Antisemitic attacks have been on the rise in recent years. Since 2008 there has been a 55% rise in antisemitic incidents. What is the Jewish approach to dealing with confrontation and violence perpetrated against us? As Jews, our lives are guided by the Torah. The Torah details the Jewish response to confrontation twice: Once in Sefer Bereishis, when Ya’akov Avinu is returning to Eretz Yisrael from Charan, and once in Kesuvim in Megillas Esther. The prescribed approach in Torah is threefold: 1) spiritual fortification 2) diplomacy 3) self-defense.
1. Spiritual Fortification.
When Ya’akov Avinu hears that his brother approaches with 400 men, which according to the Medrash was actually 400 generals each commanding a battalion of 400 men, the first thing he does is davens. When Mordechai informs Esther of the impending doom, her immediate reaction was “fast and daven for three days.”. Why is this? Why do we first turn to prayer and Torah study? Because as Jews, we know that whatever happens on earth is a reflection and a manifestation of what is going on in heaven. If there is a threat against the Jewish people on earth it is because the Satan, the prosecutor, has issued a threat in Heaven, therefore, the first step to counteract the physical threat is to undermine its source in the Heavenly court through spiritual fortification
2. Diplomatic Deterrence.
In the Megillah, immediately following the three-day fast Esther approaches the king and begins her strategic takedown. Build up your enemy, then tear him down when he’s least expecting it. It culminates with her begging Achashverosh to stop Haman, an attempt at diplomatic deterrence. Ya’akov Avinu sends Eisav gifts. Not just one gift, not many gifts together, but gifts spread out. The psychological genius of Ya’akov’s diplomacy is astonishing. The pleasure one gets from receiving a gift is somewhat of a psychological high. The excitement rises quickly but also dissipates fairly quickly. Ya’akov Avinu sends Eisav gifts, but he creates a space between them. Before Eisav’s excitement from the first gift wears off, he looks up and a few hundred feet yonder, another gift approaches. This step is very important:, once we’ve worked to undermine the spiritual source of the threat we try to prevent the physical threat from materializing by means of diplomacy. We don’t want to have to fight so we will go to great lengths to prevent the confrontation from occurring.
Once we’ve expended our efforts, both in spiritual fortification and diplomatic deterrence, if we’re left with no choice, we fight. In Ya’akov Avinu’s case, his diplomatic efforts paid off. The confrontation never occurred, but he did split his family into two groups to prepare for the contingency of Eisav attacking. if Eisav attacked one group, it would fight while the other group escaped. In the Megillah, however, while the diplomacy succeeded in toppling Haman, his adherents were still a threat. The Yidden could not avoid the confrontation, so they fought.
Throughout our history, tyrannical governments have risen up against us and persecuted us. Time and again we see that Jews fortified themselves spiritually, tried to prevent the persecution by diplomatic means, and unfortunately in many cases were subject to it anyway. What happened to the third step? Why haven’t Jews throughout the ages often taken up arms and fought? The answer is because for hundreds of years we have lived under regimes and governments that didn’t believe in G-d-given rights. Human rights, if they believed in them at all, were given by government, and rights given by government can be taken away by government.
Since Churban Bayis Sheini, we have lived under governments who denied us, among many other things, the simple right to self- preservation. The Purim story is a perfect showcase:, after Haman is hanged Achashverosh writes a second decree. Why did he have to write a second decree, couldn’t he just annul the first one? It wasn’t so simple. In ancient Persia, the king was held to a higher standard, he couldn’t just change his mind. If he came up with a decree it was expected of him to have properly thought it out. Once the decree was issued it could not be revoked. The second decree was that the Jews could fight back. The miracle of Purim that we celebrate utill this day is that we were granted the right by the government to defend ourselves.
We live in a country whose founders realized that every human being has inalienable rights. The second of which they enumerated was the right to keep and bear arms —, the very right we have been deprived of for centuries:, the right to self- preservation. By acknowledging this G-d given right they realized that they, as the government, have no right to infringe upon it.
In every generation our enemies rise up against us. Every time we think to ourselves, “this couldn’t possibly happen in today’s day and age,” and yet it happens. People we thought were our friends turn away from us or worse, join the oppressors. There is no way to truly tell who our friends are until we’re in that situation, may G-d protect us from such things. A good indicator though would be someone who defends our right to protect ourselves. We don’t need people to fight our battles for us, we need friends who will fight for our right to defend ourselves. Hitler yemach shemo vezichro may have riled up a nation against us with words but he was only able to execute his plan by taking away our right to defend ourselves. And indeed, the first thing he did when occupying a country was to deny its citizens the right to bear arms.
There is one political party in this country that fits the bill. Conservative Republicans, as the name suggests, seek to conserve the ideals this country was founded on. One of them being to protect the inalienable G-d-given rights to each individual. On the other hand, democratic nominee Joe Biden has openly promised to take away semi-automatic guns from legal gun owners, despite the fact that semi-autos are the most common type of weapon used in self-defense. According to the CDC between 500,000 and 3 million lives are saved every year. Joe Biden has openly promised to put Beto o’Rourke, a radical anti-Second Amendment politician, at the helm of his gun control policy.
There are many good reasons to not like President Trump’s personality but despite his personal foibles, he is a strong friend of the Jews, a staunch supporter of Israel, and most importantly he believes in our G-d-given rights, the absence of which has cost our people dearly.
We currently find ourselves amid the presidential elections. It is important to realize that while the President may be the head of the executive branch of the government he does not run the legislative body. As important as it is to vote in our nation’s — and community’s — best interest in the presidential elections, it is equally or more important to vote for senators and representatives. They are the ones enacting laws that will keep us safe or G-d forbid the opposite.
At this point in the election process, it is highly unlikely that anyone will change their vote so in the very least, for those who have not yet done so, for the sake of our nation’s self-preservation, go out and vote.