‘And To The Slanderers Let There Be No Hope;’ Or, The Problem Of Anti-Jewish Jews

In a couple of weeks Jews around the world will observe the holiday of Purim, celebrating the defeat of Haman and his minions who planned to exterminate the entire Jewish community of the Persian Empire, as reported in the Book of Esther. In Jewish Tradition, Haman is the personification of the classic anti-Semite, and his accusation against the Jews to the Persian king is paradigmatic of future anti-Semitic tropes: A certain people don’t follow the king’s laws. They need to be eliminated.

Eventually, Haman and his sons are hanged, and the Persian Jews permission to pre-emptively attack their enemies before Haman’s “final solution” is carried out. The story reports that thousands of Jew-haters were killed, but their property was untouched. Curiously, the only Jews named in the story are Esther and Mordecai. No others are mentioned by name, and “the Jews” are only referred to as a united collective.

However, with current events in mind, one dares ask the question: Did all the Jews back then support those pre-emptive actions…or were there some who, like today, virtue-signaled sympathy for the enemy? Back then, were there some Jews who, like today’s Jewish Voices for Peace, sat “shiva” for those who wanted to annihilate them and said Kaddish (a prayer for the dead) for them as members of Not In Our Name and If Not Now, When do for Hamas terrorists today?

One wonders if, in the days of Esther and Mordecai, there were Jews like Louisa Solomon, who claims to be a rabbinic student (!). Her Instagram account highlights her recent activities—in words and photos—enthusiastically supporting enemies of the Jewish community, all in the name of “Judaism.”

To be sure, not only are the activities of Louisa Solomon and those like her not in line with Jewish teaching and tradition but, arguably, she and her fellow travelers are what Jewish Law calls “mosrim;” that is, “informers/traitors” (singular: mosair, literally “one who hands over”). Historically, mosrim were Jews who, for whatever reasons, betrayed their own by creating prejudiced “exposés” of Jewish society to the hostile ruling (often clerical) authorities. Consequently, the term “mosair” became the most hated epithet one could apply to a Jew. As one scholar writes, “the mosair was part traitor, part informant and wholly despicable.”

Because of the mortal danger that mosrim posed to Jewish communities, they were considered as dangerous as the rodef (“pursuer”) intent on committing murder, and thus worthy of the death penalty. The renowned 12th-century legal authority Maimonides opined that “an informer may be slain anywhere, even at the present time when Jewish courts do not try capital cases. It is permissible to slay him before he has informed… It is a religious duty to slay him; whoever hastens to kill him attains merit.”

That this great scholar/rabbi/philosopher would make such a statement testifies to how serious a threat mosrim posed. By the time Maimonides wrote these words, the Jewish community had already had centuries of experience dealing with such nefarious individuals, including (but not limited to):

Jews in the 2nd century BCE who championed Antiochus Epiphanes’ Hellenization decreed and supported his army in their war against the faithful Jews led by the Maccabees.
Jewish maligners of Judaism and sympathizers of the Roman occupiers in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. In response to these individuals, the Sages of the Talmud added a prayer to the daily liturgy that begins “And to the slanderers let there be no hope…”. Among the most notorious of these was Elisha ben Abuyah, a rabbi who not only apostatized but, according to legend, also helped the Romans persecute his former colleagues, one of whom was his former friend, Rabbi Akiba.

After Maimonides there was:

Nicholas Donin, who, in the 13th century, denounced the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX, promulgating an anti-Jewish propaganda tool that lasted for centuries.
Jacob Brafman, whose 1869 work, Book of the Kahal (community), put forth anti-Jewish themes that would eventually be used by the authors of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion and, later, Adolf Hitler.
Although Jewish Law theoretically calls for the death of mosrim, Jewish communities rarely, if ever, had the authority to execute anyone guilty of a capital offense. In our time, such a legal measure is certainly considered by most Jews not only provocative, but also barbaric.

As Orthodox scholar Rabbi Herschel Schacter has stated, we live in a different time, under a different form of government and, certainly, the death penalty wouldn’t and shouldn’t apply. And yet, like past mosrim, those in our time—the ones who publicly advocate for and demonstrate with those who want to kill us—do not pose a less significant danger, no matter how many tallesim/prayer shawls they wrap themselves in!

With capital punishment usually unavailable to Jewish rabbinic authorities, the only practical responses available in dealing with mosrim were rebuke, condemnation, and excommunication. With limited effective resources available, it is understandable that faithful Jews would daily appeal to the Ultimate Judge and vociferously pray the words “and to slanderers let there be no hope.”

In our time, not only is capital punishment out of the question, but excommunication from the community is also no longer a practical response—although, truth be told, perhaps a case should be made for its reinstitution. For an organism's wellbeing, deadly malignancies should not be tolerated. They must be removed.

The Book of Esther reports that, following the Jews’ pre-emptive actions, many non-Jews converted and strove to be included in the Jewish community out of fear. Riffing on this, perhaps committed Jews, acting out of their own fear, need to find ways of excluding those among us who proudly introduce their treasonous calumnies to the world with the phrase “As a Jew, I believe…”

In truth, in our time, this distancing is only a hope. Since the time that Jews left the ghetto and were granted individual rights as citizens of their respective countries, Jewish Law has had no coercive binding authority on the lives of individual Jews. Indeed, even Orthodox Jews, for whom Jewish Law is authoritative, are not forced to live under that authority but, instead, choose to do so. In the West, the freedoms that have allowed Jews to live more expansive Jewish lives are the same freedoms that limit our community’s capacity to deal with the likes of Jewish Voices for Peace, Not in Our Name, If Not Now, When? and others of our own who threaten our wellbeing.

Thus, in addition to offering our ridicule, rebuke, and condemnation to our maligners and traitors, all we can do is pray with renewed intentionality the ancient words “and for slanderers let there be no hope…” And we must trust, as Mordecai did in the Purim story, that if G-d still wants Jews in the world, “relief and salvation will come forth from some other Place” (Esther 4:14).

Source: American Thinker