"If the Torah is so Admant, Then That Must Mean Something Huge" Series: Thanking & Praising Hashem
It featured an older chassidic man with two teenage girls nearby. They were standing on a hill, lugging heavy buckets. Their backs bent and bodies starved, the chassid’s face was pinched and dark with raw misery.
How could this possibly be propaganda for the Nazis? The people were so obviously suffering. Looking at the poster, my heart felt broken, not hardened or gleeful.
Then I read the translation: See how the parasites of our country get what they deserve!
Or something like that.
I was shocked.
Did people really look at this photograph of heart-wrenching suffering and feel gratified?
The Nazi Call to Action: “Poor me!”
Isn’t it irrational for an inherently "superior master race” to portray its members as inferior, servile, helpless victims? (Such a thing goes against nature and could only happen if a Higher Power intervened to make it so. Otherwise, the smarter and stronger -- even if they're the minority -- would naturally overpower the disadvantaged, as we see throughout history.) Sure it defies logic, but it is also the most effective way to perpetuate a genocide.
Jews were considered useless parasites.
Or conversely, tyrants who controlled the world.
That made all the Aryans into pitiable, innocent victims.
People who bought into Nazi ideology no longer needed to struggle with the uncomfortable truths God sends our way to help us achieve our tikkun in This World – such as a corrupt leader, an abusive parent, unsustainable economic or social policies, a problematic child, or an incurable disease.
They didn’t need to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions or push themselves to find solutions. No need for self-introspection or prayer. They could just blame the Jews.
Put in the simplest terms: Aryans were innately good; Jews were innately bad.
If you do good things for bad people, that hurts good people and helps the bad people.
Following that line of thought, if you do bad things for bad people, that hurts the bad people and helps the good people.
So it becomes bad to help Jews and good to hurt them.
All that meant that anything Aryans did against the Jews could be considered good – or at least, not bad.
This same thread pops up continuously throughout history. To name just a few:
- Communism (“Aack, the rich!” – which soon came to mean anyone with any money or assets of his own)
- the French Revolution (“Aack, the bourgeois!”)
- the post-Yosef Hatzaddik Egyptians (“Aack, the Jews!”)
Fighting Darkness with Darkness (or Focusing on the Negative)
But much of Judaism is a call to positive action:
- "Pursue justice!"
- "Judge favorably!"
- "Rise, walk in the Land...!"
- "And you shall love...!"
Jewish sources even describe how the best way to overcome our negative qualities is by utilizing our positive qualities.
But evil people do exactly the opposite. They focus on the negative and start chanting, "Kill, kill, kill...."
Look through history until and including today, and you'll see that destructive movements focus on what they don't like and how to eradicate it. They're constantly on search-and-destroy missions.
Victimhood Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
In such a state, suffering has no purpose and no Source; it’s just harsh and pointless. The victim, desperate and angry, feels fully justified to avenge his suffering or to do anything to end the suffering. Even if innocent people get hurt along the way, that’s still okay and definitely forgivable according to the victim mentality.
With this mentality, it’s no different than a choking victim, his limbs flailing out of control, who accidentally kicks an innocent bystander. A victim can’t be held responsible for his actions. The victim is therefore always basically “good” and always has a legitimate excuse for any harm caused.
Interestingly, Nazism and other victim-based ideologies focus very little on encouraging good. They focus on punishing whatever they consider bad.
However, for the sake of lip service, they may create lackluster systems for health care and education. For example, the schools heralded in Nazi Germany as bastions of superior education actually provided a very poor education in comparison to similar schools in nearby countries. Likewise, the Hamas initially distributed food to fellow Muslim Arabs before instituting policies that led to even greater deprivations for those same Muslim Arabs.
Which is why the end of WWII saw Germany’s last resources diverted to slaughtering Jews even as German soldiers died on the front due to lack of supplies. The Nazi army became so decimated that boys as young as thirteen were sent to the front.
But in a state of gratitude toward Hashem, it is impossible to feel like a victim.
Battle Darkness (including the Darkness in Yourself) by Creating Light
Sometimes, we can get kind of rote about our prayers and our attitude. “MercifulSlowtoangerKindRemembersthedeedsofourPatriarchsGreatRevivesthedead...yaaaawn. Just the same-old same-old....”
But if the Torah is so adamant about doing something (or to refrain doing something), then it must be absolutely essential. It must be incredibly powerful. And its opposite must be incredibly evil.
Our very name Yehudim basically means “thanks.” It’s the essence of who we are and what we are supposed to be doing.
When we realize – even if only intellectually – that our suffering has a purpose, that it is “good” in some way because Hashem is Good and everything that comes from Him can only be considered Good (even as it’s also excruciating at times), then we won’t see ourselves as victims; we’ll see ourselves as beloved.
Grateful people naturally focus on creating more light to fight darkness, rather than creating their own kind of darkness to fight the already existent darkness (a process which inherently needs to extinguish more light).
Gratitude and appreciation elevate a person. The grueling struggle to acknowledge Hashem’s Goodness in profoundly bitter and painful situations can propel a person to astonishing spiritual heights.
And the opposite is also true. Seeing the world as Sourceless and refusing to acknowledge the Good (including Hashem’s hidden benefit in grueling trials) lowers a person to the point where he or she could end up sending harmless babies to Auschwitz.
In His great love for us, Hashem gave us the key to achieving true righteousness and eternal life while protecting us from being profoundly evil and becoming totally obliterated: hakarat tov – recognizing and acknowledging Hashem’s goodness.