Now we are approaching Har Sinai.
Our ancestors marched for seven weeks from Mitzraim to receive the Torah on Shavuos and stand in the Presence of Hashem. Lest we don’t perceive the awesomeness of this moment, the Torah shakes us up just before Shavuos each year when we read the fearsome tochacha contained in Parshas Bechukosai.
The Tochacha is not theory. We have seen in our history how real the terrors are that are prophesied in this passage. We tremble to read the words, but they are not just words.
“If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all these commandments, if you consider My decrees loathsome and your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant, then I will do the same to you. I will assign upon you panic, swelling lesions and burning fever which cause eyes to long and souls to suffer…. You will be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you will subjugate you [and] you will flee with no one pursuing you.” (Vayikra 26:14-17)
In the sojourns of the Jewish People, we have seen it all. Surely, “those who hate [us]” are abundant in today’s world. In general, we have had a vacation for the past eighty years, but the haters are sprouting once again like weeds.
Recently, a reader contacted me, disagreeing with something I had written. In fact, I was tremendously impressed with the way he wrote, with respect and derech eretz. He was referring specifically to where I had written, concerning political events in the Holy Land, “Shalom Bayis is more important than policy.” He felt that I was implying that Torah and mitzvos are less important than achdus. He expressed approval that the current coalition in Israel is taking a firm stand against the anti-Torah attitude of previous coalitions and compared them to the Maccabees who fought for Torah.
His point is powerful, but I am not sure that I agree.
I believe that we have to ask where we are now in history.
What I mean is this: the Maccabean uprising occurred during the beginning of our present Golus, when the [Second] Bais Hamikdosh was still standing. We did not have to remember the Bais Hamikdosh; it stood in front of us. The forces of pollution were gathering, but they had not yet destroyed the structure or the avoda that took place within it.
I believe there is a difference between what was appropriate then, at the beginning of our Golus, and what is appropriate now, as we approach the end.
The Chofetz Chaim said that we can learn about the details of the Final Redemption by examining the events at the end of Shibud Mitzraim. I would like to suggest that we can judge our present situation more by the end of Golus than the beginning.
The Maccabeans lived at a time when it was conceivable to rejuvenate the life of the Bais Hamikdosh, when we could still fight to preserve that world. But, in our present era, we are far from that world. There is no Bais Hamikdosh in front of us.
The present era is more comparable to the end of our stay in Ancient Egypt, when our people had fallen to Mem Tes Shaarei Tumah, one degree from complete assimilation into the polluted culture of Mitzraim. The Patriarchs were gone; the shvatim were gone. It was dark beyond imagination, like the beginning of Creation, when there was “darkness upon the surface of the deep” (Beraishis 1:2).
At that moment of deep darkness, we did not have the strength to fight. What we needed was for Hashem to rescue us, and, for that, the prerequisite was to band together in unity – “k’ish echad b’lev echad … like one man with one heart,” so that Hashem would save us and enable us to begin a new life on a different level.
I believe that this is comparable to where we stand now. We are almost at the bottom. There is no leader here, no Yehuda ha Maccabee. Our reliance now has to be on the strength of Our Father in Shomayim, Who is coming to rescue us, as in the passage in the Haggadah, which describes how Hashem rescued us, “not through an angel, not through a seraph, not through a messenger, but the Holy One, Blessed is He, in His glory, Himself….”
He is coming to rescue us, but for us to be rescued, I believe that we need more than anything else right now achdus, peace among the brothers. As we move toward Zman Torasainu, we need to rectify any division among the brothers. We have to become one nation again in order to accept the Torah.
May we see that day soon! It is surely coming!
Shibud Mitzraim: the slavery in Egypt
Shvatim: The original twelve tribes of Israel; the twelve brothers, their progenitors
Tochacha: Passage of admonition in the Torah
Zman Torasainu: the Holiday of Shavuos, when we received the Torah