On Sunday evening, January 8, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem featured Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipskar, the founder and rav of The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, Florida, and of the Aleph Institute (in 1981). He spoke about why anti-Semitism is overrated. He explained that it is overrated in terms of how it affects us as Jews. Haters have to be addressed in sharp, straightforward ways, but we need to make sure it doesn’t affect how we view our own identity as Jews. Anti-Semitism is the longest existing irrational hatred. It has led to holocausts, exploitation, expulsions, etc.
He taught that it began with a human trait. Animals have a brain but not a mind to control emotions. Animals have a territorial imperative, jealousy, power, ego, and ownership. These are natural traits. We see the first aspect of the trait of jealousy in the story of Cain and Abel. This was hating another person because of who he was or how he behaved. The hatred was about how his participation was perceived relative to my participation. The issue of human jealousy revolves around not being able to handle the success of others. Jealousy leads to hatred and then it can lead to murder.
In the story of Noach, his sons wanted to castrate him so he would not have any more children. They didn’t want to have to divide the whole world into quarters. Selfishness and jealousy are built into the human substructure.
Rabbi Lipskar shared how the book of B’reishis is about the Patriarchs, and Sh’mos moves to our existence as a nation. We were a nation extracted from another nation and this made us unique. As soon as we became a people, we experienced the first anti-Semitism. A new king rose in Egypt who didn’t know Yosef. The Egyptians said, “These Jews are brilliant. They will overtake us. They will multiply and become more than us.”
So, the whole slavery era began. Jews as a nation excelled, and the Egyptians recognized that there was something special about the Jews.
In the Megillah, we have the Haman/Hitler level of evil. Haman says that there is a singular nation that stands out and that can’t be assimilated. They are spread all over. Rabbi Lipskar noted that it was a chesed that Hashem spread us all over so that we couldn’t be wiped out.
Rabbi Lipskar then detailed the things that make us human: relationships, law, holidays, eating, sleeping, dress, and a calendar. Jews differ in every one of these aspects from the other nations.
Haman says they are so powerful and different, so they are dangerous. Rabbi Lipskar taught that the Jews were chosen by Hashem, so we are unique. We stand alone, and wherever we are, we are successful. He shared the historical fact that when Jews were treated well in a country, the country flourished, and when a country did not treat the Jews well, it went down.
He spoke briefly of the question of how Nazis could have killed babies, and he explained that it stemmed from the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. He said the eagle is the master animal and its objective is to kill the rat. The Jew was the rat. Rabbi Lipskar shared that, during the Black Plague (14th century), Jews were blamed because our hygiene was different and so most Jews did not get sick.
Jews were depicted as the devil in the Middle Ages. He shared that in 1969, in Florida, when he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to be a shliach there, there was a lot of anti-Semitism. Until 1986, a Jew was not allowed to buy a house there. He shared that his car broke down in central Florida in 1970, and he was davening outside, and a boy yelled, pointing at his t’filin, “Look he has horns.” We are talking about Florida less than 40 years ago.
People continue to have irrational hatred bred by jealousy and selfishness. The Jewish idea of logic and of G-d is hated by others.
“We live in a crazy society where people can say anything. You have haters with their own issues, entitlements, and problems, and they need a scapegoat, so they choose Jews.”
Rabbi Lipskar taught that we have to realize that they have no power over us. “We are G-d’s chosen children, and He put us into this world with a special mission.”
This lecture was followed by a Q&A session. Someone asked about different types of anti-Semitism, and Rabbi Lipskar responded that “hate is hate, end of story.” Germany began with a hate philosophy, and they went on to murder. “Anti-Semitism has no place, as hatred has no place.”
He shared how the Jew is opposite of what you should hate. Our contribution to civilization is exponentially greater than any other nation. “As a Jew, you stand out. You have to behave at a higher level.”
He explained that, as Jews, we are a singular organism and we have responsibility for one another.
Someone asked about being in a work environment where he feels uncomfortable about being Jewish. Rabbi Lipskar advised him to explain to his colleagues why his holidays are meaningful and important to him. If he can’t change their thinking to being respectful, then he should change his work environment.
Next, someone asked how you help your children feel proud of their Jewish identity. Rabbi Lipskar cited the Rambam, who says that the single most fundamental aspect in human development is what you do – your behavior. “If you do something continuously, then your mind goes in that direction.” You need to have sincerity and passion when you perform mitzvos. Children will see this. “Kids know sincerity.” Also, we need to place Hashem in the center of our kids’ lives: “You are a piece of Hashem. Hashem cares about everything you do. G-d feels good when you do something good.” Children need to perceive Hashem as a loving father who cares about each of us and looks at us with love and faith.
By Susie Garber