Nehemiah – Chapter 9

Recap

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

On the 24th day of Tishrei, after all the holidays were over, the Jews gathered to fast and repent, wearing sackcloth and ashes. They confessed their sins and those who were in forbidden marriages separated from their spouses. They stood (because Vidui, the confession prayer, is recited standing), then they remained standing to read the Torah.

This went on for half the day, then the leaders of the people arose and cried out to G-d. They told the Jews to bless G-d “from world to world,” meaning in this world and the Next World. (According to the Talmud in Brachos 63a, “from world to world” was the response used in the Temple, rather than “Amen.”) They acknowledged that G-d is One and that He alone made Heaven, Earth, and everything in them. G-d alone gives life and the heavenly spheres bow before Him. He chose Abraham, with whom He forged a covenant, giving him the land of the Canaanite nations (a promise He fulfilled). G-d saw how the Jews were oppressed in Egypt and He answered them with signs and wonders. He split the sea so that the Jews could cross and He drowned their oppressors. G-d led them in the wilderness, He gave them the Torah and He taught them about Shabbos. He fed them with manna from Heaven and brought forth water from boulders. He brought them to the verge of entering the land, but they listened to the negative report of the spies (in Numbers 13-14) and sought to return to Egypt. Nevertheless, G-d did not abandon them! Even when they made the Golden Calf, He did not turn His metaphorical back on them. Instead, He continued to sustain them in the desert for 40 years. G-d helped the Jews defeat Og and Sichon and He brought them into the land of Israel. He enabled them to conquer the Canaanite nations and they enjoyed great goodness in the land. But they rebelled again, forsaking G-d’s laws and killing the prophets who tried to correct their behavior. (Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, and the wicked kings Yoash and Menashe all had prophets killed.) G-d would allow the Jews’ enemies to subdue them and He would rescue them when they returned to Him. They would then revert to their previous behavior and the cycle would repeat itself. G-d gave them many chances, but eventually He just handed them over to foreign invaders, though He did not forsake them or allow them to be destroyed. Now the people ask G-d not to minimize the suffering they have endured ever since Assyria exiled the ten Tribes. G-d has always treated Israel justly, even though they have acted wickedly toward Him. They rebelled even though He gave them a land of bounty, so now they are there as subjects of the Persian king and the land’s goodness enriches foreign powers. They are pained to be servants to another king.

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