Miracle of the eternal Jew
Rabbi Shmuel Bloch
Kehillas Eitz Chaim
The Hazelwood Shabbos Minyan
“The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone… The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” (“Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899).
It takes real effort to digest all the catastrophes and challenges that the Jewish people have faced over the last 100 years. Any nation that has faced the perpetual threat of annihilation and constant upheaval like the Jewish people have faced, should have vanished long ago into the annals of history.
Nevertheless we are still here.
Despite the multitude of problems and issues that surround us, we need to appreciate the open miracle that the Jewish people are eternal and will never disappear.
The wonder and phenomenon of Jewish survival throughout the ages is discussed in the first line of this week’s parsha.
“You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d; Your heads, your tribes, your elders and your officers-all the men of Israel” (Devarim Chapter 29 verse 9).
Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah, quotes a Midrash which explains that when the Jewish people heard the terrifying litany of 98 curses in the Tochacha (the admonition, which appeared in last week’s parsha), they were despondent and demoralised.
The Midrash states that their faces turned different colours at the thought of their bleak and hopeless future. Therefore Moshe immediately consoles them in the first line of this week’s parsha. He states that despite all the transgressions and misdeeds that the Jewish People have performed in the past: “You are (still) standing here before Hashem.”
Rabbi Nosson Scherman, one of the founders of Artscroll, explains that Rashi is stating that just as Hashem has never abandoned or discarded the Jewish People in the past, so too he will maintain them in the future.
The awful consequences of the Tochacha should prevent the Jewish People from violating the Torah. Nevertheless, if the Jewish People do sin, the punishments that would arise would bring atonement, but never destruction.
Mark Twain was correct in stating that external circumstances and world events do not determine the Jewish People’s future. It is imperative to internalise that we are here to stay and we will never disappear.
However, we must take every opportunity to fulfil our historic destiny as a light to the nations and generate as much goodness as we can and spread it as far as possible. With such a mindset and focus and with Hashem’s help, we will embrace our fantastic future with confidence and enthusiasm.