9 Cheshvan 5781 / Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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The Case of Mistaken Identity    

The Case of Mistaken Identity

Hashem is calling His Jewish children to choose between serving Him or serving the maidservant’s son; very soon, every Jew will have to make a choice…


Editor's Note: This was written in 2014, but it still as relevant, if not more so, today.


“I’m British first and Jewish second.” Caller to a UK radio station


In case you hadn’t noticed, living in fear in Europe is becoming, at least in certain countries, an experience some had maybe thought was consigned to the history books and we are all aware of the recent tragic circumstances which have brought about this raised concern.


As I’ve become more Torah oriented and wanting to see events in our personal and national lives through the eyes of emuna and Hashem’s intimate providence over the Jewish nation, I naturally have been following the responses of communal leaders of the Jewish communities and foreign political establishments.


One thing I have sensed is unfortunately the attachment we Jews seem to have to our “host” country.  I say “host” because that in fact is what our proper relationship should be to the country in which we live while in exile. We are obliged to live according to their laws as long as it doesn’t negate Torah law and we are obliged to show gratitude to our host nation for allowing us to live as Jews, which in the case of the UK, is a cause for much gratitude as generally speaking successive governments have supported the Jewish communities despite the resurgent forces who every so often try to undermine the Jewish way of life, eg shechita [ritual Jewish slaughter] and our Jewish advocates, may Hashem bless them with success, do a sterling job in fighting those forces through parliamentary lobbying etc.


While it is natural and maybe even desirable as Jews living in exile not to rock the boat, so to speak, when confronted with events taking place both at home and in Israel, the recent call by Prime Minister Netanyahu for French Jews to make Aliyah caused a rather interesting response in the different European communities.  The general consensus amongst the Jewish communities seemed to be that it was inappropriate for the prime minister to make this statement which I can understand on one level.  After all, we are dealing with Esav [Jacob’s brother], the Christian Western power whose dominion the Jewish people still remain under, even with the existence of the Jewish State, until Moshiach will come. We have to be careful not to antagonise them, and to appease in certain circumstances, as brought down in the Torah as the appropriate response.


However, what I sensed was a sort of sub-text.  Successive political leaders from these European countries seemed to baulk at the idea that Jews living in their country would have the gall to consider leaving for Israel and clamoured to refer to them as Danish Jews and French Jews, first and foremost.  I found it a bit disturbing – it was almost as if they were laying claim to us, owning us, just like when we were slaves in Egypt.


And our response?  We seem to respond in kind. As news media outlets picked up on this issue of resurgent anti-Semitism, I started to hear calls like this to a UK radio station: “I’m British first and Jewish second”.  This Jew’s allegiance was to Britain.


Rebbe Nachman, in his story of The Exchanged Children, speaks of the root of this loss of identity. The main theme of the story is about the king’s son who is switched at birth with the son of the maidservant.  They both grow up thinking that their assumed identities are in fact real.  Rebbe Nachman is talking about our situation in exile. We have been exiled from the King’s palace [Eretz Yisrael] physically and have distanced ourselves spiritually from our Father in Heaven. Rather than thinking and living as royalty, as sons and daughters of Hashem, with a spiritual mission to bring mankind to knowledge of the Creator, we think and behave with a servant/slave mentality and our allegiance is to the imposter who has taken our role, who also believes that he is actually royalty. The imposter is a combination of Esav and Yishmael; both feel that they are entitled to the royal mantel of spirituality and that our job is to serve them. And even with the partial return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, we are still in exile. The dominant mentality in Israel is unfortunately still gentile [a recent post on an Israeli news website said it all – showing a picture of a child dressed up for Purim the caption read “Purim – the Jewish Halloween”!].


As we hurtle towards the Messianic era when Hashem will call to His Jewish children to make a choice between serving Hashem or serving the maidservant’s son, we must realise that every Jew will have to make a choice.


We are all servants but I know who I’d rather serve.  Do you?

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