The gray rainy Sunday morning after the murders in Pittsburgh may be a time to think past the obvious lessons of the event.
Yes, we know the gunman is an evil madman filled with irrational hate against Jews. Yes, we know he also hates the president and no doubt his hit parade of bigotry is replete with many other targets. And yes, this coward killed those people. The guns he used did not, as they do not have powers of independent locomotion and execution. We sadly know that in a tragic irony, the rabbi at the martyred shul was a serious proponent of gun control. Given one armed Jew there at the time of the massacre could have stopped the attack, perhaps the good rebbe is rethinking his position.
But reading the killer’s (I will not mention his accursed name) social media and looking throughout history for the type, the travesty goes farther than Pittsburgh or recent shootings, whatever the details. Towards the Jews, and I grew up Jewish, this killer was expressing the age-old hatred of the losers against the winners, the hyenas against the lions.
What he hates to see is what modern Jewry, and to a larger extent modern Israel, has become. Which is a place that can say to him and his ilk, do what you may, but we will still be here, we will fight back and we will win. But, this wasn’t always so.
Ever heard of Joseph Trumpeldor?
He was born in Pyatigorsk, Russia in 1880. First trained as a dentist, he volunteered for service with the Czar’s Army and lost an arm in the fight for Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. Cited numerous times for gallantry in action, he earned the Cross of St. George and in 1906 became the first Jew to receive a commission in the Russian Army. He later fought with Jewish forces for the British in WWI and died in 1920 in the Holy Land defending the Jewish settlement of Tel Hai against Shiite attack.
What does he have to do with the Pittsburgh shooting? He is vital to it because Trumpeldor’s spirit is what the killer was trying to extinguish.
For centuries Jews, we all know it, had been given the stereotype of a weak, rootless, bookish people always at the mercy of others. They had been thrown out of nation after nation because of jealousy against them, hatred of the other amongst the natives, and greed on the part of their former hosts, who conveniently repudiated debts and confiscated their property after expulsion.
As they roamed from country to country they kept faith with their sacred texts and burned with the flame of hope to eventually return to the homeland promised by God. But they still were kicked around the world and toiled in the limited parts of society open to them by others. Ah, but then came The Enlightenment.
Jews were told that if only they exchanged their separateness for citizenship in the nation state, all would be well. Liberty, equality, and fraternity ruled the day! Until they didn’t.
For the very nation whose revolution promulgated that slogan became in time a center of anti-semitism in the Western world. Even today, France guards its synagogues with Army troops; such is the animus against Jews, especially amongst its Muslim immigrants. And during these centuries Jews talked, lobbied, worked hard, built families, and did their best to fit in. Some eventually went into the gas chambers clutching their Iron Crosses. For it didn’t matter how loyal they were, how useful they were, how long they had been there, they were still the suspect outsiders, easily abused because there was no deterrent, no price to be paid for any crime against them.
And then out of Russia comes “the Jew on horseback,” refuting the image of the victim and replacing it with the stark contrast of the gallant soldier. He was not an accountant, nor a preening social justice warrior, lawyer, a doctor, not any stereotype of the modern era. Trumpeldor was a man who lived his life like an infantry grunt and died like one as well.
As a young Jewish boy who watched with awe, pride, and admiration on the same day both his country’s bicentennial and the valor of the people of his faith at Entebbe, I understood what Trumpeldor meant for all people. I still do.
Since then the State of Israel and many, sadly not all, Jews around the world epitomize his spirit and refuse to be the helpless bookworms anymore. And that reality grates on the likes of the cowardly scum who perpetrated these murders. It throws their entire worldview in the trash and mocks their jealousy a thousand times over. Accordingly they try to destroy that spirit with barbarous acts of violence against people at prayer.
But it won’t work because Jews have learned their lessons the hard way.
No more is Jewish life made cheap, except by those whose leftist blindness and irrational adherence still to a culture of weakness and masochism make it so. No longer will innocent families be dragged out in the middle of the night, because a strong Jewish parent who knows their people’s history will stand athwart the intruder, ready to defend with all their righteous might the sanctity of home and hearth in every sense. Nor will we hear Israel stand alone in the caterwauling councils of the world, as friends like the president and brave leaders like the Israeli PM bring truth to the libels spread by the ignorant and murderous.
This is the meaning of Pittsburgh. Murder you might, but you will not kill the heart of a people. Destroy the body, but the indomitable soul tempered by millennia will live on. And no base evil or massacre of innocents will change that.
For the God of Hosts wills it so.