The Final Test?

Mrs. Esther Wein recently shared with me a dvar Torah that she heard many years ago from her grandfather Rabbi Shimon Schwab, zt”l, which may have application to the rampant anti-Semitism that has exploded around the world in the wake of Operation Protective Edge.

Rabbi Schwab asked what average Egyptians did to merit the terrible punishments that befell them in the course of the plagues. And what was the nature of the individual judgment on those Egyptians who drowned at Yam Suf? After all, it was Pharaoh who refused to allow the bnei Yisrael to leave Egypt. Was every citizen of Egypt culpable for not have revolted against Pharaoh to force him to grant thebnei Yisrael permission to escape?

He answered that the litmus test for the average Egyptian came when Pharaoh added to the burden of the bnei Yisrael by requiring them to collect their own straw while retaining the same quota of bricks as before. The Jews, the Torah relates, had no choice but to fan out across Egypt in search of straw. Rabbi Schwab speculated that they were forced to knock on the doors of the Egyptians in their quest, and that the Egyptians were subsequently judged according to the manner in which they treated the Jewish slaves who beseeched them for straw.

That search for straw was the immediate prelude for the ten Makkos. In other words, each Egyptian was tested before the plagues began.

MRS. WEIN, today a well-known teacher of Torah, speculated that perhaps Hashem is testing our enemies in a similar fashion today. Rarely does an issue of such moral clarity present itself as the rights and wrongs of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Let us start with the events immediately leading up to Operation Preventive Shield. It is uncontestable that Operation Preventive Edge was launched only after hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza at Israeli cities. The firing of a single rocket, much less hundreds, would have been a clear casas belli if fired by a sovereign nation, and Hamas functions as a full sovereign in the Gaza Strip. Even before the firing of the missiles, the Hamas high command (either from Qatar or Gaza) ordered two West Bank operatives to kidnap and murder three Israeli teenagers.

So much for the immediate precedent for Israel’s military action. But the war also revealed that the entire Gaza Strip has been turned into a labyrinth of underground tunnels built for the sole purpose of launching cross-border attacks against Israeli civilians or to shield Hamas rockets, rocket launchers, and senior military and civilian commanders.

Billions of dollars in international aid have been siphoned off by Hamas in single-minded pursuit of the goal of destroying Israel. That goal is reaffirmed repeatedly throughout the Hamas Charter. Article VI defines the role of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) as raising the banner of A-llah over every inch of Palestine. Article VII states that the final resurrection will not come until Moslems fight the Jews and the very trees call out, “There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.”

Even the large number of Gazan casualties does not change the moral calculus one whit. Once it is conceded that Israel has the right to defend itself and that the offensive tunnels leading into Israel and those sheltering Hamas’s weaponry are legitimate military targets, then both the law of war and common sense dictate that Hamas is responsible for the civilian casualties resulting from efforts to destroy those tunnels and weaponry, especially when those military targets were deliberately located among civilians and Hamas repeatedly cajoled/coerced local residents into remaining in their homes.

The law of war is crystal clear that the responsibility for civilian deaths pursuant to the destruction of legitimate military targets falls completely on the side of the party that located its military assets among civilians. Logic leads to the same result, for any other conclusion would offer an enormous advantage to terrorist groups and non-state actors who attack states while using civilians as a shield. They would effectively immunize themselves from attack by recklessly locating military targets in civilian areas.

To affirm Israel’s right to defend itself, as did President Obama’s closest advisor Valerie Jarrett, for instance, while labeling as “indefensible” the civilian deaths from Israeli efforts to uproot military targets placed by Hamas in civilian areas, is to speak rank nonsense. There is no way for Israel to defend itself without destroying the underground tunnels and degrading Hamas’s rocket supply. And if Hamas deliberately shields those targets with civilians, then civilians will inevitably die as an outgrowth of Hamas’s decision.

The number of civilian casualties in the Gaza fighting reveals nothing about the morality of Israeli actions. They serve as a metric for nothing other than Hamas’s cynical manipulation and disregard for the civilians under its rule.

Others have said even sillier things than Jarrett, such as that Israel should have shared its Iron Dome system with Hamas, just to make things fair. Right, and the United States should have given Japan the atom bomb just to make things fair.

Such contortions of logic can bespeak only one thing: Jew hatred. And that is before we get to all those across Europe chanting, “Jews to the gas,” or surrounding Jews as they prayed in their synagogues.

Could the condemnations of Israel, when matters are so clear, constitute a final test for anti-Semites all around the world, just as the plaintive requests for straw were the final test for the Egyptians?

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5 Responses

  1. Shmuel says:

    Well said, R. Yonasan.

    I would add that perhaps specifically these third and fourth generations after the Holocaust are being tested, to make clear to all just what they have learned; whether they (the “שלשים”& “רבעים”) deserve being treated by Hashem as following in the footsteps of their elders, or having learned to repudiate the old hatred and its trail of barbarism. What a merit it would be for this generation of Europeans if they protested in Europe’s cities, making clear “We will not allow this genie monster of anti-semitism out of the bottle again.”

  2. Elimelech says:

    Excellent and truthful article; in this final test the bar has been at rock bottom. Previous enemies of the Jewish People may have displayed some superficial redeeming features, however vile they were. At the very least concern for their own lives and the lives of their comrades.
    An American or British anti-semite would have been comfortable having a beer with a German Nazi.
    Hamas and company are so low and alien that no westerner could have anything in common with them, other than their Jew-hatred.

  3. Mr. Cohen says:

    I will try to use this as a Pesach devar Torah 8 months from now.

  4. Elimelech says:

    Should say ‘the bar has been set at rock bottom’

  5. Bob Miller says:

    In the wide world now, the main job of media, academia and government is spreading mis- and disinformation—especially about us. We’re in the Faux-Information Age with many shiny new devices to display, move and store it.

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