An overview of Jewish History from the perspective of Hashem’s promise to do Miracles and Wonders for the Jewish People.
In Parshat Ki Tisa, the Torah tells of how, persuaded by the prayers of Moshe, HaShem forgives the Jewish People for their act of ingratitude and betrayal by which they worshipped the Golden Calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai, an act compared by CHAZA”L to a bride’s unfaithfulness while stillstanding beneath her marriage canopy.
Afterwards, HaShem makes the following promise to Moshe Rabbeinu, the “faithful shepherd” of Israel, “…Behold I establish a covenant, ‘For/Against your entire nation, I will do wonders, that are unheard of in the world nor among any of the nations – and the entire nation in whose midst you are will see the acts of HaShem, that they are tremendous and awesome and terrifying (all connoted by the Hebrew word, “Nora”), that I will do for you’. ” (Shemot 34:10)
How has this covenant been fulfilled throughout Jewish History?
With tremendous historical insight (ha! ha!), I will attempt to analyze all of Jewish History – pointing out, anyway, what seem to be some highlights.
From the Exodus till Entry into the Land of Israel
(about 3,300 years ago)
From the time of the administration of the Ten Plagues through the actual Exodus, when the Jewish People left Egypt “b’yad ramah,” with “upraised victorious arms,” (Shemot 14:9) and marched “into the sea on dry land” (Shemot 14:16), HaShem performed one “nes nigleh,” “open miracle” after “open miracle,” turning the so-called “Laws of Nature” upside down, for them.
They were brought to Sinai, where HaShem revealed Himself in “Clouds of Glory, to teach His People the Torah and the Commandments” (from Mussaf “Shemoneh Esray” of Rosh HaShanah). The mountain caught fire and danced while Moshe went up to receive the Torah from G-d.
At first the behavior of the Jewish People was splendid; they said, “We will obey the Law even before we understand it” (Shemot 24:7). But when they thought that Moshe was late in returning from the top of the mountain, they performed their first major sin, worshipping the Golden Calf.
HaShem thought to destroy them, but their great leader, Moshe, gained HaShem’s forgiveness. As atonement for the “Calf,” the People of Israel constructed the Mishkan, the Tabernacle or portable Temple, many of whose utensils contained gold. The Mishkan was the “residence” of the “Shechinah,” the Divine Presence, Which remained with Israel.
As they approached “Eretz Yisrael,” the Land of Israel, the People grew fearful. They requested that Moshe send scouts to spy out the Land. Moshe reluctantly agreed, selecting the twelve best men for the job. But when the scouts, the “Meraglim,” returned, ten of the twelve gave a discouraging report to the Jewish People. When the People heard the report, they lost their faith in G-d, and said, “Let us turn around and return to Mitzrayim” (BaMidbar 14:4).
That loss of faith occurred on “Tishah B’Av,” the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, and once again, it was necessary for Moshe to pray that the nation not be destroyed. Once again, HaShem forgave the People, but this time imposed a punishment, that all those who had abandoned their faith would die in the desert, as the Jewish People would have to wander for forty years in the desert before HaShem would allow their children to enter the Land.
While they traveled in the desert, HaShem again performed numerous “open” miracles, such as the daily (except for Shabbat) provision of “Manna,” the “Heavenly Bread,” the Well of Miriam that miraculously traveled with the Jewish People, the Pillar of Cloud that led them through the desert by day, and the Pillar of Fire, that provided light and protection by night. And the “Mishkan,” with its sacred vessels, and somehow serving as the “footstool” of the Divine Presence, remained with them as well.
Entry Into and Conquest of the Land – Period of the “Shophtim,” the Judges
(Till about 3,000 years ago)
With their entry of the Jewish People into the Land of Israel, and their conquest of the Land from the Canaanite Nations under the leadership of Yehoshua, the disciple of Moshe, the Miraculous “Bread from Heaven,” the Manna, ceases to be provided, for now the People have their own land on which to grow produce. The Jews are ruled in a loosely bound confederation of Tribes by fifteen Judges, of various degrees of holiness, from the great Shmuel, who was the last of the Judges and a Prophet as well, and Devorah, also a Prophetess, to Yiphtach, who was recruited by the Jewish People to be their leader, after he had assumed leadership of a band of highway- men, because they could find no one else with equal military prowess. Yet the Talmud cautions that one should obey “Yiphtach in his generation, as Shmuel in his generation.”
The Mishkan was moved from place to place, and the “Aron,” the Sacred Ark, would go before the People into battle, generally assuring victory, unless the People had proved themselves unworthy of Divine aid. The Period of the Shophtim is described by the “TANAKH” as a period in which “each man did what he saw fit to do” (Shophtim 17:8).
Early Monarchy – Shaul, David, Shlomoh; Golden Age;
“Beit HaMikdash,” the Holy Temple, is built by Shlomoh
(Till about 2,850 years ago)
People demand that Shmuel install a King, “in order that they should be as the other nations.” HaShem instructs Shmuel to anoint Shaul to be the first King.
Shaul is commanded by HaShem through Shmuel to wage war against Amalek, and destroy that nation completely, all the people and all the cattle. At the site of battle, Shaul has mercy on Agag, the King (from whom Haman Ha”Agagi” is a descendant). The people also spare the best of the cattle. For these lapses, HaShem commands Shmuel to strip Shaul of the “Malchut” (Kingdom) and anoint one who is “better than he,”David ben Yishai.
At a battle between the Jewish People and the Philistines, a Philistine giant, Galyat, taunts the Jewish People and the G-d of the Jews. But no one has the courage to confront the giant. David, arriving to visit his brothers, is outraged, and offers to fight Galyat. Galyat mocks the apparently ridiculous “champion” the Jews have chosen, but David kills Galyat with a slingshot, as he’d slain a lion and a bear when they’d attacked his flocks.
Shaul develops a love/hate relationship with David, who has become more popular among the People. Shaul’s son, Yehonatan develops a relationship with David that is described in Pirkei Avot (5:19) as “love that is dependent on no external cause,” because indeed David’s Kingdom would supplant Yehonatan’s.
David wishes to build a permanent Temple for HaShem, but HaShem will not accept that tribute from him, because he has been involved in war and has shed blood, and HaShem is described as the “One Who Makes Peace in the Heavens.” But he does allow David’s son and successor,Shelomoh, to build the Temple, and the Mashiach will be a descendant of David. The Temple is one of the most magnificent structures in the world. Shelomoh’s period of rule is “Golden Age” of Jewish People.
Split of the Kingdom; Yeravam ben Nevat Rules Secessionist Kingdom of Israel
(Till about 2,800 years ago)
Rechavam, the son of Shelomoh, makes a critical error, when he demands too much taxes from the People. The Ten Tribes secede from the united kingdom (not to be confused with Great Britain), leaving the Kingdom of Yehudah (under Rechavam) and the Kingdom of Israel (under Yeravam ben Nevat). This Yeravam was one of the most arrogant individuals ever produced by the Jewish People.
Tremendously gifted, he is approached, according to the Midrash, by G-d Himself, Who says to him, “Yeravam, repent, and I, together with you and ben Yishai (David) will dance together in Gan Eden.” To this Yeravam is said to have responded, “Who will be first, ben Yishai or myself?” To which HaShem responded, “Ben Yishai will go before you.” At which point, Yeravam ben Nevat declined the offer.
Yeravam had two Golden Calves constructed, one in Beit El and one in Dan, to which he commanded that the residents of his kingdom must go to worship instead of to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And he established checkpoints to intercept anyone on the way to Jerusalem.
For this, Pirkei Avot lists him (5:21) as one of the individuals who will be denied entry into the World-to-Come, because “he sinned, and he is responsible for others sinning.”
Fate of the Two Kingdoms
Exile of Kingdom of Israel: about 722 B.C.E.
Exile of Kingdom of Yehudah: about 586 B.C.E.
There were a total of nineteen Kings in the Kingdom of Israel and twenty Kings in the Kingdom of Yehudah. Due mainly to the lack of unity among the People of Israel, each Kingdom went its own way into Exile. As to the fate of the Kingdom of Israel and its Ten Tribes; that is, as to the question of whether they ever will return, that question is a dispute among the Tannaim Rabbi Akiva (they won’t return) and Rabbi Eliezer (they will return). In the prayers of the Jewish People, the optimistic viewpoint of Rabbi Eliezer seems to have gained greater acceptance, for we pray, for example, “and redeem, as per Your Word, Yehudah and Yisrael.”
Most of the Kings were less than ideal, with a few major exceptions, such as Yoshiyahu and Chizkiyahu, about whom CHAZAL said that he could have been the Mashiach.
HaShem poured out His Spirit of Prophecy at this time on holy individuals, whom he wanted to be His messengers to convince the people to rectify their behavior in both of the Kingdoms.
A total of forty eight prophets and seven prophetesses, according toRASHI and seventy six prophets and prophetesses, according to theVilna Gaon, tried to turn the Kingdoms back from the corrupt behavior they had adopted: idol worship, social injustice, and reliance upon foreign powers, rather than upon HaShem, the “Tzur Yisrael V’Goalo,” the Rock of Israel and its Redeemer,” in times of trouble.
But there were many more prophets and disciples of prophets, numbered in the thousands and tens of thousands, mentioned in the Bible. And “Nevuah,” Prophecy, G-d to Man Communication, itself is an open miracle! In fact, it is the twin open miracle of “Tefila,” Prayer, Man to G-d Communication.
For who said that communication is at all possible between a Being Who is Infinite, Almighty and Eternal and His creation – who is finite, weak and whose days are like “a dream that flies away?”
But hard as they tried, the prophets basically were unsuccessful in bringing back the People. Prophecy seems to have been more effective in Yehudah than in Israel, most probably because there the people had the spiritual center of the Holy Temple.
Longevity of the First Temple
From the time that it was built, in approximately 1000 BCE, till the time that it was destroyed by the Babylonians, in 586 BCE, it stood for 414 years. It contained the holy vessels, and was the site for most of that time of the “Avodat HaKodesh,” the Holy Worship Service.
The Prophet Yirmiyahu, who witnessed the destruction with tearful eyes, as recounted in Megilat Eichah, had prophesied that the Exile of the Jewish People in Babylonia would last for 70 years, and that that would be the interval between the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the rebuilding effort. And wild parties to celebrate erroneous calculations of those seventy years marked the end of the Babylonian Empire, and the beginning of the Story of Purim.
A Capsule Summary of Purim
Oh, once there was a wicked, wicked man,
And Haman was his name, sir;
He would have murdered all the Jews,
Though they were not to blame, sir.
Oh today, we’ll merry, merry be,
Oh today, we’ll merry, merry be,
Oh today, we’ll merry, merry be,
And nasch some hamantaschen!
In a Redemption that was entirely a “Nes Nistar,” a Hidden Miracle, events fell into place like clockwork, and the result was “v’nahafoch hu,” the evil one’s plans were turned upside down upon him.
“Ezra HaSofer,” Ezra the Scribe
Ezra the Scribe, together with Zerubavel, “went up” (in the sense of “making Aliyah,” literally meaning “going up,” and referring to the return to the Land of Israel), with a minority of the Jewish People, not necessarily the most religious, even as in our days, but the bravest, to re-establish the Jewish Commonwealth, and to rebuild the Temple, in Israel. They had to deal with difficulties placed in their way by the Shomronim, the “Not-so-Good” Samaritans, who attacked them militarily and politically, again, even as in our days.
Ezra had to make some radical changes in the composure of the “Jewish” People because again (the last time I’ll say it) even as in our days, there was intermarriage and assimilation among the immigrants, and those conditions had to be undone, in order to obtain the help of G-d.
But Ezra was equal to the task! The Talmud says in fact that had the Torah not been transmitted to the Jewish People by Moshe, Ezra could have done the job. In any case, the Second Temple came into being, greatly diminished from its previous form, but serving nevertheless again as the spiritual center of the People.
Anshei K’nesset HaGedolah
At the beginning of the time of the “Bayit Sheni,” the Second Temple, and lasting for about two hundred years, there was an organization known as the “Anshei K’nesset HaGedolah, the Men of the Great Assembly, consisting of one hundred twenty Sages. It included the last prophets: Ezra, Mordechai, Chaggai, Zechariah and Malachi. In the words of the Talmud, the “Anshei K’nesset HaGedolah” restored the crown of the Torah to its pristine splendor.” Among many other things, they established a fixed text for the basic liturgy (especially the “Shemoneh Esray”).
There is a legend that Alexander the Great, a world-conquering general and a student of Aristotle, on a tour through the Middle East, during which he would impose by the sword the Greek way of life on foreign populations, approached Jerusalem with a large army. Shimon HaTzaddik, identified in Pirkei Avot as one of the last members of the “Anshei K’nesset HaGedolah,” led a procession of Jewish leaders to greet the Greek general. When Alexander saw Shimon, he alighted from his horse and bowed to the ground. Since this was most unusual behavior for Alexander the Great, his fellow officers inquired as to the reason. Alexander replied that before each of his campaigns he’d seen the rabbi’s face, and had received valuable advice from him.
After this light brush with the world conqueror, we had another more serious encounter with the Greeks:
“Greeks gathered against me then in Hasmonean days,
They breached the walls of my towers,
And they defiled all the oils;…”
(“Maoz Tzur,” a song sung on Chanukah after the lighting of the Chanukah lights)
The Talmud speaks of the “hidden (that is, not well-known)” open miracle of the oil, while in the “Al HaNisim” Prayer we thank HaShem for the “hidden miracle” of the military victory.
“Hu Esav, Hu Edom,” Esav and Edom (Rome) are “one and the same”
Next, upon the world scene, came the Romans, who with their mighty legions attempted to conquer nearly the entire known world at the time. Between the “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” this civilization came into violent contact with ours, spilled rivers of Jewish blood, and destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. It stood for approximately 586 years (presumably only coincidentally equal to the BCE date of the destruction of the First Temple; namely, 586 BCE) making the total number of years that a Holy Temple stood in Yerushalayim approximately one thousand years. In about 315 CE, under Emperor Constantine, the Roman Emperor metamorphosed into the Roman Catholic Church.
By the time the Visigoths under Alarac I had sacked Rome, the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world, with our weapons in hand to survive the next two thousand years: the Mishnah, the earlier “written” form of the “Torah she-Beal’Peh,” the Oral Torah, the concise summary of all of Jewish Law, with debates and discussions among hundreds of”Tannaim,” over some five centuries, and the “Gemara,” the continuing,more expanded analysis and debate over another approximately three centuries between hundreds of “Amoraim,” “talking to each other” as if they were sitting across from each other at a table in the “Beit Midrash,” the House of Study.
The mind of the “Talmid Chacham,” the expert in the Oral Torah, has certain aspects in common with the INTERNET, nearly instantaneous access to widely varied items and types of information, but in its spiritual and moral orientation, and its infinitely greater depth of analysis, the comparison fades into nothingness.
Two Thousand Years
We will make only very passing references to the events experienced by our People in the next two thousand years, during which we triumphed by maintaining our spirit and courage and creativity in the face of unremitting pressure mainly from the Catholic Church and, to a lesser degree, from Islam.
Having rejected Jesus as being entirely devoid of divinity (at least having no greater degree of divinity than any other human being), the Jews came to be viewed by the Church as Christ-killers. They claimed that indeed we had once been G-d’s Chosen People, but in rejecting His “son” (sic), we had lost that privileged status, and nearly lost the status, in their eyes, of being considered human.
They sang “How odd of G-d to choose the Jews” to the background “music” of the clank of torture devices, the roar of auto-de-fe’s and the hiss, ultimately, of gas chambers.
The Christians contended with the Moslems concerning “ownership” of the Holy Land, never imagining that perhaps that title belonged to the Jews, rather than to either of them. In order to dislodge the Moslems from the Holy Places, the transport of armed forces to the Middle East would be required. So the Church banded together groups of knights and marched them from Europe to the Middle East. If they happened to encounter a Jewish Community on the way, that would be a wonderful opportunity to pick up some dispensation points, for killing Jews was a major source of heavenly credit in their eyes, and would help them get into the heavenly precincts, and would save them from the torments of hell, despite their grisly crimes on earth.
In 1096, the First Crusade occurred, in the time of RASHI. RASHI, the Master Commentator, lived during the time of the Crusades, and had to have had confrontations with Crusaders because he lived directly in their path. Yet, despite the howling mobs outside, inside RASHI maintained his focus and serenity so that one hears nothing in his works of the mob, but only the still, small voice of HaShem and His Torah.
Among the Muslims
Shortly thereafter, in the somewhat milder, climate-wise and more importantly, from the standpoint of our treatment at the hands of the dominant culture of the region, which here in Twelfth Century Spain was the Moslem culture, lived and flourished a certain great Jew namedMoshe ben Maimon, the RAMBAM, or Maimonides.
The word “milder” applied only to the moderate Muslims but not at all to the Fundamentalist Moslems, known then as the Almohades, who, as we see today, can be fully as violent as a Christian mob that could be found in Europe at that time. The RAMBAM, at a certain point in his life, was in fact persecuted by the Almohades and had to flee, finally reaching Egypt where, in the capacity of a physician, he became physician to the Sultan.
With the moderate Muslims, it was possible to some extent to live together, and to practice certain intellectual arts and sciences, as long as the Jew kept his place. In the Muslim world, this meant an unusually wide spectrum of intellectual disciplines, such as philosophy, mathematics and poetry.
The RAMBAM was the Torah-world’s version of a “Renaissance Man.” A thoroughgoing genius, he absorbed and integrated every type of information that was available in both the Torah world and in the secular disciplines of the time. His “magnum opus” was the “Mishneh Torah,” A compendium of all of Jewish Law, expressed in clear, precise Hebrew.
He also wrote a philosophical work, Moreh Nevuchim, Guide for the Perplexed, for the sake of his favorite disciple and other readers to express his own version of Jewish philosophy and to make sure that that everybody was aware that Judaism had a philosophy that was in no way less sophisticated than that of Islam.
In another document, known as “Igeret Taiman,” the RAMBAM wrote to his brother Jews in Yemen not to give up their courage and faith and to refuse to convert to Islam, as per the demands of the Almohades.
The RAMBAM was roundly criticized by other scholars in the Torah world for leaving out Talmudic references in the Mishnah Torah. It was feared that this would have the effect of weaning students away from study of the Talmud, which everyone agreed was the true source of our national Torah knowledge. He was also accused of not believing strongly enough in the basic tenet of Judaism, “Techiyat HaMetim,” the Resurrection of the Dead.
Some critics went so far as to burn the works of the RAMBAM in the public square. But when King (Saint!) Louis IX took a cue from the Jews, collected all the copies of the Talmud in Paris in 1242 and burned them in public, many of the critics of the RAMBAM, such as Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona, took this as a sign from Heaven that their criticism had gone too far. And Rabbeineu Yonah embarked on a campaign of lecturing everywhere he went, recanting his previous statements about the Rambam.
The 13th Century Spanish Torah giant, named Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, the RAMBAN, or Nachmanides, was the one who decisively put an end to the challenges to the greatness of the RAMBAM. He proved from the texts themselves that the RAMBAM clearly believed in the principle of the Resurrection of the Dead, and also did not deserve to be criticized so violently about leaving out sources; it was simply a device to make the study of the Talmud more palatable to his generation, the “Art Scroll,” perhaps, of his time.
The verdict of the Jewish public was the inscription carved on the tombstone of the RAMBAM, “From Moshe (Rabbeinu) to Moshe (the RAMBAM) there arose none like Moshe.”
The RAMBAN introduced Kabbalah into his commentary on the Bible, which, as a result, became very popular in the Jewish world.
He was also involved in a historic debate, known as the “Vikuach,” in Barcelona in 1243, with representatives of the Catholic Church. This disputation was nothing like a fair, balanced objectively judged debate as currently understood, but was judged by a Christian official, and if the Jewish representative won, that usually meant at least expulsion for him. The RAMBAN decisively won the debate, and he was in fact forced to leave Spain as a result.
The RAMBAN went to the Holy Land, and was very disappointed at not finding a “minyan,” or quorum for prayer, of Jews in the Holy City of Jerusalem. He convinced Jews to come and pray with him in a synagogue that he constructed in Jerusalem, which became known as the “Beit Kenesset HaRAMBAN,” the “Synagogue of the RAMBAN,” which stood till recently, when it was destroyed by the Jordanians, and only rebuilt after the Old City was captured by Israel in the Six Day War.
In 1492, we find an excellent example of the principle that HaShem always places in the world the “refuah,” the mechanism for healing,” before he delivers the punishing blow. On Tishah B’Av that year, the very day that the decree came forth for the expulsion of the 250,000 Jews in Spain, Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, where opportunities for the Jews would open up even as they were slowly but surely being driven from Europe.
Skipping now nearly 500 years, which saw thousands of great Jewish leaders, we move to the Twentieth Century, when the Jewish population in Europe is again threatened, but this time, the aim of our enemy is not expulsion but genocide.
1933 – 1945
In 1933, Hitler rises to power in Germany, with a dark, Haman-like desire to destroy the Jews. From the Jewish perspective, punishments are not imposed randomly, as we learn from the Purim story, where the Jews were threatened because they celebrated with their enemies their own supposed “abandonment” by HaShem, at Achashverosh’s feast. What the sin or complex of sins in Europe was, we do not know. We are permitted to ask why? We are not permitted to demand answers.
For here we find the fulfillment of the covenant in the sense of allowing the performance of wonders “against your people.” Unfortunately, for want of a Mordechai and an Esther, and for want of repentance on a massive scale by the Jewish People, the Holocaust occurred and 6,000,000 Jewish souls were swept away, before Germany and Hitler were defeated by the Allies in WWII.
Rise of the State of Israel
1948 – “Medinat Yisrael” is proclaimed as a refuge and a homeland for the Jewish People. President Harry S. Truman of the United States plays a crucial role in the United Nations. The “Irgun,” founded by Menachem Begin and “Lechi,” founded by Avraham Stern, help drive the British out of the country. Invading Arab armies are defeated by the outgunned, outmanned armed forces of Israel, including the Palmach, who heroically resist the Arabs’ attempt, then as now, to throw the Zionists “into the sea.”
Six Day War (June, 1967)
Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, in effect applying a strangle-hold on the Jewish State, a blatant act of war. Israel warns Jordan and Syria to stay out of the conflict that seems inevitable, but the warning is ignored by both Arab countries.
In six days, by a surprise attack (and a hidden miracle (?)), Israel destroys basically the entire Egyptian Air force on the ground, and pursues fleeing Egyptian forces through the desert to the outskirts of Cairo.
b. Syria and the Golan Heights:
Syria confidently enters the war, but has its air force driven from the skies, and its army ousted from their bunkers on the Golan Heights, by savage and costly fighting by the Israel Defense Forces, who finally prevail, and threaten Damascus, Syria’s Capital.
c. Jordan, the “West BanK” and Jerusalem:
Jordan, under King Hussein, also ignores Israel’s warning and enters the battle. Israel’s armor outflanks Jordan’s, and its army regains the so-called “West Bank,” that is an irrational border designation, because the land in question is west of the Jordan River, Israel’s natural eastern border. In Jerusalem, in fierce, street by street fighting, Israel pushes to the “Kotel Hamaaravi,” the Western Wall, remnant of the Beit Hamikdash, claimed by Israeli forces with a Shofar call by Rabbi Moshe Goren, Chief Rabbi of Israel.
The world was astounded at the speed and completeness of the Israeli victory. For a time, it seemed that a nearly “open miracle” had occurred.
“Terror and dread falls upon them;
By the greatness of Your arm they are still as a stone;
Till Your People pass over, O L-rd,
Till the People pass over that You have acquired.”
“You bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance,
The Place, O L-rd, which You have established for Yourself to dwell in,
The Sanctuary, O L-rd, that You have established.” (Shemot 15:16-17)
But sadly, due to many factors – mainly the disunity within the religious Jewish Community regarding Israel, rendered Israel unable to make a clear case to its own secular leadership, who had to be convinced that this was more than an ordinary military victory – and this great victoryalmost slipped from our grasp.
Russian Aliyah (early sixties till the Present)
Before the Six-Day War, pressure had been building within the Soviet Union to release the millions of Jews who had become prisoners of the atheistic Communist regime. But, there was a core of only several dozen heroic “refuse-niks,” individuals of great moral and religious strength who, like their ancestor, Mordechai, refused to bow to Russian tyranny. Many of them indeed spent long prison terms in the Russian “Gulag.” Standing out among these leaders were individuals like Anatoly Sharansky, as a result of whose efforts eventually hundreds of thousands of Russians did finally make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael or succeeded in leaving Russia for lands of freedom.
Unfortunately, as in the time of Ezra, many had been robbed of their religious heritage, and those who made Aliyah were entering a “Holy Land” that was rapidly shedding its self-image as a “holy” nation. Unfortunately, there was no Ezra to turn the situation around. Fortunately, the last word has not yet been spoken on this community and on the holiness of the population of Israel.
Yom Kippur War (September – October, 1973)
On the holiest day of the Jewish year, Egypt launched a surprise attack against Israel that caught the IDF almost completely by surprise. Joined by Syria in the Golan Heights, this attack almost spelled disaster for the State of Israel. Moshe Dayan was nearly at a loss for how to respond. Just looking at the military facts, President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger re-armed Israel almost at the last minute.
After several weeks, while the outcome lay in the balance, Ariel Sharon, who has returned to lead Israel, in a daring raid across the Suez succeeded in out-flanking the Egyptian Third Army and was about to inflict punishing damage upon it, when pressure from the United States and Europe forced Israel to pull back.
Peace Process (1993 – March, 2001)
A disastrous attempt to “negotiate” peace with the Palestinian Authority, that never had any interest in peace. As David HaMelech said, “I am for peace – but when I speak, they are for war!” (Tehilim 120)
In the wake of the continuing violence in Israel, in which the Palestinians have never budged from their hatred and belligerence, the Israeli public elects Ariel Sharon, hero of the Yom Kippur war. Sharon, a more clear-eyed leader, will hopefully put an end to the naïve hopes for peace with this group and with the Arabs, in general, as long as they remain in their present mindset.
For long ago establishing the covenant with Moshe that guaranteed for us the “Triumph of Survival,” as per the title of Rabbi Berel Wein’s great book. For enabling us to outlast in the end all the Empires who arose in History, most of whom did not look favorably upon us, including the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Islamic (with whom we were in conflict in the past and with whom we are currently again engaged), the Ottomans, the obscene Nazis (may their name be erased!) who wanted to establish a thousand year Empire, but who did a thousand years’ worth of damage and inflicted a thousand years’ worth of pain in a decade, and the British, who claimed that the sun never set on their flag.
“Till this point, Your Mercy has helped us, and Your Kindness has not forsaken us, and do not abandon us, HaShem our G-d, forever…You save the poor man from one stronger than he, the poor and destitute from one who would rob him. Who is like unto You? Who is equal to You? Who can be compared to You? O great, mighty and awesome G-d, the Supreme G-d, Creator of heaven and earth…” (from the Prayer “Nishmat Kol Chai,” “May the Soul of Every Living Being…,” used on Shabbat and the Holidays, and at the Pesach Seder, the Festive Meal that celebrates our Redemption).
A Fool’s Prophecy
The Talmud says that after the cessation of Prophecy from the great and holy prophets (Malachi was the last Prophet), Prophecy remained in the world, but was transferred to the domain of children and fools. I’m definitely not a child; my birth certificate attests to that. There’s only one other possibility. I’d like to offer a “Prophecy” that of course isn’t really a Prophecy; rather, it’s an intuition and an optimistic prediction concerning the twenty first Century that just began.
The First Third: In the first third of the century, I’d hope to see the cumulative effect of all the “outreach” efforts take hold in a “critical mass” of Jewish souls. Rivulets of faith will gradually coalesce and produce waves. The waves will reinforce each other, and form a “tidal wave” ofTeshuvah that will sweep the world.
The Second Third: In the second third of the century, we will see the fulfillment of the verse “…For the world will be filled with the knowledge of HaShem as the waters cover the bed of the sea” (Yeshayahu 11:9), till the point is reached where knowledge of the Torah is as extensive in the world as it was in the time of king Chizkiyahu, who “could have been Mashiach,” when they checked from Dan to Beersheva, and every child knew the laws of ritual cleanness and uncleanness backwards and forwards.
The Third Third: The stage will be set for the arrival of the Mashiach, May he come soon and in our days. He will build the Third Beit HaMikdash, that will never be destroyed. And all the Prophecies of the great Prophets will then be realized.
– Rabbi Pinchas Frankel