History in Vaetchanan

We have a different story.

Rabbi Berel Wein,

Judaism Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
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The Torah reading of this week contains within it portions that we read in the synagogue on the morning of Tisha B’Av. With unerring accuracy the story of the Jewish people is predicted in full detail. The consequences of national sin and of an immoral society are outlined – the destruction of the Temples, the loss of national sovereignty, exile, persecution and a history of horror and unending dangers and sacrifice.

The history of the Jewish people, by its very nature, is peculiar and different than all others. There are no nations, races, religions or groupings of people who can be deemed guiltless. So then the question arises, why were and are we singled out for our particular fate and story? And the answer that the Torah itself grants us is that all of this is a result of the ancient and eternal covenant of the Lord made with our ancestors and renewed with us in every generation and every circumstance.

It is very difficult to deal with or explain the nature of a never-ending mutually binding commitment. Agreements are made on a daily basis with governments and individuals, companies and partnerships, with advance knowledge that these commitments are not permanent and are subject to change, as circumstances dictate. Conflicts of interest always arise and outside circumstances will always vary from what they were originally. But the nature of the relationship of the Jewish people to its Creator is such that the commitments never change and the obligations of the original covenant are always in force.

The return of the Jewish people to Zion and to the Land of Israel can only be seen and understood in light of the commitment described in the Torah reading of this week. Thousands of years ago Moshe foresaw that eventually Jews would leave the Exile, whether forcibly or voluntarily, and would return to their ancient homeland. Somehow, this is part of the covenant between Israel and God.

And so, over the last two centuries Jews came home, first in a trickle and then in a steady stream and finally – regarding the Jews of Russia – in a mighty torrent. All sorts of Jews made this journey – socialists, communists, secular Zionists, religious Zionists, religious anti-Zionists, believers, and freethinkers all somehow made this passage of return.

The ostensible reasons for their so doing are varied in the extreme. But even to the most jaded of our observers, it should be clear that there is an underlying motive that drives this story. And that is the eternal bond of the original covenant made with our father Abraham and renewed through his generations and millennia of Jewish life by countless others.

The harrowing story of the Jewish exile, represented by the sad fast day of Tisha B’Av represents one extreme of the terms of the covenant. The dawning redemption of Israel, the people and the land, which we are witness to if we but remove the blinkers from our eyes, is the other part of the covenant. In the words of the rabbis of the Talmud, Israel, Torah and God are one. We are all bound together in the great and holy covenant that guides our national existence.





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