Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A mysterious, fundamental hatred.”

For generations, many people – Jews and non-Jews alike – have struggled to find an explanation for anti-Semitism, and they have offered a list of reasons for it:

Hatred of strangers, hatred for religious reasons, envy of the Jews’ accomplishments, etc.

All of these reasons, which are treated quite extensively in scholarly literature, while perhaps not completely rational, have a basis in human nature and in outlooks that often come to expression in cases of conflict and hatred between peoples.

However, age-old anti-Semitism, which, in its overt forms, is distinct and well defined, has existed for well over two thousand years, long before the emergence of Christianity.

To be sure, even in the ancient manifestations of hatred toward Israel, such as Haman and Apion of Alexandria, we find all the known elements of hatred between nations and between individuals.

Nevertheless, in the hatred of Jews that has manifested itself throughout our history, there is also a trace of an additional element that cannot be explained rationally – a mysterious, fundamental hatred.

This kernel of hatred is part of anti-Semitism in all its manifestations throughout the ages.

This mysterious element has no better explanation than the other mystery: the continued existence of the Jewish people.

This aspect of anti-Semitism is simply a reaction to the very existence of the Jews in the world.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz