Since the Shoah, Jews have made a point of bringing attention to anti-Semitism. By highlighting those who hate Jews, we hoped to forestall the reemergence of Jew-hatred. Perhaps, for a time, we successfully shamed the world into accepting and even honoring us as we returned to our homeland. But today Jew-hatred and the acceptance of it are on the rise across the political spectrum. We have become both imperialists with the world’s smallest empire and mysterious Illuminati that control the world as a whole.
We might shout at the unfairness of these characterizations, but they still threaten us. We face a real risk of our economic, social, cultural and educational links being gradually strangled and then cut-off. For now, the U.S. is a solid ally, but there is a non-zero chance that the next administration will be actively anti-Israel and effectively anti-Semitic. No nation, not even North Korea, is truly self-sufficient and Israel depends more than most on our relationships with others.
It does not take a prophet to realize there are clouds on the horizon, and the future could be very dark indeed.
Thankfully, this Torah reading contains the seeds of an answer to these troubles. After all, like Israel, Yosef found himself in a world of powerful ‘others.’ Like Israel, Yosef was blessed with tremendous capabilities. And, like Israel, Yosef was unfairly accused. But Yosef found a way out. When faced with the dreams of Pharaoh, Yosef finally understood that he had to give an interpretation that spoke to Pharaoh’s core motivations and the part Yosef could play in fulfilling them.
Yosef spoke to Pharaoh’s desire for relevance in the world.
If we look at antisemitism today, so much of it seems fueled by a desire for relevance. Some want to be a part of a ‘great cause’: standing up for the oppressed. Others want to throw off the invisible shackles that constrain their own lives. And still others combine both ideas.
In this environment, arguments about who is right achieve nothing. ‘Truth’ achieves nothing. Preening about our accomplishments achieves nothing. And calling those who hate us anti-Semites achieves nothing. After all, it is increasingly okay to be an anti-Semite: the Jews deserve it.
To turn back the tide of antisemitism, we must follow the path of Yosef. By seeking the achievement of others and the honor of G-d, we can blessed with the stories that will make the world see our success, and not our destruction, as the pathway towards achieving their own dreams.
When faced with the ‘Jewish Conspiracy’ my cousin likes to ask which countries the Jews control. After all the greatest and wealthiest countries are named, he asks, simply, “I guess those Jews are doing a pretty good job, then, huh?”
In a way, this is the start of an answer. Avraham was promised that he would be a blessing to the families of the world and a blessing is, at its core, opportunity and empowerment.
By helping the world see our success as a pathway towards the realization of their own blessings, we will not only blunt the forces of anti-Semitism, we will unlock the redemption our people have dreamed of since the time of Avraham himself.
Image: Ali Khamenei (yeah, that one) website, CC 4.0