Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hating the Orthodox/Hating Orthodoxy (Part I)

A wise Rav once called my attention to that fact that the Midrash refers to Amalek both as a fly and mad dog (Tanhuma, Ki Tetzeh no. 12). These, he offered, refer to different types of Amalek. A fly, on the one hand, is attracted to an open wound. It is drawn to attack corruption. Similarly, there are times when the failings, failure and corruptions of the Jews invite attack from those who search out our failings. Regarding this type of Amalek, the Torah commands us (Deut. 25, 19): 'Thou shalt utterly wipe it out.' It is our responsibility to tend to the festering wounds on the body politic of Israel, and to destroy the Amalek who alights upon them.

There is another type of Amalek, though. Like a rabid dog, its hatred of the Jew is irrational. His is a pathological loathing that no amount of explaining, no amount of attempted (re)conciliation and no amount of self-correction can calm. It matters not whether the Jew is fully observant, or totally assimilated. The very presence of the Jew ignites a deep seated dread and animosity before which the Jew is powerless to act. It is regarding this, senseless, pathological loathing of the 'Eternal Jew' (Der Ewige Jude), that the Torah promised (Ex. 17, 14): 'Verily, I will utterly wipe out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.' There is nothing one can do to address, much less to eradicate this type of Jew hatred. God Himself, in all of His Glory and Power, will undertake that task.

This dual typology is not restricted to anti-Jewish sentiment on the part of Gentiles. It is fully relevant to intra-Jewish relations. In particular, it is manifest in the attitudes of non-observant Jews to their Orthodox brethren. Many, far too many, non-Orthodox Jews relate to observant Jews on a spectrum ranging from cordial dislike to intense animosity to absolutely pathological hated.

Here, too, the Amalek dynamic engenders the animosity. There are numerous open wounds and corruptions that invite (and partly justify) the intense attacks of non-Orthodox Jews upon us. Tomer Persico has recently highlighted this aspect of the dynamic in an essay to which the second portion of this posting will, אי"ה , be devoted. We must forthrightly take responsibility for these festering wounds, these cancers on the body politic, which engender (or give succor to) hatred of Torah and its adherents.

On the other hand, there is an odium religionis judaeorum, a pathological hatred of Orthodoxy and of Orthodox Jews about which we can really do nothing. No amount of civility, no amount of self-adaptation will defuse this type of ingrained hostility. When confronting this type of hostility, one can only stand proud on one's principles, and put one's faith in God that in His good time, such judische selbst-hass will cease to exist.

The challenge, the wise Rav observed, is to have the wisdom to know the difference.