"The bad goyim have always wanted to kill the Yidden." “Bad Goyim” here could mean bad non-Jews who want to kill Yidden versus good non-Jews who do not or simply that Goyim are by definition bad and want to “kill out” (Yeshivish for genocidal murder) the Yidden (Yiddish for Jews). I believe the intent of the Hagadah is the first. There are indeed those in every generation who may hate Jews and despise our the ethical monotheism we stand for and try to destroy us and our message. God protects us and our mission from ultimate destruction. I deeply believe that. At the same time, I think most children would read the words as "Goyim are bad and always want to kill Jews."
A people that dwells alone!
The Talmud explains that Bilaam’s blessings were really curses. To be alone and isolated is no blessing. Indeed, as Rabbi Sacks, points out one of G-d’s first comments to man is “Its not good for man to be alone.”
"To be different is not necessarily to be alone. Indeed, . Singular, distinctive, countercultural – yes: these are part of the Jewish condition. But alone? No. That is not a blessing but a curse."
Given this vision of the world we are lead to two social strategies, isolation or assimilation. We can either segregate ourselves and protect our fragile world under siege or avoid the hate by giving up our identity. The latter strategy is pretty successful in the United States, it would seem. But so it seemed to some in Germany as well. When the Nazis came to power even the most assimilated German Jew was not safe. As we are often warned, “You just wait. It can happen here too!” Neither isolation or assimilation are reliable refuge.
What is the third option? We in the United States, at least, have the option of living robust, happy, enthusiastically observant Jewish lives while actively engaging our non-Jewish friends and neighbors in such a way as to help them appreciate who we are and what we stand for. Jewish life need not be a mystery. How many of your non-Jewish colleagues have any idea what Shabbat means to you? Do they know why you keep kosher? Do they know what kind of God you believe in? In my experience, most non-Jews know little about Judaism or what it means to be Jewish.
Won’t this lead to assimilation? Aren’t friendships and relationships just the precursors to assimilation and intermarriage. Maybe. Yet the walls of distrust have not prevented assimilation. It was this isolation that has driven the vast majority of Jewish people away from out faith. They left the isolation but they took some with them. Ironically many very assimilated Jews prefer to live in fear that one day they will be “outed” or to identify with Israel’s plight as the “pariah” among nation-states. They prove everyday that you can be assimilated and still be alone.
I don’t deny there is plenty of genuine Jew-hatred in the world. This year, in the wake of horrific attacks on Jews in Europe, no one would say there is not. I don’t know that you can cure anti-Semitism completely but I do know that you can refuse to let it make you sick. Being hated is not an identity for a healthy people.
"To be a Jew is to be loved by God; it is not to be hated by Gentiles. Our ancestors were called on to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The word , “holy,” means set apart. But there is a profound difference between being apart and being alone…"
This Zayde too raises his voice and beams with pride at his family and celebrates his Jewishness. I too will assure my children of the survival and thriving of the Jewish people. I too will affirm my faith in God and gratitude for the mission He has given us. I will tell them that embracing our holiness means re-embracing our mission to be a “light unto the nations” not in some patronizing way but in the way of teachers, friends and colleagues. It means to share the wisdom of Torah and to be willing to hear its echoes in the voices of other peoples, other nations and even other faiths.