French police patrolling the site of one of the January 2015 Paris terror attacks - the "Hyper-Cacher" supermarket, where four Jewish hostages were murdered

Op-Ed: Is France Safe For the Jews?

Last year at this time, the world was shaken by a three-day terror spree which began in the offices of the Charlie-Hebdo magazine in Paris, France, and ended with four Jews murdered in the midst of their Shabbos shopping • As we mark the Yahrtzeit of the Kedoshim on the 18th of Tevet, we are called upon to reflect not only whether France is safe for the Jewish body, but also whether French values are safe for the Jewish soul.

Last January, France made it to the headlines with some bloody show of Muslim terrorists. The debate on “is there a future for the Jews in France” was reopened again, and all we can hope for is for is that France and all of Europe should notice that it can’t afford to let terror flourish anywhere in the world (even in Israel…), because a cancer that begins in the toe will end in the brain.

 The French revolution has directed the battle away from the community to the individual; the community stands with no direct threat from the culture of the world, but it is under threat of the battle taking place inside the individual: whether or not he should belong to the community. 

But it’s time to open another discussion: “is there a future to Jews in a world governed by French values?”

France has some responsibility not just for the holocaust of the Jewish bodies and for letting anti-Semitism grow; France, in fact, in peaceful and democratic ways, presented assimilation to the Jews, which may have lost millions more to our small nation than Hitler could have ever.

When Napoleon began his conquest of Europe and was heading for Russia, many great Jewish leaders led by the Ba’al Hatanya, prayed for the victory of Czar Alaxander and even supported his armies with intelligence and funds. The reason being  that “if Bonaparte will win the material status of the Jews will improve, but their spirituality will deteriorate, if alexander wins, the Jews will continue to suffer, but their hearts will remain faithful to their father in heaven.”

The terror against the Jewish spirit began in France and was called “emancipation,” it spread to Germany with the title “Reform” and to most of the countries where Jews lived as it bred various movements run Jews like “Socialism,” “Zionism” and many more.

Now, the values of “freedom” presented to humanity by France are no longer just French, but any western society prides itself with this value which surpasses any other value system, including family, morals and Divine destiny.

But really, it’s not Frances’ fault: The biggest threat to man’s devotion to G-d has always been and forever will remain the human experience. Neither did Christianity, Islam or any other religion ever have the power to lure a person away from G-d, as much as he himself had. The greatest tyrants as Hitler and Stalin never managed to do to Jews what Jews’ did to themselves. Lev Melachim Vesarim B’yad Hashem, and so is everything in the world, besides for Yir’as Shamayim which was entrusted into man’s own hands and he and only he, has the ultimate choice to choose good from bad and right from wrong. The French revolution, by removing all the previous form of spiritual authority from mankind, just brought us to arms and now to terms with this scary yet rewarding reality.

Two hundred years ago, Gedolei Yisrael saw France as a K’lipah and with great success used their powers to keep it and it’s after effects away from their communities. Divine providence has it today that Jews all over live in free countries and as challenging as it seems, we now need to deal with it, because in the past it was a possibility to combat a dogmatic world with Jewish dogma. But now since dogma as a powerful force is a matter of history and freedom is in, we must combat the freedom to choose wrong with the freedom to choose right: we cannot and mustn’t shun freedom and the G-d given liberties that our governments protect, but we must convert them from “freedom from” to “freedom of” choosing the right over the wrong.

Two hundred years ago it was a test that we couldn’t pass, so we were spared from dealing with it and thus was a strong and sound Torah Jewry built. Now we moved on to the next stage of history, the time of Moshiach, and that’s why we are challenged with something greater, the greatest gift of Hashem to man – the opportunity to become a partner in creation by taking an active role in bringing the Geulah, using that very K’lipah of France, which the Lubavitcher Rebbe declared, has already been refined.

So as religious organizations battle (a very much justified one) over un-religious laws, the truly faithful to G-d will be futuristic enough to believe a little more in people and envision a world where people will respect family, morals and G-d’ will, because they choose too, not because it was enforced upon them.

The French revolution has directed the battle away from the community to the individual; the community stands with no direct threat from the culture of the world: everyone is free to live the life they choose to live, but the community is under threat of the battle taking place inside the individual: whether or not he should belong to the community.

And there is one way to win that battle: that the community (represented by parents, teachers, rabbis and leaders) should empower the individual to alone make decisions and direct him to the right ones.