Getting Past the Offensive in the Offensive Questions

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We’ve all been asked a question that sets our nerves ablaze. It’s a  question that shouldn’t have been asked but more, it is a question that should not HAVE to be asked. The answer is obvious, isn’t it? We each have our own “offensive” question. Offensive in quotes because perhaps, though it is hard to believe, a question that is so offensive to one isn’t nearly as offensive to others.

Twice in my life, I have heard the same question – once a few years ago, and then again this morning. The first time, I was escorting an international guest, a Christian, who seemed to not realize that the essence of the question was wrong. However, this time, it seemed that even the man posing it must have known it was offensive.

Honestly, I don’t remember how I answered it the first time. He was my invited guest at a national event. I think I explained why the basis on which the question was based was wrong, but I’m not sure. I know that it took me a long time to get over being asked. Perhaps I never have.

And this time, upon reading the question, my first reaction was anger. Two others jumped in to answer the question much as I would have done. But still I want to answer, need to answer.

The question, in case you are wondering, is this: what did the Jews do to cause people to hate them so much? That’s how it was phrased the first time. This morning, it went like this:

I was taught as a young man that Hitler was bad because he killed the Jews which made me ask why did he kill them? What had they done. Now as an old man I can see why they are despised by so many. It’s because they think they are better than everyone. I feel sorry for them.

In justifiable anger, two others called him an anti-Semite. He probably is. But more, beyond the offense is a deep, ingrained ignorance of “other”. It is that same feeling that led to the Holocaust. When you successfully label someone as “other” or as “different,” human nature kicks in. Survival of the fittest and all of that. If they are other, they must be lower. If they are different, perhaps I am better.

Not everyone thinks that way, thankfully, but too many do.

So what did the Jews do to get themselves hated? To get themselves killed? Here was my answer to one old man:

Hitler was bad because he murdered millions of people – including over six million Jews. He was a man filled with hate. He believed that he and his people were superior and all others less than human. And so he murdered (or planned to murder) black people, homosexuals, gypsies, and many others. What did the Jews do to have the Nazis want to kill them? I guess that question is about equal with what did a woman do to cause a man to rape her? What does a child do to cause its parents to abuse him or her?

Torah for an Eternal PeopleAs for who thinks they are better than anyone else – that was actually the Aryan indoctrination (oh, sorry, is that too big a word for you…it means brain-washing). Others have commented on the likelihood that you are an anti-Semite so I’ll leave that but I would like to offer one comment. You wrote you feel sorry for them (presumably the Jews. As you are an old man, I will offer you some advice. Don’t feel sorry for us. We are an eternal people. We have survived hatred and persecution – likely from your ancestors and yet we thrive. Now, after two thousand years, we are back in our ancient homeland and we have built a nation that stands proud and strong.

Our children are amazing. Dedicated, beautiful. Strong. Committed. We are living our dream – a dream of over 2,000 years. We walk the same hills and valleys that our ancestors did. To answer a question that should never have been asked, we didn’t do ANYTHING to cause or justify the Holocaust that Hitler waged against us but I promise you, what we DID do, is become strong. Stronger than the hate of Hitler; stronger than the ignorance of old men.

Will he realize how offensively he phrased his offensive question? Doubtful. But as I wrote the answer above, a song went through my head. It is one that I have always loved. The words are very simple and have guided my people through the hardest of times and the most offensive questions.

An eternal people, the song says, does not fear a long road, a long journey. We are an eternal people. For two thousand years, we were on a very long road and though we have come home, the journey continues.

An Eternal People Does Not Fear the Long Journey

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