Do Not Fall Into the Trap
This week’s parsha contains the “small” tochacha – the warning of the dire
results that will befall the Jewish people if they violate their trust and
covenant with the Lord. To look at the parsha superficially and coldly it
seems to imply an all or nothing situation. Great blessings and prosperity
can be our lot on one hand and terrible tragedy is the other side of that
coin. But is that the true reality of our history?
Even a cursory knowledge of Tanach will indicate that most of Jewish life in
First Temple times wavered between good times and not so good times.
Eventually the breaches of the covenant were so egregious and cumulative
that the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia
and Egypt. Since this was the fulfillment of the warnings of the “short”
tochacha the exile itself was also a “short” one – only seventy years.
It seems that the breaches of the covenant do not occasion immediate and
sudden punishment and tragedy. Jewish history has very few incidents of
instantaneous punishment or reward. It is always part of a long process of
events that inevitably lead to the events – both good and sad – that are so
graphically described in the parsha of this week.
All human actions activate consequences. The parsha of this week describes
the consequences and eventual results of loyalty to the covenant and
betrayal of it. It would take almost nine centuries from the time of Sinai
until the eventual bill would have to be paid. That is a very long process
in terms of time.
People living in the midst of that period of time would be unable to
recognize that any process was going on if not for the stark all-or-nothing
approach that the Torah describes for us in this week’s parsha. The covenant
between God and Israel is eternal. It creates consequences and results –
again both beneficial or tragic - that are unavoidable.
The main sin that is described in the breach of the covenant by Israel is
always the substitution of foreign gods, alien values, foolish whims of the
times, for God’s Torah and the worship of God alone. Once there were foreign
gods that were represented by actual statues, idols, icons and other such
Much of our world has outgrown these forms of idolatry and this is due
greatly to the unremitting struggle of Judaism against such practices.
However in our current milieu these childish forms of idol worship have been
replaced by the adoption of systems of values that are completely
antithetical to Judaism and the Torah.
These value systems are coated in the garb of modernity and progressivism
even though they are only a rehash of much of what was acceptable in ancient
classical times amongst the then ruling societies in the world. Judaism has
been distorted by many to accommodate their newly obtained liberal and
humanistic values system, so that these distortions have become almost
Orwellian in nature.
The Soviet Union and its fellow travelers taught the world that words like
democracy, peace, paradise and progressive can be manipulated to mean the
exact opposite of what they were intended to mean. The Soviet Union may be
gone but its evil, anti-Semitism, and scorn for Jews lives on. We should be
careful not to fall into the trap of modern idolatry lest again untoward
consequences for us may arise.
Rabbi Berel Wein