June 1, 2015

The Jewish Tragedy

The Jewish Tragedy

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
I’ve been focusing the past couple of weeks on the tragedy that has befallen our people, not just in our own time but in prior generations as well – our inability to see and appreciate the Hand of G-d in our lives.

The consequences of such blindness and ingratitude become evident when darkness envelops us, when G-d withdraws Himself from our presence. It is then that we demand haughtily, “Where is G-d? Why did He allow this to happen? Why isn’t He making a miracle for us? Are we not His people?”

We fail to accept responsibility for the breakdown in our relationship and blame G-d for His abandonment. We fail to understand that even in the depth of our darkness it is His protection that enables us to survive. Where it not for Him, the nations of the world would long ago have devoured us.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War my brother-in-law HaRav HaGaon Amram HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, who was the rabbi of Yazur, Israel, wrote an amazing letter to us.

He was a total man of G-d, studying Torah and performing mitzvos day and night. His devotion to Torah study was such that he wouldn’t even allow a telephone in his house, lest it take away one second from learning. So this letter from him was very special.

He wrote about Psalm 126, Shir HaMa’alos, which we sing prior to Grace After Meals on Shabbos and Yom Tov. The Psalm speaks volumes. It commences with, “When Hashem will return the remnants of Zion we will be like dreamers.”

Indeed, we have witnessed the stunning miracle of the return of the remnants of our people from all over the world to our ancient homeland – but we were dreamers and failed to comprehend it. In that very same Psalm it is also written, “[At that time] the nations will declare that Hashem has done greatly with them [Israel].”

My brother-in-law explained that everything in life is relative. For example, if a rich man finds a dollar on the street, it means nothing to him. But if a beggar finds that same dollar he will rejoice.

The nations of the world who are rich in military expertise and are accustomed to victory in battle cannot be easily impressed by small triumphs of little nations. But it’s another story when a little nation achieves a victory such as Israel’s in the Six-Day War.

King David predicts that prior to the coming of the Messiah, the Jewish people, who for millennia were homeless and defenseless, with no military wherewithal, would in the blink of an eye become a mighty power in the world, triumphing against all odds. At that time the powerful nations will declare in astonishment, “G-d has done great things for these people. If G-d would only do this for us, we would rejoice.”

In June 1967, Egypt’s Nasser swore to wipe Israel off the map, massing a huge army in the Sinai, expelling UN peacekeeping troops, and closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. But little Israel was like David of old, defeating the Egyptian army and the Syrian army and the Jordanian army – and numerous troops and armaments sent by other Arab nations eager to join Nasser in marching on Tel Aviv.

In six lightning days Israel decisively beat back the combined might of its enemies and made astounding gains on all fronts. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years Jerusalem was returned to the Jewish people. Rabbis blew the shofar at the Kotel, the remnant of our Holy Temple. First the time in almost two millennia we repossessed Mamma Rochel’s burial place as well as Hebron, the city of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Let us again consider my brother-in-law’s analogy. The billionaires – the large, powerful nations – wanted our little dollar because overnight that little dollar had become more precious than gold. The mighty United States of America was, at the time, embroiled in the long and costly war in Vietnam, and American generals wanted to know the secret of Israel’s astonishing military success.

The secret was a simple one. Alas, the majority of our people did not know it – and still do not know it or even want to know it. But unless we know and can identify the source of our strength, it will disappear. If that happens, disaster is sure to follow.

The simple source of our power can be summarized in one word: Hashem. I say “simple” because we need only recognize it and it will appear.

Although there are multitudes who recognize the guiding Hand of G-d in the history of Israel and in all its battles, the vast majority of Jews do not.

When the Jewish people place their trust in G-d there is no strength or power that can prevail against them.

“They [the nations] may go forth with chariots and horses but we go forth with the name of our G-d” (Psalm 20).

As we come closer to the awesome days of Mashiach, the Jewish people will experience stunning victories as well as terrible tragedies. Events will unfold so rapidly that before we absorb one, another will follow. If, G-d forbid, we refuse to acknowledge G-d’s presence, the consequences will be painful and horrific.

The Six-Day War was a miracle. We rejoiced. We sang and shouted with exultation. Six days – six incredible days. Everything that befalls us individually and nationally is orchestrated from Above. But we choose to be blind. We do not wish to see. Instead of thanking G-d, we congratulated ourselves and proclaimed the words the Torah tells us never to proclaim: “Kochi…my strength and my might did this.”

We deluded ourselves into believing it was our acumen, our military know-how, our strategic planning, and our valor that brought about our miraculous victory.

We are living in dangerous and ominous times. The winds of war are blowing and our spiritual blindness can be deadly. We must learn to open our eyes, ears, and hearts lest we continue to stumble and fall. If we continue to be blind and deaf and refuse to see the Hand of G-d reaching out to us from Above, we cannot hope to survive.

The Torah likens the Jewish people to a little lamb surrounded by 70 ferocious wolves always ready to devour us. I know I have mentioned this many times but I will refer to it again and again until such time that we have an awakening that will bring an end to the Jewish tragedy of spiritual blindness. This can be realized only if we understand – not just intellectually but in our hearts as well – that our protection comes solely from Hashem.

We just celebrated the great Yom Tov of Shavous. The Midrash teaches that at Sinai Hashem picked up the mountain and, holding it above our heads, warned of the consequences that would befall us if we did not remain loyal to the Torah.

Not once but many times in our long saga have we seen the disastrous reality of that warning.

This is our Jewish tragedy: The inability to see and the inability to hear.

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