Daf Yomi Kiddushin 70
After being liberated from Auschwitz, my grandfather, Eli Friedman – or “Poppa” as we called him – returned home to Kosice, Czechoslovakia. Arriving at his house, he noticed noise coming from inside. He rang the bell and a burly Slovak fellow answered.
“Uh, thank you for house-sitting for me while I was away, but I’m back now,” says Poppa.
“I’m sorry, there must be some mistake,” replies the Slovak, “you look confused. Those years in the camp must have shaken you up quite a bit. This is our house. We’ve always lived here. I hope you find your home.”
Poppa wasn’t deterred. Shortly prior to the Germans’ arrival into town, his father who was murdered by the Nazis, saw the writing on the wall. He took all their gold, silver, jewellery, and important documents, and buried them in the backyard.
“I have proof that this is my house,” Poppa responds to the Slovak, “I’m just going to the backyard, and you’ll see!”
Prior to the war, Poppa had been a strong young man. He was originally chosen to represent Czechoslovakia in the 1936 Olympics in shotput and discus, until Hitler prohibited all Jews from participating. But after three years in and out of concentration camps, he was no match for the big Slovak.
Chased out of his own childhood home, he went to the police. He told them the story and, to his surprise, they were responsive. They agreed to have an officer accompany him home to assist him with entry into the backyard. But alas, by the time they arrived, all that was left was some freshly dug dirt. While Poppa was filing his claim at the station, the evil Slovak was removing all the evidence.
Poppa was completely devastated. Not only had he lost everyone he loved in the war, now he had also lost everything his family had ever owned. He was all alone and penniless on the streets in a hostile environment. From his upper-middle class childhood, he now found himself washing dishes and scrubbing floors in a local restaurant.
Tragically, Poppa’s story was not unique. Many Jews returned home from the camps to find they’d been dispossessed. That while they were being tortured and killed, the peasant locals had been enjoying everything they’d worked hard to achieve and gather for generations. While most of them managed to pick themselves up and eventually begin their lives anew, until today we are living the consequences of the aftermath of the Jews’ return to their homes in cities and villages across Europe. How so?
It was taught: Whoever questions others’ lineage, he himself is tainted and never praises others people.
Rashi explains: Tainted people never have anything nice to say about anyone else.
Shmuel says: He accuses others with his own blemish.
Carl Jung introduced the concept of Transference to the world of psychology. According to Jung, people with psychological issues will often transfer their personal misgivings onto others and accuse them of the same shortcomings. It’s clear from the Gemara that Jung didn’t invent the concept. Shmuel taught it fifteen hundred years earlier!
As the Gemara explains, some people never have anything nice to say about anyone else. They’re forever criticizing others and some go so far as to try to completely undermine and invalidate them! I’m always shocked when someone approaches me and tries to tell me that a community member who converted isn’t a real Jew because their observance level wasn’t up to snuff. Who do they think they are: G-d’s policeman?
Actually, the Gemara tells us who they are: someone who goes around trying to disqualify others means that they themselves are tainted. Why are they so intent on ruining other people’s lives and reputations? Shmuel explains: it’s about transference. They take their own blemish and project it onto the other person.
Who are the worst enemies of the State of Israel today? Not the Arabs. Believe it or not, many Arab nations have pretty good behind-the-scenes relationships with the Jewish state. With ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Iran to deal with, the Jews are the least of their concerns.
You know who the biggest anti-Semites in the world are? The Europeans. They are leading the way in Israel-bashing, from the campuses to the parliaments. They’re the ones leading the charge that Israel is an occupier, that Israel has stolen Palestinian land and property. Why would that be? Europe that is so enlightened! Europe that is so progressive and universally-minded!?!
The answer is transference. When the Jews were carted off to the concentration camps, instead of standing up to the Nazis, Europeans ran as fast as they could to occupy our homes and businesses. Their financial institutions stole our bank accounts and seized our assets. When we came back they denied us entry into our own homes, slamming the door in our faces.
And for the last seventy years, they’ve lived with this guilt. They’ve passed on these blemishes to their children and grandchildren who know that their wealth was achieved by ill-gotten means. It’s not easy to live with yourself knowing that your grandparents were murderers and thieves. And that you continue to benefit from their illicit behaviour.
So what do you do to alleviate your guilt? You transfer it back to the object of your scorn and resentment. And so the Jews become the occupiers. The Jews become the thieves and murderers. Instead of being eternally contrite and remorseful, the Europeans have become emboldened, as the world has slowly but surely forgotten their monstrous crimes.
Our communal memory is not that short. We will not be bullied into submission once more. By the grace of Heaven, we are now in control of our national destiny. And Baruch Hashem, we have nations like Canada, the US, and Australia that won’t fall for European hypocrisy. May we merit the prevailing of the truth, and peace in the Holy Land and on Earth speedily in our days!