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One of the most treasured psychological disorders that people love to retain for themselves is that of victimhood. Feeling that one is a victim, whether one really is or isn't, gives a person a sense of comfort. It no longer is the fault of the person no matter what that person does and no matter what the results of a person's actions are. It is simply the fact that everyone is against him, therefore he is entitled to feel victimized, which is a comfort.
                    Victimhood leaches into paranoia, but as Richard Nixon once famously said, "If the whole world is against you, you'd also be paranoid."
                              The Jewish people have been victimized regularly over thousands of years. There's no question that terrible things have been done to us in an unjust and completely unfair way. Nevertheless, one of the greatness of the attitudes of the Jewish people has been that even though they have been victimized, they have never really allowed themselves to feel that they are victims. Because of that, they have remained productive and they have been able to be resilient. They've looked forward and not backwards. They have always attempted to strengthen themselves by whatever good they could do and have held optimistic views of what the future would for them.
                              The Holocaust changed that focus, as it has institutionalized victimhood within the Jewish people. Look at the countless museums and memorials that exist. Repeatedly, this makes us feel that we have been the victims and that, so to speak, nothing is our fault and we don't have to do anything more than remind the world that we are victims.
                              This was not the attitude of the Torah and it is not the attitude of Jewish tradition. We have always memorialized sad and tragic events that occurred to the Jewish people, but we have always pushed on. And, regarding sad events, we have risen to create new greatness and to rebuild ourselves.
                             I knew many Jews that were survivors of the Holocaust. Some of them were great rabbis, others were simpler people, tradesman and businessmen. One of the outstanding features of the survivors of the Holocaust was their resilience. They pushed ahead. They build for themselves new families. They acquired wealth for themselves and they rebuilt the Jewish world in the State of Israel and throughout the diaspora. They did not feel themselves to be victims. They felt that since they were granted life, they had to exploit that gift and push onwards.
                              I remember the great Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman of Ponevezh, told me many times that he felt that he was saved so that he could rebuild the world of the Lithuanian Yeshiva in the land of Israel. He never spoke to me about what happened to him and his family and to his Yeshiva in Lithuania. He only spoke to me about what was now happening in Israel, and his intended plan for the future. He said that he was not a victim but a survivor, and that there was a great difference between those two words and those two concepts.  If we realize that we are survivors, then what has happened to us can be placed into perspective. If we feel ourselves to be purely victims, then that victimhood will haunt us, even for later generations.
                              The same thing is true on a personal level. All of us suffer reverses in life, tragedies, disappointments and unexpected negative reactions. The question arises, how do we treat these events? Do we, so to speak, give up because life is unfair, because we have these problems… because people are oftentimes cruel and unjust? No, we somehow shake off the troubles and move ahead with our hopes, plans and with the ability to build and construct better lives for ourselves, our families and for the Jewish people.
                              I think that we suffer from victimhood in far too great an extent in relationship to what we can accomplish. What is gone is gone. What has happened has happened. But what will happen and what will occur is up to us. We have the ability, the creativity, the talent and even the material means to continue to construct a stronger Jewish people…. and an even better world.
                              This idea should be emphasized in our schools and synagogues, in our conversations and in our thought processes. We should never allow ourselves to become victims of victimhood. That would be the ultimate posthumous triumph for our enemies, to those who wish to destroy us. We must renew ourselves daily in pursuit of goodness and greatness which is part of our tradition.
Shabbat Shalom.

Berel Wein 

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