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Does it say anywhere in the ancient Sources that antisemitism preserves Judaism, by causing the survivors to cling even more closely to their traditions, as a reaction? There is a hint of that in Makkot 24a, but it is not a compelling interpretation of the text.

(I am not talking about thinking: "Antisemites are harassing me because I sinned, so I will sin no more." I am talking about thinking: "So these guys don't like Jews, eh? I'll SHOW them by being even more Jewish.")

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    Doesn't the Torah say it explicitly? "בַּצַּר לְךָ וּמְצָאוּךָ כֹּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלוֹ" – Al Berko Feb 7 at 19:26
  • I’ve heard this point made in conjunction with Bereishis 15:13. We should be וגר יהיה זרעך בארץ לא להם, strangers in a land not ours, being distinct from the surrounding culture. The second we try to assimilate, they’ll make sure to let us know that we’re not one of them: ועבדום וענו אתם, we will be enslaved and oppressed. I’ve heard this in the name of the Beis HaLevi, but I’m having trouble tracking it down at the moment. – DonielF Feb 7 at 20:44
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    No, Judaism just perseveres it. Ultimately, I think there must be another way to get out of this stupid situation of living amongst stupid people who hate us. HaShem preserves Judaism. – Anonymous Feb 7 at 22:02
  • @Anonymous It’s called Mashiach – DonielF Feb 7 at 23:17
  • @ DonielF -- Yes, Bet HaLevi [19th-century Russia] commented on the verse: "Hatzileni Na MiYad Achi, Miyad Esav -- Save me, I beseech you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau." [Gen. 32:12] He said: "He will try to harm Jacob by sweet talk ("brother") and by action ("Esau"). The first is more serious." – Maurice Mizrahi Feb 12 at 20:08
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Bavli Megila 14a

אמר רבי אבא בר כהנא גדולה הסרת טבעת יותר מארבעים ושמונה נביאים ושבע נביאות שנתנבאו להן לישראל שכולן לא החזירום למוטב ואילו הסרת טבעת החזירתן למוטב

To what can we compare Ahasuerus and Haman at this point?

To two men one of whom had a mound in the middle of his field and the other a ditch in the middle of his field.

The owner of the ditch said, I wish I coul buy that mound, and the owner of the mound said, I wish l could buy that ditch.

One day they met, and the owner of the ditch said, Sell me your mound, whereupon the other replied, Take it for nothing, and I shall be only too glad.

And the king removed his ring.

Rabbi Abba Bar Kahana said: This removal of the ring was more efficacious than forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses who prophesied to Israel; for all these were not able to turn Israel to better courses, and the removal of the ring did turn them to better courses.

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I think I have an answer. Not an ancient quote, but better than that: All of Jewish history.

After the Exodus, a lot of Jews lapsed into idolatry, and clung to it tenaciously and enthusiastically for 1,000 years. When Rav Ashi dreamed of King Menashe, he asked him: If you are so wise, why did you worship idols? King Menasheh replied: If you had lived in my time, you would have done the same. You would have lifted the hems of your robes to run behind me to worship idols also. [Sanhedrin 102b]

Then, after the exile in Babylon, idolatry disappeared from Judaism, suddenly and completely, and has remained absent for the next 2,500 years, to this day. What happened?

My explanation: During the 1,000 years of idolatry, the Jews were essentially free and masters of their own house. They felt they could indulge in whatever appealed to them, as free people do. Those who found idolatrous rites colorful and attractive felt free to indulge in them. But for the next 2,500 years, the Jews were subjugated and persecuted – by the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, the Muslims, etc. They felt they HAD to keep their own traditions and not adopt any of the customs of their overlords, as an act of rebellion. They were even willing to die rather than be forced to indulge in idolatry or reject their traditions.

Here we have the evidence that antisemitism preserved Judaism.

As for quotes, I found something by Maharsha in Artscroll: When a fruit or vegetable falls on the ground, it rots. Yet the very ground which causes it to rot is the environment necessary for it to take root and grow and be reborn. So it is with Israel in exile: Although many Jews will die, the very hostile environment of persecution will cause their spiritual rebirth.

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