Reflecting on the fact that the recent shooting at the Poway synagogue occurred on the final day of Passover, Dara Horn writes:
The Bible’s famous call for freedom is “Let my people go.” But in the Bible, these words are nearly always followed by another phrase: “so they may serve Me.” The only purpose of this freedom is to enable the people voluntarily to accept divine laws—laws about welcoming strangers, loving one’s neighbors, and accepting responsibility for creating a civic society of mutual obligation. For a nation of former slaves, this was terrifying. Suddenly these people discovered that freedom requires hard work: building a community, supporting the vulnerable, respecting others, educating children. . . .
Since ancient times, in every place they have ever lived, Jews have represented the frightening prospect of freedom. So long as Jews existed in any society, there was evidence that it in fact wasn’t necessary to believe what everyone else believed, that those who disagreed with their neighbors could survive and even flourish against all odds. The Jews’ continued distinctiveness, despite overwhelming pressure to become like everyone else, demonstrated their enormous effort to cultivate that freedom: devotion to law and story, deep literacy, and an absolute obsessiveness about transmitting those values between generations. The existence of Jews in any society is a reminder that freedom is possible, but only with responsibility—and that freedom without responsibility is no freedom at all.
People who hate us know this. You don’t need to read the latest screed by a hater to know that unhinged killers feel entitled to freedom without any obligations to others. The insane conspiracy theories that motivate people who commit anti-Semitic violence reflect a fear of real freedom: a fondness for tyrants, an aversion to ideas unlike their own and most of all, a casting-off of responsibility for complicated problems. None of this is a coincidence. Societies that accept Jews have flourished. Societies that reject us have withered, fading into history’s night.