Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Netzavim - Vayeilech

The paradox of Jewish life, of the faithful and the agnostic alike, is revealed in the almost final words of Moses to Israel as recorded in this week's Torah reading, the concluding one for the year 5761 which is now coming to its end. Moses tells Israel that terrible and evil events will befall them in their journey through history. In fact the events and brutalities, the blows and humiliations, are of such a severe nature that they cannot even be described in words alone. Moses tells Israel that they will endure "blows and punishments that are not even recorded in this book," "this book" meaning the book of Dvarim, which is anyway replete with detailed descriptions of tragedy, punishment and curses. Moses' words do not fall on deaf ears. The Jewish people was always aware of the consequences of the covenant with God into which they entered at Sinai.

But that realization was pretty much theoretical for Moses' generation. The awful unrelenting reality of the consequences of the covenant of Sinai would be unable to be visualized in its full extent before the blows actually descended upon the people of Israel.

Every Jewish generation reacts differently to the "blows and punishments that are not even recorded in this book." Half of Spanish Jewry converted to Christianity (most of them only pro forma) in face of the blows of the Inquisition, while the other half willingly forsook the land which had hosted them for eight centuries and embarked on fateful and dangerous wanderings. As a reaction to the Chmielnitzky massacres that claimed about 250,000 Eastern European Jews in 1648-9, and the subsequent spiritual debacle caused by the apostate "Messiah," Shabtai Zvi in 1653-8, the Chasidic movement arose and intensified Jewish Torah observance amongst the masses of Eastern European Jews, while Western European Jews in the hundreds of thousands turned first to Reform and Enlightenment and then to full assimilation into the non-Jewish society of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Approximately 250,000 German, Austrian and French Jews actually converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century, not so much out of religious conviction as out of a longing to belong to the "brave new world."

Of course, no one of the new Christians saw that their enlightened assimilated grandchildren would be obliterated less than a century later in the same manner as their Eastern European Chasidic cousins. This pattern of differing, almost opposite, reactions to the troubles of Israel has remained valid until today.

The terrible events of the Holocaust served to strengthen many Jews in their faith and loyalty to Judaism as well as shattering any ties to that very same faith and loyalty for many other Jews. Rabbi Meir Leibush Malbim in a letter written a century ago said that Moses told Israel "that great and awful troubles and events will befall you," Israel will respond by saying "That is because God is not in my midst, therefore did these troubles occur." Malbim states that a portion of Israel will say "God is not in my midst" - we were not pious enough, we did not observe His Torah, we strayed after the gods of modernity, therefore He did not protect us from the consequences of our breaching the covenant. But, Malbim continues, other Jews will say "God is not in my midst" means that for us there is no God, that we are a secular and cultural nation and not bound by any Sinatic covenants. Now, over fifty years after the Holocaust, this diversity of interpretation is being acted out within the Jewish people. Assimilation, self -hatred, intermarriage, ignorance of Torah and Judaism are the lot of the many. But a strengthening of Torah knowledge is spreading from the few to the general Jewish society. It will continue to grow and spread and the loyalty of Israel to its covenant of Sinai will again prevail.

Shabat Shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein


Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Berel Wein and Project Genesis, Inc.



 






ARTICLES ON YOM KIPPUR:

View Complete List

Interpersonal Relationships
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Thoughts About Prayer Before Yom Kippur
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

On A Personal Note
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

ArtScroll

Avinu Malkeinu
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Return... to Where?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

Our Ticket to the Hall of Fame
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Jonah's Dilemma
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5771

Picture Perfect
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

Merits, Middles and Majorities
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

> Merits, Middles and Majorities
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5764

I am a Work in Progress
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

The Key to Clemency
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Deep Heat Therapy
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5758

To Avoid the Rough Road!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

The Role of Teshuvah
Shlomo Katz - 5759

“The Secrets of Change”
Jon Erlbaum -



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information