All will be Set Right
The parsha ties together the observance of the Torah commandments,
especially the warnings against paganism and idolatry, with the earthly
blessings of longevity and prosperity. Over the ages this has caused great
philosophic debate and discussion, for this cause and effect relationship is
not always apparent in the national or personal lives of the Jewish people.
Many commentators hasten to add that these biblical promises refer to
biblical times when the Divine Spirit was palpably present amongst the
Jewish community and the spirit of prophecy was also present and prevalent
in the Land of Israel. This means that it was applicable to First Temple
times only, for in Second Temple times the spirit of prophecy was absent in
the Jewish commonwealth.
Perhaps this is an insight as to why the rabbis attributed the destruction
of the First Temple primarily to idolatry – a fulfillment of the cause and
effect system of justice as outlined in this week’s parsha – while the
demise of the Second Temple was attributed to social dispute and baseless
hatred, an issue never specifically mentioned in this week’s Torah presentation.
It appears that different equations, moral gauges and causes affected the
Jewish commonwealth’s spiritual status during Second Temple times than were
present in First Temple times when prophecy and Divine Spirit were current
and abundantly visible. In any event, it is apparent that the direct cause
and effect relationship between observance of God’s commandments and
blessings and prosperity and disobedience causing punishment and disaster
has not always been evident in the annals of Jewish history and life,
especially in our long years of exile and persecution.
The very fact that the Torah in this week’s parsha makes this cause and
effect relationship so patently clear, and in fact repeats it a number of
times, raises the age old problem of why the righteous suffer and the wicked
are rewarded, in this world at least. This basic faith dilemma has its
biblical origins in the book of Iyov where the problem is raised, debated
and thoroughly discussed, but basically left unanswered.
Over the long Jewish exile with its attendant difficulties and pogroms this
gnawing problem of faith has always accompanied us in every generation and
circumstance. The events of the Holocaust, almost unimaginable in its
numbers and horror, has certainly been a test of faith for many Jews, even
for those who themselves were spared that actual experience. Yet the faith
of Israel is that somehow in the unfathomable system of God’s justice, all
will be set right.
In reality, this is the main message of this week’s parsha. It informs us
that our actions have consequences and that there is a guiding hand to
Jewish and world history and events that will eventually reveal itself. So
our task remains, as it always was – to fulfill God’s commandments and to
behave morally and justly. The whole system of God’s justice, opaque as it
may seem to us to be, is simply to remind us of our potential and greatness,
of the importance of our behavior in the grand scheme of things, and to
reinforce our sense of destiny as individuals and as a people.
Rabbi Berel Wein