The events of October 7th in Israel are still way too fresh for anyone to forget about them. I was visiting a friend when I heard what happened, so I immediately reached out to a friend in Tel Aviv. Others throughout the world did the same.
And then things got interesting here in the US. American Jews saw antisemitism like most have never seen before. From college campuses to the streets of our largest cities, people were openly and unabashedly anti-Jewish.
So, a lot of people did what any of us would do. They bought guns.
Yet an op-ed tries to warn those Jews not to lose sight of their faith.
Reb Chaim was not saying that resistance was not kosher. He well knew that the greatest sages had participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Rather, he was against placing “resistance”—even in the name of self-defense—at the center of the Jewish story. According to his thinking, a Jew holds two heroisms: the heroism of the battlefield and the heroism of belief through a strenuous search for God through the study of His word and at the same time, a brave resistance to the temptations of a hedonistic world. If you glorified the gun over the Torah, he was not the rebbe for you.
He was not against the JDL for the usual reasons: a peculiar Jewish penchant for fatalism, or a bourgeois, middle-class aversion to violence. Rather, his primary understanding of Jewish life was conditioned by his belief in God. It’s not that he believed in passivity as a passageway to holiness, but for Reb Chaim, the point for a Jew was to find God in whatever the circumstances.
To take up arms in the way of the JDL was to assert a lie: that we are masters in our own house. That a “greed” for physical survival has overtaken the Jewish essence. That is, to move away from the spirit of God and engage in the human fantasy of omniscience and the folly of omnipotence: We know what’s best and we know exactly what needs to be done and how.
Now, I’m not about to tell Jews how to be Jewish. I’ve never been a Jew so I won’t pretend I know anything about it. I have Jewish friends, but that’s hardly enough to impart the Jewish experience onto me.
But on the same token, I do know a few things about guns, self-defense, and the culture that surrounds those topics.
Maybe it’s just me, but if no one in a group that’s faced with so much hatred has “greed” for physical survival, it’s really only a matter of time before someone acts on that hatred and begins hurting or killing people for the “sin” of having the wrong genealogy.
Those armed Jews I know may have self-defense as a big part of their life, of their personal identity, and it may overlap with their faith, but literally no one I know is somehow pretending that guns are more than an aspect of them as a person. It’s damn sure not supplanting God in their lives, at least so far as I can see.
So this is either a non-issue or it’s something else, something more troubling for me.
I can’t help but wonder if this is an attempt to try and dissuade Jewish people from getting guns. Maybe I’m wrong here, but why else worry so much about ordinary Jews getting guns so they can defend their lives? It starts with anecdotes about the Jewish Defense League and how that organization went off the rails, as if Jews buying guns is somehow equivalent.
Guns don’t make people violent. Having a desire to stay alive against antisemitic hatred that desires to see you dead isn’t “greed” or some other terrible thing. It’s common sense.
I respect anyone who recognizes they’re potentially subject to hate and wants to make sure they’re not the victim of it. I also fail to see how anyone could think that God, regardless of how you worship Him, would somehow prefer you to be slaughtered by monsters.