This week, as we read about the conflict of Yaakov and Eisav in Parshas Toldos, we present a letter from the Rebbe in which he deals with the question of why it is that Jews are apprehensive about non-Jews. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s personal trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
20th of Elul, 5735
(Aug. 27, 1975)
Blessing and Greeting:
I duly received your letter and regret unavoidable delay to acknowledge same. You write that you find it difficult to fully understand why the Jewish people seem to feel so strongly that the Gentiles are not well disposed toward them, especially since you personally do not feel this way about the Jews.
May I say, first of all, that I am gratified to hear about your good feelings and I do hope that you avail yourself of every suitable opportunity to let people know how you feel in this matter, so they emulate you.
As for your question, what basis, if any, there may be for Jews to feel suspicion – or even frightened, as it seems to you – about the Gentiles’ feelings towards them – surely there is an obvious explanation of that in what happened in our time, and before our own eyes, obvious at any rate, to those who survived the holocaust in Europe and found a haven in this country. Considering that one third of the Jewish people was callously decimated by a Gentile nation and its collaborators, while the rest of the Gentile world looked (and sometimes not even as indifferent observers) – a subject too painful to dwell on, particularly in this letter, in view of your personal feelings. I mention it only by way of reply to your question – the explanation is fairly obvious, and it is surprising that it had eluded you. Moreover, seeing the attitude of the vast majority of the members of the United Nations toward the remnants of the Jewish people, it clearly reinforces the suspicion that the attitude of the Gentiles – generally speaking, for there have always been exceptions – has not changed radically.
By way of contrast, it is noteworthy that Jews on their part have a duty to encourage and help every Gentile to abide by the Divine commandments which have been given to all mankind, namely, the so-called Seven Precepts Given to the Children of Noah, which are the minimum standards of universal ethics and morality, law and order, without which no human society can long survive. This is expected of the Jew regardless of the Gentiles’ attitude toward Jews. Similarly Jews are commanded to practice charity and benevolence towards Gentiles along with Jews.
No doubt you also know the Jewish contributions to the concepts of liberty and humanitarianism and others. Even the motto of the United Nations, “Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation,” is an ideal Divinely inspired to a Jewish prophet for Jews and, through them, for Gentiles. This too, incidentally, pointedly underscores the contrast between the said ideal displayed there on the wall with what is going on there between the walls. Again, there is no need to dwell on this, as noted earlier.
The above letter is from Volume IV of The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.