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 physical representations.
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 However in our current milieu these childish forms of idol worship have been replaced by the adoption of systems of values that are completely antithetical to Judaism and the Torah.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
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