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Hebrews Not Welcome

by Rabbi Shimon Posner


Library » History » Holocaust | Subscribe | What is RSS?


"No Hebrews Allowed." It's the first reference that comes to my mind when I hear us called Hebrews. Okay, I know YMHA means the Jewish YMCA, and HIAS a Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, but still, Hebrew -- when talking about people, not our language – smacks of long-hand for Hebes.

In Biblical times the name Hebrew was a put down often enough. Ivri: the one who crossed over. The one from on yonder, the foreigner. And no, Ramses University didn't credit diversity appreciation courses. But if Ivri was a put down, it also contained a measure, sometimes substantial measure, of respect.

Abraham is mentioned nine times in the Torah until he is referred to as Avram Ha'Ivri, Abraham the Hebrew. Why the description all of a sudden? Avraham had crossed over from the Euphrates, had left his home, life, wealth and security to cross over to wherever G-d would tell him to go. Every immigrant has a measure of courage, of pioneership, showing a willingness to leave all familiar and safe and go to a far off goal. Avraham did it before there was a name for it: the pioneer of pioneering.

Now he was faced with fighting the strongest forces in the world. Would he shrink? No, hints the Torah: he is a Hebrew, one who crosses over his comfort zone and never returned to it. He does what is right, not comfortable. He is a Hebrew.

Everyone creates his own world. Circle of friends, obligations, pets, pet peeves, and lives there. This is their worlds. Then there are those outside their worlds, who don't take their comfort zone with utmost sincerity and don't revere their moods. They're ready to bend on just about anything and pretty much mind their own business. They look like pushovers.

Don't be fooled. When their values are challenged they are fearless. They have no fear of fear itself. They have no fear of self; they have no self; they have only what they stand for.

Me? I'd rather be a comfortable coward. But what Abraham achieved with sacrifice, we attain without asking for it. Together with Grandmother's brown eyes and Grandfather's black hair. And if it is unearned it may well be unwanted on some level. "I know we're the Chosen People but isn't it time you chose someone else?"

But in all honesty that is only a part of me. The other part wants to be an Avraham, wants to have character instead of being one. And all I need to do is do what Avraham did: walk in the footsteps of his trailblazing. Because I give Avraham the same (sometimes begrudging) respect that the world gave that Hebrew then and gives these Hebrews now.

I need only to just plod along until the energy kicks in and I feel the Avraham Ohavi, the love Hashem feels for this astonishing person. I do what he did and I become what he was. I live towards him and he lives through me. The Father of the Jewish People. The Hebrews.


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Philosophy » Pain and Suffering » Holocaust
Philosophy » Character

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.