somewhere smaller.

    Aaron said...

    Agreed, the people attracted to Hollywood are not the most evil people. Nice post -

    Ezzie said...

    But we have to start somewhere, and my example was that we could start within the Jewish community, because there is so much divisiveness between the sections and factions. That would be a springboard to including and loving everyone.

    One of my favorite quotes, from R' Yisrael Salanter - I think you'll appreciate it: "I wanted to change the world, but I realized it was too large of a task for one person, so I tried to change my community. That was also too hard, so I tried to change my family. That was also too hard, so I decided to try and change myself. And though it was very hard, I finally changed myself. And once I changed myself, I discovered my family changed, the community changed, and the entire world changed."

    Chana said...

    All right, Ezzie, since I don't want to misjudge you...why do you see me appreciating that quote?

    e-kvetcher said...

    Fern writes:
    the false gods of education and culture began to replace the One true G-d of Israel.

    Isn't anyone else going to react to this statement?

    Ezzie said...

    LOL Chana - that was intended as a compliment. The point is we have to do exactly as you say - focus on the root of problems, which is often individual perceptions, expectations, and biases; people refusing to see things from any point of view but their own.

    The best way to change the world is for all of us to improve ourselves, not try and improve the whole world at once. One of the many ways to understand R' Salanter's quote is that as one person changes, the people around them will look at them as examples to look up to - and then they will change. This slowly spreads to encompass the world.

    Change the world, Chana - you're one of those who can really have an impact.

    And you're off to a great start.

    Good Shabbos!

    Halfnutcase said...

    people often seem to believe they mabye have some kind of sense of entitlement, and this is what creates this sinas chinam. when we feel we are entitled, we feel things should be as we say they should, and we begin to dislike things that differ from our preconception.

    put elsewise, our world is litteraly what we make it, if we say "the world will provide me and my fellows with our needs" then behold you will see that the world will do so. for our attidudes create reality, and bend reality around it. when he hold a positive view of life, this is felt by the people around us and we treat them better, and in turn they treat us better, their point of view becomse better, and the reality spreads. you see a poor man? you tell your self i have plenty, and hashem will provide, but if i shouldn't provide perhaps noone else will notice R"L, and therefore we give the poor man and he feels better. be first to extend your self in every case, better be the tail to lions than a head for foxes. with each and every positive view in our hearts, we will reflect with action, and so on untill the entire fabric of our reality is changed and we find our selves in a better world, with our fathers.

    if but one person would renounce sinas chinam, the entire world would follow suit, therefore each and every one should work at himself daily to remove every speck of animosity both towards himself and others untill he becomse a great light to infect others with goodness.

    Semgirl said...

    A freilichen Purim, Chana... Phenomenal job like usual..

    Juggling Mother said...

    It's difficult for me to listen. Or rather, it's difficult for me to listen when someone is dashing all my ideas to the ground, disagreeing with me in a loud and articulate fashion, or telling me that my opinion/ my ideas are wrong

    That's where my secularism comes in handy. I am quite willing to listen to other opinions, debate them & change my mind or not as I decide. A disagreement with my beliefs and opinions is not an attack on me, it is just proof that everyone is different.

    When I and my sister discuss events from our childhood we come up with vastly different accounts, because we see the world in a different way, and from our own perspective. If pople so close can differ on opnions, surely people from different backgrounds, cultures & nations will do so. a lot. neither view is necessarily right of wrong. often both will be justified. I try to learn from the differences of opinion & accept people as they are.

    obviousy, i will argue my own side. especially if we are looking at a moral difference. But i can accept that we will not always reach an agreement. i hope that we can reach an understanding.

    on another note: "Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein's crime?"

    I have no idea. has he commited a crime? i don't think so. he has expressed an opinion. lets be honest, somewhere in every public pronouncement there is "some truth" - even in Bin Ladens vitriol! And do some Jews "exploit" the holocaust? well, there are some who certinly exploit the public shame that is felt about what happened. I've seen it many times. I've even done it to a very monor extent, years ago, when being horrendously bullied at school, I repeatedly asked for help from the teachers. All to no avail. i could turn up bleeding, bruised, straight from hospital, but they would turn a lind eye. then I hit upon the solution; "he called me a dirty Yid" I claimed. Wham, teachers came running to assist, investigate & solve the problem before any word of the Nazi bully could get out.

    "For it was highly educated and extremely cultured German scientists who invented the gas chambers, who invented techniques to transform Jewish fat into soap and who discovered ways of making Jewish skin into lampshades. It was highly educated and cultured lawyers who devised and created laws that developed a society predicated on racism, fascism and xenophobia.

    All those things were known and used for many, many centuries before the Nazi's turned up (although not necessarily specifically or only against Jews).

    "We know that at the beginning of the 20th century, the false gods of education and culture began to replace the One true G-d of Israel"

    That is possibly one of the most scary statements I have ever read on a reasoned blog! Is he really saying that Education & Culture are intrinsically bad? Wrong? against religion? Against God? I have only ever seen stuff like that accepted on major fundemental creationist sites & some of the very scary muslim propaganda distributed!

    hmmm, I seem to have taken up a bit more coment space than I meant to. I'll try to be shorter in future:-0

    Happy Purim - always my favourite festival:-)

    Anonymous said...

    It was many years ago we first selected Top Restaurants in the U.S. See it.

    Anonymous said...

    Overview of state health insurance laws and activities.