Antisemitism and Manifest Evil: Cosmic Dimensions?

Beit Midrash for calendar_month October 2023

Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin point out that “hatred for the Jew has been humanity’s greatest hatred. While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been as universal, as deep, or as permanent as antisemitism.”[1] Although antisemitism has emerged from various situations and has had many manifestations, its underlying cause has always been the hatred for Israel’s God that rests in the pagan heart —an antipathy which has been directed against the Jewish people because they represent God in the earth. This pathology seethes in the subconscious recesses of the Gentile mind and is ready to leap forth at any time and in any place, only to be dismissed by a plethora of excuses for its mistrust and hatred of Jews. For this reason alone, Jews for thousands of years have held the opinion that antisemitism is “religious and particularist.”[2]

Antisemitism, then, is much more than a psychopathological hatred for Jews. In fact, antisemitism in the Holocaust was “the apotheosis of evil— the epitome of limitless depravity,”[3] as Judith Hughes poignantly observes. Antisemitism is a deep-seated spiritual issue, the ultimate demonstration of manifest evil. “Anti-Semitism is not,” as much “a ‘social disease’” as it is “a moral aberration; it is a denial of the humanity of other human beings, and the responsibility for it lies with those who are guilty of it,”[4] says Michael Seizer. Antisemitism has long been perhaps the most vile manifestation of evil in the world.[5] Though many scholars have sought to define evil in terms of psychopathology,[6] its root is much deeper than mere human activity. This is why “psychoanalysis cannot reduce the evil acts of the Holocaust to simple psychopathology.”[7]

In the final analysis, antisemitism and the excesses it produces — including its “final solutions” — are not comprehensible through psychology or psychoanalysis. Instead, they require understanding the spiritual dimension of human depravity. Though antisemitism requires human agency in order to be manifest, the malevolence that underlies it is a fundamental manifestation of the cosmic evil that predated human creation and continues unabated in today’s world. Antisemitism is the human depravity of manifest evil that, when taken to its extreme and ultimate conclusion, inevitably produces holocaust. Recognizing that antisemitism has an underlying cause that predates every manifestation of its depravity is vital to understanding the quintessential malady itself. Antisemitism is the product of spirit both inside humanity and outside humanity. Indeed, antisemitism is “the inevitable false fruit of man’s spirit,” and it must have existed even before the manifestation of its various appearances, “even before Abraham, the first Jew.”[8]

Ultimately, the agent of vile antisemitism is haSatan, the personification of evil in the universe. The Hebrew word satan means “adversary,” one who withstands or stands in opposition to God and to human beings.[9] Jewish sages expressed their personal doubts that haSatan is actually a being, preferring to view this “adversary” as merely an aspect of the human psyche.[10] In Jewish tradition, therefore, haSatan has come to be connected with the inclination toward evil that is present in each human being from birth. As a matter of fact, some sages suggest that “Satan, the yetzer hara, and the Angel of Death are one and the same.”[11]

In the Hebrew Scriptures, however, haSatan is more than an psychological predisposition or an inclination. Ha-Satan is given personification. He was the tempter who deceived Eve and overcame Adam in the Garden of Eden at the very genesis of human creation (Gen. 3:13). As a matter of fact, Paul warned Christians to be on guard lest they also be “outwitted by Satan’s schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11) and to be careful not to permit the serpent who “deceived Eve by his craftiness” to lead them “astray from sincere and pure devotion” (2 Cor. 11:3). This is what happened when Satan confronted King David and persuaded him to number Israel (1 Chron. 21:1), thereby incurring God’s judgment because he had not followed the procedures that God had established in the Torah for such a census (Ex. 30:12). When the same Satan positioned himself to resist Joshua the high priest, he was rebuked by God himself (Zech. 3:2).

From the Apostolic Scriptures, it is clear that Jesus and the Jewish leaders of the first-century Messianic community believed haSatan to be a literal being, a fallen angel. As a matter of fact, Jesus described the primordial fall of Satan that he himself had witnessed in the beginning of time: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). Jesus also encountered Satan during his forty days of fasting in the Judean desert and rejected the “adversary’s” three major temptations with specific instructions from the Torah (Mk. 1:13). He also declared that the woman who had been bent double for eighteen years was thus afflicted because “Satan [had] bound [her]” (Lk. 13:11-16).[12] Peter warned the early Christians that “your adversary [haSatan], the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Finally, John the beloved disciple summed up the overarching apostolic perspective on haSatan from creation to the final judgment: “I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-2).[13] Each of these leaders recognized haSatan as more than mere conflict within the human psyche: he was the “devil,” the “serpent,” the “dragon” — evil personified and self-contained in the adversary of God.

In the ongoing conflict with evil, Paul observed that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12). As the most vile and vicious form of human hatred and prejudice, antisemitism is rooted in and prompted by the same haSatan and powers aligned with him in a spiritual realm. While antisemitism is inspired by insidious forces in the heavenlies that are aligned against the Almighty and his people, however, the struggle against antisemitism works itself out in human agents and human societies where personal and community choices are made which determine “who is on the Lord’s side” (Ex. 32:26) and who is aligned with haSatan in this most wretched demonstration of manifest evil in the earth.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. John D. Garr’s book, Anti-Israelism: The New Face of Antisemitism, which can be purchased from the store or in any major bookstores.

[1] Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), p. 3.

[2] Prager and Telushkin, p. 56.

[3] Judith M. Hughes, The Holocaust and the Revival of Psychological History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 2

[4] Michael Seizer, “Kikel” A Documentary History of Anti-Semitism in America (New York: World Publishing, 1972), p. 7.

[5] Bartlett, p. 166ff.

[6] Carole L. Jurkiewicz, The Foundations of Organizational Evil (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015), p. 5.

[7] Steven A. Luel and Paul Marcus, eds., Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Holocaust: Selected Essays (Denver, CO: Holocaust Awareness Institute, 1984), p. 70.

[8] Yoram Hazony, God and Politics in Esther (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016), p. 75. Citing Rabbi Levi, Hazony points out the rabbis’ contention that, in effect, it was Cain who was the first antisemite, that he was possessed of the same spirit that produced the Holocaust when he hated and then killed his brother Abel.

[9] “Satan” is mentioned in five instances in the Hebrew Scriptures and 34 times in the Apostolic Scriptures.

[10] Stuart Federow, Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast (Bloomington, IN: Universe, 2012), pp. 11-13.

[11] Talmud, Bava Basra 16a.

[12] The condition with which this woman was afflicted could hardly have been psychosomatic. The “Satan” that had bound her for 18 years could hardly have been a psychological problem.

[13] John brought together all the metaphors and names for manifest evil personafied and applied them to one being: the dragon, the serpent of Eden, the Devil, and Satan.

About the Author
John D. Garr, Ph.D.
President & CEO