Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Sivan 5764 - June 9, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Why Are the Beasts Free to Wreak Havoc?

by Rav Mordechai Dov Eidelberg

"It once happened that the elders of Yerushalayim went down to their towns and proclaimed a fast . . . because wolves ate two young children on the other side of the Yarden" (Taanis 19).

Morai verabbosai! When wolves ate two children it was reason enough to make a fast and for the elders to go down to their towns to announce it, because of something that had happened far away, on the other side of the Yarden. How much more so ought we to rend our garments when we hear evil tidings from beyond our borders, about how the hooligans and human beasts destroy and slaughter children.

My brothers! My people! Consider our present situation. Am Yisroel is already used to continual suffering. Most of the pages of our history are stained with blood and inscribed with the names of martyrs, to an even greater extent than our most recent records.

But here is the problem: in every other time, the vast majority of Yisroel believed with wholehearted faith. After every calamity they repented and returned to Hashem, fortifying their spirits with pure, untainted faith. They always fulfilled the posuk, "Let us search out our ways and inquire and return to Hashem" (Eichah 3:40). This was their comfort and the source of their courage. They were able to bear all kinds of poverty, suffering and periodic misfortunes.

Ever since we collectively began relating to events as random occurrences, R'l, things have been different. We ascribe things to natural cause-and- effect, viewing them as haphazard consequences of shifting but explainable circumstances. Everyone thinks that our difficulties can be solved by finding the right combination of natural means. We do not take Heaven into our reckoning as we used to, attributing all that befalls us to Hashem's direct supervision.

We know that, in truth, it is vain to place our trust in rescue brought about by human agency. "If Hashem doesn't build a house, its builders will have toiled over it in vain; if Hashem doesn't guard a city, its watchman will have kept vigil in vain" (Tehillim 127:1).

We have forgotten all this, though, and we ascribe everything to the Arabs' hatred and to their bloodlust. Why don't we reason and ask ourselves as follows: the bitter truth is that they are murderers and corrupt by nature but how is it that we managed to live alongside them until now? Why in the past didn't they behave like they are behaving today?

Now we can see clearly that they are wild animals and that Hashem in His goodness has kept them shackled hitherto. Now that He has removed the bars that were keeping them at bay, they have the power to do whatever they want.

But we don't think along these lines. The irreligious try to play it down and try to show the public that our brothers fought valiantly and managed to push back hordes of Arabs and that we've only failed where none of our defense forces were present.

The old time Jew would accept every misfortune R'l and every untoward event happily, as Chazal say (Brochos 54), "A person is obliged to bless Hashem over evil in the same way that he blesses over good," i.e. joyfully. How can such a thing be?

Rabbenu Yonah compares it to paying a debt. A person who has succeeded in paying off a debt is very glad. Similarly, "Suffering cleanses a person's sins" (ibid. 5), and through misfortune, one is released from the debt of one's sins.

A Jew would never buckle under his burden. He would get the better of whatever misfortune befell him, in the wholehearted belief that it was from Heaven, to settle accounts for his misdeeds. His positive attitude would dissipate any bad feelings. Troubles broadened his spirit and the result would be renewed application to Yiddishkeit.

Things are different now. We are far from pure, untainted faith. Even when life runs its ordinary course, we find it burdensome. Certainly, when we encounter stumbling-blocks and endure suffering, we become utterly sick of our lives.

We ask Hashem to, "Make the shoot of Your servant Dovid grow swiftly" (Amidah prayer, fifteenth blessing), but we don't want it to be based on worthless promises and baseless lies. Thus, we ask Hashem to, "Raise his prestige through Your salvation." We seek Hashem's salvation, not that of some government and its lying politics. "For we hope for Your salvation all day long" -- even though some of the nations do sometimes elevate and honor the Jews, it ultimately becomes clear that even they cannot be trusted. We therefore only seek salvation from Hashem.

We also ask, "And return to Yerushalayim, Your city, with mercy (even if we are undeserving) and build it soon, in our days, forever" (ibid. fourteenth blessing) -- not merely a building of empty promises and politics, for that has no permanence. It will disappear in a blink and we'll be left stranded. We only want "an everlasting building"!

Taken from the author's work, Chazon Lamoed.

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