Tags: san diego | shooting | passover | antisemitism | gratitude

The San Diego Shooting and Triumph of Gratitude Over Victimhood

The San Diego Shooting and Triumph of Gratitude Over Victimhood

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, with U.S. President Donald, speaks during the National Day of Prayer Service, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 2, 2019. Rabbi Goldstein of Chabad of Poway was wounded on April 27 during deadly shooting at the synagogue in San Diego. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 02 May 2019 02:06 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As Passover ended this year, Jews were confronted with two seemingly contradictory messages. The first was the message of Passover itself, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt when they were brought by Gd to freedom after centuries of slavery. The second was that our brethren were victims of a horrible shooting at a Chabad in San Diego.

Coming on the heels of the attack in Pittsburgh just six months ago, the wave of anti-Semitic statements from new members of Congress, and the publishing by The New York Times of a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon just days ago, it is clear that anti-Semitism is on the rise here in America from all quarters.

What is the proper Jewish response? Should we see ourselves as victims or remain grateful for our freedom and reaffirm that we are a free and independent people?

The answer is provided by the Passover Seders with which Passover began. The Seders serve in part to remember and commemorate the coming out of slavery from Egypt. One might think that Jews would vilify the Egyptians during the Seder for enslaving them, decrying the unfairness of being made to suffer for centuries. Instead, a central theme of the Seder is gratitude. Jews express gratitude for their deliverance from slavery to freedom, rather than wallowing in victimhood.

One of the required readings in the Haggadah, the central text that is read during the Seder, is a prayer called Hallel. As one would suspect, the word is related to “Hallelujah,” and it is a seminal prayer of praise, gratitude, and joy. Furthermore, the most recognizable song of the Passover Seder, Dayenu, recounts one by one all the miracles performed by Gd for the Jewish people, and after each one the chorus is “Dayanu,” meaning “it would have been enough for us.” Jews are grateful for each and every miracle, and declare that each one would have been sufficient, even though all were actually necessary for the Jewish people to survive. What is important is that each kindness is recognized and appreciated by itself.

As the Haggadah retells the story of Passover, it certainly recalls the suffering caused by the Egyptians, but makes it clear that it is not for us to judge them. Instead, it says they will be judged and held to account by Gd. In fact, while Jews are to remember the Passover story for all generations, the Torah expressly commands that “[y]ou shall not despise an Egyptian, for you were strangers in his land.”

The message is clear: appreciate the deliverance from slavery, but do not resent those who oppressed you. Why? The former chief rabbi of London, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks eloquently explains the wisdom of this command:

“If the Israelites continued to resent the Egyptians for the way they were treated, then Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but would not have taken Egypt out of the Israelites. In a psychological sense they would still be slaves to the past. They would see themselves as victims, and victimhood is incompatible with freedom. Victimhood defines you as an object, not a subject, as someone others act upon, not as someone who takes destiny into his own hands. Victims destroy; they do not build. Victims look back, not forward. To be free you have to let go of hate.” (emphasis in the original).

Quoted from Ceremony & Celebration, Introduction to the Holidays, p. 256.

The Rabbi of the Chabad synagogue that suffered the attack shows the fervent determination with which Jews choose to embrace gratitude over victimhood.

Just a day after having two fingers blown off his hand and just hours after emerging from many hours of emergency surgery, he would be forgiven if he took a moment for self-pity or felt like a victim. Instead, speaking from his hospital bed, Rabbi Goldstein said “the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion for all faiths and we are so grateful to live here in this country that protects our rights to live openly and proudly as Jews…. One thing for sure, I guarantee you we will not be intimidated or deterred by this terrorist. Terror will not win. As Americans we can’t cower in the face of this senseless hate that is anti-Semitism. Beneath the surface of every terrible experience there lies an opportunity to grow and increase in goodness.”

He then asked all Americans to “all do something, something to add more light to combat this evil darkness that is out there and that can happen though acts of compassion and loving kindness.” (emphasis added).

By some measures, Jews have had success in America beyond their numbers as demonstrated, for example, by the number of Noble Prize winners or Supreme Court Justices. What is the secret to this success? In my opinion, the discussion above provides the secret sauce. We choose gratitude over victimhood. Jews could claim to be one of the great victims of history, subjected to exiles from their land Israel, countless pogroms, expulsions from many European countries, numerous massacres, and of course the Holocaust. Even after WWII, there is the expulsion of nearly one million Jews from Arab lands, and a shockingly large number of attacks in recent years, including the tragedies at the Hypercache kosher supermarket in Paris, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and now the Chabad in San Diego. Today, nearly two-thirds of all anti-religious hate crimes in America are targeted at Jews. Yet most Jews refuse to see themselves as victims. Instead we are grateful to be in the greatest country of all time and to have the freedoms we enjoy. The success of the Jewish community in America is in large part the triumph of gratitude over victimhood.

I find it very sad when I see Americans embrace the language of victimhood, computing privilege points and debating who ranks lower in the “pyramid of oppression.” It is not a recipe for success. To be clear, it is entirely good and proper to recognize injustice and inequality and to fight against it. To work tirelessly to level the playing field for all. To fight to eradicate hate and human suffering. This all can be done without demeaning anyone by giving them the status of a victim. We all would be much better off to remember the words of Rabbi Goldstein and be “so grateful to live here in this country that protects our rights to live openly and proudly” as whatever we happen to be and focus on doing “acts of compassion and lovingkindness.”

The Egyptians left us many relics, including giant pyramids. While we must continue to fight injustice of all kinds, let us make the so-called pyramid of oppression — which too often becomes the pyramid of victimhood — a relic in our discourse and our reality as well.

Dr. Philip J. Rosenthal is the co-founder and president of Fastcase, Inc. (www.fastcase.com) and was the 2016 Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party nominee for Congress in the N.Y. 10th, the district that includes Wall Street and Ground Zero. To read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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As Passover ended this year, Jews were confronted with two seemingly contradictory messages.
san diego, shooting, passover, antisemitism, gratitude
Thursday, 02 May 2019 02:06 PM
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