This Shavuot, let the To­rah bring peace, not per­se­cu­tion


On May 20, the Jewish world will ob­serve the pil­grim­age hol­i­day of Shavuot, on which we cel­e­brate God’s giv­ing the To­rah to the Jewish peo­ple.

This hol­i­day is gen­er­ally a time of joy; fam­i­lies dec­o­rate their homes with flow­ers, eat cheese­cake and study the Bi­ble. How­ever, the stark re­al­ity is that ever since the Jews ac­cepted God’s To­rah and com­mit­ted to “do and lis­ten,” we have been per­se­cuted for it.

The early Church fathers ac­cused the Jews of de­i­cide and heresy. They pro­nounced the peo­ple of Is­rael to be “out­side of God,” thus con­don­ing col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment and con­tempt for the Jews.

In the Mid­dle Ages, Chris­tian Cru­saders waged reli­gious wars across Europe on their way to Jerusalem, slaugh­ter­ing Jews. Dur­ing those times, Jews were barred from most oc­cu­pa­tions, pro­hib­ited from own­ing land and forced to pay dis­crim­i­na­tory taxes.

In the 13th, 14th and 15th cen­turies, Jews were sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­pelled from France and Eng­land, and then Spain and Por­tu­gal. Dur­ing the Protes­tant Re­for­ma­tion, Martin Luther ex­co­ri­ated the Jews as “ven­omous beasts, vipers, dis­gust­ing scum” and even “the devil in­car­nate,” and told his fol­low­ers “we are at fault in not slay­ing them.” The Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church and the Ro­man Catholic Church con­fined the Jews to ghet­tos. In liv­ing mem­ory, the Nazi regime tried to ex­ter­mi­nate the Jews through cal­cu­lated geno­cide.

To­day, this vir­u­lent an­ti­semitism con­tin­ues, of­ten clothed in anti-Is­rael sen­ti­ment. The cur­rent an­ti­semitism still cen­ters on re­li­gion: Those who are anti-Is­rael dis­pute the To­rah de­cree that God gave the Land of Is­rael to the Jewish peo­ple – even though many of them claim to be­lieve in the “Old Tes­ta­ment.” THE BIBLICAL HIS­TORY of the Jewish peo­ple in the Land of Is­rael be­gins with Abra­ham when God tells him to leave his home for a new home in the land of Canaan (Ge­n­e­sis 12). The prom­ise of this land to Abra­ham and his Jewish de­scen­dants is re­peated at least an­other four times in the Book of Ge­n­e­sis alone.

This week’s bold move of the United States em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is rooted in a biblical un­der­stand­ing that Jerusalem is the eter­nal cap­i­tal of Is­rael. Yet be­cause of an­ti­semitism, Jews con­tinue to be un­safe even in their home­land.

Is­rael is the tar­get of con­stant death threats by Ha­mas – which is now vi­o­lently ri­ot­ing on the border – and Hezbol­lah, a proxy of Iran. Both terror or­ga­ni­za­tions have re­peat­edly vowed to wipe the tiny Jewish state off the map and drive its res­i­dents into the sea. It is only for the strength of the Is­rael De­fense Forces and the will of God that these ter­ror­ists have not suc­ceeded.

Yet we can­not take a sin­gle day of Is­rael for granted.

Last month, “Harry Pot­ter” au­thor J.K. Rowl­ing sug­gested that the world shoul­der the bur­den of an­ti­semitism along­side the Jews.

She tweeted that she sees her fel­low cit­i­zens gloss­ing over “the abuse of your fel­low cit­i­zens by at­tack­ing an­other coun­try’s gov­ern­ment. [She asked] would your re­sponse to any other form of racism or big­otry be to squirm, de­flect or jus­tify?” Then, as she has Al­bus Dum­ble­dore tell his stu­dents in the pop­u­lar se­ries, “We must all face the choice be­tween what is right and what is easy.”

The United States was founded by a small group of pil­grims who set sail from Eng­land in three cramped boats search­ing for a place where they could prac­tice their re­li­gion freely. Their re­li­gion cen­tered on the same Bi­ble as the Jewish Bi­ble.

The Jews es­tab­lished Is­rael with the hope of re­turn­ing to the biblical home­land for which they had yearned in daily prayers since the de­struc­tion of the Sec­ond Tem­ple in 70 CE. They now have a place where they, too, can prac­tice their re­li­gion with­out per­se­cu­tion.

Amer­ica fought eight years for in­de­pen­dence and has not had its right to ex­ist chal­lenged since then. Is­rael be­gan its fight for in­de­pen­dence in 1948 and con­tin­ues to strug­gle for its right to ex­ist ev­ery day. THE BI­BLE should be a source of unity for all three monothe­is­tic faiths that claim it as the ba­sis of their faith – Ju­daism, Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam. Let this Shavuot, the first one since Amer­i­can lead­ers faith­fully de­clared the truth of God’s word as de­liv­ered on Mount Si­nai at the em­bassy’s open­ing cer­e­mony, be com­mem­o­rated with a To­rah that will bring peace to Is­rael and the world, as Jews al­ways pray for – and not more per­se­cu­tion.

The writer prac­tices law in Bos­ton and is a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors of Amer­i­can Friends of LIBI, which helps fund the IDF.

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