Every year I am impressed and frightened even more by the description of
Jewish history that appears in this week's parsha. Ramban almost eight
hundred years ago stated how wondrous and chilling the prophesies of Moshe
were in their precise accuracy and clarity of vision and outlook. The
description of the Jewish future that we encounter here is so frightening
as to be disheartening. Who can withstand such enmity, persecution and
A cynical professor of mine once said to me that Jewish history is "books
and blood." This is a vast oversimplification but it does contain a kernel
of truth. A large element that contributed to the abandonment of Jewish
practice and faith, if not even Judaism itself in Western and later in
Eastern Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was the
unremitting enmity and persecution of the Jews by the general society. Put
simply, many Jews were no longer able or willing to bear the burden of the
tochachah - of the grinding poverty and violent bigotry that was the lot
of European Jewry.
They opted out, hoping that they would thereby escape the Torah-predicted
fate of the Jewish people. The irony to all of this was that the German
annihilation of the Jews during the Holocaust was not based on religion
but rather upon race and ancestry. Thus Jews who converted to Christianity
also found themselves standing on the railroad platform at Auschwitz. The
tochachah hunted them down as well.
However a careful reading of this parsha will allow us to adopt a more
hopeful and sanguine view of our future. The Torah guarantees us our
survival as a people - not necessarily as individuals per se, but as a
people. As a people, we are indestructible and eternal. Eventually, the
Lord will not forsake us for we will return to treasure Him and His Torah
in faith and practice.
The seven haftorot of comfort and consolation which lead us from the
tochachah of Tisha B'Av to the greatness of the High Holy days and Succot
all reaffirm the prediction of God's mercy and redemption towards Israel.
The Lord does not allow us to be vanquished physically or
spiritually. "Will a woman forget her infant? So too, will I not forsake
you," states the prophet Yeshayahu.
A loving reconciliation between God and Israel is predicted by all of our
prophets from Moshe to Malachi. The wait may be long and nerve-wracking,
but the outcome is certain and sure. This is no less the message of the
tochachah than are its most dire predictions. To paraphrase Rabi Akiva who
saw the ruins of the Temple strewn on the ground before his eyes, we can
also state: "If the terrible predictions have proven to be so unerringly
accurate in detail and form, then we can rest assured that the prophesies
of comfort and triumph are also true even as to their most minute detail."
This faith of Israel has sustained us throughout our long night of exile.
It continues to sustain us now in the midst of our angst and travails.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com