A Taste of Torah in Honor of Shabbat
by Rabbi Avi Weiss
21 Elul 5758/ September 11-12,1998
In this week's portion, Moshe (Moses) tells the Jewish people, "that as the Lord
rejoiced over you to do you good, so the Lord will rejoice over you to cause you to
perish, and you will be torn from the land [of Israel]." (Deuteronomy 28:63)
Is it possible that God rejoices in our destruction?
Rashi quotes the Talmudic interpretation, "so the Lord will make your enemies
to rejoice over you." In other words, the nations of the world, rather than
God, exult. (Megillah 10b)
Another answer can be offered by taking into account the next sentence. There, Moshe tells
Am Yisrael that "the Lord shall scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the
earth until the other." (Deuteronomy 28:64) This can be viewed as a blessing.
Even if we are attacked, the entire nation of Israel cannot be decimated, as there will
always be other Jewish communities in other parts of the world who will live in
safety. Hence, even in the exile our continuity is guaranteed, resulting in God's
joy. (see Ramban, Genesis 32:9)
An alternative suggestion comes to mind. Consider the famous story of Rabbi Akiva
and his colleagues who visited the Temple site after its destruction by the Romans.
As those in his company cried out, Akiva laughed. When questioned how he could
laugh, Akiva responded: As the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem has come true so
too will the prophecy of renewal. Perhaps Akiva was leaning on our very text which
describes God's joy in the midst of our suffering. (Makkot 24b)
My colleague, Rabbi Aaron Frank, suggested that the biblical term for joy that is used
here - sahs - differs from the word commonly used for joy - simchah. Simchah is total:
sahs is God's joy in protecting us, even when we are most vulnerable.
Note the text recited at a wedding: sos tasis ve-tageyl ha-akarah, which can be understood
to mean that Israel, the barren one is joyous in knowing that no matter how bleak the
barrenness is, she will be protected by God.
Here the relationship is similar to a parent caring for a child in a desperate situation.
Certainly the parent is not joyous -- but there is sahs in the sense that the
parent knows that he/she is giving all of the love possible to help shield his or her
child. In turn, the child is comforted in that love.
No wonder we do not use the term simchah when greeting each other on Rosh Hashana.
Simchah, full and absolute joy, is not an appropriate greeting, as by definition every
year brings difficulties and challenges. Still, we pray that this be a year of
goodness (shanah tovah), the goodness of feeling God's protection no matter what life
Taste of Torah
VISIT THE HIR'S WEB BAYIT
© 5758/1998. All
Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Comments to Webmaster