The Metaphysical Dimension
Rabbi Reuven Mann
This week’s Parsha, Nitzavim, which is read on the Shabbat immediately prior to the High Holidays, foretells the time when the Jewish people will return unto Hashem and observe the commandments. This dovetails with the High Holiday season whose theme is that of repentance both on an individual and national level.
Every one of Hashem’s creatures comes before Him for judgement at this time. This applies not only to Jews but to all mankind. It is, therefore, entirely appropriate for gentiles to recognize Rosh Hashanah as the time when their fate is being determined and to pray and behave appropriately.
But the Jews bear a special responsibility in this matter. We have been chosen by Hashem to live up to the high standards of moral and ethical behavior which is encapsulated in the commandments. Our long history of exile and persecution testify to the fact that we are, as yet, far from being in compliance with the elevated level of action expected of us.
The Jews have taken many steps to improve their practical condition. They have established a modern democratic state which in a short time has achieved much in the scientific and technological realms. But the hope that this would effectively terminate Anti-Semitic hatred and violence has proved to be illusive. No group is more despised and vilified than the Jews.
The protection of Jews both within Israel and outside should be a matter of primary concern for leaders of the major Jewish organizations. Of course they must consider all the pragmatic steps that can be taken to increase security and diminish danger. But these measures can only go so far.
We must acknowledge that there is a metaphysical dimension to the crises that confront us. The Rambam says that when troubles afflict the Jews they must declare a fast and engage in heartfelt introspection. They must seek to discover the sins that might be the causal factor of their setbacks for ultimately it is only their favorable spiritual condition that can afford a true sense of security.
Our Parsha is very relevant to the theological task at hand. It speaks about what will befall the Jews at the “end of days”. It predicts that after we have experienced the “blessing and the curse” we will return to Hashem and “listen to His voice”. This means that there will be a national realization of our true mission as a People who have been chosen by Hashem to be a “light unto the nations”.
And Hashem will respond to this dramatic development. He will terminate our “captivity”, gather us in from the nations among whom we are dispersed and bring us to the land that are fathers inherited and “do good unto you and increase you more than your fathers”.
Perhaps we can view the reference to the “curse and blessing” as referring to our epoch. We have successfully established a viable state and defended it against all its attackers. And that is most certainly a blessing. But the curse of Jew hatred persists and manifests itself in unremitting plots to undo the state of Israel.
Our security cannot be based only on the “works of our hands”. We cannot ignore the metaphysical dimension of Jewish existence. We need wise and dedicated leaders who will unite the Jewish people and infuse them with a love of Torah and a desire to fulfill their spiritual destiny. May our hearts be inspired to an exalted love of Torah and of our fellow Jews and all mankind.
Shabbat Shalom and Ketiva V’Chatima tova.