Former Chief Rabbi Lau says that anti-Semitism is an "international mental illness" - but he feels he may have found its root cause.
Tel Aviv's Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former Chief Rabbi of
Rabbi Lau cited the Talmudic saying of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai - "A law: It is known that Esau hates Jacob" - and asked, "Why the unusual phraseology? What type of law can this be? It sounds very fatalistic, as if nothing can change it." Rabbi Lau then explained, in the name of some commentators, that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism described by Rabbi Shimon is "akin to a law taught to Moses at Sinai, which also uses this word 'law.' It is something that has no explanation and is not in dispute, such as the fact that tefillin must be black and square. It is the same with anti-Semitism: you can look for reasons for it, but in the end, it's just an axiom. This hatred is a given, permanent phenomenon."
"For instance," Rabbi Lau continued, "some 200 years ago, and at other times, the Maskilim said that to get rid of anti-Semitism, we have to change our mores and be like the nations. It was said that the Jews dress differently, speak differently, and have different culture and the like, and that causes their persecution. 'If we are like them, they'll learn to appreciate us,' it was said. They said this in
"So then we were told that one of the reasons they hate us is because we were temporary residents in their land, that we don't have a home of our own. They told us to leave and go to
"I once heard an Arab man address a forum. He did not deny the Holocaust, but he said that as a Palestinian, he is the real victim of the Holocaust, because it caused him to be displaced by the Jews and now he does not have a home. So he said that the Jews should go back to
"I am really trying to understand. This anti-Semitism is like an international mental illness, a genuine plague like leprosy - no matter how we try to treat it, it doesn't work. If we're strong, it's no good; if we're weak, for sure it's not good. So what is it?
"In 1982, I was in
"This is what Jacob said to Laban: What do you want from me? What did I do to you? Those who thought that we should be Jews at home but men outside and thought this would solve the problem - they were mistaken and misled others. Because the answer is that when little Srulik [nickname for Yisrael] brings the world the 10 commandments and tells them how to live - even though he is right, and even though he's bringing the truth, the fact is that no one wants to hear a little kid telling him what to do..."