Torah Weekly - Parshat Bechukotai
The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if they follow Hashem's commandments. However, if they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People, then chilling punishments will result. The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of erachin -- the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal, or property.
"But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not be revolted by them nor will I reject them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them -- for I am Hashem, their G-d." (26:44)
"If I were a Jew, the question that would interest me is not who pulled the trigger but why does it keep on happening again and again, and why does nobody investigate this phenomenon of where does anti-Semitism come from." (David Irving during the trial at which he was convicted of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism)
It seems almost incredible that the mass murder of millions of our people could be called into doubt and that the full might of the English judicial process be needed to substantiate those horrible truths.
But for all of the ignominy of his defeat, how many of us can answer Irving's taunt totally comfortably? Why have the Jewish People been disliked and despised throughout history?
The hatred of Jews shows no historical consistency. The Jews have been vilified as both rootless cosmopolitans and merciless captains of capitalism. They are both filthy rich and filthy poor. They are communists and capitalists. They are both dangerous idealists and cynical opportunists. They are both stuck in the rigidity of an all encompassing legalistic way of life, and queue-jumping corner-cutters. In fact the only thing that unites all these prejudices is their total disparity. There is no common recognizable claim against the Jewish People. What emerges from this is that Jew-hatred is not because of a reason. Jew-hatred seeks reasons to make its irrationality seem reasonable.
In this week's Torah portion, we read the tochacha. The tochacha is a chilling description of what will happen to the Jewish People if they forget that they are chosen by G-d to be the nation that testifies to His Existence.
A hundred years ago, there was a great rabbi named Rabbi Meir Simcha, the Ohr Somayach, who lived in Dvinsk. With chilling foresight, almost an echo of prophecy, he wrote the following words in his commentary on the Torah in the early years of the century: "He who thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem...there will come a thunderous and violent wind that will uproot him from his source." When Rabbi Meir Simcha wrote these words, nobody had even heard the name Hitler. Rabbi Meir Simcha was writing to a world of German Jews who believed themselves more German than the Germans. They avowed that that Berlin was their Jerusalem. They "observed" the "Sabbath" on Sunday to the accompaniment of organ music. They disavowed any connection to the Land of Israel. They disliked being called Jews, preferring to be known as "Germans of the Mosaic persuasion." How ironic that, of all places, it should be Germany who turned around and reminded these "Germans of the Mosaic persuasion" that they were indeed Jews, and they would massacre them in their millions because of it.
But was is really ironic?
From the moment that G-d made an irreversible covenant with Abraham that his seed would be G-d's chosen people, the survival of the Jewish People becomes a natural imperative written into the physics and chemistry of the universe, no less than the rising of the sun or the flowing and ebbing of the tides.
The Jews have to be. All other nations rise and fall and vanish. But from the moment that G-d made Israel the instruments of His Will, their existence is as immutable as His existence.
So why should anti-Semitism exist?
Anti-Semitism is placed into the world solely to prevent the Jewish People from disappearing into the melting pot amongst the nations and "annulling" G-d's irreversible covenant with Abraham. Assimilation is like a nuclear chain reaction. When a certain critical mass is reached, then the atom bomb of anti-Semitism explodes.
No nation represented the summit of culture and refinement more than pre-war Germany, and yet within a few short years it turned into a savage beast.
In Hebrew, the word kadosh, which means "holy" also means separated. Holiness can only exist when it is separated from that which is not holy. If everything is holy, nothing is holy. When the Jewish People forget that their purpose is to be a holy nation, separated from the other nations, then the non-Jewish world turns around and remind us of our purpose.
Yirmiyahu 16:19 - 17:14
There was a wealthy trader who lived in Spain. During the Inquisition he was forced to leave his native Cordoba and flee to Morocco with his wife and two daughters. They arrived penniless after a nightmare journey. Shortly after their arrival, his wife sickened and died. Then one of his daughters died. Then the other.
"Hashem!" He cried. "You have taken everything from me. You have taken my home. You have taken my livelihood. You have taken my wife. You have taken my children. But there is one thing you can never take from me: My faith in You."
When a person puts his faith in Hashem, even when it is difficult, he receives help from Heaven. He will find that he comes to a complete trust in Hashem. The verse in this week's Haftara states, "Blessed is the man who places his trust in Hashem, and Hashem will become his trust." If a person trusts Hashem -- Hashem will become his trust.
Shir Maon in Mayana Shel Torah
Selections from classical Torah sources
which express the special relationship between
the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael
OLD CITY GATES
The wall around the Old City of Jerusalem is about two and a half miles long and is breached by eight gates.
In the north are the Damascus, New and Herod's Gates; at the south are the Zion and Dung (Sha'ar Ha'ashpot, where the city buses enter) Gates; at the west is Jaffa Gate; and at the east are the Lions' Gate (through which Israeli soldiers entered the Old City in the Six-Day War) and the sealed Golden Gate.
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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