Former Shaliach in Montreal (2001-1001)
Currently member of the Shomron Regional Council
“Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or spurn them so as to destroy them, annulling My covenant with them.” (Vayikra 26:42)
Chazal’s perspective in understanding the historical development and existence of our nation in exile is that during every crisis our people encountered, the keys of redemption are held by the nation’s leadership. During every period of crisis, the Almighty provided leaders who filled the vacuum and wisely found the proper response to the danger hovering over the people, as emerges from the following passage in the Gemara:
“I will not reject them – during the times of the Babylonians, when I provided for them Daniel, Chananya, Mishael and Azarya.
I will not spurn them – during the times of the Greeks, when I provided them with Shimon Hatzadik, the Hasmonean and his sons, and Matityahu, the kohen gadol.
So as to destroy them – during the times of Haman, when I provided them with Mordechai and Ester.
Annulling My covenant with them – during the times of the Persians, when I provided them with the family of Rebbi and the wise men of every generation.
For I am Hashem your God – in the future, when no people or nationality will be able to overpower them” (Masechet Megila 11a).
The leaders enumerated by the Gemara used four different means in confronting crisis:
1) During the period of the Babylonian exile, Nevuchadnetzar demanded that the exiled people pray to, and accept the superiority of, the Babylonian faith and culture and his spiritual dominance. The leaders – Daniel, Chananya, Mishael and Azarya – responded with commitment to prayer to Hashem, turning their thoughts to Yerushalayim, compliance with the prohibitions concerning foods cooked by non-Jews, and a preparedness to sacrifice their lives “al kiddush Hashem”, to sanctify G-d’s name.
2) A similar threat arose during the period of the Greeks, when the enemy sought the spiritual, rather than physical, destruction, of the Jewish people. This threat, however, surfaced not in exile but in Eretz Yisrael. Shimon Hatzadik and Matityahu the kohen gadol responded with devotion to the Beit Hamikdash and the liberation of Yerushalayim, firm opposition to the Greek practices and commitment to mitzvot involving Jewish identity, such as Shabbat and circumcision.
3) Haman posed the threat of physical destruction, seeking “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate.” The leadership of Mordechai and Ester assumed responsibility and ordered that the Jews “assemble to defend their lives” and “fast on my behalf” – meaning, that they prepare themselves both physically and spiritually.
4) During Roman times, the Jewish people confronted a dual danger: internally, they faced the threat of spiritual ruin; external forces threatened the nation physically.
One of the responsibilities of our leadership nowadays is to learn the leadership principles by which we have been guided in earlier generations. As today, no matter how we look at it, we are threatened on every front, both in the Diaspora as well as in Eretz Yisrael, we and our leaders must fortify God’s home, as did Matityahu and his sons, and, in response to the physical dangers we face, strengthen our “frail hands” through concrete action. They must also strengthen the nation’s “trembling knees,” the knees that can bow before idols and violate our religious trust.
We hope and pray that very soon we will see the fulfillment of the Gemara’s promise – “In the future, no people or nationality we be able to overpower them.”