“We don’t need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name. Freedom from an ideology that has no plan for peace other than deals with murderous theocratic petrostates next door, while selling the technologies of robo-assassinations to the world. We seek to liberate Judaism from an ethnostate that wants Jews to be perennially afraid, that wants our children to be afraid, that wants us to believe the world is against us so that we go running to its fortress and beneath its iron dome, or at least keep the weapons and donations flowing. That is the false idol. And it’s not just Netanyahu, it’s the world he made and that made him – it’s Zionism.” (Naomi Klein, Canadian author, professor of climate change and social activist speaking at the Emergency Seder in the Streets in New York City.)

The Amidah, the central prayer of Judaism is known as the Shemoneh Esrai (“eighteen”), so called because it originally contained eighteen blessings. Many years after its formulation, Rabban Gamliel (1st century CE) decided to add a nineteenth blessing (Brachot 28b). This blessing, the twelfth of the current nineteen, was to be a request to God to remove from the midst of the Jewish people all of the divisive sects – amongst them the Sadducees, Essenes and early Judeo-Christians – that had arisen and were threatening the unity and integrity of the nation. A humble and peace-loving scholar named Shmuel HaKatan composed the blessing and it has become part of our liturgy to this day. It is difficult to ascertain the exact wording of the original blessing because of censorship, but the version we have today reads: “And for the slanderers let there be no hope; and may all wickedness perish in an instant; and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. May You speedily uproot, smash, cast down, and humble the wanton sinners – speedily in our days.  Blessed are You, Hashem, Who breaks enemies and humbles wanton sinners.” If a member of one of these sects attempted to infiltrate a traditional place of worship, he could easily be identified through his reluctance to recite this blessing. The Rambam explains the background to this blessing as follows (Hilchot Tefillah 2:1): “In the days of Rabban Gamliel the apostates and non-believers proliferated in Israel and caused much grief and suffering to the Jews. They attempted to lead the Jewish people astray and turn them away from God. When Rabban Gamliel realized that this had become a more urgent matter than all of the other needs of the nation, he and the members of his Beth Din arose and composed a blessing that would be a request from God to destroy the apostates (apikorsim). He included this blessing in the Amidah so that it should be known to everyone…”

Jews who hold true to their religion do not easily tamper with their liturgy. The fact that Rabban Gamliel was prepared to edit the text of the Amidah indicates the extent of the threat of these sects, all of which originated from within the Jewish people. An enemy from within is a most dangerous opponent and often causes far more harm that one from without. The Torah alludes to this in the litany of curses in our parsha (Vayikrah 26:14-17): “But if you will not listen to Me and not perform all of these commandments; if you consider My decrees loathsome, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant – then I will do the same to you; I will assign upon you panic, swelling lesions, and burning fever, which cause eyes to long and souls to suffer; you will sow your seeds in vain, for your enemies will eat it. I will turn My attention against you, you will be struck down before enemies; those who hate you will subjugate you – you will flee with no one pursuing you.” Who are “those who hate you”? The simple explanation is that the verse is referring to the enemies of the Jewish people, those who seek its harm or destruction. However, the Midrash (Sifra) explains otherwise, based on the wording of the verse: v’radu bachem soneichem, which can be read as “and those who hate you from within you will subjugate you”; hence: “I will cause to arise those who hate you from within your very midst” and, continues the Midrash, “this is far more dangerous [than enemies from without] for when the gentiles come to harm Israel they only demand to confiscate that property that is in plain sight…but when internal enemies arise, they leave no stone unturned and no hidden thing undiscovered.” The Midrash might be referring to more than just hidden treasures and concealed property. When an enemy comes from within, they seek out all the secrets of the Jewish people; they uncover all of the concealed, private information and expose the “dirty laundry” for all to see. Furthermore, because of their Jewish origins, they present a facade of credibility to the outside world who believes that when one Jew speaks against his brother, his utterings must be accurate.

Every generation has had its share of enemies from within, from the Sadducees of the Second Temple era to Pablo Christiani, the converted Jew who challenged Nachmanides to a debate in 13th century Spain; to the members of the Yevsektsiya, the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party to the notorious academics of our times – Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Naomi Klein (cited above). Here in South Africa, the local Jewish community has also suffered at the hands of internal foes, many of whom act with impunity because of their Jewish backgrounds, the most notorious of them being Ronnie Kasrils.

Our response to such people should be twofold. Firstly, we must stand up to them and their lies and disinformation. We must state our case clearly, factually and unemotionally. We must educate the youth not to believe everything they read and not to trust someone’s opinion just because he or she is Jewish. We must find friends amongst the nations of the world who will stand with us against tyranny and the delegitimisation of Israel. We must stand up for Judaism, Israel and the Jewish way of life and we must do so unashamedly. Jews have always been in the forefront of pursuing truth and justice and we must continue to do so even when our opponent is a formidable one. The Torah warns a judge (Devarim 1:17), “Do not tremble before any man, for the judgment is God’s.” The same is true whenever any Jew stands against corruption and falsehood – he must not be intimidated and he must not be cowed.

Secondly, we must search deep inside us. The Torah includes the distress of an internal enemy amongst the curses that will come upon us if we forsake God and His mitzvoth, if we pursue an agenda of assimilation, indifference and ignorance. We must improve our observance of mitzvoth and we must commit to the study of Torah. We must seek to unite the Jewish people under the banner of God and we must take up our place as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shmot 19:6), for only then will we banish the enemies from within.

Lee, Chani Merryl and Naomi join me in wishing you Shabbat Shalom!  

Rabbi Liebenberg

I will be away from 31 May to 9 June to attend two simchas in Johannesburg. This Shabbat, Shimpa Moch will read the Torah and deliver the sermon before Mussaf and Rebbetzin Lee will give a shiur after the Kiddush Brocha. Come and support the home side!

Link to Rabbi’s YouTube message for Shabbat:

Yom Yerushalayim 28 Iyar 5784 / Tuesday night 4 & Wednesday 5 June

The 57th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War in 1967. Join us for shacharit at 06h45 when we will recite Hallel, giving praise to Hashem for the eternal capital of the Jewish People. Followed by filter coffee and cake.

*Thursday night 6 & Friday 7 June – Rosh Chodesh Sivan

Sivan is the month in which we celebrate Shavuot. On the first of the month, the Israelites arrived at Mt Sinai.  Tachnun is not recited from Rosh Chodesh until the day after Shavuot (8th Sivan), inclusive. The Molad (appearance of the new moon) is on Friday 7 June at 00h25 and 9 chalakim (a chelek, literally a “portion”, is a Talmudic measure of time equal to one-eighteenth of a minute, or 3 and 1/3 seconds). 

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