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26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck, NY 11023 (516) 487-6100                                                              Shabbat Announcements Toldot 5780
         hate and provoke violence. All three conditions are essential. The   phenomenon of “wealth without power.” That was precisely the
         hated group must be conspicuous, for otherwise it would not be   position of Isaac among the Philistines.
         singled out. It must be successful, for otherwise it would not be
         envied. And it must be a minority, for otherwise it would not be   There is a second aspect of our passage that has had
         attacked. All three conditions were present in the case of Isaac. He   reverberations through the centuries: the self-destructive nature
         was conspicuous: he was not a Philistine, he was different from the   of hate. The Philistines did not ask Isaac to share his water with
         local population as an outsider, a stranger, someone with a   them. They did not ask him to teach them how he had
         different faith. He was successful: his crops had succeeded a   discovered a source of water that they – residents of the place –
         hundredfold, his flocks and herds were large, and the people   had not. They did not even simply ask him to move on. They
         envied him. And he was a minority: a single family in the midst of   “stopped up” the wells, “filling them with earth.” This act harmed
         the local population. All the ingredients were present for the   them more than it harmed Isaac. It robbed them of a resource
         distillation of hostility and hate.                  that would, in any case, have become theirs, once the famine had
                                                              ended and Isaac had returned home. More than hate destroys the
         There is more. Another profound insight into the conditions that   hated, it destroys the hater. In this case too, Isaac and the Philis-
         give rise to antisemitism was given by Hannah Arendt in her book   tines were a portent of what would eventually   happen to the
         The Origins of Totalitarianism (the section has been published   Israelites in Egypt. By the time of the plague of locusts, we read:
         separately as Anti-Semitism). Hostility to Jews becomes   Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare
         dangerous, she argued, not when Jews are strong, but when they   to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their
         are weak. This is deeply paradoxical because, on the face of it, the  God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7)
         opposite is true. A single thread runs from the Philistines’ reaction   In effect they said to Pharaoh: you may think you are harming the
         to Isaac and Pharaoh’s to the Israelites, to the myth concocted in   Israelites. In fact, you are harming us.
         the late nineteenth century, known as The Protocols of the Elders
         of Zion. It says that Jews are powerful, too powerful. They control   Both love and hate, said Rabbi Shimon bar Yocĥai, “upset the
         resources. They are a threat. They must be removed. Yet, says   natural order”. They are irrational. They make us do things we
         Arendt, antisemitism did not become dangerous until they had lost   would not do otherwise. In today’s Middle East, as so often
         the power they had once had: When Hitler came to power, the   before, those intent on destroying their enemies end by doing
         German banks were already almost Judenrein (and it was here that   great harm to their own interests, their own people. Third, Isaac’s
         Jews had held key positions for more than a hundred years) and   response remains the correct one today. Defeated once, he tries
         German Jewry as a whole, after a long steady growth in social   again. He digs another well; this too yields opposition. So, he
         status and numbers, was declining so rapidly that statisticians   moves on and tries again, and eventually finds peace. How fitting
         predicted its disappearance in a few decades.        it is that the town that today carries the name Isaac gave the site
                                                              of this third well, is the home of the Weizmann Institute of
         The same was true in France: The Dreyfus affair exploded not   Science, the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University, and
         under the Second Empire, when French Jewry was at the height of   the Kaplan hospital, allied to the Medical School of the Hebrew
         its prosperity and influence, but under the Third Republic when   University. Israel Belkind, one of the founders of the settlement in
         Jews had all but vanished from important positions. Antisemitism   1890, called it Reĥovot precisely because of the verse in our
         is a complex, protean phenomenon because antisemites must be   parsha: “He named it Reĥovot, saying, Now the Lord has given us
         able to hold together two beliefs that seem to contradict one   room and we will flourish in the land.”
         another: Jews are so powerful that they should be feared, and at
         the same time so powerless that they can be attacked without   Isaac is the least original of the three patriarchs. His life lacks the
         fear. It would seem that no one could be so irrational as to believe   drama of Abraham or the struggles of Jacob. We see in this
         both of these things simultaneously. But emotions are not rational,   passage that Isaac himself did not strive to be original. The text is
         despite the fact that they are often rationalized, for there is a   unusually emphatic on the point: Isaac “reopened the wells that
         world of difference between rationality and rationalization (the   had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the
         attempt to give rational justification for irrational beliefs). So, for   Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them
         example, in the twenty-first century we can find that (a) Western   the same names his father had given them.” Normally we strive to
         media are almost universally hostile to Israel, and (b) otherwise   individuate ourselves by differentiating ourselves from our
         intelligent people claim that the media are controlled by Jews who   parents. We do things differently, or even if we don’t, we give
         support Israel: the same inner contradiction of perceived   them different names. Isaac was not like this. He was content to
         powerlessness and ascribed power. Arendt summarizes her thesis   be a link in the chain of generations, faithful to what his father
         in a single, telling phrase which links her analysis to that of Amy   had started. Isaac represents the faith of persistence, the courage
                                                              of continuity. He was the first Jewish child, and he represents the
         Chua. What gives rise to antisemitism is, she says, the
                                                              single greatest challenge of being a Jewish child: to continue the
                                                              journey our ancestors began, rather than drifting from it, thereby
                                                              bringing the journey to an end before it has reached its
                              Great Neck Synagogue            destination. And Isaac, because of that faith, was able to achieve
                     26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck , NY 11023   the most elusive of goals, namely peace – because he never gave
                                  516-487-6100                up. When one effort failed, he began again. So, it is with all great
                                                              achievements: one part originality, nine parts persistence.
                         Rabbi Dale Polakoff, Rabbi
                      Rabbi Ian Lichter, Assistant Rabbi      I find it moving that Isaac, who underwent so many trials, from
                       Rabbi Aron White, Intern Rabbi         the binding when he was young, to the rivalry between his sons
                    Dr. Ephraim Wolf, z”l, Rabbi Emeritus     when he was old and blind, carries a name that means, “He will
                                                              laugh.” Perhaps the name – given to him by God Himself before
                           Yitzy Spinner, Cantor
                    Eleazer Schulman, z”l, Cantor Emeritus    Isaac was born – means what the Psalm means when it says,
                                                              “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy” (Ps. 126:5). Faith
                     Rabbi Sholom Jensen, Youth Director
                  Zehava & Dr. Michael Atlas, Youth Directors   means the courage to persist through all the setbacks, all the
                                                              grief, never giving up, never accepting defeat. For at the end,
                      Mark Twersky, Executive Director        despite the opposition, the envy and the hate, lie the broad
                     Dr. James Frisch, Assistant Director     spaces, Reĥovot, and the laughter, Isaac: the serenity of the
                          Erran Kagan, President              destination after the storms along the way.
                   Harold Domnitch, Chairman of the Board
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