Parshas Ki Savo
Next Year in a Fully Rebuilt Jerusalem
The main part of the parsha is concerned with the description of the woes
that will befall the Jewish people in their long years of exile and
persecution. The Torah sees this as being a form of redemptive punishment
for the Chosen People who chose to imitate the idolatrous and immoral ways
of the general society.
However, as the exile of Israel stretched into centuries and then into
millennia, the Jews began to feel that somehow the punishment was rather
excessive relative to the crime. Therefore other explanations for the length
and bitterness of the exile of Israel were advanced.
The Talmud itself, hundreds of years after the destruction of the Second
Temple, offered that the scattering of the Jewish people throughout the
world was to allow non-Jews who wished to convert to Judaism be afforded the
opportunity to do so. Others suggested that the dispersal of the Jewish
Diaspora was to allow Judaic values and attitudes to penetrate the
non-Jewish world as well.
It was through the bitter exile itself that the Jewish people would fulfill
its mission of being a light unto the nations of the world. The survival of
the Jewish people under the oppressive conditions of its exile also raised
questions and problems for the Christian world. The concept of the “Witness
People” gained currency in the Christian world – that somehow Jews had to
survive to “witness” the eventual reappearance of the Christian savior and
finally convert to Christianity.
Thus the Church established the institution of the “Pope’s Jews” who were
protected from harm since they had to survive to be the “Witness People.” Be
all of this as it may, what is clear is that every word of the Torah
regarding the fate of the Jews in exile has come true – true literally and
not allegorically. As the Ramban phrased it, it is astounding that a book
written thousands of years before the events occurred should record those
events so truthfully and faithfully.
It is of comfort that since the tragedies recited in the parsha that would
befall Israel have all come true literally that we can be certain that the
blessings and redemption similarly told to us in the parsha shall also
undoubtedly be fulfilled literally. Some of them have already been realized
in our time with the ingathering of the exiles of Israel to the nascent
Jewish state. Others are still developing and coming.
The Torah never placed any time limits either on Jewish exile or redemption.
The Lord has His own reckoning that no human can be privy to. The rabbis,
therefore, strongly discouraged prognostications of dates for the arrival of
the redemption and the messianic era.
Over the many centuries of Jewish exile, many dates were forecast to be the
ones of redemption, but all of them have come and gone and the redemption is
yet unfulfilled in actuality or completeness. Yet our hope and belief in our
eventual redemption has never waned. “Next year in Jerusalem” has been
fulfilled. Next year in a fully rebuilt and peaceful Jerusalem is in the
wings of the drama that unfolds now before our very eyes.
Rabbi Berel Wein