Two thoughts come to mind from our parsha, the reading this week.

First of all, the notion of a “brotherhood of man” comes from our Torah; it is one of its first lessons. Today this is such a common idea that we don’t give it much thought, but in reality it is quite profound. Because we have internalized this basic Torah ideal, and because we know it means something, even Jews generations removed from full observance of Torah are incapable of behaving in the way terrorists did last Shabbos, in the Holy Land. And no Jew with a vestige of Torah within him could attempt to explain, justify, or contextualize the vile barbarism witnessed by the world.

It’s why so many Jews are doctors, physician assistants, and nurses. The Torah tells us to care for others. It’s not in our makeup to be so evil to our fellow man, because we know he or she is “our fellow man.”

I am reminded of the story, I believe of the Klausenberger Rebbe, who was deported to Dachau late in the war. At one point a Nazi guard shoved him to the ground, put his boot on the Rebbe’s face, and said “now do you think you’re the Chosen People?” And he responded, “as long as it is you putting your boot on my head, I know we are the Chosen People.”

I remember admiring the Rebbe’s courage when I first heard that story, but I didn’t understand his words as more than a declaration of resilience and resistance. Later I realized, perhaps he was saying that because he was a Jew, and had incorporated the Torah’s message, he was incapable of doing such a thing to another person. He knew that the ones claiming to be the “superior” Aryan race were so poisoned that they could put others in labor and even death camps simply for wanting to coexist. And he knew that he was targeted precisely because the Torah was given to his people — the Chosen People. The Medrash relates Sinai to Sinah, hatred. Hatred for Jews stems from the fact that the Jews received the Torah. Barbarians hate values; it’s really that simple.

The Torah also tells us, shortly thereafter, how quickly a person can sink into depravity and evil, to the point of murdering his brother. Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) both brought offerings, but G-d respected the offering of Hevel over that of his brother. Kayin was upset and angry—but it was, in reality, his fault. Hevel had brought the first and best of his flock, while Kayin had offered inferior produce.

G-d even warned Kayin, saying sin was at the door, and he should rule over it. Instead, Kayin nursed his imagined grievance, blamed his brother for his own failings, and murdered him.

Nothing has changed. What we see now around us, vile bigots on campus (or in Congress) claiming victims deserved to be slaughtered, is an evil that dates to humanity’s first family. So when you see it around you, be extremely proud that you are not like them. It is built into your moral fabric as a Jew.

This is why the Torah is, and must, remain our guide. And it is also the reason why, though those who oppressed us in the past are today despised relics in the dustbin of history, the Jews remain. Am Yisrael Chai—the People of Israel Live!

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