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Shabbat Parashat Bechukotai| 5771

Parashat Hashavuah: What Remains When All Is Lost?

Harav Shaul Yisraeli - from Siach Shaul, pg. 352-353

[This sermon was delivered toward the end of World War II, when a stark picture of what was happening in Europe was taking form. The combination of the period and a parasha foreboding destruction are fertile ground for harsh soul-searching.]


“And even with all of this… I [Hashem] did not despise them and rid Myself of them to destroy them” (Vayikra 26:44). The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bechukotai 675) asks: what consolation it is for Israel to not be despised if all their blessings are taken away from them? It answers that they are left with the Torah.

What is left for us, and what purpose do we have in life? What is the value of the signs of a reawakening in Israel if the all of the life-sources of our nation are destroyed with such barbarianism and venom? Is there a purpose for our hopes and indeed for our lives? May we take comfort in anything or is that dancing on the graves? In fact, we have but one consolation – the Torah.

While so many gifts were taken from us and smashed cruelly with millions of Jewish lives, there is one thing that was not taken away from us, and in some ironic measure, was even returned. Granted, it was not returned in a gentle manner, but it was returned, as we will explain. There was a time when the nations of the world claimed that they have a nicer theology than we have. Some claimed that our sense of morality was insufficient, and that there was a need for a more complete person than the Jew. Now it is all clear. The ruthless killing machines of our enemies have returned things to their previous status, as the masquerade of our rivals’ challenge to our moral status has been removed.

A world that is divided into murderers and those who stand idly by with cynicism, arrogance, and chutzpa as blood is being spilled cannot be the proper world. Our entire life and soul cannot agree to such a thing. We believe that man was given a lofty soul that goes far beyond base instincts. This belief brings us to believe in a Creator and Leader of the world. It can be no other way. If so, matters are different. We should not allow our spirits to drop because of the torture our nation is undergoing. If the evil can see success, then certainly we can see success. If those who follow His word can be afflicted, then certainly those who violate His word will have to pay the price (see Bereishit Rabba 65:22). We may have to wait with the patience of steel, grit our teeth, and look for better days in the future. We still have the Torah, and we know more clearly than ever what the source of the hatred toward us is. We know why we need to suffer and that the day of redemption is close.
“If in the path of My statutes you shall go” (Vayikra 26:3) refers to the statutes upon which Hashem created the heavens and earth (Vayikra Rabba 35:4). The laws of the Torah are the laws upon which the world was created, and the world will be built based on Torah. If we do not understand the earlier stages of world history, at some future point all will become clear. 

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